Originally published October 6, 2014

I hopped off the crowded old yellow school bus at a very familiar bus stop, Parada Guanacaste (the same bus stop I sat at by myself the second morning of my trip waiting for my friends).

It’s funny, many of these school buses still have the red stop sign on the driver’s side that extends whenever the bus stops and the door opens, though needless to say, “Unlawful to pass when red lights flash” doesn’t carry much weight in Nicaragua.

I hailed down a tuc tuc cab and started up the muddy trail toward Poste Rojo. I had almost reached the top of the steep, rocky trail when, “WILLLLSOOOONNN” rang out through the jungle. I spun around to see Brayan standing on the suspension bridge up in the canopy, doing his best Tom Hanks / Castaway impression.

It was good to be back. The tree house is truly a special place. When I reached the top of the always-surprisingly strenuous hike, I felt at ease, at peace, and in tune with my surroundings.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what your story is when you’re at the tree house; a cool group of Dutch students who are interning in Managua, an awesome couple from South Africa, a hip Canadian couple that spins fire and hula hoops, and Travis, a gentleman in his own right, all sat under cover, conversing and listening to the steady hum of rain pelting the tin roof.

Though, when I say that stories don’t matter, I do not mean that they are irrelevant, but rather that they are to be told freely. And they are. This is evident by all of the inspirational, and sometimes random, quotes that line the walls, countertops and support beams. It is evident by the beautiful art and random keepsakes hanging on the walls. Most importantly, this is evident by every single footprint once stamped onto the ceiling.

If you spend time at the tree house, you are encouraged to “leave your mark,” and being that my footprint is different than every single other “mark” left at Poste Rojo, Brayan wanted to make a distinct plaque for it. We printed my feet onto a wooden board, and then he is going to finish the rest of the design. I often forget that I have 11 toes, yet it has forever served as my icebreaker or “fun fact”, it was the subject of my UW application essay, it fascinated little kids for hours when I lifeguarded, and now it is the mark I will leave on the tree house.

Leave your mark | Photo by Wilson Carletti (All Rights Reserved)
"Leave your mark" | Poste Rojo

While I may leave my mark on the tree house, it has certainly left a mark on me, just as Nicaragua as a whole has left a mark on me (and I hope I have left a mark on Nicaragua). I left home almost three weeks ago, and in three short weeks I now have friends from all over the world, friends that have offered their couch up if I am ever in town, and friends that I would gladly do the same for.

I decided to spend the night in Granada before heading up to León. Max (whom I met at the tree house) and I decided that we were going to make dinner so we walked down the street to the supermarket to get all the necessary ingredients, including chocolate milk, which comes in a bag here! We bought some more vegetables from a nice, older couple in the market on the way back and whipped up some delicious burritos.

This morning I wandered around Granada a bit and ran into the nice couple from Florida that I met on Ometepe. It was fun to hear about the rest of their adventures on the island and see some familiar faces. At this point, I know my way around the town pretty well, so I bid them farewell and ran back to my hostel before leaving for León.

The more time I spend here, the smaller the backpacking world seems, for as I wandered into my hostel after dinner, there were my other friends from Ometepe! All told, I am in a good spot right now and really enjoying my adventure.

Tomorrow I am going volcano boarding. Never thought I would ever say that.

León | Photo by Wilson Carletti (All Rights Reserved)
León | Nicaragua