by Niall Doherty


“It’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”


Standing waiting in what’s apparently la zona roja. I’m not exactly sure what time she’ll get here, but not to worry: I brought a book. Part of the reason I like this one so much (the book, not the girl) is the two faces of courage it depicts. One character always fearless, the other always terrified. You wish you were more like the first, but then you wonder if that’s really courage at all.


Prime example right here. It’s 2:55am, pulling the night shift again because the Internet is better then. Except when it isn’t, like tonight. I would have had this project wrapped a week ago but for shitty connections. Tomorrow we hop a rental car to tour the country, but I’ll have this unfinished business hanging over me. Not really traveling, not really working.


We’re staying at the best hotel in town. Which isn’t a big thing when the town itself is a bit of a shithole. Apparently the government has all but abandoned the place, and the murder rate is five times higher than in the capital. Three people spoke to me on the street, all asking for spare change. But hey, the wifi is fantastic. So, you know, it all balances out.


The plan was to watch the sun rise out of the Caribbean, then drive all the way across the country in time to see it sink into the Pacific, stopping off at the nation’s tallest volcano along the way. Well, woeful weather ruined the first two-thirds of that plan, but we finished strong and got to see wild crocs along the way. Not a bad day.

Sunset on Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

Sunset on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.


What’s the difference between backing your rental car into a palm tree and worrying about it, and backing your rental car into a palm tree and shrugging it off as no big deal? The difference I’m thinking of is one word. Five letters. Begins with M. (Another difference has nine letters and begins with I, but no telling how that will shake out.)


That goodbye was the culmination of what’s been bothering me the past few days. No hug, no take care, no thanks for doing all the driving. She walked away as if from a stranger. Part of me wants to pretend nothing’s wrong, but a bigger part know we have to talk. Writing this so I’m more likely to do the latter. I don’t want her hearing it here first.


Today I sat and worked for eight straight hours without a break, save some quick trips to the restroom. And you know what? It felt great. Reliable internet, getting into a good flow, trucking through the to-do list. The work I’m doing isn’t ideal, but the act of working fills me up. Even if I had all the money in the world, I’d still long for the grind.


I have a recurring item on my to-do list. It reads, “Remember: someday you will die.” I have to check it off every morning, gives me pause. More so today, as I get off the phone to my grandmother back in Ireland. She just spent a week in hospital, hanging in strong despite a weak heart. She talked a lot about family, how lucky she is to be surrounded by people who care.


Half-assed baggage check at the cross from Costa Rica into Nicaragua. The guy didn’t take a thorough look at any bag on a bus full of them. This is a recurring theme. With the security I’ve seen the last couple months, I could have easily smuggled a backpack full of cocaine all the way up from Colombia. Or an exotic animal. Or a dead hooker.

Motorcycle adventure beneath the shadow of Volcán Maderas on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

Motorcycle adventure beneath the shadow of Volcán Maderas on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.


Still the weirdness, the distance, despite what I said yesterday. So I spoke up again, said I thought it best we part ways. This kind of conversation is always a struggle for me, always over-thinking it ahead of time, tormenting myself with self-doubt, second-guessing. But in the end, I remember that it’s my life, and I get to choose who’s in it.


Riding out of Moyogalpa on a dirt bike I just rented, sun setting to the west, Mercury and Venus beginning to shine through, volcanoes dominating the skies to the south and east, singing songs of freedom. This island is nice, tranquilo, but it gives me pause that the rental price on this bike is 15x the daily wage of most people living in Nicaragua.


Up at four and zooming across the island to a hacienda in the dark. I hire a guide and we hike the volcano into the clouds, hardcore with mud and near-vertical clambering. We’re up and down in five hours, then I take the bike on a lap of the island, along dirt roads, past waving locals, and kids playing with sticks and bicycle tires.


So when they said the bus would take me to Granada, what they meant was the bus would take me some of the way there, and then I’d have to get out and wait on the side of the road for another bus, and this other bus would actually be a van, carrying more people than the regular bus. On the bright side, the entire journey cost less than $3.


I can’t remember the last time I was in a church. This one is gigantic, with four chapels and three naves (whatever a nave is). I sit for a bit and listen to old ladies chanting something about a corazón, then go stare at the candles and think of my grandmother. On the way out three beggars ask for money and a young cat offers el diablito.

Beautiful Granada, Nicaragua.

Beautiful Granada, Nicaragua.

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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