i just returned from the most AH-MAH-ZING 9 day trip to Nicaragua with El Camino Travel. most of you know i have a bit of a case of wanderlust but this trip really redefined travel and what i get out of it. if there were ever two more truer things on earth then the US putting a man on the moon (j/k Erika Taylor) they are that i tend to travel alone and i tend to avoid dirt (maybe not during the day but at least where i sleep). that being said - i did neither of those on this trip. this was a group trip (gasp!) and some of our destinations were a bit off the beaten path.
the itinerary for the trip was almost what i would have planned for myself (and just different enough in all the right ways) and included four nights in tree house casitas in the surf village of Maderas (complete with yoga, surfing and family-style meals), two nights in colonial Granada - one of the most colorful beautiful cities in Central America and two more nights back on the Pacific coast in Popoyo. activities included: surfing, yoga, intense smoothie drinking, swimming, shopping, beaching, napping, eating, fishing with locals, snorkeling, exploring, and lots of luxuriating. it was just the right mix of activity and choose your own adventure. trips also feature a social engagement component with 10% of profit going to a social entrepreneur or enterprise in country. we had the pleasure of having dinner with project managers from Grid Alternatives International, a NGO working to bring solar power to rural communities in Nicaragua that are at least 10 years off the electrical grid.
we were lucky enough to have Marianna Jamadi, co-founder of El Camino and blogger behind Nomadic-Habit, and travel photographer extraordinaire with us the entire time as our dedicated photographer. not only did we not have to carry around our own cameras and worry about capturing a shot instead of enjoying a moment - but her photos ACTUALLY captured the sheer beauty of every moment we were experiencing. you know how you see something breathtaking, you hold up your camera (read iPhone) to shoot it, and when you look back at the picture it just doesn't do the scene justice? that happens to me all the time and when i looked at the photos from this trip it was the first time i really felt the photos captured the essence and beauty of the moments. the visual evidence is something i will cherish forever.
while the activities, the food, the backdrop and the photos were definitely all added pluses - what i really took away from the past 9 days were the connections and memories with the people on the trip. our group consisted of 13 people including myself. we had three professional photographers, an expert in international development, an antiquities expert, an IT expert with a pension for dangerous activity, three event designers, a burgeoning artist from Boston, an PhD candidate in English from UCLA, and to round it out a creative director turned app guru. to say it was an interesting group would be an understatement. i can only imagine future El Camino groups will be just as interesting given the caliber of the itineraries and the aesthetic of the company. I went along as part of a mini-group within the group with three other girls i knew and by the end of the trip it was safe to say i had made 12 new friends. since the trip is priced based on double occupancy it makes sense to go with someone you know but there were a few people on our trip that came alone and had a blast as well.
the entire trip (not including airfare) costs $2,600. The 10 day/9 night itinerary included all transportation & accommodations (based on double occupancy), all food and drinks at the first hotel, all activities and at least one if not two meals every other day. nicaragua was incredibly reasonably priced (1 hour massages in your hotel suite were $35!!!!!) so other than taking advantage of the amazing quality leather goods available there was not much else that cost a lot of money.
i would recommend the trip to anyone with a penchant for a bit of adventure and a desire to see somewhere new that might not have been on your radar before. Mari and Kata, the co-founders of El Camino, are two of the most genuine amazing young female entrepreneurs you could be lucky enough to spend time with and they truly care about redefining the way travel is done and bringing authentic beautifully curated itineraries and experiences to a whole new group of travelers. i can't wait for future destinations to be announced cus you know i'm an El Camino traveler for life now!
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El Camino Travel creates off the beat travel experiences to unique destinations around the world. The trips include a creative photographer in tow, so that travelers can thoroughly enjoy their experiences. In addition, 10% of profits goes directly to a social entrepreneur who is radically changing the country we are visiting. Click the dates below for full itineraries.
March 14-22, 2015