If you are looking to get off the beaten path and live the life of the locals while in Nicaragua, I highly recommend Matagalpa as the place to do it.
My week in this city gave me more culture shock than expected. I had already been in Central America for five weeks when I arrived here, but I had been around other English speakers and travelers the whole time. Then I arrived in Matagalpa I pretty much spoke NO English for the full week there. I saw almost no other tourists or travelers and the only place in town that catered to tourists was the Spanish School and Tour Company attached to the school. Mostly, Matagalpa was just a place where locals go about their daily lives and I was happy to become a part of that.
My days here consisted of four hours of Spanish class, meals at my house, activity of some sort in the afternoon, roaming around the city, and hanging out on my balcony at night.
I loved my Spanish classes here. I realized that I’m actually at a point where I can have a full conversation in Spanish. My teacher, Diana, and I spent the first two hours of class each day just talking. We talked about everything under the sun from travel to music to our high school experience. The second two hours were focused on grammar.
Like I did in Antigua, Guatemala and Arequipa, Peru, in Matagalpa I started to develop a routine and find my favorite places. In Matagalpa it was Café Barista. I hung out at three different ones and loved the vibe. Another place I went daily was the grocery store, La Colonial, to grab a diet coke or snack. I always had the same young guy ring me up and even though he had a thick accent and I couldn’t understand much of what he said, it was nice to see his smile and have that kind of consistency each day.
One of my favorite memories from my time in Matagalpa was going to an Italian restaurant to eat something other than rice and beans for one meal. While there I met a traveler from Sweden who spoke English. We started talking. It was my one time I could finally speak in English after a week of barely speaking a word. Instead of English though, we both decided to use the Spanish we’ve been practicing. We ended up chatting for over an hour completely in Spanish. It was one of those moments I realized just how far I had come using this language and could not only get by with it but could have a fun, friendly conversation now.
Oh, and the fashion! If you weren’t wearing Hollister, Abercrombie, or Arepostle you were not styling.
It was hard to meet so few travelers while here and be completely on my own, not speaking English at all, but it was also very character building. I learned I could stand on my own two feet, figuring out how to live in a foreign place and get by. It pushed me in a good way and helped me to feel more confident about traveling solo in the future. Traveling solo can be scary and being on your own can be hard, but I got through it and have absolutely no regrets.
“All by Myself” -Celine Dion