Nicaragua

Europe more your parents’ bucket list?Join Rick Steves, and me, for a podcast about travel in Latin America

Posted on Updated on

Rick-Steves-Radio-daebd6abcdc4b4b2aacb0f4ddcd19bae142b7219818f459b0adbf011ae3671d1rickstevestudio

When a travel writer gets an invite to be a podcast guest of perhaps the single most beloved and well-known travel guru in North America – she says yes first and wonders why later. Which was exactly the order of my thought process when one of Rick Steves’ staff wrote to me about “The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan-American Highway.”

rickstevesnpr

It was thrilling enough that producer Sarah McCormic was reading and enjoying my book – she’s hip, travel-savvy and knows way more about podcasts than I do. But after my steering-wheel-evoking happy dance, I found myself wondering if I’d ever seen a Rick Steves program on Latin America. My memoir retraces a road trip along the length of the Pan-American Highway, from Mexico to the tip of Argentina, not the Autobahn, The Ring of Kerry or La Route Des Grandes Alpes. In other words, why was Rick Steves willing to devote a good chunk of his podcast to my story?

T1-rick-steves-relaxed-tulum-mexico-akiin-travelphile

Was Tulum the connection? The story of my wedding there comes early in the book, and this photo proves Steves has been there at least once.

It turns out he’s cared about Latin America since the 80s – first visiting El Salvador during its Civil War. So maybe he was relating to my parents’ decision to drive through the entire continent in the not-particularly-stable 70s – with me and my little sister in tow. My mom and dad had no clue what they were getting into – but Steves had done enough homework to know what he didn’t know. Here’s an excerpt from a piece he wrote about that first visit:

I feel like an expert on Europe, but in Central America, I’m humbled by my lack of knowledge. Fortunately, my nine-day crash course in political and economic issues came with great teachers and the ultimate classroom. In speaking with so many local experts, it occurred to me that Americans who come here in search of understanding (like me) want things in black-and-white clarity. In reality, it is much more complex. I didn’t come home with the clean answers I sought, but I did return with a sense of optimism, as the societies of Nicaragua and El Salvador move fitfully but steadily forward. You can’t help but fly home from Central America rooting for its beautiful people — and wanting to do more to help them.

And he did. By championing the region for tourism even when audiences in America were more interested in Europe.

I have long recommended, “If you want a meaningful trip to Central America, consider Managua over Mazatlán.”

He had me at beautiful people. I realized Rick Steves travels for the same reason I do and writes from the same place of celebrating what connects us all. By this point in my Steves research, I couldn’t wait to meet him – even if just for a few hours in an NPR studio link. Then I read a journal entry from his return trip to Latin America in 2005, coincidentally only a year after The Drive.

My 1988 visit to Central America was filled with hope. I came again after the defeat of people’s movements in both El Salvador and Nicaragua in 1991. The tide had turned and I wondered how the spirit of the people’s movements — so exuberant just two years before — would fare after the American victories in their domestic struggles. Now, in 2005, after 14 years of neo-liberalism it is clear, there’s only one game in town. Sure, Romero lives…and Jesus lives. And half the world is trying to live too…on $2 a day. As a Christian, I like to see religion function as a liberator rather than an opiate. Perhaps that’s why I am so enamored with liberation theology in Central America.

The troubadours continue, “It’s not easy to see God in the child who cleans the windshields at a San Salvador intersection…but we must.”

0908 nic girl in traffic
photograph by Gary Geboy

If you tune in to one of the radio stations that will play our conversation over the air on Saturday, you will learn what I did about Rick Steves. That he’s about way more than Europe, that he’s endless fascinating but refreshingly humble, and that he’s an incredible interviewer. So please, subscribe to his podcast and enjoy the conversation. Unless Oprah calls, this is the best thing that ever happened to my book.

description

Back on the mainland, protests in Managua (Drive Day 81 minus 14 years)

Posted on Updated on

09-19a
Managua, photo by Gary Geboy

There’s a CAFTA trade meeting underway in the capitol when we return and hundreds of cops and military soldiers line the streets in full riot gear. At least 1,500 marchers, mostly farmers and students, rally against provisions in the trade deal that will undermine their meager livings. As usual, astounding artistry pierces through the smoke and fury.

09-19b

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Keeping up appearances (Drive Day 80 minus 14 years)

Posted on Updated on

0918a ni ci dad haircutDad’s flying back to Managua with us to try and resolve some legal issues so he decides he needs a haircut. On Corn Island, the barber comes to the resort’s nicest bungalow, an island-style house call. Meanwhile I have to say goodbye to mom. She has to stay and guard the property while dad’s away.

0918b ni ci me and mom

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

If this were a monopoly game, I’d get the boot (Drive Day 79 minus 14 years)

Posted on Updated on

0917 ni ci dad engine
Dave Bruce

We play every board game I haven’t played since childhood, including the Monopoly game I got for Christmas on the first Pan-American road trip in 1973. That night my parents let me stay up ‘til midnight and I got a hotel on Boardwalk that made a killing. Now they have a hotel on Corn Island that has never had a paying guest and it’s killing them.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

All’s well if the beer stays cool (Drive Day 78 minus 14 years)

Posted on Updated on

0916 ni ci beer coolerOn Corn Island we find ourselves going to bed later and sleeping in later – not so much in rhythm of the daylight but in slavery to electricity. When the power’s on you’re in the mood to stay up and socialize. When it cuts out and the heat seethes, it’s better to stare at the sea or sleep.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Full moon crazy in Corn Island (Drive Day 77 minus 14 years)

Posted on Updated on

0915 ni ci full moon

The list of reasons sane people wouldn’t build a dive resort on this particular island off the coast of Nicaragua is unending. No medical facilities, no phone service, no reliable electricity, a regularly flooded gut-busting dirt road and even more regularly gut busting canned food would be my top five. Then there’s having to dig your own septic tanks, bales of drug-bust marijuana floating up on rocky beaches, and “insurance” bribes for neighbors to rat on arson threats. But when the full moon rises and casts a shadow over the sparkling sea the shape of a whale I can see why my parents still dream.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

When the roads aren’t dangerous enough, try an old Russian prop plane (Drive Day 76 minus 14 years)

Posted on Updated on

0914a ni ci aerial

We’ve found a place to safely park our camper for a side-trip. My parents are living on an island 40 miles off the Caribbean side of Nicaragua. We could travel by river upcountry, then transfer to a few collectivos or horseback to get to Blue Fields and then take a twice-weekly food barge to Corn Island. Or we can buck up, swallow some Dramamine and fly La Costena airlines. When you have to stand on the same scale as your luggage to make sure the flight can get off the ground it’s time for another gut check. Then there’s the duct tape above my seat that doesn’t quite seal off unidentified clear fluid dripping onto my neck. My dad says these planes are left over from the days when Russia was a regular Nicaraguan trading partner. It’s not comforting.

0914b IMG_2235

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.