Why Pre-Packaged Tours Are Not Ideal Reason #2: Missing Out on Overwhelming Joy

The reputation of Ojo de Agua in Ometepe, Nicaragua preceded itself.

I had heard a lot about this natural pool; its’ stunning natural landscape, cool waters, rope swing, and infamous Coco Loco cocktails (think: fresh cold coconut sliced open, add two types of rum, stir and enjoy!) This was high on my list of things to do in Ometepe, Nicaragua.

When I arrived in Ometepe, I stayed for two nights in Mayogalpa to climb Concepcion Volcano. After, I headed to the town of Santa Cruz to enjoy the rustic areas of this volcano island.

FUN FACT: Ometepe is an island made out of two conjoining volcanos in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

I was traveling with a few friends, and had made a few more and we decided one day to get to Ojo de Agua to spend the better part of the afternoon beating the hot Nicaraguan sun and go swimming.

To get to Ojo de Agua, we knew our options were either to:

1.     Rent motorbikes, which we decided against because they we’re going to sit there all day while we were swimming and we wanted them another day to explore the island

2.     Take a taxi, which seemed too boring

3.     Walk, which we decided to do

First we head to the store to buy a few things, we have 90’s hip hop bumping on the speaker box as we walk the 2km (1.2 miles) to the store. We’re all sort of half walking, half dancing all the way to the store, the morning sun already beating down on us, contributing to the lyrics when we know them.

After we’ve made our purchase we realize that Ojo de Agua is out of walking distance, it’s 8km away (5 miles). It’s almost noon and the sun is blaring down on us, we’d arrive closer to late afternoon leaving us only an hour or so at the pool.

We decide to rely on the kindness of strangers, and politely ask for a ride to the entrance of the pool. Mind you there are five of us, we feel quite confident we can do this safely.

Once we throw our thumbs out, we immediately get picked up by a large work truck. He kindly agrees to let us all hop in the back of his truck and he kindly drives us the 8km to the entrance, all the while we’ve got front row views to Maderas volcano, Concepcion volcano, lake Nicaragua, tiny towns with their tiendas, colorful homes, and children playing about. The open truck bed allows the wind to rush through, giving us a much needed break from the March heat. The stereo is still going, my friends and I are smiling, singing, and laughing at our good fortune.

We’re dropped off at the base of Ojo de Agua pools, and we walk underneath the lovely tree canopies to the entrance of the pools.

Of course there is never a time when a volcano isn't in view on Ometepe, Nicaragua.

View ofConcepción volcano on ometepe, Nicaragua

View ofConcepción volcano on ometepe, Nicaragua

We spend the day swimming, jumping off the rope swing, and drinking Coco Locos. The sun is setting, and the pool is clearing out. Soon we’re the last people in the pool.

sapphire & elm travel co-founder, stephanie sipping on a coco loco at ojo de agua

sapphire & elm travel co-founder, stephanie sipping on a coco loco at ojo de agua

We walk back to the main road, not worried about how we’ll get home. We know that being open to new experiences and allowing things to unfold in the way they’re meant to, that things will be just fine.

It’s dark now. Within minutes of getting back to the main road, I immediately spot a friend of mine who organized my hike up to Concepcion just a few days prior to this! We chat with him for a bit, and a palm frond truck pulls up. The driver also knows my friend. Coincidence? Absolutely not, that’s the universe telling me I’m on the right path.

We hop in the back of the palm frond truck, cushioned by nature below us. Although it’s only 7pm it’s pitch black, and the stars have never been brighter and more clear. We’re all laying down on our backs, star gazing. The stereo is off now. The stars are just too perfect to break silence. Again, we’re smiling and laughing at our good fortune.

This moment was probably my favorite of my four months in Central America. I felt pure joy radiating through my entire body. The kind that makes your heart burst to much so that your eyes swell with happy tears and throat gets choked up. The kind of joy that you can tune into for years later.

Now think about how the experience of Ojo de Agua in Ometepe, Nicaragua might have gone if it was penciled in for one afternoon. We would have all been staying at the same hotel, taken the same bus, listen to the same generic music suitable for all people and all ages, arrived at the same time and left at the same time. We would have gotten there safely and enjoyed the day. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you crave magical experiences that go beyond a fine time, then we urge you to avoid pre-packaged, non-negotiable tours. You know the kind, the kind of tours where the entire itinerary is planned to the tee including breakfasts and not so "free time".  

I sincerely recommend knowing your options of activities in each place you visit, enough that you can prioritize what to do with your limited and precious time, I strongly urge you against pre-packaged, non-negotiable tours that offer you no free time to create experiences uniquely your own.

I believe moments like these happen because of a balance between planning and allowing the universe to unfold. When you leave yourself opening to the/a unique journey, amazing things happen.

Read the first in the series: Why You Shouldn't Get a Pre-Packaged, Non-Negotiable Travel Itinerary Reason #1

Why book with Sapphire & Elm Travel Co.?

At Sapphire & Elm, we get to know you personally to understand your likes, dislikes, interests, priorities and more starting with our Travel Design Profile, and plan your next great adventure accordingly.

Working with us is like having trusted friends in the area. Between our personal travels and our travel network, we have a wealth of logistical information and recommendations regarding accommodations, transportation, food and drinks, activities and so much more.

You can trust that we will create and book parts of your travels that will be unique to you.

Additionally, while we book ahead of time, you also have the freedom to be flexible.

If you'd like to stay in a place longer, no problem. If you'd like to postpone an activity a few days, that's okay! We're available for you and anything you need while you're gone so you never feel stuck.

Contact us to get started planning your next great adventure. 

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