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Inside Nomadtopia: Not Every Place Is for Everyone


We arrived in Granada, Nicaragua, in the middle of a rainstorm, heavy flooding, and a power outage. Our driver had to try some creative maneuvers to get us into town, we got soaked moving everything from the taxi to our new apartment down a long, pitch-black walkway, and in the middle of it all I managed to lean against a wall, angering a bunch of ants that then proceeded to bite me all over my forearm.

Talk about a dramatic welcome to our first new country this year!

That was seven weeks ago, and I’ve been feeling out of sorts most of the time since then. I had heard so many people rave about Granada that I expected to love it, and, well, I don’t. The funny thing is I’m not sure any of those people had told me exactly what it was they liked about Granada, or Nicaragua, so I really just took their word for it, and didn’t have many concrete details to latch on to.

Yes, there have been some good times and pleasant discoveries—friendly and caring people, cheap taxis, nice cafés, a beautiful central plaza, a place I’ve started taking art classes—but overall, I’m feeling underwhelmed.

Or perhaps more accurately, overwhelmed—by the heat, and the dust, and the crazy drivers, and those people who haven’t been as friendly, and the expensive food… And yet, I’ve been other places in the world that have a lot of those same things and it didn’t bother me as much as it does here. I still can’t quite put my finger on how I feel about this place or why.

I have often said that I think I could be happy almost anywhere—I adapt easily and have found the good in lots of places I didn’t expect to like—so not feeling at home here is a surprise.

I feel guilty admitting that I don’t love it.

It feels like I’m betraying those I know who love it here, those who came and never left, those who have found something special here. It also feels like I’m placing harsh judgment on, and expecting too much from, a country, and a people, who have been through a lot. (Reading Blood of Brothers while we’ve been here taught me a lot.)

Sometimes it takes a while for a place to get under your skin, to really know it and enjoy it.

So maybe we haven’t been here long enough?

Sometimes it’s a short visit that gives you a positive impression, but if you stay longer you start to see the not-so-great stuff.

So maybe we’ve been here too long?

If someone else were in my shoes, I’d probably advise them to move on if they’re not enjoying a place, and a few friends have suggested exactly that. But there are specific circumstances that may be coloring my experience here, and they are also the reasons we have decided we can’t leave just yet.

I’ve been sick for a lot of the time (a whole other story in and of itself), and it wasn’t until today that I had my last follow-up appointment and got the thumb’s up that everything’s okay; it made sense to stay put and take care of all that with the same doctors, and the same system, we’ve already grown familiar with. (It also means I haven’t been feeling great a lot of the time, which is a drag no matter where you are.)

On top of that, we’re doing an elimination diet (for completely unrelated reasons), which means we pretty much can’t go out to eat, and it’s frustrating to not be able to try the local food or enjoy some of the international cuisine available. Sticking to the diet is hard enough already, and moving around would make the whole thing almost impossible. Better to stay in one place, where we have a well-equipped kitchen and know where to get what we need.

So, here we are. We have two more weeks in Granada, then we’re taking a little weekend getaway to a nearby volcanic lake (right after the formal reintroduction phase of the elimination diet is finally finished), and I plan to be lying on the beach in Costa Rica by the time my birthday rolls around in July.

Yes, we intended to spend more time in Nicaragua first, and yes, there are plenty of beaches here where I could celebrate my birthday, but we’re feeling ready to move on, so that’s what we’re going to do. Not every place is for everyone. Maybe this place simply isn’t for me, and that’s okay.

How about you? Have you ever visited a place that you just didn’t like for some reason? Did you stick it out or move on sooner than you’d planned? Share your experience in the comments below!

2017-04-15T13:11:21+00:00June 19, 2015|Inside Nomadtopia, Nomad Life|20 Comments


  1. Caitlin June 19, 2015 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    I had a similar reaction to Glasgow. Scotland is my true home, I firmly believe, but when I was down and suffering on my last trip to Alba, I went to Glasgow to hibernate for a few. Spent one night in a hotel and despite having a studio lined up, snapped the next evening, grabbed my stuff and hopped a train to Edinburgh. I stepped out of waverly station, saw the castle lit up in the night sky and burst into tears. I needed the way Edinburgh felt; home. I haven’t felt inclination to even consider Glasgow again. No offense to it.

    • Amy Scott June 20, 2015 at 1:47 pm - Reply

      Such a great reminder that a whole country shouldn’t necessarily be lumped together! Different regions/cities can be so different from each other.

  2. Laura June 20, 2015 at 4:43 am - Reply

    I felt the same way visiting Cambodia. So many friends had such glowing reports and for the life of me I never did see any of the reason for the enthusiasm. Was planning to be there for at least a month but after two weeks I left very happily. Not my place.

    • Amy Scott June 20, 2015 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      Good for you for recognizing it wasn’t your place and moving on! I visited Cambodia briefly in 2005 and had mixed feelings too.

  3. Debbie June 20, 2015 at 5:15 am - Reply

    Same for me after spending 4 months in Saas Fee skiing earlier this year. It’s such a small little place, I wasn’t feeling great, everything was sooooo expensive and I felt like a walking ATM. Also, I struggled with the accommodation and the guy downstairs who played loud music through the night. I was there last year for 6 weeks and loved it. I think I was just done with the place. Time to move on.

    • Amy Scott June 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm - Reply

      I had to Google where that is! It seems like people often talk about that “walking ATM” feeling in developing countries, but I can see how one could feel that way even in Switzerland, though perhaps in a different way.

      It’s interesting that you loved it the first time and not the second. Perhaps you’ve changed, perhaps the place has changed, or specific circumstances converged to make it less enjoyable this time. This is such a fascinating topic!

      • Debbie June 22, 2015 at 9:54 am - Reply

        Hey Amy,

        Thanks for your reply. Yes, such a fascinating topic. I think I loved Saas Fee the first time around as it was my first ‘big trip’ (also, our accommodation was nicer). I truly didn’t want to leave. But, 6 weeks is different to 4 months – so it might well have been too long in one place. Or, as you so rightly stated, I could well have changed.

        I’m going to have a go at America for skiing this year. I’m excited to try somewhere new.

        • Amy Scott June 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm - Reply

          Yes, great point too about the length of time! Six weeks is very different from four months.

          I think this happens a lot when we visit a place for a short time, or on vacation, and wonder what it would be like to live there or stay there for longer, and of course living somewhere is nothing like being on vacation there!

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debbie. 🙂

  4. Carla June 22, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

    I think it’s because of expectations. I had a very similar experience with Paris. And it’s because you have so much expectations about Paris, like everybody wants to go there at least once in their lifetime, all the romantic stuff, the city of love, etc etc. And then when I arrived I was like I definitely been to other european cities that are much more beautiful and romantic than Paris. Overall, I had some bad experiences there too like burglars, some french people harassing and following me, hostels to escape from, etc etc… not what I expected… But I also believe that your case is also related with you being ill, that makes a lot of difference, I bet your experience would had been different if you haven’t been sick. Yet, it may also come down that the place is not for you, like Paris is not for me 😉

    • Amy Scott June 22, 2015 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Oh, yes, places like Paris have SO much hype to live up to, it’s no wonder it doesn’t always meet expectations! At least now you know Paris isn’t for you and can spend time elsewhere. 🙂

  5. Carolynn June 22, 2015 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Totally hear ya, Amy. I moved lock, stock, and barrel from Buenos Aires, where I had friends and was enjoying school, to Medellin, Colombia, which I had heard was so great from other people. I had very little to go in but I took in in faith that I would love it there. And I never did. Everything felt wrong there, everything went wrong there, and yet I stuck it out for almost 8 months because I thought it would get better. To think I could have been in so many other places enjoying myself instead of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole makes me mad sometimes. Of course, as you say, there were a few good things about the place and I’m glad I got to experience it. But based on that experience I would say that if it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t feel bad about it. Go with your gut, and get on the next flight to Tobago!!

    • Amy Scott June 22, 2015 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Ha, what’s so great about Tobago? That’s not a place I have many expectations about, if any—maybe that’s the best way to approach a new place…

      I can totally relate to that feeling of wanting to stick it out, of waiting for things to get better, waiting for it to click, especially when you know so many other people love it.

      The other crazy phenomenon in all this is that sometimes you don’t know how good you have it until you move on! Of course no place is perfect, but when we were in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for four months I focused too much on what I didn’t like about the place. Now that we’ve left, I really miss it and am realizing what really was good about it.

      The benefit of all this, and to getting to try out different places, is that we learn so much, not only about the world but about ourselves, what we like, what we don’t like, what we’re looking for, what’s important to us… So hopefully we can make better choices going forward!

      • Carolynn June 22, 2015 at 5:24 pm - Reply

        I just said Tobago because that is a place I wanted to visit for years, but put off because I was trying to make my Medellin life work. Luckily I had the chance to go in 2013, and had an amazing time. Again, not necessarily a place to live, but I liked it immediately and felt good there.

        • Amy Scott June 22, 2015 at 5:38 pm - Reply

          Ah, I got it! I remember that you went there but didn’t remember that you had been wanting to for years. I haven’t been pining for Costa Rica for years, but here’s hoping I will like it immediately and feel good there!

  6. Akira June 23, 2015 at 7:07 am - Reply

    This is such a refreshing, honest story. Thanks for sharing. I wish more people talked about their negative experiences this way—with fairness, understanding, and yes, a positive attitude 🙂

    Haven’t had the place that didn’t gel for me yet, though I haven’t tried that many. Everything is an experiment though, eh? Kudos to facing that, and making the decision to move on. I hope you’ll get to enjoy fully the next few places!

    • Amy Scott June 23, 2015 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Akira! I’m glad you enjoyed it. And lucky you for enjoying everywhere you’ve been so far! Maybe the ideas here will help if you do ever find yourself someplace that’s less of a fit. 🙂

  7. Alicia December 19, 2015 at 8:37 am - Reply

    This is so true, Amy! This goes for places, people, experience, EVERYTHING in life. I almost don’t want to hear raving review about a place, for fear that I will feel sourly disappointed. I prefer when I expect nothing, and then get to relish in surprise.

    We all hove our own definition of what suits us best. The trick is figuring out what that definition is.

    I kind of feel this way about Barcelona, Spain. I like it. But I’m not head-over-heels-in-love-with-it like some people I know. To each their own (so cliche, but so true).

    Thanks for being honest and sharing, Amy. See you on the road some time. 🙂

    • Amy Scott December 23, 2015 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      Yes, exactly! It seems much better to have few expectations and get to decide for yourself. And while challenging I agree that it’s so important to figure out what kind of places we enjoy (and not feel bad about it, either!). Thanks for sharing your experience, Alicia.

  8. Elena Frank March 14, 2016 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I happened to find this last night and read your piece about Nicaragua. I’ve read all of the glowing reports about Granada and Nicaragua. I was planning to make it the first stop on my journey. Then I made some online friends in Nicaragua, a few in Granada. Little by little the story of their discontent emerged. One man I met told me, after he ran away to the Yucatan, it was boring, the people weren’t friendly, the food was really not so good, it was too hot and dusty, etc., etc. He tried Leon as well and didn’t care for it much at all. Another woman I met, a Central American born woman, went to Granada with an eye towards buying a little place. What she found was drugs, gang warfare and a lot of crime surrounding the central market. Day after day she posted some pretty negative stuff about Granada. This wasn’t her first trip there, but I think it might have been her last. She sent me some articles about North Americans finding their apartments and houses broken into and being harassed. Not the Nicaragua I was reading about. I’ve looked into San Juan Del Sur and found the prices to be going up, up, up on a daily basis. No way, Jose. Nicaragua is off my list. I am so sorry about that.

    • Amy Scott March 29, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Elena. It’s so hard to know what a place is like and whether it will resonate with each person. Despite all the negative things you heard (and my own feelings about the place), there are people I know (and like!) who absolutely love Granada. No place is perfect, but when we find a place that really clicks—or doesn’t—we pay attention!

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