Close

a family-run eatery

Unique moments, part 1: Putting in the time

People often want to know how I come up with the various experiences in my itineraries. Sometimes they’re trying to figure out how they can have unique experiences of their own.

I have lots of thoughts on that. But here’s an example of how it happens. As you’ll see, there’s no magic to it – it’s largely trial and error.

In Nicaragua a few months ago, I drove around the Pacific coast with my friend Dave. We were visiting tiny seaside towns, looking at beaches and whatever else caught our attention. I talked for a while with the owner of a seafood restaurant, who recommended we visit a nearby mayor’s office and talk with the tourism official there.

I didn’t love that idea; thought it sounded like a waste of time. But what did I have to lose? So I went with it.

When I showed up at the mayor’s office the next day, the official was out to lunch. His co-workers told us, “You go to lunch too, and by the time you’re back, he should be here.” They described the town’s several options, and we picked the one that sounded the best: a comedor familiar, or small restaurant run by a family out of their home.

lunch at a comedor familiar

Dave talks to our host Hector with the family’s home in the background. The garden is to the right.

Well, we started walking and ended up in a quiet residential neighborhood. With help from a couple innocent bystanders, we found the place. It’s unmarked, so all you see from the outside is a door in a wall. But once you’re in the doorway, you see the family has turned their walled front patio into a thatched-roof dining area and garden.

The food was both interesting and delicious, featuring typical Nicaraguan fruits and vegetables. We learned they grow all their own produce at their nearby farm – except for what’s grown right there in the garden. And our hosts were a pleasure to meet. We spent quite a while there chatting with them. Long story short, my Nicaragua trip now has a farm-to-table experience, visiting their farm and then eating at the restaurant.

Keep in mind that on the way to discovering this farm/restaurant, I discovered a lot of things that won’t be featured on my tours. This story’s happy ending is fun to write about… but we also spent hours wandering around without finding anything that excited us. We ate at places I’d never go back to. We followed tips that didn’t develop into anything special.

That’s a lot of how I understand my job. I’ve put in the time to learn my way around – to meet people, make friends, discover cool spots, and design great moments. My tour members then benefit from the time I invested, enjoying the results of all my trial-and-error research.

Again, there’s no magic here. Finding a unique, memorable experience was just a matter of speaking the language, putting in the time, and staying friendly and open-minded. (You can have unique experiences without the language, too, it’s just harder.)

Stay tuned! I’ll come back to this topic – how to experience unique moments in your travel.

Hector picked up a zapote off the ground and handed it to us. He said it had just fallen off a tree in their garden, and if we wrapped it in a newspaper for three days, it would be ready to eat. Three days later, we feasted on soft fruit that reminded me of sweet potato casserole. Amazing fruit, unforgettable experience.

Hector picked up a fruit off the ground and handed it to us. He said it had just fallen off the tree, and if we wrapped it in a newspaper for three days, it would be ready to eat. Three days later, we opened the zapote (aka mamey) and feasted on soft fruit that reminded me of sweet potato casserole. Amazing fruit, unforgettable experience.

About the Author

Write Your Comment

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>