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Nov 29

Same Same Syndrome

The boat to Isla Ometepe

One of the most inevitable consequences of traveling longterm, particularly if you are traveling in just one region of the world, is what I like to call “Same Same Syndrome”.  It is a variant of Traveler’s Fatigue, but its symptoms do not include exhaustion, depression, or purposelessness, rather its symptom is something that many consider far worse: boredom.

Same Same Syndrome is the sickness that befalls a traveler as the novelty of his travels begins to wear off and everything starts to seem… same same.

Things that at the beginning of your trip would have been incredible and fascinating start to sound distinctly unappealing – especially when compared to a beer and a hammock.  Museums are the first to go; that impressive collection of pre-colombian artifacts is now rows upon rows of pottery shards.  Then, wandering the colonial town looses it’s appeal; How many plaza mayors, central parks, old churches, and marketplaces can a single traveler stomach?  That’s alright, you still have the attractions.  Sadly though, even the great Mayan ruins, the volcano hikes, and the glorious beaches are no match for time, repetition and your own personal inertia.  Soon enough, you will be back in that hammock – beer in hand – wishing the fresh-off-the-plane traveler (FOP) next to you would shut up and stop talking about the f*cking waterfall nearby.

Same same syndrome can be fought off for a long time by mixing up your travel arsenal.  Learn salsa, take spanish lessons, visit a friend, work at a coffee farm, do a home-stay, learn how to make baskets, get your diving licence, do a cooking course, work at a hostel for a while, rent a motor-bike, go ride a horse, become a rum aficionado, go to a different country, or change continents are all great ideas to keep you travels fresh and invigorating.  Eventually though, Same Same Syndrome will catch up to you yet again, along with other forms of Traveler Fatigue, and you find yourself back in that hammock yet again – beer in hand – realising that only things that can motivate you to get up are food, a cutie with a nice pair of legs, being out of beer, and the inconvenient need to pee.

Getting ready to celebrate One Year on the BIKE!

This is more or less the position that I found myself in in Granada, the tourism gem of Nicaragua.  I was in the hammock – coffee in hand- recovering from an amazing One Year on the Bike Anniversary celebration that had involved two excellent bottles of 7-year Flor de Caña Rum, one we-are-already-drunk-so-it doesn’t-matter bottle of 4-year Flor de Caña rum, an endless supply of one litre bottles of Toña beer, a plethora of wonderful travel buddies, and more salsa music then my wounded shoulder could handle.  And so, as my well-deserved hangover began to fade I decided to pull out the Lonely Planet Guide and see if I could find something “productive” to do with myself.  “Colonial buildings… Parque Central… cathedral… Plaza de Independencia… Convento e Iglesia de San Francisco… museum… Iglesia… museo… stunning view…”  I yawned loudly, tossed the book aside, and got up to get myself another cup of coffee before I settled back into the hammock and debated what I should do for breakfast later.

The good thing about Same Same Syndrome is that it just makes you bored, not depressed, so I was actually in a fantastic mood in Granada.  I knew though, that my game was up.  I was suffering from Severe Same Same along with more dangerous variants of Traveler’s Fatigue lurking in the background and traveling by bicycle had long lost it’s novelty factor.  The thing to do now would be to slow down and sniff out those more unique, more rewarding traveling experiences but I had neither the time, the patience, nor the money to do that at this point in my trip.  It was time to make a dash for the finish.

I had had a good run though.  It had been 15 months since I had left Australia, and my spirits were still relatively high.  Now I just had another 6 weeks or so of the Tour left, followed by another couple of months of shenanigans, and then I could settle back into the “normal life”.

So the next day, Tony and I got on a boat to the Island of Ometepe.  Ometepe is a traveler’s dream come true.  It is an island in the middle of a lake formed by two volcanoes, one of which is active, and one of which has a lake.  There are small villages, beaches, waterfalls, hikes, kayaking, farms, incredibly friendly people and lots of hammocks.  It’s the sort of place that I would have easily spent two weeks exploring at the beginning of my trip.

We stayed for just 3 days.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about Same Sameness.  Check out this video from over six months ago on my way to Oaxaca, Mexico.

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