I’m fully aware that I’m somewhat of an oxymoron. I’d say I love traveling more than most people — I constantly have to be going somewhere or planning my next trip. (Have you ever sat down to make a list of the things that truly make you happy in life? Mine are always writing and traveling.) I live for going on new adventures, seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures, but . . . I HATE flying. And I don’t mean a “Ugh, flying is tiring and annoying” type of hate. I mean my anxiety goes through the roof starting about a week before I have to fly (I usually can’t even eat the day of). It’s so bad, and for some unknown reason, has only gotten worse in recent years (I’m hoping CBD gummies can help, but that will be a story for another day!).
I’m not afraid of the plane crashing, I just hate turbulence so much. I’m that person that, when any sign of rough air starts, looks around at the rest of the plane like, “WHY IS NOBODY ELSE FREAKING OUT? HOW CAN YOU ORDER A DRINK AND SLEEP RIGHT NOW?!” And if the pilot tells the flight attendants they need to sit down, I pretty much lose all chill. It’s because of this fear that I’ve always promised myself I would never get on a small plane if I could help it (in my mind, the smaller the plane, the worse the turbulence).
Fast forward to a few months ago when my husband, Ultan, and I were planning our vacation to Nicaragua and Little Corn Island. I immediately knew I wanted to go there, but when I realized what it took to get there, I started dreading it. Not only did we have to take two regular flights just to get to Nicaragua, but then we had to get on a tiny plane to Big Corn Island and then take a notoriously rough boat ride to Little Corn Island. Long story short, it takes a while to get there and it is NOT easy. But since I’m determined to never let my fear of flying keep me from places I want to go, I decided to just suck it up and do it.
So, how bad was it? And was all the hassle worth it? Ultan and I took a few videos of our journey, so keep reading for the answers to both of those questions. 🙂
First, the tiny plane . . .
After we landed in Nicaragua, we stayed at the Best Western right across the street from the airport that night so we could catch the 6:30 a.m. flight to Big Corn Island the next morning (couldn’t recommend this tip more!). When you’re planning your trip, you have to do a bit of time management, because there are usually two flights to Big Corn Island every day, which coordinate with the boats that will then take you to Little Corn Island. There’s an early morning flight and an afternoon flight, which take about an hour and 20 minutes, and typically cost around $160 round-trip. The boarding passes are laminated since they reuse them for every flight (see photo above!). Oh, and another funny fact: when you’re checking in for your flight, they make you stand on the scale with your bags.
After we handed over our boarding passes, we walked out to this tiny plane, which, needless to say, made me start shaking. I felt a huge lump in my throat, but the (mostly) sunny skies were making me feel a little better about the flight.
There were probably about 8 other people on the flight, and two pilots. The pilots didn’t speak English, and I know about two words in Spanish, but they actually managed to make me smile when they joked around with each other about stealing a passenger’s rum cake for themselves.
Ultan caught me taking deep breaths to try and calm myself down before take-off. I was so, so scared.
Since I was so nervous the whole flight, I didn’t take any videos until towards the end. While we started off flying in sunny skies, we actually flew through pretty dark storm clouds for a solid 30 minutes or so (crazy deep breaths then!). It rained hard, and I wanted to cry, but the pilots did such a great job at flying around the weather. And I swear, there was hardly any turbulence the entire flight. There were maybe 2-3 small bumps during one cloud, and that was it. When we started our descent, I honestly thought to myself, “OK, what’s going to happen now to make up for that good flight?”
The landing was the only bumpy part of the ride, but when I can see the ground and know the flight will be over in a minute or two, I’m totally fine. Plus, I started to get so excited (before the dreaded boat ride, anyway).
Speaking of the boat ride . . .
Before we left for our trip, I did almost too much research about the panga boat rides. They are notoriously rough, and if you Google it or search for them on YouTube, you’ll find videos and commentary that will scare you off. But, still, I was determined not to let it keep me from Little Corn Island.
Typically, once you land on Big Corn, you grab a taxi over to the panga boats and it’s a first-come, first-serve basis with space (if you can’t get on the first one, you have to wait until the afternoon one). June is technically the off season in Nicaragua, so we knew we wouldn’t have a huge crowd of people to deal with. And since we were staying at Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa (a separate post on that amazing place coming soon!), they pick you up in their own panga to take you directly to the resort.
It was a beautifully sunny day, but it was windy, which made me so nervous. And while the ride definitely wasn’t smooth, it was doable (and honestly, if I can do it, I swear anyone can). It takes about 30 minutes (longer if the sea is rougher), and you can see Little Corn Island in the distance after only about 5-10 minutes in the boat, which helped me keep my eye on the prize. Since we were going against some decent waves, we got soaked — like, drenched from head to toe soaked. But there are compartments to keep your luggage safe and dry. And the little girl sitting in front of us also gave me strength (she actually fell asleep in her dad’s arms at one point, so I knew I had to be fine!).
Once I stepped off the boat and my feet were planted firmly in the sand, I was so happy and excited. Not only had I braved a long journey I had been so heavily dreading, but it wasn’t bad at all! I had built it up so much in my mind and thought about how bad it could be that it turned out totally OK in the end. And when I looked out at the crystal clear Caribbean sea while still drenched from the ride, I knew all it took to get there (and all it would take to get back again) was 100 percent worth it.