Having never been to Central America before, Frontier's Ethical Adventure Trail in the region was the perfect opportunity for Sophie to experience whole new cultures, food and landscapes for 10 whole weeks!
1) Why did you choose to go on the trail?
Central America was always a place I had an interest in, the culture, language and scenery were so different to England. It was somewhere I had never been before and Frontier offered the chance to do an adventure trail there so it was perfect!
2) What kind of work and activities did you do during your time on the trail?
The trail was jam-packed with activities everyday ranging from sight seeing, exploring new cultures by getting to know the locals and trying amazing food. We also did a week teaching at a Red Cross Foundation in Honduras, it was exhausting but rewarding as the teenagers we taught knew very little English but were able to hold a conversation with us by the end. There was also the animal conservation project in Costa Rica, which was amazing! We saw so many diverse animals on the surveys including turtles, snakes, monkeys and literally hundreds of birds!
3) How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?
The people were so laid back and extremely friendly. I was always comfortable, using my best Spanish (which has improved greatly since travelling!), to ask locals directions or prices etc. They were always willing to help and sometimes even knew a little English which was great for a group of tourists who didn’t know much Spanish at all! The culture is so diverse in Central America too; every country had unique aspects which made the trip all the more exciting. Expect to see lots of colours, dancing and amazing street food!
4) What was the accommodation like throughout your journey?
For the most part we were staying in hostels. They were all well equipped with kitchens and bunk beds; occasionally a bar or even a swimming pool! It was nice staying in hostels and sharing rooms with other backpackers because you get to know them which made you feel comfortable and safe.
5) What were the staff and other trail volunteers like?
There were 4 other volunteers in my trail group and we all got along really well. Everyone was so friendly and easygoing. As we were all from different parts of the UK and around the world it was great getting to know about them and their life at home. The trail leader and staff on the project were brilliant; they gave us independence to head out on our own or choose which activities to do whilst also looking after us and making sure the trip was as enjoyable as possible.
6) What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?
I couldn’t possibly pick one memory that was amazing as the entire trip was unforgettable! Although, one moment which sticks out for me was in Guatemala. We had just spent 2 hours climbing to the top of Volcano Pacaya in Antigua and after roasting marshmallows on hot lava rocks and riding a horse up particularly steep parts we arrived at the top of a very high, very steep hill consisting entirely of volcanic ash and small rocks. Our guide proceeded to explain to us we had to “ski” down it! Following his demonstration, we ran/slid/fell down this mountain getting dust and stones absolutely everywhere, resulting in us all being covered from head to toe in black ash! Now it doesn’t sound particularly fun, but it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
7) Do you feel the work you were doing on your project placement was worthwhile?
Definitely. We did 2 beach cleans which were extremely satisfying as we could see an instant difference. It was crazy how much litter we managed to collect in such a small area. We were also given presentations at the beginning of the project telling us exactly what we would be doing during our stay on the project and how it was going to help in the future.
8) What sort of adventure activities did you get up to?
I’ve lost track of all the adventures we went on during the trail! Some stand out memories include climbing up the tallest Mayan temple in Tikal, Flores at 4am to watch the amazing sunrise, Semuc Champey which included caving by candle light, tubing and jumping off waterfalls, bridges and rope swings, getting our Open Water Diving PADI’s in Utila, Honduras and finally volcano boarding in Nicaragua! Leon is the only place in the world where you can volcano board so I would absolutely recommend it, it’s so much fun too!
9) What were you hoping to learn from this experience, and have you achieved those goals?
I wanted to challenge myself by travelling independently without my parents to become more responsible and being able to look after myself, make decisions and face challenges. I also learnt a bit of Spanish too which I’m positive will come in useful in the future.
10) Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future trail volunteers?
Make the most of each place you visit, if you’re unsure whether to spend money on an activity, definitely do it because it’s a once in a lifetime experience that you’ll probably never get to do anywhere else. Make sure you chat with the locals as much as possible as they are such interesting people and have really fascinating stories to tell, and they are so friendly!
11) What do you have planned next?
I am planning to go on the South East Asia Trial that Frontier offer as well. I am so excited to experience completely different cultures and lifestyles compared to Central America!
12) Anything else you would like to add?
I would highly recommend this trail – it is not somewhere you’d instantly think to travel to but it was absolutely worth it. I had the best time in the world, met some lifelong friends and made memories that I will never forget!
By Sophie Marriott - Ethical Adventure Trail Volunteer
Find out more about Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.