No Health Insurance, No Problem

I'm currently writing this from a private room at a hostel in Leon, Nicaragua. I arrived earlier today via chicken bus from the capital Managua. I awoke early this morning in a dorm at Paradiso Hostel with a beautiful view of Laguna de Apoyo. After going for a swim during sunset, I ate a delicious breakfast on a covered patio overlooking the clear blue lake. In this moment, I couldn't think of a better way to be spending my time on this blue sphere floating in space. With one exception. I had recently contracted an ear infection, commonly known as "swimming ear" at a pool party in San Juan del Sur. The irritation due to swelling kept me awake most the night. I tried using pharmacy ear drops multiple times with little noticeable effect. So I found a modern hospital with English-speaking doctors in Managua and hopped on a shuttle with a friendly couple from London. They recently quit their jobs and were traveling in Central America living the entrepreneurial lifestyle. We chatted the whole way to Granada and I learned a few good tips from them about working on the road. From here, I explored the streets of the colorful artistic city market for a few minutes and then continued on to catch my collectivo to the next destination. The driver went past the hospital. There wasn't a convenient moment to get off the van until we reached a shopping mall. I was looking for an Apple reseller to pick up a new charger for my laptop, and sure enough, it was in plain sight out the window. So I quickly motioned the driver to stop and swiftly walked into the store. An American backpacker with poor Spanish-speaking skills in an Apple Store -- nothing could be more out of place. Traveling on a tight budget comes with sacrifices. I'd already made the decision to buy the charger over getting my ear inspected by a doctor. In the words of the late great Steve Jobs, "Stay hungry, stay foolish."

After waiting at the bus top for a few minutes and giving a silver coin to a young boy asking me a question I couldn't understand, I caught another collectivo a short distance to the nearest station. The transportation is so cheap in Nicaragua. It's more common in Central America for people to travel together. Perhaps that's why the people are generally so sociable and helpful. And now I sitting on a shuttle to Leon with eight other people. There was a man wearing a Michael Jackson shirt passing out jewelry to a latina from the university. He was very persistent until she bought a silver necklace. Afterward, he sang to her in Spanish as she sat there blushing. This was a travel moment that I will likely remember for many years. The driver cruised through downtown narrowly avoiding other vehicles. I listened to my favorite podcast The Art of Charm to learn from thought leaders on business and personal development. Always be learning, but don't lose the present moment.

Upon getting off the bus, I'm inundated by taxi drivers offering a ride. After some deliberation, I decide to hop on a taxi-bike which takes me to a nearby hostel. I make chit-chat in simple English with the driver, a hip Nicaraguan guy wearing sunglasses. It would have taken me a long time to stumble upon this place by foot. Money well spent. After checking into the a small private room at the hostel, I make my way to the nearest clinic. Walking through the doors, I'm immediately greeted by a woman behind bulletproof glass. After describing my situation in a few words, she takes my ID and fills out some paperwork. It's 300 cordobas ($10) for a general checkup. I'm directed by a male nurse to a small room to get weighed, then taken to a waiting room and a few other places before seeing the doctor after about 30 minutes. He listens attentively to my health problem, and then directs me to pick up two prescriptions at the pharmacy and bring them back. After about 15 minutes, I come back with the stuff. He then proceeds to fill a syringe with a long plastic needle with alcohol and squirts it directly into my ear canal. It's a surprisingly pleasant feeling as the pus and wax drains of my inner ear into the steel tub below. The dizziness wears off quickly, I sincerely thank him for the medical assistance and walk back to the hostel.

This was a retelling of my first experience with the healthcare system in a third-world country. My expectations of the procedure were confirmed. I got in right away (partially due to white privilege I'm sure), the doctor was very professional, the staff was friendly, and the whole operation only cost about $15! I'm now applying an antimicrobial medicine to my ear every 12 hours to expedite the healing process by reducing swelling. It's not the most pleasant feeling but the alternative would have been significantly worse. No health insurance, no problem. I'm so grateful to be able to hear again! Now I need to make it a priority to learn enough Spanish to converse with the people during my travels.

Thanks for reading this blog post! Hopefully you found it interesting. I'm in the process of writing a book called How To Travel For Cheap. It's broken into 25 chapters and all based on personal experience. Stay tuned!

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