Panama 2018: Learning on the fly

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How have 6 weeks gone by already? It seems too soon for the 2-week countdown to my return to begin. I feel like I’m just starting to find my travel mojo again. This is the first time since 2008 that I’ve been on the road for this long of a stretch, and it has piqued my passion for longer-term travel again. There is so much in the world to experience, and there are so very, very many people to meet. There will never be enough time.

Perhaps contributing to the late discovery of said mojo was a month of solid rain in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, which made me feel and smell like it was the seventies again and I was sleeping on the ground in a damp canvas army-issue tent in a rainy campground. Everything that could go moldy went moldy. Even things that I didn’t know couldn’t go moldy (my leather necklace from Bangkok, circa 2008?) went moldy. In all my travels I have never longed so much for dry. To top it off, three (!) bouts of illness were thrown into the mucky mix, including one on my birthday.

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Yet gratitude abounds. You can’t shovel rain, and I never once had to go rummaging for a scarf, hat, boots or mittens. I got to touch the ocean every day, and spend time with friends. What’s having to toss out a few pieces of musty old travel clothing in comparison?

The rainy month in CR was followed by a less-than-inspiring foray across the border into Panama. It’s a rare occurrence (in fact I’m not sure it’s ever happened to me before) but I disliked the vibe on Isla Bastimentos so much that I left. I hopped back across the border to Puerto Viejo to soak up more of that seductive Pura Vida. I recouped there for a few days, in every way including financially. After I bolted from my depressing guest house on dark-souled Bastimentos, to make myself feel better while I figured out my next move I punched way out of my price range and booked in for three nights at a gorgeous little boutique hotel. Equal parts unnecessary and necessary, or so I convinced myself. You can find peace of mind anywhere, but sometimes it will cost you.

But I didn’t come this far in ten years of world travel to get all whiny and give up when things don’t go as planned. It’s happened to me a thousand times before. When did I forget that the unexpected and disappointing are all part of the adventure? So I stuffed my backpack again and headed back to Panama, this time to the coffee-growing mountain town of Boquete.

If Bastimentos disappointed, Boquete made up for it in the first hour alone. It was love at first sight (an end-to-end rainbow!) and at the first deep inhale of this pristine mountain air. Every day is a temperate low twenties, with a persistent wind sweeping down a cool intermittent mist off the surrounding mountaintops. Great for those steep, hot runs, not so great for working outdoors on the laptop, but I’m determined to find a workaround. The sky dances with an almost surreal mix of cornflower blue, misty golden sunglow and white, fast-moving cloudfluff. Wander up any road out of town and fill your eyes with the sight of alpine-style homes and cottages dotting the verdant hillsides, surrounded by spectacular vistas and boasting colourful riots of flowers spilling over their fences. Back down at street level, Boquetians are some of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve met. And through it all, a river runs. It’s not hard to see what makes this a top retirement destination for North Americans.

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Retirement…the notion of a slower pace suddenly has a nice ring to it. One big discovery I’ve made on this trip is that I can’t move around as much as I once did. I’m grateful every day that my business has built up to the level that it has, but that carries with it the added responsibility of being available and ready to work when needed. While I used to find it fun and adventurous, spending hours shuttling between destinations doesn’t allow me to be either available or ready to work, and it makes me feel a little stressed and unfocused. I want to see new places, but my clients come first —I wouldn’t be able to do this if it weren’t for them — so I want be as available to them as I can be. If I want to travel while I work, I need to respect the work above all.

Truth be told, moving around a lot is also getting kinda tiring. I’ve found more peace and relaxation of late by settling down in one place for an extended time. Not only is it a better fit with my work ethic, but it also allows me to really get to know people, and to me that’s the greatest gift travel gives. Less seeing, more being is the rule for future workations.

I could easily spend my remaining two weeks in Boquete, but I’ve still got a few more shuffles on the roster that I can’t change. I didn’t plan this trip perfectly, but that’s how travel goes sometimes. You learn and discover as you go. You make mistakes and carry on with no regret, until you stumble upon those places that suddenly make you want to grow a few roots and just bloom where you’re planted.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing each other again, Boquete. Next time I’ll set down my backpack and stay awhile.

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“If we slow down, everything lasts longer.” ~ Paolo Coehlo

4 thoughts on “Panama 2018: Learning on the fly

  1. You have amazing adventures most only ever dream about . Thanks for the updates it’s great to hear where and what youve been up to .
    Keep on keeping on . Life is an adventure and you seem to capture every minute of it .
    Enjoy the journey

    Liked by 1 person

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