Saturday, October 19, 2013

Recap: A Sailing Adventure

I'd been asked why I never mentioned here that I was going back to Panama to go sailing (as evidenced by this post and this one). My answer was that I'd mostly already told everyone about it in person, so I guess I didn't really feel the need. But now that I'm back home I can expand on things a bit more.
Those of you who first heard about this in person know that the original plan was to go back to Bocas del Toro to meet up with friends and sail from there to Columbia. It was an opportunity too good to pass up. Most of you also know by now that Columbia didn't happen. One thing after another piled up and it just became kind of an impossibility. Regardless, the two and a half weeks I spent on the boat were pretty awesome. Here, now, are some more pics and more details...
What was it like living on a boat? Pretty laid back, actually. The three of us tended to wake up early-ish, do some kind of activity - swimming, exercise, a light hike, surfing (I don't surf, but I can take surf pics!), snorkeling, diving - and then retreat back to the boat for naps/reading/dominoes. We'd collaborate on dinner, play more dominoes, and then go to bed early-ish.
Speaking of food on the boat: Damn, we ate good! We caught fish and lobster so we had fish tacos and Creole lobster Alfredo. Chorizo jambalaya, blackened chicken sandwiches, veggie stir fry, and stuffed pumpkin were just some of the dishes we had. Although I like to cook, I only cooked a couple of times because Matt (the captain) really likes to cook too and the captain always gets what he wants!
So what was my job on the boat, then? I'm not a sailor, have never sailed a day in my life, actually. Primarily I was the dishwasher, but I was also the general tidier and picker-upper. My most important job, however, was Chief Rum Drink Maker. Apparently, I'm good at it. :) Also, the last day on the boat before we docked it at the marina and headed back to the States was major work-on-the-boat day. All of the interior wood needed to be oiled, the bathroom and refrigerator needed to be cleaned, the floors had to be wiped down, laundry had to be done, water tanks had to be filled, and surf boards and other toys needed to be brought below deck. I didn't do ALL of that work, but I definitely did my fair share - it was my last chance to prove myself useful!
And how was it to be in such tight quarters with two boys? Not too bad, although I did tell them that never in my life have I been around so much spitting, burping, or farting haha. We teased the hell out of each other and basically never stopped giving someone a hard time. But really, we all got along and did our part to be useful when we needed to be and stay out of each other's way when that was needed more. I had to smile the night that all three of us were working in the tiny galley kitchen at the same time. Matt was chopping on one end, I was chopping in the middle, and Austin was stirring at the stove. Aw! How family-like and homey! :)
Didn't anything exciting happen? Hmmm, no, I suppose not by traditional definitions. I didn't bungee jump or see any famous monuments or experience a major "first." I saw a big-ass spotted manta ray while snorkeling one day and an up close pod of dolphins swimming alongside the boat (I've never seen them that close before), both of those things were pretty cool, but not exciting per se. No, it was just a time to relax and get away from it all.
Speaking of getting away from it all...the farthest we ever got was this general area. But make no mistake - we were definitely in the middle of nowhere. We were the only white people we saw for days and, with few exceptions, no one spoke any English. We were such an oddity, too. The locals would paddle out in their cayucos and just kind of watch us/look at the boat from a distance. Some of the braver ones would venture closer and initiate conversation. (One super brave kid named Wilbur actually climbed on the boat when we were below deck. I had to go up and tell him he wasn't allowed to do that!) The kids loved to run errands for us - when we tired of chatting, we'd send them off to get coconuts or oranges for us (we would pay them, of course). The adults would bring different kids over each day because everyone wanted a close look. Sometimes they'd try to sell us stuff we didn't need (homemade crafts and such) and sometimes they'd ask us for gifts. We were asked for books, cookies, sugar for coffee, clothing, water. No electricity in the village meant that they weren't used to cold water. They found it quite odd and always made a face when drinking it, but word soon got out and all of our visitors were asking for this strange drink.

I knew more Spanish than Matt and Austin, so I ended up being our translator. I admit that I surprised myself with just how much I knew. If we hadn't been in such a remote area, I don't know that I ever would have figured that out. Don't get me wrong, though - I definitely need a lot more practice!

So that's about it, my grand sailing to Columbia adventure that never was! I think the guys will make another attempt sometime early next year, but I don't know if I'll be included in those plans or not. 

What's next for me? The job search is in full swing. Beyond a trip back east for the holidays, I have no major travel plans. But you all know me - more travel is absolutely in my future!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


So this is pretty much how my days have been looking...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013


In the last five years, I've spent 15 months traveling, so that means 15 of the last 60 months (which, somehow, sounds like more to me) were spent with passport in hand. That, of course, doesn't include long weekend jaunts here and there.
(Bocas del Toro)
The title of the post - 22 - comes from the number of countries I've visited on my own now. In case you're keeping track or need a refresher, they are: Mexico, Spain, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Besides the US, there are four others that I've visited with friends: Canada, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Scotland. I miscounted prior to this trip and for some reason thought my Central America travels would bring my country count up to 30. I was wrong, so it looks like I'll have to keep trying. :-)

My passport only has three blank pages in it now and it doesn't expire for four years, so I'll probably end up needing to have pages added before too long.
(Pink sunset at Bocas)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Water activities

I've officially been back on US soil for about 24 hours now, but because my last few days in Panama were spent on a sailboat I didn't have tons of internet connectivity to let you all know of my comings and goings. Here's how it played out...

Last Friday I met up with a couchsurfer who'd invited me to stay on his boat that he had docked at the Isla Carrenero marina in Bocas del Toro. There were three beautiful, lovely days of hanging out in the cockpit, taking the dinghy to go snorkeling, diving, and spearfishing for lobsters, with liberal amounts of Panama beer and rum cocktails taking up the time in between. I even went wakesurfing for the first time! The guys had much better runs than me, but they surf and I've never even come close to standing on a surf board before, so I consider it a success. :)
I had the opportunity to meet friends and be introduced to people I never would have met otherwise. We were all invited to dinner one night - the house was gorgeous and right on the water. The food was simple but very delicious (I was considering my third plate when I decided that might be a bit much!), and the company was great.
(My home was the boat second from the right)
It's strange because for at least a week I'd been really ready to head home. But here I was, days away from being back in the US for the first time in months, days away from seeing friends and family...and yet I was wishing I had another week to spend with my new found friends. Just such a good vibe, ya know?
I have a sister sitting here anxious to pull me away from the computer so we can go hang out and do sisterly things, so that's all for now. But I'll have a bigger update/change of plans in a few days, once I've worked out the details...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Miss, Part 2

As my 12 week Central America adventure begins to come to a close, I was inspired by my original "I Miss" post to share some of the things I'm looking forward to once I return home. This will be bullet-style since there's no rhyme or reason to this list of randomness. :-)

* Brunch - This will never change, I don't think. I love brunch and doing it the way we do it in the US is hard to come by when I travel.
* Lack of humidity - San Diego has me spoiled now. There have been a few days here and there when I was at a high altitude and had some periods of coolness, but for the most part it's been hot and humid. Me no likey.
* Good beer - Again, I have San Diego to thank for this. So many good microbrews and Central America has had me drinking "national" beers, their version of Bud or Miller Lite.
* 2-ply toilet paper - No commentary necessary! Along with this is the ability to throw used tp in the toilet instead of the trash can.
* My bed - No commentary needed here either. 
* Jeans and Converse - Just as a change up to what's currently in my pack.
* Mexican food - San Diego, what have you done to me?!
* Trivia nights - It's one of those new(ish) routines I had of the last 9-10 months and it will be fun to get back to it. We'll still lose lol, but at least I'll be hanging out with my buds.
* Phone connections - I've been lucky enough on this trip to have access to free texting and phone calls, but those connections depend on wifi and it will be nice to have a call without echoes and weird long pauses.
* Veggies! - Rice and beans are good and all, but damn do I miss good produce.
* Working out - Yep, I miss it. I'm ready to get back into the gym.
* Talking without thinking - It's tiring having to translate everything in your head before you say it. My Spanish just isn't good enough yet that I can talk without having to think it through first.
* Not needing to worry about bites - sand flies, mosquitoes, bed bugs, mosquitoes, no-seeums, spiders, mosquitoes, ants, mosquitoes. I'm WELL over the bug bites.
* Iced coffee - You just never know what you're gonna get when you order an iced coffee here and I just miss the real deal.

As usual, this list seems to be dominated by food and drink...what can I say? I like eating and drinking! This time one week from now I'll be back in SD and getting started reacquainting myself with all the things on this list that I've missed.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Spanish by the Sea - Bocas del Toro

For the past two days, I've stayed at Spanish by the Sea, a cute hostel slash Spanish school in the center of Bocas del Toro. Check out my full review here.