Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I got lost. Not the “Haha I got lost” kinda thing, no, more like the “Oh God, it’s dark, please help me find my way home in this stupid country.” Of course, Panama is not a stupid country, but I was scared.
After my physical exploits and adventures in Costa Rica, I was looking forward to some R&R in Panama. She did not disappoint. My first stop was Bocas del Toro (Bocas), an island chain off the Caribbean coast with lots of character. You will be forgiven if you forget that you are in Central America.
Unfortunately, I can’t say much about Bocas because I did a lot of sleeping there. There’s something about water that calms me; I tend to get carried away in her waves to a place where serenity and imagination reign supreme. I also got carried by her waves and slammed on my butt. More on this later.
Even though I made a covenant with myself to not engage in any physical activity in Bocas, in order to nurse my body, I could not pass up the opportunity to go surfing for the first time. This was going to be interesting because I am not a good swimmer. However, YOLO!
About two days after my arrival, I found a mixed martial arts gym. Of course, I was excited about testing my skills with the locals. I must be honest and say that this did not go according to plan; a mix of their high level practitioners and my fatigue contributed to a humbling experience. I shall keep those photos to myself this time.
The next few days consisted of eating, drinking, and sleeping. After all, when in Rome…
Then came the opportunity to learn how to surf. Let me be clear, if you are not a good swimmer, please don’t try to surf. I fell in ways I didn’t think possible; I feel pain in areas of my body I didn’t know existed, and I feared for my life with fear I didn’t know I had in me. BUT, it was such an exhilarating feeling. When you come out of it, you feel so alive.
Pictures were taken on a friend’s GoPro camera. I’ll share when they become available to me. Please don’t laugh too hard; they will be embarrassing.
After a few days in Bocas, I made my way to Panama City via the night bus. I had heard a few bad stories about taking night buses in Central America, but honestly, besides the air-conditioning that threatened to kill us, I felt very safe.
Maybe it’s the city sleeker in me, or the fact that Bocas locals told me how much they hated Panama City which made me lower my expectations, but I loved Panama City. While it’s a city with tall buildings and a corporate feel, it also has a laid back vibe. The beautiful women didn’t hurt too! I made a point to mention this, because it struck me as innocent beauty. Hard to explain, but please believe me; the beauty of the women in Panama as a whole is innocent.
One cannot be in Panama City and not visit the Panama Canal. A truly amazing show of engineering might, the canal reminded me of the great things humans are capable of achieving. A canal that provides a shortcut to transport goods between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it is also a reminder that globalization is here to stay.
From my experience, Panama could easily pass as an American territory. I suspect that Panamanians would not like that statement, but it is hard to overlook the American influence on this small country. It is also hard to ignore the stipulations in the agreement signed by both countries which states that in the event that Panama is unable to cope with rigors of the canal operations or deal with security issues, good ol’ USA can retake ownership of the canal. I can tell you that has Panamanians on edge.
Oh, by the way, I took an Uber to the canal, very easy getting there. For the way back, did I do the same thing? Nooooo. Thought the return would be just as easy, so I decided to take the metro train back. I live in New York, how hard can it be? Answer: very hard.
Getting to the main terminal was easy enough, but then finding the train was next level difficult. After way too many minutes, I found a train, phew! Was it the right train? Noooooo.
I had to make my way back to the terminal and find the right train. Did I ask for directions? Noooooo. To cut a long story short, I eventually asked for directions without hurting my pride, found the right train and got off at the right stop. Only problem: it was dark and quiet. Everyone seemed to be watching the World Cup qualifier match between Panama and Honduras. What’s worse, my phone had died, so I could not use my map or even show my address. Then began my long directionless walk back to my hostel, hoping and praying that I would somehow stumble unto something that would serve as my north star.
Miraculously enough, after stopping at a bar to eat and watch the match, I clandestinely followed a group of random people I thought would be good to follow, and finally found my north star! I’m guessing the moral of the story is that you will always find your way home? [Insert confused face emoji here].
As you can probably tell by now, I continue to push myself past boundaries my mind had previously fabricated. I believe that our minds work as defensive mechanisms to protect us, and while we should be grateful for that, it also means that our minds involuntarily stop us from expanding our views. So, it is our duty to master the workings of the mind, so as not to hold us back from wisdom.
I do not partake in these “life-changing activities” to prove anything to anyone, but I do so to push myself. If I don’t push myself, I won’t try new things; if I don’t try new things, I won’t experience new sensations; if I don’t experience new sensations, I won’t feel differently; if I don’t feel differently, then I won’t think differently; if I don’t think differently, then I won’t learn; and if I don’t learn, I won’t improve.
Please don’t go risking your lives doing any of the things that I’ve done, but I would like you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. For the more we expand our horizon, the greater our understanding will be of what lies beyond what we see.
Song of the day: Stay Alive by Jose Gonzalez. If you let it, the message of this song will resonate. The song is part of the soundtrack to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a wonderful movie about fighting monotony, seeking adventure, and unlocking the power of imagination. I love both song and movie so much. If you look hard enough, you might see me in there!