Typically, I did not look forward to spending time in larger cities during our trek south. Cities in Central America can be frightening, and overwhelming, though definitely manageable and enjoyable so long as you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. While I had certainly had great times in other big cities in Central America, Panama City was the first to really make my heart sing. We spent the majority of our time in Casco Viejo, the “older” more historic part of the city that is undergoing some major renovations, which I believe will make the city even more fabulous than it already is. There was brilliant street art around every corner, juxtaposed by old churches and classic architecture. There was also a Columbian lady in the park who made the greatest hot-dog in my culinary history (sorry, Chicago, but this lady knew what was up). And let’s not forget the Panama Canal–an incredible feat of human engineering that completely blew me away and reminded me that we are capable of anything we set our minds to. We spent more time here than we did in many other places, but I was still not quite ready to leave when the time came. I felt like Panama City was still hiding secrets for me in it’s many nooks and corners. Perhaps one day I’ll go back to seek them out. Perhaps you can come too. Skyline
In Casco Viejo
I Came As A Rat
Through The Canal
The Church of Hot-Dog Park
Bird and Bart
Por Cambio Artistico
When we crossed the border into Panama things felt different. There was a weight to it, and for whatever reason Panama seemed much farther away and more exotic than any of the places we’d been. Our excitement was palpable as we walked across a rickety old railroad bridge and found a shuttle that took us to a water taxi headed for Bocas Del Toro; a chain of Islands off the Carribbean Coast of northern Panama. Bocas felt like a daydream, a sleepy little island town where the transportation of choice was either boats or bicycles. The peak of our sloth obsession, which started while still in Gracias and continues to this day, occurred when we saw our first real live sloth near the Playa Rana Roja (we were giddy with excitement people…positively giddy). It felt like a much smaller, much slower, Latin American New Orleans. I dreamt of staying, of making a life that allowed me to live in those sleepy islands forever. But we had more to see, so we went… Bocas Blues
Know Your Roots
Hotel Bocas Town
Costa Rica was brief, but we soaked up every second we were given there. We arrived in San José in the early evening and explored a corner of the city in search of ice-cream. The trees that lined the parks were full of brilliant yellow and green parrots whose songs whirled between the surrounding buildings. The next morning we shot off for the caribbean coast and landed in Puerto Viejo; a laid back little surf town that felt just like home. We rode bicycles in the rain down to Punta Uva and bounced from beach to beach all the way back. Puerto Viejo was simple and charming, and is now also home to the best calamari I have eaten in my entire life. Per usual I was not ready to leave, but we rambled on anyway…
After spending the last year living and working in Honduras, I headed south with my dear friend Alex to do some exploring after school got out in June. We waltzed out of Gracias in the mañanita and set our sights on Granada, Nicaragua (after a short, but still excellent, stop in Tegucigalpa). We stayed in Granada a couple days and then hopped a ferry to La Isla de Omotepe– an island in lake Nicaragua that I was ready to stay on forever. Isla de Omotepe is home to two very large, active volcanos (Maderas and Concepcíon) and we stayed at a beautifully wild place called Little Morgan’s tucked right beneath them. We got up one morning (earlier than either of us really wanted to) to hike Maderas, the smaller of the two volcanoes. The entire trek felt like being on an Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunt–trudging through thick, green jungle in the rain and mud. We made fast friends with some future doctors and shared a few late nights with them before parting ways to head for San Juan Del Sur–a little surf town on the pacific coast. If I were to move to Nicaragua, I would make San Juan del Sur my home base, passing my evenings watching sunsets on the beach with a glass of Flor de Caña in hand. I fell head over heels for Nicaragua and can’t wait to go back…
Sunset in San Juan Del Sur
En Route to Volcano Island
Concepcíon from Little Morgan’s
San Juan Del Sur
As my days here wind down and I prepare to leave Gracias behind, I can’t help but think of all the things in this wonderful little town that will leave me with the sting of missing. The first of many is the sheer joy these little guys brought with them into each and every day.
Children are amazing. They’re imaginative, honest, unashamed by their emotions, and excited to share their wild little worlds with you. They dream of impossible things, creating whole universes with wide eyes and unbridled laughter. They learn quickly, eat slowly, and say exactly what they mean. I could never have guessed that I’d learn so much about how to carry myself in the world from 2 and 3 year olds. Not only did they teach me to speak Spanish, they taught how important it is to see the world for the fascinating, and awe inspiring place that it truly is. It has been such a gift to see the world through their unspoiled eyes, a gift I hope to carry with me forever.
My time in Gracias is dwindling and as I feel the days slipping past I can’t help but think how difficult it will be to leave to this place. While I’m excited to travel, and go home to my friends, and move forward with my whirlwind life, thinking about saying goodbye to Gracias nearly brings me to tears. But my friend recently reminded me that goodbyes should not be easy, and that we shouldn’t want them to be. My goodbye with Gracias will be one of my hardest to date; it has been such a wonderful home, and I’ve found so much to love here. I suppose my only choice is to bite my lip, soak in every detail, and breathe in each moment knowing that goodbye is just around the corner.
Most days, I wake up and question whether I’m still dreaming when I walk out my door. Maybe that’s what I love, that everyday feels surreal, hazy, softened, like at any moment I’ll be tugged out of a long sleep and realize that I’d imagined the whole thing…that this strange and beautiful little world doesn’t even exist. Then I blink, realize that it does, and feel deeply grateful for the hand I’ve been dealt.
Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?
The world is breathlessly waiting for you to step out the door and discover its secrets. What are you waiting for?
People always have a lot to say about Valentines Day. The cynics will tell you it’s overly commercial; an ordinary day turned into a marketing ploy for all things pink, heart shaped, or chocolate. Maybe they’re right, but all I can say is what’s not to love about a day where we focus on love in its many beautiful forms? In this crazy, often hate-filled world of ours, isn’t it nice to take even just one day to tell your people that you care about them, to do something unexpected for someone special to you, to soak in all the good feelings that loving and being loved bring with them?
I have been blessed with so much love from so many places in my life that I spend each day wondering what I could possibly have done to earn it. So, these roses are for you, you countless beautiful souls who have given me all the love your hearts could muster, even when I least deserved it. You mean a million and one beautiful and fabulous things to me today and every day. I love you, I love you, I love you!
Infinite x’s and o’s