LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED: PANAMA EDITION

  • Respect for water and hot water especially. We couldn’t drink the water in Bastimentos which really helped make us aware of how much water we use (waste), how many things we use it for, and how valuable it really is.
  • It's important to go socialize. We have met many people in Basti who were warm, welcoming, and helpful. However it wouldn’t have happened had we not put our selves out there. It's awkward and sometimes scary at first- you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language and don’t know the customs, but it is always worth it in the end!
  • I should have just gotten an unlocked phone and changed out sim cards. It sounds complicated but nothing can be more complicated or annoying than dealing with Sprint on a monthly basis. Yes they have a cheap plan for world travelers but half the time the 3G doesn’t work and the cost of service is different every month.
  • How to cook. In Costa Rica our grocery options were pretty slim since there was only one market in town. We ate the same 3 things all month and were sufficiently tired of rice, pasta, and Rotisserie chicken by the time we got to Bastimentos. On Basti there are 3 markets and we had 2 full kitchens at our disposal. By this time our tummies were getting a bit homesick so we tried things we had never made before just to remind us of home. Recipes did us no good; we didn’t have access to many of the ingredients let alone measuring cups. I literally laughed out loud when trying to find what you season burgers with because the first instruction was to start with 80% lean beef. Who knows what kind of beef I had? There’s only one option and they sling it over the counter to me in a plastic bag. Thank goodness my parents gave me a good basic knowledge of how to cook because I would have been so lost. I guess we managed pretty well though because we both came off that island heavier than we were when we arrived.

Confession: I didn't prepare this yummy dish but I did learn how to make it as they were cooking!

  • Proper planning and budgeting. We could only use cash on the island and while this is somewhat annoying it taught us some good lessons. There wasn't an ATM on the island so we would have to travel 10 minutes by boat to get to the nearest ATM. This alone convinced us to plan out how much money we needed because we didn’t want to go to that island every week. The boat to the island costs money so it was important to watch how much we spent when we got low on cash to ensure we could actually get to the ATM. The first night we arrived Vince and I had less cash than we thought and we ended up only having enough money to get rice for dinner just so we could make it to the island in the morning.
  • How to be comfortable in my skin. The bathrooms barely have toilet seats (some don’t!) let alone mirrors, and there have been no full body mirrors anywhere I’ve been in the last 2 months. When there aren’t any full-length mirrors it makes it painless to say, “Well it is what it is! This is as good as it’s going to get!” I have one in my room at home and I can’t help but stare into it every time I walk by and judge myself. It also makes it easier that no one on the island wears makeup- or a bra for that matter. Everyone just looks normal; everyone looks like themselves.
 Candid photo Vince took of me. I immediately wanted to delete it because my stomach is hanging out, but look how happy I was! I didn't care how I looked in this moment. I cared about squishing my toes in the warm sand and feeling the salt water breeze in my hair. I kept this photo as a reminder (to myself and anyone else who needs it) that you don't need to be skinny in order to be completely blissful. 

Candid photo Vince took of me. I immediately wanted to delete it because my stomach is hanging out, but look how happy I was! I didn't care how I looked in this moment. I cared about squishing my toes in the warm sand and feeling the salt water breeze in my hair. I kept this photo as a reminder (to myself and anyone else who needs it) that you don't need to be skinny in order to be completely blissful. 

  • Humility. We live a different life in the states than they do here. It does not mean we are better. They are good at certain things and we are good at certain things, but it does not make one better than the other. The superior attitude of Americans has become more and more apparent to me as we continue traveling. We need to work on humbling ourselves as a whole and as individuals as well!
  • Finally, I have learned to live right in the moment because there are so many things that you just cannot capture with a camera. I have learned to appreciate what my eyes see and what my heart feels. No matter how hard I try it isn't possible to fully communicate all of the sights, smells, and sounds of this place. I cant show you the things I felt as I sat on the dock staring into the unbelievable stars with a bonfire cracking to my left and the love of my life holding me in his arms. I wish you could hear the sounds I hear as I lazily swing in a hammock- the booming laughter of Jaguar, the clink of beer bottles in the center of a group of friends, the excited yelps of the girls leaping into the water from their yacht, the pads of small children’s feet hitting the deck as they run. There are jumping fish that come around every few days and hop out of the water for just a split second- and just as quickly as they came, they are gone. Sometimes you can’t even turn your head fast enough to see them, you just hear the strange noise of hundreds of fish bellies slapping the water. When I saw the bioluminescent plankton the water was too murky to capture the majesty from above, and the GoPro doesn’t do well in low light. I have only my memories of their gorgeous glow enveloping me in the dead of night. It does a person good to not live behind a phone or a camera. It is hard for me to do that because as a photographer I am prone to snap away, becoming obsessed with getting the perfect shot- and I miss the moment. I have finally learned how to be present in life and how wonderful it feels to have enjoyed every second of it.