A vacation from vacation with friends in Panama


After 3 weeks of “hard” work at Hostal Bastimentos, we treated ourselves to a fun-filled, luxurious week with our dear friends who came to visit us in Bocas del Toro, Panama. This week marked the first week that we went over budget which made our Director of Finance, Jon, a bit on edge at first. But after he calculated the amount we saved during the work exchange (we paid a whopping zero for accommodation!), he relaxed and enjoyed the ride. With friends Keith, Sam-O, Sam-B, Matt, and Christine, we rented a secluded house on Isla Bastimentos. The only way to get around- water taxi or jungle hike.

One of the best outcomes of having friends visit us is the deeper relationship that we gain. Traveling gives you a special bond with your companions. You are out of your normal comfort zones and experiencing exciting new things together. During this “vacation from vacation” we went snorkeling in the most vibrant and incredible coral reefs, chased dolphins, ate platacones (fried, smashed, plantains), stand-up paddle boarded among the mangroves, flopped into the ocean via trampoline, swing, and slackline. We spotted sloths, red frogs, spotted manta rays, and starfish. These are experiences and memories that we will keep with us forever. When traveling with others, you are also bonded by unforeseen challenges. For example, we hiked 45 minutes through slippery mud and fell on our butts multiple times. We had to run in the pouring rain for 20 minutes without rain jackets or umbrellas when no cabs would help us out. One of our bike chains broke 5 minutes into the ride and we had to turn around and make a new plan for the day. When you face these challenges together you laugh and turn them into adventures! And then there are the times that aren’t especially new nor are they challenging, but rather they are things you always enjoy together- like sipping on cervezas and tropical drinks, making family style meals together, singing songs, and playing cards.


If you go to Bocas del Toro don’t miss the swings and trampoline at Aqua Lounge!

All of these experiences also give you a more real understanding of each other. You begin to understand how your friends/family make decisions, what type of shampoo and toothpaste they use, if they are messy or OCD, and how they assert themselves or go with the flow. Each person is so fascinating and after they visit we love them even more than we did before!

Our absolute favorite part though about having visitors is the conversations we have. We often have long talks about what happiness really means and how to achieve it every day. How everyone has the power to do great things (small or big) with the cards they are dealt in life. How just modeling your values and living the way you want to live has such a positive effect on the world. And how nothing is impossible and sometimes taking a step back, a pause, or traveling out of our comfort zones is what we need to truly get a bird’s eye view of the life we are currently living in and the life our hearts have always desired.

I will end with a quote that some dear friends and I made during a six day intense jungle hike in Colombia five or so years ago. It relates to that last point about the power of taking a step back in life: “when you are hiking through the mud and staring down at the ground in front of you…don’t forget to pause every now and then and look up at the beautiful scenery around you. Or else you might miss out on something really cool!”


Muddy hike to Wizard beach

And here’s what we saw when we paused in the mud and looked around:


The clear waters during our Boat Tour with Bolo- most amazing coral I’ve ever seen


House on Isla Caranero


Spotted this fellow outside of Tesoro Escondido, an eco-lodge we stayed at near Bluff Beach on Bocas


The famous Red Frog Beach was named after this little one!


Two types of flying


Isla Bastimentos, the floating city


View of Bluff Beach from Tesoro Escondido


Jon sold his surfboard for the same price he bought it for to these young business men


Dinner and drinks at Bibi’s on Isla Caraneros


Matt and Christine making a call from the palm tree telephone


Sam B walking the line at Aqua Lounge. None of us could take more than 3 steps! Falling into the warm ocean below wasn’t too bad though.


Best form of transportation: water taxis! “Better than Disneyland!” shouted Jon.


Sunset at The Blue Coconut


Carolyn holding our table at Blue Coconut


Bolo, our pal and the best water taxi driver in Bocas!

Coming up next: We are heading to Medellin, Colombia! We plan to be there for about a week an then head up to Santa Marta to visit the Karpos! Colombianos and world travelers- any recommendations? After Colombia, EUROPE! Stay tuned for details. Out.