Sometimes you just have to listen to your inner voice and know when to say stop. After writing a previous post on how precious life is, the end of 2014 had been a challenging one for many reasons.
Living in Colombia, I can only stay for 180 days a year on a British passport and my visa had expired, so I had to leave the country, my friends and my Colombian boyfriend, and the place that I now called home to travel elsewhere until my visa allowance started again.
With Panama being the closest city and cheap flights from Medellin, I chose to stay for a few weeks with plans of travelling up to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to research the countries as a solo female. But five weeks in, and still desperately needed to process everything, I was struggling. To be perfectly honest, if I had had the money, I would have flown back home. But I didn't and I knew that once I was home, I wouldn’t be able to come back, so I continued with my plan and spent five weeks living and working on my laptop in a hostel in Panama City.
Christmas came and passed and to me it just felt like another day. Christmas dinner was a trip to Burger King, the only place that I could find open, and I spent the rest of the Christmas period working hard as people partied around me.
Then after New Year (of which I found some amazing new friends and had a blast), I found myself worn out, and mentally exhausted. I've never been one to be able to get the right balance and I spend hours on my laptop but I got to the point where I couldn't even think straight anymore. Learning how to launch and market my new book was a learning curve that was throwing up many obstacles along the way.
Not being able to work properly, I took a break and travelled to Bocas del Toro, a group of islands in the north of Panama. At first it was fun, I partied with the guys that I had travelled there with and explored a couple of the gorgeous islands, but then it all changed.
Lying in bed itching my bed bug bites and fighting the urge to vomit, I felt weak. Some dodgy food from the street vendor the night before had given me a case of food poisoning and was unable to do anything except read and sleep.
Still weak and having to leave the island, I took the four hour bus ride to David, Panama’s second biggest city and tried to sleep through the killer doll movies they played back to back on the bus. Getting to David, I booked a hotel room. My budget only allowed for dorm rooms but after five weeks of sharing rooms with strangers, I was desperate for my own space.
Still unable to eat properly and now with a dose of the flu, I burst into tears. I felt so unhappy. Travel should be fun, and an adventure…but I had no idea why I was doing this anymore. I was away from everyone I knew, alone and grieving.
I didn’t have the energy to endure a seven hour bus ride to Costa Rica and the thought of even travelling that long again, filled me with dread.
So much had happened and so many things seemed to be going wrong. Not only with my health but other things too. My camera had broken, I had lost my new shoes and now appeared to have lost my prescription glasses. The universe was trying to tell me something and I was finally listening.
My long working hours, and being constantly in the presence of other travellers had just been distractions from everything I was feeling, and now I had the added guilt that I could not go home to attend the funeral of my friend, so I made a decision.
I needed to go back to Colombia. I needed familiarity and a place that felt like home. I had friends there and I knew that this was where I needed to go. I wasn’t due back for another four weeks but I just couldn’t keep going so I changed my flight and looked for a closer place to David to stay until I could leave in three days time. Boquete, a small town in the mountain highlands was only an hour away so I moved there and slept and rested some more until I was able to travel back to Panama City for my flight to Medellin.
I can’t describe how I felt when I got into the taxi the other side. The feeling of relief and certainty that I had made the right decision to come back and as I rested back in my old appartment, I finally started to heal.
I always thought that I would be giving up if I stopped travelling but sometimes you really have to evaluate where you are at. For me, the decision was right to stop travelling and just be in one place. Costa Rica and Nicaragua will always be there but worrying about health, money, friends and family doesn’t make a trip enjoyable.
Nearly three weeks later, fit, healthy and so much stronger, I’m ready to get back on the road again and pick up the final part of my trip:
So I’m flying back to Panama to spend a week at Geo Paradise, a tribal gathering with tribes from all over Panama coming together to share their traditional rituals and ways of life. It’s a chance to learn about their holistic health, their indigenous culture and their traditional dance plus there are workshops such as carving, pottery making and chocolate workshops, including a few shaman ceremonies and some electronic music thrown into the mix. And most of the ticket profits go towards sustaining the tribe’s ways of life. Bonus!
So, I’m going to be spending a week camping solo on a Caribbean beach in the name of spirituality. The last time I went camping was in Albania with an Italian guy I met on the bus. Now that’s another story. But camping solo is something I have never done so this is definitely going to be a new one for me.
So as you’re reading this, I am probably sat in a lotus position on a beach in Panama, surrounded by hippies and fellow vagabonds, sleeping in a tiny cocoon they call a ‘one person tent’ and getting back in touch with who I am.
No laptop, no phone, no trace of outside life, just mind, body and spirit for a whole week. Can I really live without my laptop for a week?! I hope so.
Tribal Girl about the Globe here I come… See you on the other side!