Oh, Boquete, you stole my heart. I was dialing Nicaragua on the phone and then your call came in. I couldn’t refuse you, your crisp mountain air, your river running through town, your hot springs, your hikes, your waterfalls, your warm sunshine and even your rainstorms.
I have lived for the better part of a year in tropical climates. Puerto Viejo being the most extreme. Wet clothes take days to dry if there is no sunshine, jeans that have been folded up on the back shelf reek of mold after a week of no use, pages in books have an extremely unpleasant pungent odor, forget ever wearing any type of shoes other than sandals, you share your living spaces with all kinds of jungle critters, your bedsheets always feel damp from the humidity, the list could go on and on and on. I’m done. I’m ready for something else. I kept thinking Nicaragua but something wasn’t clicking. I kept dialing the phone and getting a busy signal. I couldn’t figure out why I was dragging my feet.
Then I went to Boquete, Panama for four nights, extended my stay two more nights, and had to force myself to depart. Boquete was birthing a new me and I would quite frankly like to stay within the warm womb and never cut the umbilical cord. I was bereft without my mountains that I am so used to living near and I didn’t even realize it until I was in a range of them breathing fresh cool air and hiking everyday.
Do you know what it was like to arrive the first night and feel chilly for the first time in months? To put on a pair of jeans, a hoodie, my green sauconys and feel nice and cozy? Do you know what it was like to not wear the same shorts and tank top that I have pretty much been wearing since December? To rotate the few long sleeved shirts I have instead of my tank tops? It felt luxurious. Do you know what it felt like to sleep under a down comforter? It felt decadent. Do you know what it felt like to wear wool socks at night? It felt cozy. Do you know what it was like to rest my head on a pillow that didn’t reek of mold? It felt clean. Do you know what it was like to leave food out on a kitchen counter, get distracted by something for 15 minutes in a different room (Me? Get distracted? Never!), return to the kitchen and NOT find your food being overtaken by ants? It felt strange.
Sometimes we don’t even realize we were looking for something until after we have found it. I love the beach, I love the humidity, I love the heat, but I need a break. I come from a place with four distinct seasons, sometimes six if you know anything about stick season and mud season. I was so sure I was ready for permanent summer and now that I’ve basically been living in summerish weather since December, I crave something different. That northeastern American ostrich in me is rearing her head out of the sand and looking around for a change in scenery and climate. I’m ruffling my feathers a little and trying out a new nest. I’m ready to spread my wings and fly to a new place. I don’t think ostriches actually fly but whatever. Work with me on this.
I’ve struggled a bit to absolutely love Puerto Viejo for the three and a half months I’ve been here. The beaches are stunning with the jungle on the shore but honestly, I thought Tulum was second to none. Perhaps I am biased because I was with my best friend and her newborn there. But still… It’s expensive here, often times things are on par with prices in the states. It’s not the safest place to be especially after the sun sets which is at 6PM. In Tulum I used to go for bike rides at night to decompress after a challenging day working hard on my tan at the beach. I never felt my safety threatened there. Here, I do. And every week, you hear of a tourist being robbed on the street sometimes in broad daylight. They are usually non-violent, they just want your money or camera but still, it’s rife here. It’s not in Boquete.
Boquete is this dreamy little town high up in the mountains with an ex-pat community for sure but not so overwhelming that you feel you’ve stumbled into mini North America. There’s lots of Spanish spoken there and while you’re looking upwards, scratching your head, trying to remember a word in foreign tongue, you’re staring at mountains in every direction and you’re inhaling crisp air with no detection of humidity or mold. There’s not a party scene here, which means there’s not a drug scene here. Perfect for the “I’d-rather-read-a-good-book-and-go-to-bed-early-oh-my-god-I’m-becoming-my-parents” person in me.
Yes, I will miss being able to go grocery shopping clad only in a bathing suit and sarong. Yes, I will miss my early morning back floating sessions in the ocean. Yes, I will miss the constant hum of jungle creatures. Yes, I will miss howler monkeys. Yes, I will miss being that slightly crazy woman who stands at the shore and talks out loud to the waves (but there’s a river in Boquete that I’ve already done this with). Yes, I will miss exfoliating my entire body with sand every time I take a dip in the salty water. Yes, I will miss rice and beans cooked in coconut milk. Yes, I will miss my pipa man. Yes, I will miss the immense inner growth I experienced here. Namely, working through the worst bout of homesickness I’ve ever experienced coming to realize that now I wouldn’t trade those weeks of feeling so utterly alone in Puerto Viejo for anything. It all gave me the strength to continue. It showed me the rock I am made of. I chiseled a stronger me out of that sad woman and now I am even more ready to trace my next voyage on the map of Central America. I’m choosing mountains over oceans for the next little span of life.
Goodbye Puerto Viejo. Hello Boquete.