The sunlight slowly cuts his way through the windows of our dark, small bedroom. When I slowly open my eyes my sight straight catches the squeaky and rusting fan which made his turns above my bed. Yawning, I push my sleep out of my mind, while I rub the last bit of my dreams out of my eyes. I sit up, the boys are still fast asleep, unaware of the hangover that awaits them. I feel exhausted, the past few days were beautiful, toured along beautiful bounty uninhabited islands, San Blas and ended the trip in beautiful Capurgana, Colombia. However, I was so tired and busy in my head that I found it difficult to create space for enjoyment during the tour. At the beginning of the trip, Dave, the guide approached me if I had any interest in taking over his position. He would stop in three trips. We discussed that I would make my final decision at the end of the tour. Yesterday I had said yes, yes to guide groups for four days along the islands and then drop them off in Panama City. Stay there for five days and bring a new group to the islands and drop them off in Capurgana, Colombia. “What a dream job. You`ll never get such an opportunity again.” People from the group had replied. They were certainly right about that, but such a job…… I can not do it ....it`s too heavy, away from home from a longer period of time, and my clumsy Spanish .....” “That`s enough Sanne!” I think to myself. “Falling into old habits, aren`t we? Missy gets an awesome job opportunity and fearing that it will lead to a failure, you`ll look for some stupid excuses not to do it; too far away, you're not ready, etc. Now stop pulling yourself down and jump into the deep. You`ve survived the last 4.5 months on your own with your backpack. I`ll promise you, this will be okay." And with a little doubt in my mind I had shaken hands with Fabio, the owner of Slan Blas Adventures, until October the 1st, I would work as a tour guide for them.
Now in my bed, beneath the squeaky fan and one night later, my doubt has now been converted into blind panic. My thoughts and doubts had worked overtime during the night, "What an imbecile I was, this surely was not for me, I'm not nice enough at all to be a tour guide, I don`t have the energy to entertain a group for four days for a period of 4.5 months?” Actually I just wanted to go home, I missed my friends, my family, my room. I was tired of looking a place to sleep every night, figuring out what bus to take, haggling for taxis. I just wanted to go home! The boys had already risen and went on the hunt for breakfast, I'm alone in the room. I burst into tears, feeling deeply alone. “Okay, take it easy Sanne, how are we going to deal with this situation?” I think to myself ...”Corine” shoots through my head, my therapist from back home (see my blog in a `Country far, far away`), if anyone can help me, it's her. Since there is no descent internet throughout whole Capurgana, I decided to grab my phone and call her. Thank God she answers. “Corine, it is Sanne ....”.... it remains silent for a while ... 'Sanne, you must help me, Sanne who? " "Sanne of Ymke, the huge Friesian mare" I reply as I try to restrain my tears.
"Hey Sanne" she replied enthusiastically, with a generous portion of surprise. “Are you back in the Netherlands?” "No" I squeak, even though I really can no longer control my tears, and throw all my dilemmas on the table. Luckily Corine remains calm, she asks how long I already feel like this, where it started and why. "What do you now need to calm down?" she asks finally. “Peace” I reply directly. "Ok, take your rest. Find a place or a beach with no other people, read a book and do nothing. In four days you do your first tour. Dave is still there, so you do not have any full responsibility, then you have another tour with him. If you`re still not ready to do it yourself by then, well then tell them that. If they don`t accept that, you'll just quit.” I smile, loving the way Corine always pulls both of my feet firmly back on the ground. I could kiss her. We hung up and I grab a book and find a deserted beach and decide to go there every upcoming day. All day, doing nothing.
Good stories had reached my ears about the hostel 'Lost and Found'. A hostel in the middle of the forest, with several hiking trails and a great atmosphere. After two weeks of studying hard, I wanted only one thing: peace! So this hostel just seemed to hit the spot. Once I arrived in David I bought a bus ticket in the direction of Bocas del Toro and told the lady at the counter that I wanted to get out at `Lost and Found`. That wasn`t any problem and the price on the ticket is crossed out after some negotiations and replaced by the amount of $3.50. My backpack is definitely overloaded and I creep through the crowd for a place in the back of the bus. The air conditioning brings a cooling relief after an hour in an overheated bus from Boquette to David. My loyal scarf warms me like a blanket and quickly my mind enters sweet dreams.
"Perdon Siñorita!" I jump up and with a sleepy mind I look around in the bus. All passengers curiously turned around observing that weird tall Dutch girl in the back of the bus. “Slept well?” the luggage boy askes teasingly. I nod a bit languid and climb over the baggage and legs to the exit of the bus. The bus driver takes my backpack from the rooftop and waves enthusiastically as he drives off. Here I am, in the middle of nowhere, on the side of the highway. Apart from a small shed which is supposed to represent a local restaurant, I see nothing but forest, forest, forest and in the distance, Volcano Baru. There no sign to be seen of the hostel, so I decided to go to the local restaurant. I ask the lady for directions. She points to an overgrown wooden board, painted with the words: 'Lost and Found'. The path leads through the woods, up the mountain. Quite a climb with 13 kilos of luggage. In between, there are encouraging signs with slogans like “you're halfway, " "sit on the bench and enjoy the view” “the last steep hill” “you're just five minutes away from a cold can of beer.”
A physically intense 20 minutes and a lots of sweating and panting later, I finally reach the hostel. The view is spectacular and the birds fly merrily back and forth. The hostel does not appear to be busy, but the people who are there are nice and friendly. I dump my rucksack at the dormitory and subscribe for supper. That evening we all sit at a long table enthusiastically sharing travel experiences. In the evening it's time for a beer, a game of Jenga and the necessary card games. The next morning we all go on the famous `treasure hunt`. We get a map along with the first clue, which takes us to the highest point in the clouded forest. We walk six hours from clue to clue (including some wrong turns), cross a river 4 times and come to the final clue revealing that the solution can be found in the hostel itself. Tired, but satisfied, we take shower and cook all together. We solve the last puzzle after which Nico, the manager, rewards us with a well-deserved beer.
The following days, I spend mostly with reading, walking, enjoying the peace and above all; the coziness! I meet so many nice people here and postponed my departure here three times. Since we're not able to say goodbye to each other, we decide to rent a van and head for Bocas del Toro all together. A tropical archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.
The days are filled with self-picked coconuts, rum, good music, a game of pool, table tennis or volleyball, but above all, a lot of beach time! Funny to see how close friendships can develop in such a short time. So close that we all wipe away a tear when it comes to our farewell. I am leaving with the night bus to Panama City so I can see the city one day before I take the boat to the San Blas islands. Via which I`ll make my way to Colombia.
While I`m waiting for the bus, I think of all the wonderful days I've had with the group. How many great people I have met, but I also feel very alone for a moment. Although I found traveling amazing, it sometimes is very tiring. Every day finding a place to sleep, all the problems that you encounter, correct yourself, constantly remember new names, packing and unpacking your bag. I feel very tired and decided to take it easy, put my backpack down and treat myself to the dinner that we cooked the day before. My pleasure does not last long. Behind me is a girl at the counter and the tears are appearing in her eyes. She obviously does not speak Spanish and the wife of the desk clearly does not speak English. The girl wants to take the bus which departs within 15 min. I get up and walk to the counter. I put my hand on her shoulder and give her a wink. “I'll help you” I say and ask the woman at the counter what the problem is. The girl has a legitimate ticket in her hand. After some heavy discussion spiced up with Carribean temperament, the lady of the counter finally gives in and allows the girl to get in the bus. “Thanks, I'm Sabrina.” “I'm Sanne, but you may also call me Sanza.” A nickname given by the group of Lost and Found. We get in the bus together and with my new friend, I explore Panama City the next day.
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto