I spent way more time in Bocas del Toro than I had originally planned. Clinton and Ben, the Aussie guys I met in Bolivia last summer, hooked it up for me here, and I honestly owe them a lot. They have been traveling for a couple years now and are living in Bocas del Toro specifically for the surf. I absolutely loved it here. Having friends, good surf, and being able to make my own food had me staying in Bocas for almost two weeks. I’ve read travel blogs on how people get stuck in a place for longer than they intended, but this is the first place that’s managed to trap me. This town is filled with things to do. There is probably a different activity for every day of the year. The lazy Caribbean vibes helped me to have time for self-reflection and the locals are kind and friendly. There are always fresh faces due to the influx of travelers coming in and out.
Upon the day of my arrival, I signed up for a yoga class and learned a lot about it. Mostly that I can’t do yoga. Anyone that knows me understands that yoga is probably the least efficient way for me to release stress. If anything, my stress levels rose during the hour and a half of weird poses. I also can’t take the enlightenment part of it seriously. When the instructor began speaking poetically about how our skin is soft and our lips are heavy, or whatever, I couldn’t help but snicker. I KNOW. I’M A TERRIBLE PERSON! Basically, I paid five dollars to lay down.
The next couple of days were more my speed. I took two surf lessons with Escuela del Mar. My surf instructor, William, was a patient and strict teacher. His obvious passion for surf carried into his lessons. I’ve realized this is true of most surfers- none are casual about their sport. Sure, some are more competitive than others, but they all follow the waves pretty religiously. I think surfing is one of the only sports in which every participant has this mentality. Someone can hit me up for a casual pick-up game of basketball, I could go for a swim, or a Sunday match of golf or even a quick run. Surfing though? I think you have to either love it or not. I think it’s pretty hard to casually surf. I learned this in Puerto Viejo later when I was struggling against currents and the waves. This is one of the hardest sports I’ve done. You don’t get breaks in surfing. The ocean is unpredictable, and you always need to be on your guard. My respect for the ocean has grown tremendously, what an incredible force of nature. Rip tides are scary, and it’s no fun being in the washing machine that is the ocean, especially when your board lands on top of your head and gives you a concussion… Unlike many sports, you can’t just quit working when it gets hard, or you get tired. It’s mentally exhausting too. Surfing is a game of timing and pushing yourself past what you thought was possible. It is absolutely exhilarating. For all of these reasons, my stubborn heart loves it. It tests my tenacity and I so desperately want to be good at it. I told my new friend Laura, who is a surfer here, that I have been seeing waves before I fall asleep, and that I can actually feel the motion of the waves when I close my eyes. She says that’s a good sign that I’ve got surfer girl in my blood. I really hope so.
Luckily I get to end my days with some kind of fruity, tropical drink and a nap to cure all the sunburns and bruises- the battle scars of an amazing sport.
I realized this is hands down the place I want to retire one day. I totally understand why so many expats live here now.
I met Laura in her beautiful mansion this morning for a surf session. She’s renting a room here in this gorgeous house. It’s located on the other island, Caranera, and secluded away from the other houses. We walked on her personal pathway through the jungle to one of the best surf spots in Bocas. I still had to rent a board, so after watching her swim out, I walked down the beach to the rental shop. On the way, I saw two police officers snapping a picture of something. I rounded the corner to see what they were obsessing over.
A baby sloth was napping at the base of the tree. The commencement of my weeping alerted the officers to my presence. I walked towards the sloth, tears streaming down my face, and clasping my hands over my mouth in awe at the beautiful creature.
“Can… Can I touch it?” I asked between joyful sobs. It opened its eyes and looked at me. Our eyes met as if I were a Disney princess meeting her animal sidekick for the first time. I stayed there watching it do nothing for ten minutes before I remembered Laura was still waiting for me.
Already turning out to be a wonderful day, the surfing just made it even better. I caught so many waves, and on a short board too! We sunbathed on the deck of her mansion later and danced away the night. Bocas has become so close to my heart, for so many more reasons than what I’ve mentioned. I feel like David after the Dentist asking, “Is this real life?”
And somehow, it is!