Monday, May 20, 2013

We are Travelers, with a CAPITAL T

We are travelers.  As our mode of transport is a sailboat some would call us sailors, and while we DO sail, mostly we travel.  As travelers by boat, we face a number of challenges and hurdles, like hurricanes, tides, currents, squalls, rolly anchorages, inadequate exercise, cramped living, etc., etc., etc.  All these things considered, traveling by boat is infinitely better than traveling by any other mode of transport. 

I have just returned from Vancouver, BC, with a quick stopover in San Diego before returning back here to our favourite spot in Panama City, the La Playita anchorage.  As such, it really was a case of trains, planes and automobiles, and that was before I even got out of Panama.  A few thoughts….

1) Rules are different outside of North America.  My taxi driver, who I picked up for a dollar to take me to the central location for the buses, was busy texting and talking the ENTIRE ½ hour I was with him.  Strangely, I was more impressed with his multitasking, than I was fearful of my life.  Maybe here the men can do more than one thing without causing a traffic jam, or an accident?

2)  After my taxi ride, I embarked upon the hottest trip I’ve ever been on in a bus.  Although the municipal buses here in Panama City are brand new, sparkly clean, and have lots of legroom (when used appropriately) they do not have shades, the windows do not open, and there are about 10% of the ones needed out on the road.  Hence, my trip from the central bus depot was like standing in an oven with every one of my friends (from my whole life).  Of course, the 20 minute trip took 2 hours because everyone from Panama City wanted to get on this particular bus.

3) The whole world does not have the same temperatures that we do here in Central America.  Was my brain addled from the heat and the humidity from the last 3 years?  I don’t know, but what I am now well aware of is that one pair of flipflops to go to one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities in North America is inadequate, inappropriate, and downright cold.  I was channeling my inner geisha girl when faced with my midnight to 6am layover in Chicago, I pulled a pair of ankle socks out of my backpack and tried to warm the icicles that used to be my toes, wearing them with my sandals.  It didn’t work and it looked stupid.  

4) I get the whole security checkpoint thing.  I’ve defended it, I understand it, I also rue it.  When one is employed (as I used to be) and traveling for business, you are on someone else’s clock.  You can stand in line waiting for……who knows what, but you can do it because it’s frankly part of the job.  Who cares?  You are still getting your paycheck if you stand in line, or are in a business meeting.  When you are NOT working, all of a sudden, the hour you spend in those lines is an hour closer to the time you meet your maker.  I’m not interested in that.  Therefore, I want a line especially for me to avoid wasting my life being told to take off the above flipflops (there could be a bomb in there), spread my arms and pretending I’m making snow angels, and defending my lifestyle to a bunch of unimaginative Immigration officials. 

5) WTF?  $6.02 for a cup of coffee and a scone?  I must admit tho that the absence of the drone of a generator was appreciated. Not worth $6.02, but appreciated.

6) North America has GOT to get their shit together.  Why can I get free internet in the Panama City and San Salvador airports, but have to pay in Chicago? 

I could go on and on.  Most of my friends from “before” are in the travel/tourism business, so they live all of the above and so much more.  I could do it when I was younger, but life now is so much more precious.  I’m starting to realize that perhaps I may not live forever, and so each day and moment is appreciated more than ever.  Our sailing lifestyle may have its own set of challenges, but they are all a part of this choice we’ve made and they frankly make so much better stories than…..”today I stood in line at the airport to get told to disrobe, and not talk back to lesser educated, less traveled, and incredibly boring individuals.”  I’ll take my 8 hour trip to the market for eggs, my 600 square feet of living space, my language-challenged taxi rides, and my dodging of wind squalls any day, over all those sorry disaffected souls, standing bleary and blankly in line. 

I just wish this lifestyle paid better. 

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