Vagabonding Field Report: Connecting two oceans and continents in Panama

4  1  IMG_7905

Cost/day: $50/day

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

The Panama Canal. I sat on the observation deck for hours, watching in amazement as several ships passed through one of mankind’s greatest engineering feats – which saves ships the arduous 8,000 mile (12,875 km) journey around South America by connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

IMG_7868  IMG_7937  IMG_7895

Describe a typical day:

Panama not only connects two oceans and two continents, but it appears to connect two different worlds. You have the skyscrapers of modern Panama City to the indigenous villages of the jungle. So depending on the day, I either spent all day exploring a modern city and frequenting nice restaurants and cafés, hiking up a mountain and swimming in hot springs, or hanging out on a beautiful beach.

6  3  IMG_3867

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

An older man told me about the unique and complex history of the U.S.-Panama relationship and the influence the U.S. has had on the country – from helping Panama gain its independence and being a preferred trade partner to the anti-American riots in the 1960s. The history would require an entire book, but the influence can be seen even in the small things, such as the fact that Panama is the only Latin American country where baseball – not soccer – is its most popular sport.

IMG_7891  5  IMG_7798

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Panama is paradise – beautiful beaches, delicious food and coffee, breathtaking hikes and friendly people.

It might sound odd, but I actually disliked the advanced transportation infrastructure. Nice roads and buses connected every city, which made it a little less of an adventure than many of the other countries I have been to. I never got lost, never felt confused or had to stretch beyond my comfort zone – which I find very healthy for the mind when traveling.

IMG_8067  IMG_8291  IMG_7813

Describe a challenge you faced:

I arrived with my fiancée in Bocas del Toro on New Years Eve – which apparently every tourist in Panama decided to do too. Every hotel, hostel, couch surfing and AirBnB place we researched was booked. Knowing that a wave of more people were arriving to the island on the next boat, my fiancée and I decided to split up and run door to door to every place to see if they had any vacancy – booking whatever either of us could find on the spot. We eventually found something (probably the last place on the island), but I was secretly hoping we would have to move on to start asking locals to stay in their home!

IMG_7786  IMG_7765  IMG_7749

What new lesson did you learn?

Shortcuts aren’t always shortcuts. Following one of my “brilliant” shortcut ideas on a hike, I doubled a return mountain hike for us instead of cutting it half.


Where next?

Costa Rica. For more on my trip to Panama, please check out my blog or Twitter!


Posted by | Comments (3)  | March 27, 2013
Category: Central America, Vagabonding Field Reports

3 Responses to “Vagabonding Field Report: Connecting two oceans and continents in Panama”

  1. Owen Lipsett Says:

    I enjoyed your article. Baseball is also the most popular sport in Venezuela:

  2. Konrad Waliszewski Says:

    Thanks Owen – and I guess I stand corrected on that point! 🙂

  3. Trevor Says:

    Yeah. Not just Venezuela. It’s the biggest thing in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Puerto Rico, too. Especially amusing is how the Cuban & Venezuelan governments cultivate legitimacy with anti-American sentiment while this most American of sports is broadly popular.