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nothing ever changes.

May 27, 2013

When I left Denver at the start of this month, I felt heartbroken and lonely [save for the melodrama often associated with heartbreak and loneliness]. As I am frequently inclined to do when confused or stressed, I cried. [Public emotional outbursts—a regrettably common theme of my blog posts.] For the first time in two years, I felt lost, the tears manifesting having grown tired of the seemingly endless stream of hellos and goodbyes… resenting that as a traveler we fall into friendships and relationships whose ends are all too often defined by flights home and new opportunities thousands of miles away… a predictable parting of ways in search of new adventures. The lifestyle we choose to live doesn’t exactly lend to prolonged intimacy of any sort, only short sprints of fierce desire and deep, raucous laughter peppered with overly romanticized dreams of the “what if” of future encounters and shared endeavors. I was moving forward while looking back, longing for past connections and experiences of recent months. Having no notion of what I was seeking or searching for in returning to Panama, if anything at all, my heart hung heavy.

Up until this point my spirit has guided me from one beautiful place to another, each adventure flowing seamlessly into the next, enriched by all of the characters who have stolen bits and pieces of my heart along the way and the experiences that mold those memories I take with me when I leave or when I am left. I’ve never stopped to question my meandering as there’s always been a “plan”, even if tentative and even if consisting of little more than a continental location; there was always something on the horizon dictated well in advance. But now, after so much sustained exploring, I can’t help but wonder if mental and emotional progress, the building of a better self, is still enough to fully satisfy me.

I want to continue living in a perpetual state of wanderlust—always learning and exploring, but I also want roots. I crave a reason to be somewhere—a person, a passion, a mere love of a place or life somewhere—and I desire some shred of constancy in my transient life. It’s a bewildering paradox having the most significant draw to life as a vagabond act simultaneously as the biggest disappointment… and at two years in, I’ve started to question at what point the frustrations and exhaustion of “starting over” outweighs its glamour—the newness of things. There grows a persistent part of me that wants more than all the glories the relatively selfish game of travel has to offer. I’ve started yearning for something that I can commit to… become enraptured in… contribute to… something that I can nurture and watch grow.

There’s something that happens though, when you board that solo flight to an unknown future. The hours in the air you’re lost in a limbo-like daze. But then you land and having your feet on solid ground reestablishes some semblance of clarity; you adjust to the familiarity of being somewhere foreign; this is your routine… and you drift so quickly and comfortably back into being out there in the world.

It always happens… but those feelings of security in voyaging are easy to forget after spending a few months sinking into normalcy. [Normalcy here? Paying rent, receiving a regular paycheck, not living out of a backpack.] Faced with the mystery of that next step as you board the plane, you question whether or not you can put yourself out there again.

Love it or hate it, Bocas is a special place. While the sun, sand, and sounds of jungle life create an initial tropical island intrigue, it’s the simplicity of life here and the strange sense of community that exists that makes this place what it is. I think of it mostly as island isolation, an exceptionally and utterly beautiful, yet likewise concerning thing.

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Without a telephone or Internet, access to consistent electricity or regular transportation, my life has been pleasantly reduced to rising with the sun and turning in with the dark. I drink rainwater, take cold showers, sleep with sand in my bed, and share my home with any number of small critters. My family consists of no more than fifteen wonderful employees and volunteers at the lodge and my “escape” from this world is taking a ten-minute boat ride to Bocas Town to purchase groceries, do laundry, and drink martinis as necessary. The inconveniences and frustrations that are associated with living off the grid can be annoying, but in their own way are also charming—they remind me that life, especially in a place like this, is simple… despite my continued attempts to complicate it.

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The concern comes with how easy it is to find contentedness living in this bubble; the physical isolation creates mental and emotional isolation and I’m living without a care or concern beyond my everyday life as it applies to daily activities at Palmar. Having tasted so many of its flavors, I know that there is a massive world out there, but here, it’s all too easy to forget. I feel myself sinking into old habits, patterns, and routines, enthusiastically willing to succumb to this vortex in paradise.

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I guess what I’m getting at then, is that my return to Panama, the place that started it all, has illuminated that I’m not quite ready for permanence [per say] no matter how much I want to be, even if I am questing for a more solid foundation of home and community. Bocas first opened to me the doors of travel, welcoming me with open arms, and being here serves as the perfect reminder that I want to keep exploring. And as I reunite with friends and rediscover this place I once knew so intimately, observing the changes and reintegrating myself, Bocas teaches me an important lesson: you may not be able to ever go home again, but you can always go back—to the places of your daydreams and those people you love. Even awash with the transformation of time, when somewhere or someone is a part of you, you’ll come to find that at least that much never changes.

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Slipping back into the life that I once knew here, I can only sigh and smile—once again I put my faith in the universe, and once again she’s brought me to exactly where I needed to be.

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[*A big thanks to KP–and her Instagram expertise–for unknowingly providing all photos for this post.]

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2013 6:03 pm

    haha… this made me cry. i totally feel you, girl. pieces of my heart are in all sorts of places at this point. it’s inspiring that you’ve gotten back out there… i’m constantly wondering when my own next departure will be (though that darling little animal i’ve grown so attached to does complicate matters a bit…). ¡buena suerte en todos los viajes!

  2. May 28, 2013 2:27 am

    Maddy – You’ve always been a really great writer. That was an amazing blog post. Have you ever considered doing Peace Corps? If you’re looking for a new experience that can challenge you and help you learn about life while also finding a sense of community… then Peace Corps might be for you.
    – John

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