Graduation Trip to South America
Congratulations! You graduated from college! So, what the hell do you do now?
Travel the world of course, which is exactly what I did when I graduated from college in South Carolina with three of my closest friends. Post-graduate life can be extremely scary. You have to get a real job and be there on time. You may move somewhere away from all of your friends.
Then there are the money issues. But before all this, I was able to escape to Panama, in the heart of Central America. Backpacking and experiencing the hostel lifestyle is like a right of passage into your twenties. And it is something every free, young, able-bodied person should do at some point in their lives.
We are waking up in the bunk beds of our hostel in Panama City, soaked in sweat because it is summer and obviously there is no central air in the hostel. We catch a taxi to the bus station and are on our way to Bocas del Toro, a beach town on the Caribbean side of the country. Because the bus ride is several hours, we all assume we can catch up on the sleep we missed the night before while partying until the morning hours at one of Panama City’s discothèques.
As a traveler, you have to be prepared for everything to go wrong and be O.K. with that
When we discover the bus we planned on taking is overbooked, our attention is turned to a small caravan behind it, where we are directed. As we board we realize the other travelers are part of a family reunion, one of which decides everyone would love to hear him whistle to the Latino music blaring over the speakers throughout the entire trip. And our bus driver is obviously in denial about not being NASCAR driver.
As we take a turn the bus leans as if it is about to flip over while we plow up the winding mountainside, looking at each other in amazement that the fact that the bus driver is honestly taking these turns at 50 miles per hour. Just when I think I am going to throw up, the driver slams on the brakes, comes to a complete stop and gets off the bus.
Everyone waits. I glance out the window and see him talking to a woman, pointing to a bunch of bananas, which he then purchases, throws on the roof of the van, and gets back on to continue our trip. These personal stops occur four or five more times. And the man in the family reunion party is still whistling. The night before was my twenty second birthday, and unfortunately now I am feeling my hangover and vomiting in a tiny zip-lock bag, the only thing besides my backpack me or any of my friends have to use as an impromptu barf bag.
Finally, we arrive in Bocas del Toro!
We practically run off the bus, thankful for our lives, and then are completely confused as to where we are. It is dark and we stand there until, what must be travellers luck, we run into a friend we had met earlier at the hostel, Roberto, or Rasta as we called him, with dreads down to his calves and a perpetual smile. He tells us to hop in the back of a pick up truck, so we do, and we drive through the night until we reach water. At the dock we buy tickets and get onto a Louisiana bayou style boat, which is the only way to reach Bocas….by water. Let me tell you, there is nothing like riding in a small boat to get rid of nausea!
When we get to Bocas we walk along the dirt roads as chickens run by us, carrying our backpacks through town until we finally come to Mondo Taitu, our hostel! Sweet, sweet hostel. Our journey has come to an end. But in reality, this was just the beginning. Even though the whole experience was tiring and a bit torturous I must say when you are hung over, it was one of the most memorable, because once we all just let go, the hilarity of the situation ensued. That is the beauty of traveling with your friends.
You have to stop and remember that you are in the breathtaking mountains of Central America, or the exotic beaches of Panama and no matter what goes wrong, it’s all part of the adventure. Embrace it, because one day you will be working!
By Carrie McCloud