Flip Flop Envy

Bocas del Toro, Panama

While visiting friends in Bocas del Toro, Panama, I was reminded that I am healthy, wealthy and wise. I am fortunate to travel with the body I have. 

I’m ready with my mosquito protection.

I’m ready with my mosquito protection.

Bocas is remote. I need to take three flights to meet with friends for a week in a tropical paradise; Seattle to Houston, Houston to Panama City, Panama City to Bocas del Toro. 

On the last leg of my flight to Isla Colon, I notice the cute clothes of my fellow female travelers; bright floral flowing dresses, worn soft cut-off shorts, Panama hats, tanks tops big enough to peep-show fleshy pits of cleavage, revealing spaghetti-strap t-shirts, and thin little flip flops. I think "That looks like a lot of fun to wear; contemporary tropical island costumes.”

Now boarding on the tarmac, Panama Airlines, at the Bocas del Toro airport.

Now boarding on the tarmac, Panama Airlines, at the Bocas del Toro airport.

“I could wear those cute little outfits.” I work out, take long walks, watch my caloric intake, and my weight is well within the recommended healthy range for my age. So even at 60 years old, I can comfortably wear the current fashions.

But looks can be deceiving. What I can do, is not necessarily what I want to do. 

My favorite beach bar on Bluff Beach, Bocas del Toro.

My favorite beach bar on Bluff Beach, Bocas del Toro.

Bocas del Toro is a small island on the Caribbean side of Panama and an excellent travel value, suitable for digital nomads and travel bloggers. Low rise with no franchise, there are plenty of inexpensive lodging and food options.  There is an excellent travel infrastructure, and the ex-pat community assures that there is plenty of English written and spoken. Bocas is shabby sheik for the traveler, not many tourist attractions, but it does attract surfers, musicians, retirees, and pirates. 

I’m here for a week to enjoy the island life, visit old friends, and make a few new ones. 

The road less traveled is full of creatures ready to eat me alive.

The road less traveled is full of creatures ready to eat me alive.

Before heading to the white sand beach for a swim at Island Plantation on Bluff Beach, I wonder "Which should I apply first, sunscreen or insect repellant?" I need to do both. Does sequence matter? I slather up and hope that combining the chemicals won't melt my clothes or mutate my skin. I reinforce with a long sleeve shirt and long pants. 

I find that mixing chemicals isn’t my only concern. 

Listening to live music at Pier 19, the musicians sing out “, and the living is easy.” I can hear the music, but I have a tough time understanding the conversation. Separating sounds is challenging. I love live music, so I wait for the break to catch up with friends. 

I can either listen to music, or concentrate on a conversation, but not both at the same time. 

Bocas Yoga was a great reminder to be mindful.

Bocas Yoga was a great reminder to be mindful.

After a year hiatus, I just started back with my yoga practice, and I was very thankful to go to Bocas Yoga. Not all poses are suitable for my current physical condition, and I need to continually remind myself to be "non-judgmental, and it is all good.” Modification of poses is part of the journey. 

I also had two insights during my practice. “Physical and mental modifications are valuable. I must leave one place before I can go to another place. Every day we go forward, and we leave something behind.”  

I have left a few things behind. 

After taking a water taxi to Carenero Island to visit friends, we hike through a jungle swamp to a favorite local hangout, Bibi's Beach Bar. As I step over mud and muck on the trail, am glad to be fully dressed in my Permethrin treated long pants and long sleeve shirt. Again, still, I'm bitten by bugs!

I was glad to have something between me and the mosquitos. 

The swamp was crawling with critters ready to eat me.

The swamp was crawling with critters ready to eat me.

One of the few tourist attractions on Bocas, “Castilo Inspirrcion, Museo del Plastico.” A castle made of plastic bottles.

One of the few tourist attractions on Bocas, “Castilo Inspirrcion, Museo del Plastico.” A castle made of plastic bottles.

Inexpensive, excellent authentic food.

Inexpensive, excellent authentic food.

On our way to lunch at Yaris Nori,  I sit in the back seat. The drive is beautiful, but motion sickness begins to cloud my head and spin my stomach. I don’t mention it to my friends, but I am glad to sit still at a beachside table with a margarita. 

I can’t ride on twisty roads without rising motion sickness. 

This blog may sound like a list of complaints, but it is not.

Getting sunburnt hurts and has lasting health risks. Being bit by mosquitoes is playing Russian roulette with the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes including: malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, tularemia, dirofilariasis....  the list is too long!

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Physical fitness is a necessary journey. Motion sickness isn’t fun. Being uncomfortable brings out The Snarky Traveler and can ruin a beautiful day at the beach. 

With flip flops or hiking boots, a tank top or long sleeves, a cover-up or a bikini, I don't need to dress like "The Blond Abroad" to be an interesting international traveler blogger. 

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I am healthy, wealthy and wise enough to know how to travel with my body and its nuances. It will take me where I want to wander. I don’t need flip flops or form fitting fashions.

I can be myself, "Whelan on Walkabout” no matter what I am wearing. 

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