I am sitting in the car of two friendly Germans that stayed at the hostel for the last few day. I finished volunteering in the surfcamp at Guanico Playa and we happen to have the same next destination – Santa Catalina, (where supposively the best wave of Panama is located). So lucky me hops in for the five hour way, driving up and down through hilly roads with great views of green mountains. This gives me some time to reflect:

Man, that have been really fast two month in the hostel. I enjoyed the time here a lot and I was lucky to learn not only about the panamanian people from the area and their way of life, but I also picked up the one or the other useful housework skill. At the same time I practiced surfing a lot and was able to read and learn something about me as well.

The Panamenians that I got to meet are all super friendly and happy people. Everyone greets you and gives you a smile. Something that I miss in Europe sometimes. Most of the people I met do not have more than a basic school education and mostly not a secure job but live anyways happy from day to day. My impression is that they live very basic and do not need a lot to be happy. In the rural area where I lived, most jobs are in construction, on the fields, in fishing or in a bar or restaurants, so in general you can always find something that does not require a lot of skills and pays sufficient money to get by. In Tonosi, the next “bigger” town, you can find specialized worker like someone who can fix your car or who can build a door for you. However, you do not find them online, you have to ask around and of you are lucky someone knows someone ;-). So yes, in the countryside people are laid back, work from day to day (not when it rains thought) and enjoy their weekends by having beers with friends and listening and dancing to “típico” music. At the same time they are incredible helpful, as the following story might picture it:

Close to the hostel in Gúanico, Marc and Bettina, a friendly couple from Switzerland and good surfers, own some land and after constructing their own house, they are now building three cabins to rent out. One unlucky day, Marc cut himself with the flex in the arm while working and immediately had to go to the hospital. Two workers drove him and his wife to the ambulance in Tonosi (about 20 min in car) breaking any speedlimit, while one guy was waving with a red shirt out of the window. While being checked in the hospital, it became clear that Marc had to go to Chitre to be operated immediately. So they asked Marco, a friend who was visiting the two, if he could bring some clothes and other things to the hospital in Chitre. Marco then asked me if I would join to help out with the Spanish and I joined him. However, when getting into the car, we realized that the clutch was broken…. We then explained situation to the owner of the local bar/restaurant and asked if he would leave us his car for the night. He then said: Don’t worry guys, I will drive you there for free. And so he did, two hours to Chitre in which he made us drink three beer each against the shock of the day. 😉 We arrived safe and waited with Bettina until the operation was finished. All went well, the wound was cleaned and four of five tendons were repaired. Just for the last one they would have to visit a hand specialist in Panamá City. So all good: Marc was fixed, Bettina finally relaxed and we were happy to be able to help out a friend plus a fun car ride with one of the friendliest Panamanian.

Marco and I then called up a friend to spend the night. Turns out there was a huge street festival in Guadaré (which is close to Chitre) that night, so we got a treat as well 😉

That’s Marco and me on the bus trip back. Lucky for us the panamanian climate and the wind on our faces kind of cured the hangover until we were back in Guanico to jump in the water for good waves.

The remaining days in Guanico passed by really fast. I finished a few projects in the hostel with the other volunteers and unfortunately didn’t surf for about a week, because there were no waves. It felt like ages though.

Some take aways for me from the two month in the hostel:

1. Surfing is awesome. Being alone or with friends in the water waiting for the next set of waves has a very calming effect – similar to meditation. Also the fact that I could follow my surf learning progress was a great experience and motivating to keep going.

2. There are plenty of people who are traveling the world while living of a passive income or their online business. Having seen this, my goal now is to create something similar within the next 5 years, so I can live more freely.

3. In the future I need to work in something that is fun and challenging for me. While I enjoyed most of the work in the hostel with the other volunteers, sometimes (towards the end of my time there) it was hard for me to motivate myself, when it for example came to flexing and then painting steel pipes. Although I did the work properly, It didnt feel like it fulfilled me and I think this might be the same with a proper job after my journey.

4. Hostellife is amazing. You meet so many different characters and exchange so many stories, which make the experience very interesting. The best hostels are the ones without WiFi, like Guanico Surfcamp, because instead of talking with friends and family at home, the guests usually live in the moment and talk and get to know each other.

5. It takes time to implememt new habits. Since my studies in Madrid I have been wanting to start a diary but I always felt like I don’t have time plus I couldn’t find the right format that fits for me. Now, after I met someone who showed me a different way of keeping track of my days, I have been doing daily protocols for one and a half month. They take a maximum of ten minutes and I type them on my phone. The consist of four parts: my successes of the day, things that I want to optimize, insights that I had and things that I am thankful for. I think it’s a nice way to keep track of what happend that day and to live more thoughtful and improve oneself. If you read this, maybe give it a try. I highly recommend it.

So, after many goodbye hugs I am on my way, looking back one more time. Finally I am on the move and super excited what places I will visit, what people I will get to meet and which what experience I will make in the next months.

Goodbye Gúanico Playa, you will be missed!

2 thoughts on “Volunteership completed – looking back before the journey starts

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