Home & Panama: A Nice 3 Week Vacation

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Jenni & Heather – My 2 closest friends!

After nearly a year in a half in Guyana, I made my first trip back to the states to surprise my family and friends in Oregon. It took nearly 36 hours for me to arrive home from Guyana, sleeping in airports, eating $6 hot dogs, almost missing one of my flights with a 30 minute layover, and drinking my first Starbucks Coffee in a year in a half. Once I arrived, two of my closest friends picked me up at the airport and took me to a nice breakfast at a small restaurant outside of Portland, Oregon where I enjoyed some delicious Cinnamon Apple French Toast, Sausage Links, Bacon, and Over-Easy Eggs, followed by a delicious White Chocolate Mocha from Dutch Bros. I arrived home, about 2 hours later, and the carefully orchestrated plan of surprising my mom worked, and I spent the next few hours catching up with them and Heather.

The next two weeks flew by… In the two weeks that I didn’t really have planned prior to coming home, I had went to the Oregon Coast and it was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen there, went to the Foo Fighters Concert with a close friend of mine, Isaac, went to a Portland Timbers game and got a pretty smooth haircut by my close friend, Jenni, enjoyed some good homestyle cooking mixed with a nearly endless amount of IPA’s from Oregon’s Best Breweries, visited with my Cousin Jess and her husband Rayko, sharing news that they are expecting, and lastly, one of my cousins getting married here in a couple weeks. It was a lot of good news, and although I feel like I’ve missed a lot, it was nice to be around family and here of all of the amazing things that are going on back home and what I will be coming back to.

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Leaving was pretty hard, but not as hard as leaving for the Peace Corps initially. I did have a mix-up at the airport in Los Angeles when I had to recheck into my next flight, they said my visa wasn’t valid and they wouldn’t let me on the airplane. Luckily, I talked to a different airline attendant and was able to get checked in and board my international flight within 25 minutes of it leaving to Panama.

—–Panama—–

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A few hours later, I arrived in Panama where I would be spending the next week traveling around, trying to get back into my routine before heading back to Guyana. In Panama, I spent roughly 3 days in Casco Viejo, where I ate at small local restaurants, walked around Old Town, went to the Panama Canal, and chatted with other travelers from Holland, Australia, Canada, United States, and Chile. The next couple of days I spent in Boquette, which is a small town north of Panama City that is the starting point for the Volcan Baru hike, among many other hikes and waterfalls in the area. Boquette is a very nice little town and I stayed in a very accommodating hostel named, Refugio del Rio.

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Summit of Volcan Baru!

In Boquette, I had the opportunity to do the overnight Volcan Baru hike, which is the highest point in Panama at 11,398 feet. We started this hike around 1:30-2:00 AM and reached summit shortly after 6AM to see the sunrise. On a clear day, from the top of Volcan Baru, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Unfortunately, the day I went to the top, I was only able to see the Pacific Ocean, but was told that typically individuals can see both Oceans if they go in February. I definitely recommend this hike to anyone who plans on visiting Panama. From here, I took the public transportation back to Panama City where I spent my last night, before catching my 8AM flight back to Georgetown, Guyana.

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Panama Canal

Here are just a few travel tips for those planning on trips through Panama:

  1. Practice your Spanish, not a lot of Panamanians speak fluent English.
  2. The food in Panama is good and cheap, try to find cheap local restaurants to eat at, you’ll spend $3-$5 USD on meal; it’s even cheaper if you go to a Supermarket to purchase and cook your own food.
  3. Don’t take a cab to the Panama Canal, there are shuttles that offer the same service for 25% of the cost of the cab, same goes for the airport on your way out of Panama, Airport Taxi costs $30 USD, shuttle cost $7 USD.
  4. If you’d like to see a ship go through the Panama Canal, call ahead for their schedule, once in Panama.
  5. If you’d like to go to Bocas del Torro, go to the Albrook Bus Terminal one day in advance and talk to them about a bus ticket. Bus tickets are cheap in Panama, not the most comfortable, but cheap and perfect for the budget backpacker/traveler.
  6. Have fun, take in the culture, chat with some locals, and take some time to go hiking through the trails and waterfalls of Chiriqui.

As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I would be posting a video with photos/videos from the Amazon Jungle trip I took back in March/April of 2015. Here is a link to that video! Hope y’all enjoy!

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Sunny Southern California

Blog: numero uno. And what better way to begin, then with a trip to the Golden State, California that is. Which was nicknamed “The Golden State” back in 1848 for the discovery of gold! Anyways, besides the point, about a week ago I spent 4 amazing days in Los Angeles, the City of Angels, with some close friends from home and some I met last year in Rome.

To start off, I go into every single trip or mini-vacation with an open mind, wanting to just go with the flow and see what happens. I was unsure as what to expect down in Los Angeles as this was the first time I rented a car for my transportation, instead of using public transport. That being said, I believe it was a success minus the ridiculous traffic and waiting 45 minutes to drive 8 miles, true story.

Anyways, I arrived in Los Angeles at 9 am and it was already mid-80’s, clear skies and the sun was shining. I got my rental car and headed straight for Hollywood where I was supposed to meet my friends from Australia. I had a couple hours to just explore, and I must say, it isn’t quite what I expected, especially the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. The Walk of Fame is probably one of the most famous streets in the United States, I wouldn’t consider it a “must-see” but the Walk of Fame stretches just over a mile, while some area’s are nice and others not so much. The majority of things to do though are at the west end of Hollywood Boulevard, which you will see many famous stars “stars” on the Walk itself. This is your typical “Tourist” Boulevard, with many offering tours of the city.

After about 2 hours exploring, I finally got to meet up with my friends from Australia. That in itself was an amazing experience, meeting with friends I kept in contact with the last year in aIMG_0853 whole new area. We got together and drove down Sunset Boulevard to look at the very “high class” neighborhood up in the hills of Los Angeles, needless to say, the drive wasn’t too bad itself. We ended up stopping at a small little restaurant/pub and grabbed a bite to eat, which was slightly overpriced, of course, but equally delicious.

Day number 2 we decided to head to Universal Studios, which I was more than excited for. When I was 10 years old I went with my family and had one amazing time, I am happy to say P1020086that I am 27 years old and still had an amazing time. The rides are always changing, due to what’s new in the movies and technology, the 3D rides are really great. After a few hours at Universal Studios and a quick stop at the Hollywood sign for a cheesy “selfie”, we headed to Santa Monica, with a quick pitstop at Millions of Milkshakes, one of the most popular milkshake shops in the world, which I can confirm, and you are able to make almost any combination of a milkshake that you would like, they come in a variety of sizes, and the straw is an actual straw! While indulging in the pure deliciousness of my Miley Cyrus milkshake (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Cookie Dough), I decided to P1020115take a random trip with my friends to find Kat Von D’s tattoo shop “High Voltage Tattoo”, which is popular on the TV show LA Ink. We did get to see Kat Von D herself, but didn’t go inside because they were recording. I still consider it a success! To conclude our day we spent about an hour in a half in traffic trying to get back to Santa Monica where we watched the California sunset on a nice fall evening.

Day 3 was more of a relaxing day as we again said our goodbyes and continued to laugh about the differences in how we speak, Australian and American. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and IMG_0918I had an amazing time visiting with my friends from Australia. I got the opportunity, from another friend who was so generously hosting me during this trip, to visit USC’s Athletic Training Facility. As I had never been in any training facility, and I majored in Exercise and Sport Science, I found it strikingly fascinating. I got to see the facilities, see the actual NCAA National Championship trophies, and put on a National Championship ring, pretty cool I must say. After my personal tour through USC, we all got together and went to a nice place to eat dinner in downtown Los Angeles, down by the Staples Center. IMG_0911The place is called The Yard House, and they have probably 50 different beer’s on tap, amazing, right? And sure enough I ordered a half-yard beer, not realizing it would come out like it did, and had to snag a picture. The good thing about our dinner, is the full tab was covered, our tab was over $200 and we got it all for free because they lost our order. I can say that is almost unheard of in Los Angeles and we were quite lucky!

Day 4 realization set in and I had to pack up my small backpack and head home, but… I had to make sure I snapped one last photo of a wall I drove past on Santa Monica Boulevard. The wall had “Before I Die..” in big letters painted across the top of it, me being the curious bee that I am, Google’d it and found out that it is a Public Art project for people to dream big and make their goals public. These walls are around the world and have a bucket of chalk near them so those passing by can leave their dreams on the wall. So what turned out to be a 3.5 hour drive to the airport just to get this photo, I found it inspiring to stop for a few minutes and read some of the things written down on this massive chalk board. One of the many quotes on this board is as follows: “The world is like a book. If you don’t travel, its as if you stay on the same page.”

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So tell me, what is one thing you would like to accomplish in your lifetime?