Current Date:  November 03, 2008  7:15 p.m. (Otavalo, Ecuador)

Current Itinerary:  Leaving here tomorrow and going to a little mountain town called Apuela where we hope to do some hiking.  From there we will probably pass back through Quito and then go south to Banos and then who knows where.  I guess we’ll be in Ecuador for at least a few more weeks.

New Pictures posted: Too many to list them all...but lots of stuff from Panama and Costa Rica and everything through September is pretty much posted.  Just go here and scroll down.  If want a sneak preview from a journal coming in a couple days you can see these pictures and videos of us bungee jumping in San Gil.  All the pictures from this journal have been posted for some time, but if you haven’t taken a look yet, the San Blas islands proved to be one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  Also, there are hundreds of pictures from our Trek to the Lost City.

Note #1:  Well, it has been awhile since I sent out a journal.  Almost 2 months!  Shame on me.  So much happened in Colombia that I couldn’t keep up.  We spent many days off the grid and took over 2000 pictures so I got very busy with all that.  Because it’s been awhile, I don’t feel too bad about sending out this monster...easily the longest to date.  Now that the pipeline is getting unclogged, I should be sending or posting new stuff a lot this month (provided I find a decent internet connection)

Note #2:  Because it has been a couple months there are a lot of new people on this list.  Just wanted to welcome you all.  Now you’ll see that I not only talk a lot, but I can send some pretty long emails too:)

Note #3:  Tomorrow is easily the most important election in US history.  I learned my lesson on getting political with these journals but I do encourage all my American friends on this list to go out and vote.  We have spent a lot of time the last month watching debates and answering many questions about who we think will win.  The world is watching everybody, trust me on that one.

Note #4:  Just want to publicly congratulate my buddy Mike who ran the NYC marathon yesterday!!  His first one ever!  This journal talks a lot about crossing things off your life “to do” list so I thought it was appropriate to mention it.  Way to go.

Monday, Sept. 01, 2008

After being in Panama City for a couple of weeks, we finally were ready to be on the move again.  Mario and Karina (my friend’s who we stayed with there) were nice enough to go out of their way and give us a ride to the bus station.  On the way we made one last stop at post office to see if my package had arrived...nothing.  Dang it.  We had waited in Panama City for an extra 10 days for that package...very frustrating but we have to move on.  We had booked our sail boat to Colombia and it was due to leave in 2 days from Puerto Lindo, up on the northern coast of Panama near Isla Grande.

We got the bus from Albrook to Colon and ended up having to wait an hour and a half for the bus heading to Puerto Lindo.  I talk alot about the buses down here but I never remember to take a picture of them.  Panama and Costa Rica are a bit different from the rest of Central America...they have different buses for long distance travel, but with the cities they still use our old school buses.  The only difference is that they are repainted.  They actually end up looking pretty amazing...I took this one at the bus station in Colon.



We got to Puerto Lindo around 7:30.  The bus dropped us off in the wrong spot, which can be a little daunting when it’s pitch black out...especially since we were out in the middle of nowhere.  In the end, we only had to walk 5 minutes so it was okay.  We checked in to the Wunderbar hostel, which is more or less an entry exit point for all backpackers sailing to/from Colombia.  It was cool to be in a hostel again, although the vibe felt a little off for some reason.  Maybe I just felt like that because we were out of that realm for a couple of weeks, living in luxury with Mario and Karina.

We went and got dinner at one of the only places to eat nearby...there were only a few tables which were all full so we had to join some guys that had a couple extra chairs at their table.  It turned out to be a guy from Brazil and a guy from Scotland.  They had a really interesting story...they were fish farmers.  Well, not exactly...they were helping to build a fish farm off the coast of Panama.  The said it was going to be a farm for Cobia fish (I guess they are common) and that most of what they would grow would be exported.  They build an entire network of cages that are connected by pipes for feeding...but the entire farm is built 150 feet (50 meters) below the ocean surface!  That meant nothing to me 6 months ago, but now that I’ve done some diving I’ve learned that is pretty deep.  I won’t waste a bunch of time explaining all they told us but it was really interesting to learn about an industry like that that I knew absolutely nothing about.

Back at the hostel we talked to other people about the boats that would be leaving on Wednesday.  As far as we could understand, there were 2 boats leaving on the same day.  Nobody seemed to know anything about one of them, but an English couple we met, Ben and Julliet told us about the other boat.  The captain was an Austrian guy named Fritz who was doing the trip for the first time.  They said they had been working to fix his boat up for the last couple had not been used for the last 6 months.  There were supposed to be 13 people on the boat and they said that they weren’t sure there would even be enough room.  None of what they said instilled much confidence in me...I was definitely worried we would be on that boat.  I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about people doing this trip and the idea of going with a guy who hadn’t done it before was not something I liked.  There was still a chance we would be on the other boat...but nobody seemed to know what the deal was and who was on which boat.  I don’t mind letting things work themselves out in most cases, but for something like this I prefer to know a few details before committing myself.  It was late so I would have to sort all that out the next day.

Tuesday, Sept. 02, 2008

Today during breakfast most of my worries were subsided and my questions answered.  Sylvia, the owner of the hostel, told us what boats we would be on and I was very happy to find out I would be on the Melody with Captain Mark and not on the boat with Fritz the rookie.  Sweet.  There would only be 8 of us and the guy has been taking backpackers for 8 years.  At breakfast we met the two of the people that were going with us, Mo/Austria and Niko/Austria, but the others had not arrived yet.

Satisfied, we had the whole day ahead of us.  We met a cool Aussie guy named Drouyn and his girl Genevieve/Quebec.  They told us about an island just a few minutes from the mainland that they were going to visit for the day.  They had heard it was a nicer day trip than Isla Grande and that nobody else goes there so we were down.  On the way to the dock we stopped for a quick bite in the small village that was nearby.  There was not much to Puerto Lindo, but I liked the place and the village gave it some character, plus the food was also super cheap, which is always a bonus

We went down to the dock to wait for one of the locals to take us to Mame island.  While we waited, we met Jay/Massachusettes who was also going to be joining us on Melody the next day.  He seemed like a great dude from the get go.  He was with 3 others that along with the Austrian guys would round out our group of eight.  We didn’t meet the others at the time but it was still nice to know our group was completely intact.  All that remained was meeting our captain getting to see the boat we would be on.

Mame island was pretty awesome and I was really happy we decided to go there instead of Isla Grande.  It only cost $4 round trip to go there and we were all by ourselves the entire time.  I basically stayed in the water snorkeling the whole time we were there.  I’m glad I had my mask because there were quite a few jellyfish that we were able to avoid.  Drouyn was a pretty cool guy...he’s been traveling for a year and half and started in Asia.  I swear you meet more Aussies traveling for one year plus than anyone else.  I gave him a pretty long talk about how awesome Brazil is to visit...I think I might have convinced him to go.  All in all, we were on the island for about 3 hours but it was perfect because right when it started to rain, our ride back to the mainland arrived.

Back at the hostel I went to get some snacks for our boat trip.  Food is supposedly provided, but it never hurts to have a few extras.  Around 8:00 that night our captain came by to give us a briefing on how everything would go for the trip.  The plan was to sail to a place in San Blas called Port Venir.  There we would get our passports stamped and then we would sail another 18 miles to the last set of islands in San Blas called the Hollander Keys.  We would stay there that night (Wedenesday) plus two more and leave Saturday morning.  From there it would take us about 36 hours to get to Cartagena, putting us there on Sunday evening.  He also gave us the “you’re on the best boat” speech which I didn’t really buy because I think everybody would say that.  Little did I know at that point...sometimes when somebody says something like that, they really mean it.  Mark would continue to prove himself over and over again over the next six days.  Wait a’s supposed to be 5 days, right?  Well, it was so damn awesome that we ended up begging for another day.  It will all make sense when I get it all written out...but first I want to say that even at that point, I was feeling pretty good.  The captain for the other boat was nowhere to be found...there was some clear jealously amongst those that were stuck with Fritz who had virtually no information about their trip.  They didn’t even know what time they would leave the next morning!  That is the exact situation I would want to avoid if I was doing this.  If there is one lesson I learned traveling (and originally from the teachings of Doug McLean), if something starts out screwed up, it generally stays screwed up.  As I write this we are cruising on the high seas towards Cartagena...I have no clue how the trip went for the folks on the other boat and I truly hope it was a good experience for them...but there is no WAY it compared to what for me, may have been the best 6 day stretch of our trip so far.  Let me get to it.

Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

We got up at 6:00 a.m. and got our things together and went down to the dock.  It turned out that some of the folks from Fritz’s boat were waiting as well...I guess they were leaving about the same time although I never found out when they learned that.  Mark showed up to pick us up at 6:30 on the nose.  He took us out in the dingy to what would be our home for the next several days.


We got on board and we were greeted by Mark’s lovely Colombian wife Paula.  The boat didn’t seem that big but with only 8 of us we knew we’d be all good.  After loading everything up we were basically ready to  As we were getting ready to leave we looked over and saw Fritz heading out to the dock to pick up his group...20 minutes late which is no big deal, but once again not a good sign (we did not see them again for the rest of the journey).  We were all very excited to be under way.

After we got out of the bay and got going, the fact that we had gotten up before 6 took its toll and just about everybody slept for a couple hours.  In the early afternoon the drinks started flowing freely and we started getting to know each other.  Besides Jodi and I, the other passengers were; the 2 Austrian guys (Niko and Mo) who had been traveling since July and were winding up their trip in Bogota.  Barry/Kansas City who was a few days into a 3 week vacation in Panama and Colombia.  Jay/Mass, Jim/Colorado, and Morgan/Colorado who were traveling together for 2.5 months going from Panama down to Buenos Aires.  The 3 of them are good friends and work at a ski resort in Vail, Colorado.  They are sort of on a scouting mission to see if they might find some cool places to work down in Chile or Argentina.  The point is that we were three different groups on three different paths but all with a nose for adventure...just the way I like it.

We got to Port Venir around 2:00 and Captain Mark went onto the island to get our passports stamped and our paper work taken care of.  The water in San Blas is irresistible so we all went for a swim.


I snorkeled around a bit but didn’t really see that much...although I was able to wow the group with my free diving abilities, which have come a very long way since snorkeling in Cozumel.  Next time I see you Karl, I’ll give you a real challenge!

It took Mark a couple hours to get everything done but we certainly didn’t mind.  There are a lot worse places to kill a few hours than on a boat in San Blas.  Paula (Marks’ wife) made sandwiches for everybody in the meantime so we with plenty of food and drink we were in no kind of hurry.  We headed out towards the Hollander keys around 4:00 and ended up pulling in in the dark at about 7:30.  This might seem like no big deal but there are coral reefs surrounding the area...we heard repeatedly over the next few days about Mark being THE only person with enough knowledge of the area and the balls to sail in at night.  That’s the kind of person you  don’t mind having your life in his hands.

Besides taking backpackers, Mark also takes food out to the other cruisers (this is the term they use for all the retired couples who have boats and just sail around the world...more on this in a minute) that anchor in this area in the Hollander keys.  Many of them stick around in this area (deemed “the Swimming Pool”) for months or even years and Mark knows almost all of them.  As soon as we pulled in, 2 or three people came over from other boats to get their groceries.  These people are 14 hours away from any real city or supermarket, so you might imagine when somebody pulls in with items like Peanut Butter and beer (which might seem like nothing to most people reading this), they want to get it right away.  I’d say half the galley was filled with stuff for the other boats out there.

After that bit was taken care of, we had the night to ourselves.  Paula made some fantastic spaghetti for us...I can’t overstate how good this woman could cook...and this was only the beginning.  That night we all just hung out drinking on the boat as we all arrived at the conclusion that we hadn’t brought anywhere near enough booze for the trip.  The highlight of the night came when Niko discovered a huge Jack fish swimming just beside the boat.  We all watched it for awhile and even got some pictures.


In the end, Mark decided he couldn’t let a nice juicy fish like that swim away so he got out his spear gun and caught us some lunch for the next day.  It was pretty dark but it certainly didn’t stop me from getting this video of Mark spearing the fish.

The rest of the night was spent tossing back drinks and letting the fact sink in that we were out in the middle of nowhere on a sailboat.  I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else...looking up into the night sky at about 10 billion stars, there was an overwhelming feeling that we were all part of something very special.  As beautiful as it was out in San Blas at night, we couldn’t wait to see how beautiful it would be the daylight.  I’m sure you can guess that we were NOT disappointed.

Thursday, Sept. 04, 2008

That moring we got up and were treated to one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen.


As I said, we were anchored in a place called “The Swimming Pool”, with about 10 other cruisers spread around the bay and nothing but a few small islands nearby.  It was a true paradise on earth.  We took a lot of pictures but they can’t do it justice...this was something that had to be seen and experienced first hand.  I swam around the boat for an hour...and everybody got in the water.  Here is a great video of Barry that I took.

Over the next couple hours, all the other cruisers came to pick up their groceries that Mark had brought.  One of his new customers had sent a vague request of “one large bag of popcorn”.  Mark, sort of as a joke, and sort of to get the point across that people need to be specific, brought this guy a huge 50lb. bag of popcorn!  Everybody got a kick out of it and the guy was forever dubbed “Popcorn Pete”.



Another thing worth mentioning was that one of the other cruisers had asked Mark to bring some blueberry bagels.  This might not seem like such a tall order to many of you but these types of things are not always easy to find in Latin America as they are not common.  You might imagine that Mark gets many requests for specific items that he can’t always find, so of course he does the best he can.  In this case, he couldn’t find bagels so he got some English muffins as a substitute and told they guy he could buy them if he chose to but if not no problem.  This guy had some nerve...he actually argued for 10 minutes about how Mark didn’t look in the right place in the store and then started telling him they had to be there.  He was actually upset and even accused Mark for being out of line for bringing the muffins instead since that wasn’t what he asked for.  I couldn’t believe Mark put up with it...he had sailed 14 hours, EACH WAY, rented a car, spent hours doing shopping for over 20 people, lugged all the stuff out to his boat and this guy is bitching about bagels!!??  Talk about ungrateful!  I will never understand people like this and I commend Mark for his patience.  There was another guy whose total was something like $61.58 and he actually asked Mark if he had the 42 cents of change for a dollar!  FORTY CENTS!!  These are not retired people scrapping together a living off their social security checks...these are well off folks that have huge boats worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and are sailing around the world.  Give me an freaking break.

Anyway, after Mark got all the grocery business out of the way it was time to enjoy San Blas.  Jodi and I, along with Austrians went to the nearby “Pot Luck” island while the others went snorkeling with Mark out on one of the reefs.  This island was was probably the size of about 3 football fields...maybe it was a half mile in circumference.  There was nothing on it but sand and palm trees.  You could not even attempt to imagine a better paradise.



We spent several hours on the island and took tons of pictures.  Here is one with The Swimming Pool in the background and you can see some of the cruisers (our boat, the Melody is the fourth from the left, although you can barely see it).



I think you can see why we didn’t want to leave this place.  Here are a couple more of my favorite pictures from the island...this one is a panoramic with Jodi looking out towards another island in the distance (that was is easily twice the size of the one we are on.  What’s cool is you can see a storm rolling in on the left side of the picture.



Here is one last picture from the island where I was climbing a palm tree.



We had a pretty awesome afternoon on the island.  I also did a little snorkeling as well but didn’t see that matter, the next day I would make up for that.  I was feeling like a little challenge so I ended up swimming back to the boat.  I arrived just as the others got back from snorkeling.  It was the first time for them and they all got cut up pretty bad by the coral.  I guess it’s nice to have a few battle scars and they had all loved the snorkeling so much they didn’t mind.  They had seen a few sharks, and tons of fish...not bad for a first time.  To top it all off...Mark speared a HUGE parrot fish (looks like we won’t be going hungry!).


The parrot fish would be saved for later...our lunch that day was delicious fish tacos that were made from the jack fish Mark had speared the night before.  We stuffed ourselves...I am gonna say this alteast 5 more times but Paula was an amazing cook!  We seriously hit the jackpot...we probably had not eaten this good for the entire trip.  We were all so full we just lounged around on the deck in the sun for a few hours and napped. is reeeeeeeeeeal tough down here.  My God...I can’t believe that just one week before we were considering flying to Cartagena instead of sailing.  That probably would have been the WORST decision ever made.  That evening as the sun set, we went back to Pot luck island to clean up.  The island has a tiny fresh water well so it was back to bucket problem for Jodi and I...we had already become experts at the bucket showers when we were in Bocas del Toro for New Years in ’06.

That night  we hung out on the boat, having a few drinks...I think that was the night the idea was spawned to try to convince Mark to let us stay another day.  No wonder the cruisers come and spend months and months here.  It’s a tough place to leave.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The next day it was time for Jodi and I and the Austrians to go snorkeling while the others went to Pot Luck island.  The snorkeling was outstanding!  We saw a pretty big nurse shark (although not quite as big as the one we saw in Isla Coiba).  We also saw a few new types of fish like the trigger fish.  We spent our time snorkeling in and out of huge crevices in the was right on par with some of the best we have seen.  It was pretty awesome and we snorkeled for a solid 4 hours in a few of Mark’s favorite spots.  Back at the boat we were pretty exhausted from swimming all day but we were happy to find a gorgeus turkey dinner...yes, a TURKEY dinner waiting for us.  It was complete with potatoes, stuffing, greenbeans and carrots.  This is unbelievable!  Here is a picture of the beautiful chef with the turkey:



How she prepared this amazing dinner in this tiny boat kitchen is beyond me.  She had really outdone herself.  Needless to say we stuffed ourselves once again, overwhelmed with our luck of ending up on the Melody.

A couple hours later we went over to Potluck island where we met all the other cruisers for a popcorn party.  Mark and Paula had come up with the idea to use all the popcorn that Mark had bought for popcorn Pete...they figured they might as well make a party out of the whole thing, so they had a contest between all the cruisers for who could make the best popcorn.  There were all types...caramel corn, cheese corn, spicy curry corn, and even chocolate covered popcorn.  It was pretty cool to see everybody get together.  I think Paula especially loved it.  People on boats are pretty solitary but latin people love getting people together for a party.  There were probably 20 of us or so and getting a chance to talk to the cruisers and hear their stories was pretty awesome.  I got to know just about everybody (except the English muffins guy, who a purposely avoided).  Being in that environment really makes you want to have a similar on a sailboat, drifting through the Carribean with your husband or wife.  Not a bad way to retire really.  That’s a lot better than sitting down in Florida at Del Boca Vista Phase II playing pinnochole every night and having the highlight of your life be getting elected as the condo treasurer.  Some people had some great stories about their years of cruising and most of them were really nice, interesting folks.  It reminded me of a lot of the great people we met back in Boquete...retired but still doing some great things with their lives.  I hope one day I can do the same when I retire (assuming I ever get a job again).

Anyway, I ate way more popcorn than I should have, especially considering the meal we just had, and then we all played volleyball on the island.  We also ended up meeting a couple Panamanians that had found their way out to the island to camp overnight.  They didn’t hesitate to join the party and they also shared some of the huge fish they had caught that day with some of the locals.  What a fantastic little island and what a great place to be.  Another day in paradise.  We never wanted it to end.  We made a little headway toward that the end of the day, Jay had convinced Mark to let us stay another night.

That night I went with Mark to another cruiser’s boat.  This guy named Pete (not popcorn Pete) had talked to me the previous day about wanting to get all the music off my laptop.  Being out on a boat, access to newer and different music is tough and he was into everything and especially had an interest in latin music, which probably counts for more than half of all my MP3s.  He had an unbelievable was brand new and his wife had really gone out of her way to decorate it like a small home.  It had all the bells and whistles, including air conditioning!  We stayed there for a few hours trading songs and talking.  I gave him ALL my music...yes, some 6000 songs for him to go through.  Something tells me he won’t be keeping the Tupac, but he really was happy about having so much new stuff.  I got a lot of songs from him as well...especially a lot of stuff from the 60’s and 70’s that I didn’t really have access to in the past.

Saturday, September. 6, 2008

We were originally supposed to leave this morning but as I said, Jay had convinced Mark to let us hang out for one more day.  I wanted to go snorkeling did some of the others.  In the end, 5 of us (Me, Jim, Jay, Barry, and Morgan) were treated to one of the greatest once in a lifetime experiences.  On our way out our first snorkeling site, we came across a school of dolphins.  We all were able to jump in and snorkel with them!  It was fascinating watching them play and swim around us.  There was even a little baby one what was following his Mom around.  We were able to get within 10 feet of was absolutely unbelievable.  As they started swimming away, we followed them in the dingy for about a mile, getting in and out of the water.  It was truly one of the coolest things I have ever done.  I mean, normally if you get an opportunity like that, you’re at Sea World in a tank or maybe in some large enclosure where a tour group is there feeding the dolphins to keep them in the area.  This was out at sea with completely wild dolphins in there natural environment just swimming around and playing out in the open ocean!  It was a very special moment for all of us...and something that very few will ever get the chance to do.

I need to pause for a second to explain the magnitude of what this experience was for me.  I had actually been a little depressed that just so happened that this was the first day of the College football season...and the first ND game of the season as well.  That means nothing to a lot of people and I stopped trying to justify or explain my obsession with College football (and ND football especially) a long time ago.  The point is that, for me, it means a lot.  For just the second time in 14 years I was missing the ND season opener (last time was in Brazil) and it does make me a little homesick.  I definitely had the boys from the Sports Grill on my mind so it was nice that it ended up being such special day and I was very happy to be where I was.  Any day when you check something off your life’s “to do” list you’re doing something right.  I mean, swimming with dolphins!  Who of us didn’t have that dream as a kid or even as an adult??

Speaking of “to do” lists, I remember last year when that movie, “The Bucket List” came out and something about it bothered me.  I don’t like this notion in our society that we live our whole lives and then at the last minute try to do all the things we always wanted to do.  It’s not that having a bucket list is’s that people wait way to long to start working on it that drives me crazy.  I’ll never understand that mentality.  I have an idea for a different movie.  In my movie, a young guy starts working on his bucket list when he’s twenty something.  He focuses his life on crossing things off the list and never forgets about the things he wants to accomplish...from climbing mountains to swimming the deepest oceans.  He decides to take life by the balls and live to the fullest all the way through and not just in his twilight years.  He doesn’t need the fear or notion that he only has a few months left to start living.  He just always lives life like that. Then in the end when the doctor gives him the “you have 6 months to live” speech he just smiles and says...”that’s okay, I’ve accomplished everything I wanted and I can spend these final months surrounded by loved ones and talk about how wonderful and precious life really is and how important it is to live it your way.”

Here is the point.  Ask yourself when was the last time you crossed something off your life “to do” list?  If you can’t remember, then it’s time to make some changes.  You should start working on your list TODAY.  RIGHT NOW!!!  It doesn’t matter how simple or complex you list is (if you don’t have one, you have a whole different set of problems), just start on it.  Choose whatever cliché you want;  Life is just too short.  Carpe Diem.  Don’t take life for granted.  Live life to fullest.  Choose any of doesn’t matter...but realize there is a reason they are clichés!  Not enough people take this stuff to heart.  You’re not going to start crossing things off your list if you don’t break your routines and start getting a little outside of your comfort zones.  Sure I could have been back in the USA in a sports bar today...or maybe even in South Bend, and I would have been happy with that.  But I wasn’t there.  I was here, in San Blas, swimming with Dolphins and working on crossing things off my list.  I made a decision years ago that crossing things off my “to do” list was the highest of my priorities and I quickly began to understand that it would take a lot of sacrifice to make those things happen.  But guess also quickly start learning it’s worth the sacrifice.  Living out here on the road means that one day you wake up, and maybe you wish you were somewhere else and then before you know it you’re swimming with dolphins out in the open sea.  I love that bit of uncertainty and it’s one of the many reasons I’m traveling.  As the days, weeks and months go by on this journey, my bucket list gets small and smaller.  As far as I’m concerned...that’s part of the reason we’re put here on this planet.

(stepping down off the soap box)

(taking a couple breaths)


Anyway...after our dolphin experience the day was just beginning.  We went way out to a spot Mark calls the fish hole.  It was great snorkeling...the highlight was a spotted eagle ray I saw.  We spent over 5 hours out in the ocean snorkeling around.  The time flew by so was such a great afternoon.  I could have swam around out there forever.

Back at the boat we had fish tacos again...yummmmm.  These were from the big Parrot fish that Mark caught on Thursday.  That night on the boat we had a great talk about where we were from and why we were traveling.  I had a great talk with Jim who is from a small town in Colorado.  I am from small town USA as well and it was great to talk with someone who really understands how far away from home we are in every sense of the phrase.  It means a lot to me to have come so far.  Good lord...from Normal Illinois to a sail boat from Panama to Colombia.  I know most of you met me long after my days in Illinois so it’s hard to grasp the concept...but it’s such a different world, I’m not sure if I could even begin to explain it.  I’m sure that 95% of the people I know from back home are still within 100 miles of there...they are still hanging out with the same 30 people they knew in high school.  Hell, a good portion of them probably haven’t even seen the ocean more than once or twice.  It’s scary to think about it, but that could have easily...EASILY been me.  I consider myself very fortunate to be where I am and not a day goes by that I don’t count my blessings.  Sometimes, since I spend so much time around people with so many different backgrounds and from so many different places around the globe, it very hard to explain the chasm between where I am now and where I was 15 years ago.  That’s why it’s great to meet guys like Jim, who are right on the same page and understand it perfectly.
I’ve learned in my travels, that how you feel about an experience can definitely be related to your journey to get there.  Two guys from Nowhere USA working on their bucket lists.  God damn I love my life.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Early that morning we finally moved on.  We left at 6:00a.m...I slept through it but it seemed pretty bumpy once we got outside the reef.  Like my buddy George put it, the sea was angry that day my an old man trying to send back soup at a deli!  Around 9 I was up and in bad shape.  I had taken Dramamine but it didn’t help in the slightest.  We had to deal with some pretty huge swells and everybody was pretty seasick.  My vomit streak came close as it ever has to ending but once again I held out.  I can’t say the same for Jim and Barry.  It was a pretty tough day for everybody.  I spent most of it above deck with the wind in my face.  I couldn’t really do anything but lay felt like having a horrible hangover all day without the fun of being drunk the night before.  Sometime late that night I finally got used to was definitely a tough day but in the end it was a small price to pay for what we had experienced.  I’m glad we were coming from Panama and not going the other would have been tough to start things out like that.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The next day things had settled down a little and my body was adjusted to the swells.  We spent the morning talking and I sat down to write about the past several days.  Sometime around 2:00, we finally saw land for the first time since we left the Swimming pool.  Colombia was on the horizon.  Country number nine for us on this trip.  Sailing into the harbor was a feeling like none other I have ever experienced.  It was sort of the culmination of all the feelings I’d had during the past week on the boat.  It was a proud feeling of accomplishment...of knowing the 8 of us did something amazing.  Even though we were all from different places and we would go our separate ways from Cartagena...we were bound forever by the short time our paths crossed on the Melody.


Like many of the others, I had been thinking about sailing from Panama to Colombia for many months or maybe even years.  The experience lived up to everything I ever could have hoped and more.  As we closed in on Cartagena, Jim and I sat up on deck talking a lot about what it meant to have finally done it. This may have been my favorite experience in all my travels.  It’s hard to say exactly why.  Maybe it’s because San Blas was so beautiful, or because we had such a great group of people and an awesome Captain.  Maybe it was because of the feeling of envisioning something and then not only does it happen, but it exceeds your wildest expectations.  Maybe it’s because we got to do something unique, and exciting and rather than being afraid, we embraced it.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s all that stuff.  It’s all part of what you get from traveling the world...opportunities like this are around every corner.  THIS IS LIFE everybody.  Traveling by freaking sailboat to Colombia.  Good times.  The most amazing thing is that this was just one piece of an amazing journey that has no definitive end. My life “to do” list still has a lot of stuff on it...but it’s sure feels good to see it getting smaller.



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