Water sprayed along the sides of the narrow panga as it sliced the water’s surface. Jungle-cloaked islands emerged in the distance…beckoning us to greet their shore.
We anchored at the small, undeveloped island of Chichaemae and a small dingy took us in to the powder-white coast. The water gently kissed the sand…skimming fallen palm trees, abandoned canoes, and coral reef.
I made it to San Blas.
Located on the South Caribbean in Panama, the San Blas Islands are the place of fantasies, fables, or dreams. The sea is dotted with hundreds of small islands protected by the indigenous Kuna Yala tribe. The Kuna have a rare political and economic system, which is entirely autonomous and separate from mainland Panama. Culturally and geographically San Blas is a rare gem.
Tourists pay a small fee to enter the region…then sleep in simple huts on the beach. Small budget islands start at around $30, which includes accommodation, meals, and a trip snorkeling to nearby islands. A few islands have luxury resorts, but the true pleasure in San Blas is disconnecting from electricity and enjoying a simple way of life.
I walked Chichaemae’s stunning perimeter in nearly 10 minutes. Locals sat under covered bodegas selling cold beer and coconuts from Styrofoam coolers filled with ice from the mainland. The island was blissfully peaceful with nothing to do but stare into the sea or snorkel the offshore sunken ship.
At lunch we gathered around a large communal table with travelers from Peru, Argentina, Germany, Spain, and France. Fishermen docked their boats and unloaded heaps of lobster onto the shore. Kuna women, draped in hundreds of rows of colorful beaded bracelets heaped coconut steamed rice and cucumber salad onto our plates alongside whole lobsters steamed in butter and curry. When we finished dining we ran into the ocean and scrubbed our dishes with coarse coral studded sand.
The sun began to set turning the sky soft lavender. I spotted a rainbow in the distance. When darkness fell we sat sharing stories around a bonfire. We talked about our travels and our adventures under a blanket of stars, constellations, and the Milky Way, miles from civilization, borders and continents away from my family and friends.
Before I left Seattle…my apartment in the city, my desk job, and my comforts of home…I never would have envisioned myself here in San Blas. Today I live as a digital nomad, working from my laptop on faraway islands, in wooden jungle huts, and in cafes in ancient cities across the world.
I may not have the securities of a domestic life, but my security comes from knowing that I am following my passion and living every single day to the fullest.
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