I have asked myself many times in the past years where I would like to spend the rest of my life. It is a hard question to answer, because many places have their pros and cons. I always said that I was more of a city girl, and that my ideal place would be right outside of a big city, but close enough to it so I could commute back and forth. My favorite city has always been New York City, and if you have been there, you know about its unique atmosphere and energy.
New York City used to be my favorite place in the world... but it's still my favorite city
I spent my graduate years in New York City, and it's the place where I forged my character through disappointments and successes, which made me who I am today. But one can only live in such a hectic environment for so long, and 4 years seemed long enough (although I still like to visit!) and it was time for a change. After NY I lived in other big cities, but none of them satisfied me as much as New York did...
I came to Panama for a vacation... and I ended up getting married!
I must say that Bocas del Toro is my favorite place to live so far, and you might probably ask yourself how can you go from living in a huge cosmopolitan city, to living in a small town of no more than 8,000 inhabitants in the Caribbean? The answer is very simple: nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and seeing the sun rise over the water as soon as I open my blinds everyday. I have breakfast while I enjoy the view, and my commute to work is just as pleasant as I am driving (or cycling if I'm in the mood) along the beach to get to my office. I have to say that I feel very fortunate to live in a house right on the beach, only 10 minutes away from where I work, although for the locals here, this is not luxury but completely normal. On the other hand, people in Bocas del Toro are genuinely friendly to each other and will say hello even though they do not know you - a custom that has long been lost in every capital of the world.
I never imagined life in the Caribbean would be so nice...
Bocas del Toro also offers many advantages for active people as there are so many things to do. It is only a 45 minute flight away from Panama City, or a 3 hour ride to David in case the city bug strikes again. There are enough people to make new friends and offers a fun and diverse nightlife, but also quiet enough to have the option to escape on a beach where the next human being is several kilometers away from you. Quite a change from New York City I have to say, but somehow it really suits me.
There are so many beaches to choose from in Bocas del Toro and I try to go to a different one each weekend... don't be jealous but this is my back yard!
I have a few close friends in Bocas del Toro, and every weekend we get together to go surfing (or just lay in the sand and watch others surf), horseback riding, have coffee or simply go to beach and relax... and we can party hard once in a while! Sometimes I have lunch on another island, just because I can! During the week after work, I have developed some rituals of my own, like eating at my favorite Bocas restaurant with my husband, going to Yoga at Bocas Yoga Studio with my colleague Emily, and attending kickboxing classes with my friend Rachel. And I am starting to know more people every day.
Relocating to Bocas del Toro was definitely the best move for me and my husband, and we are very happy to live in the Caribbean. Every once in awhile I do miss New York - the abundance of shops, customer service, having more money to spend, the huge selection of night clubs, being able to wear something else rather than shorts and a tank top and dress up - yes I am a girl and it does matter... although over here I have a lot more bikinis! And I've been back on vacation to New York, but vacation is always different than normal life (I don't miss the stress, the long hours, the traffic, the coldness of people) and I'm so much more happy with my new life... I guess a good vacation is just doing something that you like that is different to your normal life.
Even though not as frequent as before, I can still go shopping to New York
Sometimes in Bocas it feels as if I'm living a dream - people from all over the world come here to get away from it all and consider Bocas a paradise on Earth. For me, this is my "routine", my day-to-day life, and I feel so grateful that my path led me to this wonderful place and that I get to experience Bocas’ beauty every single day. I traded a hectic and superficial life for peace of mind, a healthy lifestyle, natural beauty, amazing friends, happiness, the love of my life and I definitely do not regret my choice. I do not know how many years I will live here, but one has to enjoy the present moment, right?
If you're thinking about where to go for your next vacation, Bocas del Toro in Panama's Caribbean should top your list... you might not end up staying like I did, but you'll definitely fall in love with this place