After a day of intense rain in Bocas del Toro, normally a picture-perfect spot in the Caribbean, K and I bagged a reservation in a hostel that Lonely Planet insisted you should “beg, borrow or steal” to get.We moved from a small hostel dive-shop in the main city of the archipelago. Although the weather did not serve us well, Bocas town, a charming mix of clapboard houses built in early 20th century by the infamous United Fruits Company, provided us with a enough fun, the night before. We heard the stories of the expat life in tropical paradise, first one from a kooky diving instructure who was still bitter about a storm that sank his ship, and then many from a gregarious bar owner, a middle-aged Floridian, who after spending a year and a half in the Caribbean was so tired of the local mix of rice, beans and chicken that he threw a full plate of food into the sea.
The next day after after a fourth downpour of the morning we arrived to our new hostel, located on a secluded island.
The Shins, Temper Trap and Whitest Boy Alive were playing softly. Fresh aquamaruine pool was surrounded by chiseled bodies and a slope of wonderful toprical greenery looking over the sea towards thick Panamanian rainforest. This idyllic view was only broken by the fact that the rain was pouring and cold wind was blowing.
“Es gibt zu viel Arbeit”, one of the guys moaned on the dreamy verandah. Next to him there was a group of people who made tropical wood tables their little offices for the day and were blogging/instagramming/coding away.
That was it. I was stuck on a tropical island, in a pouring rain with (mostly German-speaking) young consulting/finance types and digital nomads. If the storms in Bocas del Toro worsen and boats stop operating I was wondering if the combined flotation capacity of our sleek Apple products would be enough to carry us ashore. Or maybe we would descend into a Lord of the Flies Chaos, and I, as the only chubby person in the hostel would be the first to be sacrificed, when (an) Andrea, on a break from her life as Engagement Manager for BCG Zurich, employs her 2×2 matrix skill to solve the situation and realises that hunting me would be a “sweet spot”.
I, then, acknowledged that my disdain is very hypocritical because a) I have great friends in both groups and know they hold lovely, interesting o people and b) I, myself, am writing this on my iPad by the pool to post on my blog after having quit my consulting/finance job.
Still I could not let go. I hope that there is a book (or a YouTube channel), that is a sort-of update of the Magic Mountain for 21st century, where a present-day Hans Castorp takes a 3-week break from a banking job to travel to an exotic country, finds a snazzy hostel and spends seven years of life trapped there meditating about early-21st cetury culture, while observing a regime of yoga, intermittent fasting and cold showers.
It would have to be a place like this one: extremely beautiful and comfortable (Jungle Retreat!H igh-speed internet!), but kind of totally anonymous, equally at home in Thailad, Kenya, Brazil and – with a stretch of imagination – even Berlin or London. The anonnymity and alocality was a bit stipped away by a charming little book explaining the arduous journey the owners (two Canadian dudes) took to create this affordable piece of paradise, still there was a sense that it catered to the globalised taste of young professionals, who cannot survive without their flat whites, yoga and avocadoes.
I then wondered if soon there will soon be a point where any non-adventurous travel writing would be impossible. Will the world finally be just a string of fashionable London/New York/Berlin joints dotted around the world selling authenticity and sustinablity? The tours and sights would be different, but the decor, the food and most, importantly, the people, would always be the same. The chats with people would always revolve around mortgages at worst or daily plans, and everybody would wear the same mask of aloof amusement like the one we wear at home.
For all of my snark, when the sun finally came out I felt I could block out the poolside chatter about Snapchat, schedules, and holiday allowances, to enjoy the pool and the view over the Bocas bay. And of course, my heart jumped when I ate amazing quesadillas, washed them down with a pina colada and felt that even on this remote island, sour, intense espressos are within easy reach.