A friend of my mom’s told me the night before I flew out of town that he thought I would one day put down roots when I found something that felt like home. I have been considering his idea because I love the thought of it being something you feel instinctively rather than a physical location. This trip has taught me a lot about creating sort of a patchwork of the things and people I love along the way; about cultivating the ability to find home wherever I can.
I think this idea came about because I have stayed in each location longer than I normally would while traveling. Usually, I operate with the attitude of doing a lot, of not wanting to miss anything. But my friends left Boquete a few days ago and I stayed behind because I felt like catching my breath for awhile. Casually wandering in Boquete with no real agenda allows me time to see past the tourist sights and find my own pockets of interest. Yesterday found me digging through piles of a rich expat’s clothes with a dozen Panamian women at a yard sale where I bought a red kimono because you have to! Standing there with these women, laughing while elbowing each other to get to the good clothes made me feel a sense of community outside the lovely bubble of backpackers.
Later that evening, a few friends who work at this hostel invited me to sit by the river and have a cookout. They admired my purchases and fed me the best pork in the world. I am ruined for pork for the rest of my life. The owner Lucini told us how he’d tried to buy the neighbor’s rooster so it would stop terrorizing his sleeping guests. I heard some dirt on Matt, the volunteer who believed that the sky was watching his every move and of Puff, aka Plastic Bag Man, the guest who everyone tries to avoid for his love of one way conversations and cornering people. But in the same way as all the people I love the most, they didn’t let the laughs go too far at anyone’s expense. We told stories like old friends and after a few Balboa beers, I believe we were. While some other backpackers hustled around, noses buried in “Central America on a Shoestring,” I couldn’t help but think that Central America was there, sitting down by that river eating meat and telling stories. I was just happy I got to listen.
It’s weird to think about the places we all end up, of what person or moment will remind us what we want home to feel like. If it were possible to define, I think I saw it in an Argentinian couple who sell handmade jewelry to fund their odyssey from Argentina to Mexico with their little daughter in their kookily painted van. They didn’t have a ton but they were happy, even singing as they wove bracelets. The whole thing made me smile and file it away for another time when I need to find comfort in good memories and cozy thoughts of home.