A Lesson of Humility: Puerto Lindo, Panama

panic

We had chosen our sailing base camp as Puerto Lindo due to the number of boats leaving to Colombia. What we didn’t know beforehand is that the town did not have internet and I had failed to let my friends and loved ones know that we were about to be out of touch for a week.

Did we mention that we arrived to the hostel to find out that the sailing trip is cash only? Our trip to nearby town Portobelo was a mandatory business affair.

The day started out a stormy one. It was Panamanian Independence weekend and the buses were running an hour late – if they had a schedule at all. The omens should have made themselves clear.

We found the nearest wifi point, did our online business, and withdrew the $900 needed for our sailing expedition.

I wasn’t taking any chances so I stuffed Shaun’s wallet into my underwear and pulled my baggy shirt over it.

After waiting for the bus for 2 hours we decided to share a taxi with another traveler. I was the only one who spoke Spanish and gave directions to the driver – hostel for us, Isla Grande for him. Money was exchanged and we left the taxi stoked that everything had gone so smoothly.

Or so we thought.

As we walked into the room Shaun tried to grab the wallet from my pants and I shot him a very confused glance.

“Dude. I gave it to you.”

“What?”

I thought he was pulling my leg.

We stood there for a moment speechless.

THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING. EVERYTHING was in that wallet for the day. Both our credit cards, our debit card, and about $1000 of cold hard cash.

Shaun dashed out of the room. I ran to the owner shaking and in tears. In disbelief and concern she screams for her husband Guido and he comes running out of his workshop in a panic.

I somehow sputter the previous events and he ran off in a scared, hurried manner – only to return with his motorbike. Seeing a manly man in such disarray made my heart drop.

VROOM VROOM!

He patted his backseat.

I threw my leg over and in a cloud of smoke we raced off.

It had been raining all morning and the roads were slick. Guido didn’t care. He was driving for our livelihood. He took the turns quickly and at such extreme angles I felt like we were in a race. We weaved in and out of country roads, passing cars, and driving into oncoming lanes. I was scarcely catching my breath.

Small grunts of fear escaped my lips.

Sweat filled my nostrils. Was it mine? I didn’t care, my adrenaline was pumping harder than ever before.

My entire body was frozen, holding onto Guido for dear life as he sped toward the Isla Grande ferry where our taxi mate was going.

We pull into the parking lot to see the taxi driver sitting waiting for a fare and I jumped off the bike.

I looked through the back window into the backseat.

Nothing.

I crawled halfway through the window, shaking, scouring every part of the car.

There is was, on the floorboards, still full of money and credit cards.

We had done so well the past 7 months, I think life was just giving us a heads up that shit can still go wrong.

We recovered EVERYTHING. Practically unheard of.

We arrived waving the wallet in the air. Shaun smiled. I let out a sigh of relief. We did a victory dance.

For the first time I wasn’t mad about something like this. I was just happy to have our monetary lives.

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29 Responses to “A Lesson of Humility: Puerto Lindo, Panama”

  1. Lorenzo Gonzalez November 28, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Wow, i was very anxious reading this post. So relieved that you were fortunate to get your “monetary lives” back!

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 1:37 am #

      @Lorenzo: Then I wrote it right if you were anxious! 😛 I think I aged a million years during this debacle. I don’t feel the same.

  2. Phil November 28, 2011 at 4:18 am #

    It’s incredible how hard you can work for something and then in an instant, it can vanish. Obviously 1000 is not all of your savings, but still that’s a significant amount. So glad to hear you recovered it!!! This story had my heart racingg 😉

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 12:33 am #

      @Phil: Since we are on the last leg of our savings right now, the $1000 freaked us out to no end. I’m sure we could have had money wired to us no problem but they thought of having to wait in Panama until our credit cards arrived would be excruciating.

  3. Roy Marvelous November 28, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    WOW, that’s lucky. Phew!

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 12:34 am #

      @Roy: I think I save up all my luck (I don’t even win bingo) for moments like these.

  4. Amanda November 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    So scary! I can’t imagine how much I’d be freaking out in that situation. So glad that you were able to find it in the end, though!

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 12:40 am #

      @Amanda: It was really weird how calmly I handled it all. The adrenaline took over and I just took it moment by moment. Believe me, I have crazy Latina temper and poor Shaun has to take the brunt of it under situations like these. But this time – completely different.

  5. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy November 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Amazing that you recovered everything. You must have had good karma coming your way!

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 1:31 am #

      @Scott: I would hope so! We try to keep our karma points good and high.

  6. Sarah November 29, 2011 at 3:23 am #

    AH! You guys are SO lucky!

    I just left Cambodia but while I was there I caught a child no older than 5, stealing about $50 from my bag! It was an IN-TENSE situation and I still get shivers thinking about it!

    Glad all is well on the monetary front! 🙂

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

      @Sarah: OMG. I wouldn’t know what to do if I saw a baby stealing from me! What did you do?!

  7. Patricia GW November 29, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    WOW that was a close one! I’m so glad you recovered the wallet and found that exact same taxi driver. I would have been balling my eyes out too, that’s such a scary situation to be in. I think you guys deserve a drink!

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

      @Patricia: Luckily the town we had driven into was only like 1000 people but still – the tears were flowing for sure. (Note: I did drink myself stupid that night.)

  8. Heather November 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Oh thank goodness! I was anxiously reading and hoping it would end the way it did. *HUG* *victory dance* What a relief!!!

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

      @Heather: I think I aged 10 years during this whole ordeal. Seriously.

  9. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures November 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    HOLY SH*T! I had goosebumps reading this post and felt sick to stomach. I’m SO happy you found everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope you celebrated?

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

      @Andi: Celebrated yeah – I drank many a beer that night for SURE. Had to calm my nerves!

  10. Shani November 30, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Wow – what an amazing story. I have to add it is amazing the kindness of strangers – the fact that the hostel owner would “risk his life” for you is pretty fantastic. I’m so glad you were able to recover your wallet!

    • Erica November 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      @Shani: I’m so glad he didn’t even think twice about it. Although, I thought I was going to die trying to get a wallet.

  11. Dayna January 7, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    What an incredible story! You wrote it so well too, I’m sitting here reading it in suspense hoping you found it in the end! It’s so hard to keep in mind that even when you plan things to a T, things can still go wrong. On our trip a few weeks ago from Croatia to Romania, we had triple and quadruple checked prices and legs of the journey and times… and it still ended up costing way more than we thought because someone had misquoted to us. Fail. Glad you found it in the end, that would’ve been awful.

    • Erica January 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      @Dayna: I can’t even begin to tell you how sick I was after this whole ordeal. The amount of adrenaline that went through my body probably aged me 10 years alone. I’m usually super anal about making sure things go as planned (when I plan things) and it is the worst feeling in the world – knowing you have no control over a situation like this.

  12. Matthew Hutchins June 27, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    Stop… Panic time 🙂

    • Erica July 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      Just thought you should know that I now have MC Hammer in my head and has been there for a few days thanks to this post. /sigh

      <3

  13. Lacy February 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    What a story! I bet your heart was in your throat the entire time. I cannot imagine loosing that much money during such a crucial time!

    I am making the trip to Panama and Colombia starting next week, so your blog has provided some great inspiration!

    Thanks and Happy Travels!
    Lacy

    • Erica February 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      I’m glad we could provide some inspiration! Let me know if you need any help or advice Lacy!

      • Lacy February 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

        What was your favorite spot in Panama? I have no itinerary just wandering wherever the wind leads.

        • Erica February 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

          Bocas del Toro – good for some diving (depending on weather), beautiful beaches, and GREAT parties. There is even Starfish Beach where they are all over!

  14. marcus June 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    I made the trip to Puerto Lindo looking for a boat to Colombia. I stayed at Wunderbar Hostel. Since I would not book a ticket with the German owner of Wunderbar, I was asked to leave. I went to the port area, some 100 yards away and booked a ticket. The Colombian captain returned my $20 deposit because he had an informal agreement with the Germans from Wunderbar. The woman at Wunderbar was taking $150 per ticket!!! You can find a NAZI just about anywhere these days. I flew to Colombia rather than dealing with such a corrupt situation.

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