Traveling Mode – A New Outlook: Costa Rica, Panama, Sailing San Blas and a new Contenant via Cartagena, Columbia – South America!

I have been on the road for a bit now, but it has just been in the last few weeks that I have gotten into the true travelers mode. It sounds odd, but the first 3 or 4 weeks my mind was so caught up on the big picture of things, of coordinating everything, and on the projects I was working on and the ones I was trying to arrange; that I was not giving enough thoughts to the actual travel part of this trip. Costa Rica, kicked off this change, thanks to a good friend from DC, Jim Welsh, living in Manual Antonio, and his great hospitality and great life style. I had a chance to finally relax and get in to this new mind-set.

Below are some stories and pictures from each of the legs of my journey the past couple weeks. This is actually the most pictures I have posted in a single post, but there was so much to see and I guess, I was looking more. I have included a couple from each location in the post itself, and then a slide show at the end for those interested in seeing the full set of pics. – I hope you enjoy!

Costa Rica; – Manual Antonio! 

As mentioned, it started in Costa Rica, where the country theme is Pura Vida – Pure Life or The Good Life! In Costa Rica, I had the chance to do Stand Up Paddle Boarding in the Ocean, Yoga looking out over the jungle, go repelling down waterfalls in the rain forest, relax on the beach, take Spanish classes and hang out for meals and drinks and great conversation with a bunch of fun people. Thanks to Jim and his crew from Manual Antonio, including Lon and Oz (my Spanish teacher) and other travelers that I met through Jim including Tara, Rachel, Katrine and Sam – it made for a great way to get into this new travelers mode: Good people, good places and good times!

My place the first three nights in Costa Rica - Thanks Jim!!

View from Jim's House

Manual Antonio Beach before SUP!

Repelling in the rainforest down the waterfalls!! - Free Fall!!

The Beach at Sunset

San Jose, Costa Rica

I had some time in San Jose before to heading to the beach –  A little out of sequence, but below are a couple of pictures from the San Jose City (including getting my computer back from DHL – a 6 hour $200 learning experience itself) – I will leave the rest of that story and the one of the watching the Superbowl in a San Jose “American” Sports Bar, until I see you all in person!

6 hours and $200 learning experience - DHL offices / handling at airport to get computer - the guy hitting his head tells it all!

San Jose

The National Theater - Coffee Shop

Museum in San Jose

Panama City, Panama

After a 20 some hour bus trip from Manual Antonio to Panama, including three hours crossing the border in the middle of the night, it was great to get into Panama City (at 5:00 AM!). Panama City is a beautiful, solid, full on City. From the Old City; Casco Viejo, Antiguo (almost Antigo :)) to the business district to the Canal (watched ships go through for hours!) And of course, not to forget, it was Carnaval – Starting on Friday night before Fat Tuesday – Panama City was in full on party mode – with beers costing $0.70 and sodas and water costing $0.80, cerveza was the only economical thing to do… for this new-found traveler!

Carnaval - those girls can dance!

Panama City

The Panama Canal

Miraflores Locks - Panama Canal

Hotel Deck view in Amador, Panama - Looking out on the Canal

San Blas!!

After Costa Rica and Panama, I was feeling relaxed , but I have to say, I think what was to come next what really is what full on kicked me into the travelers mode. Which started by checking into my first hostel – ever (sad, I know!); a 22 bed, dorm room experience, like no other, with no running water and no internet (both broken), but a full functioning bar and good people at Capt. Jack’s in Portobelo, Panama. – With my water project falling through in Ecuador, it opened up some time to explore, which I found a boat (thanks again to Jim W.!) that was going from the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal to Cartagena, Columbia – Not on my plan, but why not….

What was to follow was an amazing and exhausting and exhilarating experience; on a 60 foot sailboat, in similar conditions of Capt Jacks Hostel, with 19 of us sailing from Portobelo to Cartagena with a two-day stop over in San Blas, which made it all worth it and made you forget the marathon feeling of crossing the open waters. San Blas is a series of 365 Islands off the coast of Panama. The local indigenous people, Kuna, live and govern the islands, which are still pristine and undeveloped. Amazing! – In the Caribbean, and much what I would expect the south pacific to look like. Photos below…

Portobela, Panama

The Wild Card - Our boat for the next 5 days!

Kuna Local Village - The start of San Blas!!

San Blas - Dog Island

A day of snorkeling in San Blas - followed by lobster dinner and beach boon fire!

Full Boat in Cartagena, Columbia!

The combination of traveling and traveling with other travelers – having downtime and time to talk and discover, hanging with a good group of people, who all knew that this may not be all fun and games, but we will make the best of it and not complain; that is what I think finally turned the key completely to becoming a traveler! – Thanks to all those on the Wild Card – you made this an amazing experience!

Cartagena, Columbia! 

After another 36 hours of high open sea (waves cresting at 30 plus feet) we arrived in Cartagena, Columbia! – I am not sure if it is because we are finally off the water, or this is truly such an amazing City, but I LOVE Cartagena! – I think it is both, but for sure the later. I am staying in a great little family hotel, with hammocks in the lobby, just a few blocks from the entrance to the old city – I hope the pictures below do it justice. – I do recommend anyone coming to Columbia or South America to check it out for sure. AMAZING start to my first time in a new country and continent! – Love it!

Cartagena, Colombia

Bags for sale in the old town of Cartagena

Santa Teresa

Th Walled City Old Town Cartagena, Columbia

The Travels Continue

Next I am off to Quito, Ecuador and then on to Lima, Peru and Machu Picchu as all works itself out. I will give more traveler updates from those trips before my next water project in Bolivia starts on/around March 12th – The Etta Project, in honor of a young 14-year-old girl who lost her life during volunteer work in Bolivia with Rotary International. The project is putting in water storage and treatment for village and I will be there the week leading up to World Water Day, March 22nd – so kind of cool! More to come. – Until then, all the best wishes and good cheers to you all!! – Pura Vida!!

Slideshow and Gallery of Photos

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About joesworldwatertour

I am starting this labor day, 2011 on an up to two year tour of the world to visit and work on water service projects in developing communities. I am a water engineer who has been working in the corporate world of consulting since I graduated from college too many years ago and I hope this will be a chance to use my knowledge and experience to give something beneficial back to the world. I am starting my adventure with four months of research and a little decompression time before leaving on world travels in January, 2012. - I love people and will be missing a lot of close friends and family over the time away, but also hope to meet and friend a million more ahead!!
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4 Responses to Traveling Mode – A New Outlook: Costa Rica, Panama, Sailing San Blas and a new Contenant via Cartagena, Columbia – South America!

  1. Sylvia says:

    Joe, This looks FANTASTIC! Enjoy, my friend – you are inspiring!

  2. Iva says:

    OMG Joe – Amazing pictures! Such an awesome trip! Always wanted to go to Cargatena! Sorry that your first hostel experience was so bad 😀 – it will get better I promise.

  3. Thanks Iva! – It has been amazing!! – the first hostel was ok all in all – the people made it a total plus!! – Thanks for all the recs in South America! – Starting to put them to good use this next week! – You Rock!

  4. zetoune2 says:


    I just read your article. I am currently in Cartagena and I am looking for a boat. You mentioned in your post that the boat was in the same kind of shape of capt jack hostel. I am not too sure to understand. Would you recommend to sail on this sailing boat. It is the next one that gonna hit the seas and i was looking for some traveller feedbacks. Let me know.


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