A Travellerspoint blog


More Q&A - Cuz' Why Not

View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

So ever since we wrote the Q&A, we've been thinking of other questions we could have answered. So here we sit on a Thursday night answering all those questions you don't have but we think you should...and a few we did actually get!

Q&A With Cocktails

What's in your backpack, other than clothes and toiletries, you couldn't live without?
Well there are a few things...for instance we spend a minimum of two hours every morning over coffee, which means coffee is mandatory. So we carry our own collapsible coffee makers, filters, and always some coffee. These are the handiest of gadgets!

Then, for drinks, we do find it necessary to juice fruit, so Marcy carries the reamer. Can we just say if there is one kitchen implement that should be in every backpack, after coffee of course, it's a reamer. Our friends on the sailboat to San Blas were soooo impressed!

You must be prepared for the looks from airport security, however. I mean they think these are weapons..large_IMG_5881.JPG

So who knows what they think our reamer is! Of course it could be the insane man accompanying me that sets them off.

Finally...is there anything worse than warm beer? Obvious answer, NO! So we both carry our Yeti coozies! Scott stuffs a pair of socks in his and, of course, it's where I put the reamer. For those of you with a devious mind, the X-ray doesn't see through these and they never check them so...draw your own conclusions about what you might stuff inside.

What's in your backpack you could live without but carry anyway?
Ummm...nuff said.

What do you wish was in your backpack but you live without?
Scott: My Sonos speakers. But I find we do quite well with our UE BOOM!

Vanna would be proud - though she'd never wear a Stranger Bocas tank top!

Marcy: A pet! Wouldn't that be great...a furry friend you could just unpack at each location?!

Have you thought of any inventions that might be good for travelers like yourselves?
Bitters, a necessary ingredient of both Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, in ketchup-like packets because they are hard to find, expensive when you do, and hard to carry in your backpack! I mean, what would TSA think of that?!

What's the real key to your success?
Being able to feel at home in a hotel room! Here's a typical hotel kitchen - I mean sometimes we have REAL a stove but if you can plug in a burner - really do you need one? And an oven...really no one needs an oven, right? Wait we do have a toaster oven! A microwave for popcorn and nachos is essential though because everyone needs popcorn and/or nachos for the Netflix binge night!

Not to worry about booze, mixers, and fruit - they're are available everywhere. And hotels have ice machines! Conveniently, at this Hard Rock it's the next door down! Do notice, however, the full size bottle of bitters! I mean, really, shouldn't they come in handy carry packets or otherwise be standard equipment in every hotel room?!

How do you stay on budget?
Refer to previous answer re: Netflix and nachos!

How do you amuse yourselves given you can't afford to go out every night?
Refer to previous answer re: Netflix and nachos! And this blog! We sit on our deck and think up silly, alright, stupid sh%$ to do.

How much do your packs weigh?
Our backpacks are exactly the same weight, 26 pounds. That being said, our "day packs" are a different story. Scott carries 18 pounds of electronics.

Yes that's only 8 pounds less than his backpack! I'd give you an inventory but them you'd know we were crazy!

And then I carry the toiletries and pharmaceuticals - we have 11 pounds of those - including, of course, the very dangerous tweezers and snippers!

Really, I must digress here. I'm just so annoyed. Every agent has something they don't like and you never know what it is. We flew from Bocas TO Panama City with these but - noooooo - can't fly from David to Panama City with them. Can SOMEONE, ANYONE, please standardize what is allowed and what isn't? NeXt they'll be taking Scott away saying he's a danger - well...

Anyway, we normally check our big packs (never mind we bought them small so they could be carry-ons - we fly such small airlines that they must be checked), so it's our daypacks that get searched EVERY time. While Scott oversees the electronics search, which is an odyssey unto itself, I politely smile as they go through "Nurse Marcy's" pack and all the pills, potions, and dangerous implements.

They look at me like "what of this stuff do you use to party on the plane"? To which I think, "if I'm taking Imodium for fun, then I haven't had much fun in your country, have I"?

So this blog, it take time right? What does Scott do while you're typing?
Well... typically I write these in the morning and he's reading the financial times, looking at our net worth on Personal Capitol (it's an obsession really - are we up or down?!), or paying our taxes to the US of A (as he did today - you're welcome by the way). But tonight, he's DJing and mixing drinks - yep still grateful the ice machine is just next door.

How do you stand spending so much time together (i.e. Don't you get sick of each other)?
We're really good at ignoring each other for hours at a time. I mean - sometimes you just need some personal space - even if you are in a studio-size hotel room. That's what social media is for!

Thanks for playing along. We were amused putting this together - hope you were, too. Another night on the road, another new amusement.

Don't forget to keep up with us @arrradventures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 21:04 Archived in Panama Comments (2)

Adventures in Beautiful Boquete

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We leave Boquete today for Panama City. It's been a great visit in a great small town. Scott says I was too hard on Boquete in my last post so let me clarify. It is easy to see why so many expats call Boquete home. Pleasant temperatures year round, gorgeous plants, flowers, and birds. Green mountains all around you. It really is an oasis. In addition, the expat community is friendly and welcoming. There are fun bars and restaurants with live music, American sports on TV, and good selections of beer and spirits. So, while it's not big enough, diverse enough, or warm enough for us - not to mention no beach - if you're looking for a retirement haven, it would definitely be a place to check out.


We had a great evening listening to the band and hanging on the couch at Boulder 54, so named for the giant boulder they built the bar around.
It happened to also be International Whiskey Day so Old Fashioneds were the order of the night.

We hung out so long they eventually brought out a desert and the band played Happy Birthday. Fun!


If you've been following my Instagram and/or Facebook posts, you will know that I have started up a new hobby of bird watching. All it takes it two feet and a pair of binoculars! I am using the Merlin BirdID and eBird Apps. They seem to have most birds I see or am looking for and have some nice features. If Scott and I had a six month consulting contract and a small team of developers, we could easily make some improvements but...they work.

Boquete is a birding hot spot so we splurged for a guided bird watching tour. I was really glad we did because we saw so many birds and the guide was so knowledgeable, not only about birds but about the area and plants, too. It was a beautiful hike up into the jungle. I've finally found a way to get Scott to go hiking!

The highlight of the trip was viewing a Resplendant Quetzal. It'a an elusive bird that is the holy grail of birding here. We were lucky enough to see this one, which our guide took a picture of for us through his sighting scope, and again the next day on our hanging bridges tour.

We also saw these amazing birds, thanks Merlin for the photos as well as 12 others.

These two were definitely my favorites!

We've also seen beautiful birds around town. Here are my favorites.


We did an awesome tour that included hiking up 6300 feet into the cloud forest and crossing six hanging bridges.

We crossed over rivers, passed waterfalls, marveled at trees that were hundreds of years old and were worlds unto themselves of plants and animals they supported, saw amazing flowers, and had breathtaking views of Volcan Barú. Definitely a must do trip if you ever visit Boquete.

The Bridges


The Flowers and Plants


The Trees!


Volcan Barú


Streams and Waterfalls


Boquete is an outdoor-lover's paradise. Besides all of this there are hiking trails all over, you can even hike to the top of the volcano at over 12,000 feet! White-water rafting, zip-lining, ATVing and on and on. Highly recommend it as a destination unto itself or a stopover on a tour of Panama.

Keep up with us on Instagram @arrradventures!

Posted by mrb430 11:13 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Bocas to Boquete - Two Sides of Panama

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We made our way from the Caribbean coast of Panama and Bocas Del Toro over to the small town of Boquete in the mountains above David, Panama. It's nestled in a valley that sits at 6,000 feet in the shadow of the massive Volcan Barú, which rises to 12,000 feet.

Our shuttle bus ride was really fascinating. Coming up the Caribbean slope, there was rain and fog most of the way. The vegetation is lush green with plant leaves the size of dinner tables, bananas, palms, and riots of flowers. Didn't get great pics but this gives you an idea of how green it is.

As we rose up the slope, the temperatures dropped and the winds came up. At the top you cross the continental divide and the vegetation changes to a high elevation cloud forest with stunted trees and copious ferns and moss. After crossing over to the Pacific side, the sun came out shining on blue skies.

The Pacific slope is dry this time of year and has much more agriculture and cattle grazing. It looked a lot like this until we entered the valley that Boquete sits in.



Boquete is the opposite of Bocas in many ways. Where Bocas is hot and steamy, Boquete is cool and, at this time of year, dry. Where Bocas is all jungle, Boquete is a diverse ecosystem. In the valley, everything from drought-loving plants like cactus and eucalyptus coexist with tropical plants like palms and bananas. There are many, many species of plants, some introduced by the Europeans that came to settle here such as Pine, Juniper, and Teak and many flowers. They all mix in with the native plants to create a truly lush garden of a city.

There are creeks and rivers flowing down from the mountains all over. The Rio Caldera is the largest and flows through the center of town.

Smaller streams pop up everywhere and make the scenery so pretty.

We even have one beside our house. Here's our lizard friend hanging out by it.


Due to the cool climate that varies only by a few degrees all year and the relatively low cost of living, Boquete has become an Expat haven. Named one of the top five place to retire by Forbes in 2005, it has grown to where 25% of the population is expat retirees, mainly American. As a result, it feels a lot like "America in Panama". Unlike Bocas that is a destination for young and old from all over the world and as a result a vibrant melting pot with a stable local population, Boquete is dominated by the expats. Everyone speaks English. While there are locals and even a few of the indigenous Ngöbe (pronounced no-bay) people in town, few of them can afford to live here anymore. There are American style bars and restaurants and gated enclaves of huge homes with golf courses. As a result, we like it less than Bocas.

One interesting aspect of the early European influences on Boquete and the continued expat influence is in the housing styles. Sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Panama, it gets this name because of the peaked roof houses that resemble those in the Alps.



Much like Medellín, Boquete was really "discovered" when coffee came to town with Europeans settling here and displacing the native populations. Today Boquete is home to many small coffee estates that raise wonderful coffee. One boutique type called Geisha sells for over $800 a pound! We went to visit one and learn about the coffee production process. Finca La Milagrosa is in the hills above Boquete and raises ten different varieties of coffee. We were able to see the trees as well as the production process from peeling away the hulls to washing, drying, and roasting. One fascinating aspect of this farm is that the owner built all of his machines from spare, recycled, and reclaimed parts.

The berries are very pretty. They were pretty well finished harvesting but there were still a few on the trees.

This is the peeling machine, peeled beans "fermenting" in buckets to remove their "slimy layer", and then the hand washing of the peeled berries.

Here are the drying racks. The dark beans are drying naturally and will have their husks peeled after drying. The light beans are pre-peeled and then dried.

And a small roaster where our guide showed us the roasting process. Here you can see the front of the machine is a recycled jeep headlight and the funnel he uses to pour the beans in is a part of a muffler. The smells as it went from light to medium to dark roast changed from the smell of brownies, to that of popcorn, to burnt popcorn, to that amazing coffee aroma you get when you first open a bag of dark roast coffee.

And this is the grinding machine. The grinder makes use of a jeep transfer case, chains, and other parts.


Backtracking a bit, while we were in Bocas we visited the Oreba cacao farm owned by the indigenous Ngöbe people and learned how they make chocolate by hand. Most of their beans they sell abroad but they retain some for their own use and to make chocolate they sell locally. It was interesting to learn the process but also to learn about how the Ngöbe live and their history.

The Ngöbe
The Ngöbe (also spelled Ngabe) are the third largest indigenous population in Panama. During colonization, the tribes along the coast escaped to the mountains and lived relatively untouched. Starting in about the 1800's, they returned to the coastal valleys and began raising cocoa among other things. Today, they have reservations, much like the American Indians, on which they live autonomously. Although they seem to have been able to retain their culture and their families more in tact than American Indians. Perhaps because the land they have is more suited to their ways of life. in any case, there are reservations all over Panama. Outside Boquete, the Ngöbe live in the mountains and rarely interact in town. They come down for coffee harvesting but little else. In the Bocas village we visited, they raise their own food and make their own clothes.

The women are easily recognizable by their colorful dresses that they always wear, even in town in Boquete.

The Tour

Chocolate grows on small trees inside brightly colored pods. They flower right on the stems and trunks.

The process involves breaking open the pods and removing the seeds, which are wrapped in a slimy white layer. Like the coffee, they must be fermented to remove this film, then they are dried in the sun, and roasted. At that point they are ready for export.

To make the chocolate, they hand grind the beans and cook it with honey. It was really delicious.

We're enjoying our time in Boquete and another post is on it's way soon! Don't forget to follow us @arrradventures on InstaGram for frequent updates and pics.

Posted by mrb430 11:32 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Living is Cheap, Travel is Expensive

Planning for 2019

Today is Scott's birthday and marks almost one year since we left D.C. for good and hit the road. Our first year saw us in five countries, 53 different "homes", and one sailboat. We lost out pup, Cadeau, sold our final large possession, Ruby, and settled into the life of nomads.


We spent most of our time in Bocas talking and planning for what comes next. We moved from Bocas to Boquete, Panama for a week and then will head to Panama City for about a week, and then to Roatan Honduras for about three weeks. This we knew. After that, it was wide open and we only had an outline of ideas and places. Summer in Europe, yes! Spain and Portugal for sure. May and June, ok - check. Oh and the opportunity to go on a river cruise in June with my parents popped up so great! But wait, that costs how much?! Southeast Asia next winter, yes. But what was in between? And how do we spend six months in Europe when they will only let us stay in the vast majority of the countries for 90 days? Damn Schengen Visa!


So we tried on ideas. A month in Scotland and a month in England. Out of Schengen Zone, that's good. Wait, we really don't have England on the bucket list. But wouldn't a month in Cornwall be great? Wait, what's there to do in Cornwall? Do we really want to stay in a small fishing village for a month? Ummm...ok we'd need a car and travel around. But wait, a car for a month costs how much? And we have to drive on the wrong side of the road? And it's so small our backpacks might not even fit?? But, the hill country is beautiful, right? Ok, we need to book places. Ok, no problem...wait 98% of places are already booked? How can that be??

Ok, TWO months in Scotland. We'll do a Whiskey tour. Wait that would be July and August and, again, everyone agrees you really need a car to explore Scotland (not to mention a new wardrobe). And, again, a rental car for two month costs how much?! And we'd need to book housing all over and...wait for it...98% of places are already booked! I know, you'll say stay in Edinburgh. Have you ever tried to rent affordable housing in Edinburgh in July and August? I found a dormitory we could stay in for almost a hundred dollars a night!

Ok, we'll house sit. So we signed up for house-sitting services. But wait...they're in the middle of nowhere and we would, you guessed it, need a car. What about a camper van - yeah, we'll camp! Wait, a camper van costs more than housing??? Ugh! Living on a budget can definitely cramp the travel thing. We were driving ourselves crazy!

The options seemed limitless, until they didn't. Add to this we remember how tiring it was to move 35 times in North America. To always be looking for the next "home". No - that's not what we wanted to do again!


SO HOW DID WE EVER THINK WE COULD TRAVEL THE WORLD? Oh yeah, living not traveling! Didn't we say we wanted to live places and experience them? Didn't we love doing that in Mexico? Didn't we stick to our budget there? Three weeks in an apartment in Bocas and we felt like locals and stayed in budget. Right, we can do this. Criteria:
1. Enough lodging options to make a low cost option available = fair sized city
2. Many sights within day trip access by public transport = fair sized city surrounded by cool stuff with good transportation
4. Enough activity in the town itself to make hanging out over coffee and the paper a nice thing to do = small to mid-sized city
5. Representative of its surrounding area
6. Historical over modern

Ok, so we're looking for fair sized cities in cool places surrounded by interesting things that are easy to get to. That narrows it down!

So, Spain...sounds like Malaga! Portugal...sounds like Lisbon. France...sounds like Montpellier. 90 days in Schengen, done!

But what European countries are not in Schengen besides the UK? Croatia? Cool! That's beaches and islands right? Cyprus? No kidding?! A crossroads island steeped in history; Alex, I'll take Cyprus for $1000. And housing costs less than half the UK? And we don't need a car? And, well, how much more exciting is it to say we're going to Croatia and Cyprus over England and Scotland! These are called Arrradventures, not Arrr-ho-hum-de-hums.


So the rest of 2019, with some exceptions of course because rules are meant to be broken, will see us living in only eight different places, staying for a month or more, and living like locals. We're booking housing and finding great places at great prices, thanks to the month-stay discounts. We're spending our time looking at day trips instead of agonizing over how to piece together a million stops. Most importantly, we're no longer going crazy and spending hours and hours churning over what to do next.

Let's mark this moment and this post and see how we do! Right now, we're off to celebrate Scott's birthday, which happens to fall on International Whiskey Day!

More fun and photos to come real soon. In the meantime, keep up with us @arrradventures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 13:40 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

Watching the World Go By in Bocas

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Sitting here on our deck over the water in Bocas Del Toro on Sunday morning, realizing we are a week into our three week stay, it feels like we could stay here forever. More than any other Caribbean Island we've been to, life is slow here and it suits us. It also helps that we've been here before. The drive to "see and do" is lessened and we can just relax.

The Water

Bocas Del Toro is an archipelago of islands in the Caribbean off of Panama's northern border. It's made up of three main islands with other small ones close by. Only one island, Isla Colon, has cars. Almost all commerce and transportation is accomplished by boat. From our porch we watch the daily rhythms of the island unfold in the comings and goings of the ferry from the mainland, twice a day, the dive boat from next door, excursions morning and afternoon, the passenger speed boat from the mainland, every half hour, and the many tour boats that take tourists out each morning and come back each evening.

From small, hand-crafted wooden canoes and sailboats to larger wooden "cargo-canoes" to the large ferry and everything in between, the waters are in constant motion with boats coming and going carrying all manner of people and supplies. The variety is amazing and we sit for hours just watching the show.

There is also the constant entertainment of the fish. There are a number of fish that jump across the top of the water, I suppose escaping prey, and they jump and splash and amuse us. They're really pretty needle nose fish with colorful blue tails. Hard to get a photo of though!
We've also seen dolphins. And there are starfish in the water off our dock and we check on them to see where they've moved to each morning.

The Islands

The three main islands are Isla Colon, on which Bocas Town is the main town and the only one with buses, taxis, and cars. Though bicycles are definitely the preferred mode of transportation. Isla Carenero, a very small island directly across from Isla Colon with bars, restaurants, and a few hostels and hotels as well as some private residences. Isla Bastimentos, a large island with the Afro-caribe town of Old Bank, and private residences, eco-houses and hotels. And finally, Isla Solarte, mainly private residences, eco-houses and hotels, also. All are only reached by water taxi.

On Isla Colon, there are four water taxi companies operating from their own docks. On the other islands, you either call one or just wave them down and they come and pick you up. It's such an integral part of people's daily lives. Kids take the "school boat" to school, people take the boats to shop in Bocas Town. And it serves to slow the pace of life down. You just wait and the boat comes but not on your schedule, on theirs.

The Beaches

Bocas Town does not have any beaches in the town that are of the white sand and blue water variety. There is a beach just out of town in the first big bay but it's pretty silty. Makes for amazing patterns in the sand though.

There are a few up the coast but primarily for surfing. The exception is Starfish Beach at the north end that is lovely. We were there last time and haven't yet been again.

Isla Carenero has a few small but very pretty beaches. It's only about two miles around the island and we really enjoy walking it's varied coastline.

Yes, I bought a new noodle!


Bocas Town

But the heart of Bocas Del Toro is Bocas Town.

There are three main streets that hug the water (Calle 1, 2 and 3) on which there are shops, stores, hotels, hostels, restaurants, and bars. It's a colorful Caribbean mix of color and texture and it never stops being pretty and interesting.

It's a bustling place where people are coming and going all day. Backpackers and tourists arrive on the twice daily planes from Panama City and walk into town to find their lodging. Lines form at the tour companies in the morning and in the evening the bars fill with people chilling out after their activities. There's a brewery, new to us this time, a great pizza place, and all kinds of food from local to upscale.

Scott and I walk through everyday to go to the grocery store, grab a bite to eat or a drink. Since most people only spend a few days here, we enjoy watching them hustling around as we just sit and while away the hours.

The Weather

It rains in Bocas - a lot. Make no mistake, if you come, plan for rain. Knowing this when we decided to come back, we have embraced it. It forces you to slow down, sit back, watch the rain, and wait for your time to get out. Our metal roof amplifies the pitter patter of short drizzles and the intensity of heavy rain. We find it incredibly relaxing and soothing. Sitting on the deck watching the rain hit the water - it's almost never wind driven but just falls straight down from the sky - and listening to it fall from our downspout passes the hours. Bocas reminds me a little of Scotland - the weather is always changing. The skies go from sunny to grey and rainy in a fifteen minute span.
Of course when we got here they were in a bit of a drought and water was being trucked in from the mainland but due to our awesome powers of rain-making (see our post about being rainmakers https://arrrblog.travellerspoint.com/68/ and also in La Paz https://arrrblog.travellerspoint.com/72/) everything is back to normal.

The Vibe

There's just something about this place. We haven't been so relaxed in a long time. Yes, I know, we're always relaxing and chilling out but this is special! I don't know if it's the clouds and rain that come and go and slow us down, or being right on the water and feeling the Caribbean breezes as we lay in our hammock, or the fact that no one is in a hurry here. No one is pushing you to buy something forcing you to hurry along (so refreshing after Cartagena). The girls that stand out in front of restaurants at night to entice you in simply ask "looking for dinner?" Whatever it is, I know we will likely return to Bocas many times. Living here would be hard for the lack of long-term services but a month here and there may be just what we need.

Posted by mrb430 07:12 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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