I was never a morning person but in Panama I practically jumped out of my bed with a smile on my face and a skip in my step as I eagerly got ready for work. The walk to my job was brisk but always included a breathtaking sunrise over the vast and endless body of water that surrounded the tiny island of Bocas del Toro.
Upon arrival, with a large coffee in hand, I would often find myself lingering on the edge of the dock, dipping my toes into the cool water and taking deep breaths so that the fresh ocean air could fill my lungs. As people started to arrive for their scuba instruction, I knew that I was one step closer to entering into my underwater world.
It is hard to explain the feeling that you get when you let out all the air from your BCD only to slowly sink into the unknown. At first your body panics, doubting that small contraption lodged in your mouth, but that feeling quickly dissipates and is replaced by excitement and awe as you enter a whole new world. As I slipped underneath the surface, I left behind all my troubles and worries. I was welcomed by infinite silence and a playground that was waiting to be discovered.
Hakuna Matata became my daily phrase after only a couple of weeks on the island. In Canada I was told that after University, an individual needs to find a job, to settle down, buy a house and/or start a family. My mother would often ask me about my life and my future, pestering me with exhausting questions like “when are you going to getting married?!”
Yet the second I hit the water in Panama, I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Life in Bocas del Toro was simple; people walked at a much slower and serene pace. I quickly learned that there was never a shortage of smiles on the island and laughter could be heard for every direction.
In fact, island living set me free and taught me many life lessons. As my life slowed down [almost to a snail’s pace], I learned to appreciate the little things. Stress had become a complete waste of my time. I learned to smile, laugh and live every moment to the fullest. Possessions became unimportant as they had no real impact on my life. Those shoes, fancy clothes and/or flashy accessories had no place in Bocas; all I needed was my scuba equipment and swimsuit to find true peace and tranquility.
And whenever I glided effortlessly through the rows of brightly colored corals that lined the bottom of the ocean, I felt free. Free of anger, stress and sadness. The water healed me and washed away all my negative feelings and emotions. Instead of fretting of what might be, I lived in the present. I chased squid, played with lobsters, searched for sharks and yearned to uncover buried treasure. The ocean had transformed me and life had become perfectly perfect.
About the Author: A self-proclaimed travel fanatic, Yvonne Ivanescu has embarked on a number of unforgettable adventures across the globe. In 2012 Yvonne launched Under the Yew Tree, a website about travel, beauty, food and fashion in South America. For more South American travel tips, follow her on Twitter and Facebook.