Travel: Taxi: Purple House Hostel—>David bus terminal($1.25). Bus: David—> Lost & Found hostel ($3.50)
Lodging: Lost & Found hostel ($12/night to share a big bed in dorms, otherwise $14/night dorm).
Activities: Bus from waterfall ($1)
The Lost and Found ecolodge is my favorite hostel in Panama. Set in the top of the mountains between Changuinola and David, in the Chiriqui provence, the hostel is the only traveler destination for hours. The closest store is some 40 minutes walk away, next to a restaurant and some stands selling fresh fruits and veggies.
Once you’re dropped off by a bus from Changuinola or David, there’s another 10 minute hike uphill through the forest. Amazingly, all the supplies and building materials were carried up the same small trail you use today when they were building the hostel. Today, strapping, local boys can be spotted bringing up huge crates of beer, food, snacks, and whatever else the hostel needs.
What I love most about Lost and Found is the sense of community that grows between travelers (and staff) that comes from being the only visitors in the area. You wake up together, eat breakfast together, go on hikes or do the treasure hunt together, eat a family style dinner together cooked by the hostel (for $8), visit their rescued kinkajou Rocky together, go to the bar together. Some people even sleep together. ;) And many groups will leave together, to go to Boquete or the Bocas islands. It’s a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of most other hostels, where people you meet disappear on the regular.
The best way to get to know people is to go on the hostel’s treasure hunt. It’s a full day activity, taking you up steep, steep hills, along a sort of cliff edge, to a beautiful valley lookout, across deep streams. Deciphering clues is easy enough that you won’t get lost, but you definitely have a bit of a search for the clue itself once you get to the right spot. Upon your return, you have to put together a special story from clues hidden around the hostel, and if you share the story at the bar, there is a ritual and prize waiting for you!
My other favorite thing is the weather. Where I lived in Changuinola a few years ago, the humidity levels never seemed to drop below 99.9%. (Just kidding––they often got down to 90%.) This trip Ally and I traveled along the coast of Costa Rica, where humidity levels were similarly high. Up in the mountains was one of two places I stepped out of the shower (mercifully hot showers, too) and felt clean and dry. (The other place I felt like that was Hostel Bekuo, in San José, my favorite hostel in Costa Rica. Hmm, are you seeing a trend here?)
Unfortunately, this hostel brings heartbreak along with the joy. I always connect with the people here so much that it’s hard to move on. (I also met a boy so there you go.) Something I learned this trip was that I actually don’t really like traveling. I like living. Existing. Being. I like being those things abroad in new environments, with new people, sure. I love going abroad, don’t get me wrong. But I really enjoy being somewhere for long enough to understand the place on a plethora of levels, instead of just spending a few nights there. Social, political, financial, social justice, shopping trends, you name it. I’m curious about how everything comes into play in a place. Just as important to me is experiencing it with other people who you will continue to have a connection with in the future. For example, traveling with Ally this trip was wonderful, because we live right next door to each other and share our friend group. I’ve seen her many times since we returned, and we can look back on and reflect on our experience, grow even more. Relive the best (and the worst).
That’s how I want to travel from now on: not just going somewhere for the sake of having been; instead, exist in a new place with friends by my side.
Good thing I’m on the plane to San Francisco to begin my journey with Minerva as I write this, huh? A year in San Francisco, then a semester in 6 different cities across the globe with my entire college class. It’s going to be an amazing four years. If you haven’t heard about Minerva, my college, check out my blog post! Some of my finest work, if I do say so myself. :)