When we arrived in Panama City earlier this year we knew it was just the city to regroup. This city is a beautiful metropolis. Each of us was quick to absorb everything it had to offer especially everything we didn’t have access to in the last two countries over 2 and a 1/2 months… cue the endless supply of Starbucks lattes. Now we didn’t visit the city to simply get a literal taste of home.
Panama City was a stop on our Queventure for a few obvious reasons: visit the canal, the beaches, and Central America’s most thriving capitol. What we didn’t realize was Panama would also be a stop full of lessons. Some of those lessons were about marriage while others were much bigger than even that.
Lesson # 1: With that many casinos, you might just need to pace yourself (husband).
Beautiful hotel and casino combos pepper the entire city. You couldn’t go very far without those shinny lights enticing you to partake. Now, I am not much of a gambler, but my husband is a different story. He gambled and boy did he enjoy it. This might seem like nothing but when you’re budgeting every single month on a fixed travel income gambling stakes feel much, much higher than usual. At least to me they did.
One night the husband was out gambling until 4am. This was not a shinning moment for us as a couple. I was so angry. It wasn’t even about the gambling, but the lack of respect I perceived when my husband didn’t bother to return home at a reasonable hour. Here we are in a foreign country after all. It’s scary to feel divided as we try to remain a supportive, dream-chasing, ever mobile team. The husband was pretty apologetic about the whole situation, but that didn’t make me feel much better. Bringing me to…
Lesson # 2: Travel doesn’t change your parenting or marital dynamics.
It enhances them. I was so upset my husband didn’t pace himself gambling so we fought, but then there we were again… just us. We can’t escape to work or friends after fights. As a traveling tribe, we get to deal with annoyances head on and then quickly find a way to harmoniously come back together for the greater good. And many times that is much harder said than done.
Lesson # 3: Take space, it is a must.
When you need space from your family you should take it. Maybe that’s exactly what my husband was doing until 4am at the casino; the jury is still out on that one. Point is, space is essential not only for our traveling family, but all families. I am a huge proponent for making sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your children and spouse, but I just can’t leave myself off that one-on-one date night list!
Panama City was a great hub from which to pop into a cab and find yourself somewhere new to dine, pamper yourself, or simply be alone. One Sunday morning, I went to mass alone and it was the most peaceful and fulfilling morning I’d had in some time.
Lesson # 4: Don’t take your country or each other for granted, just don’t.
In Panama we met so many amazing people. After a while, I began to notice an interesting commonality. Many of the Uber drivers, restaurant servers, beauticians, and on and on weren’t actually Panamanian. The majority were Venezuelans. Hardworking individuals working in Panama where according to them, the American dollar is strong.
If you know anything about Venezuela then you likely know about the years of political instability it’s faced leading to a traumatic economic crisis. Venezuelans are dealing with an employment and food shortage so devastating that most of its citizens are forced to leave their country desperate to earn a living. Imagine having to leave your birth country, a country you love, often, the only home you’ve ever known? Imagine feeling forced to leave in a state of chronic setbacks and uncertainty? Imagine leaving your beloved family behind not by choice but because of literal hunger and famine?
Every single Venezuelan I met was kind, but also clearly pained. Their longing to return home was obvious. The internal turmoil of being in a country that doesn’t fully embrace them was heartbreaking.
The many Venezuelans I met appreciated Panama, but they didn’t feel welcome and often felt attacked. According to them, the local government usually ran on platforms that singled them out as a problem pitting Panamanians against Venezuelans. This sentiment reminded me so much of the current American rhetoric where a sector of our country is being singled out and blamed: Muslims, Dreamers, Mexicans, and on and on.
Meeting so many and hearing their stories made me not only appreciate my home country, and the abounding resources, but also my fellow American citizen especially those being singled out and victimized day after day. Today, even more can be done to embrace and appreciate each other, our differences, and speak out against prejudice political platforms that only seek to divide us.
For now, if you are reading this and guilty of complaining about your job, lunch, or coworker, there’s someone right now in the world desperately wishing they had one of those three. What we so often take for granted is a blessing. Instead, let’s remember to appreciate all we’ve been afforded, no matter how minor it may all seem.