Castles in the Sky

Fair warning. This post leans toward the sentimental, and reading it exposes you to the risk of catching cooties.

“Well, the weather sure is great here, that’s for sure” Tom remarked.

This is one of the reasons I love Tom so much, and one of the reasons I know we are so well suited. Standing in the 98 degree heat, roughly 98% humidity, with a ball of sweat lazily moseying down my face, I was thinking the exact same thing.

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I think there are lots of people out there who don’t like it this hot, or this humid. People who prefer to not have their t-shirts sticking to them damply with sweat, or their sunglasses hopelessly sliding down the greased plane of their nose every few seconds. These are the type of people who describe a heat as “dry” as though that could possibly be considered a benefit. As if it is preferable to have a bloody nose, cracked lips and a tight, dry throat while being surrounded by arid baking earth.

Nosiree, I prefer being steamed to baked any day, and luckily Tom feels the same way.

The decision we made about 5 1/2 months ago to sell nearly everything we owned and start a trip of undetermined length and destinations looked a little like this:

Two days after defending my Master’s thesis Tom and I left the states to go on a three week trip to Costa Rica and Panama. This was about 6 months after our first date, and a mere 3 months after deciding to “go steady”. Three weeks of 24/7 time together really could have gone either way.

The trip was incredible. I could not believe how well we traveled together! In fact, the more time we spent together the more time I wanted to spend together, instead of feeling like I needed time away. I think the trip solidified what we had been feeling and by the time we got to Bocas del Toro,  Panama we knew fer sure that we had found the ultimate travel partners.

I warned you guys this was cheesy!

We both fell for Bocas as hard as we had fallen for each other and spent all of our time in Panama there; foregoing the rest of the country. As we spent our days exploring secluded beaches, jungle paths and incredible coral reefs we talked about the possibility of someday living there short-term. We looked at houses for rent as we passed them and discussed what we would do for work there, and what we would do for fun. Building castles in the sky- or so we thought.

We returned to San Diego and “real life”. I started going on job interviews and thinking about what I wanted to do with my bright and shiny new master’s degree. Meanwhile I signed up to take the B.C.B.A exam (without those 4 little initials after my name my degree is basically worthless). As my actual graduation ceremony loomed closer and I started getting “career” offers I realized that I was NOT happy.

Though this was everything I had been working towards every cell in my body was loudly protesting. I talked to Tom about it.

“Look at somebody successful in your field” he suggested, “someone who has taken  a similar path as you, and think about whether or not you’d want to live their life”.

Wow, cute AND smart!

I thought about a professor I had who has some traits in common with me. She is wildly successful in the field. She is basically “a big deal” and seems to have it all. Every project she touches blooms, flourishes and then turns to gold. She is well-known, well-respected, well-liked and has a great sense of humour (and style actually).

However, her life is the farthest thing from what I want for myself. I don’t want to have every minute of my day planned, and I mean literally planned as in written into a schedule by one of several assistants. I don’t want to have to schedule 10 minute phone conversations weeks in advance. I don’t want my vacations to be brief and infrequent, even if they are incredibly luxurious.

I felt pretty bogus coming to this conclusion. If I had the opportunity to become “wildly successful” I had to go for it, right?!

I went back and forth warring with myself for a week. Finally about two days before I donned my silly flat hat and hogwarts-esque graduation robes I spilled my guts to Tom.

“I don’t want to do it” I wailed, “I don’t want to dress like a grown-up lady every day!” What started out as a tirade was threatening to bloom into a full-blown tantrum. “I don’t want to settle down into a career working 50-60 hours a week trying to make as much money as I can!”

“Then lets not do that” he calmly interjected.

“Huh?” This brought me up short.

“Let’s just go” he continued “we won’t do all that, lets just sell everything and go.”


I was flabbergasted. I mean that sounded great to me, but was he ok with a different version of success too?!


This is roughly how we found ourselves boarding a plane to Colombia on a one-way ticket about a year after our first date.

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Fast forward 51/2 months and we are sitting on a plane headed towards Bocas del Toro, Panama exactly a year after we had left it. We are going to house-sit a wooden octagon house on stilts, off the grid, and in the jungle of the archipelago of islands that make up Bocas.

Whoever knew that our castle in the sky would come with furry and feathery new best friends?! And that about half a year and 5 countries later we would still love traveling together, and would still be keeping each other calm.


I think of California as officially "home" but can usually be found a lot closer to the equatorial belt. After finishing a Masters program in 2011 I found myself trying to decide between a couple of different high-powered career options. I decided I wasn't quite ready to "grow up" and went with an entirely different plan which involved selling off everything I owned with my partner Tom and buying a one-way ticket to Colombia. Our plan was to travel "Till The Money Ran Out" and then go home to start our grown-up lives. Instead, we started our own app development company on the road and have been criss-crossing the globe, traveling, working, eating spicy food and refusing to "grow up" ever since. You can find me on Twitter, , Facebook or send me a message using our About Us page.

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6 Responses

  1. Lauren says:

    I love you guys!! You both did it! I remember when you first found that gem of a place and now you are there. I miss you both and am so incredibly excited for you. I aspire to have the same bond that you two have with my future hubby… Someone who loves and has the same passion for the world as me. Keep up the amazing posts! They totally make my day everytime I get one

  2. Laura says:

    BEST POST YET. I almost cried. I am soooooooooooo so so happy for you!

  3. Aunt Ann says:

    Ahhhh, I love your story and your life. Keep on building those castles!

  4. Rebeca says:

    Aaawwwww!!!! So great!

  5. Shawna Ghafouri says:

    Be there soon! Love you two! xoxo

  6. Charles Decelles says:

    Ok, I’ve got cooties fer sure now! I am so glad that I happened up you folks from PanAmNotes, another great couple making a wonderful ongoing story of a wonderful trip. I notice that everyone that does this is able to cope with the unexpected and enjoy it! I am sure that I am learning character lessons and how to have fun all the while I am catching cooties! Thanks!

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