People are important. They are generous, welcoming, and all have a story to tell. Listen with both ears and an open heart. Have faith in humanity. Learn a new language. Fall in love - with everyone! Be patient. Smile. Meditate. Say "thank you". Everything WILL work out. It's difficult to keep saying goodbye. I have the best brother in the world. I don't need as much money as I thought I did. Seek intimacy. Experiences are infinitely more fulfilling than things. Ask for the things you want. I don't like riding offroad. New friends are everywhere. Laugh. Cry. Dance. Life is amazing. Do it now.
Living life on the road for the past year has taught me many things, but the most fundamental lesson has been the importance of connecting with people.
In October last year we met Mark
in San Angelo, Texas. He suggested that we contact his father Ray, who has retired in Panama. We sent Ray an email and have been in touch with him ever since.
Finally, many months later than we had first thought, at the end of July 2013, we arrived at Ray's house to a very warm welcome.
- Our man Ray
Ray is 75 years old. He's originally from Montana and he decided to retire in Panama. About a year ago he realised that he was wasting his time watching TV all day, and he decided to start running a pizzeria out of his kitchen.
The Pizza House was born.
- The front of Ray's Pizza House.
By opening a pizzeria, Ray has integrated himself with the local community much more than any other expats we have stayed with this trip. In order to open a business in Panama he partnered with his friend Violeta, a wonderful Panamanian lady who used to live near him in Colon.
- Violeta and Ray outside the Pizza House
Ray started out just making a couple of pizzas a night, but as the local community got to know him, he's now pretty busy from 7-10pm every night.
Ray taught Phil and I the art of making pizza, the importance of good ingredients and making sure every pizza is the right size.
- Countertop pizza sizing guide
- An "extra grande" going into the oven
The Thursday evening before we left Bocas, Phil had searched to see if there were any Ultimate Frisbee tournaments taking place in Panama. Turned out there was. That weekend!
Panama's 2013 Mixed Nationals was a five team tournament, and we hopefully sent a last minute email to the tournament organiser to see if they needed more players.
Luck was on our side, and we were each assigned teams to play for. Phil for the Llamas and me for Diablicos Sucios.
My team captain, Felipe, was thrilled to have me play, because they didn't have enough girls for the first two games. This meant I had an intense start to the tournament, playing every point without a rest!
- Phil's and my teams after we played each other (my team won!)
- Phil breaks in his new shirt
- Phil in action
- Me and my team on pitch
Despite muddy conditions and a stoppage of play due to lightning hitting a very nearby tower, we had a great time. Especially as my team, the wonderful Diablicos Sucios, won every game, thus the whole tournament.
- Number 1 Mixed team in Panama
Phil and I soon got into the swing of living in a Pizza House, helping out every evening. Ray hasn't learnt a lot of Spanish, I took great delight in taking people's orders and translating.
- The master and his student
We had regular customers who came every evening and loved talking to Phil and I about our trip and about Canada and London.
- Phil hangs out with our new friends
- Phil and I with our regulars
As well as our new "career" in the pizza business, Phil and I took the week we stayed in Capallenia to do a little work on the bikes.
I cut down the homemade lip on my windshield, so it flips down more easily, and Phil cleaned his carb and air filter.
- Phil's air filter drying on the line with the rest of the laundry
- Phil used Violeta as a navigator so he could find his way into town
Phil reached a couple big milestones while staying in Capellania. Jugs hit 90,000km on the odometer:
- Phil's bike, Jugs, reaches 90,000km on the odometer
And Phil reached his thirties, happier and hairier than ever!
- 30th birthday with the card and cake I made for him
Ray taught me a lot more than just how to make a delicious pizza.
Despite not always getting along with his family and being pretty set in his ways (as we all can be), Ray has shown how to retire in a foreign country.
Find a nice place to live, integrate with the locals, keep busy doing something that benefits the local community, live within your means, and value your friends.
That's all it takes. I'm more than 30 years from retirement, but I certainly will be remembering Ray when I get there.