Our Nightmareish First Day in Panama

Well Howdy there folks! Madi here, to tell you about our god-forsaken first day in Bocas Del Toro! I’m missing part of my hearing, when I lay down my lungs close up and all my extremeties get tingly, and I only slept 1 hour last night. The internet is down and Topher just missed an important call with a customer. Our international phones aren’t calling anyone anywhere, we have air conditioners but don’t know how to turn them on, and we have so many bug bites, a blind person could use our skin like braille (or you could connect the dots and make consellations, your pick).

Basically, welcome to the life of a digital nomad.

They say that traveling is a learning curve (I don’t actually know if they say that) and I’ve definitely learned a few things I wish I’d known before embarking on this journey!

Lesson #1: If you have blocked sinuses, don’t get in an airplane. (or the story of how Madi is going to be deaf forever now)

I’m kidding on the deaf forever thing. I think… hah. hah. hah. cries

Yesterday when we flew into Panama I was extremely congested. I googled the consequences of flying with blocked sinuses and got horror stories (but really, what was I expecting googling possible medical consequences). Everything from, worst pain of my life to multiple friends have suffered permanent hearing loss… I was starting to freak out. But the internet said that if you take decongestants an hour before your descent you should be okay.

THE INTERNET LIED. I took sudafed and felt just peachy but when we started descending, my ears didn’t pop. I tried every technique in the book, and still nothing. Soon the pain was unbearable. All the internet horror stories started live-streaming in front of my eyes and it felt like someone was throwing darts at my eardrums and we still had a decent descent in front of us and I thought, Holy shit, this is it. This is how I go deaf. I’m really going to rupture both of my eardrums, and live with cochlear implants for the rest of my life. I have never felt that terrified before. Not when I flipped my car with my dog and I inside of it, not when I blew my ACL, not when I was mugged at knifepoint, never did the reality of my mortality hit me so hard.

I looked at Topher and flat out burst into tears. Poor Topher. When he signed up to be my boyfriend, I’m sure he didn’t read the fine print saying, “At one point, girlfriend will look at you, mouth apage like a gasping fish, eyes bulging, and she will start sobbing. On an airplane. In public. And you just need to hold her and accept that is your life now.”

We landed and soon most of the pain stopped but it felt like I was wearing earplugs and had just gotten out of a swimming pool. There was a ton of water sloshing around inside my ears and I could feel it. SO CREEPY. The lady at customs tried to talk to me but I couldn’t hear her. Topher tried to talk to me but the sounds that came out of his mouth were like that of a muffled puppet. I was like the old guy in the retirement home who thinks you say, Would you like some peanut butter? when really you’re saying, Grandpa, Mom’s getting a divorce and she cheated on dad. I could see it now, cane in hand, yelling at people to stop messing with my garden gnomes…

But I’m okay! My hearing has slowly come back over the last 24 hours. It’s still not perfect and I still can feel some liquid in my ears, but no one sounds like a muppet anymore. I can live with that.

Lesson #2: Pack Antihistamines when You Travel (even if you don’t have serious allergies)

I’m not a particularly allergic person. There’s cats, and horses (weird, I know), and I’m allergic to penicillin, but other than that it’s all good. So it didn’t even cross my mind to bring antihistamines, as I don’t think I even owned them back home.

But I was so, so wrong. Whilst traveling, you’re going to encounter entirely new environments and situations, and chances are you’ll be okay. But what if you aren’t? What if it’s in the middle of the night and you’re on an island in the caribbean that doesn’t even have cars on it, nevertheless an open pharmacy, and you have an allergic reaction to something?

That’s what happened to me last night. I’d sat on the couch and started coughing. I’m recovering from a cold so I didn’t think anything of it. Then we went to bed and I kept clearing my throat like crazy. Two hours of constant coughing later, I’m now wheezing like a creepy old man in a clown film (yes, just like that) and I realize, Hey, this isn’t related to my cold. I’m having an allergic reaction to something and it’s causing my lungs to freak the fuck out. But guess who didn’t pack antihistamines? This girl. Or Topher. I happened to buy some sudafed with antihistamines in it, so I took one and frankly I don’t think it made a difference, but tonight I’m going to try real allergy medicine and pray to god that works. And that’s scary.

So think about traveling with allergy meds. It’s worth it, because allergic reactions can be scary.

We’ve learned other things too, like it’s always good to have a backup plan in case the internet dies (okay, we actually still don’t have a backup plan to that one), but they’re not interesting enough to chat about here.

Till next time!

Madi (and Topher, though he’s not actually writing this post. But he’s here in spirit. And by spirit, I mean that he’s on the couch mostly likely going through Reddit.)