Last Monday afternoon at 3:30pm Australian Eastern Standard time, I set sail on The Last Hurrah.
To dispel conclusions others have jumped to, The Last Hurrah is not a romantic name for a suicide mission (??). Nor is it a promise that I will never go overseas again. Quite simply, it’s a bidding farewell to overnight bus trips, accommodation that requires showering in shoes, and copious amounts of time spent in solitude.
It will be a bittersweet goodbye. This character building, torturous slash marvellous style of travel has been my life force for the past five years and it sends shivers down my spine to think where I would be without it. But the time has come and there is nothing I love more than ending things on a high note.
And what could be higher than two months in the Caribbean?
Alice in Wonderland street art, Panama City.
So last Monday afternoon at 3:30pm Australian Eastern Standard time, I boarded a 3 and a quarter hour flight to New Zealand. This first leg was made slightly unbearable by my chatty neighbour and his insistence on lecturing me about how socialism makes people pathetic and why the baker in his local town “shouldn’t have to bake an anniversary cake for a gay couple if she doesn’t want to”. Concluding with something along the lines of “if God didn’t want gays to marry, he probably didn’t want them celebrating their anniversaries with cake”.
I was pretty quick to dismiss the concept of “social seating” when it was first brought to my attention. To me, having an airline decide who you sit next to based on social media account compatibility seemed like yet another unnecessary example of technology medaling in fate. But post leg one of The Last Hurrah, I’ve decided I may need to retract that assessment.
In Auckland, I spent two hours internally praising Air New Zealand Kora Lounge* for their brave display of respect to the vegan community. And rejoicing that my plane neighbour didn’t have the necessary requirements to get in the door.
From here, I took a 12 and a bit hour flight to LA where I killed ten hours in Venice. I sat in Café Gratitude and moaned over an almond pate and apple wrap called “Happy” and cried over a cayenne pepper juice called “Brave”. The people sitting next to me kept me entertained with talk of consciousness and show biz and memories of being born. I pretended to write in my journal and noted down every word they said, deciding that if they caught me they would be so flattered that they would invite me to their next show at Comedy Central (it turns out life philosophers can be funny too). They didn’t catch me.
Before I left, the waitress suggested I have a think about a blessing in my life. There are too many to choose from, but I decided that at that present moment, having someone ask me to think about a blessing, felt like a blessing in itself.
My gosh the coffee’s good in Panama.
After the sun set on the Venice Beach skate park I walked to Studio Surya for an hour of Vinyasa; arrived too late, missed the class and wondered if my subconscious had organised that on purpose. I went for a Chinese massage instead.
Back at LAX, I had a short nap on smart navy carpet before taking a 5 hour flight to Miami where I killed another 2 hours, before flying for another 3 hours to Panama City – my introduction to Central America. To save you adding up, I spent just shy of 40 hours in transit. If there was any slight shred of ego or glamour when I was checking in at Sydney International, back when the world was my oyster and nothing could bring me down, it was now well and truly gone.
“When I saw you. I was tinking. I need to be her bodyguard!” ~Taxi Driver, Panama City.
I’ve been in Panama City about 24 hours now. It smells like vanilla and looks just how I imagine Havana to be. The architecture is disheveled and all shades of pastel, people watch down on the streets from their Juliette balconies and salsa music is blaring from every second doorway. Earlier, when I was getting swept up thinking I was Katey Miller in Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, a police officer grabbed me and asked what I thought I was doing heading down a “very, very dangerous street”. “Just having a look around” didn’t impress him in the slightest. This aside, I feel safe, superb and ready for adventure.
You really must try the coffee in Panama.
(*Don’t be impressed; I’m on a complimentary, undeserved 3 month trial. I’m the person smuggling bananas into my backpack and not adhering to the black tie dress code.)