No Way to Travel: A Message to My Panamá Friends

Is there a best way to travel? Of course not; it has many individualistic factors to consider. What’s right for you may not be right for me, and I’m beginning to think that what was right for me may not be right for me forever. I travel lightly: backpack and computer bag only. Let me tell you about my trip to Ecuador.

I flew from David to Panamá City and that’s when the problems began. Copa airlines landed at their new Terminal 2, but I had to walk outside to Terminal 1 in order to find a shuttle. I discovered there would be no free shuttle to the Crowne Plaza Hotel due to the strike that was taking place. Consequently, I tried to use Über to get to the hotel, but the Über drivers couldn’t get through. I had to cancel three requests. Finally, a fourth drive got through, but we could not find each other, even after extensive communication back and forth. I still would like to learn if there is a specific spot at that airport for Über pickups. Let me know.

All the while, what taxi and van drivers were at the airport kept hassling me to take their $10.00 ride. I refused, knowing I could do better. After an hour of standing in the hot sun, a man came up to me and said he had seen me standing there for a long time and was there anything he could do for me. I told him I was trying to get an Über driver. He then gently told me he was a taxi driver and that he would get me to the hotel for $5.00. I took him up on the bargain. However, that left the last Über drive hanging and I was charged over $12.00 for cancelling that ride.

The taxi ride to the hotel took an hour due to the strikers nearby when it otherwise should have taken 5 or 10 minutes. The ride went through slums and down dirt roads in a circuitous route, through areas I would never have seen or wanted to see. But he got me there. He was an educated, English-speaking former Texan driver I can recommend to anyone who like to use him when in Panamá City.

I had to leave the hotel early the next morning before the strikers took up their stoppages, so I was able to use the shuttle and got there in time. I had to wait a couple of hours, only to find in the last 20 minutes that they departure gate had been changed from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. This time, I could move to Terminal 1 through the inside, but I had to run with my backpack and computer bag flaying on my sides. I had done a self-check in originally, but for some reason my name wasn’t in the system. So, I arrived at the gate with the wrong boarding pass. This took a while to straighten out, but because of the gate change, the plane left late.

I arrived in Quito and had to wait a couple of hours. I then quickly made it to Cuenca, when a 6.1 earthquake occurred upon my arrival (no smart remarks!). Whatever could happen next? Fortunately, nothing. I got to my apartment and settled in. I then discovered I had two bruises on my right hand from constantly having manhandled my backpack.

Why am I telling you all of this? Probably to relieve my own frustrations with travel. I had waited two weeks for the strikes in Ecuador to come to an end, only to then have to endure strikes in Panamá. Traveler beware. Never travel during strikes. I recommend flying with only carry-ons, but not when those carry-ons contain your whole life. Luggage or shipping would be better in that case.

As a traveler then, how am I going to travel the next time I make a major move? I’ll have to let you know what I decide. In the meantime, I will start to write about Ecuador, with the sights and learnings that I am encountering.

Fact: Only 19% of travelers carry on their luggage
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