I haven’t really posted much in the last 6 weeks and that’s because it’s been crazy! In 6 weeks I’ve been to 7 different countries, I’ve travelled thousands of kilometres in planes, cars and boats and met more than 260 nomads on the Nomad Cruise. During that time, content really dropped down on my list of priorities.
What came first, well, food, drinks, good times, laughing with new friends and blackjack for a while. All of this started because a friend introduced me to the idea of the Nomad Cruise. What’s that you ask?
The Nomad Cruise
There’s a guy called Johannes, and a few years ago, he realised how big the community of location independents and remote workers was. More importantly, he could see how much bigger it was going to get.
He’s been influential in the nomadic scene, but more importantly, he created the first ever Nomad Cruise, back in 2015. Since then, he’s grown the concept, and this year, on Nomad Cruise V, he brought together more than 260 people, from 36 countries.
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
So once I had booked my space on the cruise, I was ready to go. I left France, headed to London for an event, and then later the same day I jumped on a plane to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
For a few days, sleeping on a boat in the marina in Las Palmas (Airbnb), I started to attend some parties that were organised, pre-cruise and as part of the Nomad City event.
Before long, it was time to board the ship, the Monarch, from Pulmantur.
For 14 days, all the attendees became a family of sorts, with talks, events, workshops, dinners, drinks and even blackjack sessions together.
3-course dinners in the evening, all inclusive bar serving bloody marys, cocktails and my personal favourite, ice cold beer.
A breakfast and lunch buffet spread that rivals most good hotels and of course the fact that you don’t have to do anything other than choosing and then eating was incredible. Something that I’ve struggled with ever since (in fact, yesterday is the first time I cooked a meal in the past 6 weeks).
There’s a lot to do on the boat, especially as part of the Nomad Cruise. Every morning we had 3 speakers giving talks. A wide range of subjects was covered, and some amazing stories shared.
In the afternoons, people would head to the pool, or alternatively, take part in workshops and meetups organised by other attendees. Most days, I would find my way to the bar.
The only downside of the cruise for me was that the internet is expensive and is really slow. Meaning, if you embark on this adventure, you need to take the time off, working is just frustrating.
St Kitts and Nevis
So, after 8 days crossing the Atlantic, no land in site and nothing but uninterrupted views of the ocean, we could finally say “land ahoy” as we approached St Kitts and Nevis on the 9th day.
Getting back on terra firma was amazing. I had been experiencing a little bit of cabin fever, and walking around deck 7 of the boat just isn’t the same.
Arriving in St Kitts, I had a few calls and some work that I had to get on top of. A bit of a pain, but it’s all part of the lifestyle I chose, so no complaints here. But after a morning of calls and laptop duties, I was ready to do something a little more fun.
Bumping into others that were on the cruise too, we headed to a beach, with a great little bar in it, and the party continued. Buckets of beers followed and with the sand in my feet, the Caribbean sea in front of me, I enjoyed the rest of the day of “shore leave”.
Back to the ship, more dinners, drinks and a little blackjack to round the evening off and we were on the high seas for another 48 hours.
I can’t imagine how the old merchant navy, the East India Trading Company and the discoverers of the new world did it back in the day. What took us 8 days would have taken 6-14 weeks in the 19th century. Not to mention, no open bar!
We then docked in Curacao, another stunning island, just off the coast of Venezuela. If you can imagine the most turquoise water you’ve ever seen, complimented by the whitest and softest sand, you’ll start to feel how incredible Curacao actually is.
My day off, on a beautiful tropical island started with needing to make phone calls. Work as always must come first. So by the time I finished those calls, I was into my third, or maybe fifth beer and my day off started.
Beers on the beach with friends followed by heading to a small cove, where we were pretty much the only ones there. Swimming, laughing, a couple more drinks and before we knew it we needed to head back to the ship.
Once back on board, more drinks, more food ensued and of course, we may have played a few hands of blackjack.
The last island we visited was Aruba. Another stunning location, but with no real time to really visit and get to know the place, my friends and I went for a walk.
Where did our walk take us? Simple, a nice beach, with a little bar and to make a change a few cold buckets of beers. We talked, we laughed, we drank and before long, we realised that once again, we needed to head back to the ship.
Welcome to Panama Nomad Cruisers
Finally, we were arriving at our final destination, Colon, Panama.
Colon has a huge port and marks the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. The town itself though leaves a lot to be desired. You wouldn’t want to walk down the streets at night time unless your Chuck Norris of course.
A 90-minute bus ride later and we were in Panama City. A skyline like I had never seen before, in a city that seemed to be buzzing.
After a few days of eating ceviche, drinking cold Balboa and Panama beers, it was time for a change. The Nomad Cruise crew had started to thin out, but a lot of them were continuing the adventure and had headed to Bocas del Toro, a small set of islands in the north-east of Panama.
Driving to Bocas del Toro
So I thought, what the hell. Let’s rent a car, drive the entire length of Panama, and head to Bocas del Toro to see what all the fuss was about.
Shared the drive up with a couple of other nomads, that made the journey so much more entertaining. As we listened to what can only be described as Pitbull or Shakira on the radio non-stop, we laughed at potential new nomad hubs and real estate ventures that we could embark on.
Santiago de Veraguas – the new nomad hub?
We stopped off in a town called Santiago, which is in the middle of Panama. As one website describes it “there is little within this city that will interest most visitors”. So we decided, this was the place we would spend the evening in.
After driving around lost for a bit, we found a hotel. Well, more of a diamond in the rough. A beautiful, little place, with great rooms, a pool, bar and all at a reasonable price. Of course, once settled in, we went for beers and even found a local bar for some food and of course, mandatory beers. Even ended up in the Royal Casino in Santiago.
From there, we had decided, it’s a new Nomad Hub… Well worth a visit!
The next day we hit the road and finally made it to Almirante, just in time to park the car and jump on the last boat of the day to Bocas del Toro.
Bocas del Toro
It is an interesting place. Made up of a few different islands, the place kind of feels like a cross between Africa and Venice. You move around predominantly by boat taxi and when walking around the main island, Isla Colon, you quickly get the impression that there are streets you should not be walking down.
In my case, I didn’t get the impression. I was straight up told not to on my first night, whilst walking back to my hotel. A nice enough local guy, called Mannie, basically told me nicely to get off the back streets.
I think he used the phrase, “some people will view you as a piggy bank”.
So, off the back streets quickly and back into a pub in the more tourist-friendly part of the island.
Overall, had a great time in Bocas. Went to a “jungle rave” on one of the other islands, went snorkelling, got a ton of work done and saw some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in a long time.
Again slightly frustrating, but the internet and wifi aren’t the best up in Bocas, so I decided to head back to Panama City and see some of the important sites that I hadn’t seen yet.
Back to Panama City
So, another 600+ KM drive back to the city and this time, a weekend reservation at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. A stunning place, that made me feel like I was staying in Jurassic Park.
Views over the river, the rainforest and the mountains make this place feel special at all times. Be it sunrise, afternoons by the pool or dusk, it really is spectacular.
The Panama Canal
Time to visit the famous Panama Canal locks. Just a short 15-minute drive away is a great story of human innovation and determination. To connect the Atlantic with the Pacific.
A man-made canal, stretching 77Km, built over 11 years at the turn of the century. Started by the French and completed by the Americans, the canal last year had more than 13,000 transits.
I messaged a good friend, that I spent time with years ago on the canals and locks in Camden, London. The same technology just not quite the same size.
Since then, it’s been all about discovering different parts and places in the city. Due to the time difference with Europe, I’m up every day from around 06:00 and straight into work.
Late afternoons and dinner time is MY time, and I’m out and about exploring cool places to eat, drinking holes, we even discovered a secret bar, which is always fun.
I’m going to write another article more focused on Panama City and the places to go, but for now, that’s the round-up of the last 6 weeks.
The Nomad Cruise has been an incredible adventure, it’s been fun, it’s been exciting, it’s been drunk and hungover at times. I wouldn’t change anything about it.
I did feel like I needed to write an update and although this is a LOT longer than what I would normally post, it’s important for me not to have a big gap in this Nomadic 2017 story.
There are so many things I want to write about, and I want to start the second series of my vlog next week (Chris Bruno: Unplanned As Always), so this is my way of catching you all up and keeping track of what’s been going on.