I travel by boat was not a familiar expression to me who was raised at 3600 meters above sea level in Bolivia, studied at the University of Notre Dame, smack in the middle of the U.S., and then worked in Denver, Colorado, skiing the Rocky Mountains for six years. Fortuitous circumstances on a year-long backpacking trip in 2012 led me to trade a pound of potatoes in exchange for a sailing trip from Colombia to Panama. The destination was the indigenous reserve of Guna Yala (or most widely known as the San Blas islands), a paradise only imagined in the wildest dreams I hadn't even had.
The first time I experienced the sails catching the wind, making the boat cut through the waves, I felt freedom and fulfillment like never before. When sailing, you're at the mercy of the elements, making the human dependence on nature for survival all too real. Everything you consume you have to measure and count, the trash you produce you cannot make disappear down a trash chute. Gaining this conscience reconnected me with nature and made me even more appreciative of the life I was to have the nine months that followed. I ended up living with one of the four Guna families dwelling on Chichime island whose typical day consisted of cooking on fire wood, fishing, gathering coconuts, sewing, swinging on hammocks, contemplating; in other words, the Guna taught me you can live the most wonderful and simple life with the few resources available on any given day. Life aboard is similar. You have limited food, limited water, limited fuel. You learn to maximize your resources - even the sun and the wind - and inevitably, at some point, you run out of them. But the clean air, clear water, starry nights, stingrays splashing around, swinging palm trees, sandy beaches and murmuring waves breaking on the coral reefs, more than make up for it, every single day.
Guna Yala is a self-governed indigenous region. Based on ancestral traditions, the Guna (pronounced Kuna) have maintained a very simple lifestyle of subsistence fishing and farming. By sailing around these islands with us, you agree to having a sustainable travel experience in communion with the surroundings. You’ll eat what the crew or local fishermen catch each day, and if there is no catch, a delicious veggie meal will be served. Though meals are prepared with few ingredients, quality does not suffer. You’ll be amazed by the variety and flavor of the food on board.
The abundance of life in the coral reefs of Guna Yala make it one of the top destinations for snorkeling in the world. The reefs are largely healthy with ecosystems of hundreds of colorful fish and plants just inches from the surface. The crew aboard our boats care about the preservation of the reefs and so should you. Please make sure your sunscreen and other body products don’t have harmful chemicals that could damage the reefs.
The best part of your trip will be meeting the locals, learning about the traditions that have made them a sustainable, eco-friendly society, until now. They are the example of society we must all follow in order to restore health to our planet, so meeting them is an absolute privilege.
Hope to have you onboard so you can have a regenerative experience too!
Founder, I travel by boat