Bocas News

From California to Firefly

From California to Firefly

January 7, 2014

There are many people I know who have dreamed of living a Hollywood life. The glitter and glam area of California is where Ryan Kelly and Lauren Zeimeski once called home. Ryan had a job as a merchandising executive for a big record label and Lauren, an actress and singer. They had a big circle of friends and loved to host dinner parties and barbeques. They had an active social life but decided to take a more relaxed approach to living. Laure and Ryan left the sparkling lights and busy beaches of California to create their dream here in Bocas Del Toro, Panama on the island of Bastimentos. How they got here is one reason why Lauren and Ryan are some of Bocas’ VIPs (Very Interesting People). I had the opportunity to sit down with this talented couple and they told me the story of how their dream became reality.

House Hunters is a television show that showcases people on their quest for the perfect house. It follows them on the search and throughout the process of building a dream. Lauren and Ryan were chosen to be on the show on the International version. Lauren told me “For House Hunters International I contacted the production company and they had us make a video showing our personalities. They called us right away to be on the show! In fact, they filmed a follow up on us in August which will air soon. They said people were really interested in our story so that’s amazing to us. That people really care and are actually interested.” They had to search for the perfect place for the show to begin and it was not an easy process. ”In the beginning of the process we looked at a bunch of properties….some just land, some places ready to go, even a 2 room tree house. We put in an offer on another place originally but it didn’t work out and man, are we glad. It took a while but everything fell into place in the right timing and we ended up with our dream house. It was meant to be with this place.” What they built is a quaint little Bed and Breakfast called The Firefly right on the shore of the aquamarine Caribbean Sea, on laid back Isla Bastimentos in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago.

I asked what makes Bocas different from other areas in the Caribbean or the other places they looked at. “The main difference is most of the places we looked at didn’t seem to have local people there. Like they had been pushed out by the development. We didn’t want that. We weren’t moving to another country to feel like we were in the states again. That was what we really liked about Bastimentos, the local vibe. And it has a true Caribbean feel because of the locals being of West Indian descent. We live in a village. We will see the kids grow up. We can contribute to the families as all of our employees are from here. It’s a nice feeling and a very refreshing, laid back way to look at life.”

They told me they did not always plan to have a bed and breakfast, “. We knew from traveling that we wanted to live somewhere on the Caribbean (for me) and with surf (for Ryan). We figured we also needed to make money to support our lives so getting a house with extra rooms to rent out was the plan. It just grew and grew from there into an actual B&B with a restaurant.” Why did you choose Bastimentos, I asked them and they replied “We wanted a more untouched, natural setting which is why we fell in love with Bastimentos. We love that there are actual island people living there, doing their thing. It’s a very close knit community and we are proud to be a part of it. It’s awesome that they have accepted us. Bocas is the perfect little group of islands….there’s a town with bars and restaurants yet if you want to feel like you are in your own tropical paradise, you can within minutes. It has life, it has seclusion, it has varied cultures….and there isn’t a building over 4 stories tall. One of our favorite things about Bocas is the community. We can go into town and see everyone even if we are just running errands. An “errand” might turn into grabbing a beer with someone but you gotta go with the flow. Nothing is usually that pressing that it can’t be done tomorrow. The “tranquilo” mentality is nice. It reminds us to slow down and not be stressed. The other thing is the unbelievable beauty of this place. Every time we go out on a boat or go to the beach or even hike over our hill we are reminded of just how special Bocas is. We love Basti because of how authentic it is here. It’s a true Caribbean island with Caribbean people sitting in their doorways playing cards and listening to reggae. There’s no one hawking t shirts or knick knacks. It’s the real deal. We also find it to have some of the most beautiful, untouched places in all of Bocas. Some places the tourists don’t even know about. That makes it unique. There are amazing hidden gems in Basti. We are lucky to call it home.”

Ryan and Lauren’s story is incredible, and the way they came to Bocas is fascinating. To see more about their dream place and the story behind it you can view a clip of House Hunters International at: or their website Please visit us again to read our next installment of Bocas VIPS (Very Interesting People).