It Takes a Village - Panama
It's been 2 glorious years since I left my corporate job to do what I love most. What a significant milestone since I didn't think it was financially possible to jet-set this long without depleting my cash reserves. 21 countries later, I am giddier than ever and have no immediate plans to return to my stressful former life. Cheers to that.
To commemorate my 2nd anniversary, I headed to Panama to bask under its blazing sun. Just days before my departure, however, I regrettably read "1984" and "I am Malala", 2 literary masterpieces that instantly triggered the pre-trip blues. I should have known better than to tackle dystopian topics prior to my highly-anticipated trip. What a buzz kill.
My mood instantly changed when I boarded a paddle dugout canoe headed towards what is arguably Central America's Utopia. Utopia in Panama? After spending the day with the "keepers of the rainforest", I knew that this "perfect society" designation was entirely apropos. Visiting Panama's indigenous Embera Village provided an instant reprieve from current dystopian realities. Sometimes it takes a village, especially one that's untainted, to pull me out of my self-inflicted stupor.
The secret to the Embera Tribe's perfectly content existence? A stripped-down daily routine consisting of fishing, cooking, weaving, and roaming topless across the Chagres National Park. How liberating! Not sure I could give up all my creature comforts to live untethered in a tropical rain forest, but I understand the appeal.
Note: The women cover themselves during tourist visits, but typically roam au naturale.
With that said, the best way to kick off this post is with a traditional tribal welcome performed by my newest, carefree friends.
I couldn't possibly describe how much joy this full-day encounter brought me. So I created the following visual representation chronicling the canoe ride, sumptuous lunch, and impromptu dance session with fellow tribe members.
Now that I have piqued your interest, I highly recommend taking a guided tour via Gate1 Travel or Embera Village Tours. This was the unexpected highlight from my Panamanian celebration, and it definitely lifted me out of my initial funk.
I couldn't possibly visit Panama without seeing one of the "greatest civil engineering achievements of the 20th century"*. I embarked on a 6-hour partial transit tour en route to the Pacific Ocean to explore the inner workings of 2 lock mechanisms - Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. Can you believe ships pay at least $300k to transit through the canal? This trip was a bargain at $159.
I couldn't possibly witness the entire lock process via the transit tour alone. So I headed to Miraflores to watch cargo ships transfer through this Pacific lock from the 4th floor observation deck.
Where should one go in Panama City? There are plenty of options including Casco Viejo, Financial District, Amador Causeway, BioMuseo, and other key sites within Panama's thriving capital.
Frank Ghery's Biodiversity museum showcases 8 galleries including my favorite -PANAMARAMA, a 10-screen, 3-story visual representation of Panama's diverse ecosystem.
Overall, my visit was short-lived since I headed to Costa Rica soon after my Embera Tribe encounter. That excursion alone left and indelible imprint on my psyche, and I couldn't ask for a better ending to my celebratory trip. Adios Panama y Hola Costa Rica! Stay tuned.
*"American Society of Civil Engineers Seven Wonders". Asce.org. July 19, 2010. Archived from the original on August 2, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”