Most Americans don’t do much international traveling! Thankfully, over the last 35 years, I have visited more than 55 countries and lived in 6 foreign locations.

My daughter was born in Saudi Arabia and my son was traveling when he was only three months old. To most people this is nothing special, but for me, it is what I wanted to do since I was a young child!

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Those of you in my age bracket will remember Marlin Perkins and the TV show ‘Wild Kingdom.’ I always wanted to go to those remote locations so I could experience them first hand!

Most of my traveling has been East and West from the US including Europe, Africa, The Middle East, and The Far East. When my wife and I lived in Costa Rica my sights were set on Central and South America!

Previous trips have been to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Brazil. The most recent trip was to Panama and without a doubt, one of our best!

We had heard some good and not so good things about Panama but our personal experience was nothing but good! My wife and myself were happily surprised at how friendly the people were to us.

Panama City is a contrast of old and new and the modern skyline surrounds the old city. There seems to be a major effort to restore the old city and to help promote tourism.

The shopping was great and cheaper than here in Costa Rica and one of the malls there is the second largest in the world. From the hotels you can take an 8-hour tour that drops you off at the mall for a total day of shopping! It is so big that they have small 3-wheeled motorized carts to move people from one area to another.

The two best things we experienced were seeing the Panama Canal and our visit to the Emberá Indian tribe.

The Panama Canal is such an amazing feat of engineering that it staggers the mind! When you learn the history and see the museum you wonder how it was ever completed! We were able to see the locks in action and they move these ships through at a relatively fast pace!

The Canal Zone looks very much like an American community and many still live there after they retired. The countries citizens have just voted to expand the canal in the future so that it will accommodate larger ships. This should guarantee that the canal will be a viable means of transportation for a long time to come.

The highlight of our trip was our visit to the Emberá Indian Tribe. It is set up for tourists but the day we were there we were the only Gringos!

We first traveled by boat across the lake that supplies the water to the canal. Then we hiked up a stream to a beautiful waterfall and along the way our guide (Emberá) pointed out native animals and plants and was able to give us a lot of info even though our Spanish is limited.

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When we arrived at the village we were served a local meal of fried fish and plantains. The women, who go topless, were making jewelry and souvenirs and the men, wearing only a small loincloth, were erecting the framework for a new building.

When it started to rain the men came under the hut roof and the elder of the tribe began talking to us. Again with limited language skills and lots of hand signals we learned many things.

The elder was a medicine man, artist, musician and was intelligent in a way that we humans used to be about living in tune with nature. Everything we asked about he gave extensive and detailed information that would exceed the knowledge of most educated men.

The entire tribe sang and danced for us and when we supplied the elder with some healthy snacks he patiently divided it among all of the children. Again I understand that they have been exposed to the modern world but still seem genuine and sincere!

For those of you who are travelers please do not hesitate to take a trip to Panama!

Written by VIP Member Larry Snyder.

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