As we count down to 2013, bottles of bubbly waiting to be popped, confetti waiting to be thrown, muñecos awaiting immolation (for our friends in Panama, at least), and a certain resort preparing to open… I got the impulse to take a look back over the last year in comments on The Ambler. It felt like a lifetime ago that we were publishing the first of our construction updates, Chapter 1 in Jacki’s journey to Panama, and all of the inspiring entries in our Life-Changing Travel Contest. Like a keepsake-hoarder lost in their closet, I became totally engrossed in re-reading all the great comments you posted to this travel blog over the course of 2012.
My nostalgic journey into the past made me feel newly grateful for all of you, our readers, and all of the wonderful stories and insights you bring to The Ambler. So, in appreciation, I’ve compiled this end-of-year review, which I hope will be interesting and entertaining for you to read.
Thank you for sharing your opinions, insights, and adventures on The Ambler – and a happy new year to all!
The first comment of 2012 belongs to Mr. Bob Richold, who took the opportunity to share a life-changing travel moment from St. Thomas, USVI, where Bob:
“…met Dian Jones at The Island Beachcomber, two hours before we each were to return home from separate winter vacations — she from New York and I from New Jersey. We got engaged in St. Thomas 3 years later and married at Walt Disney World the same year, where she became Dian Richold. The complete story behind the fateful meeting of two soul mates at a beach bar far from each other’s homes continues with our first date on Valentine’s Day and our marriage of 14 years.”
All we can say is… <3.
“Oh, The Places You’ve Been!”
The number of destinations that have graced our comments section is pretty remarkable – here’s a glimpse of the places you’ve taken us in 2012:
- Colorado: river-rafting adventures with Cameron Aidif in the beautiful Westwater canyon
- Egypt: discarding preconceived notions of Middle Eastern culture with Kelsey R in The Land of the Pharaohs
- Europe: after a wedding in Poland, we joined Ray Poland and his wife for memorable stops in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin
- Germany: serendipitous German journeys with Lev
- Hawaii: Kathy shared an epic mother-daughter adventure set in The Aloha State
- Iran: traveled to the homeland of Saman Kouretchian, to meet family members he had never seen and experience cultural heritage that had been missing from his life in the US
- Italy: by land and sea with Eytan Elterman
- Mexico: learning to snorkel with Anne Reilly on the unforgettable adventure that ignited her passion for the sport
- New Zealand: backpacking with Keith Bryer
- Scotland: walking the West Highland Way with Julie Mackenzie
- Spain: Cheryl Watt took us to El Camino de Santiago
- *In Transit*: we shared a poignant moment with Diane as she was laid-over at the Sea-Tac airport on her way home to Texas; while waiting at gate A8, she learned that she had lost a beloved parent, only to find herself grandmother to a newborn a few hours later
This is nowhere near a complete picture of everywhere our 2012 commenters have gone, but it was enough to convince me that your pins and X’s are all over the map.
One of the most common types of comments we receive on The Ambler is the plaintive cry of a reader wishing they were somewhere else. Quite understandable, since so many of our blog posts are dispatches from Panamanian paradise.
Among the most wanderlustful comments:
- “I don’t know exactly why either, but the thought of living in a tropical climate, all year, absent of snow, leaving the rat race of Washington D.C. behind when I retire, is constantly on my mind. I’m beginning to research now in order to prepare.” – Brenda Robertson
- “My husband and I are also plotting our escape from cold, wet, grey Canada, BC…” – Bonnie
- “I want to go back…” – Mark Scherr, pioneering pre-open guest on Isla Palenque
- “My husband and I were in Panama in November and had a wonderful time! It is amazing how under the radar Panama is on the vacation list. Every time we told our friends we were going to Panama they assumed we meant Panama City, Florida. So good luck to you as we can’t wait to go back.” – Gwin
- “I will join everyone at the end of 2012. I have officially given notice and bought property in Panama. See you there, and all others that are brave enough to seek adventure!!!” – commenter who identified herself only as “Panama Bound” 🙂
To all of you who are happily based in Panama, I’d like to express my sincere thanks for bringing your expat wisdom and love of the isthmus to the comments section on The Ambler. Your words serve as encouragement to others, including our own Jacki Gillcash, who spent 2012 planning and executing her family’s move to Panama. Because of you, Vicki and George Castillo, Louise Orr, Betty Hatch, Jane Vail, and many others, Jacki found lots of helpful advice to guide her in a successful move – and we hope to continue this tradition for aspiring Panama expats in 2013 and beyond.
Best of the Corrections Department
As an editor, I had a lot of fun reviewing some of the corrections that came in on The Ambler last year. Thank you to all who commented in the name of accuracy in 2012:
- Manfred clarified what to expect when crossing the border from Panama to Costa Rica and back
- Lyra Spang told us why Belizean seaweed is said to be “good for di back”
- Jungle Guide informed us why it was impossible for Laura to have spotted a freshwater peacock bass in the brackish Pacific waters around Isla Palenque
- Ana called out our mislabeled pollera photo
And my pick for the Best Correction of 2012:
“May I kindly point out that it is highly unlikely citizens of Czechoslovakia could be entitled for preferential residency procedure in Panama since Czechoslovakia hasn’t been in existence for over 20 years now…” — Mario on “News Alert: Establishing Panama Residency Just Got Easier”
I love to learn, anywhere, regardless of context, but it is a singular joy to expand my understanding through your comments on The Ambler. Thank you.
Finally, in the hopes of inspiring more of these, I’ve highlighted one of my favorite comments from 2012 that demonstrates a true explorer’s attitude:
“Even though my husband and I always espoused “off the beaten path” when visiting New York, my son takes it to a whole different level. He loves architecture (I hope he majors in it), so we will pick one section of Manhattan to explore. We have stumbled on some gems of museums, such as the Skyscraper Museum and the Tenement Museum, neither of which we knew about before going into NY with my son. While walking around, my son will point out different buildings that he’s read about. Frequently, we will duck into a few churches to get the sense of the neighborhood. Sitting quietly in a church is a great way to observe those that call NY home. And then we will decide it’s time to eat, so we will scope out the most interesting-looking places and menus. We don’t carry a guidebook. We navigate using the skyscrapers. My husband and son have a great sense of direction, so I am equipped with two great guides. “
– Sassy Sandy, autism mom and a traveler I had the pleasure of meeting in October
Sandy, I cannot wait until you come to Chicago next Spring — it’ll be just enough to tide me over until your family visits Isla Palenque.
In the process of compiling this review, I quickly realized that this is not idle chatter… You have shared some of the most meaningful moments in your lives; you’ve called attention to issues you are passionate about — in many cases, these are issues to which you have devoted your careers and lives.
What this tells me is that by traveling the world and experiencing other places, and by sharing the journey with friends and loved ones, you’ve grown immeasurably as individuals. The world has given you a lot through travel, and you have a lot to offer this world in return. Thank you to everyone who brought a little bit of that to our blog this year — I’m already looking forward to the next one, to the opportunities it will bring to hear your stories of extraordinary travel in Panama.
I know from experience that Isla Palenque can spur you to write… having always thought myself an editor better suited to teasing out the writing abilities in others, I was surprised to discover after spending time on the island that, suddenly, I had stories I wanted to share. Should you experience something similar as a result of your stay on Isla Palenque, I will be only too happy to publish your story on The Ambler. You’ve already brought so much to our endeavors here through your comments alone.
Once again, wishing a very happy new year to all of our Amblers!