"Travel is vital, especially in the worst of times. I would say that, though, wouldn’t I, as a journalist who runs toward danger, not away from it? But in both good and difficult times alike, traveling & meeting people with different & opposing ideas is as important as finding the most inviting beaches, visiting the best restaurants, and seeing the sights." -Christian Amanpour
Panama City, from an Outpost in Japan

Panama City, from an Outpost in Japan

Greetings from snowy, not-yet-cherry-blossoming, ever-polite Japan- more specifically its northernmost island, Hokkaido (yes, we can see Russia from here!). Panama seems like a languid dream now, as I zip up my windbreaker and drive cautiously on the left hand side of the road with Japanese GPS.

We may be in the Eastern Hemisphere now but our hearts are still west, in Latin America's most cosmo city. I know I keep talking about the Panama Canal, but I think it is one of the truest vestibules of our human accomplishments. That, and the fact that one hectare of Panamanian forest has more species than in all of North America combined. Indeed, Panama had my heart.

But we are whipping around the planet, trying to keep up with our own preordained pace but having parental freak-outs ranging from "can she eat oregano?!" to "can she have miso?!" In a distant memory, Michael and I were singing Bohemian Rhapsody down the windy Carr Las Uvas from El Valle, belting out the high notes around the turns to distract Sia from the carsick-inducing ride. She thought it was hilarious and we first-pumped at our parenting win. I constructed some ingenious sunshade around her car seat out of scarves and the daily El Siglo and we pulled our rental in for some Peruvian-style ceviche at a roadside bodega.

That was then. In real-time, we're about to jump into an onsen with group of business men from Tokyo.

As Michael loves to say, "Live each day as if it's your last." We are making the most out of this experience, that thanks to Germany's parental leave system, both of us get to spend 24/7 with her for an entire year. We are savoring the small moments, the challenges, and yes, the exhaustion of both traveling and learning to be a parent in different time zones. I think I'll get the hang of it, eventually.

Looking down onto the expanse of ships waiting for the Panama Canal to open.

Looking down onto the expanse of ships waiting for the Panama Canal to open.

Overnight in El Valle, which felt to Panama City as Ojai or Santa Barbara does to LA. Also sits in an active volcano, which is stunning. We stayed at the botanical Golden Frog Inn.

Overnight in El Valle, which felt to Panama City as Ojai or Santa Barbara does to LA. Also sits in an active volcano, which is stunning. We stayed at the botanical Golden Frog Inn.

Ceviche on Playa Farrallon north of Panama City.

Ceviche on Playa Farrallon north of Panama City.

Sancocho Panameño. Chicken soup for the soul, with hair on its chest.

Sancocho Panameño. Chicken soup for the soul, with hair on its chest.

El Valle: I was chased by this jack russell terrier with his pint-sized gang two minutes later.

El Valle: I was chased by this jack russell terrier with his pint-sized gang two minutes later.

Casco Viejo, Panama City's colonial quarter.

Casco Viejo, Panama City's colonial quarter.

Sundowning it at Capital Bistró Panamá.

Sundowning it at Capital Bistró Panamá.

Discovering grass on the Cinta Costera, Panama City's boardwalk.

Discovering grass on the Cinta Costera, Panama City's boardwalk.

Calling it a day. Another off-season hotel score with views of the bay and Casco Viejo.

Calling it a day. Another off-season hotel score with views of the bay and Casco Viejo.

All the Okinawan Treasures

All the Okinawan Treasures

Sia at the Panama Canal

Sia at the Panama Canal