cloud island, san blas, panama

My little brother went on an an epic journey last year and traveled to central and south America. He talked so much about one of his favorite places, the San Blas Islands in Panama. Mom decided she HAD to see them and I happily invited Cliff + me along. Months passed, Mom + Cody planned the trip, found a boat to charter, we all got tickets, mom + I got matching North Face backpacks (which I LOVE) and the big day arrived. Mother's Day. We all wake up early and get to the airport. We're checking in only to find out that Cliff's passport is not valid for travel to Panama. It didn't expire until June but apparently to travel to Panama your passport must be within 3 months of expiration. The bottom dropped out of my stomach, tears welled up and right there in the airport check in area I cried. And cried. And cried. Mom + Cody went on and we stayed behind hoping we could get it sorted out and join them the next day.

Be sure to check your passport expiration date and the regulations for the country you're traveling to well in advance of your travel!

The rest of that day we both felt sick. Helpless. Bummed. Disappointed. Frustrated. So many emotions. We did the best we could to move through it and keep (or more like --- just find) perspective. All these months later that feeling is still a gift. Going through the wave of emotions of facing a dilation again and all that is involved just scratched the surface of how helpless we felt that day. I know it's odd (and even feels a little trivial) that just missing a flight vs a legit health situation was a more severe feeling of helplessness but it's true. It's the beauty of contrast in life. Those really awful disappointments provide solid contrast to remind me it's not that bad. There are options and we're negotiating whatever it may be at the moment the best we can.

We came through the passport experience feeling so good about our partnership. We are a crazy good, totally effective team. The moment the check in clerk started waggling my passport in the air saying that the rest of us could go but not Cliff we clung together. I remember saying, "I'm not leaving him, give me my passport back please. I am NOT leaving him." We sprung into action. I got on the phone to the passport office to try and get an appointment. Cliff called our ride to come back and get us. We changed our tickets for the next day + moved through an imaginary check list of all the possible things that we could do to fix this asap + get back to the business of vacation! Silver lining... we were home to watch Game of Thrones that night. ha! But seriously.

passport office

The next day was all hurry up and wait and then all GO, GO, GO! We got the appointment at the passport office first thing in the morning. They said we could pick up the passport at 12:30. Wha? I don't know why but I expected we'd walk out with it that morning. Nope. Doesn't work that way. So... we went for brunch and came back to wait. Our flight was at 3:05 pm. At 12:30 his passport wasn't ready. They said maybe 1. Then 1 came and went. We're counting minutes now running the times over in our heads... we can still make it! I'm in the car making a reservation at the airport park + ride, keeping the getaway car running and waiting for Cliff to give the word that he's got his passport. When he finally texted that he had it and was headed down I pulled out, opened the door and he literally ran and jumped in. It was one of those laughter through total stress moments. All we could do is laugh. I used my expert daughter of a race car driver skills to get us to the airport as quickly as possible. We checked in with 1 minute to spare. 2:04pm. Once we cleared security we literally ran to our gate just in time for boarding. I sounded like Darth Vader in a foot race but we made it!

barely made it

We flew into Panama City, stayed the night in a hotel and the next morning got up at 4 am to catch another flight out to a small island in San Blas where the sail boat + mom + Cody would pick us up! The minute we got into the tiny plane to head to the islands it felt like vacation. Finally.


This was my favorite snorkeling spot. An old ship wreck.


See that tiny blue fish with blue polka dots! It's a Jewelfish. Incredible, right!


The swim deck was one of the most peaceful places on the boat. Just you and the sound of the ocean lapping against the boat.

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The weather was impeccable the first few days. Sunshine, heat + humidity.


Then it got dark, rainy + moody. I love that we got to experience both.


I love the perspective on this one... little islands as far as the eye can see.

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One of my favorite parts of sailing was getting up and going for a morning swim first thing. It felt like freedom to just off the boat into the water each morning.


This was our favorite island. Cloud Island. We found Conch shells here, swam in the pouring rain + ate coconut meat. It's one of the things I remember most from this trip. It rained so hard for a moment I could hardly see. I can almost smell the salt and feel the drips falling from my eye lashes.

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Aren't they beautiful, the shells I mean. Well us too ; )


We got matching shirts for the trip. Geeky, awesome + totally necessary to help minimize sun exposure and bug bites.


We stopped on a small island to buy bracelets + malas made by the Kuna women. The bracelets are tied on each time they wrap around your wrist or ankle. Kuna women wear them on both wrists and both ankles. I JUST took mine off a week ago pre-dilation procedure. I loved wearing it. It started to feel like my own version of a tattoo.

Malas are intricate hand stitched fabric squares. They use them in their clothing. We asked permission (and paid) to take a photo. This woman got dressed in her full attire for our photo. The island is inhabited by one family at a time. They will work there for several months and then return to the community island and another family will come out to sell to the tourists that sail by. They are small in stature, speak their own language but also Spanish (which is how we my little brother communicated with them. He was our translator the entire time and did an amazing job)! The Kuna people are a matriarchal society, when we paid the father he gave the money to the grandmother immediately. Love that.

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Our state room.

save him

He's joking. Post this image jumped from the front of the boat into the water.

early morning departure

Early morning boat ride from the sail boat to shore to catch our flight back to Panama city.

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where mosquitos are born

This is the airport. They took our airport fees, I think it was $11 each or near that. Our bags were weighed with a handheld scale and then we waited and waited and waited for the little plane to arrive. I'm certain this is the birthplace of all mosquitoes and biting bugs known to man. We made a lot of bugs very happy that day.

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No wind. Just bugs.

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These are the malas we selected. We chose one that was meant to be sewn into a shirt later so it was two complimentary pieces. Mom took one, we took the other. Last night I framed ours and hung it in the bathroom in our mobile abode (which prompted this big beautiful post).

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Dinner at the Panama Canal. It was awesome to watch the gates open and see the water levels rise and fall.

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Our final night in Panama. Penthouse views, LONG showers and air conditioning. Perfection.

I love traveling and I adore coming home. This vacation was a biggie for me. I got really clear on our decision to buy and move into an RV. Really clear. I unapologetically took care of myself at every turn even when that meant turning in early to read instead of listening to stories the captain and his wife were sharing. Older versions of me would have sat there, listened and nodded and gone to bed exhausted from ignoring my own needs. It's one of those little details that's actually really huge.

To Panana! To the beautiful Kuna people! And to gifts from the sea! Lacy

P.s. Foundations of Food starts next week! Ready to learn what foods work best in your body? Ready to give up dieting, calorie counting, struggling and deprivation f o r e v e r? Yes? Yes! Join us!