Adventures in Retirement: In Awe of the Panama Canal

Adventures in Retirement is an occasional series highlighting how independent living residents at Judson are making the most of this next chapter of their lives. Here Judson Park resident Clare Bechtold describes her recent trip to the Caribbean, including the Panama Canal.


When considering a location for her next adventure, Clare Bechtold had no doubt where she wanted to go. Visiting the Caribbean just north of South America had always been on her bucket list. She enjoys experiencing the world at sea because it allows her to see multiple places at once, and this ideal location allowed her to do just that. This ten-day excursion aboard the Norwegian Pearl Cruise Ship visited five countries in South America, and Clare’s trip began at the most anticipated spot.

Stop 1: The Panama Canal

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Clare began her trip watching her cruise ship get pulled through the Panama Canal. “The Canal is made up of two different sea levels, so it’s fascinating to watch the mule trains transport the ship upwards to a new level,” she says. ”It’s incredible to think about this man-made wonder being built without the advanced technology we have today.”

Stop 2: Columbia

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Clare’s stop in Columbia was a bit more dualistic than her other destinations. Time spent in scenic Cartagena, whose colonial walled city and fortress are designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, was offset by the abject poverty she encountered in other Columbian cities.

“The poverty is heartbreaking. Children were constantly walking up to tourists and asking for money.  There are no opportunities for anyone.”

Stop 3: Costa Rica

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Clare experienced this destination up close on a train ride through the Puerto Limon rainforest. Here she witnessed exotic animals that are notorious to South America, including the howler monkey and many of the 350 different species of parrots. Also, she was shocked to see squirrels in such a tropical environment.

Stop 4: Aruba

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What’s a tropical adventure without a relaxing day at the beach? Clare spent a whole day basking in the South American sun on one of Aruba’s many beautiful beaches, getting some R&R before embarking onto the next stop.

Additionally, the cruise made stops in Colon, Panama and Roatan, Honduras.

Among all the stops in all these beautiful countries, the Panama Canal was Clare’s most memorable moment.

“I sat at a table at the front of the ship at 6:30 in the morning and watched the ship come through the canal. My eyes were glued to the window for two hours! This canal was a monumental moment in history and changed the way that we view modern transportation.”

This 10-day excursion across South America exceeded all of Clare’s expectations. With so many other amazing places to see, she can’t wait to see where her next adventure will take her!

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