Adventuring Author: Transiting the Panama Canal

My favorite form of adventuring is traveling.

I had the privilege of being raised in a family of travelers. My dad is a pilot and did a lot of ministry overseas. My first international trip was to hand out Christmas gifts to orphans in Russia with my dad. That’s when the travel bug awoke in me and I saw the beauty in new cultures, foreign strangers, different languages…

Stepping out of our understanding of normal is what connects spec-fic books with real life. Think about it. Fantasy/sci-fi novels create new worlds. . .and traveling to a different country is like being immersed in a new world. You’re forced to see things differently, to interact differently, to stretch into a new and adaptable person in order to function.

How It All Happened

Lat week, I had the privilege of transiting the Panama Canal on this pretty little 44-foot sailboat. The same sailboat that instigated my adventure of being a seacook, in fact.


Here’s how it all came about:

At a certain point, in one of my books (no, I won’t tell you which one!) a character travels through the Panama Canal. My dad’s boat just happened to be traveling through the Panama Canal this January as it is being moved to the west coast. In Dad’s words, “You can’t not go, Nadine.”

Well, when he put it that way…

So of I went on a father-daughter trip (I’m never too old for those!) to Panama and I want to share the adventure with you. That’s the whole reason I write Adventuring Author posts — it’s not to brag about getting to travel (trust me, I know how overwhelmingly blessed I am to do this!), it’s not to make you jealous, and it’s not to just “fill up blog space.”

It’s because God is all about story. Our lives are the greatest testimonies we have and it’s important to share our adventures with others. Often times, watching others live active lives inspires us to do the same! Look at Bob Goff’s book, Love Does. It’s a book of stories from his life that completely transforms almost everyone who reads it!

Panama Pictures

Dad and I were in Panama for five days, most of the time was spent either on the water or on the edge of it. The greenery is pure jungle filled with howler monkeys, snakes, and even some panthers. (No, I didn’t see any of these. Yes, I was hugely disappointed.)


Look at all that jungle greenery! I wanted to go swing on vines. Alas…too many venomous snakes and bugs.


Me! Just before the lock lets the water out.


Leaving the marina to head to the canal — so many neat boats to see.

In between the two locks of the canal is Gatun Lake. It’s actually a giant valley that was dammed up and turned into a lake. It took four years for the rainwater to fill it up. Panama gets over 120 inches of rain a year! Gatun lake was filled with crocodiles (no, I didn’t see any…*sigh*) and islands. The islands are actually the tops of former hills that were inside the valley they flooded.

adventuring-author-gatun-lake-island adventuring-author-gatun-lake-island-2

I got to spend the entire trip with a camera around my neck and a notebook in my pocket, story ideas spinning around in my head. Yes, I pulled a rope or two and got sunburned. But I saw giant cargo ships — even and old one tipped over in the sea — the canal locks both at night and in the day time, some cool old buildings, and almost almost ordered octopus off the menu. I was also the ship’s cook, so I got some experience below deck trying to juggle knives and pasta over a swaying stove. Woohoo!


Nasty picture of me sweating over the stove! 90 degrees in the kitchen of a boat with the stove and oven on will do that to a person.

I’m quite proud to say, I did not get seasick once. (I did, however, get Panama-taxi sick.)

During this exciting adventure, I had the honor of meeting three incredibly talented gentlemen sailors who were the ones taking the ship up to the West coast. They’re all experienced sailors who had story upon story to tell. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. Please keep them in your prayers as two of them are currently sailing (yes, as you read this!) up to the west coast.


Me and my handsome, amazing, adventurous Papa Captain are in the middle. Couldn’t get a picture of all five of us because the seagulls refused to press the photo button.

That’s all I have to share for now without boring your ears off with minor details. I can now cross the Panama Canal off of my bucket list (after I put it on there, of course.) Is there anything else you’d like to know about the trip?

What is one thing on your bucket list?

And, I’m truly curious, what do you think about the Adventuring Author posts? Would you like to see more of these in the future? Or less?



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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. Slightly jealous of your trip right now! Sounds like an amazing authoring adventure. I haven’t exactly drawn up a bucket list, but sailing is one of the things I’ve always dreamed of doing.

    One of these days, right?

  2. Slightly jealous? Heck no, MAJORLY jealous! LOL … My husband and I once seriously talked of doing the “living aboard” thing, but life never did work out where we could, and then we got “old” and health issues started cropping up. We co-own a sailboat in Lake Travis but haven’t sailed in years because of the drought. But it’s fun to read about what other people get to do, the places you go and adventures you have. I’ll try to get over my jealousy. ^_~

    • It’s certainly a blessing that I get to do these things!

      May your adventures still abound in your lives, even with the different limitations that exist.I often think about what amazing adventures wait for us in heaven where we have *no* limitations!

      • My son and I were just talking about this today. I’m looking forward to living on the coast and surfing for a great deal of Eternity … ^_~

  3. Amazing opportunity! Love that you didn’t hesitate to jump on board.

  4. These blog posts are how I met you. I love them. They make me want to go on some of my own adventures, soak up experiences, and enjoy life… Your perspective, your humor, your words… all work together to give us the possibility of imaging ourselves with you on your journeying. Fun! Thank you!

I love hearing from you!