There’s a scientific reason I instantly liked Víctor Peretz, owner of ‘A Local in PTY’ Panama Tours.
According to researchers at two major U.S. universities, when it comes to potential friends, we’re attracted to those who have very similar personalities and philosophies. I could tell from one Instagram post that Victor and I were kindred mushy spirits—and I’m not embarrassed to be excited about it.
Here are some of my favorite Víctor-shares from his A Local in PTY’s Instagram page:
The essential lesson you can learn in life is to just be yourself. Treasure the magnificent being that you are and recognize first and foremost you’re not here as a human being only. You’re a spiritual being having a human experience. So be yourself, but always your better self.
The thing that you’ll learn that will have the greatest and longest lasting impact on your life is the global conscience you develop. You don’t see the world as your home country anymore, you see it as the country you started out in and the lands you explored when you left your home. You don’t see news of a disaster abroad and think of it as a world removed anymore, you see it as people with lives just as real as ours who have experienced a tragedy. The allure of the unknown that will lead you to experience everything you can because there is so much to do and see, and because of that, you care about the people who live elsewhere that you’ve never met.
Travel means a lot of things to a lot of people, but ultimately, it’s about broadening your perspectives, immersing yourself in new places and ideas, and learning about how other people and cultures live. Through travel you can become more resourceful, more apt to rise to challenges, and more compassionate about situations others face. If you’ve found yourself sticking to the same few places or types of destinations, you may inadvertently be closing yourself off to many of these amazing life lessons that ultimately can make you a better person. If you’re stuck in a travel run or if you gravitate toward the same few cities, it may be time for you to get out of your comfort zone and do something different.
There is so much more to traveling than sitting by the beach or exploring a touristy neighborhood in a big city (Yes, those things are great too), and much of the magic of travel lies in discovering the undiscovered.
Amen, brother! Víctor and I definitely share a travel philosophy—to veer off the beaten path, away from the whitewashed tourist attractions, and meet the real people of whatever area you’re in. This is where you really get educated!
When I graduated from university, I was still a child who believed everything I was told. It was the experiences I had while traveling in my thirties and forties—experiences like Victor’s Panama tours of the El Chorrillo neighborhood in Panama City or the San Blas Islands—that taught me the truth, expanded me and ultimately taught me about ME.
Now, it’s time for me to let Victor speak for himself. It’s a testament to his friendly spirit that he took time to answer some questions posed by this virtual stranger.
víctor peretz—owner of ‘a local in pty’ panama tours
● Tell us about your background.
I was born in Panama City and I grew up in the San Blas Islands. My background is Kuna/Guna. I moved back to Panama City when I was 11 years old because of my education. When I finished my high school, then I wanted to study English at the University of Panama and I also studied Tourism Management.
I have worked for many years with several prominent hotels in Panama, hence dealing with many overseas visitors. Therefore, I think it is more than possible to combine tourism with local community activities, connecting travelers with these various different programs.
Life is about learning and sharing and enjoying time with others.
● What would the title of your memoir be?
If I have to write a memoir, the title would be—A Problem Shared is a Problem Solved
● What is something you love about Panamá? And what is something that drives you crazy?
What I love about Panama is the diversity of culture we have in the country. I can learn more about these different cultures and traditions. I am crazy about meeting new people and learning new experiences from them.
● Who is one of your most important mentors and how did they help change your life?
My parents are the main inspiration to me and they are the most important mentors in my life, because they have taught me about sharing and learning to innovate something unique and authentic in life.
● Why did you start your own tour company? Tell us about it.
I quit my job two years ago because I wanted to create and innovate tourism in Panama. There are no companies or agencies in Panama that focus on showing the real side of Panama. They only think showing nice areas or touristy places are enough for any travelers, but I believe travelers want to see more and experience new places—the undiscovered or unseen places, like El Chorrillo, that has a lot of local stories and legends. More than showing the real part of the country is about sharing with people and give opportunities, specially KIDS. That’s how I started this tour company.
● Describe each of the tours/services you offer.
My El Chorrillo Tour is about experiencing people and you can learn about their daily life and how the U.S. invasion affected the neighborhood and how different gangs were formed after the invasion. Travelers interact with people and share experiences with them, eating, drinking and playing dominos with them. They visit local markets and learn about tropical fruits.
My San Blas Tour is special because you will not only soak up natural beauty, but you will exchange knowledge with and support the real local families. Some of the things my guests do are learn about “Ico Inna” (Party of Nose Piercing) and many other Guna ceremonies, eat real dishes made by Guna people, and learn the history of these indigenous people.
● What is your main goal with each tour you give?
The main goal with my El Chorrillo tour is to eliminate the stigma that El Chorrillo is a very dangerous area. It’s a peaceful community where you can find friendly people with a lot of potential and talents.
● How do your tours stand out from others?
I only have two word to answer this question—UNIQUE & AUTHENTIC.
● What are the top 5 characteristics of an excellent tour guide?
1. Exceeding a client’s expectations.
2. Be authentic.
3. Well informed.
5. “NO” is not an answer.
● What is the most enjoyable thing about being a tour guide in Panama?
If you do what you love, keep doing it! So the most enjoyable thing about being a tour guide is to see all travelers equally.
● What is the most challenging thing?
Not exceeding a client’s expectations.
● Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Spend a nice afternoon with family and friends or spend an afternoon in a bar and meeting people and talking about life and sharing experiences.
● What are your three favorite places in Panama?
San Blas Islands, Pedasi and Gamboa.
● What is your theme song?
● Share how you give back to your community.
To explore, experience, share and exchange knowledge. To learn about traditions and cultures from different countries. To connect lower-income, less privileged families with overseas travelers, so they may get involved to help and assist with educating young children with various activities in the community.
Our aim is to provide various educational activities for local Panamanian children and their families, to establish classes such as English language, arts, music, dance and maybe others.
The “exchange of knowledge” program is a good way to learn and experience more about Panamanian culture, traditions and daily life from the children and their families in exchange for them to learn about your culture, traditions and daily life. I believe this would be a great connection for the visitor to with local people and in return for them to have the best experience and learn about other cultures too.
when you come to panamá…
I’ve travelled to more than 19 countries and done more tours and excursions than I can count. Victor’s Panama tours are special and I don’t want you to miss them.
Thank you for sharing a little of yourself, Victor!