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.