Many people ask us why we decided to live in another country. Why did we want to move? How did we choose Panama, and why this part of Panama? Everyone has to make their own decisions for their own reasons. These happen to be ours.
My husband had been thinking of moving to central America for quite a few years. I was not so enthusiastic but I had minimal international travel experience. He had a lot. Then, I went to Italy and changed my mind. I learned that other countries aren’t that scary. Sure, there were differences but ultimately, it was just people living their lives.
We started looking more seriously at retirement with the resources we have. The economy in the US wasn’t doing well. Home values were going down and expenses were going up. We realized we would have to work until we were 70, or more, and even then it would be hard. As my husband says, Plan B became Plan A.
Why did we want to move?
- Cost – we were getting priced out of the US
- We wanted a change. Florida was great but we were no longer tied there. We were ready for a new adventure, a new experience.
- Secondary factors – concerns about our ailing health care system and political system, questionable food supplies (GMO’s Monsanto, etc), attitudes towards elderly people, no more hurricanes
Why did we decide on David, Panama? Our requirements -
- Communication / good internet
- warm climate, access to water and beaches
- affordable living
- close enough to the US to visit family
- good infrastructure and stable, peaceful government
- decent health care
Panama seemed to fit all of our requirements the best, so we decided to visit.
We started with a 5 day visit to Panama City (Jan 2011), 2 travel days and three full days in the city. I looked out the window of the plane and saw those beautiful, lush, green mountains and I was sold! We rented a car, drove around the city, went to the canal, a rainforest park, drove west for an hour so we could see a beach, and walked around the city. We loved it! The climate was perfect. We felt comfortable. We liked the people. We were amazed at the number of upscale buildings and construction cranes. This felt like a prosperous, happening, upbeat place! What a difference from the depressed US. But, it’s definitely a city with the traffic, the high energy, the constant activity, and higher cost of living. At our age, we weren’t sure if it was a lifestyle that was right for us. We were definitely heading in the right direction though.
After a bit more research, we decided to look at David. It’s the next largest city but in the western, agricultural part of the country. There are beaches to the south, and mountains to the north. We came in June 2011 for 5 days thinking we would see it at its worst, in the hot, muggy, rainy season. We knew very quickly that we had found our place. The city is big enough to provide everything we need, and probably almost everything we would want. The traffic wasn’t nearly as crazy. The area, the countryside, the beaches, and the mountains are all so beautiful! The people are wonderful, warm and friendly. We felt very comfortable. Even the dreaded rainy season wasn’t a problem. It felt just like Florida in summer, only not as hot. At this point, the plan was to move in 2014 (after I was old enough for social security), so we went back to Florida and the hamster wheel of work and bills.
My husband’s mother also lives in Florida, and she’s at an age where she needs some help. Maybe she would consider coming with us? She had traveled extensively, lived and worked in Guam, Hawaii, and California among other places and we thought she might like Panama. We came back in February 2012 for a week. She loved it as much as we did. We felt even more comfortable, and now we also had some friends from our previous visit and from correspondence on the internet.
We went home and started talking seriously. Do we really have to wait until 2014? Could we make it on the resources we have until I’m eligible for social security? As you know (since I am now blogging from Panama) we decided that we could make it, and we are making it. But, it did not work out as we hoped for Joel’s mother and she has returned to the US. We learned as much from that as from our success here though, so as time allows we will be sharing more information on our website.
The rest of our story is unfolding in this blog at the moment. “Follow” and share this experience with us!
If you are thinking about making such a move yourself, everyone will give you this good advice - do your homework. This doesn’t work out for everyone. Take a long hard look at who you are, and what you want, and why you want to move. What is important to you? What do you need to be happy? What do you like to do? What is on your “must have” list? What can you not tolerate? There is a lot of information on the internet. There are many helpful people who will be happy to share experiences and advice. Come and visit, and then visit again. Rent a place and try it out. Do not buy a place until you have lived here for at least 6-12 months. Living here is a very different experience from being a tourist. There are adjustments to be made. But, if you can be flexible, accept those things that are different, and appreciate life in this country as it is, you could have a very full and happy life here. This blog is only our experiences. Your story? That is up to you!