The word “paradise” causes a knee jerk reaction in us. We have seen too much of the hype from companies looking to sell you something – publications, books, expensive conferences, and relocation tours.
When were in Las Olas there happened to be three other people from the US having dinner at a nearby table. They were here to check out Panama as a possible retirement option, and they were all very disillusioned, frustrated, and unhappy. After all the sales pitches and tours to expensive high rise condos on the beach, they thought a simple, low key life they dreamed of didn’t actually exist. They were amazed to run into someone living the life they wanted, but had been unable to find.
We asked these people where they had gotten their info, and they named a well known organization. They had spent the majority of their time in Panama City, and were taken to see properties in the city and beach front properties in the Coronado area. None of this was what they wanted, and they felt like the agents could care less and were only interested in talking them into buying what they were selling.
By the time we met, they were spending a couple days at the beach resort as the final part of their trip. Since we were all headed back to David we spent some time giving them the quick tour of the town and our favorite shopping areas. Then they came over for dinner and an evening of conversation, and hopefully we were able to answer some of their many questions.
It was really sad to see how different their experience was from ours. What a shame to be here and not find what is so close, yet hidden from their view. Joel and I have been talking ever since and trying to pinpoint why things didn’t go well for them. Is there advice that might have helped?
- Be very careful of anyone trying to make money off your search. You can spend thousands on conferences, real estate tours, relocation tours, and the like. This is not necessary! There are many free sources of information and many expats here who are happy to help. (If anyone reading this has spent money on any of the above, I would be very interested to hear about it and how it worked out for you)
- Get on the internet. Look around. Find expat forums and ways to connect with people. Make friends. There are many good people who are glad to help with information, ideas, and support. Having some connections before you get here is extremely valuable.
- Plan your own visit, and be flexible. Maybe you think you want to be in Panama City, so visit as see how it feels. If you think it’s a good fit, spend more time there. If not, move on to your next area of interest. Don’t expect to make a decision on your first visit.
- It’s very helpful, of course, to get a feel for what things cost in various areas but again, your best source of information is the people already here. You don’t need to be taken around by salespeople. It is recommended that you don’t even consider buying anything until you have actually lived here for many months.
When you see “paradise” or any of the other usual buzz words, be very careful. Paradise i’s fine for a tropical vacation but living here is real life. You will be living where people speak a language you may not understand. Dogs bark and roosters crow earlier than you may want to wake up in the morning. There are some very strange fruits and vegetables in the market. You are more likely to find thread in the supermarket than the fabric store. That beach may be idyllic but is the closest supermarket an hour away?
Only YOU can decide what will work for you. No book, seminar, tour, or anything else is a substitute for experience. Figure out what you need to be happy. Walk around. Go to some stores. Put a meal together with local ingredients. Visit some people who live here. Do some of those things you will be doing every day. Can you be happy here for a month? a year? There are businesses who have reasons to sell you on the dream of happiness here, but only you can determine what is a workable reality for you.