Living Simply

Something else I found very interesting at the Rambala Jungle Lodge was Javier’s house. Javier is a Panamanian man who’s been the caretaker at the lodge for a few years, and he lives on the property. I have seen houses like this from the road, but this is the first time I have been able to visit one and be in it, using “in” loosely because living here is pretty much living outdoors. This is definitely minimalist living.

Seeing this really made me think. How much do you really need to live? In this climate you mostly need somewhere to get out of the rain, somewhere to cook, to sleep, and there was an outhouse a bit behind the house. He didn’t seem to be carrying much when he left so I think this is pretty much all his possessions. His few clothes are hanging in the front room, and you saw what he had in the kitchen. And, this sort of living is not at all unusual here, and this type of house is quite common in this part of Panama.

Sitting here in this sturdy block home with all these rooms and looking at these photos, I feel like we live in a palace. It sure makes you think – what do you really need? What does it take to be happy? We were told that Javier is happy to live there. It’s a beautiful place, he has a lot of work to do, and he likes the peaceful quiet. Could I live like that? 3 sets of clothes, 4 plates, a sleeping loft, and a chicken in my fagon? I dunno, but I see I sure could live with a lot less than I have now.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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17 Responses to Living Simply

  1. tombseekers says:

    This was fascinating! I always wondered what was inside and how the kept stuff. I figured there wasn’t much stuff, but this is amazing. They seem very happy, even the children. Without stuff, other things, like family, take precedence. Like singing to moms on Mother’s Day. Awesome! I am reprinting this


    • I know! I figured that living wasn’t very fancy for most people but I never thought it was this minimalistic. And you’re right, people are still happy. Javier certainly looks like a happy guy, and he has also done amazing things on the land like cutting those pathways through the jungle.


  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    “It sure makes you think – what do you really need?” Here’s what Sterling Hayden, the actor, had to say about that in his book “Wanderer:”

    “‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’ And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine–and before we know it our lives are gone.
    “What does a man need–really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in–and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all–in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
    “The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it the tomb is sealed.”

    Words are powerful things. They can destroy kingdoms and change lives. That quote, which I’ve carried around with me in one form or another for more than 40 years actually was one of the things that changed my life. I took it to heart. And remember, “He who dies with the most toys is still worm food.”



    • Thank you! That is a wonderful quote and it is so true. We’ve all seen people tied to their stuff, to their lifestyle, and tied up in knots trying to maintain it. One of the best things that happened to me, sucky as it was at the time, was to go to a rich kids private school and see that their rich parents were often unhappy. They had everything so maybe having everything wasn’t the answer. Like your quote, I’ve carried that with me. It’s so interesting how living in a different culture changes your head.


  3. Pingback: Reblogged | One More Good Adventure

  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    Here are a couple of quotes from Thoreau on the subject:
    “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances…”

    “We seem to linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and they vanish out of memory ere we learn the language.”

    P.S. I just “reblogged” this post.


  5. D. Quijote says:

    I was happiest with a rucksack half full or when I was living in a one and half as a university student. We don’t need much as long as health and safety are on your side in order to be truly happy.


  6. David says:

    Hi kris,, my name is David ,, I’m 62 yrs old and that quote hit home with me ,, the one by Sterling Hayden,, I’ve worked all my life doing just that trying to keep my head above water so to speak ,, thank God I’ve stayed in good health all these years my gold always has been to stay healthy through out my life so I could enjoy my retirement. And I’ve done that so far, people say I look 20 years younger than my age ,, but I never could set aside a huge retirement nest egg , and I knew early on that I could never afford to retire in the USA,, Wayyyyyy to expensive,, so I’ve been looking to overseas,, where my money(mainly S.S and a few savings) will go much further. The reason I say the quote hit home is because ,, my doctor has put me on a stain drug , Lipitor for colesterol ,, and I’m not happy with that ,, because the side effects are worse than the problem,, and in time I will have to then be treated for what the side effects have done to my body,, I really don’t want to get on that merry go round. The pictures are great and I could see myself living that life style ,, but I would have to have a. Door somewhere in there, I moved out of my condo 7 months ago and moved into my old RV it’s a 31 footer, to save money and pad my retirement which I’m hoping will be in 2014. But reading that quote and looking at those pictures ,, I believe I could live that style of life quite nicely,, and I believe the money I have already saved and with the SS,, I would have would make my life there comfortable, I just need to be in a area not too far from markets and hospitals just in case of a emergency, I’ve been on my own since I got out of the navy in 1972 so I don’t need much, I’m thinking I should make my move now while I’m still in good health, and able to enjoy my retirement,, I could see myself setting up my weigh bench in that place get up in the morning hit the weights ,, go for a run along the beach,, then hop on my dirt bike to the market or resturant for food or a meal, and I speak a little Spanish enough to order a meal and ask for directions,, waiting for the right time,,,,,,,,,,,,, that quote has made me realize there is No Right time ,, there is just time ,and time waits for NO ONE, thanks for opening my eyes. Got a lot of work to do to get this ball rolling.


    • Hi David! I agree, live the life you want as soon as possible. Don’t wait if you don’t have to. Have you visited Panama? That would definitely be the first step. You can have pretty much any lifestyle you want here. It just depends on what works for you.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Dear Ms. Kris,

    Your life’s story and move to Panama are very inspirational for sure. My day will come and I will move in that direction, but I feel the time is not right in this moment. My biggest questions is to find other soulsisters where ever I go. Have you been able to connect with other like minded souls easily?

    Thanks for doing what your doing. With Gratitude, Sollena


    • Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoy the blog. I have found it easier to connect and make friends here than in the US. People here are very open and friendly, and I feel welcomed like one of the family. It’s important to know enough Spanish to have conversations though, or you will be restricted to relationships with other expats which isn’t much different than in the US.


  8. David says:

    No kris I’ve never been there ,, but it will be my next vacation,, I’ve got 17 years on the job so I can take up to a month of vacation, but will take 3 weeks which with weekends would be close to a month anyway, the only thing holding me back is I want to pay off all my bills and the only one I have at present is a truck payment ,, my plan is to leave here for retirement debt free, and I will be able to do that sometime in 2014. Which is right around the corner, what I need to do right now is choose a place to explore ,, get a hotel room that won’t be too expensive for three weeks and maybe find a place to rent a scooter so I can get around,, and explore the place of my choice ,, right now I don’t have a clue as to where to hang my hat ,, I do know that I would like to find a place that has reasonable rents as when I retire I will rent first because when I’m there for good it will be a exploring experience trying to find the right place to live, when I do find that place I will rent a place or if I can afford it buy some land in the area and build a home like the one you have in the pictures only with a few changes ,, like a door,, and a few enclosed areas, a place where the soil is good so I can grow a few crops , I have heard and read that el Valle is beautiful and cheap,, I can do beautiful and cheap, once I find out how much everything costs then I can adjust my budget accordingly,


    • That sounds good and renting is an excellent idea. Panama City is expensive and nuts, so maybe not there. I’m not sure about the costs in el Valle, or proximity to medical care that you mentioned would be important. For that, David, Chitre, Santiago? Check out my friend’s article. Maybe Penonome? Or, maybe you would like an inexpensive little place in a rural area that isn’t far from a city center? As I said, you have a lot of options here. Also, if you want to grow things that may affect the climate you need. Here they grow all the produce in the Volcan area up in the mountains. Bananas, papayas and other more tropical stuff is grown at lower elevations. You just need to explore a bit and decide what’s a good fit for you. Also, there are buses everywhere and they are cheap for getting around. And, very important, start working on your Spanish! It’s rare to find English speakers in more rural areas.


      • David says:

        Sorry for not getting right back to you I’ve been kind of busy,, and yahoo has changed its email application so now my old email doesn’t work and I’m using the new one ,, I can’t figure out how to delete the old one without messing up the new one ,, anyway how are you kris ??as I said before 2014 is when I hope to make my move after I pay off my trick and a medical bill, you mentioned Santiago .. How is it there?? Rent wise,, also when I said I would like to grow stuff I ment a small back yard garden with a few veggies and maybe water.melon,, but that is not a must if I can get it at a market close by or a nice walk I’m happy,, and yes I got a couple of Spanish courses I’m taking right now ,, one is street wise Spanish and the other basic Spanish. One has a work book with questions and answers with a cd and the other is just a repeat and memorize sentences and phases, I hate to part with my truck and my motorcycle but I know shipping them would be very expensive and I thought of driving there but going through Mexico would be too dangerous,, I have heard stories about that, and none good, my. Truck is a 06 and so is my bike so driving there in my truck would cause attention ,, i was told if you drive there do it in a old vehicle . Anyway take care and thanks for all the information.


        • No problem, no worries, no deadlines. I don’t know about rent in Santiago, though I would guess it would be similar to David. It’s a Panamanian city not a center for tourists and expats, which tends to run the prices up. If you want produce David and Chiriqui Province is fantastic. We have a vegetable shack down the road where we can buy great produce anytime, and there’s a whole lot more in town. You might be interested to talk with Ryan, aka halfthrottle. He used to live in Panama and has ridden his motorcycle from the US to Panama.


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