Three Years in Panama

Three years? How can that be? In a way it seems like I arrived only a short time ago, and in another way it seems like this has been my normal life for quite a while, nothing new, strange, or exotic.

What have I learned and experienced in these three years? A few things come to mind (in no particular order).

  • Life here is pretty darn good! I am thankful that we chose to leave the US rather than seriously downsize or work for another 10 years (probably both). Otherwise we would have missed this wonderful experience.
  • I have learned a new language. Well, sort of. I still don’t always understand, and I could use a lot more vocabulary and straightening out of my grammar but I can communicate. It feels wonderful. I am proud of myself and very thankful for the people who have helped me with much time and patience.
  • I am not scared of “foreign countries”. (Before Panama I had minimal experience outside of the US) One can live in another environment and learn to manage. Some things are different but ultimately it’s just people doing regular things and trying to live happy lives. I imagine this is true anywhere you go. It’s also interesting to look at your home country from a distance. It changes your perspective on a lot of things.
  • There is a whole new world of birds, bugs, plants, food, fiestas, traditions, humor, attitudes, trees, iguanas, flowers, and scenery. Every day has something new and interesting, and it’s very fun.
  • I can kill a chicken. This is the first time I’ve taken the life of anything more substantial than a bug. It was a serious feeling that I’m not sure how to describe yet. Here in Panama though, I feel closer to where my food comes from. I see it growing around me everywhere I look. I think I feel better because of the quality food. I never thought I’d get quite this close to my food but hey, if I’m going to eat it I should have the respect to prepare it with my own hands and realize exactly what this means.
  • Retirement can be really, really busy. The days fly by. I never get everything done. But, the days are filled with activities I choose, not things I must do. When the need to make money is taken off the table it puts your head in a very different place. You can do things for your own pleasure and enrichment and not feel guilty about it.
  • My social life is fine. I wasn’t used to living near my daughters so this hasn’t been a big change. We communicate even more with video chats instead of just the phone. We have moved before so I’m not concerned about making new friends. Here though, it has been easier than ever. I feel more accepted, more included, and have stronger social ties than I have ever had anywhere else. It is odd to feel more at home in a new country than in my home country.
  • It’s pretty cool being a grandma. My grandson gets cuter every day as he talks more and does more things. My first granddaughter is due literally any day, and my other granddaughter is due next month. I’m looking forward to meeting these new children. And, being an adoptee, it’s especially meaningful to be blood related to all these new people.
  • I am learning to paint. I have liked photography for quite a while, but it’s interesting to learn about this new medium which is similar is some ways, but really quite different. You get to create something from nothing, from only a white canvas and some tubes of paint.
  • I have taken up cycling and I really enjoy it. I have learned my way around, made friends all over town, and gotten stronger in the process. I especially enjoy getting out of town and cycling past green fields and beautiful scenery. Maybe it’s my form of meditation because I feel better in mind and body.
  • I want to travel! What else is out there? I want to pack some essentials on my bike and take to the road. Some of my dreams may not be realistic but I did make it to Nicaragua, so who knows what else I could accomplish. Of course there are also planes and buses, and other ways to explore the world and I want to take advantage of them too.
  • This time, this experience is a great gift. We are still young enough and healthy enough to do things. We have the necessary resources to support our lives here. We are in a good place with good people. I wake up every day wondering how I managed to be so fortunate.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
This entry was posted in culture, Miscellaneous, Panama and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Three Years in Panama

  1. Karen DeJong says:

    Aha !! Like minds and all that…… I’m already following this woman’s blog !!! Read quite a few of her 3 years worth and watched a bunch of her videos !!


  2. Always enjoy your down to earth posts. We look forward to finally making it out there at the end of November – just 6 weeks from now … my husband has high hopes for making this our home some day, I am not quite so sure … 🙂


    • Thank you. I’ll be very interested to hear how your visit goes! It doesn’t work for everyone so hopefully you can discover the perfect place for you, and also enjoy what Panama has to offer when you are here.


  3. indacampo says:

    Two things resonated with me in this post Kris: “When the need to make money is taken off the table it puts your head in a very different place.” and “This time, this experience is a great gift.”

    No matter where life may take us I will be grateful for the time we have spent in Panama. I’ve learned so much about what we are capable of both individually and as a couple, I think we are more of a “team” than we ever have been and we’ve both discovered and rediscovered talents that we never knew we had.

    Congratulations to you and Joel on your “Panama Anniversary”and may there be many more happy times ahead for you both!


    • Yes indeed, you know what I’m talking about because you are doing the same thing, and doing it very well. It is interesting how it affects a relationship, both retirement and living in Panama. Maybe I should write on that topic one day.
      Thanks for the good words, and wishing you many happy times too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ME BE in Panama says:

        That would be a good blog Kris. I believe we will meet many couples there who truly enjoy each other’s company. Real best friends. It’s hard enough to manage life stresses when you’re in a familiar setting, but I’m guessing a shaky relationship wouldn’t make it in such an unfamiliar setting.


        • There are two main factors – retirement and having a lot more time together than before, and living in a different place. I’ll have to mull all this around in my brain and see if anything useful comes out eventually 😀


  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    Great summation!


  5. Laureen says:

    Thanks for a wonderful post Kris. I look forward to our move next year, and being able to say some of the same things!


  6. Really lovely and thoughtful post, Kris!


  7. Rona True says:

    Great perceptions on living abroad. What an experience this has been, and having time to discover so many new things is truly a blessing. Now, if only my Spanish was as good as yours…


    • Yes indeed, such an experience! We will bring you down here where no one speaks English, and in a couple years you will be talking with everyone too. I remember coming in on the plane and there were some gringos rattling away in Spanish with friends and I was so jealous! I never thought I’d get there either but keep at it, and little by little it gets better.


  8. ron o says:

    I’m a bit confused (what else is new? :>) The few Panamanian people I have met here in Los Angeles tell me that you can “get by” speaking just English. But you say “no one speaks English.” Which is it?


    • It depends on where you are. Places with lots of expats and tourists like Panama City, Coronado, Bocas, Boquete will have more English speakers. Otherwise, in the rest of the country, you can expect to find few English speakers. You can get buy, hire a translator as needed, but for me I need more than just getting by. I want relationships with my friends and neighbors, and I want to walk into any business without fear and frustration. I suppose it’s like living in the US and not speaking English. People do it but it’s hard, and harder in some places than others.


    • Alex says:

      Since those Panamanian already speak Spanish they don’t notice how many can’t communicate in English.


      • True, and if they are in the US maybe they speak English, and their other Panamanian friends in the US also speak English so they figure everyone does. Here in Panama they are teaching English to the kids in school but most adults speak only Spanish.


  9. ME BE in Panama says:

    Excellent insights Kris. Panama and your followers are richer for your experiences. Thank you for sharing them with us.


  10. Sunni Morris says:


    It sounds like you found the perfect place for you. That’s great! Everyone should be so lucky, but we’re all on different paths and living the life we think is necessary at the time.

    You’re right about time flying by. I can’t believe it’s been three years for you already. The same thing astounds me when I think I’ve been living in the desert for over eleven years now. How did that happen?

    You’re very lucky you and Joel are on the same page and can stand each other’s company 24/7. David and I spent the first ten years here retired, but we both have taken PT jobs and are much happier. We were ready to snap each other’s heads off. We don’t get out that much, so this has been good for us.

    I definitely know what you mean though about days flying by in retirement and being able to do as you please each day. It makes one wonder how you kept up the house and did all the daily chores during your working years, doesn’t it?

    I’m happy you can communicate in Spanish now and I know you feel much more comfortable than you did at first. I think learning the language in a foreign country would be a must in order to take advantage of new friends and places.

    Congrats on your new hobby of painting and bicycling all over the countryside. You can do anything you put your mind to, anyone can. You just have to want to bad enough and never give up until you achieve your goal. I’m very happy for you adapting so well to your new country.



    • Thanks so much for your comment! Yes indeed, we are very fortunate that things have worked out so well for us here. I expect it’s an adjustment for everyone to retire and be with your spouse 24/7 no matter where you live. I’ve been thinking of doing some research and writing on that topic one of these days.


  11. Joyce says:

    Happy Anniversary, Kris and Joel! I am so glad you both are here and that we have become friends. I am now into my 9th year here (holy moly!) and I share much of what you have come to realize. I love my life here. I love the friends I have made here, and, yes, so much easier to make them here, too! I do hope to paint with you one day soon!


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