Most expats occasionally return to their point of origin, at minimum to visit friends and family. I have done it twice in seven years, once in 2010 and once again last week. The visits were wonderful, separation makes the fleeting moments more enjoyable and condenses warmth and joviality. This however is not a post about that experience, it is a post about returning to fortress America and my joy at leaving.
From the moment I encountered the TSA full body scanner in Houston on my flight to Tucson I realized I was not in a place I wanted to be. Everyone was courteous, polite and business like, as I had to empty my pockets and remove my shoes.. All things on the rest of the trip were efficient and almost antiseptically clean, compared to my life in Panama.
My friends were cordial and fascinated with my seven year adventure in Panama. Many of my friends are caught in the work to survive mode, some could retire, if they could afford to retire. Others can afford to retire but have not found the switch on the treadmill; it does have an off switch. I fear many will keep walking or running until they fall and inertia tosses them into their grave. I chose a different end, an adventure, not a contest of earning and spending until death do us part.
While I was gone someone posted this comment to something I wrote and re-write annually, it is called, Don’t move to Panama, certainly not Boquete..
“We read lots of good stuff on Boquete, but there is a lot of seemingly bad stuff going on also. Lots of rain and flooding; lots of bugs; a lot of water problems, lots of theft and security issues; lots of government issues; only good hospitals are in Panama City; very expensive to live; lots of wind during the “dry season,” poisonous snakes and I’m sure it goes on and on. However… a very tight community and great people are what makes a great place to live and this is what one gets, if you reside in Boquete. What is pretty interesting are the homes that have been listed for sale for years. With all the hype, you would think homes would sell quickly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. For the population of the area, there are lots of homes for sale and they are very, very expensive for a fairly remote region in a 3rd World country. I’m guessing that many people bought homes at high prices in ’05 – ’08 and are not willing to take a huge loss. If you need bars on your windows, it’s probably not for me. Is Boquete worth visiting for a bit? Why not? So… that’s what folks do; they go on vacation to Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, etc., and find out that all the hype is just that… hype. They have a great vacation or visit and determine that the poverty is way too bad to stay long-term. I’m thinking maybe we will take a trip to the hills of Southern Missouri or Arkansas, spend way less money, need no bars on our windows and high walls with glass on the top, and not need to learn a new language.”
I responded directly to them suggesting Missouri or Arkansas would be a better option for them.
Expatriation, emigration, is not for everyone, in fact it is not for most people. I am thriving here but I think most Americans who come here come for the wrong reasons, they are running from something they do not like, not going to something they want. I came for a combination of reasons, I did not like the direction of the USA, but I also came to Panama because I love the culture of Latin America and was willing to learn the language and immerse in the culture. Those who come for positive reasons do well here or in other latin countries. Those who are steeped in the American way usually return to their comfort zone.
My recent return was nostalgic, it was easy, if I wanted something I found it, I brought back suitcases loaded with purchases from Amazon, Ikea and some great components for Mexican food. Here I can get all I need, but sometimes not all I want, that makes life more interesting. Here I am a twenty first century pioneer in some ways and all those minor disadvantages are out weighed by my sense of freedom and comfort.
Americans are programmed from childhood on to believe the USA is the best at everything, if they never live out of the USA they rarely understand that it is just not true. If they base their life on Fox news or CNN they have no idea what is really happening in their country or the world. If they argue about gay marriage, abortion, gun ownership, religion or red vs. blue States they are missing the point. They are all cogs in the treadmill with the purpose of doing work until they are worthless and then being discarded by a system that no longer needs them.
The American way is contagious and millions do want the opportunities it has historically presented but billions more live in other societies and cultures that have different perspectives on life. I love the culture here where timeliness is not important, where work is to survive, not that survival is work. It fascinates me that in Panama workers can have a month off from work each year, that Social Security in a third world country can cover medical care and medicines. Agreed the system is flawed, it is imperfect, but I have friends working solely so they can get medical insurance in the US. I have friends for whom a holiday is an abstract concept. They are on their treadmill for life.
I am happy to be back in Boquete, back on the mountain, out of the concrete jungle that has become Tucson and even more dramatically Phoenix Arizona. I am glad to be out of the traffic, out of the pressure, away from the food like substances that have replaced fresh foods with dehydrated or frozen boxes of pseudo food. Here I have no need for anti depressants, no need for counseling, no need to toil only to pay taxes to the Feds, the State, the county and the city. I prefer life as I know it today to life as I knew it seven years ago.