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Living in Boquete Panama, a 6.5 year perspective and some advice

I started writing this blog of my life experience in Boquete Panama about six years ago. Not long after that I started a series called Panamania, a theme I revisit regularly as I have have time to assess my life in Boquete. Today as the sun is shining, the temperature like spring in New York and the winds gone it seems like another day perfect for reflection.

Sitting with my view of Volcan Baru and listening to Mozart with a cup of coffee makes a perfect theme to stimulate thoughts of life gone by, and life in the future. I have spent about ten percent of my life living on this mountain top and have no regrets.
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As I watch the clouds rest on the volcano, I realize I am perched in a perfect place in a perfect time. After returning from my recent trip to Chile and Argentina several people have asked if I am considering a move south. Boquete is a transient community for expats, many come, many go and then more come to fill the vacancies. I have not seen any reason to leave for more than a vacation.

In my time here I have made two trips to the US, one to Canada, one to Ecuador, one to Guatemala, two to Argentina and two to Chile. I have cruised the Caribbean twice, the south Atlantic once and always return to Boquete, happy to be home. The question others may ask is, why. In the great debate on retirement overseas why do I choose to remain in Boquete?

The reasons are many, some of what attracted me keeps me here. I came because of the low cost of living, the large English speaking community, the tranquility, the weather and the desire for a change of pace. I wanted off the treadmill of work and even though I owned my own business, it was still a wage slave treadmill. Work to pay the bills, I had little time for more than work.

After traveling to many places I have seen lower costs of living, I can just drive to David and pay less to live, but there are other costs like enduring the heat. There are more English speakers, I think, in Mississippi and it probably would be easier to live there, but I don’t want too. I also came to learn, learn a new language and immerse into a new culture. In my time here I have almost mastered preschool Spanish and now spend much of my time immersed in the local culture.

People are the same everyplace, people want a better life for themselves and their children. Here in Panama the government gives little except jobs and they are usually political payoffs. People still need to survive on their own sweat and most do. People rely on family and friends more than government, I like that.

One commentator I enjoy reading is Fred Reed, he has a refreshing and often caustic view of the world from his perch in Mexico. I think this column of his reflects my view of the United States, one I do not wish to live in any more.

Perhaps it is the fact that I live in the wild west of Panama, not the urban center which is hours away by car, bus and culture. Cities are cities, many have flavor like San Francisco, Montreal or Buenos Aires some are just urban jungles like Panama City, but I did cities for ninety percent of my life. I relish the change of living in a small town in the boondocks.

Boquete is a point of transition for people who want to learn a language and a culture. Some of those who leave achieved that and move on to other parts of Latin America, others never can make the mental changes necessary and return to their point of origin. Each to their own, I like living here.

There is a lot of discussion in various online communities about retirement, there are companies like International Living and Live and Invest Overseas that earn their revenue convincing people to expatriate. I actually think they sell the wrong thing, they try to sell a lower cost of living as a primary justification. The real reason to move to a new country is different. The best reason to retire overseas is to take the opportunity to grow, to grow mentally, grow emotionally and grow culturally. If you just want to kick back and watch television and be a couch potato, Mississippi is a better and probably cheaper option. If you stretch your mind and your body to make real change in your life you might just find a happier person living in your body.

Carpe Diem, Seize the moment and use your third life as a chance to enhance your total life.


Comments

  1. Well put……

  2. Bjorn Sefeldt says:

    great comments Lee (as usual) I agree totally ,and Im very joelous, as Im still on the treadmill (and too old for it!)…..

  3. Well said. I second all of it. (And, I too enjoy Fredoneverything.)

  4. Life is so simple – if only we can see it. Living in a 3rd world country really opens our eyes to what is important in life.

  5. Mercedes says:

    What a beautiful reflection!

  6. Barbara Hunt Lescure says:

    Great article Lee:) Saludos!!!!!!!!

  7. Jerard N says:

    Would anyone care to share some information with me. I am looking for my retirement location. Boquete is high on my list but I have limited funds. Would it be better to locate closer to David? I also checked in Ecuador but the Risk level has risen in that Country. I keep coming back to Panama. I would love to just email chat with some one and just be able to ask questions. I want to find some one that has an honest opinion. Thank you, Jerard

  8. Jerard, David is cheaper but HOT. You need to take the time and visit. I am not sure about “threat” levels in Ecuador or who makes up those things but you should look there also. Ecuador is less expensive because of cheap oil, the question is whether that will continue in a post Chavez Venezuela.

  9. Jerard N says:

    Lee, Thank you. I actual looked Ecuador up on the National Security Risk sites. They are at High level on both the USA and the UK sites. That did not leave a good feeling with me. I wanted to get down to Puerto Lopez a quaint little fishing village that is just starting to grow. But the reports stated just flying into the big cities was very dangerous. I agree with the Cheap Oil comment. Of course I am use to USA pricing. there is nothing cheap here. How long have you been in Panama Lee? What are small home prices like there? Thanks for any feed back..

  10. Inspiring comments. I am looking to expat. Panama is on my mind. I am really in to horses and understand that the Chiriqui/Boquete area has an affinity. Are there active horse communities? I like to compete and would like to know of options (I currently do reining but realize this is not a Panama sport but am flexible). I hear Volcan has a good horse community but comments indicate that area is rather Boquete. (I hate cold) My concerns: how ‘cold’ does it get? Do you need coats? I am fine with light daily rains as I am originally from Hawaii. I have a HUGE problem with mosquitos as they love my blood type. So..how would you rate the bug residency? Also–I need very reliable access to internet. What are the options?
    I know these concerns sound miniscule compared to the gigantic problems in So. CA. But since this will be a retirement move for a US citizen with minimal retirement funds, its important to me.

    I appreciate any response and would love to correspond: not only for retirement location decisions but also for future friendships, as in my current location I tend to be isolated.

    Muchas gracias,
    Kathleen

  11. We will be in Boquete from 26 Jun to 7 July and would like to meet with as many expats as possible. We are considering moving to Boquete. Would also like to tour some of the accommodations available, both rental and purchase. Look forward to hearing from you. Edith and Fred Staton

  12. Cranberry Township, PA says:

    Edith and Fred Staton,
    My husband and I returned a few weeks ago from Boquete. We were in Panama for the IL fast track conference. Boquete was wonderful, and we immediately wanted to speak to every local expat and ask them about their experience. I cannot believe how wonderful the experience was. I suggest going to the sales office in Valle Escondido, wher you will meet John Mearsky, a pilot and a real-estate rep for Valle Escondido. He is a giant vault of knowledge, and so fun. He took us into other people’s homes. We could have spent two weeks just meeting Americans and Canadians. Also, we were driving slowly through a neighborhood and met a couple who asked if we needed “help”. The next thing we knew we were invited into their lovely home to hear all about their life there, their experience building their home, etc.

    The one thing you should know is that everyone there is VERY friendly, it is not just a slogan. Go to the Tuesday morning market day, this is a real get together of all the local expats and a great way to meet people. Ask a group to meet you for dinner at a restaurant, and I bet you’ll learn so much. I doubt you’ll hear much bad, either. The weather was perfect, and I think the most you’d need is a shawl or light sweater, ever.
    Jo Johnson

  13. Hi Jo,
    Thanks for the comments. You sound so very excited about Boquete that we can’t wait to get there. We had planned to go to the Tuesday morning market and it’s good to know that we’ll meet a lot of ex-pats there. Take care,
    Edith

  14. Hi Everyone,

    I am so glad I bumped into this forum! My wife and I have been thinking of visiting Boquete for a long time. Now that I have some really authentic inputs from you folks, we will make it soon this year. My plan is to join a Spanish Immersion course with Hablaya school for one or two weeks. My research shows that this is the best school in Panama. Any advise on this plan?

    Thank you all!

    Anand

  15. Habla Ya is without a doubt the best language school in Central America. It has Cervantes Certification, few others in the world have this distinction.

  16. Thank you, Lee! We will make a plan.

  17. Kathleen says:

    What is the best way to get from the Panama City airport to Boquete for a visit? I hear driving can be kinda rough for a newbie. Also heard you can take a flight to Boquete from an airport in the opposite end of Panama City. Is that advisable? Bus? Any type of shuttle for groups?
    Thanks all,
    Kathleen

  18. You can fly from Albrook Airport to David or take a bus from Albrook Bus station to David. From David you can use a bus, taxi or rent a car.

  19. Kathleen says:

    Thanks so much Lee for your quick reply. Is a car necessary for getting around Boquete and areas visitors would like to see? Or are taxis pretty reasonable? I heard rental car insurance can be quite pricey.

    Kathleen

  20. Thank you Lee for the great article. Have been to Panama City a few times, I think the next trip is to the Boquete. Looking for an early retirement location, and finding the US not working for the future. Look forward to more great posts from you. BTW, is it pretty spring-like all year in Boquete?

    Erin

  21. I am considering expating to Boquete, Panama. I will be bringing my parents as well. Their social security combined is $1100/mo and my military retirement/VA monthly income is $3400. From what I have read on the “Money” website and others regarding Boquete we should have more than enough with those incomes to live well. Do you agree? Where may I obtain more detailed necessary income information?

  22. hi
    we are looking into moving to Valle Escoindido but have 2 children aged 4 and 5. would you recommend it for children and how are the schools there?

  23. There is a very good private school in Boquete, called AID. I spent a couple of hours today with a family moving with three young children who are impressed with the school. Vale Escondido is a very safe secure environment for children.

  24. Boquete has two win season, winter with rain and summer without rain. check Boqueteweather.com for much more information

  25. Jodie Johansson says:

    Joanne,
    I don’t have young children but i wanted to know about the schools for possible volunteer possibilities. I found this posting from a lady with children, which I think would be very helpful to you. It covers 4 private elementary schools. She is very detailed, one school wlll not allow your kids to pack potato chips and is going “green”, etc. Also, check out The Springs subdivision. There are a few houses for sale, and it is also a gated community with expats, like Valle Escondido, which is lovely, but a little less “busy”, as it is set in a coffee plantation. It is perches high above the city and we just love it there.

    http://slaglesatlarge.blogspot.com/p/directory-boquete-schools.html

  26. cecil rawlings says:

    low cost of living for you but not for the locals,

  27. Jodie Johansson says:

    Cecil, are you concerned that an influx of ex-pats is ruining the life for the locals? It would seem that ex-pats bring in new opportunities for locals. For business, and education. I’m not sure if this is true, but I”ve found that a rising economy does indeed lift all boats. I, for one, have every intention of retiring in Boquete and volunteering for causes that improve the community for all of us. Do you think we are “ruining” Boquete by being there?

  28. I am now ten years beyond when I planned to retire and am working harder than I ever did. Time to stop! Boquete looks like the place to Slow down dramatically (although with decent Internet there is plenty I can still do). I need someone in the area to pint me in the right direction for further research.

  29. Dorothy says:

    Hi, is there any construction jobs there? My husband has worked in the field for 30years and has built and fixed houses his whole life. I have been working as a privet school teacher for 20 years. We would love to move there but would need a little income. We also have an aquaponics system that is massive and know how to teach and set up these systems.

  30. You need to be a Panamanian citizen or have a work permit to work in Panama. Construction jobs pay about $15 a day and it doubtful you could do one legally. You could buy a finca and do aquaponics and sell vegetables. You would need to have a Panamanian employee to do it legally.

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