We’ve told a lot of people about our upcoming move to Panama and invariably get the same or similar questions. So here, in no particular order, are the most Frequently Asked Questions and our answers. Most of these will get their own posts with more info later.
Why are you moving to Panama?
For John and me, travel is the salt of life. New experiences broaden our minds and help us appreciate all of people’s wonderful differences as well as the same-nesses we all share. And besides, travel’s fun! Panama will be the perfect base of operations for us to plan future adventures.
Mark Twain pretty much sums it up for us in Innocents Abroad:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
There’s also a large financial motivator. If we stay in the U.S. (especially in SoCal), John will have to work several more years for us to afford the lifestyle. In Panama, where the cost of living is so much lower, he’s able to retire at 59. We have friends who are living comfortably there on Social Security alone.
When and how did you decide to do this?
We’ve been talking about retiring outside the country for years, but the real catalyst was the two months we spent in Panama aboard our sailboat in 2004. There’s lots more to tell about that adventure (stay tuned!) but we fell in love with the wonderful people, breathtaking scenery, and lively culture of Panama. Since that initial voyage, we’ve made two other trips back (most recently, a year ago) to seal the deal.
Are you both retiring?
Nope, just John for now. I’m fortunate enough to have work I can do from anywhere as long as there’s Wi-Fi. I’ll keep at it for a few more years, at least until John’s eligible for Social Security (he’s promised to peel me grapes and give me regular foot massages!).
What about The Girls?
If you know us, you know that our pups, Maggie and Rosie, are our kids – so of course they’re coming with us! It’s one of the more complex aspects of this move, so stay tuned for more info about the ins and outs of taking animals to Panama and how our experience pans out.
What about healthcare?
This is a biggee and it’s usually one of the first things people ask. The short answer: healthcare in Panama is MUCH more affordable and generally on a quality par with the U.S. – in fact, many of the doctors speak English and have U.S. training. I could go on a very large rant here about the cost (and general state) of healthcare in the U.S. but I’ll save that for later. Let’s just say that by moving to Panama, we’ll be worrying much less about having to drain our life savings to pay medical bills.
Are you giving up your U.S. citizenship?
Heck, no! But we will apply for Panamanian residency visas as soon as we’re eligible. Panama offers a “pensionado” visa with a wealth of incentives and benefits for expats. Applying for and getting that visa will be a big blog topic in the future.
Where, exactly, will you live in Panama? Will you buy a house?
For the first two months we’re renting an apartment in beautiful Boquete town in the coffee highlands of Chiriqui Province. This will give us time to look for a longer-term rental and figure out where we want to settle. Buying a home in Panama is probably not in the cards, but who knows what the future might bring!
What about your “stuff?”
It AIN’T coming with us! When we get on that redeye flight from LAX to Panama City on April 29, we will have two big dog crates and eight or so pieces of checked luggage – and that’s it. Years of living and traveling on a sailboat changed our attitude about “stuff” and showed us just how little we need in order to live well. We’ll have a couple of garage sales and sell all of our furniture. Of course, we do have a few keepsakes that we can’t bring and we’re working out just how and where we’ll store those.
Will you learn Spanish?
Yes, this is going to be one of our top priorities once we’re settled. We did pick up a bit of Spanish while cruising in Mexico and Central America, but knowing the Spanish words for all the parts of a marine diesel engine probably isn’t going to serve us in the long run!