Three months ago today, we arrived in Boquete and began our new lives as Panamanian expats – and we’ve never looked back. These have been the most rewarding, interesting, and stimulating months of our lives, and that includes our three years of sailing travel. Already, we have made friendships and memories that we will always treasure.
Our three-month milestone seems like a good time to stop and reflect. We’re feeling philosophical because things have been a little rocky for the community lately. In addition to the untimely deaths of three beloved citizens, there have been some break-ins and robberies that have made everyone take a closer look at security issues. At the moment, many Boqueteñas (including locals) are grieving and a bit on edge.
OK, time for some perspective. A few months before we moved here, there was a home invasion two blocks from our house in Long Beach, Calif., in a very safe neighborhood. The elderly couple was tied with electrical cord and pistol-whipped, and the bastards took everything of value. Across town in Long Beach, a newborn baby was kidnapped from her parents’ home and, horribly, her little body was found in a dumpster a week later. My point? There are evil people everywhere, and you don’t have to leave your safe U.S. neighborhood to become a crime victim.
John and I refuse to be ruled by fear, and always choosing the safe, easy, convenient road frankly sounds pretty boring to us. There are those who would like to blow the Boquete incidents out of proportion, but Panama is no different from every other country (the U.S. included) where there’s a wide gap between rich and poor. Honestly, we feel safer living here than we did in crazy So-Cal. It’s all about common sense and being aware of your surroundings and personal security at all times. No more and no less than we’d do, anywhere else.
In a country where the average monthly salary is a few hundred dollars, to many Panamanians we must seem fabulously wealthy. Let me assure you that we’re anything but. In fact, one of the many reasons for this move is our concern that we won’t be able to afford healthcare and retirement in the U.S. All of this has added another dimension to our decision to become world travelers and global citizens. How do we become positive forces in our new community and earn the respect and friendship of our Panamanian hermanos y hermanas? It’s a pregunta grande (big question) that I think expats all over the world deal with, and we’re a long way from having the answer.
“So, John and Susan,” you might ask, “would you move to Panama over again, knowing what you know now?” IN A HEARTBEAT. The spectacular scenery, vibrant culture, and wonderful, generous people remind us every day how lucky we are to have landed in this little slice of paradise. Here’s a photo recap of our first three months that shows, better than words ever could, why we love it here.