01c4d0d24a6038bde0330dacd72e35458a886f9821 Three-Month Reality Check Boquete The Expat Life
Sweet Boquete town

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.


  1. Ann Skylstad Reply

    Loved this. Thank you. Look forward to the next entry.
    We admire you for making this huge change.

  2. Thank you my dear new friend for sharing this lovely perspective of your experience here with us so far! Boy do we have a lot to look forward to, lots more memories to make and experiences to share! And, sigh, I gotta tell ya, I really needed that reality check about this bit of crime spree we’ve been experiencing lately. Your words of wisdom gave me a much needed burst of ‘Ya!”, that’s so true! Again…thanks! I’m so glad your here! Life is better when people like you are nearby!

  3. Great post on reflections of the last 3 months. Yes, everyone needs to put things into perspective and find what works for them. Being able to enjoy the beauty of the culture and countryside is wonderful. Looking at your photos, you both look to have really settled in and are becoming a part of the community. My condolences on the lost lives 3 residents, RIP. Looking forward to your next post, take care! 🙂

  4. This is such a wonderful posting. You are two special people living in a very special place. You deserve each other!

  5. Bond McCamy Reply

    Great post – stuff happens everywhere, everyday – it’s part of the human condition. And I couldn’t agree more that for Luana and I, Boquete is the place to be. Also more on Maggie Mae, the orphaned howler monkey: after fostering her for eight months, her caretaker, Raquel Frame, has placed Maggie into a howler troop at a research facility here in Chiriqui called Aloutta Lodge. She will be in a supervised group of juvenile howlers for a few more months, receiving some food, safe shelter during the night hours and any other care that’s needed. After that she will be released into the large troop that lives on the 800 acre preserve and probably go on to live the howler monkey dream in the trees. A great outcome for an orphaned wild animal, I think, although we will miss Maggie climbing our curtains and browsing for food at our breakfast table! Bond

  6. John and Susan, I am so sorry to hear of the deaths of your friends in Boquete. However, your perspective of the good life and common sense are the keys to happiness. It’s comforting to know that fear does not rule our lives. I can’t imagine living in fear and anger all the time.

    I really enjoyed your photos and we hope to make it down to Boquete again. We’ve been there two times and neither time did we know a soul. But, now…we have our blogging friends, you, Holly and Scott, Kris and Joel ( from David), and another young couple living outside of Boquete. It will feel like a homecoming when we come to visit again. 🙂

  7. Hola amigos! We had the same feeling when we traveled Central America in January. Everyone asked “aren’t/weren’t you scared?” Like you said, just exercise common sense and the same level of security you would anywhere else! Sheesh :).
    Your pictures are motivating to us. Can’t wait to meet you when we make the big move (and maybe when we’re down in November!). Once again, great post – always look forward to your entries!

  8. John & Susan, sometimes Kris has posts titled “the cost of living in Panama.” I think the last one she did was in November 2014 and they’re more than helpful in figuring out a budget… do you think you guys could be talked into doing a post like that soon? 🙂

    • Thanks so much Rebecca. We look forward to meeting you as well.
      When you firm up your dates in November let us know.
      We do plan on doing a post on our cost of living here. The first couple of months we have had larger than normal cost with settling here ( buying a car, Health care coverage, small house goods, etc) so, we want to wait till after we have been here over 6 months.

  9. Thanks for the posting. We will be visiting Boquete 8/31 through 9/7. We hope to meet you when we visit. We are aiming at moving over from Maui by March of next year.

  10. I for one think you TOTALLY made the right move and view the recent challenges in your adopted community from the correct perspective. Happy 3 month anniversary. Looking forward to more from your first year.

  11. Suzy Slaby Reply

    Thrilled to have found your blog. We’re in the throws of making the “big decision” to move to Panama but don’t know where. We’re beach people but I hear the humidly is very high and I have breathing problems. Also have other health issue and need to be where Dr.s are accessible. Your adventure sounds terrific and would love to get any other info you might to offer.
    Suzy & Jim


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