Wow, after 2 1/2 years living as an expat in Panamá, my wife and I still love our life here and as time passes the love just gets greater.
It took a while to adjust. You know all the cliché’s: ‘new culture, different language, unfamiliar surroundings’, in short, nothing that you are familiar with or used to. Everything is different, requiring lots of adjusting, but in the end you begin to realize and appreciate the benefits, the uniqueness of it all and the beauty of living in a tropical paradise.
The weather in Panamá is one giant benefit and completely unexpected. We live in the beach zone on the Pacific side, which is also called the Arco Seco, or the dry arc, which means this zone receives much less precipitation that the rest of the country. Not to say that it does not get plenty wet during the rainy season but to a much lesser degree than elsewhere. Additionally, the country takes a sharp turn to the east below Costa Rica and therefore runs west to east rather than north to south like the rest of Latin America.
Its shape is very narrow, wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic. All of which causes a steady and cooling cross breeze, keeping the moisture and heat down. Having spent time in Costa Rica, for example, the weather patterns in Panamá are very different and much more agreeable than that of its neighbors. The best part of it all? It never gets cold here.
Other surprises that have given us great joy is the unspoiled and relatively undiscovered and definitely underutilized nature spots all over this country. You would think these incredibly rich and beautiful natural places would attract tourism like crazy, but so far it hasn’t. We are constantly surprised at how completely quiet and undisturbed some of these natural treasures are.
To give you just one example of many, when my oldest daughter was visiting I took her to one of those places. It was an old Spanish Fort located on the Caribbean side, only an hour from Panama City and two hours from where we live. We drove through some incredibly beautiful country, crossed the canal nearby one of the locks, then into a pure wilderness for miles. We never saw another human being other than a guard at the entrance of this protected National Heritage site who was collecting a small fee to enter the park. After a long drive through the park we ended up at the ancient abandoned fort, built a few centuries ago to protect the gold and silver being transported from here by the Spanish galleons headed for Spain. The fort is still very much intact with all the guns still pointing toward the sea and the mouth of the Chagres river. On the way there we heard and saw howler monkeys and at the end of the road next to the fort we ran into a large troupe of female cappuccine monkeys, each carrying a baby on its back, all feeding on the very abundant and ripe mangoes, completely ignoring us right below them under the heavily mango laden branches. We literally found ourselves in the middle of a primate nursery. It was so magical and having spent a few hours there and having seen only one person the whole time is amazing. This is what I mean by undiscovered and unspoiled- pure nature and so close and reachable. It takes one’s breath away. The best part is there are many, many places just like this in many areas of the country. You just have to learn to find them because most of them are unknown and undiscovered.
Another thing that makes living here so pleasant is being able to live so close to beautiful beaches and yet close to a large metropolitan city where everything is available and only takes a little over an hour to reach. Very few lush and warm tropical places around the world are as affordable as they are here in Panamá. A comparable living style almost anywhere else would cost many times of what it costs here. I find that to be another great and unexpected treasure.
And finally, the people- both the local population as well as the many, many transplants from different countries around the world whom we have met, and some have gotten very close, all make for a very rewarding and most agreeable life that I would not trade for anything. Like I said earlier, the longer we are here the more we like and appreciate what we’ve got, and the love affair just keeps on getting better.