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Making a Life in Panama

By Amanda Sides in Coronado

When we arrived in Panama six months ago, we had no intention of staying. We came to visit my boyfriend’s father, who had retired here last year. Hot off the South American adventure trail after 18 months in Argentina, we figured we’d stop off here before heading down to Colombia.

But you see where this is going.  And if you’ve been to Panama, or if you’ve researched it or even talked to someone who lives here, you probably understand exactly why. Yes, we decided to stay. For us, this was a fairly easy decision, but still not one we took lightly. The people we met, although mostly older than us, were all fantastic, and of course we have family here. But, we wondered, can we make a go of things professionally, or can we at least find enough to do to stay afloat?

This place is ripe for entrepreneurs, and one of the biggest reasons is that it’s full of people who’ve done a lifetime of work and don’t want to anymore! They’re creating a need for goods and services that isn’t always being met. That’s why there is so much room for young ex-pats to come in, identify a need, and fill it.

My boyfriend and I both have professional skills, but we weren’t sure if we would be able to put them to use here. Turns out, we can and have, and we’re doing a lot of things we didn’t even expect to do. When someone needs help with something, we just say, “Sure, we will,” and see how it goes. In this way, we’ve met a lot of people and we’re keeping really, really busy.

We don’t have any children, but it’s obvious that this is a great place to raise a family. There are lots of great houses, and condo towers often cater to kids with special play areas and, of course, big pools.  Kids have the opportunity to learn a second language (when it still comes easy!), experience another culture, try activities like surfing and horseback riding, and attend excellent schools like the Panama Coast International School. One of the students there, Trent Bayliss, wrote a great story about how he’s been spending his summer vacation.

Thanks to the jubilado visa and accompanying discounts, Panama has a great reputation with retirees — but the truth is, it’s also a great place for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Groups like Young Expats in Panama have popped up in the city to give us a chance to connect with each other, and we’ve met more and more people “our age” (30-40) and younger out here on the beach, as well.

Why wait for retirement? Your life is happening now! There’s a place for you here, and a community who will welcome you and your family and your ideas with open arms.

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