Options and Choices — Expats have More

image of crossroadsOur goal in moving to Panama was to live within our income following the big financial meltdown in the US. We’ve met that goal easily – and so much more!

Life is all about options and choices – that’s true whether you’re an expat or not. But by embracing the options available to us as US expats in Panama, we found much more than just financial benefits.

I believe that widening your options by choosing to live outside your home country is a smart thing to do.

Choosing to live in a new country – embracing those additional options – is not always easy. Sadly, one of the things that makes it more difficult than it needs to be is the attitude of (mostly) well meaning friends and family back home.

My mother-in-law accused me of being upatriotic after we announced our decision to move abroad.

A reaction we frequently heard was, “Of course, I want what’s best for you and if that’s what you think you need to do it’s ok. I just want you to be happy.” This sentiment was invariably accompanied by a total lack of comprehension.

The unspoken subtext was, “Personally, I think you’re absolutely nuts.”

We’ve been in Panama a little over two years now – since March, 2012. During that time we’ve had fun and frustration, joy and sorrow, and all the normal events, feelings and emotions that are part of life.

  • We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, job changes, and other life milestones
  • We’ve mourned the death of our oldest dog
  • We’ve made new friends
  • We’ve learned (a little) more Spanish
  • We’ve become less stressed – a lot less stressed in my case

We’ve actually seen more of our grown children since moving to Panama than we did while we were still in Florida. That’s because we now have some discretionary funds we use for travel – when we were still in the US, we were struggling to pay the bills with nothing left over.

Back in the US of A

We’ve been back in the US for the past month.

First, we had three important family graduations. Our youngest son and daughter each graduated from college, one in Rochester, NY and the other near Boston, MA. Our granddaughter also graduated from high school.

We visited with my elderly uncle, who’s been in a full-time care facility for the past year and a half.

We got to visit with all of our kids – even the son in LA, who flew East for a quick visit.

We saw some friends we don’t get to see often enough.

We stopped off in Virginia to visit with my sister and her husband, and spend some time with their kids and grandkids. I was especially happy to see my niece, who’s a chiropractor. (That’s one thing we don’t have enough of in Panama!) I was much better adjusted when we left there.

We spent some time with my husband’s family in the Atlanta area.

So far – and we’re not done yet – we’ve added more than 5,000 miles to the rental car’s odometer.

Back when we lived in FL, we would never have been able to take a trip like this! We can do it now because:

  • Our cost of living is so much lower in Las Tablas, Panama
  • We found a terrific housesitter through the TrustedHousesitters.com [aff] website who’s taking great care of our dogs while we’re away. She gets a place to stay, and we get our house and pets looked after. It’s a big win for all of us.
  • Living abroad has changed our thinking about what’s important

Studies of elderly people near the end of their lives indicate three main areas where they wished they’d done things differently. They wish they had:

  1. Not worked so much and spent more time with important people in their lives
  2. Taken more risks
  3. Been truer to themselves and not let others dictate their life choices

Moving abroad strikes me as a wonderful way to learn these same lessons, while you still have time to do something about them!

Remember, it’s all about choices and options.

All sorts of people choose to live the expat life. In Las Tablas, we’ve met people who

  1. Live in Panama full time
  2. Come to Panama during the winter months from the US and Canada
  3. Pass through as part of a full-time traveling lifestyle

We’ve been full-time expats for a while now, and we’re seriously considering switching things around to do the snowbird thing. (That’s one of the reasons for our extended time in the US right now.) My husband has an opportunity to invest and work with his brother for a while, and if we can make the numbers work, we may spend part of our year near Atlanta.

The jury’s still very much out, but I’ll keep you posted.

Remember, it’s all about options. . .


  1. Mike Carlson says:

    Great article! After USA adult living for over 24 years, me and wife will be more than pleased with a change from all that’s “required” of you from living in the states; work drones to feed inneffective government long term, excess, chaotic politics, hypocrisy, insurance and consumerism, hidden corruption. Every day seems like Groundhog Day; time/ready for a drastic change for our sake in six years!

    Anxious, and Panama’s interior Las Tablas or Chitre might best be the place to first arrive and begin to assimilate locally……stay away from Americanism. Years and decades of exposure to that USA crap is enough! Getting fed up here.

    USA, nice place to visit………but wouldn’t wanna’ live there.


  2. Mike Carlson says:


    In the area of Las Tablas and Chitre’ there, what kinds of health care insurance is there available locally for expat’s? Would you be reasonably comfortable recommending the local plan for a reasonably healthy younger retired couple? What’s been your experiences with insurance (basically discount programs) and health care in your area please?

    Las Tablas seems like a great place to arrive and spread one’s wings anyway. Chitre’ and Pedasi are closeby for a bunch more, or a bit les respectively.

  3. Mike Carlson says:

    It might be a nice living in to spend 1/2 our times in some lower(elev.) Los Santos, Herrera or Cocle’ Province towns, the other 1/2 in El Valle Escondido or Boquete…….as the two seasons come and go there in Panama.

  4. Linda Smalley says:

    Be careful when deciding to move to Panama. Remember it is a 3rd world country where bribery and corruption occur at the highest as well as the lowest levels. If you get into trouble, even if you are innocent, the American Embassy there will not help you. They basically say that you are on your own. This is not a random rant. I am currently working very hard to get an American citizen out of prison. He is there because officials were bribed so that a Panamanian can steal his property. If you ignore this, it is possible that the next property he wants if yours and you will be on your own.

    • FutureExpat says:

      Linda, I’m so sorry to hear about the American who’s having these problems.

      That said, though, there are unscrupulous people and corrupt officials everywhere, even back in the good old US of A. People are imprisoned unjustly here, too. Most expats in Panama live well and these kinds of issues are the exception, not the rule — as (I hope!) they are in the US.

  5. Help. we are thinking of making the BIG move to panama October 2017. where do we begin ? helppppppppppppppppppppppp

    thank you much

    • FutureExpat says:

      Hi Lili,

      Congratulations on your decision! It’s a big step, and there’s no simple answer because I don’t know your circumstances. All I can do is share what we did to make our move happen back in 2012, and make one suggestion.

      I suggest you start with the COUNTDOWN series of articles. Since they’re shown with the most recent one first, scroll down until you find the first one, titled, “Countdown! Less than 90 Days to Becoming Expats.” Then read the articles in reverse order until you get to our arrival in Panama.

      After that, check out the articles about finding a house to rent.

      The other thing you can do is to check out this resource which I highly recommend. I used it myself, and it was really helpful, even though we were well into our process when it was published.

      Best of luck to you!

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