It must be the best view in Panama…green hills that inspire artistic tendencies in even the most mundane-minded. Rainbow-rows of flowers line neat footpaths and dress up the little cottages that hide behind them. This is Boquete.
Richard Detrich, who has lived in this area for more than five years, says he and his wife, Nikki, got healthier just by moving here. The aesthetic appeal may have helped, he says, but there is so much more to it…
“In Boquete, we have what might be the world’s most perfect climate,” he says. “Lows are around 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning…and afternoon temperatures rarely reach 80. The misty rain called bajareque keeps everything green and makes it a cinch to grow just about anything.”
Richard says his produce is all locally grown. Locavores will tell you that food grown or produced locally is more nutritious and tastes better. If that’s true, then Richard has it made. “We get everything fresh daily at the farmer’s market from the farmer who picked it in the morning,” he says. And it’s affordable, too: “We buy ahi-grade tuna, freshly caught, for $3 a pound (back home we paid $30), and large shrimp for $6 a pound.”
Richard and Nikki moved to Boquete when he was 62 and she was 57. “Before that we lived in California…one of the most expensive states in the U.S.,” says Richard. Life on the “gold coast” in California’s Ventura/Santa Barbara area was good, but it was also hectic, stress-filled and expensive.
Richard says he enjoys a much better quality of life in Boquete. Family values are deeply ingrained in his new community. Parents walk their kids to and from school, and families spend Sundays together. “It’s a lot like the U.S. was back in the 1950s, when I was a kid. As they say around here, life is tranquilo…peaceful.”
He also has more friends than ever…in fact, his children can’t believe how social he has become. “And you can see the stars at night,” he says. “There really is a Milky Way, folks, and it is bright and sparkly.” His kids love to visit because Richard’s new home is close to some of the world’s best beaches. The turquoise-ringed islands of the Panama Caribbean and the powdery sands of the Pacific coast are close enough for day tripping.
Richard’s home offers lush valley views near a crystal-blue brook. It also overlooks the 9th hole and 7th fairway in Valle Escondido, the area’s top gated community. In addition to the 9-hole golf course, the community houses a state-of-the-art spa and health club. Here, Richard and Nikki have access to high-speed Internet, satellite television, gourmet food…all the comforts of home, but at a fraction of the price.
When they first moved to Boquete, their cost of living was 30% of what it had been in California. Since Panama’s currency is the U.S. dollar, the cost of living has increased as the dollar has devalued and the price of oil has soared. “Even so,” says Richard, “our cost of living is still just 40% of what it used to be…and remember, cost of living in the U.S. has gone up, too.”
“But a low cost of living isn’t our reason for staying,” he says. “Again, it’s the quality of life we have here. The benefits are many.” Like the fact that there’s little more than petty theft in the way of crime. “Violent crime and gangs are practically unheard of,” he says.
And though Richard’s life is more relaxing than ever, he doesn’t live “like a retiree,” as he puts it. “We’ve kept busy. Since moving here we have purchased a tiny place on the Pacific coast and—our latest venture—a small coffee farm.” Richard and his wife have both developed new interests. She joined a community theater group and helps out at a hospice and at local spay/neuter clinics. Richard is an avid writer, real estate professional, and cruise-ship lecturer.
“Both my wife and I had high blood pressure in the States. After we moved to Boquete, both of our blood pressures dropped at least 20 points…without our changing any of our eating or exercise habits.” Just living the good life in Boquete seems to have made all the difference.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to make a similar change to your life, don’t worry—it’s never been easier to retire overseas. Find out more here.