Lush, tropical jungle rings the Panamanian island where Laura Kay has lived for nine years. She has dozens upon dozens of white-sand beaches to choose from.
Laura lives the simple life of a yoga instructor…in spectacular surroundings in Bocas del Toro, Panama. The Caribbean province is best known for the hundreds of islands that dot the waters just off the mainland.
Laura’s home is near the water, just a short walk to restaurants and bars. The ocean is warm and ranges in color from turquoise and clear jade to a brilliant sapphire blue. “Formal wear” for her means a pair of shorts. “That’s when I’m teaching my yoga classes. Otherwise I live in a bikini and sarong,” she says.
“I don’t own a car here—not even a bike. I don’t worry about car insurance and all that stuff. I work where I live, so I have no commute. I just walk downstairs, teach my yoga, and then walk back upstairs.”
Laura travels to Panama City now and again to stock up on beauty and health supplies, but in Bocas, she has discovered local “super foods” and organic products that she is thrilled about.
“Panamanian coffee is great, but I had a 30-year coffee addiction and I kicked it by switching to cacao, which is rich in antioxidants,” she says.
She cooks with organic coconut oil, which is cheap and readily available. Once a week, organic produce from the mainland is sold at the Super Gourmet shop near her home.
“I spend $70 to $80 a week on food,” she says. “You can eat for cheaper than that, but I am vegan so I buy organic greens and more expensive stuff,” says Laura. “I’ll have a housekeeper come every two weeks. I pay her $5 an hour. I own my home, and in total my monthly expenses are probably around $500 to $600 a month.”
“I make enough to eat and once a year I travel, and I am happy,” she says. “When I’m not teaching, I just nurture myself. I eat really well, take naps, and read on the beach. I love the islands. They’re all beautiful and diverse.”
It couldn’t be more different from where she grew up, in Washington, D.C. Or for that matter, from the desert climate of Tucson, where she lived for eight years.
“I was raised in the consumer-driven society of the States and was caught up in it. In D.C. there was a lot of traffic and people wore designer clothes. You were expected to be a lawyer or politician or something,” she says.
“Tucson was more mellow, but it was still very consumer-driven. I lived in a Hispanic neighborhood for the first time, though, and really liked it. That’s when I started thinking about Panama.”
The 46-year-old planned a vacation and soon decided to buy a retirement property. “But then I thought, why wait another 30 years to enjoy it? So I decided to just do it, just move. It was a little reckless, but I am glad I did. There were challenges along the way, but I’m so happy now.”
“I am so spoiled to be living here. The beaches go on forever. You can walk a mile and have no one around. It’s not like Miami or any place where there are tourists all over, bumping into you and blasting radios. Some people do come here to party, and that’s fine. But if you want privacy, that’s available, as well. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
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