Pedasí Feels Like Small-Town America 50 Years Ago

For my wife, Abbe, and me, our lives here in Pedasí, a small town on Panama’s Pacific coast, are a far cry from the hectic existence we lived back in the U.S. In Florida, we lived our entire lives in busy suburbs where we had to drive to everything. Now we walk to restaurants, grocery stores, and the town square.

At least three days a week, we take our rescue dogs, Riley and Sophie, to one of the nearby beaches for a nice, long early morning walk. We prefer early mornings with a beautiful sunrise, cool clean breezes, and a low tide to reveal some of the rugged, multicolored rock formations. Often, we have the beach all to ourselves. During our walk, we plan horseback rides, day trips, playing bingo or cards, or dinner with friends at a nice restaurant.

In many ways, Pedasí reminds me of small-town America 50 years ago. Everyone here is so friendly. Walking home in the dark after a nice meal often means walking by a group of teenagers. On a dark street in a U.S. city, that might be scary. Not so in Pedasí. The teens just greet you with “buenas noches” (good evening). Some friends of ours told me stories of their cars breaking down and, within minutes, someone stopped and gave them help.

Pedasí provides a relaxed setting for our retirement. Unspoiled, dark brown beaches are coupled with often stunning rock formations and warm Pacific waters. It rarely rains all day, and many of us like that the clouds push the temperatures down into the low 80s F, filtering out the bright sun.

The cost of living is another big plus for us. We can eat lunch out for $3 to $7 each and dinner for $6 to $12 each. A nice dinner in Naples, Florida averaged $17 to $25 a person (in Pedasí, it’s $8 to $12) and a bottle of nice wine was $35 or more (just $20 here in Pedasi). A beer is $1 to $2 a bottle, our car insurance is just $600 for the year, and we have a housekeeper for just $15 for a half day. I have two different gardeners and several handymen who help me with our home for $5 an hour.

Our healthcare needs are satisfied through a new clinic on the edge of town. Abbe spent $2 to see the doctor for a nasty knife cut on her finger and $2 for two stitches. She had to get an antibiotic, too, which set her back just $8 with our Pensionado discount. On New Year’s Day, she went to the local public hospital, 25 miles away, because she fell off a horse. The ER visit with doctor consultation, digital X-ray, pain medication, and a cast was only $2. A follow-up visit with the orthopedic surgeon was also $2. Doctors here give you their business card with their cellphone number and ask you to call or text them with any questions.

Things have slowed as we settle into our new home and community, and we are relaxing and spending more time in our hammock. Stress is slipping away and I have even lost a few pounds. A recent doctor’s visit to review my lab work resulted in reducing three medications. We are eating good local produce and cooking healthy meals, with leaner meats and more fresh fish caught daily just off our beaches.

When Abbe and I decided to move to Panama, our family and friends thought we were crazy. But while they’re still caught in their daily grind, we’re here. Maybe we’re not so crazy, after all.

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