“In Pedasí, Panama, we live a life we couldn’t have had back home,” say Connie and Mikkel Moller. “If we were in the U.S., we’d both be working, at least part-time, and constantly worrying.”After visiting for a few days in 2012, the Mollers fell in love with Pedasí. “We loved it. We fell for Pedasí. The people, the ambience…everything about it.”
Located five hours by car from Panama City (you can also fly; it’s just under an hour from Panama City in a tiny commercial plane), most days of the year are sunny. Average daytime temperatures are around 88 F, but evenings and mornings can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler, thanks to the ocean breezes.
“Since it’s a small town, everybody knows everybody. And everybody is friendly and helpful,” says Connie. Not just the locals, but the expats, too. From their first day, the Mollers were accepted and welcomed. People showed them around, helped them find a rental, and introduced them to other expats. Almost instantly, they were part of a tight-knit group they could count on for help or advice.
They rent a house right in the town center. Built in the local style, their home boasts a spacious terrace. It wraps from the front of the home to the back, where they have a small, exuberant garden. It is a deep jungle green, punctuated with slim coral-topped birds-of-paradise flowers. Here the Mollers grow all manner of good things, from aloe to papaya.
Living here, they no longer have to worry about a rising cost of living. “Our electric bill averages between $50 and $60—half of what it was in the U.S. Our water bill is $10 a month, down from $50. For trash collection we used to pay $17 a month…here we pay $14 a year!”
Their cell phone bill is about 25% of what it used to be. Their landline costs them just $14 a month. And they no longer shell out $80 every month for cable. In Pedasí, they opted for Netflix—$7.95 a month—over the local satellite plan. Their WiFi is $25 a month.
Rentals in Pedasí start at about $500 a month, though you can spend 50% less just 30 minutes away. “Our rent is about half what our house payment was in the U.S.,” they say. And cleaning ladies charge about $15 for a day’s work.
“The cost of healthcare is so low,” they add. They pay a few dollars to see the doctor at the centro de salud, a small, simple medical office. “The doctors are great and you don’t need an appointment.”
Once a month they drive to the hub of Chitre, about 45 minutes away, where large supermarkets are filled with familiar items from back home. Chitre also has shops, hospitals, and movie theaters…virtually anything they could want or need.
Though local buses are dirt cheap, they prefer the freedom of owning a car. “Our auto insurance is just $140 a year,” they say. Gas costs about the same as back home. “But we spend a third of what we used to. Here you can walk just about anywhere…even to the nearest beach, just over a mile away.”
Five miles off the coast of Pedasí, the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge boasts 9 kilometers of white sand beaches and one of the largest coral reefs in the Gulf of Panama. “We chose Pedasí for many reasons, but primarily because we love the ocean,” they add. “The beaches here tend to be uncrowded, unlike those in Southern California, where I grew up,” says Connie. On any given day, you may see a dozen people…or none at all. “The water is warm and usually clear. Hearing and seeing the endless ocean always revitalizes me,” she says.
“We are so blessed to live where we do,” say the Mollers. “Our stress level is like 10% of what it used to be.”
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