Moving to Panama was “a bit of an adventure” for expat James Bloomfield. “When I first moved to the capital, I was out exploring nearly every weekend,” he says.
He fell for the coastal area of Pedasi, just 200 miles west of Panama City. It’s a region of pristine, uncrowded beaches and abundant waters just teeming in tuna, wahoo, dorado, and more.
James fell even harder for the lush crater valley known simply as El Valle, about a two-hour drive from the capital. “It’s a really lovely place if you like peace and quiet…it feels very secluded and is heartbreakingly beautiful,” he says.
James had been searching for opportunities in up-and-coming countries and a warm climate. “And I just decided to chance it in Panama,” he says. “I planned to stay for three months and then go back. But I liked it…so I extended my stay to six months, then nine. Now I’ve been here four-and-a-half years.”
James is most enthusiastic about Panama’s culinary offerings, like the fresh fish, clams, and just-made ceviche he gets at the city’s popular fish market. “There are multiple ceviche stalls. At the best place we’ll wait in line for 15 minutes or longer, but it’s worth it. It’s about $2 to $4 for a serving, depending on the type of ceviche. I always go for a mix of white fish, octopus, and olives.
“The restaurant scene has really picked up. We walk a lot and find stuff that way. Although the metro is a godsend for us, as well…it’s incredibly easy to use,” he says. “The quality of events like free screenings, pop-up markets, and exhibits—just keeps going up.”
Panama’s warm, tropical climate was a big plus for James, who runs design studio Mezclao, with his girlfriend. An avid photographer, he says the many sunny days translate to more time during which he can shoot outside.
He came to Panama expecting to find many niches to fill…and he wasn’t disappointed.
Starting a business here has been relatively easy, compared to the kind of red tape and expenses he would have faced back home.
“For the past two years my main source of income has been the studio. I use my marketing skills and my girlfriend is a trained architect and an artist. We handle design projects for companies like Nike and Peugeot here in Panama. We’ve developed a nice little portfolio even though the studio is still in its infancy.”
James says his expenses are low. Rent for living and studio space—in Panama City’s central and coveted Marbella sector—costs him $1,200 a month. “Our bills are low. Water is included in our rent. We pay $100 a year or less for gas for cooking, $30 to $100 a month for power, and about $75 for cable and internet.
“I would say that we spend $500 to $600 a month on supermarket items,” he says, adding that he often shops at upscale grocery stores like Foodie and Riba Smith. They’re great places to find fancy imported items, organic produce, and just about anything else you could need or want.
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