The Pleasures of Part-Time Life in Panama

When my husband, Gary, and I retired part-time to Panama it was to escape bleak Canadian winters. We spend the summer months in Canada and when the first snows come, we fly south.

Panama, with its magnificent beaches and warm climate offers daily sunshine…inexpensive living…and leisurely hours just sitting on our terrace watching the iguanas and the birds.

If we want to venture forth we can hop in our car and tour the countryside, walk near the village of Cerro Punta in the high country, browse the marvellous and modern library in Boquete, or attend the delightful flea market near Dolega.

Each year there is an annual Blues and Jazz Festival in Boquete, and a huge fair in the provincial capital of David. We are never short of things to do.

We bought a house between David and Boquete, which we love, and we happily entertain visitors from Canada as well as our new friends here. We love the people in Panama, the climate, the scenery, the flora and fauna, and the prices…

At the grocery store you can buy a bottle of wine for $3.87…a loaf of bread for 92 cents…and a whole chicken for $2.73. A couple can easily feed themselves for $400 a month. That leaves plenty for recreation and entertainment….a cup of coffee will set you back just $2, a meal out for two can be enjoyed for around $20.

Plus, we have the added benefit of being pensioners. We’re on Panama’s Pensionado Program, which entitles us to terrific discounts on a range of goods and services—anywhere from 10% to 50% on domestic flights, hotel rooms, insurance, entertainment, restaurant meals, pharmaceuticals, and water and electricity bills. For people like us on a low, fixed-pension income, it’s invaluable.

Panama has also offered me an opportunity to make some extra money and fulfil a lifelong dream. I have always longed to write. But then, “life got in the way.” Now, after marriage, children, and 30 years of being a bookkeeper, I have something to write about…my enthusiasm for Panama.

I have interviewed countless interesting people here—many of them expat entrepreneurs, like Michael Drouillard who teaches English in the beach town of Coronado, Brittany DeVries, a filmmaker in Panama City, Linda and Hellmut Pedersen who own a mini storage near Dolega, close to the Chiriqui highlands, and Gerry Dowden, a radio host in Panama City.

As a writer, I discovered there is nothing to compare to the thrill of seeing your first article in print, complete with byline…not to mention that first check in your hand, no matter how small.

I write as little or as much as I choose, depending on how much time I wish to spend exploring, soaking up the sun, or gardening.

And that’s not the only income opportunity in Panama. I am now taking a TESOL course and aim to try a bit of teaching English. Having opened its borders to retirees and business people from around the world, Panama is focusing strongly on education and folks are keen to learn it.

Gary and I are immeasurably grateful that we chose this lifestyle and that we chose Panama as our retirement home. It is a pleasant, easy-going time in our lives that allows me to write, or to spend long days reading, painting, and enjoying our lush garden.

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