Three Reasons We Love Our Friendly Small-Town Life in Panama

My wife, Abbe, and I moved to Pedasí, Panama, full time in the Fall of 2016. We had been coming to the village for three years and purchased a small house in mid-2015. We love our new home and here are some fundamental reasons why.

1. Beautiful, empty beaches with clean, fresh air are the first. We lived near the water in the United States most of our lives and in Pedasí we are only five minutes from the ocean. In the U.S., the beaches were always crowded, had limited parking, and you could not bring your dog. Surfing, wind surfing, boogie boarding, fishing, and long walks on quiet beaches with family, friends, and your pets are popular here in Panama. Parking is never a problem, as you may be the only car. Several beaches have nice shade trees under which you can place your beach chairs. There are no boardwalks, vendors, gift shops, or cooler police…and only one beach bar—where beers cost just $1. Near the coast, there is always a cool breeze and the air feels and smells fresh.

2. Pedasí offers a small-town country feel, with improved quality of life and plenty of things to do. In many ways, it reminds me of a small American town in the 1960s. It’s a fishing village of 2,000 people—with about 200 expats—and has a colorfully painted downtown. Large cattle ranches and corn and hay fields surround the village. Cowboys are often seen riding their horses.

In the U.S., we lived in busy suburbs where we had to drive to everything. Now we walk to restaurants, grocery stores, and the town square. There are several expat families with younger children and they all cherish the quality family time they have and the experiences gained by their children. Folks spend much of their time outside and that means they can have a smaller home with less utility costs than in the U.S. Hammocks are common and symbolize a relaxed, casual lifestyle. People eat more fresh meat, vegetables, and fruits, and less processed or junk foods.

3. Everyone here is so friendly…both locals and expats. Walking home after a nice meal often means walking by a group of teenagers. In a U.S. city on a dark street this may create anxiety or a sense of fear. Not so in Pedasí as the teens just greet you with “buenas tardes” (good afternoon). On several occasions at a local store, I had some trouble understanding the clerk’s questions and a nearby customer stepped in to interpret and help.

The character of the community was evident the first day we drove into town about 7 p.m.—in the dark—and could not find our B&B. We saw a restaurant that we’d read about in International Living. We were tired, frustrated, and expecting to sleep in our car that night when we sat down for dinner and a much-needed drink. Just as we started eating, a man walked by speaking English. My wife immediately grabbed my arm. Hope at last. He told us to relax, finish dinner, and that he would be glad to help us as soon as he finished playing some music. True to his word, he finished his set of rock and roll music and then had us follow him in our car to the B&B. We arrived at the B&B and he went inside and introduced us to the manager. An outstanding first impression for total strangers.

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