These are a few of my favorite things…

There is a lot to enjoy and experience in Panama in every corner of the country. This is Volume #1 of my favorite places and experiences in no particular order:



Parque Metropolitano
Smack in the city is the huge 232 hectare natural reserve which hosts an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty. Sloths, tamarinds and gorgeous blue morpho butterflies are easily seen if you go very early in the morning.


The Plaza de Francia in Casco Viejo (French Plaza in colonial Old Town)
With a mix of stately architecture, galleries, cafes, a beautiful flowery garden tunnel and a gorgeous view over the bay, this is a perfect place to have a romantic stroll, have an icee and just chill.




Restaurante Las Tinajas
If you are not visiting Panama during a festival, then the folk show at Las Tinajas might be your best chance to see the beautiful Pollera, national costume of Panama, up close. The music and dancing are excellent and so is the food.


Raspaos (Panamanian snow cone)
Hand-shaved raspaos are a favorite street food in Panama, with vendors carting around large blocks of ice to carve the treats fresh to order. The shaved ice is mounded into an easy-to-hold cone before being doused with a variety of fruit syrups, including cherry, grape, pineapple, lemon, and passion fruit. If you’re looking to add an extra kick of sweetness, ask for a thick drizzle of condensed milk (as shown above), malted milk, or honey.


Amador Causeway
A chain of islands that were created by the relocated soil moved when cutting and expanding the Panama Canal, the islands are now a stopping point for cruise ships and a favorite hangout of tourist and locals alike. The islands are connected by a road so you can drive there. Rent a little bike buggy and putter around with your family, skate, bike, run, or just kick back and have a tropical drink and watch the sunset over the bay. I have been told there are several swanky nightclubs there but that’s not my scene so I don’t know if they are any good. 






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Time lapse of Panama City

Credit to 5D2Max on Youtube –

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Aaaand… here’s a rant!

     I have been in Panama for twelve days and my physical and mental health has improved so much it is alarming. It is amazing what being around good friends can do. Being in a place where I feel I have opportunities is freeing and relieves much stress. Living in the US is bogged down by so much bureaucracy and negativity that it permeates everything. It is so prevalent that it seems normal, when in fact, it is unhealthy in my opinion. In California in particular, the cost of doing anything is so high that it is prohibitive. The sense of adventure is gone. It is a nanny state that regulates every aspect of life and calls it freedom. Some might like living there and that’s great, but it is not for me. There is a sterile kind of safety in living in California and in much of the US I have experienced. The houses are cookie cutter dollhouses. The people are going the same direction. The media rules the mental landscape with images of unattainable crap that people nonetheless spend their lives striving to obtain. The cost of buying a house is so high it is painful. You could work toward it for years and years and still not succeed. If you are lucky, you can get the house, the two kids and the mailbox painted bright red with a rooster on it and still have enough money left over for a week long vacation once a year. Saving money for a comfortable retirement is out of reach for most Americans. That’s why we have “mother in law cottages” in the back yard. You work your ass off for 40+ years and end up living in your kid’s back yard. As an American expat living in Panama, I have a unique situation, and really my situation is unique even among expats.

I am not retired. I run a business of my own and so does my husband. We both work from “home” which really means that we can work anywhere in the world as long as we have high speed internet access for downloads and uploads. Our “office” is portable. We have lived in Prague & Budapest, and traveled often while working. We make good money – comfortable middle class America money. Our clients are based in the US, Canada, UK, and Western Europe, all countries that pay premium costs for work. High wage countries. In my opinion the smart financial thing to do is work for expensive countries and live in the more affordable places. In the US, I found that we were working our asses off with little to show for it. It was work just to work more; a tiresome cycle that felt like a hamster wheel. 

Cost of living was so high that there was not much savings, or not as much as we would like. If we wanted to start a small business with a storefront, the cost and risk analysis showed it was not worth it. Most small businesses in the US are barely scraping by and at the end of the month don’t show enough profit to really make much difference. People stay stagnate and don’t have a chance to grow at what I consider a good rate. If you do own a small business in the US, you have to worry about frivolous lawsuits from employees (which are contagious- one person sues for bullshit reasons and more follow suit if they think they can get away with it), overregulation from the government and most of all a fucking Walmart moving in next door and killing your business overnight. I tried to open a small juice stand at a farmer’s market in California  (a farmers market!) and was told I needed multiple permits, inspections, a taco truck style regulated kitchen (it had to be in a taco truck style vehicle – several thousand dollars) and a business license. A juice stand. Hey, here’s a cup of juice… juice stand. Nope. Not possible. Kids can’t run lemonade stands anymore. Seriously, police have shut down lemonade stands run by ten year olds. I am not saying I want to live in the wild west with no regulations, but I do want to live in a place where the overzealous regulation harpies are not actively working against the idea of people making a living. If you are out of work and need to make a living, you should be able to do what you can to make a living without some lifeless, dead eyed government drone in your face holding a stack of obstacles. Just now, as I wrote this, a friend who is reading it said,

“Yes, but the government has to make sure everyone is not poisoning the population with the lemonade stands.”

My response,

“With all due respect, bullpucky. McDonalds can put formaldehyde in our cheeseburgers and the government doesn’t give a crap. It’s about money and squeezing every wheezy shart of money out people’s pockets and sustaining useless government committees to employ useless people. 

Living as an expat in Panama (which is a different paradigm than being a local, certainly) gives me the lower cost of living so that I can save money and do something with it. Open a business, travel, take a vacation, invest in something or someone, give more to charity, help out friends and family when they need it and have something for retirement. It means that if I have a business here in Panama I can afford to pay employees really well and have lots of extras and bonuses, job perks and overall, a more pleasant experience for the employees and myself. It means I can own a house, or two houses and rent one out, which I do. There are rules and regulations, of course, and I follow them and respect them, but here, for the most part, things are practical and make sense. There are some whackadoo things, for sure, but far less than the endless labyrinth of obstacles in the US. I will be honest with you though, the traffic is a nightmare, it is uncomfortably hot and humid, the sidewalks are pock marked with holes and pitfalls and Panama has it’s hefty share of problems, but the freedom I have here with my unique situation makes up for all of that, or at least most of it. Living here has helped me get in touch with the truly important things. I can connect with deeper things. I have time. Not just money. Living here buys me time that is precious.

Yes, I am ranting. No, I am not sorry. Ok, a little sorry. But sort of not sorry at all. Rant. Rant rant rant, but you gotta admit, I’m onto something.

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I’m in Panama!

After a hellish flight (I had seizures on the plane) I am back in Panama and finally had a night of sleep. To make a long story short – or maybe to just make a long story, here is a quick run down of what is going on with me:

– I have a rare and treatment resistant form of Epilepsy and I have had it since age eleven. This influences almost all decisions I make.
– I used to live in Panama but moved back to the US because of family issues.
– I have been planning to move back to Panama for several months.
– Two weeks ago (in the middle of my move) I discovered a medication that works for my seizures. My plans were tossed around quite a bit because the medication is not available in Panama.
– I planned to stay in California for medication reasons, or at least in the US.
– Then I realized I would be giving up my happiness, so I stuck everything in storage and hopped on a plane.
– Now I am in Panama without the medication and trying to figure out a way to either get the medication here or cope without it.

Note: Epilepsy medication is easily available in Panama, but what I have is rare and complicated.

So, now my belongings are in a storage shed in California. I am in Panama with nothing but a carry on suitcase (I pack hella light) and a loosely woven plan.

For now, I am going to focus on fixing up my house here in Panama, something that needs to be done whether I stay in Panama or not, and focus on being happy. I’ll figure the rest out day by day. I do really enjoy not having “belongings” now (I might liquidate what I have in storage later) as I can go where I want and do what I want.

My dream life is to live in Panama most of the year and one to three months of each year, travel. Financially I can do that if I live in Panama. I really want to stay.

From my balcony

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It’s all happening…!

     Yesterday I watched my bookshelves, desk and sofa carried out of the house by the total strangers who bought it off of Craigslist. A large red suitcase is sitting smack in the center of my living room, half full of things I want to take with me to Panama. It is mostly clothes because I haven’t had the heart to try to see if my art supplies will fit in there and still give me room for a few changes of clothes. I have to pack my life into two suitcases and a carry-on. I shouldn’t say “have to” but instead I should say “GET to”. There is a beautiful kind of rebirth to all this disrobing of my suburban life of the last four years. All the stuff I have collected going out the door. The stuff just walking out and the rest of it I get to choose what are the truly important parts of my life and what can simply be parted with.

     My passport is being renewed. I did the fingerprinting thing today (to apply for residency in Panama, you need a fingerprint FBI report and you can do that at a UPS office) and our landlord is showing the house to potential renters since we are moving out in less than a month. Now, it all feels very real and approaching very, very soon. I am happy about this, though admittedly apprehensive. No matter how adventurous anyone is, tossing your whole life in two suitcases and not having much of a plan after that is a little nerve fraying. And there is so much to do that it all seems a bit overwhelming. Sell everything. Cancel the electric, the cable, the phones… oh God, I can’t take all my books! Now THAT is painful. 

     The next year is going to be a life changing experience. Moving to another country… even though I lived there before, it all seems very different now, and I feel a bit unprepared because of my four years of cushy (but depressing) life in the American burbs. What Spanish I knew, I have forgotten (and I have had two brain surgeries since then, and it has been hard to remember words in English sometimes, much less Spanish.) I have so much to learn and so many ways to change. It is exciting and yet scary at once. The good kind of scary. 

     Aside from the international move, I have a big trip planned for next Spring. I’ll talk about that in another post. But, it’s a big three month long trip to Europe, so a lot is going on for me in the next year. Now I just need to pack my things and try to breathe.

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How I live the way I want and travel the way I want.

I have the good fortune to be able to travel often, and I have been asked often how I got that good fortune and what I do to maintain it. How am I able to spend an entire Summer in Paris, or hop around Eastern Europe for months at a time? Don’t I have a job? Am I rich or something? Yes, I have a job and no, I am not by anyone’s standards “rich” though I am comfortably middle class- right in the middle. The answer is that it took a lot of life building on my part to get to a point where I can live my life the way I want to, live almost anywhere I want (note I said almost) and get to do these things. It certainly did not happen by accident. 


I don’t have children. I made a decision early in my life to not have children. Not because I wanted to travel, but because of many, many reasons. While I am sure it is possible for some super-parents to be able to do this kind of stuff with a family, I have never met anyone that does. Not having the cost of raising children has freed up most of my income to do with as I please. No, I don’t consider it a sacrifice because it was a well thought out choice.


I decided to quit college after four months. I actually consider this a good thing (for me) because I realized I was not getting an up to date or applicable education that would actually get me employment. Instead, I was being forced to take useless classes that had no bearing at all on what I signed up to learn to do. I realized pretty early that my goal was to work for myself in the future, so I didn’t really care if a potential boss cared about my degree or not. I knew I would need more chutzpah than most to be able to bypass the hurdles that would come from not having a degree, but I weighed that decision against the idea of starting my adult life with thousands of dollars in student loan debts I would never get out from beneath, and decided I preferred chutzpah. I have never regretted that choice. My husband made the exact same choice after one year in college, for the same reasons. We are doing quite well. I am not saying that not going to college or quitting will work for you, but I’ve never had a problem and I believe that the American tradition of “if you don’t go to college you will be unemployable or flipping burgers” is a myth. It depends a lot of the kind of career you want. Some require college truly. Others don’t and yet people still think they do. It seems a horribly expensive decision to make on auto-impulse.


I am successfully self employed. My husband and I own a small software development company that employs 8 to 10 programmers (8 full time, 2 part time specialists) from around the world. We started the company with no start up cost, save a computer and a lot of talent and hard work. No bank loans, no maxed out credit cards. Just work. We both worked in the IT industry before, being employed by large companies and proved our worth to employers, built reputations for excellence and reliability. Then we branched out on our own, hired amazing programmers and now everyone in our company works from home – virtual office. What this means for us (and our employees) is that we can travel or live anywhere, as long as reliable high speed internet service is available. In 2005, we sold everything we owned and moved to Panama, bought a house and have been happier than we could have imagined. We operate our business from a home office, usually spending 9 months out of each year in Panama and the rest of the year traveling elsewhere. While we are away from our home, we rent it to visitors for short term stays, covering our mortgage and often making a profit. We work while we travel. We don’t do the ‘sight seeing all day, every day’ kind of travel (though that is fun), and we prefer to stick to one place and have more time there to explore at leisure and soak up what life is really like. When we plan well, we can usually have 3 to 4 day work weeks (though we check in to see if problems occur) and have the rest of the week off, since our company is running on it’s own while we are away. We have to be connected. We don’t ever really get days off because if a client needs us, we will be there without complaint, but this style gives us the opportunity to travel while we are still young and to be able to afford extended travel. We usually rent short term self catered apartments rather than hotels or hostels. We can go to Buenos Aires, spend the mornings working and be tango dancing by 3pm. It is a different way to travel and live. It is a lot of work and a lot of hassle, but it is worth it.


I enjoy my work. For the way I travel, this is very important. I actually like what I do and I enjoy doing it, so if I have to spend all day inside on the computer while in Paris instead of going to a beautiful garden, I am OK with that. I don’t begrudge it. The garden will be there when I am done. This requires being pretty laid back about everything.


I’m laid back, man. Chill. I tend to just go with the flow no matter what. When you travel a lot, it helps to have an easy going attitude. I don’t expect things to go my way. I figure if things do go my way, it’s a lucky bonus. I have traveled with very regimented, uptight people before, where everything was expected to work on schedule, like clockwork, and any interruption to a plan or a routine was met with irritation and fear. In my opinion, those interruptions are part of the experience. I tend to be annoyingly rigid when it comes to my work while traveling, because I want to make sure I am always on time for my clients and always meeting deadlines, but the rest of it – bring on the chaos.


Low cost of living at home. We keep costs at home fairly low, making it easier to have expendable income and to justify leaving for months at a time. The car is a used Toyota Corolla, the house is awesome (we like it) but we bought it in 2005 for $147,000 (in Panama) so the mortgage is low. We tend to shy away from spending on material things and prefer to invest in experiences instead. Living in Panama instead of the US has made it possible for us to live this way. We lived in California for years and watched our money be chewed up while getting very little in return. So we moved.


I limit exposure to naysayers. This is a difficult thing to do, but I try to limit the amount of time I spend around negative people, particularly the ones who enjoy telling me that things are “impossible” or that I “should” live a certain way, according to their life plan. When you are doing what you want to be doing, those people will come out of the woodwork and do their best to inflict their own misery on you. I don’t let them infiltrate my life. That doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to well thought out advice, or concerns. It just means I don’t listen to haters. To live your life as you want (travel related or not) takes immense courage, and you shouldn’t let haters slow you down.


I am always trying to do something new. I decided a few years ago that I wanted to be in theater. I had done a lot of theater work as a kid, and then in Panama, I thought “How am I going to be in theater here?” It turns out it wasn’t that hard. I found a theater, I auditioned, got a part and have been in several plays there. A couple years later, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write over the top, pulpy novels, the kind I enjoy reading for escape. So I wrote one. I published it, and people bought it. So I wrote more, and people bought those too. So I was a writer. Then I decided I wanted to be an artist. Well, that one was harder for me, but I’ve only been painting for three months and I just hung my first piece in a gallery, and no, I am not very good. At all. Like, seriously. But my art is up there for people to see, and I’ve been hired by an author to illustrate the borders of a children’s book. So, I think that makes me an artist. A good one? Probably not, but an artist. I wanted to start a company, so I started one. I didn’t ask for anyone to validate my ventures with a piece of paper or their permission. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t think you need to wait for someone to tell you it is alright. If it’s safe, sane and right for you, do it. If you have this attitude, you will rack up so many awesome experiences in your life resume, and travel will be richer for you.


It’s all just my opinion and experience, but I hope this helps.

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Igua, playing his pipe on the island of Ustupu, San Blas, Panama

Igua, playing his pipe on the island of Ustupu, San Blas, Panama

I spent two weeks on the island of Ustupu, a part of the San Blas Islands tourists rarely see.

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Panama: Pros & Cons In My Opinion

This is all just my opinion, but here is a basic run down on what I consider the good and the bad about living in Panama. Please note that my home is in Panama City and so my opinions are based around living in the city.

PRO: Affordable and quality medical care. 

CON: The heat and humidity. For me, it is uncomfortably hot and humid. 

PRO: Friendly people. I have found it fairly easy to make friends in both the Panamanian and the expat community.

CON: Traffic. In the city, traffic is a nightmare.

PRO: Plenty to do. I rarely get bored in Panama. There is always something to do. Festivals, lectures, classes, parties, good restaurants, beautiful things to see. Since costs are relatively low, I can afford to actually go out and do things.

CON: Hot garbage. Seriously. The trash pick-up service in the city is severely lacking and dumpsters get overflowing with trash that sits in the heat and makes a stench. If you are considering living in Panama City, this is likely something you will see in most neighborhoods. 

PRO: Affordable living costs. Panama is no longer “cheap” but housing and living costs are quite lower than most places I have lived in the US, UK and Western Europe. 

CON: The many predatory real estate scams that are present in the Panama real estate market. Panama is moving away from it’s old west anything goes reputation of ten years ago, but you still have to navigate a pretty risky landscape of fraud and con-artists. If you are savvy, you can do it, but you must be very careful.

PRO: Panama, despite it’s flaws (the US certainly has it’s fair share of problems too) always feels like home. It is a fairly easy jump for a new expat. The currency is the US dollar, the expat community is large and friendly, the US is a short flight away and as an American you’re never really that far from something familiar. It is easy expatriation. 

CON: Same as above. The Americanization can be seen as both pro and con. 

PRO: The beauty. Panama is a genuinely beautiful country with a rich history and culture. It is difficult to not be charmed by it. 


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Medical Care In Panama

I get asked about medical care in Panama often. There is a very xenophobic idea that I encounter often in the USA that the only decent medical care is found in the USA or ‘those expensive white people countries.’ I think they mean France and Germany but I don’t speak fluent stupid so I’m just guessing. I have rather complicated health problems myself. I have very severe epilepsy. That’s the big one. More common problems I have dealt with are high blood pressure, chronic ear infections (diving, yay!) and some pretty standard dermatology issues.

I have a very good general practitioner in Panama City. She is very attentive, takes her time with the patient and I prefer her to any doctor I have ever had in the US. She does not toss unneeded pills in my direction as has been my experience with many US doctors. Pills are a last resort, not a first with her. I greatly appreciate that. I see a neurologist when needed and my GP manages my epilepsy medication in tandem with my neurologist. I also have frequent appointments with a physical therapist to manage the damage seizures do to my body. My epilepsy is treatment resistant so even with medication, I still have frequent seizures. That would be the case regardless of where I live in the world. My doctor visits cost me $18. (It is a modest clinic, not a big fancy hospital, but I am very happy with the care I get there.) My prescription medications are all about 30% less than what I pay in the US except my epilepsy meds which are a bit more.

In 2006 I had an ear infection so severe that I was hospitalized. When I was finally well enough to go home, my ear/nose/throat specialist gave me his cell number and drove me home so he could learn the route to my house in case he needed to make a house call. And I puked in his car.

I have seen a psychiatrist in Panama City and found the experience pretty much the same as seeing a ‘shrink’ in the US. Same office, same meds, same methods. (I suffer from depression and PTSD) My appointments were $40 for an hour long session.

I had surgery for a hernia behind my navel two years ago in Panama City. I was treated at a small clinic and my experience was a very good one. I had three doctors attend me and two spoke English. I felt very confident about their skills and no more scared than I would be in an American hospital. The bill for the surgery, anesthesia, etc was $1400.

Last year I had full blood panels and all around tests done (blood, pee, poo, the works) and this was done in a big fancy hospital (Hospital San Fernando). I usually fear blood tests because I have weird veins and nurses tend to poke me multiple times and I end up feeling like a sprinkler. The nurse who drew my blood was a one hit wonder. She nailed it right from the start, no pain, no weirdness. EKG – $40. Blood, poo, pee tests complete set – $350

I do not have medical insurance in Panama (because I move back and forth) so these costs are reflective of having no insurance.

I have been more than impressed with the quality of medical care in Panama City. I cannot speak for other parts of Panama as I have not seen a doctor anywhere else.

In case you are wondering about dental- same thing. Good quality care and very affordable compared to the US, even if you have insurance in the US. I MUCH prefer my doctors in Panama to the ones I have seen in the US. In the States, I find doctors are often uninterested, not available, don’t listen and rely too heavily on drugs that are not needed (got thin eyelashes? take THIS! Sure, your eyes will turn yellow but you’ll have thicker, fuller lashes!) No, I don’t need four different anti-depressants plus sleeping pills, plus social anxiety pills plus restless leg syndrome pills. What I need is a doctor who makes realistic diagnosis and advises me without a corporate lawyer involved.



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Hospital San Fernando in Panama City



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