A perfect climate was a major requirement for Brandy and Bob Gregory when they sought their overseas retirement home eight years ago. They found their ideal weather in the highland town of Boquete, in western Panama.
"The future of the U.S. was looking bad,” says Nancy Young of the decisions that led her and her family to find a new life in the highlands of western Panama. “My husband was going to retire on beans, with no benefits…not enough for us to live on. Every winter in Missouri I dreaded getting our electric bill, and in the summer there were a few days you could open your windows to let the air in and not have to use air conditioning, but the air was so dirty that everyone had allergies. We had to make a move.”
"People find Panama surprising,” says Marianne Tobin, 76, of the country where she now spends much of her time. “Many think only of the canal zone or the beautiful tropical areas. They have no idea that Panama has pine trees and meadows reminiscent of Switzerland.”
While sitting on a shaded terrace in Santa Catalina, you may hear a voice calling out over a loudspeaker. It’s a vendor selling fresh, organic produce—watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, onions, tomatoes—from the back of his truck. Nearby, young surfers carry their boards to the beach for a day on the waves. Fiberglass boats bob in the water, waiting to carry passengers to the nearby islands to snorkel, scuba dive among colorful corals and exotic fish, whale-watch…or catch the marlin and tuna this region is famous for. This little beach town knows how to chill.
"From our front porch, we watch dolphins play, and howler monkeys cavort in the trees all the way around the house,” says Mary Heckrotte. “Sloths ease along tree limbs. Parrots, toucans, and hundreds of other colorful birds flit past or nibble seeds in bushes growing right next to the porch. We never tire of watching them. We live in a nature-lovers’ paradise!”
Bill and Mitzi Martain are living the retirement of their dreams. “We have a lovely new home, a beautiful farm, wonderful friends and neighbors, and each other,” Mitzi says. “There’s no way we could have this lifestyle and quality of life in the U.S.” Bill and Mitzi have what they consider an ideal life. They own 10 acres of fertile land in a rural valley, surrounded by hills and mountains. They enjoy sunny, warm weather year-round, with no snow, no ice, no hurricanes or tornadoes.
“We have everything we want here,” Chris Gallimore says of his and his wife Katherine’s new life in Panama. “A nice home in the country, perfect climate, plenty of friends, and a social life. Before we moved to Panama, work just got in the way of our hobbies. Now we do what we want.”
At a crossroads in his career, Chris Young left Missouri with his family for the mountain town of Boquete, in Panama’s Chiriquí province, five years ago. Here, in a town with a low cost of living, low costs of doing business, and a thriving culinary culture, he found the perfect place to realize his dreams of becoming a chef. Today, after immersing himself in the area’s exciting food scene, he indulges his passion by preparing delicious meals for expats and locals alike.
One almost sure-fire way to succeed in business is to find a gap that needs filling, or a niche that is unoccupied. And right now there’s a great big gap in the Chiriquí Province of western Panama for home maintenance, lawn care, and handyman services. Of course, there are locals who carry out yard work, but that laidback outlook that expats find so appealing in some ways can leave them waiting to have work done. And when it comes to home repairs, it’s hard to find qualified tradesmen with the right tools. With an expat population of around 20,000, Chiriquí Province has a market.
From our porch we can see down to the river, where we have our own little private beach and swimming hole,” says Albuquerque native Bob Caragol of his and his wife Irma’s new home. “We just fell in love with the area. There’s no crime and no pollution, and my asthma symptoms improved immediately.” Their story is typical of expats living in the scenic mountain town of Santa Fe, located in Veraguas province in west-central Panama.