Saturday, December 31, 2011

I cannot afford to live a decent life in the U.S. any more!

I started this blog on December 31, 2011 to document my exploration of a retirement move to the highland village of Boquete, Panama as an alternative to moving to a HUD government subsidized apartment in Northern California.  It is intended to be an avenue of communication with friends and family, and anyone else who wishes to share my journey.

I am a widower who turned 70 this past December, and on my birthday, made a decision to move to a place where I can enjoy life, and not struggle just to exist, on my SS income.  I lost my retail sales job last January when the Woodcraft woodworker’s store in Santa Rosa, California shut down.  This happened was just as I went on disability to have long-overdue surgery to have both knees replaced.  I now  have a new pair of knees, full mobility, and no pain - an incredible improvement in my life.  I take absolutely no medications for anything on a regular basis.

When my disability ended in September, I started doing some delivery driving for a friend's company in Rohnert Park and trying to sell my artisan woodworking pieces, but could not meet my expenses.  I am slipping deeper and deeper into debt, and had to make a major change in my life.  I had toyed with expat living before, mostly looking at Mexico, but could not convince myself that it was a good idea, and that I could be happy. 

Above is my 750 sq.ft. apartment in Sebastopol, CA that I rent for $1,150  per month.  The garage below the apartment is HUGE, and I use it for my woodworking shop.  My budget for a rental in Boquete is from $200 to a max of $350 per month without garage or shop space.  I will not have a car down there at least for a year or two.  Low rent, no heat or A/C needed, (temps year around range from 60° to 80°F),  and not having a car will save me about $1,000 per month!!  (Buses and taxis are plentiful and cheap.)

A major change is necessary.  I absolutely do not want to get a another retail job at a place like Lowe’s or Home Depot when I can spend my days on a permanent vacation where I can enjoy hiking, photography, and live in a vibrant, but low-stress community like the village of Boquete in the northwestern highlands of Panama just below the CostaRica border. The community of expats living in the Boquete area have a wonderful website with a great set of forums (link), and I feel like I have many friends there already. 

I had looked into expatriate (commonly referred to as simply as “expat”) living earlier this year, and first considered Mexico.  However, for several reasons, I decided against that move.  Last week, I began an intensive review of the possibilities of moving to Panama, first Las Tablas, then Boquete.  Others have recommended Las Tablas in the hot flatlands of Panama near the Pacific Ocean as a much less expensive place to live.  However, my initial impression is that Las Tablas is a more of a low-income, laid-back coastal area with a wild and crazy carnival every year.  Plus it’s not nearly as lush and beautiful as Boquete.
Boquete - A place of flowers, rainbows, and eternal spring weather

Boquete is much more appealing to me based on many, many hours of internet research.  The Flower and Coffee Festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, cool climate, clean air and water, lush landscape, beautiful gardens, and nearby nature reserves convinced me to check it out.  I would rather live more modestly in a spectacularly beautiful area than more extravagantly in a less beautiful place.  I plan to travel to Boquete in mid February and stay until June, at which time I will need to come back to Northern California for a one-year evaluation by my orthopedic surgeon of my new knees.
I have begun the process of selling and donating my clothes, furniture, books, tools, etc. and at the end of January will move in with friends until I depart for Boquete. 

I am getting a new passport, and will soon start the pre-qualifying process for a permanent Panamanian “Pensionado” Visa.  If I like the Boquete area and feel like I can make it my new home, I will move there in June or July.  I have just started on-line Spanish lessons, and plan to rent a room with a shared bath at a hostel near Boquete’s Spanish language school while I look at other options.  Extreme austerity is my goal as I get back on my feet financially by paying off accumulated debt.  

Then I can truly start enjoying life to the fullest again.

No comments:

Post a Comment