Saturday, July 28, 2012

I'm back in Panama...

This post may be a bit too personal and mundane for many people, but it is primarily intended for friends and relatives.  I will compose another entry on Boquete and life here for a broader audience next week after I get settled into my new rental casa.  It's at 4,500 ft. elevation in the neighborhood known as Volcancito Arriba, but still in the "district" of Boquete.  The setting is absolutely beautiful.  It reminds me of the image of a tropical paradise I had as a teenager growing up in Chicago in the 1950's based on movies and television!

To recap, I moved out of my apartment in Sebastopol, California at the end of January after selling many of my larger possessions (furniture and stationary woodshop tools) and moved in with friends for a few weeks.  I traveled to Boquete for a four-month exploratory trip that spanned the end of the dry season and into the rainy season.  On June 20, I returned to Sebastopol in Northern California for five weeks to prepare for a "permanent" move to Panama to live there as an expatriate.

The trip back to Panama was a bit different this time.  I purchased a one-way ticket for a July 20 American Airlines red-eye flight to Miami, then a morning flight to Panama City where I arrived at noon on Saturday.  After clearing immigration and customs, I used private transport company (Jose Saenz of to take my big 50 and 70 pound suitcases to a courier company, who transported them both to Boquete for $12!!  Jose then took me and my carry-on luggage to the huge Allbrook Bus Terminal, where I bought a $15 ticket for the big air-conditioned bus and the seven-hour ride to the bus terminal in David, the capital of Chiriqui Province and the second largest city in  Panama.  Boquete driver Daniel Higgins picked me up in David and drove me about 20 miles directly to my studio apartment in Alto Boquete where I arrived at 11pm Saturday evening.  It was a long trip with only fitful sleep on the airplanes, in the Miami terminal and on the bus, but after a good night's sleep in a familiar bed, I felt great and fully charged to continue the transition on Sunday morning.

For those considering a similar move, or curious about how I ended a decades-old lifestyle in the U.S., here's what I accomplished during my month back in the states:
  • Visited family/grand-kids & friends.
  • Sold more "stuff" that I had stored with friends and family, including: 
    • Woodworking power tools  
    • Stereo gear  
    • Bicycle  
    • LCD TV  
    • Dell laptop - an older, big, heavy laptop that I replaced with a newer Toshiba Satellite with a big 640Gb hard disk, BluRay video player, and HDMI video output for use with a flat-screen LCD TV that I plan to buy in Panama.
    • 1987 Volvo wagon - went to the California clunker/polluter buyback program.
  • Bought 8 classic Hawaiian shirts on eBay and a pair of off-white khakis for that tropical look!!  (Plus new shoes and jeans)
  • Moved my stash of tropical hardwoods from a friend's shop/studio (pic below - thank you, Michael Cullen!) to a 5" x 5" commercial storage locker.   I will ship the wood and my remaining tools to Panama after I get my Pensionado permanent resident visa later this year.

  • Assembled a really good stereo system that would take up less than half of the space in my big suitcase.  It is truly an amazing system - low-energy consumption and far better sounding than I expected.  (I have been into audio since high school.)  For those who are interested, the components are:
    • Synology 1-terabyte NAS (Network Attached Storage) and media server - essentially a hard drive in a "smart" box for storing music and videos with the media server software and internet download capabilities built in.)  
    • Logitech Squeezebox Touch (streaming digital audio media player and internet radio)  
    • Teac Reference Ice-Power digital amplifier plus DAC (Digital to Analog Converter)  
    • A pair of demo Paradigm "Atom" bookshelf size monitors, which are relatively inexpensive, and have been highly rated by the audiophile press for years.
  • Sold some music CD's to get the number down to 360, then removed the remaining CD's and paper "covers" from their jewel cases and stored them in three "Slappa" brand hard-body CD  cases.  (I was able to recycle the jewel cases via a surplus electronics store.)   
  • Ripped the 360 CD's to MP3 format and stored them on the Synology NAS drive. 
All that remains of my possessions in California besides the wood and tools in the storage locker are some books, a few warmer clothes for visiting Northern California in the colder seasons, and some miscellaneous items that take up about 2 - 3 feet of closet space in a family member's home.   Everything but the warmer clothes will be shipped duty-free to Panama after I get my Pensionado Visa.


  1. Hi David, Bob from Weather Underground.

    I greatly enjoy your blog entries. Very informative and on a topic near and dear to my heart.

    About 30 years ago on a trip to India I visited a high valley in the Himalayans and looking at the attractive stone houses with slate roofs and gardens for yards I got the feeling that I could live there.

    Since then everywhere I travel I ask myself how life would be were I to relocate to that particular place. About 20 years ago I came very close to moving to Costa Rica and starting a teak plantation. Did some land shopping and spent some time on other teak plantations, but backed out because I felt I would be 'culturally isolated'. It was the days before the internet and information flowed slowly by magazine.

    I can see myself moving somewhere close to the equator and at altitude if life becomes too difficult here on my 'far northern' CA coastal mountain. I'm going to be following your blog and learning from your experiences.


  2. Hi David,
    My wife and I have some land in El Santuario and are on the "no more than 4 years plan" to build on it and retire in Boquete. We go every year - would like to meet you next year perhaps in May when we return. We live in San Jose, CA - I know Sebastopol - it's jsut up the road. Keep blogging - your writing is great and certainly keeps me plugged in to life in that beautiful community.