Why Panama?


panama, mexico, expat, states, baby, water birth

Panama Flag

A relative asked me on social media, “Why Panama?” I gave her the short answer “Why Not?” as well as mentioning a longer answer if she was so inclined. She was, so this giant post is the answer.

First of all, the basic question of why are we in Panama can actually be two questions, and I want to answer them both. The first question revolves around the fact that we were in Mexico for a year and a half and are now in Panama, so why are we here and not in Mexico anymore? The second one is basically, “Why are you not living in the United States?”



Why are you in Panama instead of Mexico?

We arrived in Panama in May 2015 because in April 2015 my wife piped up one day and said, “I want to have the baby in Panama.” I was shocked, but also excited. I said yes immediately. I have mentioned Panama as a destination for years, but she never took the bait. When we found out we were due for a second child, she started searching for midwives that oversaw home births in the area of Mexico we lived in at the time. We found out through locals and expats alike that there were no midwives. Everyone lined up at the hospital for their c-sections and then it was back to work. We had several gringo midwives who vacation and/or live in San Carlos offer up their services, but this was less than desirable. If there were problems and medical intervention was necessary (unlikely, but nice to have a backup plan) then it would be total chaos, that midwife not having any contacts in the local hospital or medical fields in Guaymas. Not fun. There was also the issue of citizenship and if the child was born male in Mexico, he would have to choose between being an American or being Mexican since Mexico has mandatory conscription for males. Dual citizenship is a blessing, having to lose it sucks.


We knew we did not want to go back to the States...traveling and living in other places is way more enjoyable for our family. So Yana, without mentioning it to me or anyone else, began looking into other Central American countries like Nicaragua and Costa Rica. She found them to have the same problems that Mexico has: hard to find people practicing midwifery. Then lo and behold she looked at a map and noticed that Costa Rica and Panama were neighbors, that Panama City is a HUGE world banking center and transportation hub (thanks to its famous canal), and she found a husband/wife team who were medical doctors in a hospital, but have also performed hundreds of home births for Canadians and Europeans. A few conversations later with them and she settled on their services, telling me about so afterwards. BAM! A month later we are in Panama.


Why are you not living in the United States?

Ahhh, this question. Americans living in other countries is not a new or rare thing. Hundreds of thousands do it every year. But most of those people are older, retired, and enjoying their Golden Years. The couple in their late twenties-early thirties with a kid in tow while still reproducing are indeed a very rare sight to be seen abroad.


True. We get around like a politician in primaries. Doodle is two and a half at this time and as a family we are in our eighth country. He has lived outside the States for longer than he has lived in it. There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of the reasons below are things we learned AFTER moving abroad. Most are things we decided beforehand.


  1. We don't have to live anywhere in particular. We worked hard. Really hard. Yana and I have been married since 2006. We didn't have Doodle until 2012. Those first years we both worked at increasingly demanding and prestigious careers. We had positions and work experiences in our early twenties that others don't get until their forties, if ever. We made ourselves indispensable in our areas of expertise where it got to the point that the people who gave us money didn't care where in the world we worked as long as we would keep working for them in exchange for money. Part of this is luck that we have skills that can be applied remotely over the internet. Had I remained in hospitality management, even when I was at the corporate executive level, I could never do that job remotely. But now we can live anywhere that has internet and fits within our budget. Period.

  2. We know how short life is. There was one pivotal event that earmarked our decision to never give up on our goals, which includes traveling and experiencing other cultures/languages abroad. My cousin, Hanna, passed away as a teenager months after giving birth to her first child from an aggressive disease. Probably the shittiest thing that could happen to a person. We had discussions over the next few days that we didn't want to waste our lives. I want to swim the English Channel. Our family should be multilingual. We want dual citizenship in order to more freely travel the world. We want our children to grow up not seeing what other people in the world live like solely on the news or in books, but by being their neighbors and experiencing what they experience. We have already clarified that if we ever circumnavigate the world in our sailboat (not the one we have now, but one better designed for such), it will be named Hanna G. A constant reminder to not take life for granted. An ever-present force that will destroy fear of the unknown and venture into that which may harm or end us. If our lives are short it will be because we are out here living it, and not making sure the demise we all eventually attain is delayed unnecessarily and uneventfully.

  3. Retirement is not all it's cracked up to be. All our collective lives we are told to be sure and save for retirement. “You need X amount of dollars in order to live after you stop working.” Having lived in a few places outside the US that are pretty famous for being retirement meccas, this is a load of crap to us. A few people in retirement are having a great time, but most of them are too tired, hurt, aching, or sick to do anything with their retirement. They are old and traveling is simply not that simple. Basically we decided that we wanted to live like we were retired while we were young and could enjoy it. If we want to go ride the zip lines above the tree canopy this weekend here in Panama, we can do that and not worry about our knees or health while doing it. We can jump off the side of our sailboat in the middle of the sea to swim with some sea turtles because we are fit and able to do so. I doubt we would have the ability to do that when we are 70. At least not with some extensive planning and several helping hands. So we are living like young retired folks now. Doing all the world has to offer while we have the time in our lives to enjoy it. And the best part is we get to bring our kids along for that ride.

  4. We aren't impressed with the way we see kids being raised in the States. This one is a before AND after thought. We knew bratty, spoiled little kids, tweens, and teens being raised by others. A bunch of whiny, self-entitled munchkins that thought everything was owed to them and hard work was for poor people and immigrants. That was what we thought before leaving the States (and still do). But AFTER living in Mexico and Panama with Doodle, the US is the last place I would ever raise my kid. They treat kids like kings down here, but still hold them to standards. You get a phone if you get a job and buy one. If a kid is whiny, the entire staff in a restaurant checks on them to see what's the matter. Grown men blow kisses at babies and toddlers, giddy the whole time about the exchange. The village really does try to raise the child down here. We've seen young kids working their tails off doing simple things like drying cars in parking lots and opening and closing the bus doors for people as they get on and off...just in the hopes of making a little coin. We remind ourselves constantly that we don't know any young people in the States that would do such a thing for just the HOPE of getting some money. It's not a guaranteed thing.

  5. We want to learn multiple languages. The US is the only place that doesn't have multilingual citizens as a regular occurrence. Other countries at least learn their language and English. A lot of countries, especially in Europe, have citizens who speak several languages...rather fluently. America likes to talk about their dominance in the world, but it's jokingly false simply by looking at an American traveling in a foreign country. They don't have a clue. We've seen them expect locals to speak THEIR language simply because they are there spending money. We know people in Mexico and Panama that have lived there, full-time, for decades. A good portion of these people speak very little Spanish. And what they do speak is terrible. We want our family to be able to easily communicate with people they meet whether they are in the US or not.

  6. Schools suck now. We are going to teach our kids. We realized that we are pretty darn smart and when compared to some of the people that are in the school systems, we are geniuses. In Albuquerque, where Doodle was born, the public school children are not allowed to take their books home. THEIR BOOKS THAT THE SCHOOL GIVES THEM TO LEARN WITH MUST STAY AT SCHOOL. And they still have homework! What kind of ass-backwards moron thought that less access to books would be better for students to learn? Teachers are paid crap for the importance of their jobs. So how can we expect them to perform well if they are worried about the mortgage.

    I went to school at a university with a huge teaching program. I think some order of 40% or so of students there were in teaching programs. I know many of the people who graduated those programs. I know some of those people have terrible grammar and don't know how to spell, yet have jobs teaching junior high and high school students now. Unfortunately, it is very easy to get a job teaching in a rural town as long as you were able to hang in there and get that teaching degree. Sad.


Our kids will get a good education. But they will get it through much more than books. Our kids

will know about marine life by not only reading about it, but interacting with it in their natural habitat. They will learn economics and be able to compare living in one country or neighborhood compared with the political and financial climate of people living in a different country or neighborhood. The same can be said of weather, biology, political science, and history. We will also be able to individually cater to learning needs and styles of our children based on their individuality instead of a cookie cutter system aimed at the masses and testing regimens. That school system is not for everyone.



I don't think what people call the American Dream is accurate. The idea of the “American Dream” (having a mortgage, kids, two cars, and a yard) is so silly because on what planet do any two people have the same dream. People find it odd, sometimes crazy or dangerous, that we live the life we do now. They do not see our big picture. And that's okay. The other day Yana and I talked about how people back home treat us. I said, “They think we're the Jonses.” half jokingly, but probably surprisingly accurate.


But we are not wealthy. We make good money, more than average; but we don't live life like most Americans. Most of our friends stateside see our life and think we have it so easy, but fail to realize the sacrifices we made to get and stay here. They don't see the sacrifices we still make every day. We don't have a smartphone anymore. We have no clue what Twitter or Facebook is doing unless we are at home in front of our computers or in a cafe with wireless (and felt like bringing the laptop along). The electricity over the last couple years goes out a lot. We have felt small earthquakes here in Panama three times since we arrived a week and a half ago. Everything we own is either in the four suitcases we brought to Panama, or stored on our sailboat in Mexico. We no longer have any furniture. We have one vehicle, which at the moment is in the States, unused. We walk down a mountain (a dormant volcano, mind you) waiting for a taxi or bus to come by, hope they have room, and let us on. We've waited up to an hour and a half for a ride like that. We go to the grocery store and have to sometimes not get certain things we want because we don't have room or because it would make things too heavy to carry what we do need.


Aside from our boat, we have no actual home. We rent. The cabina we are in now is a studio, and we only have it for a month before moving to another place for a couple months. The kitchen sink, counters, and stove/oven are outside. We cook, eat, then clean outside. After Boquete we are off to Panama City for the birth of our second little one. We still do not know where we will live yet. We haven't really started looking. But we are okay with all of this. We have lessened the “stuff” in our life and replaced it with living through experiences that most people in the US will never know. They have too much stuff to take care of. George Carlin hit the nail on the head with that one...


We are happy though. We are not alone. There are others we have met living the same life we are. Some of them by choice, some not. Some live and travel with smaller budgets thane we do (in some cases WAY smaller) and there a few that do it with a lot more. But we don't do it because of what our family thinks or how dangerous it may or may not be. People always tell us to send them pictures of our travels and experiences and we tell them we don't really take that many pictures. It's not because we don't want them to see what we see. It's not because we think that if they want to see the cloud-covered mountains of Boquete then they should get their asses down here and do it (which they should, by the way). We don't take pictures because the camera gets in the way. We want to see the world without looking through the lens. No distortion. No zooming. No click. It's just us and the place where we are right now. And that is how we live our life...based on what we see right now.


Why Panama? We are in Panama because we stopped gathering stuff and sold everything. We are in Panama because we can see a new country, meet new people, qualify for another citizenship, cook outside in the weather, hike trails on a 120-yr-old coffee farm, and anything else the likes of which we have no idea is around the corner. Panama is part of our “American Dream” and we chase our dream in the hope that you are chasing yours. Don't try and keep up with the Joneses....BE the Joneses.

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