Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Without The Mundane, No Paradise

 by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS 

Bluff Beach, Bocas Del Toro 


Last week I wrote a
Facebook post about my being on a mission to visit all of the beaches in Bocas Del Toro - an archipelago of islands just off of Panama's Northeast Caribbean coast - not because I'm a tourist (I am), but because this is also now my new home. 

Unfortunately, we're in the height of the rainy season, and it certainly hasn't disappointed. It's been raining everyday for over a week and is expected to do the same for the coming Christmas week as well. Even though I've been in Bocas for over a month, now, I'm still getting settled in and being kept busy with the mundane. 


Star Fish Beach


Transitioning from the U.S. to Panama has its issues (what I refer to as the mundane), as does life itself. The Miriam-Webster Dictionary describes the Mundane as 1: of, relating to, or characteristic of the world. 2: characterized by the practical, transitory, and ordinary: commonplace the mundane concerns of day-to-day life.

In Zen Buddhism, the mundane is often eloquently and simply described as "chop wood and carry water," the simplicity of life that is also Sacred whether we are awakened and paying attention to it or not.

Meanwhile...


The Beach at Skully's House


Bocas del Toro, Panama, is a Heaven on Earth with white sandy beaches (even when it's raining and it rains a lot) and an abundance of the iconic turquoise waters that the Caribbean is famous for. People come here from all over the world to spend a week or two in this magical collection of islands and discover what some think are among the best beaches in the world. At this level, there is no "better," there is only "different."

The best part may be that Bocas Del Toro is one of a handful of remaining paradises like it in the world that is still relatively affordable whether you've come to recreate for a short while or if you've decided - like me - to make it your permanent home. It's still possible.

Because of this awe-inspiring beauty, it's easy to get caught up in the promise of paradise, where living in "paradise" can be a seemingly perpetual high, a constant reminder of just how beautiful and amazingly we can live our lives. That can sometimes create a "state" (or "temporary") non-ordinary experience, like when you're first falling in love and high levels of dopamine are released, 
a chemical that “gets the reward system going.” Dopamine activates that reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with the use of cocaine or alcohol. But like Cocaine or alcohol, the effects of the romantic stage of love are only temporary. 


I'll have another hit of that, please...


Romantic relationships can't sustain the "drug-like" qualities of passion and heat the relationship brings. Those relationships, if couples don't learn how to cool down, will burn out, and that's where nature comes to the rescue. Oxytocin, known also as the love hormone, provokes feelings of contentment, calmness, and security, which are often associated with mate bonding. Vasopressin is linked to behavior that produces long-term, monogamous relationships. The differences in behavior associated with the actions of the two hormones may explain why passionate love fades as attachment grows.  

That is where the mundane comes into play, and where living in a "paradise" can be a perpetual high, a constant reminder of just how awesomely we can live our lives, of what's possible. The everyday mundane things in our lives are a constant reminder of what it takes to maintain living in paradise: chopping wood and carrying water, paying the bills, doing your laundry, cleaning - paying attention to sustaining your relationship - and those really exciting things. It's not what you're doing, it's how you're doing them.

When you add in the stresses of what a move from your home country to a place with an entirely different culture, language and the legal matters from both places concerned really mean, and how they can play with your dreams: that's where the mundane finds you.

Here are some examples of where the mundane has found me.

1. Panama has put together the most appealing program of special benefits for retirees you’ll find anywhere in the world today…It's the world-renowned Pensionada Visa and the program is open to foreigners. But you'll want to choose your immigration attorney carefully. Get recommendations from ex-pats in the area you want to live in. Find them here. If you decide Panama's where you want to go, I was thrilled with my attorney and would happily recommend her. it will really cut down on the mundane!




2. If medical is important (isn't it always?), your health concerns will play a major role in choosing where you want to retire to. Bocas Del Toro works great for me, but it may not for you. In Panama, y
ou can find the best of care at a fraction of what you’ll pay back in the U.S. Your doctors will often speak English, and they are far easier to access than back home, too. 

What is mundane for me, is how long and difficult it is to opt-out of Medicare Part B. Part A Medicare is free, but Part B can be very expensive, and since you can't use either in a foreign country, why have it? There are reasons, but I won't get into that here. 

I'm 4 months into the process of opting out and at best it will be another two months before I can opt-out at $200/month savings. Plus all that mundane time of waiting and hanging out on the phone on international calls. Start setting that up before you leave, not after.


John Hopkins affiliated Hospitals in Panama


3. Speaking of phones... and the internet, and texting... it's not easy to communicate across sovereign borders and corporate plans, but you'll improve your ability to make that happen by LEARNING THE LANGUAGE of your new country before you go. One of my biggest regrets about my move to Panama is not learning Spanish
before I got here. 

But Bocas is a pretty good place to be for a lot of reasons, not the least of which that there a lot of English-speaking tourists and quite a few locals who know at least some English. 

International phone calls are NOT cheap and corporate phone and wireless companies are not your friends. The first thing I did when I got here was to remove my corporate SIM card out of my unlocked Galaxy S9 and replace it with a Panama company SIM card so I could make local calls. There are different ways to do that and you'll need to do some research on which way is best for you. 

On international calls, Skype is still my inexpensive best friend. Eventually, I was able to cancel my U.S. carrier which was costing me $60 a month for one line on an unlocked paid-for phone. Now I have unlimited data, two lines, texting, and unlimited internet with a hotspot so I can also stream as much as I want on my laptop, phone, or desktop for $40 a month. 

Get a smart TV and you're set. Add WhatsApp, the world's leading messaging app, which gives me free calling, messaging, and video, anywhere in the world. Add in free Facebook messaging and you should be good.


Couldn't be easier, huh?



4. The last major mundane thing (is that an oxymoron?) I'm going to rant about is U.S. Social Security. Don't get me wrong, I think Social Security is the best thing going since sliced bread, but let's face it... that's a huge organization that is continually hamstrung by corporate politicians trying to get their greedy (little) hands on the most successful government program ever that completely pays for itself!  WTF, you say??


I recently needed to contact them about the $200 taken out of my SS check each month for Medicare Part B, while I sent them a letter, I still had to request a letter from them yo get my secret code (that I didn't even know I had!) and then call them back with that code to verify I am who I claim I am... If they already had it, why did I have to call them ( I actually get it,  but really? that's your hi-tech system?)?

Oh, BTW...It took a month to get there... and did I tell you that Panama doesn't have mail service? I had it sent to my U.S. address (my sister's house), she had to open it, verify that it was the one I'd been waiting for, take a picture of it and send it to me, so I could blow it up and read the code and then enter it on the webpage they wanted me to enter it on ONLY TO FIND OUT THAT FREAKING PAGE DOESN'T EXIST ANYMORE! 

Ommmmmm.... breathe...

The message is clear: get all this stuff out of the way before you get wherever you're going because it's gonna be a lot harder if you don't. In my defense, no one told me all of this (except the learn the language part).

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Collapsing Into The New Administration Amid Pandemic Lunacy, By Carolyn Baker


At least once a day I hear someone say, “You can’t make this stuff up” which is yet another way of expressing the incredulity so many of us feel as we witness the cultural madness in which we seem to be suffocating. We have just weathered the most turbulent election of modern times, and that turbulence will almost certainly persist as the Biden Administration comes to power.

Many people are relieved and even elated as they anticipate a “new beginning” on January 20. Others, more cynical, insist that nothing has changed or will change and that the new boss is the same as the old boss. I believe there is truth in both perspectives, and they must be tempered by the reality that industrial civilization is collapsing, and climate chaos is catapulting us into the jaws of species extinction. Many of us have researched collapse for years, even decades, yet collapse is so colossal, so life-altering and death-delivering that in our frail human incapacity to comprehend its magnitude, we live part or all of our lives as if the status quo will endure. No matter how long you have studied collapse, some denial lingers. One indication of our incredulity is the insistence that the recent election offers some light in a very bleak, black night, or on the other hand, that it makes absolutely no difference at all.

I would argue that both assertions hold pieces of truth.

The Lens Of Collapse

Like most human beings who are collapse-aware, I find that I need to keep reminding myself of its reality almost daily. Intellectually, the fact of collapse never escapes me, but the gut-punching reality of it comes and goes so that when I find myself feeling pleased with some aspect of industrial civilization, I need to recall that that aspect is fleeting because it too is collapsing. Conversely, when I feel disappointed or horrified on a daily basis by yet another example of humanity’s greed and Earth-annihilating brutality, I also need to remind myself of collapse. Increasingly, I’m learning that collapse is the lens through which all collective absurdity makes sense, and it is my GPS for navigating the current moment.

Yet another dire warning from scientists underscores our predicament with the December 7 Guardian article,   A warning on climate and the risk of societal collapse, in which scientists and academics including Prof Gesa Weyhenmeyer and Prof Will Steffen argue that we must discuss the threat of societal disruption in order to prepare for it. Scholars and scientists are now discussing openly in world newspapers the collapse of industrial civilization.

So for me, the 2020 election offers a few glimmers of light, and within the larger landscape, it makes little difference. As I have stated before, what matters most to me in terms of how humans respond to collapse is that the unraveling happens slowly and with the least amount of suffering. This is clearly a preference over which I have little control. Whereas I would love to see US immigration policy radically transformed to enact the kindest, most discerning, most hospitable practices on Earth, I am happy in the immediate future to see every child in a cage or immigration prison released and reunited with their parents or relatives. At the same time that I would love to see 700 US military bases around the world shut down and repurposed as hospitals, food banks, or shelters for women and children, I am well aware that is not likely to happen. Even as I know that any measures to mitigate climate change will be glaringly inadequate or useless in the face of an impending sixth great extinction, I am thrilled not to witness the savaging of every national park or wildlife refuge or the intentional pollution of every river or stream on behalf of corporate profits.

In other words, I prefer to live in a society where sociopathic, intentional, calculated, sadistic cruelty directed at defenseless humans and members of the Earth community is not the criterion for every public policy.

A kinder, gentler collapse? Yes, that is what I’d prefer.|

The Folly Of Pining For Better Government

To put it bluntly, it’s time for those of us who consider ourselves politically progressive to grow up. It is highly unlikely that we will ever witness wide-scale economic, ecological, social, or restorative justice—I mean ever.

The military-industrial complex will endure.

Corporate whores will remain.

The prison industrial complex will flourish.

Humans will continue to ignore climate catastrophe and pillage the Earth.

Universal healthcare will never happen in the United States.

The widespread violence we have managed to avoid prior to the 2020 election will ultimately explode into warring factions within our culture or full-on civil war.


Our political work now is to prevent full-fledged fascism from becoming the modus operandi of our world. We succeeded in the 2020 election, but neo-fascism in the United States is not going away and is likely to prevail in the later stages of collapse.


Here is what we must acknowledge: We have failed at every turn to prevent the collapse of industrial civilization and Earth’s ecosystems, and it is naïve to wish for improved government as collapse unfolds.

Goodbye John Muir, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Ralph Nader. We were enlivened by your passion for Earth and sane living.

Goodbye Noam Chomsky. We loved your brain, your courage, and your solid presence as one of the wise elders of our culture.

Goodbye Howard Zinn. Your brilliant historical research was without equal in the twentieth century

Thank you AOC, Rashida, Ayanna, and Ilhan. You beautiful women of color were too much for a culture marinated in racism, sexism, and xenophobia. You have amazed and enchanted us, but you will not prevail.

Sorry Bernie. You were a breath of fresh air, and we were proud to claim you as our “crazy uncle.”


Where To Go From Here?

It is not entirely true that in the face of collapse, there is nowhere to go but inward, but if we don’t begin there, we will only be like dogs chasing our tails.

Where is our grief that our ideals did not come to fruition? As a friend recently said to me, “You and I have been watching empire collapse all of our lives.”

Where is our anger about the narcissism and entitlement of our species?

Where is our fear of what a collapsing and fully-collapsed society will be like? What will it mean for us personally in terms of our own survival and the survival of those we love?

If we are not dealing with these feelings, and if we do not fully grasp the magnitude and implications of collapse, we will continue trying to improve leadership on the Titanic and be terminally enraged that the collapse-unaware masses are deceived by false hope.

What is more, what do we gain from seizing one of the two poles of perception that I mentioned above? If all we see is “bright light” resulting from the recent election, we are clearly in denial, and we do not understand the limitations that the reality of collapse places on how far the light can radiate. Conversely, if all we see is hypocrisy and “more of the same,” we also do not recognize the futility of the radical progressivism that collapse renders impossible to bring to fruition in the twenty-first century.

In any era of collective or personal collapse, it is difficult to avoid emotional bypassing, that is, denying painful emotions by numbing ourselves to them or choosing to feel other emotions that protect us from the more painful ones. For example, we protect ourselves from the sorrow of losing our planet by grasping straws of hopefulness about efforts to mitigate climate change that fall far short of actions needed or that are far too late to make any difference. Likewise, we may choose to remain angry at our political predicament as a way of avoiding the feelings of despair that we keep at bay with our anger. So each of us must ask ourselves what feelings we are not feeling about our planetary predicament and what avoiding those feelings, or the lack of feeling altogether, is doing for us. False hope protects us from the grief, anger, and fear of facing species extinction. Rage and vitriol can piss away energy that could be more wisely used to prepare inwardly for collapse. It may be pleasurable to “stay pissed,” but more often than not, that leaves us “pissing in the wind.”


An Unlikely Guide From Another Pandemic Era

The United States is in a very dark place as USA Today reminds us–a dark place we have not been in since the 1918 influenza pandemic, or even worse, since the Civil War. We have few role models for navigating a pandemic, let alone one who can help us encounter our deepest humanity in the process.

Enter Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century mystic who lived most of her life surrounded by the Black Death. What we first need to know about her is that while she was a Christian anchoress, someone walled up inside a small space for spiritual purposes, she was a remarkable thinker whose Christianity more closely resembled pagan or indigenous spirituality than the institutional Christianity with which we are familiar in the twenty-first century. The plague struck her town in 1349 and continued in waves throughout her life. Although she lived into her seventies, the population of England was cut in half during her lifetime. She grew up surrounded by death and fear, and she never fully escaped that horror anytime in her life. Although she was an anchoress, a single window in her cell opened to the streets of Norwich where she would counsel people suffering from the repercussions of the pandemic. When she was not counseling people, she was writing about what we today would name as eco-spirituality.

Julian was a practitioner of creation spirituality which begins not with a deity, but with nature. It looks at the natural world as a reflection of the divine. While we recognize it today as a tradition honored by indigenous people globally, the pre-modern world contained many intellectuals and mystics within the church, who held nature above and beyond theology or dogma.

In their recent, riveting book, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom In A Time of Pandemic–And Beyond, Matthew Fox and Mirabai Starr note that as a result of a pandemic that killed 25 million people in Europe centuries before germ theory of contagion were discovered, terrified humans looked for someone or something they could blame. While the church had been distancing itself from nature since the fourth century, the Black Death exacerbated a sense of alienation from the natural world. Whereas there had been a deep sense of the divine presence in nature, nature now became an enemy, and a new emphasis was placed on redemption and finding refuge away from this world. As Fox and Starr put it, “As people moved from loving nature to fearing it, humanity shrunk its soul and came to see itself in a battle against nature.” For this reason, “When two hundred years later, Europeans sailed to foreign shores and found indigenous peoples at home with the wonder and sacredness of nature, they accused them of being ‘savages’ while savagely killing them in the millions and ravaging their culture.”

Julian was a panentheist, that is, a person who holds that the universe is sacred–that the divine is within all things and all beings. As Julian often wrote, “God is nature, and nature is God.”

Unlike the masses who came to conclude that a pandemic demonstrates that nature hates us or that God is punishing us, Julian did not succumb to that theological rabbit hole. In fact, she became an even more adamant defender of nature, and surely today would challenge us to face our own potential extinction in the face of climate chaos.

While Julian is famous for her statement that “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” she did not live in some uber-optimistic dreamworld of emotional bypassing. In fact, she counseled people to face the darkness and not deny it. What she meant by “well” did not mean what the word means to most people in today’s consumeristic, “everything will work out in the end” culture.

In fact, Fox and Starr conclude that:

In a culture as thoroughly marinated in instant gratification and consumer fetishes as ours, one so deeply in bed with consumer capitalism and instructed daily in how best to worship the gods of the latest gadgets that promise to make life easier and quicker and more satisfying–but never accomplishes delight and repose–the experience of the dark night is a deep wakeup call. Whether it comes at us from climate change or coronavirus or failures of politicians or the destruction of ideals of democracy or failures of religious promises, or personal pain or combinations thereof, there is plenty to grieve, and there is much dust to be tasted. Loss is in the air, as the dark night knocks loudly on the doors of our souls. Julian dared the dark night…she even dared the dark night to awaken her. She did not run from it, but rather hung around to learn what it had to teach her. It can do the same for us.

From Julian’s perspective, her society was collapsing too. It seemed as if a never-ending pandemic was manifesting the end of the world. Since there was no understanding of the biology of the disease, people were only able to explain it in terms of sin, heretics, and God’s punishment of both. Witches and heretics were hunted, tortured, and burned, as well as Jews. These groups bore the brunt of the conspiracy theories of Julian’s day. Other mystics such as Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Mechtild of Marburg, and Hildegard of Bingen, who all embraced creation spirituality, were viewed as heretics because they championed humanity’s intimate connection with nature as opposed to empire-building and wars of onquest which would follow the Black Death.


Julian’s Seven Lessons For Navigating A Pandemic

Fox and Starr summarize Julian’s teachings regarding humanity’s response to the Black Death as follows:

Facing The Darkness

  • Look darkness squarely in the face.

  • Do not deny or scapegoat the realities of the pandemic.

  • Take the pandemic as an opportunity to examine your goals and intentions.

  • Your life is short. How can you contribute? What gifts do you have to offer?

  • Stay connected with your fear, anger, grief, and despair.

  • Beware of addictions that numb and make you stupid and silly.

  • Face the darkness of our own personal shadow and do shadow healing work.
    \
  • Stay close to the teachings of mystics, poets, indigenous wisdom.

 

Welcome Goodness, Joy, and Awe
  • Fall in love with nature and human goodness.

  • Realize what a blessing it is to be here in an amazing universe on an amazing planet after an amazing journey of 13.8 billion years.

  • Nature is God; God is nature. Immerse yourself in nature.

  • Seek and cherish awe. Julian says that “A reverent awe is the proper response to the supreme beauty of the sacred."

  • Practice gratitude moment to moment.


Practice The One-ing of The Sacred and Life

  • Live your life as if there is no separation–between you and the sacred, between you and Earth, between you and other living beings.

  • All of nature is interdependent. We are interdependent with each other and with nature.

  • Understand how the story of separation shows up in your life. Notice your own “othering” in relation to people with whom you disagree. What might happen if you stopped “othering” them?


Understanding the Sacred Feminine and Divine Motherhood

  • Regardless of your gender, be aware of the patriarchal influences in your life, past and present.|

  • Remember that patriarchy and gender are different. Women can be as patriarchal as men since patriarchy is simply a way of life based on power and control.

  • Learn how to be a spiritual warrior against patriarchy.

  • Learn how to be a spiritual midwife on behalf of goodness, compassion, generosity, awe, joy, and creativity.


Practice Non-Dualism and Living With Paradox

  • Practice holding the tension of opposites. Cultivate a both/and consciousness.

  • Consider that in the age of extinction, something profound is trying to be born in you and in the world.

  • The extinction of our species is likely, and at the same time, nothing is certain.

  • In Julian’s life, the Black Death came in waves. When people thought it was gone, it came again. Know that pandemics in our time are likely to repeat that pattern.

  • Stop asking “When will collapse happen?” It’s happening NOW, and we don’t get to know the outcome.

  • Experiencing joy will deepen your capacity to grieve. Grieving will enhance your capacity to experience deep joy.

  • The more you open to death, the more enlivened you become.


Trust Your Body and Your Sensuality

  • Julian said, “God is in our sensuality.” This is hardly a statement from an institutional, industrially-civilized Christian. Julian’s perspective was wild and nature-based.

  • Be at home with your body. She says, “God willed that we have a twofold nature: sensual and spiritual.”

  • Ground yourself in Earth-based spirituality and sensuality. Reject any spirituality that emphasizes transcendence, “rising above,” or escaping “this vale of tears.” Julian rejected the transcendent theology of her time, preferring to embrace nature and the body as holy.


Celebrate The Power of Love Over Evil

  • Know that all beings are “swimming in an ocean of divinity.” We have every right to dislike any being, but it is our responsibility to acknowledge their humanity and their divinity.

  • Embrace “mystical hope,” not conventional hope. Mystical hope is not tied to outcome and does not depend on external circumstances. It is nourished by our connection to the sacred within ourselves and in the world. As with Viktor Frankl’s experience in a Nazi death camp, mystical hope is about finding meaning and making meaning in all circumstances.

  • “All shall be well,” is not a declaration of naive optimism. It depends on our willingness to wake up and do the inner work that “pandemic times” demand of us.


If we are responding consciously to the current pandemic, like Julian we are “sitting in our cells” in lockdown or voluntarily choosing to stay at home in order to minimize the spread of the disease. We may be conversing “through the window” of Zoom as we connect with friends, relatives, or colleagues. Our pandemic, like the Black Death, seems to be traveling in waves. Equally important as following the guidelines for preventing the spread is conscious and safe immersion in nature. Never have we needed so desperately to commune with nature in solitude and intimate wonderment. Nature, this pandemic, and collapse will incessantly compel us to let go, surrender, and release our perspectives on everything the ego has held dear. We will be challenged often to repeat in innocent vulnerability, “I thought I knew, but I didn’t.”

At the end of the day, if we are fortunate, we may also repeat with John Keats: “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.”

In this way, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

__________________________________________________

More on Carolyn Baker:

Regular readers of this blog, my Facebook page, and my now-defunct website, "Collapsing into Consciousness," will immediately know what a debt of gratitude I owe to Carolyn Baker.

Carolyn's writing - first Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse and then Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition - had such a profound impact on my own writing around collapse, that I jumped on an airplane and flew to the West Coast to take a workshop from her. I've never regretted that decision. In 2015, Carolyn, Anyaa McAndrew, and I co-led a group of 20 people deep into the Yucatan jungle for "The Sacred Sites Tour" to explore what caused the collapse of the Mayan Civilization just 500 short years ago and what might we learn from it.

Carolyn is my teacher and mentor, but most of all she is my friend and, through her powerful words and vision, constantly and gently reminds me who I am at my essence.



Friday, December 04, 2020

BUT WAIT, PANAMA SAID, THERE'S MORE...

Gary's comment: Many of you have asked me, "How do I get started in checking out places to live abroad? This article, originally an email I received from Live and Invest Overseas, is reprinted here with permission. Be sure and check out how you can receive this and other free publications from them at the bottom of this article.

Dec. 3, 2020
Panama City, Panama



PLUS:

  • Trying Things Out Before Taking The Leap...
The World’s Top Combo Haven For Retirement And Investment?

That’d be Panama... one of the most exciting and fastest-moving markets on the planet right now.

This little isthmus allows you to protect and build your wealth in an economy that has managed to thrive in the face of the global crisis... including back in 2008.

In Panama today, you really can live better, retire well, start over, reinvent yourself, and take control of your financial future.

Learn more about what the “Hub of the Americas” has to offer, here.

Dear Overseas Opportunity Letter Reader,

“Wow... this is a new Panama City. I do not recognize this Panama City...

“I was last here,” my friend from Medellín continued, “eight or nine years ago. I passed through as part of my scouting trip to figure out where in Latin America I wanted to settle.

“I was in Panama City two days maybe, and I wasn't so impressed. I remember thinking, ah... I can find better than this. And I continued on.

“But this city today is unrecognizable from the place I've had in my memory. This is beautiful!”

My friend Joe was in town on business earlier this year. It's not uncommon. I know lots of people who live in Medellín and do business in Panama City. For some, it's a conscious, strategic decision.

Because Medellín is pleasant and lovely... and Panama City is pushing always for growth.

In the 12 years we've been living here, though, we've had front-row seats for this city's renaissance. And we've come to take the transformation we've witnessed in real time for granted. My friend Joe's reaction prompted me to take a fresh look at the city Lief and I have called home for more than a decade.

Phase I of the Cinta Costera, the expanded thoroughfare that stretches along the ocean in the heart of downtown Panama City, opened a year after we took up full-time residence. It provided more lanes for traffic and a pedestrian-only area for cycling, jogging, roller blading, etc. Wow, we thought at the time, look what they've built...

But the Panamanians were only just getting started at remaking the face of their capital city.

Phase II of the Cinta Costera opened in 2010. Now this green area continued from the center of Panama City to old town Casco Viejo.

But, wait, the Panamanians said, there's more... and, in 2014, they completed Cinta Costera Phase III, which included a raised highway over the ocean to allow traffic a new route around the Casco Viejo peninsula.

The palm trees, hibiscus, and bougainvillea that were planted as part of Cinta Costera Phase I have grown and flourished. Over the years, more trees and plants have been added, in careful patterns and designs... as well as fountains, basketball courts, a meditation garden, outdoor gym equipment, and open-air art installations.

Meantime, these past 10+ years, along Avenida Balboa, the main drag through the heart of the city that runs alongside the Cinta Costera, we've watched as new hotels have been built and as new restaurants, cafés, and shops have opened.

These new eateries and boutiques are more upscale than their predecessors.

Today you can shop for evening wear (should you have the need) in a designer shop then rest up from your retail binge at a rooftop bar sipping prosecco al fresco while watching ships queuing for their turns to transit the Panama Canal.

The line is always long... an ever-present reminder of where so much of the cash flow is coming from to fuel the ambitious and ongoing reinvention this country has been undergoing before our eyes.

“All of this is new to me,” my friend Joe continued when I took him to my favorite rooftop bar on Avenida Balboa the warm weekend in January when he visited. “All of this activity in this part of the city... this is so unexpected and so impressive...”

I was interviewed a while back by a reporter from Consumer Reports working on an article on what it's really like to retire to Panama today.

This country has been heralded (by us and others) as a world's top retirement haven for many years. Is that still the case, the reporter wondered...

In many ways, Panama is a better choice for retirement today than ever. However, today's Panama is also much more than that.

First, today, Panama is two very different places. Panama City is a world unto itself, a very different place from the rest of the country. Think of Panama City as Manhattan and the rest of Panama as the rural Midwest.

The rest of the country offers many appealing retirement lifestyle choices... beach, mountain, small town, and village. All much less developed than Panama City... and, for the retiree, that can be a good thing.

Panama City offers a different caliber of lifestyle experience that could suit some in retirement but that makes more sense (great sense) for the digital nomad, the go-getting entrepreneur, and anyone in search of income opportunity. This city is a playground for those embracing a making-money agenda.

That's precisely the agenda that brought Lief and me to Panama City so long ago. We didn't mind that the city was more than a little rough around the edges. We weren't here for easy living. We were here to build a business.

Today Panama City has evolved around us to offer a much more comfortable, more pleasant, and more well-appointed standard of living.

Panama City today is well on its way to becoming the brand-name city it has long aspired to become.

It took my friend Joe to help me register the metamorphosis.

Sincerely,
Kathleen Peddicord
Kathleen Peddicord
Founding Publisher, Overseas Opportunity Letter

P.S. What is the cost of life in today's Panama City, the Consumer Reports reporter wondered...

Today's Panama City is not a bargain destination. You don't move to Panama City on a modest budget... at least I wouldn't recommend it.

Elsewhere else in Panama continues to offer great and budget-friendly lifestyle and retirement options, but don't retire to Panama City on a shoestring.

This is the kind of analysis, comparing, contrasting, and interpreting that we'll do with the help of many dozens of experts and expat friends from across Panama during our Live and Invest in Panama Virtual Conference.

Lief and I will share more on our personal and firsthand experiences living and doing business in Panama City... while other expats, retirees, and investors will share their perspectives based on their own experiences living and investing in this country beyond its capital.

The next 38 readers to sign up for this online event will enjoy a full US$100 off the cost. Combine that with the US$100 Early Bird Discount, and you can save your place today at a full 40% off the normal rate.

But you’ll have to hurry: only the next 38 readers will enjoy this US$200 discount.

Head here now for details of our online Panama experience.


Your Passport To Freedom And Paradise Abroad

While things may be rosy now on Wall Street, it’s easy to feel like you’re on a sinking boat...

How much can you really afford to wait?

How much of your wealth is the government going to squeeze from you after all the COVID-19 costs are added up?

Well, we’ve got a way to get you off that boat...

A way to protect your wealth and to guarantee yourself a much more prosperous future...

And not only is it your way out—it’s your path to paradise...

View Online

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Monday, November 30, 2020

SO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT LIKE TO LIVE ABROAD?

by Gary Stamper 


The sun illuminates "rainshine" falling on the mainland through a hole in the clouds

It's been almost a month since I've posted here since I've been posting snippets of my journey on my Facebook page. FB's perfect for snippets, but here's a blog on a bigger subject (Note: I'll also repost this on my FB page with a redirect here).

I've been inspired to write about this because of the FB response to those snippets and photos. So many of you have asked how I did this and how envious they were that I seem to have found my own personal paradise, so let me start this off by saying:

If I can do this, anyone can do this.

If you want something like what I've done, you have to want it bad enough to make it happen and not let anything get in your way, including naysayers, money, and self-doubt.


The rewards can be immense, but there's a cost, too!


When thinking about how bad you want it, one of the first considerations is how will you feel about leaving your family, loved ones. friends... and grandkids? Are you OK with not seeing them very often?

What about your partner if you have one? If they're not on board, what will that mean to you? Will you need a job or will you be retiring or are you self-employed with the ability to work from anywhere as a digital nomad? 

Yesterday, I met Lora from Colorado who has been in Panama for two months, now. She applied online from Colorado and wrangled a job related to real estate sales at one of the larger resorts on one of the other islands. Like me, she speaks little Spanish. She's married and she and her husband are working out how they maintain two residences and time apart, both traveling back and forth.

The process of just figuring out what works for you and what doesn't will be a tremendous growth opportunity for you and the people in your life whether you decide to go or stay. Whatever you decide, you will know yourself better.

What's my dream?

If you've traveled, you're at an advantage over someone who hasn't. I'm not what I would call a world traveler. I've been to Scotland twice, traveling through Heathrow and Amsterdam airports. I've also traveled half of Canada, been to Hawaii twice, Costa Rica, and made numerous trips to Mexico on both coasts and led a tour of Mayan Sacred Sites in the Yucatan. I have, however, traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, which played a major role in my choice of Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

That choice, though, was not made lightly. I spent a year researching locations before I arrived in Panama.

I had initially chosen Cuenca, Ecuador, as my destination. Why? There were several reasons. First, I knew and very much liked and respected someone who had ex-patriated there. Cuenca also had a large ex-pat community and the cost of living was rated as one of the lowest in the world, meaning my money would go a lot further there... an important consideration.



Cuenca, Ecuador


However, the deeper I dived into Cuenka, I began to question some aspects of retiring there, the biggest being that it was located at 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains and that meant cold winters and snow... uh, a major drawback for me, low cost of living or not! |

So I began looking at the Ecuadorean Pacific coast, particularly 7-8 beach towns, but eventually came to realize those weren't the beaches I was looking for.

What I realized then was these were not the white sand and clear turquoise waters I was actually longing for, For that, I'd have to return to the Caribbean I loved so dearly.

I returned to the online website, International Living, and did a search on Caribbean  Beach Towns and immediately found what I was looking for: Bocas Del Toro, Panama!

Bocas Town Business District

Now, this is more like it! I immediately liked the laid-back colorful Jamaican vibe to the whole place! I spent another three months researching the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and finally decided this was the place for me!


Just as I started to dive into scheduling a March exploratory 2-week trip to check it out... you guessed it... COVID 19 hit and I had to cancel my plans, thinking it would be October or November before I'd be able to get there for my exploratory journey. I was partially right.

Panama reopened to tourism on October 12th and I jumped on what might be a window and arrived in Panama on November 3rd. Good thing... the US was about to explode once again in COVID cases and I figured being locked down in Panama at the beach if it were to happen again would much better than being in the US, so I came to stay, not as an explorer, but as a resident and immediately obtained a temporary Resident Visa. There would be no going back.


Boca Town Sunset

Today, I'm safely ensconced in a very nice 1-bedroom furnished apartment in Bocas Del Toro and loving being here. It's costing me $500 a month and includes wi-fi, furniture, dishes, cable, and all utilities. My unit is on the 2nd floor right of the entry with a great balcony.

You could live very comfortably in Bocas on $1,000/mo. Two people with a $2,000 budget could live very well, indeed.




 
In Napa, where I was living before I got here, a single bedroom in a shared house started at $800/mo and generally averages between $1200-1600/mo.

I highly recommend International Living for research on your perfect Retirement or Get-out-of Dodge source, or if you'd just like to improve your quality of your life on the same funds you now have. They have a tendency to gloss some things over and paint a rosy picture, but you can find negativity in lots of places if you want to know about the downsides of ex-patriating. 

Panama also has some of the best retirement options of any country, including their world-renowned Pensionada Visa with its many benefits to entice foreign retirees!

Whatever you choose, invest some time in your future. Even if you decide to stay where you are, you'll have the peace of mind that comes from being informed.

Me? I'm absolutely delighted with my choice!


Gary Stamper, Chillin'

All photos copyright 2020 Gary Stamper

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

I APPARENTLY MAKE REALLY GOOD LEMONADE!


by Gary Stamper

During postings here and on Facebook, I'm often reminded by my wise friends that many things happen at a much slower pace here in Panama than they do in the U.S. and that when one door closes, another opens.

I've also come to realize on my own that "mañana" does not mean "tomorrow" as I'd been taught." It really means "not today!" 

So far there have been five holidays in the 8 days I've been here, three of which were pretty impromptu (well, we took that one off, might as well take another!).

Recent events here in my immigration process prompted me to post this on Facebook:

Panama City, Panama, Day 8:

"AH, HA!" vs "UH OH" moments:  The difference lies in your attitude.

My attorney's departure from my immigration team poses several new issues that impact my plans which I had so perfectly mapped out and now are in shambles.  I'll write more about it in my next blog.

Meanwhile, we're all going to find out if I know how how to make lemonade. More later.

This morning

Turns out I apparently make pretty good lemonade when life hands me lemons.

This morning I hired a new attorney with the recommendation of a new friend from Bocas el Toro that I've been talking with that I couldn't be happier with. She knew how to get things done and solved all of the problems that were plaguing me, the primary one being the covid-induced eight-week wait to get the FBI document we needed for immigration that used to take 4 days.

So instead of being delayed eight-weeks, not only am I back on track to getting a residency card, but it's apparently going to take even less time because I'm working with an attorney who really knows what she's doing. 

The bottom line here is I'll know Thursday when I can leave Panama City for my home in Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean!

I think I'm gonna have a Marguerita instead of lemonade.