by Gary Stamper, Sept. 23, 2020
Were it not for the COVID-19 virus, I would already be in Panama. That said, I am also intensely aware that so far 200,000 of my fellow Americans have died of the virus and related causes, a much worse outcome than not being in Panama. Perspective, Gary, perspective...
One of the people I've met here in Texas doesn't believe that the virus has killed 200,000 people in the U.S. or that's it's a serious threat. They told me they'd much rather catch COVID than the flu, and I mentally wished them good luck with that and Fox News.
Yesterday I bought my airline tickets for my exploratory visit to Panama, Panama is scheduled to open to tourism again on October 12th and I'm leaving on November 2nd, the day before the election, providing Panama doesn't have a relapse in cases between now and then, requiring them to re-enter lockdown.
The people of Panama have conscientiously worn their masks, socially distanced, and endured extremely strict curfews, which is why they've had better results and fewer per capita deaths than say, the country that has the leading COVID death rate in the world, the U.S.
I'll likely be there from 10 to 14 days. I bought a round-trip changeable ticket with trip insurance so I could change my return date if needed, or get a refund should I not be able to go, and even with that my airline tickets from Houston were less than $400.
I'll be spending the first two days in Panama City, a modern bustling city by any standards, playing tourist (Hey, you gotta see the Panama Canal and other attractions, right?) and meeting with my immigration attorney about a permanent resident Visa. I'm applying for the world-renowned Pensionada Visa, created to entice ex-pat retirees with a minimum guaranteed-for-life pension of not less than $1,000 a month.
Panama has put together the most appealing program of special benefits for retirees you’ll find anywhere in the world today…and the program is open to foreigners.
In Panama, resident pensionados or retirees are entitled to:
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events)
- 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 25% off monthly energy bills
- 30% to 50% off hotel stays
- 15% off hospital bills*
Plus a lot more perks.
After two days in Panama City, I'll catch a smaller commuter plane to the "Isla Colon International Airport." The airport is located in the provincial capital of Bocas Town, the tourist center of the group of islands and my final destination. The airport is only about 1 mile west of the city.
Bocas Town, where I plan on living, is a bohemian, waterfront town on Isla Colón. It's the largest and funkiest town in the Bocas del Toro archipelago and is visited by travelers from all over the world. Hotels, restaurants, gourmet grocery stores and other tourist facilities crowd the small town, making it one of the most popular places in all of Panama. It's particularly popular as a destination surfing town and also well known with hikers, the club scene is hot and heavy into the late hours and the whole place is supposed to have a light Jamaican vibe, an I've got my eye on a local reggae band that might need a singer.
I'm traveling light with my phone, a computer bag and a backpack carry-on containing one pair of pants, 2 pair of shoes(sandals and tennis shoes) a small grooming kit, 3 pair of shorts, two shirts, some assorted t-shirts, and my Soul Train Cruise ball cap. While there, I'll be looking for a downtown storefront for a business idea I have and connecting with a realtor I'm already talking with, meeting with a new friend who is the editor of the local paper, "The Bocas Breeze," who is also a musician and artist, connecting with the local ex-pat community, local Shamans, local artists and business people and anyone else I can talk to make sure this is where I want to live.
Does this photo look like someplace you'd like to live? I'll also be connecting with a local Spanish school, Habla Ya, as they trade Spanish lessons for volunteering in their organic gardens, a win-win for all since I'm an organic gardener and I'll learn the peculiarities of organic gardening in the tropics.
I'm pretty sure it is, and I'm really tired of moving.