Wednesday, September 23, 2020


 by Gary Stamper,  Sept. 23, 2020

Bocas Del Toro Sunset

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.

This and more, my trip is all about making connections and firming up if this is where I want to be. Tourists can enter Panama with a passport and a ticket out and stay for 90 days before they have to leave. 

I may or may not come back. Everything I'm not taking with me now will be ready to ship at a phone call, and, if need be, my daughter can sell my car...probably my last car...It partly depends on whether I can get my Pensionado Visa this first trip or not, and how I feel about Bocas Del Toro. I've been all over the Caribbean during the past 20 years, and I know I love the laid-back Caribbean vibe... I'm going to find out if Bocas Del Toro is the right place in the Caribbean... 

I'm pretty sure it is, and I'm really tired of moving. 


Suzy stamper said...

I hope this all goes smoothly for you and you find your place to call home. I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time for you.
Ill be following you closely on this new adventure. All my love, Suzy

Gary Stamper said...

Hey, Sooz...
Boy, me too!!!!

Anyaa said...

Hey Gary, thanks for sending this to me & I am thrilled for you, but one question. Why not leave earlier as the election chaos will be intense here.. wouldn’t you want to avoid that? And, I like that you have the option of staying if you want and not coming back... brilliant! Talk soon.

Gary Stamper said...

Good morning, Dear Anyaa...

Yes, I would like to leave but the borders are still closed. They are supposed to open on October 12th, and so far that looks good, but who knows... and, I HOPE I have the option of not coming back and am preparing for that.

Plus, I still have so much to do and I'm very grateful for the time spent with my Daughter Tanya.

chuck-aka-greenman said...

Brother, I am so excited for you!!! It sounds like you have found the perfect match for yourself! I trust that everything will be great in Panama! Happy trails!

chuck-aka-greenman said...

Brother, I am so excited for you!!! It sounds like you have found the perfect match for yourself! I trust that everything will be great in Panama! Happy trails!