Thursday, June 30, 2011

“I’ve just retired to Panama – Now What?"

“What shall I do with myself?" is generally not the first question a new retiree to Panama asks. Once transformed from a working stiff to a crumpled lounging lizard, we, the newly emancipated, embark upon exploring sensational venues. Only after the first year do we begin to reflect on intriguing ways to reinvent ourselves. We regain that pep in our step and realize that 60-something is not too old to start all over. We’ve had enough of spending every waking hour with the spouse, no matter how much we love them. We’ve assessed our many visits to the mall and the market and acknowledge there is nothing more we need to buy. We have visited the main attractions several times so when we go again it will be to escort our out-of-town visitors. As for me, the last time I checked my career aspirations list, eradicating my home of mold and ants was not a life-long goal. No, it wasn’t a goal but it has become a life-long challenge, but that’s another blog. So besides murdering mold and ants, what’s next?
I have good news for you. Panama is brimming with entrepreneurial, sideline and volunteer opportunities. Push aside the urge to sit around and watch hummingbirds. (Bird watchers, don’t get mad; I love watching hummingbirds) A successful retirement can become the time when you pursue the profession you always desired. If you loved what you were doing you can expand upon it, choosing the hours and manner in which you want to work. I love my life as a writer because I can do it in my pajamas. In this article I am going to expose just a few of the many ways in which expats in Panama keep busy.
First off, let’s take our dear friend Don. Everybody knows Don. He is the authority on everything about Panama pertaining to expats. I call him the expats expert. I can’t wait to receive the next edition of the Panama Guide in my in box. Don truly loves what he is doing because he puts his all into his work. Sure, at times he raises a wild hair or two in someone’s knickers, but it’s because he is passionate about what he does. Coming from a 30+ year career in media, my philosophy about the business is you aren’t doing your job if somebody doesn’t get mad at you. Had it not been for Don I would not have known there was a serial killer on the run or that bus fares had skyrocketed from 25ȼ to 30ȼ.
My good friend, Tim, is living the good life. His philosophy is, “if you don’t come back sunburned, you haven’t been fishing.” I know a few of his buddies and they all seem to have the same philosophy. Nothing makes Tim happier than escorting his friends on a fishing trip. And they catch some whoppers! Since Panama has lots of water on both sides and even in between, every opportunity exists to vigorously pursue this form of recreation.
Then there’s Ty. He and his wife, Michelle, own a sports bar in one of the most idyllic towns in Panama. These Canadians swooped into town and captured a top spot on Trip Advisor. The coolest thing about what they do is to invite all of their friends to come over for every major sporting event and get paid for cleaning up after them. They are in a great location, as you must pass their place coming in and upon leaving town. Volunteerism is also a big part of their life. In fact, I don’t know when they find time to sleep.
How about Mary? Like Don, everybody knows Mary. She is the expert on everything that involves tourism. Her exploratory gifts have helped her become the ‘go to’ person for real estate, tours and activities involving socializing and having a good time. I will warn you. When you see Mary zooming down the mountain road you had better get out of the way. She is heading towards business.
I love the work Anne is doing. Anne shows people two different sides of Panama – under the ocean and through the jungle. Anne’s love for marine life and indigenous people opened up fascinating new worlds for me. A one-time professional animal trainer, Anne parlayed her love for animals into a successful oceanic venture. As a result of her incredible personal life she shares a beautiful native culture with tourists which awes and inspires.
Next, I’ll point to Denise and Kirk. They are an entrepreneurial couple who extended their careers here in Panama. Denise created an innovative reading app for children. It is now available on iPad and iPhone and is sweeping the world (I’m not exaggerating). Denise is in high demand. Kirk amazed me with his practice of iridology.  Iridology is an alternative medicine technique whose proponents believe a patient’s systemic health can be determined by examining patterns, colors, and other characteristics of the iris.(ref. Wikipedia) He told me I had a problem with my leg by looking into my eye. Being from Missouri, he still had to show me. So I challenged him. “Which leg?” I asked, certain I had stumped him. He gave me the right answer and the right combination of herbal remedies, putting me on the road to recovery.
My husband and I are mesmerized by Silvard. This man is the Yanni of Panama, except he is blond. We were introduced to him by the good folks at the Mail Boxes, Etc. in Coronado. Silvard’s musical talents have many sides. Pick a style you like (except rap) and more often than not you will find a CD you like.
I can’t leave out the “warm and welcoming Peace Corp volunteer” who opened a unique hostel in David. What makes it unique? It’s the first hostel in David and it’s purple. I found a review in Lonely Planet. “The owner proves to be an incredible resource, and can direct guests to binders of information or suggest economical transport to the coast or elsewhere.  The house also recycles and has a community partnership selling Ngobe Bugle crafts without commission."

I could go on to tell you about Barbara who makes stained glass ornaments; and Thomas who runs an international marketing business; Hall nurtures a teak farm; and Mik and Keitha own rental property. I know two young women who are working on an organic vegetable farm. A good number of expats own restaurants, hotels, small inns and bed and breakfast facilities. The more aquatic-minded entrepreneurs offer sailing excursions to Cartagena, Colombia or run surfing schools. Authors, photographers, bloggers, spay and neuter specialists, those who work in recycling, botanists, massage therapists, English teachers, artists, day traders, computer technicians, foster parents and health retreat specialists round out the mix. And yes, some just like to sit back and watch hummingbirds.