I’m Moving to Panama on Tuesday. Why? … Why Not?

Goodbye America, Hello Panama!

Last Friday I quit my job, bought a one-way plane ticket to Central America and started figuring out how to pack my entire life into a backpack.  I’m flying to San Jose, Costa Rica after which I will make my way down to Panama in search of work, the perfect beach and a new way of life.  The idea is to get an English Teaching position in Panama City, but upon departure I have no real concrete plans.  I don’t speak a word of Spanish, I’m traveling solo and I don’t know anyone down there.  How long will I stay?  Your guess is as good as mine…  There is usually a string of questions and bewildered stares associated with telling people about my plan all of which I will attempt to answer here.

Why are you doing this?

Have you ever woken up from an amazing dream and desperately wanted to go back to sleep to return to that world?  In your dreamworld you were sitting in a “Corona Commercial” style beach with your friends deciding whether to drink another beer or go surfing, but in reality your alarm is buzzing for you to get up and start the work week.  Have you ever wanted to try and make your dreams a reality and instead of snoozing one more time in hopes of a brief return to your dreamworld?  This is why I’ve decided to quit my job, leave everything behind and head to Panama, I got sick of snoozing…

Not for me…

Last summer I spent 4 months in Europe backpacking mostly in the east.  Upon my return I thought I had scratched my travel itch successfully and tried to act like a normal 24-year-old American guy.  I started my own cleaning business called Hangover Helpers cleaning up after College parties and providing burritos and Gatorades to those ailing a hangover.  I also worked in an office creating technical videos for a software company all the while living in my parent’s basement to try and re-coup the funds I used during my summer travels.   Even though the business was starting to pick up and we created national media attention for our novel idea, I quickly realized spending my weeks in an office and my weekends cleaning up disgusting party messes wasn’t what I was built for.  I found myself constantly staring at maps daydreaming of living in obscure countries.  Many of my friends were already beginning to progress in their jobs, move in with their girlfriends and start acquiring nicer things.  “Living for the Weekend” seemed like a common theme among my peers, struggling through 5 boring days of work waiting for 2 days to relax and hang with their friends.  I began to realize that at this point in my life I’m not ready for this type of lifestyle and if I heard one more radio announcer exclaim their excitement with Monday being over I was going to scream!  Every paycheck I would receive I would think of in terms of plane tickets and how long I could travel for with that dollar amount rather than saving to buy a new car or TV.   After one particularly long week I realized that another adventure was inevitable so I began trying to sell everything I wouldn’t need, put in my two weeks notice at work and avidly searched for the cheapest plane ticket out of the country.

Why Panama?

I grew up near the mountains and studied French in school.  To change things up I decided I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country near the ocean.  With these simple guidelines I sat down with a map and looked for a cool place to go.  Panama speaks Spanish, is only a couple hundred miles wide bordering both major oceans.  I read that the living is cheap, beaches are beautiful and seafood is delicious, why not?

Are you nervous? You can’t speak the language, going alone and don’t even really have an actual plan…

Boredom scares me more than anything else.  A complacent routine lifestyle doing the same thing every single day absolutely terrifies me.  Besides, the things in life that make us slightly nervous are usually the best ones anyway.  From getting married, having kids or going on an adventure the nerve racking excitement and anticipation are good feelings.

Are you crazy? 

I guess it depends on your definition of crazy.  To me spending the prime years of your life sitting in a cubical, staring at a computer screen until your eyes water, day in and day out its absolutely nuts!  There so much more to life than working for a bigger paycheck, I think it’s crazy not to take an adventure or two and experience something new…


  1. I think this is an excellent decision. I liked the islands around Bocas del Toro the best. Learning some Spanish is really easy. Good luck in Panama!

  2. Good for you! I would love to live like you. I’m only in highschool. When we talk about careers, my peers say stuff like how they want to be meteorologists (just so they can be on television), doctors or lawyers (just so they can make good money) or how they want to be on Survivor or some other stupid reality show. I, on the other hand would like to be a Nurse Midwife and study methods of natural childbirth around the world to prove that natural os the best way to go. You should see the looks I get! What I would give to grow up living like you! 🙂

    • Good for you! Don’t start paying attention to those people who are just doing what others before them have done and said they should do. It’s a LIE! Do what you want. If doing what you want doesn’t include having a “job” like “they” do, you should feel proud of that. I just worked for 15 years, I’m 34, and just quit my job because I’m just now realizing the truth about life: People only REALLY need a few things – good food, shelter, love, and community. Too many people work jobs to get paychecks to buy things they THINK they need, but don’t.

  3. Sounds like a great adventure is ahead of you. It’s funny how people think you can be so strange for traveling and doing something different. It is great you can answer their questions with such confidence and ease.

  4. You are crazy in a way that would make any traveler proud. You’re living the dream so many of us dream about. I’m fantasizing about writing a similar blog post, someday. Good luck. I’ll be following your adventures virtually 🙂

  5. I LOVE this. You aren’t crazy–this, in my opinion, is a completely sane thing to do. Good for you!

  6. “Boredom scares me more than anything else.” Wow, that is probably the best, most succinct way of describing the travel/adventure/expat lifestyle that I’ve ever heard. No more explanation needed. Very well put!

  7. Great way of explaining your reason for the choices you’re making. We all need to be more in tuned to our heart’s desire and pursue it as much as we can. Not everyone’s “normal” looks the same. Good luck. I’ll be looking forward to updates.

  8. You ARE crazy. And your no-plan plan IS awesome. I like how you chose Panama because it’s different than what you’ve been used to. That’s the true adventuring spirit!

  9. I think that’s great!! More people should take the leap and follow what their heart wants. Panama sounds like a great place for your adventure; it sure beats your little cubicle!! I left mine last year 😉

  10. Follow the heart! Life is too short to sit caged in an office. I grew up in Kansas and had to follow my hear to live by the sea and sand. Hello Florida!

  11. Yo….

    My Grandfather retired as the QE #1 Ocean Liner and moved to Panama. He had a 90 foot fishing boat located in the American Zone. Working on a fishing boat could be one of your options ?

    I would apply at the NEW ( soon to be opened ) Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Panama City. Go to Google and type in …. HOW DO I GET A JOB AT THE NEW HARD ROCK HOTEL and CASINO in PANAMA CITY ? ……search….. Up pops the Hard Rock Home Page and midway down the first page is a link that says to check back Aug. 1st to a new web-link to apply for jobs.
    What a Grand-Hotel-Casino they are building in Panama ! They have opened like properties in Singapore, PuntCana,Machau and other locations.
    I hope to follow you to Panama within the year.

  12. this is amazing! Sometimes I wish I was a guy just so there would be less restrictions in “foreign” countries but I still plan to go places

  13. Panama is the place!, we are not perfect, but I am a Panamanian and have plenty of american friends borned in Panama and let me tell you, Panama is just waking up, give time and Panama will be the Place to be!!!!

  14. I am from Panama and let me tell you, you guys can count on good people here, like I said before, I have many friends ex zonians, that were borned here in Panama and many others that have come to visit Panama and I hate to here someone saying they do not like Panama, can`t be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. “Have you ever woken up from an amazing dream and desperately wanted to go back to sleep to return to that world?”
    Who hasn’t? I had a LOT of different jobs during my working life before retiring and moving to Panama. I always knew a job was over when the alarm clock went off one morning and the first thing to flash through my mind was “Oh, shit!” With that first “Oh, shit!” it was only a matter of time before I moved on.

  16. Wow, i would love to do this, i’m only 21, but your lifestyle seems to fit me too, i don’t really care much for money and prefer the memories not the $$.

  17. Thanks for your blog. It was one of the deciding factors when I was looking for a job abroad. And now I got a teaching job in Panama City!:)

  18. I love it. I’m extremely jealous of your courage and I’d do it, but being a woman alone and doing that is a bit different than being a guy and doing that alone. I’m planning a trip of my own, though. Very soon!

    • It’s a bit different being a woman, but not entirely. I saw many women on my journey from Nicaragua down to Panama and again from Mexico through Belize and Guatemala.

  19. I live in panama. Its maybe 2nd world at best. Right now panama is a huge bubble ready to burst. Many people don’t realize just how expensive panama has become. Compared to the U.S., the food is more expensive. Housing is more expensive. Cars are more expensive. It’s dirty! Trash is alongside every street. Get used to the smell of burning plastic. People blast the music to 2am, the roosters start crowing at 3am. Most of the houses are dark, dank, and musty. People drive like maniacs here. Car insurance is ridiculous. The rich are very arrogant and the poor want what you got. Gringo is going to befriend you so he can rip you off. Yes, good luck with that move.

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