Cory and I recently moved to Panama City, Panama, and the question that people always ask is “Why did you move away from Hawai’i?!” Well, the answer is quite simple for us, to pursue our lifelong dream of living/traveling in different countries around the world! Making this move is a huge life step for us as we are finally living out our dream. Panama is the perfect first stop for us with its tropical climate and endless surf breaks. Being the country that is the bridge between Central and South America, the travel opportunities are endless. Now the hard part is picking what places we want to visit!
I’m not going to lie, the first few weeks here I was really homesick for Hawai’i, but the more we are able to explore this country, the more I am falling in love with it.
Cory and I have already come to one major conclusion about Panama in the short time we have spent living here, Panama is an underrated country! I can’t ever seem to compartmentalize my thoughts so here’s a list of them, varying between experiences we’ve had and my first thoughts on life in Panama.
- The very first thing I noticed is how extremely friendly the people are here. This has been something that is pretty consistent throughout our experience so far. When we have been surfing, locals strike up a conversation with us and cheer us on as we catch the waves. A stranger once paid for my groceries when the machine wasn’t taking my card and was helping translate for me. I’m still blown away from his genuine act of kindness and I am forever grateful, kind stranger.
- Speaking of translating, if I am struggling and someone knows English, they often lend a helping hand. However, most of the time people only speak Spanish, and they are SO patient while I very poorly try to communicate with them. I wish more people in the U.S. were this patient with English language learners. Doing things in a foreign language is hard!
- Our apartment is hands down the nicest apartment we’ve ever lived in. I wake up every morning with the sun rising over the ocean wondering how in the world we got so lucky. I don’t know if I should cry or be happy about the fact that it is cheaper than our cockroach infested apartment in Hawai’i. Most importantly, this apartment has air conditioning, something I will never take for granted again.
- Taxis are quite aggressive when they are trying to get passengers. They always drive up to you and honk at you. Obviously I stick out pretty easily so I get this a lot. One day I was having a bad day and it seemed like every taxi was honking at me while I was waiting for my uber, so I finally snapped at yelled at one of them… Oops.
- People drive fast and crazy, but everything else is very slow paced. People warned us about “Latin Time”, but Hawaiian time prepared us for that. I’m also a perpetually tardy person, so this doesn’t bother me at all. It’s like I was meant to live in a place where time is relative. Why rush through the motions of life?
- Panama is often overlooked by people travelling throughout Central America, and we selfishly prefer it, because we get a more authentic experience of Panamanian life. One of our favorite places to visit is El Valle de Anton, which is the world’s largest town located in a dormant volcanic crater. (How cool?!) This town is super local and we rarely see other foreigners here. Most of the time when we are surfing, we are the only non-locals. We prefer it this way because that is the whole point of living in a different country!
- Speaking of surfing, the surf is amazing here! We have been able to surf multiple beaches so far and we are obsessed. Again, because Panama doesn’t see as much tourism as surrounding countries, so people don’t know how great the surf is. Most times, its just us and a few other surfers. My favorite memory is when we went surfing at 7AM and we were the only surfers along the two mile long beach. I remember looking at Cory and saying “This is why we moved to Panama.” It was such a beautiful moment that I’ll cherish forever.
- On one of our first weekends here, we went whale watching and it was amazing. I was a little hesitant because we could see whales all the time in Hawai’i, but the tour offered a 50% discount so we went for it. (Hawai’i created high expectations for us, so we are picky when it comes to ocean life.) I am so glad we did it because it exceeded my expectations! We saw around 20 whales, some of them breaching so close to our boat, and a pod of around 100 spotted dolphins. At one point there was three different groups of whales surrounding our boat and there was nothing else out there except for us and the open ocean. That was a pretty magical moment.
- I love the rainy season here. The rain doesn’t really affect our outdoor activities. It usually rains in the afternoon, so we make sure we get our outdoor activities done in the morning. Also, there is nothing quite as refreshing as surfing during a rain storm. It makes me feel even more connected with the Earth. In Hawai’i, we didn’t really get to experience seasons, but the afternoon rain showers makes it feel like Fall. It’s a perfect excuse to use the afternoon to light a fall scented candle and cuddle up with a good book. Also, the rain allows us to see every shade of green possible. It makes the countryside unbelievably beautiful.
We are loving life in Central America, and we haven’t even really experienced the main reason why we moved here: to explore the region. Each time we experience something new, it makes me more excited for whats next to come in Panama and our travels around the region. Stay tuned, we are heading to Colombia in November!