We go to some pretty far-out extremes to be happy.
Some of us pour our money into expensive cars or clothes. Others dutifully deposit funds into the “vacay” jar, longing for the next opportunity to escape.
Some of us, though, decide to create lives that we don’t need to escape from. Because to escape would mean to leave behind the very source of so much joy and bliss.
If you haven’t figured it out yet (and I know you have)- that source, for many, is Panama.
You cannot hope to quantify the benefits of living in Panama. There are the obvious advantages: the gorgeous land, the low cost of living, the alluring real estate. The deepest benefit, however, you cannot possibly understand until you experience it.
We’ll call it the Panama effect. And you’ll know when it hits.
The Panama Effect
In life, we often end up playing the cards we’re dealt. Being as they’re our cards, we tend to get so used to them that we no longer appreciate them for what they are. Instead, we find ourselves obsessing over the “better” cards that someone else was dealt.
But then, we take a sneak peek at another person’s hand, and suddenly ours shines bright in comparison.
Panama is a country of contrast. For every lavish high rise you see, sparkling in the tropical sun, there are hundreds of humble abodes on the ground, built of crumbling concrete and void of the A/C, hot water, and WIFI that we’ve come to know as the bare essentials.
What strikes me (and will eventually strike you) about those living in these conditions is that they’re generally just as happy as we are; if not more. Assuming the true qualifiers for a healthy life are in place (food, clean water, basic healthcare), expats in Panama often marvel at just how happy these families can be- without all the luxuries that we’ve become so accustomed too.
When you realize that a great majority of the population is still living on $500 (or less) a month, that they’re happy with that- you tend to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Is having the shiniest car in the lot really your depiction of happiness? Or do you hold to a higher value your family, friends, health, and the luxuries in life you already have- whether cable TV or a fat steak dinner?
For some, Panama is an opportunity to reinvent yourself.
It’s not that Panama requires you to live without luxury. You’ll find no match in Central America when it comes to amenities, luxury condos, or BMW dealerships. The difference is that here, you learn to place a lot less emphasis on what you have, focusing instead on who you are. You value your family, friends, health, hobbies, what it is you do that makes you smile- above all else.
Whether you’re plunging into the crisp Pacific first thing in the morning, or raising your glass with your neighbors at sunset, chances are you’re less concerned about the label on your shirt and happier to simply enjoy the moment.
I’ve introduced countless freshly knighted expats into this country. Some come for the real estate, others for the retirement benefits, some for the low cost of living. While the reasons for moving to Panama vary greatly, the reason we stay is much simpler than that.
We grow from newly transplanted (somewhat lost) expats to happier, lighter, and more peaceful versions of ourselves. We begin to not only recognize what we have- we learn to appreciate it more.