I think living temporarily in a community before you decide to move there is very important. But, I suggest to clients they should take it a step further. I tell them to consider “living virtually”.
Recently a woman came to me looking for a condominium and she was ultra-sensitive to what she called “the general political bent of the community.” At first, I was a little confused, but then she explained she would be moving from a California town where most of her neighbors did not mesh with her political views. “The place was beautiful but it became too much. I couldn’t live keeping my mouth shut all the time.” She thought she had done her research but realized maybe she should have pulled back a few more layers.
“I thought I had researched everything…”
“I thought I had researched and covered everything,” she continued “but sometimes things you never considered, become too big to over come.”
Politics, while part of the everyday life in the Pacific beaches area of Panama, is generally not a major concern. With 20 different countries represented in just the Coronado Golf building alone, any political discussion generally centers on the countries’ differences as opposed to just what is going on in the United States.
But, the woman did make a point. It’s important to really know the character of a community, the people who call it home and what it’s like in everyday life. There are lots of ways to seek out the “real” story and not be overly influenced by a few routine sources.
“I overlooked things” continued the woman from California, “because I had such an initial positive experience. The couple who rented next door to me were just delightful. We had a great summer playing cards, having cocktails on the deck and watching the sun set. As it turned out, they decided to move to a town closer to their children. I hadn’t visited very much with anyone else and, they had a very different outlook and they were pretty vocal.”
Live Virtually While Considering Options
While it really is impossible to research everything, I do suggest a little bit of living virtually while considering your options. In the beaches area of Panama, we have a local newspaper, Playa Community and it’s available online. I suggest that you read every issue and see what is of interest to your potential neighbors and others in the community. In a recent edition of the local paper, stories ran the gambit from yoga and practical Spanish language classes to the synagogue and motocross racing in Coronado.
If you regularly read the newspaper you’ll find the advertisements just as interesting as the stories. What services are offered, what restaurants are opening, or re-opening and which ones have a good happy hour. Even the tide tables provide a way of feeling part of the action. Can you imagine yourself sitting on your balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean when the tides start to change and the fishing boats go out for the night?
I also suggest going to the web sites of any of the local restaurants to see what they have on the menu and checking the prices. After reading their offerings, do you feel like going? Do you actually see the great prices so often quoted in the various undocumented blogs but rarely found in reality?
Few Restaurant Websites
Most restaurants in the Pacific beach areas don’t have websites. If they do, you can be assured they are the ones mostly associated with a hotel or resort. For example JW Marriott has a great website complete with menus and prices but don’t be shocked when you see a 10 oz. filet mignon priced al carte at $37.
I find going first to Trip Advisor and finding the names of the local restaurants is a much better way to feel out the type of places one might visit on a regular basis. Then, I see if they have a presence on Facebook. Recently, I found a new restaurant, Sukha, had opened on Ave. Roberto Eisenmann, inside the Coronado gates, offering a full lunch for $6, karaoke at night and half prices drinks most early evenings. Not a JW Marriott experience but then it’s only my birthday one day a year!
Facebook, Loaded With Information
Look for Facebook pages for La Teca, Bluewater Bistro and Picasso Bar and Restaurant and see if any make you want to come and stay. They’ll all show you their menus, that live music is a regular affair and that locals seem to enjoy the atmosphere.
Following strange paths of research on the internet will allow you to find surprising facts about a community. A recent story in Playa Community sent me to a site, Bid4thebeaches which put me in touch with how varied the charity work in Coronado and the surrounding area had become over recent years. This one site provided support for everything from Rotary Club of Playa Coronado to Woody’s House of Hope.
Film, Wine and Varela Too
Even if you don’t want to be a volunteer doing service work, the research will lead you to Panama’s International Film Festival, a specialty wine and gourmet shop offering regular wine tastings and bargain deals, plus a round up of the relatively new Varela Government.
I always encourage individuals and couples who are considering a relocation to Panama to read everything they can on the US State Department’s travel site just to see what the official word is on Panama. We aren’t perfect, but it’s normally very good news about the stable government, lack of crime and solid economic base.
I think it’s important to gather as much information, from as many sources as possible, before you make the decision to plunk down your money for a retirement property.
Today, our information filled world makes doing the research easy.