Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are not based upon the legal system of either the U.S or Panama, but rather my lifestyle experiences. So don’t get yourself arrested and blame it on me, chief.
“Are you ever coming back to the U.S?”
It’s a question I’ve been hearing for nearly two years.
At first, my answer had a built-in pause. “I don’t know…” I would mutter. “Maybe.”
These days, it’s shifted to a steady: “Why would I do that?”
The sentiment is further rooted during my annual visits to the U.S. It seems that Panama has spoiled me. With its advantageous atmosphere and empowering sense of freedom, I feel suffocated when I return “home.”
It’s the little things, as well as a few major shifts in mindset and lifestyle. There are things I do in Panama that I just can’t do in the states. At least- not without fighting an uphill battle.
The Little Things
The little things are the hardest to explain. When we fall in love, whether with a person or a country, it’s often thanks to the “little things” that we can barely pinpoint yet refuse to live without.
So, what are Panama’s little things? I’ll do my best to describe.
- It’s the freedom to drive onto the beach to reach that faraway surf break, with no one to yell at you and (barely) any people to hit.
- It’s the freedom to build a bonfire, pitch a tent, let your dog off the leash, or bring a flask to that same beach (or other public space) with no one to tell you off for it. The police drive by and wave- why would they care?“Hope you’ve got 4×4,” they say, “call us if you get stuck.”
- It’s being able to walk into a store and have your smartphone unlocked, because you don’t want a 2-year contract, thank you very much. $15 a month, pay-as-you-go, sure beats that monthly $89 bill.
- It’s affording a weekly manicure, because for $8, why the hell not? You’ll use that time to practice your Spanish, anyway- two services for the price of one.
- It’s bringing your non-service dog on a public ferry, it’s riding a horse wherever the hell you want, because who are you to tell me I can’t?
- Sure, buy a freshly-killed chicken from the farmer two houses down. Sell kabobs by the side of the road. Permit? Bah. The FDA won’t bother you.
The U.S is suffocating, with its pussyfooting philosophy. No dogs allowed. No beers on the beach. No sneaking snacks in the theater, and absolutely no monkey bars on the playground. Don’t you dare start that bonfire. And you! You’re trespassing. Get out of this…uh….forest. You’re up to no good.
Land of the free. Home of the brave.
Except everyone is terrified of lawsuits to the point that the country is idiot-padded and accident-proof.
Nevermind the fact that the 9 out of 10 casualty-free scenarios are stripped away from us. Nevermind the concept of, oh, I don’t know, doing what you want so long as you’re not hurting anybody else.
Little freedoms are nice. It’s only when combined with life-changers that a fun place to visit becomes a better place to live.
Living in Panama has enabled me to have a conscious control over my career, the direction it goes, and the rate at which it progresses. I’m not hungrily grabbing at whatever opportunity comes my way. With so many opportunities, I get to pick and choose.
I needn’t operate at the mercy of the economy, the market, and all its fluctuations. I operate according to me.
At 23, I’m in the initial stretch of my freelance career- but you wouldn’t know it by my portfolio. I spearhead projects that most people can’t touch before years of climbing the corporate ladder. The U.S is saturated with bureaucratic bullshit. Bide your time, pay your dues, wait for that promotion, your moment will come.
In Panama, you opt for the grab-what-you-want-by-the-cajones path instead.
The economy has grown dizzyingly fast. Businesses are racing to keep up, to expand, to offer more, make more, and maximize on this historical period. They don’t care how many notches are on your belt. They care that you’re able to grab the reins, bring something new to the table, and produce results.
I’m sure some would say the same about the States- and I don’t doubt them. But I also don’t envy freelancers or job seekers in the U.S- particularly those who are still earning their stripes, or competing against more people for less openings. Fighting to burst their head through a sea of contenders, just to grab the attention of some company who’s probably not hiring, anyway.
My life in Panama has afforded me a level of autonomy, both personally and professionally, that I’ve never had in the States. My no-handcuff, high-profit lifestyle has become my definition of freedom- and it’s given me little reason to ever look back.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON PERMANENTLY PANAMA
Alice Beth arrived in Panama in 2012 with a few hundred dollars and a backpack stuffed with books and red lipstick. She gradually turned into an adult against her will and is now a freelance marketing strategist and founder of the ever-cheeky PermanentlyPanama.com. She's obsessed with dogs, productivity, and surfing- even though she's not very good at it.