We’re all entitled
I was in Seattle cruising through Sam’s Club with my daughter and grandsons when I leafed through this book, found it amazing, thought it would be an excellent toilet book … you know an accessory to the “reading room” … and so I bought it. I paid $10, which you will find out is $9 more than some folks paid. I found it to be amusing, filled with attitude, and it helped fill the 10 hours in the back seats of airplanes and airports getting back to Panama almost tolerable. And I appreciated the fact that it was making a sad point and didn’t expect it to be footnoted like an academic text.
Of course it got mixed reviews on Amazon, like this from a probably FOX addict …
Talk about stupid history–this writer should be in the book somewhere. Some good items in the front but then Fenster let his left-wing liberal views shine as bright as his negative attitude toward virtually everything. Not the least bit cute or funny. He should have quit while he was ahead on a few items, instead, it looks like he tossed about for any liberal trashy ideas to insert as filler. Don’t buy this one. Thank goodness (and there is goodness in the world!) I only paid one dollar for it at a book sale. Not even worth that but at least I discovered how seemingly hate-filled some liberals are, as if I didn’t already know. Oh, did I say something about accuracy? Don’t look for it in this book. Trashaway! It deserves a zero star.
I mention this only because of my recent stupidity …
As I told my 6-year-old grandson, who looks 8 and has the vocabulary of a high school student and believes that he should be perfect in every way, “You’re allowed to make mistakes. Don’t sweat the small stuff.” So while I’ve been visiting in Seattle I’ve been trying to squeeze in blogging, but grand kids will trump blogging every time! I made the mistake of partially writing this blog, going ahead and scheduling it even although it wasn’t complete, with all good intentions .. so it ended up gong “live” online this morning unfinished. Dumb to schedule it before it was finished, but I doubt if it was dumb enough to make the “Stupid History” list.
Thank you … I think.
I’m always VERY pleased when you write a review of one of my books on Amazon! Being an author you put your stuff out there … some folks like it, and others … well … “Super Dave” (doesn’t say what he is “super” at) wrote the following review of ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA …
“A fun read for general info on Panama. The Cliff’s Notes version (if there was one) would be around 150 pages. He occasionally gets up on his soapbox and preaches about all God’s creatures, how happy we should all be to still be alive, etc. You may want to just skip over that.
A good general layout of the country with an emphasis on the western mountainous area, where he lives. Also, a bit surprising that he devotes a whole chapter to coffee. Maybe part of the Cliff Notes editing out?
One last critical comment and then I’ll opine on what I believe is the best part. He includes some maps of Panama, copy paste from somewhere. The one showing topographical features is virtually unreadable, too much detail shrunk down. The other full country map is OK. An easy improvement would be to reference the areas that he is talking about in the text (i.e. Boquete and Coronado) to locations on the map. Not currently done. Work on that one during your next lecture cruise (which he drones on about occasionally).
Now for the best part of this 400+ page somewhat pricey book…a real diversified well thought out 14 day itinerary for first time visitors…Canal, beaches, mountains, and islands. But you can probably get the same or similar from Traveladvisor or Frommers on-line. Super Dave”
I responded …
Hey Super Dave! Thanks for the comment. When you publish something you put it out there and … well, some folks think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, others think its OK, and a few think its crap. But I do appreciate your comments and suggestions and will keep them in mind when I revise.
Here’s the FREE condensed Cliff Notes summary: “Panama, if you know what you’re getting into, can be GREAT as it has been for us. The key is to figure out what you want, evaluate potential countries, do your due diligence, and come with eyes wide open.” There, that should save you and others a lot of money! But I hope folks still buy the book!
A few comments … I love it when folks “opine”, it sounds so legal and anchor-newsperson-like … The book title says it all: Escape To Paradise: OUR EXPERIENCE Living and Retiring In Panama. Coffee is a big part of the Boquete experience and has been a big part of our experience and its something folks always ask about (droning on here) when I’m on ships, so I included he chapter on coffee. If you buy a book written by a former pastor you gotta expect a little “preaching.” Mea culpa! And glad you liked the itinerary! No, it wasn’t from a guidebook but based on our experience. I hope you get to try it out! And if you come to Boquete let me know. I’ll treat you to a cup of the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.
It probably depends on where you position the “Super Dave” tattoo on your body. Of course years ago my nickname was “Dick” … but we won’t even go there!
One other thing: Amazon calculates which book to put at the top of the list based in part on the NUMBER of reviews … so even if someone says “it sucks” it helps sell books. [Thank you friends for your willingness to support but you really don't have to write the "it sucks" review!]Best regards, Plain Old Non-“Super” Richard
khfitz6311 review made me feel a lot better about my efforts …
What a fantastic resource from someone who has been living in Panama and knows the eccentricities and nuance of the culture. Whether considering Panama or anywhere else to retire abroad, Richard provides a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Richard!
And this has what to do with COSTA CONCORDIA …
David Lane, a frequent commenter, wrote …
Note that your Coffee estate continues on the market. Just wondering if you retirement chateau/estate is one of the most expensive properties on the market for retiring expats? Can expats come and find retirement homes/properties in adequate living condition in the more affordable rages of $50,000 – 90,000 USD? How about some comments for those wanting the Boquete environment but not able or willing to expend their savings on costly properties.
David, “continues on the market” … well, I wish we could have sold it in three weeks. But most houses and properties for sale in Boquete take a little longer than maybe in a hot real estate market like the US where properties sell … When’s the last time you looked at Zillow.com for various US markets. Of course, if I recall correctly, you live in Florida where property sells immediately. Like anywhere else some folks just want cheap, others want value, others want something more upscale, and a few want something lavish.. I’ve frequently written about the fact that now, as opposed to when we came to Boquete ten years ago, there is a good inventory of homes for sale in all price ranges It just depends on what you want.
Soledad Chica responded to David’s comment …
There are houses in our neighborhood (Valle Escondido) for $1.2million and $1.5million [and higher!] …..so no, Richard’s coffee finca/hacienda is not the most expensive in Boquete. In Boquete, as in other places: you get what you pay for. You can find more less expensive houses in the $50,000 – 90,000 range. They may be the more typical “Panamanian architecture” (box houses, low ceilings, small rooms, little to no light). If you want the open floor plan, high ceiling architecture more typically found in North America, that will cost you more. You might consider visiting the area and seeing the options for yourself. Boquete can be pricey, but the outlying areas (Volcan, Dolega, David) might have options to suit your price range.
David actually lives happily in Florida, but visits Panama frequently. Unfortunately these comments originally were added to a piece about the dismantling of the COSTA CONCORDIA and had nothing to do with the subject of the post. It’s helpful if a comment about a post has something to do with the subject of the post.
Renting A Car in Panama City
My best advice … don’t! Since a picture is worth a thousand words …. this video was obviously shot on a day when traffic was actually doing quite well.
The other day I recounted our story the first time we came to check out Panama and see if it stayed on our list … and a few of you have shared your own stories.
“We also came to Panama 9 or 10 years ago for the first time at night, rented a car and didn’t have a clue where we were headed into the City to our hotel. We pulled over at a gas station to look at a map. A cab driver with a full load of people saw us, and asked if he could help. We followed him to the hotel. We were SO thankful. Fred offered him a generous tip which he refused, but Fred finally made him take it. Most Panamanians are such gracious people! Kathy Donelson”
“Love your story about your first day in Panama. We also stupidly rented a car (though we were staying a few days in the City before heading out). At least we drove during the day, but we also got hopelessly lost in the Chorillo District (which is where I assume you ended up since it’s very seedy and we have the Americans to thank for that since they bombed it to smithereens during the invasion to oust Noriega). We also were on a one way street going the wrong way and were almost broadsided by a bus as we emerged onto a major road because the driver was not expecting anyone to come out from our direction. Thankfully, some scary looking, but actually very helpful young Panamanian men gave us directions (they spoke Spanish, but so do I!). A few days later we tried driving into Casco Viejo and again ended up in Chorillo. Again, nothing bad happened but I’d lie if I said I wasn’t a bit fearful.
Frankly, if you are in Panama City for the first time,, don’t rent a car! taxis are reasonably priced. I don’t know how the new subway is but I’m sure it’s an improvement over driving yourself around. There is construction everywhere and detours galore. I would suggest holding off renting a car until you’ve finished a couple of days in the city and are then ready to hit the road for the countryside.
:If you are adventurous or on a tight budget, Panama’s intercity bus system isn’t bad. Even the “express” buses will often drop you off between cities if you tell the driver and baggage handler before you board so they load your luggage in front and can off load it easily. But be forewarned, the large Mercedes luxury buses (between Panama City and David) are freezing cold. We even took an Expresso bus (the Panamanian competitor of the Tica bus) from Panama City to San Jose Costa Rica a 13 hour adventure. I had to laugh because during an immigration check in western Panama a gringa girl (who was apparently illegally in the country) bolted for the bathroom and stayed there until the officials had checked everyone’s passports or other papers and gotten off. When we got to Costa Rica, three gringo backpackers decided to bypass immigration and customs and simply walked across the border and kept on going, I’m sure they got picked up and sent back because there were at least three immigration checkpoints once we got into Costa Rica. So Central America also has a problem with illegal immigrants, some of them from North America. Squirrelmama”
Telling It Like It Is
Once in a while I come across folks, some who’ve lived here a short time and maybe sat in a hotel seminar room and believed the pollyanish “facts” about life in Panama from people who were selling something, or they’ve talked to newly-minted experts, or even people in the States who haven’t lived in Panama and haven’t a clue … and they complain that I present Panama warts and all. Fortunately most folks, who before they pick up, move, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, would like to know the real truth. So that’s what I try to present. Do we love Panama and our life here? Yes! Is life in Panama without challenges and frustrations? No! Just the facts ma’am is all I’m trying to do.
Always love your posts, Richard. You always tell it “exactly like it is!” Kathy Donelson
Kathy’s a Boquete resident who has been here about as long as we have and helped me with the NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE. You’ll find very few folks who’ve lived here for a while have any disagreement with my approach.
I just finished reading your book after a recent trip to Panama. We stayed in Panama City for two night. Not for us, not even close. Then we stayed in Bijao Beach, too hot and humid. We were supposed to stay in Boquete for the last four nights. When I searched resorts near Boquete Isle Palenque popped up. The resort was nice but not very handicapped accessible.( I need handrails) so we never made it to Boquete. On our next trip that will be the only place we are staying. I thought the pensionado program seemed to good to be true.At one point while reading your book I felt excited to read the good, bad and the ugly. I went from saying yes we’ll give it a try to absolutely decided we needed to go back again and check out Boquete. Signed, Can’t Wait for Retirement
“…Everyone’s experience living in Panama is different. Richard’s book explains is excellent and explains his experience [from] when he moved to Panama 10 years ago … His chapter about evaluating what you need and want then finding the place to fill those needs is a must read. Richard’s blog shares details about his life in Panama now. Books or blogs written by expats who moved to Panama recently offer their perspectives. With all expat experiences, you will find some similarities but MANY differences. Seeing Panama through tourist eyes vs. expat life are two completely different animals. Like Richard said, the only way to know if Panama is right for you is to come see for yourself … Jackie Lange”
Good comment. However the perspective of “newbies” to Panama is often different, based on more limited experiences. It is best to get as wide of a variety of opinions as possible. Life in Panama is great, but like anywhere else, not without problems. The more you approach Panama with eyes wide open, the better your experience will be. It is a mistake to move to Panama to “escape from” rather than “escape to” what in my mind is a healthier and better lifestyle for less.
Great Blog, tells you the truth and exactly what we did. Subscribed to IL and got lots of information, made a trip here to see what Panama was like on our own, visited PC and the Azuero, liked it, went home and investigated some more. Came back about a year later, rented a car at the airport and took off with our GPS and visited all the places we thought might interest us. Ended up in Pedasi, moved here 6 months later. We came with 6 suitcases and one 4ft x 4ft x 6 ft crate, could have left half of it behind. You do NOT need to ship a 20 or 40 ft container full of “Stuff”. Most (98%) of what you need to live in Panama is NOT what you have where ever you live now. We rent and will always rent, have no need to buy. In Panama you buy in haste and sell in 3-5 years, Real Estate does NOT sell fast, even at fire sale prices. Check out some of the places for sale, most have been for sale at least 2 years. Read blogs, Read Forums, Take a relocation tour, DO NOT sit in a hotel while people who paid to be there paint a rosy picture of their particular offering. They need you to do what they want you to do because they have to make back the money they paid to be there.
If you get to Pedasi, give us a call, have a beer on our veranda at our house in the heart of the pueblo, 10 minutes from 3 great beaches.
PS: Bring kitchen items, tools, cotton clothes, sheets & towels.
PSS: Get a Schwab account, rebates all ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, no checking or savings account fees or charges. Must get it while you have a U.S. Address and then must keep a U.S. address. Get a Magic Jack, can use your present home number, anyone can call you for FREE, you can call them for FREE and they have an iPhone app that does the same thing once you have a basic MJ account. For us it has been better than Skype. Sunnymikkel
Hi Richard, Love your books and they have been very valuable to us in our retirement quest in Panama. We have visited Boquete 6 times now and a total of 11 in the country of Panama. We were among the visitors who were robbed in Boquete Plantation back in Feb. The lady in the adjoining apartment was tied up and robbed. Fortunately we were not there so only lost a large quantity of stuff which can be replaced. It has not deterred us and we will be back this coming Feb. My question is whether you may have heard anything from it. I know you wern’t involved but we have not gotten any concrete information. I would love to meet you on our next visit, Thanks Ed Jones
Ed, I know nothing about this incident, nor am I even sure what “Boquete Plantation” you are referring to. Maybe if you search Boquetening.com you’ll find some old scuttlebutt about this. Boquete is VERY SAFE: does that mean it is perfect? No. Sometimes I’ve noticed that some people come here, either to live or visit, and check their common sense at the border or just forget to pack it. When I first came down to Boquete, alone, to close our house purchase and start painting the interior, I called Nikki from a pay phone at the China store in Alto Boquete. Stupidly I left my wallet on the top of the pay phone. [That should qualify me for inclusion in the Stupid Things book!] I immediately drove back to the store and … the wallet was gone. OK, Panama is like everywhere else in the world. Our original house was in Valle Escondido. The next day one of the guards drove to my house with my wallet with all cash and credit cards intact. It seemed a Gnobe Bugle woman had come to use the phone after me, saw the wallet, tried to look in it for identification but found none. She came to the conclusion that a stupid gringo who left his wallet and money on the pay phone must be from Valle Escondido. So she paid out of her own tiny amount of money to take the bus, then walk to the guard shack at Valle Escondido to return my wallet wanting nothing in return and not even leaving her name. Nothing is perfect here, but you’ve got to weigh things out.
Kat, a snowbird expat from Canada who provided the “inspiration” for my posts How Safe Is Panama? I II and III, wrote in follow-up …
Thank you for that post Richard. I am still left wondering if Stig was a random attack or whether his attackers were known to him. We are one of the people with a house in Bocas and my husband actually met Wild Bill. We are all happy to know that he and his wife are in prison. It reminds us to be cautious of our acquaintances. We will be returning to Panama this fall, but for now will keep Canada as our primary residence.
Kat, a good question, and one which I’m sure detectives have been asking. There are some things about this account which, IMHO, seem just too convenient. Maybe we will know someday, but this being Panama, maybe not.
I appreciate all of your comments! And will try to get to as many as possible.