Expat Stories – Finding the Perfect Fit – Moving my business to Panama
I am a New Yorker and grew up visiting Antigua and different Caribbean islands since infancy. I always thought I would end up moving to Antigua or England, near a lot of my relatives. However, I have always loved the Latin culture and when it came time to actually decide on where I really wanted to be… a Latin country was definitely going to be the final decision. Additionally, I have always wanted to learn Spanish and I knew that living in a Spanish country was going to be the only way for me to do it. My love of eco-tourism, the Caribbean Sea, Caribbean foods and friendly people directed me to Central America. My ultimate decision was moving my business to Panama – for many reasons. I’ll just bullet them.
- Same currency.
- Same current. I could bring all of my electronics. Yeah!
- Same driving side of the road. This was a big one for me.
- Great infrastructure.
- Diverse communities. (Love the idea of meeting and interacting with people from all over the world.)
- Welcoming of Americans.
- Good opportunities for a small business.
- Increasing tourism. (Great tour business opportunity for me.)
- Affordable healthcare options.
- Easy access to & from US.
- Very affordable housing.
- Caribbean food (and culture in some places.)
- Friendly and helpful people.
- General attitude of working to live, not living to work.
- Ability to have close proximity to the beach. (Another big one!)
- Relatively stable economy. Opportunities to teach the English language.
- Availability of fresh seafood and vegetables. (Especially the seafood!)
- Strong expat communities.
- Great bus system throughout the country. (This is huge for me.)
I’ll stop there, but I could go on.
I started Sonoran Excursions as a group tour company that organized tours throughout Arizona and into neighboring states. Arizona was in a perfect location. Los Angeles, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Sedona and Algodones, Mexico were our most popular destinations. Deciding that I wanted to broaden my tour options to package tours outside of the US, I changed the name to Local Travel Excursions. I specifically wanted to organize tours with a unique and genuine “local” feel. Whenever possible, I use local vendors, visit popular local hangouts and meet the locals, sometimes bypassing the trendy tourist spots.
As I entered the relocation process for myself, it was an easy decision to offer relocation tours to support people wanting to make the move to Central America. I decided to focus on relocation for my tours in Panama and quickly decided to broaden my reach to Belize and Costa Rica, both still popular and growing relocation destinations.
My decision to move to Panama was based on many factors. Not being a city-girl, Panama City was never an option. Too congested, too busy, too expensive and too hot. I do not want anything similar to what I have already experienced in US cities. However, being close to the city with all of its amenities is important. Wanting to live affordably in the mountains not far from a city with good medical facilities narrowed my selection to Chiriqui. I expect to settle in Volcan but am open to trying out other areas first. This will also allow me to enjoy the beach often which is a big reason for my move. I expect to have a small office in Panama and keep my company small, making every effort not to lose the personal touch and attention to details that I have been able to deliver over the years.
Submitted by Karen Walter, Local Travel Excursions