Valerie Reinvented Her Life From Toronto To The Azuero Coast

From Toronto To The Sun-Drenched Azuero Coast

Dec. 8, 2014, Pedasi, Panama: Valerie Longstaff is dividing her retirement between Toronto and Panama’s Azuero Coast, where she’s enjoying the tropical weather and building both a new life and a new business.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Valerie Longstaff was born in British Guyana (now Guyana) but grew up in Flushing, New York. From Flushing, Valerie moved with her family to Toronto, where she spent most of her life.

Today, though, you'll find Valerie in Pedasi, on the east coast of Panama's Azuero Peninsula. Valerie loves Toronto and has retained a home there, but she's in no hurry to return. She's too busy with her new life at the beach and the thriving bakery business she's established in Pedasi.

Panama Letter Editor Jocelyn Carnegie connected with Valerie recently…

Valerie, what drew you to Panama in the first place?

I was born in the tropics, and I knew I would always return. I've spent most of my life being cold, between New York and Toronto. Finally, I just needed to feel the sun again!

And you chose Panama?

It wasn't that easy, I can tell you. I wanted somewhere with white sand and Caribbean water. I was specifically not looking for darker sand beaches (not black), so it's funny I have ended up here on the Pacific coast of Panama where the sand is glorious but not bright white as in the Caribbean.

Which other countries did you consider?

I considered Venezuela, but I wasn't mad about Chavez. The situation in Venezuela all seems a little too crazy.

Mexico was out of the question for me. It's too close the United States. I wanted something farther afield. I went to Argentina several times, and I even considered New Zealand because it's English-speaking option, but I decided both those countries were too far from Toronto.

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Ups And Downs OF Retirement In Panama

10 Things You Need To Know About Panama

Dec. 7, 2014, Panama City, Panama: Ten things to consider if you are thinking of retiring or moving to Panama.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

I've been making the case for Panama for more than 15 years, and I'm more bullish on the opportunities and upsides on offer in this country today than ever before.

Bottom line, if you are in the market right now for a place to live, retire, invest, or do business overseas, I'd say you're doing yourself a big disservice if you aren't looking closely at what Panama has to offer. 

That said, you also should understand that today's Panama is a very different place from the Panama of 15 years ago. It's a different place today even from the Panama we moved to about six years ago.

Plus, of course, no place is perfect, including Panama. Even "paradise" has its downsides.

In that spirit, here are 10 things that anyone thinking about spending time or money in Panama today needs to know to make a success of the effort:

#1: Panama City is no longer a cheap retirement choice.

The cost of living in Panama's capital city has appreciated steadily over the past decade. As a result, today, Panama City no longer qualifies as a "cheap" place to call home. You can live modestly in this city on a budget of US$1,500 per month, but a more realistic monthly budget for an average couple of retirees would be US$2,000.

The cost of living elsewhere in Panama, however, can be much more affordable. A couple could retire to Santa Fe, for example, in the highlands of Panama, on as little as US$1,000 per month.

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Mango Village Casitas At Los Islotes On Panama’s Azuero Coast

Announcing: Turn-Key Retirement On Panama's Pacific Coast

Dec. 5, 2014, Azuero Sunset Coast, Panama: The new Mango Village casitas at Los Islotes are a turn-key lifestyle option on Panama’s Azuero Sunset Coast.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Since we launched our Los Islotes community on the western coast of Panama's Azuero Peninsula, we've received one question more than any other:

When will a turn-key home option be available?

It is with great pleasure that I write today to answer that question with an enthusiastic:

Right now.

Not everyone is up for building his own home in a foreign country. Some folks would prefer something a whole lot more turn-key. After months of designing and planning, that is precisely what we are now preparing to be able to offer.

Specifically, Los Islotes is undertaking the construction of a series of two-bedroom casitas, as we're calling them, in the Mango Village section of the property, which is an ideal setting for these little houses. 

As I said, we've been working on the designs for these houses behind the scenes for months. In conceiving this new neighborhood, we've had two driving ideas. First, again, we want to be able to offer a no-hassle, ready-to-move-into option for people interested in becoming part of the Los Islotes community but not up for buying a lot and building a custom house.

Second, we want these little houses to be special. We're not interested in slapping cookie-cutter structures on the beautiful Los Islotes hillsides. We don't want to build just any old little houses.

The big-picture vision for Los Islotes is to complement the extraordinary natural beauty of this coastal spot with just as impressive architectural achievements. Everything we build here will be in the traditional Spanish-colonial style. This means arched doorways and windows, whitewashed exterior walls, and red clay-tiled roofs. These elements will be part of all construction, from the Founder's Lodge to the horse stables...and these new casitas.

Two models have been designed, one with a small courtyard in the back (another typically Spanish-colonial element) and the other for narrower lots. Take a look.

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Spending Christmas Overseas

Happy Start Of The Holiday Season From Sunny Panama

Dec. 4, 2014, Panama City, Panama: Spending the holidays overseas can be an adjustment.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

If you grew up in the Northern Hemisphere, as I did, it’s difficult to get excited about the holiday season in the tropics. As I write from my home office in Panama City, it’s sunny and warm (that is, hot and humid)…just like it always is. Nevertheless, Kathleen is unpacking the Christmas boxes and decorating the apartment as she has done every year we’ve been together…in Ireland, Paris, and now Panama.

Living an international lifestyle means making adjustments. Christmas in Panama has been one of them for us. With no intervening holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving, the Christmas decorations come out in stores here in early September. If you don’t buy your Christmas paraphernalia in this country before the end of October, you may not be able to find what you want. On the other hand, whatever’s left by November is on sale.

In Ireland, we went to a local tree farm each year to choose our Christmas tree, cut it down, and haul it home. In Paris, we bought our tree from the neighborhood florist. In Panama, we wait to hear that the shipment of fir trees (there’s only one) has finally cleared customs and head down to the local food wholesaler who clears out his enormous refrigerated room to take delivery of the hundreds of trees he ships in from Canada each year.

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New 10-Year Multiple-Entry Visa To China

Easier Than Ever To Visit, Even To Stay In This Beautiful, Exotic, And Affordable Land

Dec. 3, 2014, Chiang Mai, Thailand: New 10-year multiple-entry visa to China makes it easier than ever for Americans to visit, even to stay in China.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Vicki and I just picked up 10-year, multiple-entry visas to China. Each entry is good for up to 60 days. The 10-year visas cost the same as a single-entry visa, about US$160. 

The new 10-year visas became available after Obama's visit to Xi in China last month. Obama and Xi agreed that citizens of each country can now visit the other over and over under the new visa program. Obama trumpeted the expected increase in Chinese tourists to the United States. More Chinese tourism will benefit the U.S. economy. 

We Americans who like to travel to China will benefit, too. China visas cost a lot, and we need to present ourselves in person at Chinese consulates. Under the new program, one time will do it, and we're good to go for 10 years. If your passport expires during the 10-year period, just carry your expired passport—the one with the visa in it—along with your new passport. Make sure the passport details, such as your name, remain exactly the same. 

In most cases, you'll have to apply for the visa in the United States at one of the Chinese consulates. Vicki and I managed to get our China visas here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We have long-stay visas to Thailand and needed to present copies of our long-stay Thai visas to the Chinese consul. If we'd had simple tourist visas to Thailand or no Thai visa at all, I'd guess the Chinese consul would have asked us to apply for China visas in the United States.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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