“A climate of fear and panic has seized our nation and affected how we look out at the world,” writes Mexico Correspondent Akaisha Kaderli.
“First it was global warming, now it’s global cooling.
“Financial markets are tanking, and years of saving and scrimping are disappearing into thin air. What we used to know as dependable and true has dissolved into chaos, and transfixed U.S. citizens are glued to their TV screens eager for news on the latest political, financial, or international debacle.
“It is no longer safe to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let alone to take a trip to Mexico…or so some now think.
“News reports fill the airwaves warning would-be travelers not to venture into the nation South of our Border, because of drug violence and kidnappings.
“Cities such as Juarez, Nogales, and Tijuana are plagued by almost daily conflicts between drug gangs and police. Tourists understandably do not want to be caught in the crossfire.
“The U.S. Department of State has issued strong warnings against Spring Break destinations in this country.
“But what’s the truth about safety conditions in the Land of Mananas?
“Billy and I recently spent six months in Chapala, Mexico, with one full month spent traveling by bus through Oaxaca state and 600 miles up the western coast. No doubt what appears as naiveté bordering on simple-mindedness has our friends and family scratching their heads.
“We have been living and traveling in Mexico since the 1970s. We’ve enjoyed the captivating colonial cities, the dazzling beaches, the dusty and down-trodden border towns, the upscale expatriate enclaves, the seemingly endless mountains, lakes, and deserts…
“We have watched native peoples weaving baskets and rugs, and we have experienced the government bureaucracy. We’ve stayed in resort hotels, and we’ve eaten street food. We’ve had an extended opportunity for firsthand observation of what goes on in this country.
“Do we know the future? Do we know what you should do? Of course not.
“But here’s what we’ve learned after all these years spending time South of the Border. Violence doesn’t normally happen to someone who looks confident or who appears to know where he is going.
“In other words, you want to walk confidently and with a destination in mind. Give the impression of self-possession. Perpetrators look for someone who is distracted or lost or who seems vulnerable, with a purse or moneybag hanging helter-skelter while trying to read a map, for example.
“If you are lost or trying to get your bearings, step inside a building and gather yourself, then go back out on the street.
“Desperados don’t want trouble; they want an easy take.
“In any situation anywhere in the world, using common sense is, well, common sense.
“Keep a low profile, avoid being loud or argumentative, and, if you’re in an unfamiliar place, don’t get so looped at the bar that you can’t find your way back home. Too much alcohol consumption contributes to situations we call ‘leaving your brains at the border.’ Keep a certain ‘situational awareness’ about yourself.
“When street or beach vendors ask politely, ‘Where are you from? Where are you staying? Where did you have dinner?’, realize that they’re fishing for information for a reason. Vendors have years of experience sizing up tourists. They are not just being friendly. When you divulge too much about yourself, you are asking for trouble.
“If you travel to Mexico dripping with jewels, yielding loads of cash, staying in high-end resorts with a false sense of security, brandishing an attitude, and generally not aware of the impression you are giving to poorer locals, you are setting yourself up to be a target for theft or worse.
“Do not allow yourself to be taken in by a stranger in strange circumstances. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Politely and quickly disengage yourself from a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Get out of harm’s way.
“I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind. On the other hand, if you never leave a 10-mile radius of daily travel in your hometown, you are missing out on a whole lot of opportunity for adventure, fun, growth, and discovery.
“If you thought about how dangerous it is to drive a car and how many deaths a year are related to motor vehicles, you might never again drive to the grocery store.
“And that’d be absurd, wouldn’t it?
“We do things every day that are dangerous. But what’s the alternative?
“To do nothing at all?
“Violence and the unexpected can happen anywhere, including your own home city. Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the United States; yet people travel there daily.
“Should you stay away from Mexico because it’s
“All I can tell you is that we wouldn’t trade our adventures in this land of tropical sunshine and sea breezes for anything.”
P.S. Retire Early experts Akaisha and Billy Kaderli have recently published the third edition of their book The Adventurer’s Guide To Early Retirement. It’s available through their website, www.RetireEarlyLifestyle.com.
“The one thing I have never seen in one of your newsletters about Panama is the possibilities for someone like me (and, I am sure, many other single, divorced, and widowed readers) finding that special person of the opposite sex for companionship and possibly a life partner.
“Where does one start their search for that special person in Panama?”
— Ron P., United States
The unmarried members of our staff in Panama reply:
“La Bodeguita (at night) on Calle Uruguay is maybe the best place to make quick connections.
“But probably the best places to look for new friends and companionship are the many expat groups and clubs. Try the American Society of Panama , Expats in Panama, and the Canadian Association of Panama, for example.”
“Can Americans work in Panama legally?”
— Howie B., United States
The easiest way for a non-Panamanian to earn an income in Panama is to start his own company. To (legally) hold a job here, you’d have to have a work permit, and this is not an easy thing to organize (short of being relocated to Panama by an international company that sponsors you).
In addition, foreigners are restricted from working in some professions. Management positions in travel- and tourism-related industries might be an option. You’d need to speak Spanish.
Again, best alternative, I’d say, is to start your own business. Everywhere you look, there’s a niche to be filled.