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My Boquete Confession

Boquete, Panama, One Of The World’s Most Established Overseas Retirement Havens

In his feature in this month’s issue of our Panama Letter, Editor David Sexton proposes that “everybody loves Boquete.”

“Does anybody dislike Boquete?” David asks. “Somebody must, right?

“Everyone I know, though,” David continues, “every visitor and every resident, falls in love with the place.”

Everyone succumbs, David suggests, to the charms of Panama‘s mountain village that has earned such a name for itself in retire overseas circles. It’s impossible to resist, he says.

David’s comprehensive feature goes on to detail the advantages and the appeals of expat life in this little town, which are many.

Meantime, I have a confession to make. I’m not in love with Boquete.

In fact, I don’t really like the place.

That may be overstating things. I don’t dislike Boquete, and I do recognize all it has to offer the would-be retiree. However, it’s not my favorite retirement locale, not in general and not in Panama, for two reasons.

First, the weather.

Boquete is generally referenced as having an ideal climate, that is, spring-like weather year-round. Having spent time in this part of Panama for more than 15 years, I’ve decided I don’t agree with that description. The weather is Boquete is not spring-like…unless your idea of spring is chillier and wetter than mine.

I wouldn’t say that the climate in Boquete is bad, but I would say it’s not as good as it is represented to be. It is rainier and windier in this part of the country than down on the coasts, and temperatures are often cool enough to warrant the fireplaces that have been built into many homes here. That may be just what you’re looking for, but I’ve known a number of retirees who started out in Boquete but moved on (either elsewhere in Panama or to another choice altogether, say, Cuenca, for example, or Medellin, two other places where the weather is, in fact, spring-like year-round), because they found Boquete’s climate not as comfortable as they had expected it to be.

The other, just as personal reason I’m not as in love with Boquete as many others who know her seem to be has to do with how established this town has become as a retire overseas destination. One of the most important choices you have to make as you think through your options for launching your new life in Panama (or anywhere) is whether you’re more comfortable moving to an established expatriate community, a place where you’d have no trouble slipping into the local social scene and making friends with English-speakers who share your interests…

Or whether you want, instead, to go local, immersing yourself in the new culture completely.

This important early decision may not have occurred to you. But I encourage you to consider the question directly, for the answer sets you on one track or another, and they lead very different places. It can be easier, frankly, to seek out a place where the path has been well worn by others like you. Boquete is one such place. Living here, many of your neighbors would be fellow North Americans, you’d hear more English on the street than Spanish (most of the time), and you wouldn’t have to look far to find like-minded compatriots to commiserate with over the trials and tribulations of daily life in a foreign country.

A place like Boquete can make a terrific first step, a chance to dip your toe in the retire-overseas waters rather than diving in headfirst.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to retire overseas; there are only pluses and minuses one way compared with another.

During our 15-plus years living outside the States, we’ve gone local, first in Waterford, Ireland (where we had no choice; there’s no established expat settlement in these parts), then in Paris, now in Panama.

We prefer it this way. I enjoy the challenge of struggling to speak and, slowly, to improve my language skills, French in Paris and now Spanish in Panama City. I appreciate the chance to witness how other folks do things. I like contrast and change. I want life to be full of the unexpected.

In a place like Boquete, you’d be living overseas and enjoying many of the benefits that can bring, but life would quickly be comfortable, I’d say, and predictable.

Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, that may be precisely what you’re shopping for as you consider where and how to launch your retirement adventure overseas. In that case, I’d strongly recommend you take a look at David Sexton’s feature piece in this month’s issue of the Panama Letter. It showcases (in 38 fully illustrated pages) all that beautiful little Boquete has to offer.

Kathleen Peddicord

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