Earlier this year, during our Live and Invest Overseas Panama Conference, I was able to listen in on one of the Panama expat presentations. These presentations are great because they give conference attendees valuable, up-to-date, and actionable tips from individuals who are actually on the ground, living the expat life. This presentation in particular featured Los Islotes lot owners, Peg Fairbairn and April Hess, who talked about their journey from Austin, Texas, to Panama. I found their story quite interesting, specifically the part about how they learned about Los Islotes, which was new to me.
Learning About Living Overseas And Why Panama
Their story starts when they were at a neighborhood party. A friend of theirs had just gotten back from Uruguay, and he was talking about his visit to a waterfront community there for expats. They were puzzled by the term “expats” as they’d never heard of the word. So, the next day Peg got on the computer and started researching the idea. Eventually, she stumbled on an article written by Kathleen and saw an ad for her book “How To Retire Overseas.”
“Twenty minutes later, I was in line at Barnes and Noble buying the book,” Peg stated.
At this point, for them, the idea of retiring to another country seemed doable. However, the trouble was that they had no idea where to go. They knew they needed someplace cheap because they were on a small, fixed income. Safety was also important as these are two women living on their own. Further, they also wanted good health care and easy access to the States for visits with family.
After researching several potential retirement destinations, Panama, Costa Rica, and Uruguay got their attention. Ultimately, they decided that Uruguay was too far and Costa Rica was too expensive. So they focused on Panama.
Deciding To Purchase At Los Islotes
At that time, April was still working, but Peg was retired and spent all her time researching Panama. She was able to find two development projects in Pedasí. She contacted both of the developers and started conversations. Peg explained that one of the developers had even convinced her to send money down without seeing the property. April, however, strongly objected to that notion, stating, “We’re not buying anything until we’ve seen it first!”
The next day, Peg was back online. This time she found the Live and Invest Overseas website and a link to the Los Islotes project. After learning more about the project, they decided to participate in the upcoming excursion tour that we were offering at the time. However, they agreed to leave the checkbook at home.
Reminiscing on their first time visiting the property back in February 2011, Peg described the property as simply jungle. At that time, as there were no roads, they hiked the property with machetes in hand. Even though there was nothing there yet, they loved it. “It was amazingly beautiful and we were sold,” Peg stated.
Peg and April decided to purchase lot 68 on the spot. Since they did not have their checkbook, they used Paypal to make their first payment.
Cross-Country U.S. Adventure–Driving Coast To Coast
After their purchase, they went back home and told their families what they’d just done, and their families all thought they’d lost their minds. “The enormity of what we’d set in motion began to settle,” April recalled. They had both lived in the United States for their wholes lives and now they were leaving.
Despite living in the United States their whole lives, neither of them had seen more than a handful of states. With this in mind, they decided to tour their home country before moving to a new one. So they bought a fifth-wheel RV and drove from coast to coast, seeing almost every state.
The trip was quite the adventure. During the cross-country voyage, they experienced three flat tires, got rammed on the highway, and were stranded in Massachusetts for six weeks. “One morning, we work up and a tire was gone. We still don’t know where it went,” Peg added.
Despite all of the issues on their trip, Peg and April both agreed that it was great preparation for their move to Panama. The experience taught them how to travel, how to keep in touch, how to keep up with mail, how to live in a small place with only bare necessities, and how to problem solve on the fly.
The Move To Panama And Life In The Azuero Peninsula
After a year on the road in the States, they were ready. They began getting all of their documents together and coordinating the logistics of a move like this. “How would we get ourselves, our stuff, our two dogs, and our two cats to Panama? How much luggage should we plan for?” they wondered.
They quickly realized that bringing their pets was this biggest challenge. After they thought they had everything figured out, they found out that the cage for one of the dogs was too big for the plane and that the cats had to go into cargo, not in the cabin. Then they found out that, if a plane is too full, they can bump the animals, even at the last minute, with no notice. In the end, they decided to hire a pet relocation company, and they were glad they did.
Finally in Panama, they decided to begin their new lives with some language study. They found a Spanish-immersion program in Pedasí, a nice little town on the east coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula. They were able to find a small house that they rented for US$600 per month. It was basic living: no hot water, no oven, no washing machine, no closets, no TV.
“It was simple and basic, but we loved it. We had a great time,” they said.
After a few months in Pedasí learning Spanish, they were ready to move closer to Los Islotes, where they planned their house. They initially moved to Sante Fé, a quiet mountain town in Veraguas. Now they have moved to Palo Seco, which is where they will be until their home is finished.
Back in late April, Kathleen and I received an email from Peg and April announcing that they officially broke ground and started construction on their home. In spite of all the challenges that moving to a new country presented, these ladies endured, pushed through, and are now well on their way to achieving their dream of a retirement home overlooking the Pacific. We’re excited for them and look forward to having them as our neighbors at Los Islotes.
Lastly, we have had a few people sign up for the upcoming Discover Los Islotes Weekend Tour, scheduled for Aug. 28-31. However, we still have some spots available. You can go here for the Discover Los Islotes Weekend itinerary.
If you are truly interested in purchasing a lot in Los Islotes, then this is a perfect opportunity to see the property in person so that you can gather some intel and make an informed decision.
The cost of the tour is US$450 per person and US$575 per couple. This includes airport pickup and drop-off, transportation, accommodations for three nights, meals, activities, and taxes. Note that, should you choose to invest in Los Islotes, the cost of the tour is deducted from your purchase price.
Once again if you are interested in participating in the upcoming program, I encourage you to reserve your spot today. We’re keeping this a very small group.
Get in touch with my Marketing Assistant Omar Best at firstname.lastname@example.org to make your reservation.
P.S. CNN Money featured Peg and April in an article this month “How Do You Retire On $25,600 A Year?” where they discuss their monthly budget, acquiring Panamanian residency, and life in Panama. Check out the article here.