Travels With Jim and Rita

Episode 08 - Exploring the Slow-Travel Life: Panama Edition with Lesa, Stu, and Ziggy

March 08, 2024 Jim Santos, travel writer and host of the International Living Podcast Season 1 Episode 8
Episode 08 - Exploring the Slow-Travel Life: Panama Edition with Lesa, Stu, and Ziggy
Travels With Jim and Rita
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Travels With Jim and Rita
Episode 08 - Exploring the Slow-Travel Life: Panama Edition with Lesa, Stu, and Ziggy
Mar 08, 2024 Season 1 Episode 8
Jim Santos, travel writer and host of the International Living Podcast

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Join our escapade through the vibrant life of Panama as we, alongside seasoned expats Lesa Wollman, Stu Singleton, and their adventurous dog Ziggy, unveil the realities of forging a new path in the historic Casco Viejo. From the bustling streets of Panama City to the serene shores of Playa Coronado, we share the rhythm of everyday life in this tropical paradise. Lesa and Stu's stories weave through the rich tapestry of cultural adjustments, the comforting familiarity of the US dollar, and the warm welcome from local Panamanians, painting a vivid picture of expat life that's as diverse as it is delightful.

The pulse of Panama beats to the drum of festivals and fireworks, and in this episode, we immerse ourselves in the exuberant spirit of Carnival. Embrace the joy of spontaneous lunches that lead to unexpected friendships, and get lost in the thrill of being impromptu tour guides in a land where every corner holds a new surprise. We dissect the contrast between the vivacious Panama City nightlife and the hushed haven of Coronado, unraveling the allure that draws people to each unique locale. Discover how a car-free lifestyle promotes a healthier, more engaging way of life, and get the inside scoop on navigating the healthcare system with ease and accessibility.

As we prepare to say goodbye to our home and ready ourselves for Mexico, Stu and Lesa chime in with insights from their recent neighborhood change, discussing the quest for community and cultural authenticity in the expat experience. Whether you're contemplating your own leap into the nomadic lifestyle, or simply savoring the tales of those who have, this episode is a treasure chest of wisdom and wonder. So, come along for the ride and don't forget to check out my written adventures on Amazon, as we continue to chart the uncharted and celebrate the beauty of roaming the world.

Support the Show.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/2292506/supporters/new
https://www.jimsantosbooks.com
http://jimsantos.net
https://www.youtube.com/@jimsantos508
jim@jimsantosbooks.com

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Join our escapade through the vibrant life of Panama as we, alongside seasoned expats Lesa Wollman, Stu Singleton, and their adventurous dog Ziggy, unveil the realities of forging a new path in the historic Casco Viejo. From the bustling streets of Panama City to the serene shores of Playa Coronado, we share the rhythm of everyday life in this tropical paradise. Lesa and Stu's stories weave through the rich tapestry of cultural adjustments, the comforting familiarity of the US dollar, and the warm welcome from local Panamanians, painting a vivid picture of expat life that's as diverse as it is delightful.

The pulse of Panama beats to the drum of festivals and fireworks, and in this episode, we immerse ourselves in the exuberant spirit of Carnival. Embrace the joy of spontaneous lunches that lead to unexpected friendships, and get lost in the thrill of being impromptu tour guides in a land where every corner holds a new surprise. We dissect the contrast between the vivacious Panama City nightlife and the hushed haven of Coronado, unraveling the allure that draws people to each unique locale. Discover how a car-free lifestyle promotes a healthier, more engaging way of life, and get the inside scoop on navigating the healthcare system with ease and accessibility.

As we prepare to say goodbye to our home and ready ourselves for Mexico, Stu and Lesa chime in with insights from their recent neighborhood change, discussing the quest for community and cultural authenticity in the expat experience. Whether you're contemplating your own leap into the nomadic lifestyle, or simply savoring the tales of those who have, this episode is a treasure chest of wisdom and wonder. So, come along for the ride and don't forget to check out my written adventures on Amazon, as we continue to chart the uncharted and celebrate the beauty of roaming the world.

Support the Show.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/2292506/supporters/new
https://www.jimsantosbooks.com
http://jimsantos.net
https://www.youtube.com/@jimsantos508
jim@jimsantosbooks.com

Jim Santos:

Welcome to Travels with Jim and Rita. I'm your host, jim Santos, and in this podcast series you can follow along as my wife Rita and I work out our crazy plan to outfox the real estate market in the US and actually increase our retirement nest egg by spending the next three years or so living abroad and exploring the world. Are we bold, forward thinking pioneers or just plain nuts? Let's find out together, shall we? Hello everybody and welcome. I'm Jim Santos.

Rita Santos:

And I'm Rita Santos.

Jim Santos:

And you're listening to Travels with Jim and Rita. As we entered the final week of our 10 week stay in Panama, we thought it would be a good time to talk about the country as a slow travel destination. We'll talk about the Playa Coronado area in just a bit, but first up let's take a look at Panama City. We spent a month in Panama City living in a one bedroom condo right along the waterfront. Now, to help us get a more complete picture of life in the big city, we're joined by Lesa Wollman and Stu Singleton, a couple we met, along with their dog, Ziggy, while we were visiting the historic old town Casco Viejo. Stu, Lesa, welcome to Travels with Jim and Rita and thanks for joining us.

Stu Singleton:

Our pleasure, J, Rita. Nice to talk to you both.

Jim Santos:

First of all for our listeners. Can you give us a little background of where you guys came from and how you ended up in Panama?

Lesa Wolman:

I'm originally from New York and my husband is originally from California and our home is in Portland, oregon. I've always been interested in travel as kind of wanderlust. I've had some wanderlust in my life and I've satisfied much of it. Stu does not, and so it was me sparking interest in him and let's go travel and let's do this. So I traveled some more than he did, but I was really interested in our retirement to check out, just being part of another culture, not just vacationing and seeing what it's like for two weeks, but spending some time there and actually absorbing the culture and eating their food and cooking their food and shopping like other people do, and kind of expanding my horizons beyond the United States and what was happening there. So Panama became just a really good choice because it's safe and they deal with the US dollar. The ease of transition couldn't be better. There is a somewhat of a language barrier because neither of us speak fluently anything other than English and I have very minimal, very practical only Spanish, but it seems to be just working fine.

Stu Singleton:

We get by, it hasn't been a problem. It would be nice to understand a little bit more, but we survive and thrive.

Lesa Wolman:

Yeah, I think the Panamanian people in particular are very they're used to other cultures coming in to do things like the railroad and canal and that kind of work all the international people that come here. So I think it made that transition just a little bit smoother because once they see you trying to capture their language and their culture and be part of it, they're incredibly welcoming. So this was sort of an easy jump for us to make and we did it really risk-free, because we have our house still. We didn't sell it.

Stu Singleton:

This was a spur of the moment decision for us, this being Panama. We came for the International Living Convention a year ago in February. We were just walking along the Santa Costera one night, along the water in Panama City, and just saw how safe it was Young people out jogging at night, kids playing, and we thought just how safe is this, because you don't see that in Beaverton, oregon. So just we made a decision right then let's just try it. Let's rent an apartment for a year and see how it goes. And now we're a year later and we're renting another apartment. So evidently it went pretty good.

Jim Santos:

Okay, one year, that's a pretty big spur of a moment.

Stu Singleton:

Well, you know it was kind of risk-free, it's not. I mean, it wasn't cost prohibitive and Panama is very rentor-friendly. I'm not saying you should break your lease ever, but if we got into an after a month or two we didn't like it, we could have broke our lease with a 30-day notice and left. But that option never got on the table because we just were accepted into the community that we moved into and decided to upgrade our living, our apartment, and try it out for another year.

Jim Santos:

Now that community you're in the Casco Viejo people haven't been there. This is the old historic district, not particularly big but a lot of very old buildings and a lot of history there. Did you set out right from the start to live in Casco Viejo or did you look at some of the other neighborhoods of Panama City?

Stu Singleton:

You know, we looked in the high-rise, what we call the city, the high-rise of financial district, El Congrejo Obraria. We looked but, as you know, because you've met Ziggy, we have a 75, 80-pound Labradoodle and we knew that if we were going to do this for a year, that Ziggy was going to come down and we didn't want to be in a high-rise apartment to where we're on the 15th floor and the elevator opens and there's an elevator full of people and they be Ziggy every time, or another dog.

Lesa Wolman:

It's stressful for us. It's all three of us would be stressed out immediately, and it's just too many times a day, and so the everyday life would not be enhanced in any way by being a beautiful, really modern high-rises.

Stu Singleton:

And they do because of just the canal and the drought and water shortage down here. They do have power outages. Most of the buildings apartment buildings have backup generators, but just the thought of being multiple floors up and the power goes out and Ziggy needs to use the bathroom. So we were drawn to Pasco Viejo because of the community, number one. But also it's all low-rise. I mean it's three, four, five-story apartment buildings. So we take the stairs. Most we have a big bag of groceries and then we'll take the elevator. But that's what drew us to Picasco was the not being in a high rise and also just the community.

Lesa Wolman:

It's a small community of people who all have the same kind of investment in a historic district, remaining historic and lovely and upgraded and useful and representative of the culture. So you immediately have walked into kind of a museum in which you get to be one more of the tenders to the history. It's really. It really is a special group of people that are here and as an American expat, there's something and I don't know if it's just, I don't think it's necessarily arrogance as much as just ignorance I just kind of had it that all expats were Americans and Canadians, because that's how I am, I'm in that group.

Lesa Wolman:

When I go someplace, the North Americans are like one set of expats that can move around a lot. And so we get here and we find Venezuelans and South Africans and Cubans and suddenly we're no longer the majority of anything. And it was a mind blowing, lovely, wonderful worldly experience to hear stories that are not rooted in the same cultural experiences that we have. It's brand new stuff we've never heard of. The stories are fascinating and it's a much more interesting conversation than the general conversation that I felt like I was experiencing in the United States. I was particularly traumatized during politics and COVID and everything that's going on in the world and I'm very sensitive to it and so it's upsetting and this is kind of a lovely refreshing people speak other languages around me. I don't have to necessarily understand everything they're saying. I get to be blissfully ignorant and say good morning to everyone I pass on the street.

Stu Singleton:

Yeah, and not being residents, I mean we don't. While we're interested in their politics and what moves on and there's an election coming up this year we really have no say in it. So it's kind of nice just to sit back and let it all happen around you.

Lesa Wolman:

And be guests.

Stu Singleton:

Yeah, guests Exactly.

Jim Santos:

Now Casco Viejo is a tourist attraction as well, and when we lived in Salinas in Ecuador. That was a very popular beach resort as well, so we're aware of how things can get a little hectic during the holidays. I was curious how the recent Carnival festivities were there.

Stu Singleton:

Well, you know, You're funny Jim.

Jim Santos:

Nice and quiet in bed every night.

Stu Singleton:

Hence the change of apartments. Yes, Very quiet.

Lesa Wolman:

You know they do have some regulations and there is a history of Carnival that has there's a lot of dancing and music. So it's not just drunken, you know, bead throwing. They really do keep some of the significance to the cultural event. As opposed to the modern day, let's all get drunken for beads and puke in the street. So it's kind of it's a little more upgraded from that. And they did keep the historic area here of Casco Viejo. They did limit to a great extent what was allowed to happen within the streets, so cultural though it had to be cultural. So there were the dancers, the women in their traditional dresses, dancing with traditional music, not hip hop or electronica. It kept it very low key. There were concerts in the church, but they were choral music or there were children's music, and so they kept it low key and appropriate so that there would not be the crowd. The main focus was down right outside, by the fish market, on the Sinti Costera.

Lesa Wolman:

Right, right when you guys were staying Right in front of the sands.

Jim Santos:

Yeah, no, that wasn't planned, but it was a good move on our part to get out of town just a week or so before.

Lesa Wolman:

Oh my goodness, and it was passport checks and it was fascinating. It was a lot of security and a lot of people, a lot of people and a lot of fireworks, a lot of fireworks every night.

Stu Singleton:

But it was happening a half mile to a mile away from where we were at, so we could hear the fireworks and we could see them off in the distance. But it wasn't. It wasn't loud and obnoxious.

Lesa Wolman:

And these were real fireworks. You know, sometimes you hear about fireworks throughout Latin America and what they are really those fire sticks with just an explosive on the end that mostly were used like for signaling sound through canyons. These are actual, like colorful fireworks blowing up in the sky, like July 4th in the States. You know, these are beautiful and it was all over the city so you could see it. No matter where you were, you could see somewhere there were fireworks going off, right.

Stu Singleton:

And since November there are panamanians like to celebrate. Like every time they became independent from whoever, november becomes a bunch of holidays and that rolls into December, which rolls into Christmas and then New Year's, easter. I mean, you know, in all my time living in Portland Oregon, the big fireworks was 4th of July. I probably think that type of display of fireworks eight, nine, ten times in the last four months, you know it's very festive. I mean it's fun.

Jim Santos:

What do you like best about living there?

Lesa Wolman:

Oh, you know, I have to say I think, I think it's really. I wake up every morning really looking forward to, like, I look at Stu and I go, so how's our day gonna go? What are we doing today? Do we have anything that we have to get done? And if there's nothing, then all we do is we start out walking the dog, we bring a water bowl for him just in case we stop and we almost always do and then we have no idea where our day is taking us, and it's like it's such a lovely day to day when we meet because it's the number two tourist destination in Panama, you know you run into the tourists change every day, every week, you know, and so kind of adopted like unofficial tour guides.

Stu Singleton:

you know someone will I'll be talking mainly to the dog, you know giving him his commands, and you know somebody's realized they speak English. So then they'll ask well, you know what's a good Panamanian restaurant. Next thing, you know we're having, you know, lunch, or you know we walk the entire casco viejo. We go in and out of the hotels and look at all the money you know, and that just. But that wasn't how I started the day. I started the day Walking the dog. Walking the dog.

Jim Santos:

For us, I think, as you know, slow travelers rather than residents, and maybe Rita can add to this. What we really liked about Panama City was we started our mornings with walks also, but you had this really interesting mix. You had this traditional market with that. San Felipe, neri Mercado.

Jim Santos:

And you had the fish market, and we even liked the El Machitazo grocery store there, and all of this stuff was just in walking distance. There were a lot of good restaurants, there were two big modern malls that we could go to as well, and then there was also tourist-like things you could do. You know, we went to see the Panama Canal and we went to one of the islands, so it just seemed like there's just so much going on in the city that if you're only going to live there for a month or two, all of your days are going to be pretty busy.

Stu Singleton:

I think I've been here like nine months now and you know, because I will grant it to you and Rita, walking into a couple of mornings Now I end up walking whatever four or five miles a day and never leave Pasco Viejo. Basically, you know, three blocks by 14 blocks.

Lesa Wolman:

Right, we just and it hasn't gotten old yet- we chat with absolutely everybody and we just had friends leave after 10 days and they did a bunch of things. They did a bunch of touring. They went to an island for two nights they went, so two of their 10 nights were spent on an island. Of the other eight nights they spent with us. They traveled around, they did bicycle tours through Panama City, they did some other kinds of tours. They went to the canal, they did Monkey Island, you know. They did all these boat tours. They did everything that was on the list. They shopped, they wandered around. They ate unbelievably good food.

Lesa Wolman:

But they said that they thought for sure before they left home this is going to be too long. We're going to regret that. We booked this for two weeks, you know it's too much. And by the time they left they thought, oh, my God, they could have spent another 10 days easily just doing the things that as they walked by they said, oh, remind me to come back to this store later. Just the reminders would have taken them the other 10 days, because the streets are so packed with things to do and it's not just restaurants and bars. There's a lot of people who live here, so there's clothing stores that are not just tourist shops. There's actual, real art stores. There's hardware stores that are really cool. If you've never been and you have, but if you're listeners have never been to a ferriteria in Latin America, that is just a treat beyond worlds, like for everybody. They just have everything in these stores and it's dangling from the ceilings and it's tucked in corners. You could spend half a day just wandering through these places, fascinated with what they sell.

Stu Singleton:

That's a gift by a guitar, a pipe, wrench and a machete.

Jim Santos:

All in one stop .

Lesa Wolman:

While I'm on the other side doing fine china and some really good steak knives. I mean, it's just. It really is amazing how much stuff they get, and maybe because it supports city with the canal and they dump off a lot of stuff. But boy, we have some amazing shopping that I can get lost for weeks.

Stu Singleton:

What I find here in Panama City now I can't speak for the rest of Panama, but in Panama City is we can get anything we want. Here. We can get all whatever American, whatever food, anything.

Lesa Wolman:

They imported this. There's a particular grocery chain, Riba Smith, that specializes in getting imported foods and we actually oddly really oddly they had Tilla McCheddar cheese from Oregon all the way in Panama and that's a pretty small to us. It's a family run production that we are very familiar with in Oregon and it was fun to see Tilla McCheddar cheese here. You don't have to beg people to start bringing things for you, so it's really pretty easy to modify a little bit or, if you want to treat it's available. You don't want to get somebody's schlep it to another country for you.

Jim Santos:

Yeah, something else we enjoyed about Panama City was that it's a very easy place to get along without a vehicle.

Stu Singleton:

Oh.

Lesa Wolman:

Oh yeah.

Stu Singleton:

Yeah, because I'm an American male. We rented an apartment that had a parking space, which in Casco Viejo is treasured. Parking is hard so I just assumed, because I had a parking space, that I was gonna buy a car and put it in that space. It didn't take long to realize that you don't need a car. You can Uber anywhere in the city for very cheap Under five bucks, oh yeah.

Lesa Wolman:

It's under five bucks. It's two dollars extra if you call Uber. Pet Just just Ziggy's somewhere, so it's seven bucks.

Stu Singleton:

Just a comparison real quick From our apartment here in Panama City to talk them in the airport is about the same, equal distance from from people from Portland International Airport to our house in Inori Inori. So the last time I went home I Ubered from our apartment in Panama to the airport and it cost me about 25 dollars. You know, with tip that night I Uber from Portland Airport home same distance, within a mile, same it cost $135.

Lesa Wolman:

It's those little things. It's those little things like $110.

Stu Singleton:

That really we're grooming the dog.

Lesa Wolman:

Ziggy gets groomed more often down here because it's a third of the price we can spend living in a tourist zone. The food and cocktails certainly are more expensive. It's $10 for a cocktail plus tax. Now, of course there are places you find where it's eight and there's other places that have two for one happy hour and that kind of thing. You modify behavior like that, the regular living. We don't have to necessarily watch every expense. We can go to an expensive restaurant because we just saved $80 on grooming the dog that day. Let's go eat Every month. When you do that and you can save that kind of money in some areas, it's just worth it to then we didn't even touch on healthcare.

Stu Singleton:

He didn't ask us let's not go this is a podcast, not a novel.

Jim Santos:

Healthcare is important, but of course we're looking at things like because we're doing slow travel, we're looking at being in places just a few months at a time. It is important to know you can get healthcare. One of the things I was thinking about is, as you know, we're trying to sell our home so that we don't have to worry about taking care of it while we're traveling. What are you guys doing with your home in the US?

Stu Singleton:

This wasn't a plan. We didn't plan on doing this. This was a spur of the moment, one night walking in Panama City a year ago. We basically have a security system on our house.

Lesa Wolman:

We do not rent it out.

Stu Singleton:

We have landscapers that take care of the outside. My children live close by so, if need be, they could swing by and take a look at the place we forward the mail.

Lesa Wolman:

Basically, my husband did me the favor of I needed to move out and he did not necessarily want to, which really means in English he didn't want to. I said, okay, we'll keep the house you can come back for whenever you want and I'm leaving. We rented the apartment on the condition that the house would just remain so he can go back and forth at leisure and it would satisfy my desire to get out of Dodge. That's how this came about. This was not a plan. We didn't sit down and say we're going to do this from now on for our retirement. It was a reaction to A beautiful life appeared that night a year ago.

Stu Singleton:

Life appeared great in Panama City. You can find out. What we saw is what it is.

Lesa Wolman:

We make it that you could walk around in the United States anywhere and say good morning to everybody. You see, you may have a lovely day, but if they look at you like you're strange, like why are you saying good morning? Or what do you want from me? Or no, get away from me. It just doesn't end up the same way as when you see someone who's not looking at you and you say buenas dias, señor. They turn around. Just by the kindness in your voice and the respect shown with the señor. The fact that I don't say buen día, I say buenos dias. I pronounce all the letters because I shouldn't be using slang terms, yet they're welcoming of the way I'm being in a way that just meshes perfectly for me. Stu really enjoys taking Ziggy for a walk and the dog getting as much attention, and then Stu gets to play tour guide. The house sits as it does with the security system. We still have our cable TV there, but through virtual network we are able to watch our cable system here legally.

Stu Singleton:

Wait, somebody from Xfinity may be listening to this.

Lesa Wolman:

They helped our internet guy on the phone. We've done everything. We've played all the right cards. We forward our mail. The only glitch in the forwarding of the mail system, believe it or not, is the United States Coastal Service just cannot forward for more than about two weeks before they forget the forwarding order. We keep shipping. Every time Stu goes back there's gifts for the next door neighbor who has to go get the mail and drop it back at the post office and start it over again.

Stu Singleton:

We keep filing complaints with our local postmaster general, but it doesn't go anywhere. I have no idea where our mail is. We learned about I Postal One through International Living. That service works really good. The problem is they just don't get the mail to do the process. We have no idea where my accountant calls me and says why, what's your new address?

Lesa Wolman:

Your mail got returned.

Jim Santos:

Yeah, you'd have to do a permanent address change for it to keep.

Lesa Wolman:

Oh, it's terrible. As far as you mentioned the healthcare and traveling, not residency, I have to say, and it probably was a reaction to COVID, but they have something here called Hotel Clinics, panama. It's a home visitation by a doctor. It's $15 for the house call for a doctor to actually come to your home or hotel room to do whatever is needed. The one I had it was for an attempt at getting health insurance, which I've come to learn. There's other things about that, but they needed to do an EKG, they needed to weigh me, they needed to do blood work and an interview with the doctor and have her check my heart and lungs.

Lesa Wolman:

She pulls out from her purse a portable EKG machine that has a printer attached. She pulls out a scale. She pulls out all the probes. I'm laying on my own sofa and she's got everything with her. It was $15 for the doctor visit. If I had anything that she needed to come to write a prescription that was necessary to have an actual prescription, and there's only opioids and antibiotics for that she would have to come in person. I would have to pay the $15 for her to do that. That's what it costs for a doctor visit, for You're not a resident. You're just here and you've got to go to the doctor. That's how easy it is. Like I said, it may have been a reaction to COVID and that could be something that is now being done all over the world and I wouldn't know about it.

Jim Santos:

We had a similar thing in Prague when we were in the Czech Republic and both came down with COVID. We were able to find a doctor who made hotel calls. It's like you said. They brought diagnostic equipment with them and were able to do the test and run everything right there. It costs a little more than $15, but still it was very convenient.

Lesa Wolman:

Try finding that in the United States.

Jim Santos:

Right, I mean really truly.

Lesa Wolman:

Then, during COVID, try finding that you might as well just light yourself on fire. There was no way that anyone's going to come to your home.

Stu Singleton:

No, Jim, I know you were looking at a private car. Or how did you get from Panama City to Coronado?

Jim Santos:

I asked because I don't want to go there. We went to a Facebook page for expats in Coronado and services in Panama and just asked people who provided ride services.

Lesa Wolman:

You don't have a car in Coronado either.

Jim Santos:

No, we don't.

Lesa Wolman:

That's difficult there. As I understand it, that's one of the attractions here. I really love urban living because it forces me to walk without feeling like I'm exercising. The idea of going to a gym is like to me. If you say to me let's go down the street to a coffee shop and then on the way I need to go pick up something at the yarn store and I drop something at the dry cleaner, I can do all of that because it just seems like it's not a big deal to just go take a walk.

Rita Santos:

Right.

Lesa Wolman:

I'm walking five to ten miles a day by doing nothing.

Rita Santos:

Yeah, that's great.

Jim Santos:

Yeah, that's. The problem we've had here is, if we want to go to the grocery store, that's one cab trip, and if we want to go get some fresh fish, that's another cab trip. It's difficult to make multiple stops.

Stu Singleton:

Yeah yeah, you're not selling me on the place, come on.

Rita Santos:

Honestly, I don't think this would be for us at all, Do you Jim?

Jim Santos:

No, we talk about Playa Coronado in a minute here. Just one other thing I wanted to ask about.

Lesa Wolman:

Yes.

Jim Santos:

Casco Viejo. There. Do you have any idea what the short term rental market is like there, like if you're looking for a one to three month stay?

Lesa Wolman:

You know, it's actually really good. So in Panama City Airbnb this is all to technical legal jargon Airbnb, I believe, is illegal for anything under 30 or 45 days, but there's no one enforcing anything. So, especially in Casco Viejo, there's lots of apartments that are privately listed, not necessarily on Airbnb, but they may put together like a deal with a tour group where they sell an experience like a package for a week or 10 days, but apartments for like three months are generally going to be those.

Lesa Wolman:

It'll be the Airbnbs those are allowed. Most of them are furnished. Almost all are furnished.

Stu Singleton:

So when we were looking for an additional but another apartment, we would see a building and say God, this is a beautiful building, let's check to see if there is an apartment in there. And we talked to a realtor and they said no, the entire building is Airbnb.

Rita Santos:

Oh, my God.

Stu Singleton:

They just opened or they're about to open. They renovated a corner building on Centro and third beautiful building and as they were, you know, direct construction. We talked to the realtor. You know the sign. The realtor sign was on the side of the building to look at. You know what? What it would cost to rent an apartment there, and so the entire building is being renovated for strictly Airbnb. So, to answer your question, it's actually easier to get an Airbnb in Pasco Viejo than it is to get an apartment.

Lesa Wolman:

It's easier. It's easy, it's very easy to get a short term rental because it is a tourist zone and it's not for everyone. You know, not everyone wants to live in the middle of the circus, so I would like to. Also, we would like a university environment where there's young people and they, there's coffee shops and there's some like live music and there's inexpensive great food and bars, but not, you know, just kind of just pubs and stuff.

Rita Santos:

Right.

Lesa Wolman:

So we would love a college environment. A tourist environment has some similarity and that it'll keep you young if what you like is liveliness and music and people who are excited to be where they are. Nobody walks through here miserable, except from the heat, but other than that they're all incredibly happy to be here. They got off a cruise ship, they're on vacation, there's music, there's a wedding.

Stu Singleton:

Destination weddings. A lot of those happen.

Lesa Wolman:

People are in good moods and I like people in good moods around me, and so, but this is not, this is not for everyone. People like to visit here. We actually went let's try to see how long we can live in it for and it happened to turn out because I like and wanted light heartedness, I needed that lightness in my life from the heaviness that I had been experiencing, and so right, this sort of really really jived with all of my wish list, and because the dog makes it fun for my husband, it's been perfect.

Stu Singleton:

Yeah, I could, just on the apartment that we just moved into on, you know.

Rita Santos:

I mean.

Stu Singleton:

I help people find their Airbnb's. Almost every couple days there's somebody getting out of an apartment. I'm out of an apartment out of a cab looking for a door.

Lesa Wolman:

There's no addresses.

Stu Singleton:

Yeah, because everything's the you know what's the building name, that's, that's your address, and right, so there's, there's more. Come back to your question on the short term rental. There's more air and Airbnb's down, for then there are apartments for rent.

Jim Santos:

Rita and I have been in the Airbnb here in Playa Coronado now for over a month and really couldn't be more different from Panama City. It's still pretty hot in the middle of the day, but the sea breeze does make it a little cooler, and it's much quieter, but also a lot less convenient. So, rita, what's, what's your take on life here at the beach?

Rita Santos:

I don't think it's for us, even if we had a car here, which would make it a lot more convenient. But there's no, there's, there's really. It wouldn't meet our entertainment needs.

Lesa Wolman:

It's boring, Rita.

Rita Santos:

I didn't want to say that.

Lesa Wolman:

I know, because, except except you know I'm hearing boring and you know I would know it's a judgment right, I mean everyone. Somebody else may find that bliss.

Rita Santos:

Lisa, if you play golf, there's golf courses here at the yin yang, and so those people are going to be extremely happy here.

Lesa Wolman:

Oh yes, no golfers, golfers will love a lot. There's a lot of places that are. I think it's called Santa Maria is a golf club off of Panama City. That's a very a gated fabulous with golf courses that everyone loves. It's very successful as a community. We don't golf, we talked to tourists.

Stu Singleton:

What's kind of nice here in Casco Viejo is. There's a definite line of demarcation. You have the quiet zone and then you have the not quite so. And when we first moved here we spent a year in the in the party zone for lack of better turn right off Plaza of Rara, and it was great, but man, it was just going all the time. We we cherish that. You know Monday and Tuesday night, when you know some of the restaurants were closed and the bars slowed down.

Stu Singleton:

So so we we moved into the quiet zone which is only four blocks away, right. I mean we just, we move four blocks but the differences is night and day. So you know, we can we have the quiet, you know, or we walk four blocks, four blocks and we have the not quite a party zone. So we kind of have the best of both worlds in that in that light. It's better to live in the quiet zone.

Lesa Wolman:

Yeah, I really love the convenience of the city and, I think, the difference between a lot of it with our dog, especially the traffic, the traffic. There's a lot of traffic in Panama City, although I have to say Panamanians are incredibly patient and so while there's a lot of traffic they will sit there in the traffic and just wait. Right, the horn, the, I mean they just, they just wait. It's kind of amazing. They get in their cars and then they just wait. The cars move much faster in the city streets than they do in Casco Viejo. They move so slowly here that the pace becomes really very slow and lovely. You can cross the street, even if there's traffic. You can cross the street because they're moving at a quarter of a mile an hour and they're never going to hit you?

Jim Santos:

Yeah, they have to on the brick streets there and they're only about a car and a half wide.

Rita Santos:

And so what do you feel like? You have a more permanent neighborhood in your quiet zone, where you have permanent friends.

Lesa Wolman:

Yes, you know, I think, yes, so I, I think all of Casco Viejo there is a part of the community is a WhatsApp chat group, believe it or not, that was started by somebody who has been here and for 20 years and instrumental in the development of Casco Viejo, frankly, and she's began a WhatsApp chat group, or someone began it, and she continues it. So there's about 285 people who are involved in Casco Viejo, either as residents usually it's residents and they're not necessarily expats but my community is all of Casco Viejo built in automatically. Every single day, all day long, I get texts about lunch specials at this restaurant or cocktail hour at that one or some event going on.

Stu Singleton:

Art show art opening. You know Somebody's got. You know they just moved and have a bunch of boxes that they're trying to get rid of. I mean, which was great for us, but we just moved.

Lesa Wolman:

There's just always something going on, and so the fact that we moved five blocks over just puts us in touch with the different street people that are right outside of our apartment that we knew because we walked past them every day when we walked the dogs.

Stu Singleton:

So now we now they're our new- neighbors, it's like street people, it's like, so there's, they have like what's it called, the guys that help you park your car.

Lesa Wolman:

When could that Right?

Rita Santos:

right.

Stu Singleton:

They're not people who live on the street, but the people who do.

Rita Santos:

Yeah, I knew what you meant.

Lesa Wolman:

Okay right, I want to say street workers, but that comes out wrong also Now here at Coronado, on the plus side, there is a big expat community.

Jim Santos:

It is a very safe area. It feels completely safe out here. We've been able to walk you know three miles every day and not be concerned at all. There's a lot of properties for sale and a lot of properties for rent around here.

Jim Santos:

But I think what the biggest disappointment for me was because we, when we think of the seaside community, we think of Salinas, where there are lots of restaurants and you know places you can go and get fresh fish and fresh produce and all this stuff and we kind of expected that, but there's really only two restaurants in the area that we're in here that you can walk to, and the food is not particularly good in either one. It's kind of just your basic bar food like you know pizzas and hamburgers it's bar food and sheep red wine.

Lesa Wolman:

I got it.

Rita Santos:

Well, you know, and really I think that, I think they're catering to the demographic that they have here.

Lesa Wolman:

I agree with you and that was so. That was the lack of interest that we showed that even when we went with. We went with some realtors on a tour of the beach properties on the Pacific and we went down to Gorgona and we went down to a few others not that far away, but we actually we jumped over Coronado into Chame because we owned property there that's still being, that's just finishing up now construction, but Coronado held absolutely zero interest for us because we realized that it was a created community for the North Americans.

Stu Singleton:

I don't think it. Just we looked. A couple of years ago we were in Port of Arta and well, port of Arta would be cool, and as we looked at some places and we looked at, we went into these high rise condos right on the beach. You know, once we got inside the gate, you didn't see any locals other than the guys, the gardeners.

Lesa Wolman:

Right, they were landscape right. In uniforms and we're not those people.

Stu Singleton:

And we made a determination right then and there that if in the future we ever decided to you know, to live abroad that it wasn't going to be an integrated community. It wasn't going to be necessarily an expat community Enclave. Now, I don't know if I have my numbers right, but I heard somebody mentioned here in. Casco Viejo there's only about 2000 full time residents and that's in a three by 12, three by 14 block. You know it's not heavily populated no. The whole country is not heavily populated. No, yeah, whole country.

Rita Santos:

Well, actually this is the first area that we've been in all of our travels that there are so many expats.

Jim Santos:

On the other hand again, we're not trying to live here, and if you're, just looking for a place to spend a month in the wintertime, when the weather's nice and it's going to be quiet and peaceful and it is beautiful. There's a lot of greenery around here, a lot of flowers everywhere you look. So to just come and spend a month, that's great.

Lesa Wolman:

Yep, there's a lot of North Americans who don't want to be in a Latin culture as much as they want to be in a warm environment. Exactly exactly, so this is perfect for them.

Jim Santos:

We've been talking with Stu Singleton and Lisa Wohlman about their lives in Casco Viejo, the historic old town of Panama City, and life in Panama in general. Lisa, stu, thanks for sharing with us today and we hope to run into you again in our travels.

Lesa Wolman:

Oh, it would be our pleasure. Jim and Rita, Thanks so much for spending time with us.

Jim Santos:

Well, before we go, a quick recap on where we stand on our quest to sell our home and hit the road. We had an open house that brought in a few looky loos, but no offers from that yet. We did just get another lowball offer, but they failed to respond to our counter offer. We'll be back in Knoxville by the end of next week and we'll have about six weeks to pack some things up and hopefully manage to sell the house before we head to our next destinations in Mexico. So thanks for listening to the Travels with Jim and Rita podcast. Please like and follow and promote on social media so we can keep growing. If you have questions or comments or want to tell us about your slow travel experiences, email me at jim@ jimsantosbooks. com. And don't forget, you can find my books, audio books and short stories on Amazon at jimsantos. net. So until next time, this is Jim Santos for Travels with Jim and Rita, reminding you we travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us.

Living Abroad in Panama
The Charm of Living in Panama
Panama City Living and Healthcare Accessibility
Short-Term Rental Market in Casco Viejo
Life in Panama for Expats
Home Sale and Travel Plans Update

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