8 things I have learned while living in Panama

As many of you know, when I came back from my motorcycle trip through Latin America, I stayed about two months in the states before I went abroad again. This time not on a motorcycle, but to settle down for a bit (of course while preparing for the next adventure) and to try something new. Coming up on just shy of two years in Panama (time flies when you are having fun and even when you aren’t) and my reason for being here (a relationship, what else) is still going strong.

Although I made the choice to be here, living abroad is not necessarily easier than a motorcycle trip. Each requires a new cadence you have to get used to in order to sustain a new lifestyle. I will admit that I was not impressed with Panama the first time I came here. I spent two days and wanted to move on from the heat and high-rise buildings. But I have come to appreciate more things while living here as an ex-pat. Out of all the countries in Central America, it has some benefits over the others. At the same time it is still in Central America so there are a few things I have to get used to.


Panama skyline from Amador Causeway

What I have learned during my time here in Panama:

  1. Be patient.
    • If it’s not life or death, it’s not going to happen quickly. How important is that tire for your motorcycle? They might have it or it might be on order or it might be arriving in a couple months. (see #2)
  2. If you see it and need / want it, then buy it.
    • Chances are it won’t be there next time or when it will be resupplied, if ever.
  3. Buying from online stores in the US is tricky.
    • Any companies that see a Panama ISP do not like to charge my credit card. They are skeptical and usually my order gets denied. No more instant gratification. It’s good for learning #1 and for keeping the savings growing.
  4. I appreciate the Internet and global connectivity.
    • Panama (thanks to US influence on this one) has some of the quickest and accessible Internet available in Central America. Makes it very easy to work from here. Although one may think it’s while sipping a drink with an umbrella in it on some white sand beach, it isn’t.
  5. Yes, you can drink the water (at least in the city).
    • Even if you can’t find organic this or gluten-free that, it’s back to appreciating the basics, like drinking the tap water. Another courtesy of US influence in Panama during the Panama Canal era. There are also big grocery stores and a lot of common brands are imported from the US. Eating like home is easy, but expensive.
  6. Taking care of your self takes a lot of work.
    • It’s not the causal world of Los Angeles, where I could throw on a t-shirt and jeans and no one notices; in the city, locals take much more time and effort in appearance. Hair and nails grow faster than in other countries (confirmed by a stylist) and need constant maintenance.
  7. I am a Gringa and always will be.
    • All I have to do is lift up my helmet visor and they know I am not from around these parts. And usually with that comes a higher price tag for being a foreigner (yes, tourism is a large part of the local economy).
  8. I appreciate exposure to new things.
    • If it’s one thing I miss from the States, it’s the music, the art, the conversations with friends, and the great motorcycle roads I used to have at my fingertips. I did not know how much I had taken it for granted while I lived there. Now I appreciate it when I return.
Panama City skyline from Cerro Ancon

Panama City skyline from Cerro Ancon

Overall, Panama is an easy place to be (if you let it) for the time being. And while I prefer to be on the road and will again someday, the pros and cons of living for an extended time in a new country makes me more aware of what I had and what I don’t miss (the stress of living in Los Angeles). Still, I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences for where I am now.


  • Ernie Lance on Aug 24, 2015
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    Wow Alli…… I had no idea that you were up to such adventures in your life . I lived in Colon for a while in the Army. I am proud and very happy for you. I would love to hear about your experience and share about mine!!! Way to go go girl. LOVE YOU ~ ❤ ~ ❤ ~ ❤ ~ ❤ ~ ❤ ~ ❤ ~

  • Keith on Jul 05, 2015 Reply

    Sounds likes your settling in down there. I’m really happy for you! Adios Alison

    • Alison DeLapp on Jul 27, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Keith! It’s taken some time adjusting, but so far so good. 🙂

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