Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.
It’s been a few years since I packed my bags and left the tropics. I have to admit that I was more than eager to move on from Panama. I had waited so long to get back to Paris.
Plus, knowing that Panama would always be in my future, I didn’t feel overly sentimental when I left in the last weeks of 2018.
As time has passed, though, I’ve found I miss Panama even more than I expected I would. I’ve returned at every chance I’ve gotten since moving (COVID-19 permitting), each time with my infant daughter in tow.
I eagerly introduced her to our “Panama life,” where the beaches and ocean play a big role …
Where hiking through Panama’s incredible rain forests and appreciating its biodiversity is a main hobby … where we relish the awe-inspiring thunderstorms, the laid-back culture and the friendly, welcoming people … and where our lifestyles are about as different as they could be from our “Paris lives.”
What else tops the list of things to relish when spending time in the Hub of the Americas?
1. The Sunshine
It should go without saying that the first thing you’ll delight in when you arrive in the tropics and the first thing you’ll miss when you leave is the bountiful sunshine.
It’s rare that you don’t see the sun at some point during the day in Panama — perfect for enjoying the beach or pool.
The only downside is that it’s hard to stay inside or get things done when all you want to do is laze and take in the rays.
Aside from the heat, the hours of daylight are possibly the thing I miss most about living near the equator. I became so accustomed to the sunrise that I rose with the sun each day and had a couple of hours to myself before heading to work.
I loved the consistency of that routine, and it’s possibly the thing I miss most here in Paris.
2. The Epic Thunderstorms
During the rainy season, you’re all but guaranteed one thunderstorm per afternoon. They usually only last 20 minutes or so, but they are torrential.
Streets flood in minutes, and if you’re caught without an umbrella, you’ll look as though you jumped into a pool with your clothes on.
Lightning storms are also common, and if you’re on the coast you can watch the electricity play over the ocean — a truly special experience.
3. Your Own Pool
I lived in a condo with two pools for residents, one on the roof and one on the 10th floor with the gym. Most apartment buildings offer at least one pool, as do most houses built for expats, so it’s likely you’ll have your own pool living in Panama.
They say a pool is one of those things that you don’t really use if you have one available all the time, but that sure wasn’t true for me.
I took a dip every morning after my workout and spent at least part of one weekend day lounging poolside.
As an addendum to this point, I also miss having a year-round tan …
Whether hiking in the city’s protected jungle reserves or heading out to the beach for the weekend, you’ll find the nature in Panama is unadulterated.
For such a small country, Panama is incredibly diverse in geography and wildlife — you can visit islands, wetlands, mountains, Caribbean or Pacific Ocean, and so much more.
There is something of the wild living even in Panama City … a feeling that the city has been carved out of the rain forest and that the jungle is constantly pushing to reclaim its territory.
Thousands of landscapers are employed to beat back the growth that’s always threatening to take over sidewalks, roadways, and parks.
The birds alone make it hard to believe you’re in a metropolis.
Vultures circling the fish market (sometimes landing on my balcony much to the dismay of my cat and dog), pelicans skimming the waves of the bay, flocks of parrots that can darken the sky, the occasional toucan if you’re lucky — all the species that pass through by the thousands on their way south every autumn and back up each spring.
5. The Rum
I have yet to find a drink I enjoy as much as a simple rum and Coke. I don’t need the fancy stuff. Just the plain, old, off-the-bottom-shelf Ron Abuelo. Delicious.
A bottle of the bottom-rung rum costs just a few bucks in Panama, but the aged is at least $30 and goes up with the years.
I found a bottle of the 20-year aged Ron Abuelo here in Paris, and they wanted a couple hundred euros for it.
6. The Wide-Open Space
Countryside or living space, any way you look at it, Panama has a lot of room.
Our apartment in Panama was much bigger than ours here in Paris, and each room was bigger in all dimensions, with lofty tall ceilings adding to the wide-open feeling.
We have some balcony space in Paris, but it has nothing on our Panama balcony that fit a five-person sofa, a sun chair, a table for six, a grill and a few dozen plants … still leaving plenty of room to walk around.
Plus, we had the building’s “social areas” at our disposal, including a gym, the two pools, a hot tub, a movie-viewing room, pool room, several party rooms and a lounge on the roof.
Here in Paris, we live in one of the few buildings in the city that have their own private gardens, but it’s more for looks than for use.
In Panama’s interior, you’ve got nothing but space all around … Opt to live outside the city, and you could settle on some land — anything from a quarter-acre on up to as much as you could want.
7. The Americana
Panama and the United States have shared a close relationship for over 100 years and that offers a connection through food, shopping, business culture and more.
I won’t say that Panamanians have the same punctuality or work ethic that Americans are so famous for, but it’s much closer than the French culture is to American.
The American food imports were something I indulged in regularly in Panama. I really miss boxed mac and cheese …
I also miss some of the food chains that had come to Panama but haven’t yet made it across the pond.