During the past year of my life in Panama, I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of other expats hailing from all over the world. Everyone seems to agree that living abroad requires an adventurous spirit and an open mind. The expatriate lifestyle is not a new concept — think about famous artists and authors such as Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway who spent years living abroad, fueling their creativity and gaining their livelihood.
The modern-day expat community in Panama is a vibrant tapestry of people across a wide spectrum of experiences and backgrounds. From ambitious young entrepreneurs to seasoned business professionals stationed abroad with a renowned, globally-reaching company, they all agree that there are definite benefits to making a big move.
Here are a few advantages of living abroad that seem to be shared by all:
Exploring a New Culture & Learning a New Language
Stepping outside your comfort zone is something you should do throughout your life — and living abroad gives you the perfect opportunity to learn something new about another place, another people, and ultimately about yourself.
Even the most well-traveled can always gain a fresh appreciation and understanding of different countries and cultural nuances. And it’s the best way to pick up a second (or third) language — there’s no better classroom than day-to-day activities in a friendly foreign country like Panama, when each trip to the grocery store or post office can be a Spanish vocabulary lesson.
Expanding Your Network
After a few months of living in a new country, your network of friends, colleagues and contacts grows exponentially. Making friends in countries around the world is an enriching experience, and you’ll have the pleasure of visiting friends in their home countries for years to come. There are also serious professional advantages to growing your network of contacts to a global scale.
More Affordable Lifestyle
Depending on the country you choose, you may enjoy an elevated standard of living. After making a move from Chicago to Panama, I found many of “the good things in life” at better prices than back home. Home services, childcare, and local organic produce are all fantastically affordable in Panama — often a pleasant surprise to new arrivals.
Your Home Becomes a Vacation Destination
As I discovered while living in Panama, sharing tales of adventures and fun weekend trips in Panama often inspires friends and family to make visiting you the object of their next vacation!
One of my favorite Panama memories was showing my parents around a new country and letting them see firsthand my amazing life abroad!
I remember taking my parents on a boat ride through the Gulf of Chiriquí to do some whale watching. We set out in a small boat, passing by a string of emerald islands and gorgeous beaches, with our eyes open to spot all kinds of sea creatures. To a group of people from landlocked Ohio like us, everything seemed magical and new. It was an unforgettable experience and made me so proud to call Panama my new home!
My year abroad has been filled with learning opportunities and new friends. I absolutely recommend the experience to anyone — whether they’re working to advance their career, expand their cultural horizons, or just looking for a change.