Most of us at some point have felt a desire to live in some place called paradise. But in order to find paradise on earth, we first have to define exactly what that means. For some it may be a snow-packed mountain peak where it rarely gets above freezing, the skiing is terrific and the hot chocolate is steaming under mounds of whipped cream. For some it may be the top floor of a Manhattan skyscraper with total climate control and martinis delivered three times a day. Others relish the thought of a tropical island with endless blue water and sand beaches where coconut milk and rum drinks are the thirst-quencher of choice.
It seems that everyone has their own idea of what the ideal world would look like for them. For me, it has been a moving target. Having lived in virtually every imaginable climate and environment at some time or another, I have finally come to characterize my own Paradise from a perspective of experience. I have defined and redefined my criteria until I have it narrowed down to a very specific list of requirements. After some years of searching, I have finally discovered my rainbow and the pot at the end of it. I have not found all the gold yet, but everything else I wanted is here and I’m loving it.
The place I found that worked for me is off the far northwestern coast of Panama. This archipelago composed of five main islands and hundreds of smaller ones, is called “the islands of Bocas del Toro.” Bocas del Toro, (mouth of the bull) is one of the largest provinces in Panama and the Caribbean islands off of its shores are certainly one of its defining features. For me, the warm climate, clear water and beautiful beaches where I can swim comfortably year-around fulfilled one of my biggest prerequisites.
I love peace and quiet but I’m not a recluse so I wanted someplace where I could still keep in touch. In touch with the world, my family and my heritage. The country of Panama was perfect. The infrastructure is good and improving by leaps and bounds. There is an airport on the island of Colon in Bocas del Toro where I live. I am able to easily travel throughout the country and back and forth to Colorado where I have friends and family. I can call anywhere, I have good internet service and TV is available at whatever level of hypnosis one desires. Personally, I find that in my new Caribbean tropical island world, exploring the amazing diversity of flora and fauna in the wildly exotic landscapes that exist all around me is entertainment enough.
I left my pickup truck behind in Colorado and replaced it with a boat in Panama, but for those who want to travel the interior, the roads are adequate and except for the cities generally uncrowded. In my current situation, everything I want or need is available in Bocas town or can be delivered from the city of David in a few days. My highways are on the waves between mangrove islands where I can read or write while floating comfortably in the shade of my bimini as spotted rays and dolphins swim around and beneath me.
As a stranger in a foreign country, I wanted to feel safe. In a place like Bocas del Toro where a major part of the economy is driven by tourism and foreign investment, it is to the benefit of all that every effort be made to maintain a atmosphere of friendship and security. With the US Coast Guard and Panamanian Marine Patrol watching the seas and waterways and the National Panama Police enforcing the laws of the land, that objective is largely achieved. After nearly 15 years of visits here and 4 years of full-time living in Bocas del Toro, I can honestly say that I am more comfortable here at 11:30 at night than I am in many of the cities of my home country.
So does Paradise have a price?
I’ll talk about that in my next article in this series “Life in Bocas del Toro”.
Article by: Anne Michelle Wand, United Country Bocas del Toro