Las Lajas Beach Resort

¡Hola, mis amigos!  It’s been ages since I’ve blogged anything and I hope that you all haven’t given up on me. But I hit a point in my living here in Boquete where everything was just so everyday. I felt I had nothing interesting to write about. Recently my friend, Susan (who has an awesome blog about their travels here), suggested to me that the everyday stuff is what many people want to know about.

So I have been looking at my life here in Panama anew. With Susan’s encouragement and a different perspective, I have found that I really do have a lot to write about. Some of it will be everyday stuff, some will be new adventures. For this new beginning, I decided to tell you about our favorite get away.

Guy & I love living in Boquete. But when we need a break from our Mountain Tropical Paradise, we head to Las Lajas Beach Resort (LLBR), our Beach Tropical Paradise. We go as often as we can and are, in fact, leaving Thursday for a 2 night trip.

LLBR is the creation of Peter and Scott, 2 former California pizza parlor owners. They vacationed here, looked around, found some beachfront property and built the resort from scratch. It’s a 12-room resort with a pool, bar & restaurant, lawn area, covered sitting area and several palapas to sit under and gaze out over the ocean. The lawn area ends where the beach begins and depending upon the tide, the water is anywhere from at the grass to 2 hundred yards out. The hotel has perhaps 100 or so linear feet at the beach, but the beach itself goes off for miles in either direction. Often there are no other humans to be seen.

Sometimes we come with a large group of people from Boquete. Someone will send out an email saying they’ve booked dates and soon 8-10 couples are off to the beach. My friend, Robyn, has dubbed it Senior Day Camp. Sometimes, like our last trip, we are the only ones there.

Since we come often and turnover is fairly low, we have gotten to know the staff pretty well. They are a very cool group of people who take our happiness very seriously. They are friendly and hardworking. The last time we were at LLBR, Guy went out fishing with Julio, the night bartender, and had a great time. The way that Julio surf-fished was to prep the pole, walk/swim out into the surf beyond the waves, cast and then walk back to shore while letting line out. Once out on the beach he walked along keeping the line perpendicular to the coast as the bait moved with the current. It was different and fun to watch them. Unfortunately, no fish were caught, which according to the night receptionist, Jonathan, is par for the course with Julio.

The restaurant and bar are next to the pool and lawn area. The food is tasty and a good value. You don’t pay until you leave the resort, so you can leave your wallet in the room. Coffee and breakfast is available from about 7 a.m. And the bar is open until about 10:00 p.m.

Free activities include walks on the beach, reading and/or snoozing under a palapa or in a hammock, taking a dip in the pool or napping in your room.

For a small price you can rent a boogie or surf board (many people bring their own boards) or go horseback riding around the Las Lajas area with a local guide, Gama, who also works at the resort. You’ll know Gama as he’s the one in the blue LLBR t-shirt who always has a smile on his face.


Our friends, Jane and David, riding with Gama

These 2 videos were taken in March and that day the waves were amazing. Guy and our friend, Bob, couldn’t miss a wave!

Every clear evening ends with a spectacular sunset. On the nights that there are clouds, lightning, thunder and wonderful rain are often the backdrop.

Las Lajas Beach Resort is a magical place, a must-see when you are here in Panama!


Freedom From Debt The Easy Way

“There are but two ways of paying debt:

Increase of industry in raising income,

increase of thrift in laying out.”

-Thomas Carlyle

The American Dream…ours had really become a nightmare.  Due to poor financial decisions and choices, our debt had become unbearable.  Before retirement, we could barely keep up with every day expenses, much less anything fun.

Several years ago we purposed to get out of debt.  We found books and various resources and began to learn lessons that we badly needed to know.  But try as we might, the Debt would grow larger not smaller.  Argh!

So when we began entertaining the idea of moving out of country, our research showed that living almost anywhere outside the USA would substantially decrease our cost of living and enable us to finally to pay off our bills.  Completely.  Finally!

Needless to say, with our desire to travel, this concept got us very excited.  The burden that is Debt was so great to bear.  We keep imagining ourselves screaming, “Freedom,” much like the hero, William Wallace (at least that’s what he did in Braveheart.)  Although at times it feels like it, thankfully we are not in prison or dying horrible deaths from our tormentor.

“So, now that you’ve been in Panama for 9 months, how’s the whole getting-out-of-Debt thing working out for you?” you ask.  Very well, thank you :).  And, since you’ve asked, I thought I’d outline for you what that looks like.

One of the first things that we decided upon when we moved here was our list of financial goals.  Numero Uno on the list was to get out of Debt.  With that established we discussed our spending priorities.  Now I am good with living simply but not with cockroaches or never eating out or foregoing having any fun.  I am too old to live in a hostel with shared baths or a dark, dank apartment in a creepy neighborhood.

So our first apartment, a simple studio in a clean building, was perfect for beginning our adventure.  It included a private bath, partial kitchen, electricity, gas, trash, wifi and easy access to a washer and dryer.  All for a rent of $500.

We loved our landlords but the apartment had no balcony or outdoor common area and we were a ways from town.  We started getting a bit stir crazy as well as frustrated since we seemed to sleep at home and live in town.  So after 7 months, we decided to move to a new apartment.  Our rent increased by $350.  But we have a large balcony and we’re right in town.  We are within minutes of everything and haven’t had to grab a taxi in weeks.  Love it!

A month ago we set up a budget that we chose to track on a daily basis to see how much we could actually live on per day for 30 days.  We started with $30 per day.  Now this per diem is food (groceries and going out), fun money, fishing trips, etc., basically everything outside of our bills and rent.

Before I reveal whether or not we made our goal, I need to explain a couple of things.  We took 2 PriceMart (Panama’s answer to Costco and probably IS Costco) runs and bought things like paper towels, toilet paper and other bulk items that will cover us through most of June.  We also treated ourselves to dining out (with drinks) 9 times, the best gelato ever 3 times and cigars from the Tuesday Market.  But even with all that, we averaged $42 per day, only $12/day over our intended budget.  We were pleased and decided to up our daily to a more practical $40.

So what is our current bottom line here?  Check it out:

Rent (includes: fully furnished [all furniture, linens, dishes] with maid service, electricity, gas, water, trash, wifi, cable TV, in-apartment washer & dryer) $850.00
Food and Extras (for 30 days) $1,200.00
Medical & Other Expenses (medical insurance, doctor visits, medication and other necessary expenses) $900.00

Isn’t that amazing?!  Now to maybe add a little perspective I want to add the following:

  • We don’t own or buy “stuff”.  After all, we are traveling around the world with 2 suitcases each. Period.
  • Our apartment is a luxury apartment.  Many expats have told us that these apartments are some of the best in Boquete.
  • We don’t own a car.  No payment, no insurance, no fuel or maintenance.  Sweet!
  • We don’t have health club memberships.  We walk everywhere and have a simple body-weight routine that we can do at home.  And I just started a Tai Chi class (awesome idea, Toby!!!) that is a pay-what-you-feel-is-right cost.  I usually pay $5 per class.
  • We don’t have any kids with us (they can be a bit pricey, can’t they?)
  • We didn’t bring everything and originally spent maybe $300 initially to get a few items that we “couldn’t” live without…kinda the “I’m old and like my comforts” thing.  Call it “moving expenses.”  An example is that we spent about $40 to purchase an electric wok.  The 2 burner stove thing was super limiting.
  • We do pay medical insurance every month, but we don’t go to the doctor or buy meds every month.  So the $900 is for as much as we might possibly need not what we actually spend each month.
  • We live simply but extravagantly.  Eating at higher end restaurants, buying alcohol, taking fishing and weekender trips…we really don’t skimp.  Even though we give ourselves $40 a day, it’s really only a reminder and a goal.  We could cut out quite a bit and do fine on $15 daily if we were really needing to cut down.

So that’s my life right now…at least the financial part of it.  We’re comfortable & happy, having a blast and looking forward to financial freedom before the end of 2015.  And, I might add, that includes 3 trips back to the USA and a wedding!