Good question. I'm glad you asked.
I grew up in California, which is a state full of micro-climates. Within an hour or two, you can drastically change the weather and the view. In one weekend, you can be at the beach, in the middle of a vineyard, or in the mountains. When I moved to Texas, I realized how unique California was. In Texas, you can drive for two days and never leave the unending plains ... nor escape the oppressive heat in the summer. With each passing year, I longed more and more for the climate and scenery of my college years in Santa Barbara. I missed the water, I missed the view, and I definitely missed the temperate climate.
I thought of moving back to Santa Barbara, but the sad truth was that I couldn't afford it. Southern California in general has gotten exceedingly expensive, but real estate in Santa Barbara went from expensive to prohibitive. Since Santa Barbara was out, I started looking at other options.
I'd been to several Latin American countries before coming to Panama. I didn't like Costa Rica because of the huge discrepancy between the local poverty and the Gringo affluence. Chile made the short list, but I wasn't impressed with the food. When I first came to Panama, I was prepared to be under-impressed.
What surprised me about Panama was how much I liked it. I'm a foodie, so the diversity and quality of the restaurants and food available for purchase was a happy surprise. Plus, like California, Panama is blessed with a variety of micro-climates. I adore the coolness and lushness of Boquete, but for lifestyle reasons, I wanted to be closer to the action. I found a condo at Playa Bonita that combined my love of the ocean with the proximity of the city. I can get into the heart of Panama City within 15 minutes if I'm not going at rush hour, which means restaurants, shopping, doctors, and any of the services I need are at my fingertips any day of the week.
But the real reason I moved to Panama is the million dollar view I have from my condo. I sit in bed each morning and drink coffee while I watch an unimpeded view of the sun rising over the water. I'm a morning person, so getting up at 6 a.m. and watching ships make their way to the opening of the Panama Canal as the sun peeks over the horizon is the perfect start to every day. I love to see the sun sparkling on the ocean, but I'm just as fascinated to see the dark clouds swirling during rainy season as a tropical storm brings a quick daily shower.
I have different views from different rooms in my condo. My living room offers a half ocean-half jungle view, and I've found that I like staring into the jungle as much as I like looking at the ocean. The photo above shows my view from my dining area. The photo at the top of the blog post was also taken from my condo--this time from my balcony. You can see dozens of ships dotting the horizon as they wait to make their way through the Panama Canal.
Although I have a million-dollar view, the real estate in Panama is more in line with Texas property prices than California prices... which means I can actually afford the view. When I tell people why I moved to Panama, most people don't understand until they come visit. One minute in my apartment, though, and people finally understand with crystal clarity why I moved to Panama.