Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Exciting Weekend.....Of International Living in Panama!

A few months ago I was asked by International Living to speak at their annual Fast Track To Panama Conference, and jumped at the opportunity. Since I submitted my first article to them over two years ago it's been a thrill-ride of writing about our experiences in Panama and getting paid to do what I enjoy. From full length articles, e-post cards and even an e-letter, I've had dealings with many of their editorial staff who have all been wonderful.





A fuzzy picture of Terry doing her talk




It all started back in 1979 when they first published a newsletter suggesting that life in a tropical setting was no longer just for the rich and famous.  It went on to suggest that one might even live on less money overseas. Since it began International Living has grown to more than 500,000 readers and 200 contributors around the world. Based out of Ireland, International Living is the premier publication that sells the dream of living abroad for less. 

The three-day conference was held at the Hotel Riu in Panama City with 460 attendees.  The Exhibition Hall was full of companies trying to sell a service or a product.  Next door the conference room was where attendees would listen to a variety of speakers and expats like myself. Much of the time Clyde and I made ourselves available by sitting at an expat table.  We enjoyed chatting to the many attendees that came by for information, advice or moral support assuring them that it IS  possible to move to Panama and live happily.  Speakers were all honest about how life really is in Panama and they all made comments like, "it hasn't always been easy," "life here in not perfect, but we're still here," and many more real thoughts. IL staff members showed samples of property for sale or rent here and they were all at realistic prices too.

Whenever I tell someone that I write for International Living I receive many different comments, some good while other comments are horrible. But after witnessing first hand what they tell participants at a conference I was impressed with many things like: their honesty about real estate in Panama; they encourage people to learn Spanish; that life is not perfect here; Coronado is a lightly secured gated community; there are diseases here like dengue but it's also in the US; living here is not as inexpensive as it once was, yet is still cheaper than the US; and they do encourage their writers to tell the truth in articles along with so much more.

My talk was 20-minutes long and included a slide presentation done with Powerpoint, which my dear husband Clyde helped with.  I spoke about our lives in Panama, why we made the move, our experience with health care, our struggles with the language and this blog. All presentations were video taped and attendees received a copy of our powerpoint presentations to refresh their memories once back home. I received many favorable comments about my presentation from both audience members and IL staff.  One woman even went so far as to say, "it was the best talk of the day."

Later that night we were invited to attend a VIP cocktail party at Miraflores Locks. After being transported by bus, the social provided a nice opportunity to chat with prospective expats over drinks and food to share our experiences with them. Saturday was a long day of speaker presentations and more chats with attendees.  The finale was another cocktail party poolside at the hotel. 

I left there with a much better appreciation of what International Living provides for it's readers.  An honest, realistic view of what life is really like in Panama. I did not however speak to any of the business owners trying to sell everything from property, insurance, gold, Spanish lessons, diamonds, legal services, relocation specialists, financial investments and so much more.

I am truly grateful for having had the opportunity to share our story with so many. It was great to be able to meet and mingle with some of the International Living editorial staff who I knew only from their names and writings. And it was wonderful to make friends with other expats living throughout Panama, who we look forward to keeping in touch with for years to come. This past weekend was another wonderful, rewarding experience full of thrills and adventures.....along the gringo trail.


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