By: Sharon Aron Baron
Two Broward County Politicians will soon become expatriates when they head off to a new life in Panama in June.
Former Broward County School Board Member, David Thomas, and his wife Cindy, who sits on the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District, are teachers at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs where David teaches AP Psychology and Cindy teaches AP American History. David stepped down as School Board Member in 2011 after his wife Cindy had health issues, which led to their retirement this year.
Besides teaching, both David and Cindy are elected precinct captains for the Democratic Party. They are both very active at the Coral Springs/Parkland Democratic Club where Cindy served as Secretary and David was on the board. Cindy was even selected as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC in 2012. However, even though they are extremely busy and active politically, the decision for David and Cindy to move to Panama came about as a result of their extensive traveling over the years. They visited Costa Rica several times but felt they only could retire there if they lived in a gated community. Someone suggested that they visit Panama, so about two years ago, they landed at the Toucomen Airport in Panama, rented a car and began exploring the route along the Pan-American Highway. While most areas along the beach were too hot, the mountains along the Costa Rican border near a small town called Boquete were just right. They planned to stay only five days, but ended up staying a lot longer.
“When we were sitting in the airport waiting to leave,” said Cindy, “I told David that it felt like we were leaving home, not going home. Since we have traveled extensively, this was a first. So we have returned several times since then and last summer, we spent 2 months there.”
This spring they rented a house, bought a car, and arranged to move there.
“We sold our house, cars and most of our possessions and will make the big move June 12 with our two cats,” said Cindy.
According to the AARP, expats are flocking to Panama, especially towns like Boquete:
“If you want a temperate highlands retreat surrounded by unmatched natural splendor, the mountain town of Boquete, an hour’s flight from Panama City, is close to heaven. Here expats settle amid rain forests, coffee plantations, burbling streams, and hummingbirds hovering over dazzling flowers.
Boquete is decidedly gringo-friendly, offering a wide range of back-home amenities, from a golf course to high-end gated communities.”
Cindy said, “There are a lot of expats in Boquete, so there are many things to do. We are involved in the theater group and once a month we assist with their spaying and neutering program for animals. We hike, scuba dive in both oceans, garden, play golf, and do a lot of socializing.”
Cindy says she will be giving up the amenities of big city life, but in return they will be getting a slower pace along with friendlier people who greet them everyday.
“People say ‘Buenos Dias.’ David and I said it reminded us of growing up in the 50’s,” said Cindy. “A negative may be that we will not have McDonalds, Taco Bell or KFC, but a huge positive is that we will also not have McDonalds, Taco Bell or KFC. Food is fresh, and fruit is everywhere. We have a good size town about 40 minutes away that has movie theaters and large grocery and department stores.”
It also doesn’t hurt that rent and food are less expensive for retirees in Panama as well. While Cindy and David say they are moving for the lifestyle change and adventure and not because of the low cost of living, they said that the costs are considerably less for some things. For instance, a chicken dinner with potatoes and vegetable costs only $2.50. Boquete grows its own coffee, so a cup at the local shops is only 85 cents.
“Our rent is about one-third of what a comparable place would be in Coral Springs and it comes with a gardener and housecleaner.”
With three children combined, they already know how they are going to keep in touch with family as well as their friends over 6,000 miles away.
“With modern technology, keeping in touch with everyone is easy. We have Skype, Viber, MagicJack and Facebook. We also bought Slingbox, which is a contraption that allows us to watch my mother’s U.S. cable stations on our TV in Panama, and we are hoping that people take the opportunity and visit.”