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On waking up in liberty (and solving a current personal dilemma)

After blogging about it yesterday, I’ve been taking Kent McManigal’s challenge, “What would YOU do if you woke up in liberty?”

My first thought was, “Not much different than I’m already doing.” After all, I’ve been consciously pursuing (and preaching) freedom for a long time. I’m out here in the hills, doing pretty much what I want, with people I want to be with. I live in a place where you can strap a gun on and go downtown (such as downtown is) and nobody will give you a second glance. A place where the neighbors are self-sufficient and helpful — and nice, besides. A place where we can legally do stuff like this in our very own backyard:

(And yes, that’s a suppressed, full-auto, and completely legal Mac-10 being fired by one of our visitors on one of the two firing ranges here at Last-Chance Gulch. He’s on a hill above the pistol range. There’s also a 600-yard rifle range.)

Who could ask for more?

But then …

A year ago, I was taxed out of a home that I owned free-and-clear, a home I built. Because government remains the ultimate owner of all our property.

I’m here in the desert — which is not my natural environment — living in a friend’s fifth-wheel trailer in part because it was the only place I could afford to go. I’m grateful for it. Very. But now I’m faced with other choices. I’ve been kicking those choices back and forth across my brain for about two months now and only just now realized that whatever decision I eventually make will be formed largely by government dkitats, government avoidance, or my fears of what government might do.

By the end of this summer, I have to move out of where I am now. I’m fortunate enough to have three interesting choices:

  1. Less than a mile from here, on a windswept hilltop, sits an empty, fully furnished single-wide whose aging owner built it for Y2K and never set foot here after that turned out to be a non-event. Our neighbors have right of first refusal on the property, but they’re interested only in the land. If they can buy the place, they’ve offered to rent the dwelling to me quite reasonably.
  2. I’ve also looked at a couple of rather cool little houses in a distressed area of my beloved northwest. These houses can be gotten for less than many people pay for their cars. They’re beaters, of course. “Handyman specials” as they say. But they’re cute, affordable — and just sitting there in a market that has flat-out died.
  3. Finally, the — believe it or not — most budget-minded option is to go back to Panama, where I have a line on a small, furnished apartment. Even when I factor in the airfare and paying a friend a nominal sum to care for my dogs for a few months, this option will cost even less than moving less than a mile across the valley. (It would be temporary, however; I don’t qualify for residency in Panama and don’t know whether I’d want to.)

So again … that all sounds good. Three options — and not one of them a bad choice. That’s a type of freedom, isn’t it?

Each option has its own natural (that is, non-governmental) pros and cons.

Option 1 lets me stay near good friends, live in glorious open spaces, and not have the burdens of ownership. But, oh the thrice-damned-desert winds! And really, it’s not certain whether my sweet neighbors will be able to purchase the place.

Option 2 gets me back up north and closer to my friends there. It puts me in a nice small town within walking distance of stores, and gives me the joys of ownership (I can paint the house black with purple stripes if I want to because it’s mine, mine, mine). But it means a major move and all the costs and responsibilities of home ownership.

Option 3 means being gloriously warm all winter, living amid the beauty of a rain forest, and experiencing another culture. But my dogs won’t be with me, I’ll be far from friends, and my hablo-ing of Espanol is pretty feeble.

I could sort through those choices and consider myself lucky. It’s the governmental complications that hurt my brain.

What if I rent the single-wide, then the feds create hyperinflation and I’m stuck with payments that escallate beyond my means? I’ll end up not just homeless, but hopeless. Guess I’d better buy.

Oh, but the taxes on those cute little houses are even higher than the ones that drove me out of Cabin Sweet Cabin! And what if inflation or governmental overspending or whatever drives the taxes or the city-owned utility rates up beyond what I can pay? They’ll take my house away!

And every time I read something like this I think, “This country is getting too damned scary. (The FAA is feeling pressure because of the “need” — the NEED??? — for Predator drones to be flying over the U.S.???) I should just get out.”

But if I go to Panama, I know darned well they have random (and not-so-random) ID checks there. And if I stay beyond 90 days at a time, I’ll become an “illegal.” And geez, when they have their census, you can’t even have fun evading the government snoop; you actually have to stay in your house on a certain day until somebody comes and gives you a permission slip saying you’ve complied. And I’ll have to learn how to bribe petty government officials. Oh god, and to get there and back, I have to submit to TSA assault … No, I’ll just stick it out in the U.S. no matter how bad it gets.

So … I’ll just rent the single-wide across the valley. Because, after all, this is as good a place as any to sit out whatever economic chaos the government might cause. And here I can be useful to my neighbor who’s no longer “allowed” by the government to drive into town for groceries despite the fact that’s he’s probably a better driver than I am.

But still … I’d really rather own a home, even with all those potential drawbacks. And there’s going to be hyper-inflation, you just know there is. So buying really is better. And up in the northwest it’s easier to grow your own survival garden so that when the fed finishes trashing the dollar …

Sorry to go on so. Maybe this is all “just me.” Friend Jim calls this “Hamleting,” and I do admit that even in the best of times I’m prone to sit in thick muddles of indecision (until I suddenly make my choice and act so abruptly that my friends think I’ve leaped onto the back of some wild impulse).

But if governments in general — and the threat of onrushing, government-caused, economic chaos in particular — weren’t so omnipresent, virtually every big life decision would be a whole lot easier.

So what would I do if I “woke up in freedom”? In this particular instance, I’m not sure. What I think is that, if I had been living in freedom all along, I never would have felt the need to limit my income so sharply. I’d be more prosperous. I would never have been driven out of Cabin Sweet Cabin by taxers. It would be possible actually to own one’s own home. Houses and everything else would be more generally affordable because they wouldn’t be loaded with hidden taxes and costly regulations. And in all probability I could buy a house (which wouldn’t be owned by a bank because the government wouldn’t have wrecked the economy), rent a weekend place if I wanted one, and jet off to Central America for a few winter months.

But that’s wishing.

What I’d do if I woke up tomorrow and all stupid tax- and inflation- and tyranny-related obstacles were removed is … um … let me think on that.


  1. Devin
    Devin June 16, 2010 12:31 pm

    Great post as usual. We find ourselves in similar predicaments. We are considering moving back to CO where the overall mindset is more live and let live compared to the midwest metropolis we currently live, but only to a point. Part of this would require some hard decisions regarding our current home here in order to move to CO along with other possibilities that the current economic/political roller coaster ride may show.
    In Frith,

  2. F42
    F42 June 16, 2010 12:42 pm

    First greetings Clair. I just came in from the cold and happened to stumble upon your blog here.

    Taxes drove us out 3 years ago and we have been renting since. The older we get the more of a pain just living becomes. Hopefully we won’t get to much of a rent increase this year, but if so there are so many vacant houses that one can be rented reasonably.

    I really wouldn’t buy, but that is my opinion and everyone has one. Mainly because the looters are going to be the last ones to have jobs at the expense of JSP. For instance my landlord said that his taxes are going up 13% this year. I didn’t respond, figuring that the first person to speak looses.

    Anyway, I’m not known to get real chatty, as I hate the keyboard. Take care, good to see ya hanging in, and sorry I have been gone so long.


  3. Pat
    Pat June 16, 2010 1:05 pm

    But Claire, if you woke up in freedom tomorrow, you wouldn’t have to make that choice – you could do what you wanted without worrying about what you want. ANY choice you make would be equally viable, equally free.

    Panama wouldn’t need to be an option. The taxman wouldn’t be scaring you off from buying. The economy would have much less effect on your purchasing power or lifestyle. (Even assuming it started from today’s conditions, it could only get better in a free society.)

    But you’re not waking up in a free society. So why not rent in the NW? (Or in the SW, for that matter?) Or why not move to a different region altogether, if you know one region is free-*er* than another in certain particulars that you seek?

    If we can’t wake up in a free society, why can’t we live in an un-free society? Who was it who said “It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it. It’s an attitude — from which actions always follow. It’s a do-it-yourself occupation. And a lifetime vocation.”

    Oh, yeah – it was that Freedom Outlaw named Claire.

  4. Claire
    Claire June 16, 2010 1:41 pm

    Ummmmm, Pat, either you didn’t understand what I was saying or I don’t understand what you’re saying. Or a little of both.

    it’s not true, ever, anywhere, that ANY choice a person makes is as viable as any other.

    It’s nice that Panama is an option; the place is warm and beautiful.

    And of course we can live in an unfree society; I never said otherwise. We are living in one.

    I really don’t understand the point you’re making. But as I said, perhaps I’m misinterpreting what you’re trying to tell me. I sometimes do.

    It’s also true that, no matter what our attitude, we have to manage to live around the actions and consequences of government. That’s just recognizing reality. It’s not necessarily giving in to unfreedom.

    As to renting or buying in the NW or anywhere else, my options are severely limited by my income. Right now, after looking all over the west (which is the only part of the U.S. that interests me), I’ve found extremely inexpensive options only in a few places. Looked elsewhere and found I was simply beating my head against walls. I’ve found one neighbor offering a bargain and a couple of houses in one great location that are dirt cheap and not moving (and believe me, I spent many days searching three states’ real estate listings to find those). So that’s that. Anyhow, I’ve got three pretty decent options and I’m not seeking to hurt my brain with more. I’m just saying that government in some way complicates every option — for me right now and for life in general.

    But in no way does that negate anything else I’ve ever said about freedom being predominantly an attitude.

  5. Claire
    Claire June 16, 2010 1:47 pm

    F42, good to see you here and to know you’re still out there. I’d been wondering about you.

    I can see good reasons not to buy and other good reasons to buy. Only reason I’m considering it is that I’ve found these cute houses in a very nice (but suffering) little town that are likely to go for a pittance. The taxes are indeed a bitch, but as you imply, the renter’s going to pay them just as surely as the homeowner is. Sigh …

  6. Claire
    Claire June 16, 2010 1:51 pm

    Thanks, Devin. And best of luck with your decision. Even in good times, I know that any decision to uproot is fraught with difficulties; it always seems as if the lists of pros and cons can go on forever without one side clearly sending you a message about what you really ought to do. But with the “roller coaster” ride we’re currently on (oh, thank you, glorious government), the difficulties double.

    Good luck to us all.

  7. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal June 16, 2010 1:53 pm

    I almost had the opposite reaction to my own question. At first I was thinking “I’d do so many things different”. Then I really thought about it and realized there is probably less that would change than I originally thought.

    I would hope I had more financial resources in a free society, but that is not a certainty. I am probably my own worst enemy in that department.

    Most everything else that currently limits me is due to personal choice rather than government edict. I live where I live (and don’t particulaly like it) because I want to be near my family (who I hadn’t been around in many years). I am in the “relationship” I am in because of my daughter and due to some other freedoms it gives me.

    I for one am seriously confused when I try to answer the question of what it is I “really want” from my life. And I don’t even know how to begin to figure it out.

    Unless that answer came to me, I doubt there is much I would change, and if I did get the answer I don’t think there would be much government, or anyone else, could do to stop me. So my biggest barrier is internal rather than external.

  8. G.W.F.
    G.W.F. June 16, 2010 2:49 pm


    I just want to say that I really liked this post and it really hit home for me.

    I find myself in a very similar situation at the moment. Since turning 18, I never been in the same place for more than 2 years, but I did find myself happiest living in sunny FL (still managed to live in 3 different FL cities in 6 years). I would have stayed in the state, but I was looking to get out of the corporate grind, and it was basically the high property prices and taxes that forced me to move. The property tax on a basic home can be as much as a mortgage payment, so even “owning” you still have to make major payment. I had enough saved to do most everything I wanted, but not keep up with the hefty tax bills.

    I actually took a page from the book of Claire! I left a 6-figure corporate job to find personal freedom. I bought a little fixer-upper cabin built in 1936 (had not been updated much since) on a lake in the mountains. It could have gone well, but… I started a little business which instead of bringing in money, ended costing me. I owned my home, but after the cost of fixing up the cabin, business losses and cost of living I was nearly broke and had to sell the cabin. I had a similar set of options (the cabin sold within a week of putting a FSBO sign in the yard!).

    I went with your option 2. I started looking at some real cheap fixer-uppers and bought one that was literally less than many people spend on a car. The one thing I would caution you on with that particular option is the costs you go through to do the fix-up. I’m pretty handy and do everything myself down to re-plumbing and re-wiring every inch of plumbing/wiring, but still the cost of the materials still gets you. I am 1 yr and 11 months into my current home (close to a personal record!), but have now spent so much on the fix-up that I have to explore basically the same options (I’m looking at Belize instead of Panama, SE instead of NW, and possibly a sailboat instead of renting but the list is nearly identical). I am kind of forced into this because now, I need to sell the house for the equity since all my money is in the renovation.

    Anyway sorry to get long winded (AGAIN!), but just want you to know you are not alone. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  9. Claire
    Claire June 16, 2010 4:24 pm

    “I for one am seriously confused when I try to answer the question of what it is I ‘really want’ from my life. And I don’t even know how to begin to figure it out.”

    Sigh. I know whereof you speak. Back in high school, I was always befuddled by the kids who seemed headed straight as arrows toward some career or life goal. Me? I didn’t know nothin’. Later, of course, a lot of those preternaturally purposeful kids crashed big time, but some just went right on toward those happy goals of theirs while I still wondered what I wanted out of life.

    Now, I’m some once-terrible-seeming age and while I’m very sure of what I don’t want(and have known that since my late 20s) and can list a lot of things I’m good at or not good at … I still can’t find that one place, one person, one thing, one path that would make it all mean something. So all I can say is good luck on all that.

    But in any case, you asked a darned good question in that Examiner piece of yours, Kent.

  10. Claire
    Claire June 16, 2010 4:30 pm

    G.W.F. — Geez, no worries on being long-winded! I can barely write my name in less than 1500 words. And you’ve got interesting experiences to convey. Salutes to you for having the guts to leave a six-figure corporate job, even if doing so hasn’t paid off in stability and bliss. At least you’ve earned some learning experiences.

    I’m kind of glad to know there are others out there who have trouble staying put and who face similar dilemmas, however uncomfortable. Heh. I v*te for you going to Belize, just so you can tell everybody else about it. 🙂 (And if you’re so inclined, could you maybe say why you favor Belize?)

    Point well taken on putting so much into a house that you need to sell it to get the money to live. One reason I couldn’t keep Cabin Sweet Cabin was that it was virtually my only asset of any great value, and it was illiquid.

  11. Pat
    Pat June 16, 2010 4:45 pm


    “But in no way does that negate anything else I’ve ever said about freedom being predominantly an attitude.”

    Sorry… perhaps I should put more smiley faces in my posts. I do realize what you were saying, and I didn’t mean to imply you were speaking against your own wisdom. I was gently reminding you to “keep the faith.”

    Re choices: All I meant was, ANY choice we make in a free society is ours to make. I’m not saying all choices are equally valid, but from the standpoint of being ABLE to make a choice without interference, all choices are equally available to us.

    I do understand your dilemma; I’m in the middle of one myself. Working up some products to sell, and spending money on them that I should be saving, is fighting against time itself, wondering if money will give out before merchandise can be sold. I have to make a move also, and am in the middle of cleaning out *everything.*

    “I’m just saying that government in some way complicates every option — for me right now and for life in general.”

    True. But I guess I’ve become more inured to it — not accepting of it, but cynically expectant of the curves it might throw us, and ignoring them.

    The truth is government doesn’t live in my corner of the world, it doesn’t care about me, and it isn’t a part of my life anymore. There are the people and there is government, and *never* the twain shall meet. It took me years to learn to believe that, but once learned, the weight lifted. Maybe age has something to do with it — or maybe it’s my attitude of “I don’t respect anyone who doesn’t respect me.”

    I live apart from the world these days. I keep aware of what’s going on, and am preparing for the worst, but I don’t feel a connection with government’s actions. While I feel as strongly as ever about freedom, I can’t get excited about “evil” — whether in the form of government, or criminals, or corporate behavior.

    I’ve finally made my peace with what it takes to be a Free Man (or Woman).

  12. naturegirl
    naturegirl June 16, 2010 5:09 pm

    Reading this is deja vu….I’m in a similar situation….Here’s my perspective:

    I’m in my mid 50s, and now free to head wherever I want to. That alone is daunting to try to wrestle into some form of a plan – the opportunities can be endless. You say it’s easier to know what you don’t want, but that can show you the way to what you can do simply by elimination.

    I went from CO to NV & never did adjust to the severe climate/visual changes, so I want to get back to green & “wetter”. I have learned my lesson about regions I love to be in. I spend hours on survival sites, and wonder how many more moves I can squeeze in until that’s no longer possible. So my next choice should be as permanent (area wise) as possible. I also have an animal, and applying “hard times” criteria to that – I’d prefer to stick close to her.

    I hesitate to own, since that requires a certain amount of “disclosure” that I’m not willing to “let be known”. Renting, especially renting in chaotic times, doesn’t sound very stable either….

    At the moment, I plan on going to the area I love (and also has abundance of water & greenery!) as opposed to somewhere (completely) new. I hesitate to limit my options by saying I’ll buy or rent, because something may present itself once I move.

    Limited money, & the ability to go anywhere without being a slave to a job related area, an adventurous spirit, & I’ll be leaving soon because that (first) step is the most important one 🙂

    Good luck to you, Claire. I know you’ll handle it.

  13. G.W.F.
    G.W.F. June 16, 2010 5:13 pm

    I would guess that Panama, Honduras and Belize are all very close as far as reasons a personal may want to leave the USSA and take up residency there. For me personally, Belize had one big advantage of being the only English speaking country in Central America. Anyway, I’ve assumed that knowing the local language “es necesario”.

    I wanted to be a Dr. back in high school, so I made the mistake of taking LATIN. In college, I was able to get both a BS in Econ and a BBA in Finance without taking any language requirement. I did over 5yrs of credits in 4 yrs, so I just had no time to take Spanish then. Since, I have tried a few different Spanish tapes, but have failed miserably. I have had similar failures in attempts to teach myself Russian. My brain is just wired wrong. I can learn software or a programming language using just a book, sweat and tears in a few days, but give me a new language and I am lost!

    You have a similar issue with residency after 6 months in BZ, but if you are willing to go to the govt. and pay a $50 fee they will keep granting 1 month extensions on your stay. From what I had heard and read people do this for many years and have no problem.

    One negative is the BZ dollar is pegged to the US dollar. If we do have hyperinflation it could hit there just the same. Much of the locals use barter already so they might be more prepared for it.

    Belize is a strong contender on the choices. I figured if I go that route I’d do a big home liquidation and sell everything but enough to fit in a backpack. One of the hard things is giving up my guns & ammo stockpile. I am also not sure how well those #8 cans of lentils (and such) will sell on eBay. Oh well, that is one of the major questions that will get answered this week. If I list everything I own on eBay and GunBroker, I will probably find myself in BZ before fall.

  14. -s
    -s June 16, 2010 5:22 pm

    I’ve thought about this issue a lot over the years, after I came to terms with the fact that I was/am a slave. What would I do if I were no longer enslaved?

    It’s pretty easy for me. I would buy time. Time for me, time to be with friends, time to do things that interest me but that I just don’t have the time for right now.

    Right now, the state takes 80% of every dollar I earn. Both my SO and I have to work 60 hour weeks, 80+ in crunch times, just to make ends meet. We are so exhausted when we get home from work that we don’t have time or energy to cook, to talk, to read, to make love, to live.

    If I woke up in a free land, I would be able to work about 1/5 as hard to maintain my standard of living. I’d probably work 1/2 as hard and live better, save more, but mostly have more time. I might hire people to help me with chores. Maybe I would quit this job and try some of the many things I’ve always wanted to do. I might try my hand at being a country doctor. Or travel. Probably write and speak about things that I think are important. Definitely spend a lot more time with friends. Study a musical instrument. Read more. Cook more. Drink more. Live my life, so that when the time comes to leave it, I don’t have any regrets caused by my lack of time.


  15. Jake MacGregor
    Jake MacGregor June 16, 2010 5:46 pm

    Claire … the offer still stands. You are more than welcome to come gulch in N’West Montana on our ample farm if you wish.

    Your cost is getting here.

    There are maybe 300 souls in this neck of the Kootenai woods and most open carry.

    We’ll leave the light on :>)


  16. Ellendra
    Ellendra June 16, 2010 9:15 pm

    GWF had an interesting idea, what’s involved in “living free” on a boat?

  17. G.W.F.
    G.W.F. June 17, 2010 5:06 am

    I am not an expert on the boat issue. A few years back I had a guy in my office that had previously worked with his wife for the phone company. They were doing lay-offs and they both volunteered for early retirement. They bought a sailboat and spent the next 7 years sailing the Caribbean. They eventually got tired of it, but said they would not trade that time for anything. I used to pester the poor guy for stories about time in the boat.

    An older sailboat can be found cheap, and you outfit it with a small wind generator, a few small solar panels, and a water-making system and you are pretty much “living free”.

    Now, post-911 with what I like to call “boat-Nazis” (Coast Guard and all the local agencies that patrol waterways) it may be different. The guy I talked to always carried two guns with him. One he had on him and another for turning into the Harbor Master at all the countries he visited. I hear they do a pretty extensive search of vessels these days so it may be harder. I would hate to be out in pirate territory armed with only a flare gun.

    I like the water and love to go kayaking, but I have also been ticketed TWICE in the past 5 years. One by state police in NH for “crossing the wake of another vessel on a SeaDoo” and last year by Fish and Game in TN for paddling a kayak without a PFD. It is hard to feel free when you get pulled over in some po-dunk backwoods lake by armed thugs. The PFD ticket would have been $265 (for not wearing a life jacket!). I managed to get the entire case dropped. It just leaves many doubts about how free our waterways are any longer.

  18. Joe
    Joe June 17, 2010 5:09 am

    Conundrum. Freedom vs Security.

    Go to Panama: Minimal Security and considering the state of the government, minimal freedom.

    Go to single-wide: More security but despite it’s non-ownership you still have government intrusion. Maybe more than you appreciate.(Do you think the owners actually pay for government mandated housing regulations & improvements?)

    Go to private housing: Most security (the laws are still written to some extent that your home is your castle) but you got those dern property taxes.

    I think predictability, which is akin but not directly related to security is paramount. I’ve kind of listed them above by increasing degrees of predictability.

    On this basis I guess I would go with door No. 3 (private housing) but do what I can to minimise the hit. Fixer uppers are good in that you start out with an established ‘low rent district’ reputation. This can quickly increase once you apply for a building permit (major changes) or even doing “like in kind” maintenance. (new roof is the classic tax increaser where I live.) A while ago you did an article on “minimalist houses.” I like this thought too since mostly taxes are directly proportional to square footage.

    It’s tough. There is no good answer.

    Joe from Cow Hampshire

  19. Pat
    Pat June 17, 2010 5:49 am

    Re: boats: I know of two people (and have talked to others) who’ve lived on houseboats year-round, one near the ocean and the other in a more protected (and isolated) area on a large inland lake, connected to a river waterway. The inland houseboat could putt-putt into the lake and even farther on the river, yet still stay close to home base, be relatively safe, and not be beset by swells, waterspouts, etc. when storms blew up. A houseboat is more stable than a sailboat or yacht as well, for general living conditions. They also can be rented at their home site, or bought used.

  20. solitudedancing
    solitudedancing June 17, 2010 7:33 am

    I just came back from Panama two weeks ago. I was on vacation there for three weeks and was kinda feeling it out as an escape destination since my mom is Panamanian and I have dual citizenship. I have a questions; what part of Panama were you looking at?

    I was in Panama City for half of my stay and it was super hot and humid, so weather- wise, I don’t think I could live there. Also, my uncle kept telling me avoid places because they were ‘hot’(dangerous) , ‘that place is hot’, etc. Panama seems more dangerous than in the past. Do you think that is just the city?

    Also home prices seem high considering the above. I know a lot of Expats are moving to the Chiriqui/Boquete/Bocas Del Toro areas, but for the prices they are asking (150K-250K), I could easily get a place in a rural area of the US for a fraction of the cost.

    Because of the above, Panama has moved down my list as an escape location. Since I was there I got a Panamanian passport. I’m thinking of using the passport to go to another location. I read a while back that some South American countries don’t require visas for Panamanian citizens, (like us going to Mexico).

  21. Claire
    Claire June 17, 2010 9:34 am

    solitudedancing — How lucky you are to have dual citizenship! That’s a precious thing these days, even if you use it only as leverage to end up in some country where you don’t actually hold citizenship.

    Where did you go besides Panama City? Did you get into the mountains at all? Entirely different story there when it comes to heat and humidity. Much more benign.

    I know there are very dangerous places within Panama City. My friend and I were warned away from some of them, as well. Yet during our first nights there we stayed on the edge of one and had no problem. As to crime in general, my impression is that it’s increasing in many places in Panama but is being fought against vigorously in some of the expat-heavy areas.

    As to housing prices, how closely did you look? I know that house prices are exactly as you state in expat (or rich Panamanian) places like Boquete, Bocas, El Valle, or Altos del Maria. But again my (admittedly short) stay in the country told me that even in such places you can get “old Panama” style houses (as opposed to those ghastly American-style McMansions) vastly lower than that. And if you ask around rather than deal with an agent, you can do even better yet.

    That’s just my quick impression. But whatever else Panama is, it’s a place of contrasts and a place where what you see on the surface and what you can actually do and get once you know your way around can be two different things.

  22. solitudedancing
    solitudedancing June 17, 2010 10:42 am

    I went to Port Armuelles in David. My mom has some family there she hadn’t seen in over 30 years. And I went to a resort and acted like a real tourist. That was nice. I wanted to go to the mountains, but didn’t plan well.

    The expat areas are very safe, but full of cops (which is both good and bad). And you pay tourist prices, which is no fun.

    Panama style houses are too rustic for my taste. I like windows made of glass instead of fancy concrete bricks and I like hot and cold water. But even those house are going for 40K and up. In the states, you can get a fixer upper for that price and sometimes get a bit of land too.

  23. George Potter
    George Potter June 17, 2010 11:23 am

    As I never tire of saying, I wake up in liberty every morning. I live in anarchy, cheerfully ignoring the State and doing whatever the hell I please when and where I want. I don’t consider the possibility of going to jail to be any more of an existential threat than the possibility of being hit by a car crossing the road or a bolt of lightning whilst dancing in the rain. 🙂

    Glad to hear that you have a choice of where to go rather than being pushed into anything, my sister. 🙂


  24. Victor Milán
    Victor Milán June 17, 2010 11:30 am

    For those considering expatriation, I’d like to suggest thinking about what irresistible targets Americans living in foreign countries will be for expropriation, governmental or informal, as the worldwide collapse of fiat currency unleashes more and more violent disorder across the world.

    As for:

    “I for one am seriously confused when I try to answer the question of what it is I ‘really want’ from my life. And I don’t even know how to begin to figure it out.”

    – I’d say that’s not just a good question, but the most important question. After all, if we don’t know where we’re going, aren’t we lost by definition?

  25. Victor Milán
    Victor Milán June 17, 2010 12:28 pm

    That said, and feel free to despise me for falling victim to corporate commercialism (I’ve done far worse), but what *I* want is to be just like The Most Interesting Man in the World, so that sharks have a week dedicated to me.

  26. Joel
    Joel June 17, 2010 12:51 pm

    Boat – a hole in the water, into which one throws money. I’ve lived on a boat, and won’t try it again unless I’m actually going somewhere in it.

    Also, I once got boarded by the Coast Guard for not being able to show PFDs. Having a mounted M60 means never having to say you’re reasonable.

  27. Claire
    Claire June 17, 2010 1:09 pm

    Jake, you’re more hospitable than Tom Bodette (or however he spells it). 🙂

    You live in a gorgeous part of the world, and I thank you for inviting me to it so generously. But I really, really, really want a place of my very own. And if I can’t find that, then I’m goin’ where it’s warm.

  28. Desertrat
    Desertrat June 17, 2010 1:25 pm

    I”ve come to believe that if you find a place where you pretty much like the people, you’ll do okay. I don’t care how “neat” a locale is if you don’t find many folks who are worth being around. As it worked out for me, I’m happy as can be in my little low-overhead chunk of desert. Beaucoup mostly-great people there. And bureaucrats don’t like deserts; one of life’s greater blessings.

    As far as what to do, what to be? Whatever is of interest. Just figure out how to profit while having fun. It’s not all that difficult. I managed to raise a wife and kid and get them all grown up. They’re now gone and happily married. 🙂 Me? Lord knows. I’ll be 76, next month, and I don’t know what I’ll be if I ever grow up. BossLady says there’s no hope; I have indeed pushed adolescence beyond all previous limits. But the bills are all paid.

    I dunno. I figure my only immortality will be in the memories of my family and friends, so I figure I oughta live in a way that lets them smile when they remember…

  29. Jake MacGregor
    Jake MacGregor June 18, 2010 7:49 am

    My generosity is, as A Rand said, very selfish. When the calamity comes money will be worthless, good people in short supply.

    You writings denote a considered life, kindness to animals and a sense of humor amongst this chaos.

    It would be in my best interests and that of my family to have a neighbor with your verve, laughter and consideration. You may have a piece of the land and all the materials you need.

    And no, we’re not whack-jobs, no flying saucer will pick us up after a comet, nor do we divine chicken entrails. Simply a family who has hacked out a beautiful farm in this gorgeous piece of the world.

    So you are welcome. Your talents would more than pay your way.

    Good luck in finding your place, your person and your one thing. If we can help with that we will.

    all our best

    Jake, Beth & kids (and dogs, and cows, and chickens, and cats …) :>)

  30. Ellendra
    Ellendra June 18, 2010 8:20 pm

    I have no idea if this helps, but I just did some quick research, and it looks like Louisiana has the lowest property taxes is the US. If there were a tax assessor who was also a freedom mole . . . I think I’ll stop there.

    Unfortunately, the only thing I really know about Louisiana is that the accent can be hard to understand over the phone, so I have no idea if you’d want to live there or not.

  31. Claire
    Claire June 19, 2010 6:30 am

    Ellendra, I’m not sure whether your comment about Louisiana is meant for me or just in general. In either case, thanks for the research.

    Still … I’d never move anyplace just because the taxes were low. Sure, taxes would always be a factor, and there are definitely places (e.g. Massachusetts) where I’d never, ever live, either because I couldn’t afford or was unwilling to afford, the taxes. But somebody else pegged the matter above; the choice of where to move is an emotional one.

    Me, I’m a westerner born & bred & that’s it. I’ve lived in other parts of the country, loved the places & the people, but never felt fully at home for one minute.

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