My story is about the dream of running a successful internet business and being able to work anywhere in the world. It’s a cautionary tale about the things that can go wrong – the things no one talks about when they talk about the dream.
And Needing a Helping Hand
I moved to Panama back in 2011. I was living in the Toronto area working with clients mainly from the US, and I wanted to find a place that was less expensive, cleaner, and warmer. I wanted a place that offered fresh produce year around, friendly people, and a good quality of life.
After months of research, I chose Panama because it seemed to offer everything I wanted and needed. Unfortunately after only eight months, I realized that this is not a country where I can live and work successfully. But, in order to move someplace safer, I’m going to need some help.
A Little About MeI’m an entrepreneur and I’ve been self-employed since 1989. I love the freedom, independence, and challenge of making my way in life on my own terms.
For the past 25 years, I’ve counted on myself – on my ability to survive and thrive on my own intelligence, talents, creativity, and hard work. I had absolutely no reason to think my efforts would not continue to support my modest lifestyle.
My move to Panama was as well-planned as I could make it. I had the money I needed for the move plus reserves to handle unexpected expenses. And I had my computer and my internet business.
The First TrickleI work online, so the first thing I asked about Panama was: “How is the Internet?” Several people told me it was fine. Unfortunately, it’s disastrously unreliable. I’ve had crippling internet problems since I moved here. For instance, the internet goes down frequently or the modem breaks down and it takes three days or more to get it replaced. When the internet does work, it has weird glitches. The modem keeps rebooting, I’m not getting all my e-mail, or I’m randomly blocked from access to some websites.
In addition, I discovered that electricity is a terrible problem in Panama. Frequent power surges, brown outs, and blackouts are common. The power is so unreliable that it’s actually called “dirty electricity” and this dirty electricity has ruined almost all of my electrical equipment.
Then the FloodWhen I had to leave the house I was in unexpectedly, I couldn’t find anything within my $300 budget in the same area, so I moved to the opposite end of the country where many other expats are living. I thought things would be better in the new area because usually expats have higher expectations than local Panamanians.
As it turned out, the rent isn’t less expensive. Within the first two months of my move into the first house, the cost of living sky rocketed to at least double the price of most rentals. The problems ended up being WORSE.
Unreliable water service is another constant problem in Panama. Except in very expensive areas, water outages with no advance warning are common. In my last house just outside of Panama City, I frequently went as long as 12 hours a day with NO WATER for six months nonstop. One week, I was without water for two and a half days.
Some Panamanians build a very tiny house on the back of their property and rent it out. That’s where I am, several feet away from where the landlord lives.
In the new house, I began to notice something seriously wrong with the water because my lips and tongue were going numb every time I drank any. After I washed dishes, my hands felt tight and painful for hours.
I thought a water filtration system would solve the problem, but the water was so toxic that it ruined the $200 filters I purchased to try to solve the problem! I discussed the problem with the landlord, but he simply denied the problem. I found a lab to test the water and sure enough, they found incredible levels of bacteria in the water, including FECAL bacteria.
I notified the landlord that the water is, in fact, toxic and asked for reimbursement for some of the expenses I have incurred because of the water situation. He not only refused to pay for the water test or the filters, but he ordered me to get out of his house and leave the country. Now, I’m very frightened that he will lock me out of the property.
Not surprisingly, I started to get very sick. I had to buy bottled water, so my expenses sky rocketed. For even just washing vegetables, I had no choice but to boil pots of water one after another, which cost me gas money and time from work.
I had some health issues before I moved here and I thought they would get better, but because of the constant stress and unfit living conditions my health is so bad that I can barely work. I get tired very easily and I have to just stop everything for a few hours until I get my energy back.
And Struck by LightningAs it turns out, lightning is a HUGE problem in this town. Within three weeks of moving into this house, a lightning strike killed my desktop computer and the modem even though I had two UPSs (Uninterrupted Power Supply units) set up to deal with the irregular power supply. After three weeks, I got my new desktop, but it cost me close to $1,000, and my laptop died on me in the meantime.
I lost many days of work because two different modems were struck by lightning. Because I use the internet for my phone service, the loss of the modems meant the loss of both my computer and my phone. After the second lightning strike, it took the internet provider a full six days to replace the modem and restore service. In the meantime, I had to go to a restaurant with my laptop to get Wi Fi. I wasted money on food I didn’t want, Skype credits to make phone calls to the US, and expensive cell phone cards I shouldn’t have needed. These extra expenses occur every time basic services are interrupted.
Then in this new house I had a HUGE lightning scare where I thought I had lost my ENTIRE office setup AND my new computer. I was in tears not knowing what to do. I did not have the money to replace this brand new computer and I had no backup laptop. Then the rainy season began and we had lightning storms every day which scared me to death.
I wasted time researching how to solve this terrible lightning problem. I learned that people here lose their modems, routers, and computers ALL the time. In fact I’ve heard twice now that people have actually been struck by lightning in their own homes. After spending my own money on research and electricians, I learned that the property didn’t even have ground rods. I decided to pay to have some installed, but even that didn’t completely solve the problem.
Crying UncleOn top of everything else, the cost of living here in Panama has increased at least six times since I’ve been here, forcing many Americans and Canadians to move back to the States and Canada. Unfortunately moving back is not an option for me, but my efforts to make the most of this situation exhausted my financial cushion long ago. Too late, I realized that I have no money to leave the country. Too late, it dawned on me that I am STUCK here.
The stress of living here is building as the problems continue to multiply. I’m unable to work effectively because of the ongoing problems with electricity, the internet service, and water.
I have started working as a freelancer online to earn money, but I soon discovered that I am competing with workers in the Philippines and India who were willing to take jobs for $1-5 an hour.
I eventually found two steady clients and I was actually starting to earn enough to begin to save a little money, but that was soon lost to lightning, water issues, and unplanned moves. The ongoing loss of work because of electricity, internet, and water issues is endlessly draining.
I’m ready to cut my losses and get out of here.The problem is that I can’t leave. I’m stuck here in Panama, and I may get thrown out onto the streets at any time. In fact as I write this I’m being threatened by my landlord. That’s how they handle landlord and tenant issues here, with threats.
I’ve been doing my best to make ends meet, but with problems cropping up left and right like biblical plagues, I just need to get out.
I have already been thinking of where I wanted to move to next. Israel was in the back of my mind and the more I research the country, the more I convinced I am that this is a good move for me.
I was born there, but raised in both the US and Canada, so I’m fully North Americanized. I wasn’t sure until I moved to Panama that I wanted to return.
When I started doing research, I realized that a lot of people from all over the world are moving to Israel. The country is thriving. Their IT industry is said to be top notch and has made many people millionaires overnight. Their medical research industry has always been top notch and continues to improve. People are being hired there from all over the world.
Of course, I checked into the internet and was told it’s very reliable. While they may have electrical outages, they may happen once a year if that and if you are running a business or working from home, you can ask that yours not be shut off.
For any water outages they let you know in advance that they will be down.
I want to go there to feel like I belong. Up until recently I never had an interest in getting to know my heritage. Now I’m anxious to go there and get the support from other Jews who have moved from North America. This is one thing that makes this country special, the willingness of most people to help one another settle in.
I will be moving to the North where rentals are a lot less expensive.
So here I am pleading with you or someone you know to help me.The last free flight to Israel from New York is on December 23, 2013. I can’t wait until the next free flight in May 2014. I am literally going insane living in this country. I’ve been holding on by a thread here.
What I Need to MoveHere is what I need the money for:
- I have to fly to Panama City and then to Miami for an interview with Israeli officials to qualify for the free flight to Israel.The cost for the round trip flights and accommodations in both Miami and Panama is over $1,000.00. I’m actually surprised at the prices for the flight, my flight to Panama from Detroit was less.
- I have to ship my things from Panama to Israel.I’m still working on rough estimates, but I expect the cost to be about $3,000.
- When I’m finally ready to leave, I have to fly again to Panama City, from there to New York , and then on to Israel.I’ll have to pay hefty extra baggage fees because I have to take my computer, monitor, and other vital equipment with me so I can begin working immediately when I arrive in Israel. I expect the cost to be about $1,400.00.
- Unfortunately, I have to buy or replace a number of critical items before I make the move and buy electrical adapters.Almost all of the things I brought to Panama have broken down because of humidity or electrical surges. Even my clothes have been ruined. I expect to need about $800.00-1,000 to replace necessary items.
I’ve been on a shoe string budget for a while now, but I still need the essentials including basic utilities, internet service, food, transportation, etc. My basic business expenses run around $350-400 a month.
On My Own BehalfPlease know I am doing everything I can think of to deal with my situation.
- I continue to work every single day. When I have the energy, I can work up to 10-12 hours per day.
- I continue to search for new clients investing both time and money in this activity every single day.
- I’m working with a life coach to learn strategies for dealing with this current situation more effectively, moving to the next situation more confidently, and managing stress more constructively.
- I’m already laying the groundwork for a new business that I will launch in Israel. Right now, I’m assessing the demand and narrowing the focus to define a clear and profitable niche.
Reaching OutMy dream of being able to live any where in the world and earn a living from the internet is shattered. I am surprised to find myself boxed into a situation where I can see no way out – except through the good graces and help of others. I have no family to turn to and I’ve never asked for any form of public for help before.
Now, I must ask and I must count on you to help me out. I will be deeply grateful for your contribution. Whatever amount you can contribute toward the $8,500 that I need will be deeply appreciated.
Thank you VERY MUCH. I hope whoever you are, that you are fairing much better than I am at the moment. My heart always goes to people under extreme stress. Keep your family and friends close, they mean WAY more than any amount of money!
Hugs & in tears
P.S. Thanks to those who helped me