“Fear is nothing more than a state of mind.” “There is no illusion greater than fear.” “The fears we don’t face become our limits.” “Fear is a liar.”

But, is it really???

If you’re on Facebook and Instagram, you’ve scrolled past many a self-help graphic with admonitions like these.

After my divorce in 2011, they—along with a few insightful books and my supportive Ken—helped me climb out of a dark and scary hole.

Once my conscious self was back in control, I was able to see the bigger picture and I knew what I needed to do.

I’ve been on a clear path ever since until BAM…the entire world shuts down.

What the hell??? I was doing SO well slaying my fears and a pandemic? Sigh.

In this past several weeks, Covid-19 has shown me that the line between real and unconscious fear can be fuzzy—and that fear is a liar most of the time, but sometimes it’s actually a flashlight.

The challenge is to find the sweet spot on that line.

When I realized that fear is a liar most of the time…

One of the things my ex-husband and I wholeheartedly agreed on throughout most of our 20 year marriage was that handing our hard-earned money over to a stranger to gamble in the financial markets felt wrong.

Both of us had bachelor degrees in real estate and were real estate appraiser by trade, so it seemed a whole lot safer to stick with what we knew and feel a little more in charge of our financial destiny.

Since I was overwhelmed with raising the kids and keeping our household afloat, my husband and his friend/business partner/co-investor took the lead on our real estate investments.

Things went really well. And, then my hubby went solo and things took a downturn (in his defense, a global recession was partly responsible). The two investments that I took the lead on (one during the same recession) saved us from financial disaster.

The point is that, by the time I divorced, I had a reasonable level of competence in real estate.

Unfortunately, my subconscious conveniently and completely forgot about this.

All it could remember were childhood memories of my mom telling (and re-telling) my little girl self that she had gone from upper middle class to poverty in a single divorce.

Like my mom, I had chosen motherhood over a career—and walked away from a financially successful husband into the Wild Wild Working World with a very flimsy resume.

Unlike my mom, I, at least, had a college degree and some technical skills.

Once again, my subconscious began messing with my reality.

Fantasies of never finding decent employment and depleting (or losing) my nest egg paralyzed me. I did the 2012 version of stuffing my money in my mattress. With few exceptions, deprivation became my way and hoarding became my game.

I won’t bore you with the entire story of my ascent out of the hole. Suffice it to say that it was the result of a lot of self-reflection, but mostly self-pushing, as the result of rational thoughts planted by Ken.

Two things became visible in the light—the fear of poverty I felt as a child had temporarily overtaken my grownup brain and most of the time fear is a liar.

Over the next several years, I pushed myself into making two real estate investments—one turned out stellar, the other was good.

I also gave myself permission to live an unconventional and fulfilling life and convert my dream into a goal.

Work has never been so much fun…

Since 2016, thanks to the realization that fear is a liar (most of the time), I’ve been working HARD on my goal of being an expat and having my own nature and book retreat.

Ken and I made a list, checked it way more than twice, and decided that Panamá would be our new country.

We went on a reconnaissance mission throughout Panamá and chose our new neighborhood.

I bought the land for my retreat and named it Vista Cañas.

I hired an architect, started designing the property, and began to solidify my vision for Vista Cañas.

I joined all the Panama Expat Facebook groups, created a Panamá book list and started reading, began studying Spanish, and continued my boots-on-the-ground education on several more trips.

I set the date for my final move for mid-January 2021, and am in the process of getting construction bids from local builders.

The progress I’ve made in the past four years is mind boggling and exciting!

Then, the world shut down…

Just a couple of months ago, very few of us had ever heard the words “Coronavirus” or “Covid-19.” Today, they are behind the shutdown of our lives and the entire planet.

There’s nothing like a pandemic to bring people to their knees in fear. While we are socially distancing, quarantining and wearing masks to help flatten the curve, lots of humans are seriously losing it.

Yes, some fear is appropriate. A reasonable amount is an effective motivator for us to get educated and take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others.

But, most people go way beyond reasonable.

Overnight, toilet paper hoarding, fear and shame mongering, and spreading doom, gloom and false news have become socially revered behaviors.

Fear has been spreading way faster than the virus—and, many (including me) consider it way more harmful to humanity in the long run.

Here’s the (simplified) science behind fear…

In a heightened state of worry, anxiety and fear, a body produces cortisol, a steroid whose purpose is to save us by turning on the “fight or flight” mode.

In this crisis mode, resources are snatched from the immune system, making a body extremely vulnerable to getting sick (and not just with the Coronavirus)—and from our brains, impairing our ability to think critically and have empathy for others.

When I was in my post-divorce hole, I learned firsthand that, left unchecked, cortisol wreaks havoc on a body and relationships—and the physical and emotional damage lasts years after the fear has dissipated.

For this reason, I refuse to get sucked back into fear.

There is much to be said about the quality of the life we live. I, for one, am going to put my energy into remembering that fear is a liar (most of the time) and creating as beautiful a life as possible with the time I have left.

On the other hand, I can’t be an idiot…

Of course, I can’t be an idiot and invest my nest egg in a country with a totally demolished economy.

Will that be Panamá’s fate?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been focusing on finding that sweet spot where my own appropriate fear, education and knowledge, and intuition meet so I can make a rational decision about Vista Cañas.

Whenever I do anything major, I usually come up with a solid Plan A and a Plan B that’s exciting enough to offset as much stress and disappointment as possible.

I solidified my Panamá Plan A back in 2019:

PLAN A — Move to Playa Venao in mid-January 2021, get my residency, and start building Vista Cañas (one house and one casita). During construction, continue to do my regular work remotely, explore the area, and learn Spanish. Hopefully open for business in late-2021 or early 2022.

Of course, this plan was based upon Panamá’s pre-Covid economy and projections—neither of which were perfect, but both of which were within my comfort zone.

Until a few nights ago, I intentionally didn’t have a Plan B—because nothing was going to veer me off my dream track. (Silly me.)

Even the stablest of countries is going to struggle for awhile after Covid passes. And, there are so many unknowns about its future impact—will it return yearly, will social distancing be the new normal, will we be quarantined again, etc.

No question about it—I gotta have a Plan B. So, here’s the first draft I came up with:

PLAN B—Move down in mid-January (or as soon as Panamá allows me to do so), get my residency, and rent a small place in Cañas or Playa Venao. If things aren’t totally grim, build only the casita and live (very simply) there while continuing to do my regular work remotely, explore the area, learn Spanish, and see firsthand how the local economy fares throughout 2021. If things are looking up, start building the main house after the end of the rainy season and open in late 2022; if things are looking down, come up with Plan C.

If I build it, will they still come?

From the start, my plan has been to bring my website design and virtual assistant business with me to Panamá. Most of my clients don’t live where I live, so location has never been a constraint for me.

But, I was mulling over the idea of phasing it out when Vista Cañas became wildly successful. Thank you, Covid, for showing me that professional diversity is smart.

While all of Playa Venao is shut down, I’m still busy designing, writing, being social, and assisting. So, yeah, I’m going to hold tight to this.

While I’ve been online, I have gotten a feel for what’s likely to happen with tourism throughout the world.

There are three main factors that will impact travel in varying degrees after we’re cut loose:

  • Fear — those people who let themselves get sucked into a dark and scary hole are likely to stay there for awhile.
  • Not enough money — many people will need to pay back loans and/or rebuild (and add) to their savings.
  • Traveling at home — a lot of people are going to remain faithful to their own country’s economy and travel domestically.

But, there will still be plenty of wanderlusters (like me) who grasp the concept of “carpe diem” at a much deeper level now.

I am certain of one thing…

In the midst of uncertainty about Panamá’s economy, I am certain of one thing—I would much rather be a bit scared while hanging with the folks who are forging ahead than drowning in my own cortisol.

Right now is too early to choose a plan, but as I listen to the thoughts and opinions of local investors, I’m feeling more and more optimistic.

Now is the perfect time for us all to be courageous, keep working on our dreams, make informed decisions, and DROWN OUT ALL THE NOISE that will be screaming at us from our newsfeeds and inboxes—so that is my current plan!


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