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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

The Pana Vortex

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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The days drift by
They don't have names
None of the streets here look the same
And there're so many quiet places
And smilin' eyes match the smilin' faces 

Jimmy Buffett, I Have Found Me a Home

Stuck in the Vortex of Panajachel, Guatemala

The Adventurer's Guide to Pana Living

The most comprehensive guide to Panajachel ever!

We didnít plan on staying this long.

No, really folks, we did not. Itís just that one thing led to another and here we are some four months later in Panajachel. Believe me, it could be worse. What I mean is that we could be stuck in a lot of places and Pana, as the locals call it, is one nice place to be. The outstanding natural beauty of this Lake Atitlan area - like Lake Tahoe in northern Californiaa only warmer with the funky feel of Key West Florida - is one reason this place is a draw. Other pleasant pulls are the kindness of the Mayan people, vibrant fruits and vegetables and a variety of cultures around the lake. There is also an expat community here which is very much involved in the local happenings.

Perfect innocence of the Maya children

Ok, weíre not really stuck but decided to spend more time here which is a benefit of our lifestyle.

Thailand Lite

Iíve nicknamed Panajachel ďThailand LiteĒ since there are many similarities. The cost of living is about the same or less than in Thailand. Tuk tuks are everywhere, and at 5Qís (about 60 cents) per trip, itís a deal to get anywhere in a hurry. In both locations street food is available at all hours, volunteer opportunities abound, handiwork is high quality, access to the indigenous is easy and people are warm and welcoming. In Thailand one can enter a Buddhist Wat at any time of day for some peace and quiet, and the same goes for entering a Church here in town.

 

Strong Maya families

Air quality is better here in Pana than in Chiang Mai, Thailand where at certain times of the year it is smart to wear a breathing mask. Overall, the health care is better in Thailand - although my recent medical adventure in Guatemala City went very well. Chiang Mai has an international airport, whereas itís a three hour drive to get to one from Pana. You can receive a two hour massage in Thailand for $6-$10 dollars and here at Lakeside it is $30 for an hour and a half.

Other benefits

Guatemala has the same time zone as the Central U.S and flights from the States are much shorter than traveling to Thailand. The local currency, called the Quetzal, is pretty much pegged to the Dollar so a weaker dollar is not hurting us here. Compare this to the years we traveled through Thailand where the Baht went from 45 to one U.S. Dollar to below 30. That made an impact, but Thailand is still a very good value for money spent.

Bigger towns are a short bus trip away from Pana and at an elevation of 5,240 feet; the general climate is awesome with both pine trees and palms. The rainy season in both places can be filled with gully washer down pours and we have experienced two floods in Chiang Mai.

Visa dilemmas

Thailand has always been tricky with issues concerning visas as their regulations seem to constantly change. However, Guatemala is a breeze. Upon arrival you receive 90 days free which allows you to travel between Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Our visa recently ran out and renewing it was a snap costing $40USD each for another three months. We went through an agency which made the experience hassle-free.

Shoe repair is a steady business in Panajachel

User-friendly Pana

One thing we enjoy here is the ease of living life and getting things done. Everything we need or want is within walking distance - from the local market for food shopping, ATM machines for cash, to repair shops, computer stores, barbers and tailors. And we have utilized all of these services. When we needed our eye glasses fixed, we walked in, the repair was taken care of and then we walked out in a matter of minutes. Shoe repairs are handled while we wait and a hair cut for me was 2 bucks. Akaisha had a designer jean jacket made from scratch. She took her locally woven fabric and design to our tailor on Saturday afternoon, he had her return Monday for a fitting, and Tuesday morning it was ready Ė complete with lining and inside pockets. Computer repairs for a bad cooling fan were made in half a day, and our visa renewal was done in less than a week and we never had to leave Pana.

Fresh food comes to us daily as vendors walk our side street selling vegetables, fruit, seafood, shrimp or ice cream and chocolate dipped bananas. If we want a hot cooked meal delivered to our hotel, we call our favorite restaurants, order off their menu and pay the 5 Quetzal tuk tuk delivery fee and they come right to our door. Pizza and fried chicken are delivered by motorbike.

Simple and social

Panajachel, which has a population of about 11,000 people, is like a large friendly neighborhood. Men, women and children of all ages say hello or good morning as we walk by. After a bit of time has passed and our faces and routine have become familiar to them, they will ask us inside their home to share a meal. If we need help picking out just the right avocado or a sweet papaya, we can ask any Maya woman who will immediately stop doing what she is doing and assist in choosing. Itís all so easy.

One other advantage is that many locals proudly speak English and there is an English speaking school for both expat kids and Guatemalans.

Stunning vistas everywhere you look

Need a change of scenery?

If we want to get out of dodge for a few hours, we walk down to the docks at the lake. We can grab a launch Ė or more likely the handlers will grab us -- to take us to any number of towns that dot Lake Atitlan. For 3 bucks each we can traverse across the lake for lunch, shopping or visiting friends. Each town has a different flavor. Some are completely indigenous with Mayans weaving textiles in their homes and others are gringo haunts with nice hotels and restaurants to complement them. There are a couple of New-Agey type towns if you want to go to a health food store, learn yoga or alternative healing methods, meditate under a pyramid, or take classes in eco-conservation.

 

Antigua and Xela are close by

A couple of hours in a minivan will take us to Antigua, a beautiful colonial town and Guatemalaís old capital city, which is nestled between three major volcanoes. Free concerts, great dining, language schools, unlimited opportunities for diversion, an international city feel and another expat community are all available there. Quetzaltenango - or Xela as the Mayans call it - is an hour and a half by bus and there are quality hospitals and clinics, a bustling Maya community and more immersion language schools. The largest open air market in Guatemala can be found in Chichicastenango, a couple of hours away and a must see for any traveler.

Pana Paradise

My first trip here was in the early 1970ís and, even though the town has grown a bit as would be expected, it is still one of the best destinations on the planet.

Now, if they only had tennis courts here I might never leave.

Then again I could buy a boat!

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About the Authors
 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Billy and Akaisha continue to journal and photograph their world travels.

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