Blogging Around the World: 5 Pros and Cons of Living in the Tropics

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  July 15, 2021 blogging tips travel posts 🕑 14 minutes read
El Valle de Anton Panama

El Valle de Anton Panama

 

Blogging around the world seems like a dream life.

 

Spending time in the tropics appears to be even more special.

 

But what does it really feel like to blog from the tropics?

 

I fired up Word 2 minutes ago, titled this post and began writing at 10:12 PM, Panama time. The power had been out for 11 hours prior. We experienced quite a few extended outages since arriving in Panama 5 months ago. Even after the power was restored 20 minutes ago the internet crapped out. I feel grateful to have power but who knows when I will be back online?

 

Panama has been fun, freeing and quite enjoyable. Living amid toucans, parrots and parakeets in pristine nature feels fun. However, dealing with our 5th long power outage since being in Panama feels challenging.

 

I intend to share what to expect if you decide to retire to the tropics as a professional blogger to help you make an informed decision for yourself. Everyone prefers a different lifestyle. But being more aware of pros and cons concerning living in developing nations gives you confidence in making a life-changing decision.

 

Circling the globe for a decade helped me decide that developing nations are perfect for visiting but not for long term living, for me. However, many bloggers enjoy living in developing countries for the positive aspects of these nations. The same bloggers also seem not to be bothered much by the negative aspects one experiences living in developing countries.

 

Blogging in the Tropics Means Living in Developing Nations

 

For the purposes of this blog post, spending time in tropical areas means living in developing nations.

 

I prefer not to use the term “third world country” for its pejorative connotations. Visions of destitute lands ruled by tyrants come to mind for those pondering third world nations, neither of which are true representations of developing nations.

 

Developing nations lack the infrastructure, general stability and quality of life present in highly developed nations like the United States. The same developing nations offer a simple, more peaceful way of living in many regards compared to the US for more reasons than I care to explore in this post. Convenience does not bring one happiness. But a lack of convenience does not make one a Blogging Buddha, either.

 

Convenience does not bring one happiness. But a lack of convenience does not make one a Blogging Buddha, either.Click To Tweet

 

Be open to the ups and downs of traveling through the tropics. Be aware of the fact that living in the tropics may mean long power outages, greater authoritarian influences of the government and rampant corruption. But living in the tropics also means warmer temperatures, friendly locals, pristine environments, stunning wildlife and a relaxing pace of living in most cases, too.

 

Keep these pros and cons in mind before retiring to blog from the tropics.

 

Pros

 

Imagine how many expats have happily retired to tropical locations.

 

You probably know someone who moved to Thailand, Costa Rica or Bali.

 

Tropical paradises offer you a wide range of advantages.

 

Pristine Environment

 

Tropical areas usually boast pristine environments.

 

Picture yourself sipping coconut shakes on white sand beaches gently extending into crystal clear waters. Perhaps lush mountain cloud forests appeal to you. Or maybe you prefer rural farmland spoiling you with eye-popping sunsets.

 

Nagigi Beach, Vanua Levu, Fiji.

Nagigi Beach, Vanua Levu, Fiji.

 

Tropical areas instill a sense of calm for the clean environments one experiences by the equator. Fiji offers planetarium-like views on clear nights. Bali presents expats with stunning beaches. Thailand shows off with a series of island paradises.

 

The tropics may yield the most collectively pristine areas on earth in some regards. Spending time amidst natural beauty calms a frenzied mind. Being in beauty creates a strong feeling of inner and outer peace. Blogging in serene environments enhances your prolific nature. One also owns a range of stunning natural backgrounds in tropical settings for videos and selfies to maximize branding potential or to inspire aspiring bloggers.

 

Friendly Locals

 

Balinese people are kind and generous. Fijians reminded me to take it easy. Locals in Phuket greeted me with a smiling wai.  Panamanian folks smile and offer a buenas dias.

 

Pleasant climates, stunning natural beauty and a general sense of ease make for friendly locals in tropical environments. People smile frequently here. Locals take their time, largely. Tropic-dwellers feel predominantly happy. Genuinely, even if some happiness seems to be surface-level it feels good to be around smiling people.

 

Most folks in the tropics exhibit generosity. One Fijian woman at the airport in Nadi offered me her fresh cup of coffee after purchasing the piping hot drink. Fijians embody a “what’s mine is yours” mentality quite literally. Of course, the mindset goes both ways. Fijians may take what’s yours when you leave your home for a few months but only because you are not using it. Far from being spiteful or negatively-influenced, this is one of many cultural differences Westerners need to acclimate to while living in the tropics. Being in a laid-back, generous, friendly environment creates lightness around such experiences.

 

Ample Wildlife

 

I’ve seen toucans in Panama, cobras in Bali and sloths in Costa Rica. Tropical hot spots offer expats a wide range of wildlife to enjoy.

 

Sloth, Buena Vista, Costa Rica

 

My family kept a collection of pet parrots during my childhood. I see Yellow-Fronted Amazon parrots here in El Valle de Anton in the backyard every day. Being around exotic wildlife makes you feel alive.

 

Excitement floods your being. I felt a surge each time I spotted keel-billed toucans. Gaudily-adorned to the point of being obnoxious, bird watchers flock to Panama from all over the world to see these brilliantly colored birds oozing with personality.

 

The tropics give you what you can only see in zoos in most Western nations. Living by the equator feels similar to experiencing a National Geographic show, in person.

 

Relaxed Pace of Living

 

Even though we only received power after an 11 hour outage today the relaxed vibe in town made for a largely peaceful experience.

 

Kelli and I hiked, shopped and walked the dog. I made a second trip to a chino to buy coffee. Locals strolled down the strip, biked around town and greeted me with the familiar, smiling “buenas dias” I’ve been accustomed to here in Panama.

 

Living in the tropics immerses you in a slow-paced way of life.  Prepare yourself to feel relaxed if you seem used to a more frenzied way of life in your Western homeland. Locals tend to remind you to slow down. Peer pressure follows, but in a good way.

 

I largely become more prolific in the tropics because my vibe tends to match the pace here. Feeling relaxed allows ideas to flow easily from my mind to my blog. Instead of sprinting ahead to publish thinnish content I have recently been publishing in-depth, SEO-optimized blog posts Google seems to favor. Panama’s sometimes snail-pace agrees with the prolific, patient blogger in me.

 

Increasing Bandwidth

 

Internet reliability seemed spotty in Bali back in 2011.

 

I recall one location outside of Ubud sporting roughly 15 minutes of uptime daily. We bought minutes, plugged it in to the laptop and prayed for a few moments  to the internet gods for enough time to check email.

 

Visiting a village outside of Ubud in 2014 surprised us with 4G speeds. Increasing bandwidth seems to be the norm in an increasingly wired tropical world.

 

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

 

Bloggers benefit from being able to:

 

  • work seamlessly
  • upload high definition videos
  • coach clients through streaming video
  • upload a high volume of eye-popping images

 

as the internet speed improves in even rural areas.

 

If you can deal with some power outages you will enjoy dependable internet in more and more tropical locations.

 

Cons

 

Filter each con through an “it is what it is” prism.

 

Cons are not necessarily good or bad but simple fear-based aspects of living in the tropics. Poverty dominates most tropical locales. Class divides create a tiny but highly wealthy ruling and governing class and huge but money-poor class being ruled. Expats find themselves in between wealthy rulers and business owners and the financially-poor majority in these nations and tropical spots.

 

Buena Vista, Costa Rica

 

Understand each con to make an informed decision. Know what to expect to decide if spending years or even decades in the tropics is for you.

 

In truth, many happy expats and digital nomads enjoy living in the tropics consecutively for 5, 10 or 20 years. Some feel largely unaffected by these factors. Others gracefully embrace these cons.

 

Before we proceed to the cons I want to share how living your dreams is fully worth the uncomfortable choices you make during the process.

 

Living Your Dreams Is 100% Worth Doing Uncomfortable Things

 

 

Rampant Corruption

 

Corruption seems common in tropical hot spots.

 

Developing nations struggle to ferret out corrupt influences. Laws and lawlessness both seem influenced by less than moral factors.

 

Be prepared to sometimes interact with police officers who ask for bribes, government employees who single you out for being foreign and archaic laws flummoxing to a Westerner. Do not think of corruption as being good or bad. Do your best to reserve judgment to frame corrupt influences as being cultural in nature. Whether folks agree or disagree with it most accept corruption for fears of questioning-related repercussions.

 

Corruption occurs everywhere in varying degrees. But living in the tropics means dealing with corruption directly and indirectly on a more consistent basis. Cops may ask for a bribe, ticket you for an offense not under the law or perhaps you pay 3 times the local prices (the expat tax) because a corner store owner pays 14 different taxes to corrupt national police, tribal police, local politicians and other individuals.

 

Being aware of corrupt practices gives you a clearer picture of life in the tropics.

 

Heavy Handed Governments

 

Tropical spots often sit within the realm of heavy handed governments.

 

Heavy handed governments set clear, absolute, highly manipulative rules not to be questioned by citizens. Most citizens gladly go along with laws without criticizing or questioning absolute rule. Being cognizant of this collective subjugation prepares you to either go with the local flow or to perhaps not choose the tropics as your retirement spot.

 

Granada, Nicaragua

 

Rampant corruption and heavy-handed governments often go hand-in-hand in the tropics. Complaints often find a deaf ear. But in face-saving cultures a complaint may even lead to legal problems.

 

US citizens accustomed to:

 

  • having strong opinions about government
  • voicing strong opinions about government
  • passionately debating political issues

 

often find as tropics-living expats that you simply do not talk government, politics or laws in online or offline settings. Keep this in mind if your opinions differ from ruling parties or deviate from culturally accepted norms manifest as seemingly dated laws. Living under a heavy-handed government may not feel fun for someone used to experiencing ample worldly freedoms, including freedom of speech. However, some expats and long term digital nomads resonate enough with preferred pros that they accept the government cons as being part of living in a tropical spot.

 

Poor Infrastructure

 

Living in the tropics means frequent power outages in some spots.

 

Tap water may be a no-no to drink. Panama is a tropical rarity in that the state of the art water treatment system here makes it okay to drink tap water. However, drinking tap water in Bali or Thailand means diarrhea or vomiting.

 

Pot-hole filled roads, shoddily-designed electrical clusters on power lines and a general blanket poor infrastructure greatly eats into convenience, comfort and quality of life sometimes.

 

Pot-hole filled roads, shoddily-designed electrical clusters on power lines and a general blanket poor infrastructure greatly eats into convenience, comfort and quality of life sometimes.Click To Tweet

 

Power may be up most of the time but a drunk slamming into a telephone pole creates a 22 hour power outage. Grand Canyon sized pot-holes break your axels. But the nearest mechanic is 2 hours away. Does anyone offer a tow-truck service in the rural spot? How long will it take to ship the parts to the mechanic?

 

Know that infrastructure in the tropics makes for an experience in patience and acceptance.

 

Weather and Climate Considerations

 

What about mold in the tropics? People I house sat for took a trip back home to the US. On arriving a few months later their car was filled with mold. Not opening the windows allowed super-humid air to creep in through the grate. Mold grew on their steering wheel and car ceiling.

 

Do you have a dry room to increase the longevity of your laptop while living in a cloud forest? Humidity takes a heavy toll on lappies and mobile devices in the tropics. Plug surge protectors into every outlet in cloud forest or jungle environments; expats in each climate share how many people fry their computers, TVs, washers and driers during intense lightning storms.

 

Beach, Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

 

Mold becomes an ever-present problems on your:

 

  • house exterior
  • indoor floor
  • outdoor tiling

 

Frequent cleaning prevents significant build up of this stubborn, persistent foe.

 

How do your dogs handle lightning storms? Cloud-to-ground lighting and deafening thunder occur regularly in some tropical locales. During our month in Quepos, Costa Rica in June of 2013 we experienced thunderstorms with vivid lighting and booming thunder every single day between 1 PM and 3 PM. Dogs afraid of thunder would go into a nerve-induced terror for at least 1-3 hours on a daily basis in such a spot.

 

Cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides and roads being washed away can and do occur in the tropics. Research climates to be aware of extreme weather conditions and how each affects local roads, building and the overall way of life.

 

Oh yeah….bugs…..big bugs. People usually fear seeing large bugs. Tropical areas are home to some of the biggest bugs on earth because large bugs love hot, humid climates with ample vegetation for hiding. Entomologists view this fact as a pro but most aspiring expats frame this truth as a con.

 

Cumulative Effect of Culture Clash and Prior Cons

 

Living in the tropics creates a cumulative effect of culture clashes and the prior 3 cons.

 

For example, even though I enjoyed my time in Panama I felt a cumulative effect of government laws, poor infrastructure and cultural differences. Reckless driving seems dangerously routine. After driving around Pedasi for 3 months I gladly returned the rental because some locals drive in the middle of the road going into blind curves. At the last second – as I would enter the same blind curve on my side of the road – these individuals would swerve to their side to avoid a head-on collision. After at least 5 split-second swerves to avoid being killed and a “What the f*ck is wrong with you?!?!?” yell, I would calm down, drive home and accept the cultural difference.

 

But sometimes I drove home to a 12 hour power outage. The fridge had been on the fritz but Kelli and I gave up attempting to contact a repairman because the internet repairman promised us to show up 6 times before never showing for 3 months. He never bothered to apologize for not showing up each of the 6 times. We heard from a good 10 expats that this habit is quite normal in Panama for crafts men. The service industry in general needs ample work to make the country acceptable for even a moderate level of tourism.

 

Cumulatively, these and a few other glaring cultural differences can add up to create some heaviness related to living in tropical locales.

 

Tourist boards do not discuss:

 

  • squatters who can and do take over your house in some nations with archaic laws
  • staff who quit on the spot because you politely point out one area for improvement
  • throngs of touts snatching your luggage and demanding ransom payments at airports

 

sometimes experienced in tropical hot spots. Each prior bullet point seems to be rare but be aware that each can and does happen from my personal experience and via expats who shared each experience with me during extended chats.

 

Hue Vietnam

 

One expat here in Panama said a hefty percentage of retire expats leave within two years. People arrive completely unaware of the challenging aspects experienced living abroad.

 

Adding 5, 10 or 30 seemingly little annoyances growing over months or years is the prime reason why so many expats excited to live their dream life in the tropics wind up leaving within 1-3 years. Cultural quirks can add up into a quick exit from the tropics when you realize the 20 unexpected things you dislike about the place after 2 years of being an expat.

 

Being completely frank, I cannot live somewhere long term with truly Draconian laws, a largely unreliable police force, endemic corruption, unreliable service and general subjugation to government and laws. I do adore the beauty of the tropics and the kindness of its people. But the USA and NJ specifically spoiled me with an environment where people speak freely, heavily influence a government with ample checks and balances and largely co-created a stable society with strong infrastructure, great convenience and dependable, reliable, trustworthy businesses, and services. However, more spiritually advanced bloggers living completely in the moment may put these worldly qualities to the side and slide right into a long-term tropical life.

 

Conclusion

 

Weigh the pros and the cons of retiring to the tropics as a professional blogger.

 

I enjoy visiting the tropics for a few months but do not envision myself living here for 10 or 15 years consecutively. After spending a few months in the tropics I usually travel home to the US for creature comforts consistent with a highly-developed nation. However, some bloggers tire of the more complex, fast-paced life in the West and move to the slow-paced, simple tropics full-time.

 

Do what works for you. Everyone possesses different preferences. Some bloggers value simplicity over convenience. Other bloggers prefer convenience over frequent power outages.

 

Spending alternating months in the tropics for 10 years has been one of the best experiences of my life. But experiencing tropical cons revealed that I am not cut out to be a tropical expat on a full time basis. I may never live in Bali, Thailand or Panama for 10 years but happily spend 1, 3 or 6 months in the tropics before enjoying the contrast of a highly-developed nation for a few months or longer.

 

Trust your gut, genuinely accept the upsides and downsides of blogging from the tropics and remember that we live in a big world with many different, fun, fascinating locations.

 

Live your dreams to be the happiest version of you.

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