Pocketing Up to $25 an Hour Working Online in Panama
I lazily open my eyes, listen to the birds singing, and once again count my blessings. It’s nearly time to go to “the office,” but that simply means rolling out of my hammock, pulling a T-shirt over my bikini, and plugging in my headset for my online lessons.
My current desk looks out over the ocean in Portobelo, a relatively undiscovered port town on the northern coast of Panama in Colón province. Portobelo has a distinctly tropical feel—swaying palm trees, crystal-clear waters brimming with colorful fish, and a year-round warm climate. It’s a far cry from the view from my previous desk, which looked out over a cold, gray road in an industrialized urban area.
I traveled a little in my early 20s before heading back home to start a career in finance. After many years grinding away, and losing one of my best friends to cancer, I suddenly realized I was not living my best life in that office. So, I quit my job and packed my suitcase.
Even then, I never intended to settle in Panama. I first landed here in 2014 and being a sucker for anything fluffy with four legs, I immediately got involved in setting up low cost sterilization clinics for the street animals of Portobelo. Six years have passed and I now have a registered charity, Stray Jim’s, and a wealth of four-legged friends, as well as plenty of human ones, all over Panama.
While working in the nonprofit sector is extremely rewarding, it’s not the place you go to make money. So, I teach English as a foreign language online to earn a living.
The events of 2020 have only increased the demand for good quality, online educators. Plus, I need only my smartphone, a desk, and a comfy chair to teach here—the network coverage is excellent and my monthly, unlimited data package costs me just $20.
As an online English teacher, you are generally paid by the hour, with the rates ranging from $12 to $25 depending on experience and type of lesson. So, the amount you can make is only restricted by how many hours you want to teach per week. Not only is it a reliable form of income, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed socializing with students from all around the world, especially during lockdown.
I feel extremely lucky that I’ve found fulfilment for my soul and my pocket here in Portobelo. Just two hours from Panama City, this port town is a delicious blend of lush jungle, rich history, and warm, calm Caribbean seas.
The mix of sea and jungle is ideal for anyone seeking action and adventure. Though even if you prefer history and culture, you can’t go wrong in Portobelo. The cobbled streets that link the colonial fortresses and counting house are still the originals. A local tour guide will soon have you hooked on the many fascinating stories of conquistadores and pirates who once battled over this pivotal bay.
The local population is largely descended from Cimarrons, escapees of the slave trade during the Spanish colonial period. Neighborhood shops carry exquisite merchandise that tell the tales of the town’s ancestors and the Portobelo Carnival experience also comes with a colorful twist. Locals dressed in dramatic, vibrant costumes of devils (meant to represent the evil slavers) and the enslaved take over the streets, dancing and weaving their way through interpretations of their ancestors’ struggles for freedom.
I am constantly fascinated by the history and nature that I stumble across here on a daily basis, and friends and family who have visited me feel the same. It is unusual to find a place with the amenities of a city, while still giving you a genuine feeling of being rural. I am truly glad I stumbled upon the beautiful port of Portobelo and discovered the perfect way to fund my life here.
By Amy Bennett