A medical equipment salesman from San Diego opens a pre-school in Boca del Toro.

By Travel & Leisure
December 10, 2012

For Neil Christiansen, the decision to leave his corporate job in Southern California was easy. Life was good as a medical equipment salesman, but he yearned to spend more time doing what he loved—surfing. His passion leads him to a jungle-filled archipelago in Panama, where he pairs his obsession with riding waves with his love of kids. There, he founds the nonprofit organization GiveAndSurf.org, which raises money from surfers to fund a local pre-school he establishes for indigenous island children. EX-PATS show host Samantha Jane Buffet catches up with Neil in isolated community of Bahia Honda, and rides the “school boat” with him to work. “Living a normal life is not for me,” Neil affirms. “My friends think I’m crazy, but I’m doing what I love.”

For more on Panama, visit our destination guide.