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, 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.