Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and we may receive a referral fee (at no extra cost to you) if you sign up or purchase products or services mentioned.
We moved to Boquete, Panama back in 2019, just months after I had retired from work at the end of 2018. We had sold everything we owned and moved to a country that we had only visited one other time – a country where we knew no one and almost everyone speaks Spanish.
You would think that this whirlwind would be one of the biggest hurdles in life to adjust to and figure out.
Funny enough though, finding my place in life again since we’ve moved back to the U.S. is something I think is going to be tougher.
Don’t get me wrong – things are good and we’ve already had a ton of fun since we left Panama…
- An insane bus trip from Panama to Costa Rica of almost 10 hours
- A vacation in Ajijic, Mexico followed by an all-inclusive vacation in Cancun
- A monster road trip across the U.S.
- A once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip in the Canadian bush in western Quebec
We’ve also moved into a new apartment in northeast Ohio after flying to Raleigh, North Carolina and then driving a filled U-Haul back with all the furniture we bought.
So we’ve no doubt been pretty damn busy in 2022 with somehow more to come before the year is over.
And I have no worries that things will fall into place here after a while. There’s no doubt there’ll be some adjustments to figure out and get used to now that we’re back in a country we haven’t lived in for 3 ½ years.
But now that the dust is settling a little bit, I’m wondering if finding my place is going to prove somewhat difficult.
The good of moving back to Ohio
First off, if you’re not an avid reader, you can check out my post The 2 Big Reasons We’re Moving Back From Panama… and What’s Next! to fill you in on why we decided to move back in the first place. I’m not thrilled to be back, but I think it was something that we needed to do… at least for the time being.
But let’s start with some of the good things that moving back to Ohio is giving us.
Unquestionably, being around the people you’ve known for most of your life is a gimme. We made a good number of new friends while living in Panama – people we’re so grateful to be friends with.
But there’s still something to be said about the folks you’ve known for decades. Knowing all their quirky characteristics and how they think, being able to re-hash so many old memories, and just having that comfortableness being around them just makes it different. So it’s good to be able to see a lot of familiar faces again.
Then there are the parks throughout Ohio, which are absolutely amazing. For us, that’ll generally be the Cleveland Metroparks, Summit Metro Parks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the state parks. Being able to enjoy a nice scenic walk, a good hike, some great bike-riding trails, or some awesome camping all within a stone’s throw is fantastic.
One thing I’m excited to try is the Bike Aboard the Train program with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. You bike as much as you want on the trails here and then just flag down the train and they’ll take you and your bike back to your starting point for only $5. That sounds really fun!
We’ll continue enjoying the outdoors here throughout the summers without a doubt!
1) One factor I can’t control in finding my place…
However, that last point is part of my biggest concern with being back in Ohio. We’re definitely going to enjoy the summers here, but if you don’t know, I can’t stand the cold and the snow. I seriously hate ’em both with a passion. I’m a total freeze baby – I even used to wear long johns in the winter under my clothes while at work… in an office… with a portable heater beside me. Yeah, it’s that stupid.
Throw in that it’s just such a depressing time of the year and the whole idea is already weighing heavy on my mind. Weather’s a big deal for me.
Ah, Jim, it’s not that bad. Besides, you don’t have to work anymore so it’s not like you even need to leave your apartment!
Ok, that’s true that it’ll be nice to not have to leave in the morning. I can look out the window on those horrible blizzard-like days, shake my head, and think, “Thank God for early retirement!”
But then what? Does that mean I’ll never go anywhere?
Of course not. People will still want to get together. We’ll still need to go shopping. Life continues even in the cold. So I’ll have to suck it up and try not to complain too much about it.
But I’ve also changed my life over the years to make fitness a real part of it. The workout side of things was easy – I just talked about how I bought an awesome new set of adjustable dumbbells and a weight bench. Throw in my pull-up bar and I’m all set to continue on.
That said, there’s the part of fitness that involves activity as well. In Boquete, it was a cakewalk to knock that out. The resort we lived in had a nice heated pool and a racquetball court. We also didn’t have a car there because it’s right around 75° every single day so we’d walk everywhere (except for an occasional taxi, bus ride, or borrowing a friend’s car).
That’s not going to happen here in Ohio. Although we’re in a nice area, the walkability isn’t fantastic (though better than a lot of places).
More to the point though is that you really only get a handful of “good” weather months every year and even those months can be iffy. Sure, the major snow doesn’t roll around until December-ish but the spring can be miserable too with the temps fluctuating all over the place while throwing in some cold, wet, sloshy fun in between.
In other words, winter just seems to drag on F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
Otherwise, the weather is generally pretty good from May until October as it starts to cool down. Nevertheless, you also can have days in the mid to high 90s in July and August that can make you not want to be outside unless you’ve found a good place to swim.
So what will happen in those “less than ideal” months of the year to stay active?
I don’t know the answer yet but even just thinking about it makes me sigh. I did just get this cool bike trainer for only $5 new through an online auction, so that’s something I can use for some indoor activity without needing to leave home.
2) Finding my place while still missing living abroad
I’ve realized that I really loved living in a foreign country, especially in the smaller community of Boquete. I felt similar while exploring Ajijic in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico this past spring, too.
Everything is just more laid back and the focus with the locals tends to be more on people and relationships than on working as much as you can every day. Don’t get me wrong – most folks there are hard workers and they work full weeks. But in most jobs there, when you’re done, you’re done. You’re not checking your phone throughout the evening for work emails or any of that. Your time is now spent with the people you care about.
And when you walk around, people are just friendlier – they wave and say “hi” more (usually “hola”, “buenos dias”, or “buenas tardes”). This includes both the locals and the ex-pats.
It’s just a different ambiance. And I’m not saying that folks in Ohio aren’t friendly – it’s just different. Boquete reminds me a little bit of how the town of Mayberry was on The Andy Griffith Show if you remember that old show (I only know the reruns).
So, I’m not going to try to pull any punches here – I miss Boquete. We’ve only been back a short while, but I do miss it. That makes it a little depressing knowing that I’m working on finding my place here even though I’d love to be back there.
The good news is that we plan to continue to travel. In fact, next year, our goal is to do a lot of smaller trips throughout the year. We’re going to take advantage of the Southwest Companion Pass we earned through travel rewards and fly anywhere the airline will take us!
We’ll let the pricing of the airline tickets and hotels dictate where we go instead of the other way around. Since they fly throughout the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, we’re hoping to have some good fun!
The bad news though is that it’s much harder to stay for longer stretches of time (like several weeks or a month at a time). Essentially, it would be hard to be snowbirds. When we lived in Paradise (er, I mean, Panama), that was already our destination. We would strategize upon ending leases here and there so we could then stay elsewhere before starting our next lease. That allowed us to travel more freely without worrying about making a rent payment.
Going to another cool place now though means that we’ll have to pay rent here in Ohio plus the cost of wherever we’re staying. It becomes a vacation rather than what was, for all intents and purposes, our home.
That doesn’t mean we can’t afford to stay for a week or so somewhere here and there, but we can’t afford to efficiently do this for longer periods of time.
We’re so blessed to be able to enjoy this early retirement life together and to be able to do all the traveling that we do (thank you travel rewards!). I just need to suck it up and accept that we’re not living in Panama anymore before I can continue finding my place here. Sounds stupid, right? But that was home.
On a related note, I do have something exciting that I’m looking forward to sharing… but not yet! Soon, my friend, soon!
3) Fitting in with my peeps!
The other thing that’s been weighing on my mind lately is the company I keep. I do value a lot of the close friendships that I have with folks here in Ohio… but there’s also some “dead weight” with people that can make me question why we’re even friends.
I think that’s the case for many folks (and they might feel the same way about me), but as I’m finding my place again here, I wonder if now’s the time to focus on the people I do care about and just sort of shed the others.
I used to just think that the friends you had were the friends you had – nobody wants to make new friends this late in life… right?
But two things changed that idea in my mind:
- We made good friends with some fantastic people in Panama – you know who you are out there!
- I found my “tribe” a handful of years ago.
I’m going to focus on that second bullet point here about finding my tribe. When I attended my first FinCon personal finance conference for the first time several years ago, I was surprised by how quickly I became friends with some folks. I’m not shy to talk to people but I guess it just took me aback a little with how things just felt right around these folks right from the start.
And they weren’t just fly-by-night friendships either. That was in 2017 and since then, I’ve regrouped with several of them on a few occasions. We, of course, all hung out during the next FinCon conference in 2018. Unfortunately, I haven’t attended since… next year hopefully!
But then I was astounded that Steve and his wife Courtney from SteveAdock.us and A Dreamin’ Life along with Amy and Vicki from Women Who Money (and their awesome husbands) came in from around the country just to have a sendoff for us before we left for Panama. We spent a weekend at a campground just hanging out and having fun.
I’ve kept in contact with all of them as well as with my good friend Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto. I was able to get together with Fritz again for lunch a few years when he visited Ohio and we still keep in touch.
During our road trip in 2020, we made it a point to head to Steve and Courtney’s house where we set up camp for a couple of nights.
Here’s what’s weird – when I look at finding my place in life right now, it’s folks like these that I want to spend some more time with. It’s tougher because we’re all in different states, but I hope to put in some effort to try to see everyone again.
That’s not a diss against some of our close friends here in Ohio – I love many of them to death, too. But it’s funny how you can find the right group of people where you just instantly fit in and can become lifelong friends.
In other words, finding my place with some of the friends I want to surround myself with might require a little more planning and action to happen… but it’ll be worth it. And maybe by combining it with the travel that we plan to do next year, we can make this a reality.
Fortunately, none of these things should be showstoppers in life. Yes, they are some concessions that I’m going to need to work through, but I don’t anticipate them deterring me too much from finding my place here in the U.S.
Life’s probably going to be pretty different for us here. When I retired at the end of 2018, we were focused on selling everything and moving to Panama. This is basically the first time we’re living here in the U.S as “normal” retirees. It’s going to be interesting… though I do love change!
Finding my place in life here is going to be like starting over. Sure, we have plenty of friends here, but with them working, we’re still looking at just hanging out with them mostly on the weekends.
I hope to continue spending time with my family and then start to increase my time on some of the fun things I’d like to pursue once Faith is a little older and I have more time.
That gives me an opportunity to figure life out again. This is a good thing and a chance to reflect on what truly matters.
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!