Everything about this plan is a bad idea. We’re just asking for trouble in every way possible. But… we’re doing it anyway!
If you read my post “Our Planned Trip Back to the U.S. from Panama…” from a few weeks ago, you might remember that we were heading back to the U.S. in the second week of July.
Well, not too surprisingly, that whole agenda fell apart quickly.
The President of Panama, Nito Cortizo, decided to extend the suspension of re-opening the airports here for at least another month. That means the soonest the airports will be allowed to start rolling ahead again will be July 23.
But there are no guarantees on that date either. The suspension may get extended again around that time, particularly if the effects of the pandemic are still running rampant.
So, where does that leave us?
Lisa and Faith have been homesick for a while now. When we had so much fun going on earlier this year, it wasn’t that big of a deal. We were busy walking around town, visiting different stores and shops, scoping out all the different restaurants, hiking, horseback riding, and all sorts of good stuff. Our minds were elsewhere most of the time.
But once everyone here was ordered to stay in quarantine, things started to go south. We’ve been coming up with fun things to do to try to entertain ourselves, but spending 24 hours a day together in our apartment has gotten old.
Then they lifted the quarantine… sort of. We’re now able to walk around throughout the day. That sounds good but nothing’s going on…
- Retail stores aren’t allowed to be open yet (only grocery stores or pharmacies)
- Most restaurants are still closed but even the ones that are open are only allowed to offer delivery (delivery’s a pretty new concept here) or takeout
- Gatherings are still not permitted… no Tuesday Market get-togethers
- Horseback riding lessons have resumed but we don’t have a car and don’t feel comfortable getting in a taxi or bus during this pandemic
- The transportation issue means that we can’t get ourselves to different areas to go hiking either
There’s also a curfew in place at 7 pm every night. That’s not the end of the world, but it means no fun nights out for three of us right now.
And if you were thinking that there’s got to be ways to do some other things, there’s another problem. Right now, kids are only allowed out daily from 4 pm until 7 pm. First of all, that’s the time of day when it rains so that usually gets squashed. And second, kids aren’t allowed in any stores so we’re pretty limited again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the way the President is handling things here. The fact that we still have zero active cases of the virus in Boquete shows that following the measures is helping to keep people safe. And I think we’d be fine if it was just me and Lisa, but it’s not. We have a kid who’s been patient for the past few months being cooped up, but kids need some outdoor time to burn off some energy.
We’re making the best of everything but there’s no doubt that things are getting old. Throw in the airport suspension being extended and that became the breaking point for Lisa and Faith. Seeing the light and the end of the tunnel of getting back to see friends and family in early July slipped right through our fingers.
The new plan
We’ve decided that it’s time. Even though we shouldn’t leave, we’re doing it anyway. We’re heading back to the U.S. and there’s only one way I know of to get through the borders right now – humanitarian flights.
The U.S. has been routinely sending routine flights to Panama (among other countries) to help get U.S. citizens back to the States. It seems like we’ve been seeing a few of these each month and they seem to sell out in a relatively short amount of time.
We’ve been avoiding the humanitarian flights though figuring that we’d just wait until the borders were open.
We booked a weird flight that’s flying out of Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City at 3 am this week. Yeah, that’s right – 3 IN THE MORNING!
There were a couple of other choices with better times, but they were all on Spirit Airlines. While I have no problems flying with Spirit, the humanitarian flights they’ve been offering have been ridiculously overpriced to sit in their uncomfortable seats for a 4 ½ hour flight.
And this is from a “low-cost” airline. Throw in that the word “humanitarian” tends to convey a connotation of doing the right thing to help others and it just doesn’t add up. It would have cost us over $1,000 for a one-way flight to a location that’s not even our final destination.
The other option in the mix was Copa Airlines. They were offering a flight as well during the first week of July.
The Copa flight offered was a much better deal… if we’re doing it anyway, we might as well do it right.
Not only was the base price almost $300 cheaper total, but it also covered our checked bags. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that the seats are more comfortable than the ones on Spirit. As a bonus, Copa is a United partner so we can pick up some United miles for the flight.
The 3 am flight time will be weird, but it gives us another perk – we won’t have to stay at a hotel in Miami before heading back to Ohio. We’ll get in around 7:15 am so we’ll be able to catch a flight to Ohio right after.
So the new plan goes like this:
- A private driver takes us from our place in Boquete to Panama City. We leave early in the morning and should get there mid-afternoon.
- Stay at a hotel near the airport for around 9 hours until around midnight.
- Take the hotel shuttle to the airport and then fly to Miami – hopefully, catch some sleep on the plane.
- Fly from Miami to Cleveland that morning.
- Get a rental car at the Cleveland airport and take it to a hotel in Cleveland. Catch up on some much-needed sleep.
- Find a place to get a swab shoved into our brains to test for COVID-19.
- While we’re waiting for the test results (hopefully within a few days), we’ll either…
- Wait it out while staying at the hotel.
- Check out of the hotel, head to our storage unit, get our camping equipment, and spend a few days camping!
- Assuming the test results come back negative, we’ll “move-in” to my inlaws basement for the next month and spend some quality time visiting friends and family. We’ll still play it safe and keep our distance though.
- Head back to Panama with maybe a visit to my brother and sister-in-law in Texas before we leave.
Why this is a horrible idea…
Perfect trip, right?!
No way – this whole idea is horrible and crazy. Here’s why:
Boquete is rocking it!
We’re living in the small town of Boquete. There are no active cases here… none! Who would want to leave an area with zero active cases of this virus?
Although the lockdown has gotten pretty old, the country is slowly starting to re-open (very slowly!). In other words, the happiness factor will likely get close to the level it was previously over the next month or so.
In the meantime, we moved here for a reason. The spectacular weather and landscapes here make it such a great place. Once kids can get out a little more (hopefully soon), we’d be back to loving being here.
The U.S. is a hornets’ nest
We’re #1! We’re #1! Not something to be proud of in this case. Having over a million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. is rough. Granted, those aren’t the best numbers to look at – total cases per million and total deaths per million might be a little better for comparison.
But no matter what data you look at, the U.S. is still struggling and not the best country to be in if you’re trying to stay away from the virus.
When you throw in that the humanitarian flight is taking us right into Florida, that’s another problem. If you haven’t been keeping up, Florida is having a surge of new cases of COVID-19. They’re making the news left and right. It’s probably not the best place for us to be passing through.
Traveling by air or staying in hotels right now isn’t very smart. It’s just asking for trouble. It’s like shouting, “Here I am pandemic – come and get me!”
Look, we’re going to be so careful it’ll be insane, but it only takes a small bit of exposure to make it happen. Our travel plans push up the chances significantly of us getting that exposure.
How do we get back to Panama?
We’re heading back to the U.S. while the borders are closed in Panama… and we don’t have Panamanian residency. That means once we leave, we can’t get back in until the borders re-open.
Maybe that’ll happen on July 23 when the suspension is set to run out or maybe it won’t. It’s already been pushed back a couple of times. If it doesn’t, we’re at the mercy of Panama until we can get back.
To add to the issue, countries that are opening their borders are starting to consider rejecting U.S. citizens from being able to enter (nice job, USA!). With how aggressive the President has been here in Panama, it wouldn’t surprise me if they do the same.
So then what?
I guess we figure it out when the times comes. In the meantime, we’re packing our suitcases a little more methodically so as not to leave anything valuable here. That’s about all we can do.
Why we’re doing it anyway…
So if there are so many reasons to not take this trip, why are we doing it anyway?
You would think there would be a big list of reasons to make this happen, but really there’s only one…
To get back to loved ones.
Lisa will try to tell you that she’s worried about the “what-ifs” of Boquete getting an overflow of active cases. What would we do if that happened?
Shhh, don’t tell her I told you this, but I think that’s just an excuse in her mind to help justify why us leaving makes sense. Staying in a place without active cases seems to be the more logical choice.
With all the reasons not to take the trip, it’s hard to justify doing it anyway due solely to homesickness. But essentially, that’s what we’re doing. She’s going to beat me with a 2×4 when she reads this!
But if everything goes well, this should be a good trip. It’ll be wonderful to see everyone again and nice to visit Ohio during the summer months.
My biggest concern with COVID-19 isn’t me or even Lisa. My biggest concern is if Faith gets it or we pass it along to family or friends we’re flying in to see. If someone ends up dying because of our “we’re doing it anyway” attitude, how do you live with that?
This trip isn’t a good idea but considering we’re going for it and doing it anyway, I hope we don’t regret it. Time will tell, right? Masks on and fingers crossed!
Do you think going against the grain of the smarter move and doing it anyway is crazy stupid even if we’re extremely careful?
Thanks for reading!!
44 thoughts on “This Is a Horrible Idea… We’re Doing It Anyway!”
Whether it’s a good idea or not, I only pray that you will succeed safely, have a good time, and get back to panama in a reasonable amount of time. All the best!
Thanks, Warren – much appreciated!
Stay home! Numbers are spiking here because people are not following the rules.
I’m with you, Joe. I follow everything that’s going on there and I know this isn’t the smartest move to make. But we’re on the 6-hour van ride now heading to Panama City. We’ll be as cautious as we can and stay away from others once we get back until we get tested.
Safe travels! Totally understandable to want to be near family (they might need you too) and it sounds like you have the best plan available right now to get there.
Thanks, Carol – fingers crossed that this works out alright! 🙂
Be safe on your journey. You guys are young enough that if you do get it, it should be rather mild. Our friends are currently battling it…the youngest at age 23 had very mild symptoms, the mom aged late 50s stayed at home with flu like symptoms and the Dad is early 60s, is in the hospital getting treated with that new drug Remisvar? and a ventilator is NOT needed. Take a ton of vitamin C and immune boosters. Yes it is spreading but it is weakening as well so there are many less serious cases. Be mindful of being around older folks though as they are truly at a higher risk.
Sorry to hear about your friend’s Dad, PG – I’ve heard some good things about Remdesivir so hopefully that’s helpful.
I think you nailed it about being around older folks. That’s really my biggest concern. The odds of us becoming a casualty are not that high, but I want to make sure that if we get it, we don’t pass it on to family. Best we can do is stay away until we can get tested or wait it out for a couple weeks if necessary.
Your reasons for making this trip align with the drivers behind US’ new peaks – gathering with others, Americans unwilling to do the hard work of waiting/staying apart/staying home, and other austerity measures. Hope you like your in-laws and vice-versa – could be a loooong visit if Panama doesn’t allow US passengers in, as the EU has just decided. Prior generations made greater sacrifices in a unified effort – why can’t we achieve that now?
I can’t really argue with that and I’ve been on the exact same page, Mary, but it is what it is. This was not an easy decision to make in the least. As I sit here in the van driving the 6 hours or so to Panama City, we’re wearing masks for the whole ride. We’re being careful with what we touch and using wipes and hand sanitizer as much as possible. Even with how cautious we’re being, you’re right that we should be staying put. Once we *hopefully* get the all-clear with a negative result of COVID, we’ll be staying put as much as possible at the in-laws’ house.
Jim, you’ve got to do what’s right for you and the family. I just hope you don’t get too many bruises from Lisa’s attack with that 2×4, that’ll likely the worst thing that will happen to your through this entire adventure. Safe travels, enjoy your time with family.
Haha, I’ll be looking over my shoulder during our trip! 😉 Loving the new Retirement Manifesto HQ, btw!
Best wishes for safe travel guys! Really, there is no place like home and we do not know what will happen in the next few months. If virus cases keep spiking, I’d rather be with family than alone in another country locked in a small confined space, so I understand your reason to get home.
Thanks, Stacie – it was a tough decision, but hopefully everything works out well in our choice… family won out over logic in this one! 🙂
Mask up. You will be travelling through 2 of the new hotspots if you visit your brother in Texas. We (Texas) have started to roll back some of the re-opening parts that were opened too soon in my opinion.
We’re currently wearing our masks even on the 6-hour van ride we’re currently on to Panama City – can’t be too careful. We’ve been shaking our heads with how Florida and Texas are the prime virus locations right now and we planned to hit them both… ugh. But we do have time (at least a month) to reconsider Texas if it continues to head in the same direction. It’s a lot harder to roll things back once the flood gates have been opened, so I wish them luck!
Hi Jim, Don’t worry, worry causes stress and stress decreases the immune system….I know it is risky, but the these older folks will be ok …in fact we will be in a better place with all of you here.
Much better. I love you all, Becky
Thanks, Becky – my brain likes to get in the way of my heart. We’ll be there soon!
Ok, for the record, I have heard of way worse plans!!! 🙂
Travel safe and be smart (wear a mask, keep a distance where possible and wash your hands often). Do that and I am sure you will be fine. Much of the spike in recent US cases is due to people being complete knuckleheads in the US.
Haha, knuckleheads seems like such a nice way to put it, but I’ll go with that! ?
From reading your blog the last year or so, it is obvious you and Lisa think your decisions through carefully and I am assuming the decision to travel was not made lightly. The Covid19 situation has taken its toll on all of us and it seems like you are taking your family’s mental health as seriously as their physical health. Your efforts to ensure your decision to travel do not endanger others is all anyone could expect of you. I wish you all safe travels and hope you enjoy your trip back to the States to visit family and friends. Stay well, Jim, Lisa and Faith.
Thanks for the kind words, JennyMac – very much appreciated. U.S., here we come!
You make a really good case why it’s a horrible idea Jim!
Logically speaking there’s many reasons to hunker down in Panama. In fact, it’s probably the worst possible time to travel.
Having stated the obvious, life is too short to be miserable. As beautiful as Panama is, Lisa and Faith are homesick and need to spend some time with family. Plus, apparently there is a 2X4 with your name on it. Safe travels and stay healthy!
Thanks, Shannon – hopefully, it’ll be a lot of worrying for nothing. But I’d rather be cautious than not (even though it’d be more cautious to just not go!).
Just one suggestion — you may want to quarantine from others, or at least minimize your indoor exposure to others, for at least two weeks even if you get a negative covid test result, since you will be on a plane and also traveling through a hot spot — although a positive result is quite accurate, there are still many false negatives — See this article – https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/if-youve-been-exposed-to-the-coronavirus – you will get a false negative about 40% of the time if you are tested four days after exposure to the virus.Safe travels, and enjoy your time with loved ones.
Thanks for that info, Rosie – I didn’t realize that the timing of the test made so much of a difference. We’ll have to take that into consideration and keep our distance to a degree as well.
Just a heads up on the test, I was tested a week ago, it took seven days to get the results! And we are in an area with very low infection rates. So be prepared to hang out for awhile.
Good to know – thanks, Steveark!
Safe travels Jim! The weather has been great in Ohio this entire month so in some respects you have great timing, lol. I hope your plans go smoothly and you are able to enjoy time with family and friends.
Haha, I like the glass-half-full attitude, Rox! 🙂 Thanks for the kind words!
Don’t get tested right after your flights. You’re most likely to get infected from your travels and you are getting tested too early. Quarantine for at least 5-7 days before getting your test if you want accurate results. And frankly, agree with the above poster: don’t trust a negative swab. A positive will give you good information but a negative swab shouldn’t falsely reassure you. If you are around older adults, I would wait at least 14 days of strict quarantine. Good luck and don’t take those masks off!! Love, a lurker and medical professional.
This is some really helpful info, Dr. G, which of course, now changes our plans completely once we get back! 🙂
We’re re-working what we’ll do, but I think we’re going to stay at the hotel for a day or so, go camping for a few days, try to get tested, and then head to the inlaws’ house. But we’ll hunker down in there basement and then do any hanging out with them outside at a distance while wearing masks until we hit that 14-day mark. Everyone involved will hate that, but it’s the smart thing to do.
Thanks for the good advice, Doc!
A negative test does not free you from the need to quarantine for two weeks. The swabs miss about a third of the cases mostly due to not getting the swab deep enough or the virus not being in that part of the body at that particular time. You should be heading straight to an isolated place and not even going out for groceries (delivery only) for two weeks as soon as you land.
Thanks, Caro – based on the info you, the doctor, and Rosie gave that I wasn’t aware of, we’ve made some changes to our plans to hide for a couple of weeks as much as possible.
Have a safe trip. 2 weeks self-quarantine is a good idea.
Thanks, Joe – just got to Ohio last night and stayed at a hotel near the airport for now… slept 10 hours!
Make sure you can get a reservation on that rental car. Last time I checked some of the rental companies weren’t even operating. They just closed their doors and it was (nearly) impossible to rent a car for a decent price.
Honestly, I think you guys are probably better off in Panama, but safe travels to you!
I’m with you on it being probably better off in Panama, Mr. Tako, but it is what it is – we’re here now in the battle with everyone else. Hopefully we come out unscathed from all the travel. We’re already pros at keeping our distance, wearing masks everywhere, and treating anything we get as if it’s got the plague. Now, we’ll just have to see how good we are at hunkering down for a while. 🙂
I did the car reservation last week – thanks for the tip though. I’ve heard a few of the car companies are really struggling.
My take is not to make the trip. Novethless, I know that you have made the decision with all the factors taken into consideration. I wish you all the best and good health for you and your family.
Thanks, WTK – it wasn’t the best idea, but we’re now here in Ohio waiting things out in quarantine. Traveling wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (Tuesday’s post), but we were extremely careful nonetheless. Hopefully, we’ll have gotten through unscathed… time will tell! 🙂
Happy belated 4th of July! Glad you arrived safely, Jim, & by now you should be somewhat used to quarantine since Panama was on a strict lock down for a few months. Hopefully the next 2 weeks will pass quickly for you & your test results will be negative. Stay safe & stay healthy! Did you give up your apartment in Boquete?
Thanks, Debbie – we still have our place in Boquete. We paid up through the end of our lease in September and our neighbor has been nice enough to offer to check on it routinely while we’re gone. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to get back there in the next couple of months!
Hi Jim, I’m a new reader to your blog. Actually discovered you through the podcast ‘Earn & Invest’. Listened to your recent story of traveling back from Panama, thank you for sharing. I follow several families that retired abroad and/or moved abroad. Even though it made more sense to stay in Panama I think its best you did what your wife wanted. Happy wife –> happy life. I’m sure she’s learning too through this experience of traveling back to the states. Practically everyone around the globe (yes more so in the U.S.) is in this sad state of affairs… being cooped up, kids crawling the walls, families being apart (whether they live in the same town or half a world away). It just plain sucks. All anyone can do is go with the flow and make the best of it. This too shall pass. I look forward to reading more of your blog. My best to you and your family.
Thanks for listening to the podcast, John, and welcome to the fun – glad to have you aboard! As you said, all anyone can do right now is roll with it and make the best of it. That’s our specialty so I’m not too worried (though it would be nice to know more for planning). We’re already making some rough “what if” plans just in case we can’t get back. I’ll share those in the near future in another post. Cheers!