Solving the Puzzle To Make It All Work… That’s Life, Folks!


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Solving the Puzzle To Make It All Work… That’s Life, Folks!

We’re currently attempting to put together the puzzle of integrating back into the U.S. and trying to make it all work is tough.

There are so many details with these pieces that don’t want to line up together the way we want them to – everything from scheduling to availability to cost.

We’ll make it all work in the end – I’m sure of it. It might not be perfect or exactly the way we want everything, but things always have a way of coming together if you put in the time and planning.

The struggle to fit these pieces together, however, is still a pain. It’s time-consuming, a little stressful, and can even sometimes make us wonder why we’re doing this anyway.

Guess what though – we’re not the first people trying to plan out something difficult. In fact, I would guess we’ve all been there at some point.

And that’s the reason I decided to write this post. I think a lot of people think that once you’re retired, life’s a cakewalk.

Here’s the good and the bad of it though. Early retirement absolutely does buy you a lot more time to get things done. You might be gaining an additional 40-50 hours or more depending on what your career consisted of previously.

And if you sit back and just continue to live out life without a lot of change, you probably won’t have too many of these life dances you need to work your way through.

But if you’re excited about change and want to live a little differently than you already do, that comes with a lot more planning… which means a lot more hassle as well.

In other words, life in retirement is similar to life before retirement. The more you live life, the more headaches that’ll go along with it.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s worth it 100%. To be able to do some amazing things like living in a foreign country for almost 3 years or taking road trips across the States for a month or so at a time is so amazing I can’t even sufficiently describe it.

You don’t just pick up and go, however (assuming you aren’t just winging everything). There’s a lot of preparation and work that needs to go into making it so wonderful. And moving back to the U.S. involves just as much design and planning.

Here’s our current dance that we’re trying to make work…

Finding an apartment in this market… ugh!

The initial plan we were working on a while back was to find a less expensive apartment for the next year while we continued to homeschool Faith for the 2022-2023 school year. That way we could save a little more money and possibly sprinkle in some more traveling as well.

Then in 2023, we’d move to our old neighborhood in Ohio where apartment prices have always tended to be a little bit higher but then we could get Faith into her old school district. That way she could get re-acquainted with her old friends while in the 8th grade. That would make the transition to a traditional school (and then high school) a little easier.

Yeah, well, that went down the drain somewhat. As luck would have it, we returned to the U.S. as the housing market has reached what might be the top. Throw in a housing shortage and that we’re planning to move in July along with every family with kids and we’ll now be lucky to find an apartment at all!

Such is life, my friends.

We’ve quickly learned that everything’s more expensive. And the “less expensive” apartments we had talked about are now at the prices that our old neighborhood apartments used to be priced at. That’s a little dilemma – so much for saving a little money this year!

But, we’ll move forward to make it all work and then cross next year’s bridge when we get to it.

We’ve spent hours and hours looking up places online and visiting different apartments. I’d prefer an apartment/condo over a rental house for the time being so we don’t have to worry about outdoor maintenance, buying the summer/winter supplies to do that work, etc.

Right now, we’ve been looking at apartments within a 45-minute radius of the Akron, Ohio area, more or less… and we’ve got some slim pickings! Most apartment buildings don’t have any availability at all and the ones that do aren’t what we’d consider ideal.

We think we found a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment that’ll be good for now though. It’s older but newly renovated, across the street from a park, and located in a good central area near Lisa’s parents as well as an Aldi and a Costco. I think the fitness equipment in the apartment building might be from when the building was built in the 1970s…

There’s a gym in a different building that we’d also have access to with some better equipment though…

Solving the Puzzle To Make It All Work… That’s Life, Folks!  - Second gym
I can make do with that machine on the left!

If that doesn’t cut it, there’s a Planet Fitness just a couple of miles away.

There are no washer/dryer hookups but there is a nice laundry facility with a ton of machines in the building that would run about $3/load total to wash and dry. It’s also a big building of 9 floors where we’d probably have people above and below us.

Overall, it’s not perfect, but it’ll fit the bill while we figure things out. Where do we sign?

Oh, wait, you only have one obscure date open?

Yeah, part two of trying to make it all work is that the apartments that do have something available are usually just one or two apartments that will be available soon. And that means that trying to find the right date is tough.

If you’ve been following along, we’re taking a big road trip throughout the month of June into the beginning of July. We need to be back though for an event that runs from July 8-10.

The game plan is (was?) to loop around and stop in Raleigh, North Carolina near the end of the trip. We’d stay there for about a week, pick up a U-Haul, and then load up a ton of furniture we’re buying to bring back with us.

That adds a couple more potential kinks into trying to make it all work…

  1. If our friend isn’t able to sell her house in NC by then, we won’t be stopping or picking up anything. She’s leaving it there to stage the house so needs it until it sells. I would bet that won’t be a problem and I hope she makes a killing on it, but you never know, right?
  2. We’re going to be bringing a U-Haul back with us in that first full week of July. If there’s not an opening for an apartment yet, what do we do with everything? Get another storage unit, unload everything, and then get another U-Haul once a unit eventually becomes available? Hoofa – that’s not fun or cost-effective!

And, of course, the apartment we found that we’re looking at should be available on July 15. Hmm, that presents a small issue if we show up with our U-Haul the first week in July, right?

The property manager is going to see if she can make it available sooner but I can’t even begin to fathom how that would work… “get out sooner so the new tenants can move in!”

In the mix of all of this, I’m hoping to hire a couple of hands for an hour or two to handle the moving of the heavy stuff into the U-Haul in NC. I can’t line this up though until we get all of this coordinated.

So that means we’ll likely have to change our plans around to make it all work. I’m now thinking that we’ll have to skip NC as part of the road trip. Then after our event on July 8-10, we’ll make another road trip solely to NC. Then we can get everything loaded up and bring it back on the day the apartment is available.

Hoo-boy, this is some fun stuff!

Other pain points over the next month or so…

Applying to rent without any W-2 income

I plan to write a post about this when all is said and done, but it’s a little different looking at apartments when you’re an early retiree.

Once we’ve toured a place, I then need to ask how they handle rental applications for retirees since we don’t have any W-2 income. I get confused looks and then need to give a little bit of an explanation and expound on us being early retirees. If I kept silent, it would essentially be like us saying we don’t have jobs while in our 40s… not something a property manager would be looking for in a tenant.

Luckily, the person who handles the rental applications at the place we’re hoping to get seemed to get it (others didn’t). Fingers crossed but we should be just fine using portfolio-based documentation instead.

Free stays in Las Vegas!

It’s not bad trying to make it all work when part of the “problem” is your free hotel stays in Vegas!

This is another one I’ll be writing about in the near future, but we were recently able to get 3 free hotel night stays in Vegas. Then we were able to get another 2 nights free through another way. See, this is a post worth writing about, right?!

Regardless, the 3-night stay had some restrictions on the dates so we reserved our time there closer to the end of June. That skews our loop around the country quite a bit.

That means we can take our time heading out west to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and all that other fun until we need to be in Las Vegas. But after we’re done in Vegas, we’re going to need to pick up the pace quite a bit as we’ll only have about a week to get to NC… if somehow the apartment will be ready and we can do our original moving plans.

Otherwise, it becomes a non-issue and we can skip NC on the way back and work our way slowly from Vegas to Ohio instead.

Can we make it all work?

Of course, we can make it all work.

Between trying to re-settle in Ohio, finding an apartment, and planning the road trip, we’re also getting the Honda Pilot and trailer ready to go. We already replaced the tires on the Pilot. Now it’s time to add a wiring harness to the Pilot (it has a hitch receiver but no wiring for the trailer). Based on this video on making it happen, I ordered these pieces/parts for the job:

Now, to make it all work!

Where’s the flux capacitor on this doohickey?

My step-dad will help with the car stuff since that’s his specialty (and his trailer!). We also need to replace the tires on the trailer and some other fun.

But it’s been pretty hectic trying to get all these pieces to fit together with only a month from the time we got back into Ohio until we leave again. And as you can see, we still have some more work to do to make it all work in the end.

It’s time-consuming, slightly stressful, and sometimes just a pain in the butt. Is it worth it though? Hell yes!

Our time in Panama alone made it worth whatever we need to do now. But we’re ecstatic about the road trip, too, and looking forward to getting settled in a place before doing some more traveling (we already have a cruise scheduled for October!).

Our lives have seemed like a dream over the past few years and continue to astound me every day. I’m more thankful than you could ever know. This sort of fun though takes a lot of planning and coordination to make happen. It’s all 100% worth it though.

That’s life, my friends, and you get out of it what you put into it!

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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16 thoughts on “Solving the Puzzle To Make It All Work… That’s Life, Folks!”

  1. I always enjoy your content. It’s always honest about the realities of early retirement.
    Do you think that you and Lisa will move back to Panama or another country once Faith is done with high school?

    1. Thanks, Jenny – appreciate the kind words! 🙂 In my mind, I already envision us back in Boquete (or maybe even somewhere like Ajijic, Mexico). However, so many long-term Boquete ex-pats have told us how much has changed just over the past decade – both in growth and price increases. I would imagine that’s going the be the case with any ex-pat haven where it suddenly becomes not so much of an inexpensive small town anymore. So I guess we’d have to see what things look like there once Faith is older and moved out and if Lisa would still be game for that… though I would love to! 🙂

  2. Good luck. You really should just pay someone to move everything and skip the hassle. There is no way you come out ahead when you factor in your time.

    1. He could try “2 marines moving” co. & write a post on that. No harm in pricing it vs. going back & forth to SC unless they want to make a trip on that.

    2. Very true on the time factor but fortunately, being retired, we have a little more of that. We’ll see what things look like as we get closer but right now I think just a couple of hands on the heavy stuff will work out well for us.

  3. Sheila Hanson

    Hi Jim- Have you looked into long term AirBNBs (the way A Purple Life does)? They are furnished and you could try different neighborhoods every 3 months or so. Just a thought.

    1. Great thought Sheila and we’ve definitely considered that (and I do enjoy Purple’s blog!). That was one of our thoughts until this furniture opportunity came up. Even though we could do what Purple’s doing for the next year, we’re still planning to get a place in Faith’s old school district for 2023 so we can put her back in that school system… and the Airbnbs in that area are slim to none. So, that’s what’s led us to follow this plan. 🙂

  4. Matthew Brady

    Great article Jim!

    BTW – if you are still looking I am moving to South America and my apartment/condo is available in Ohio City after July 1st. 2B/2B very walkable, safe and includes one parking space in garage. If you have an interest I can text the owner and send pics. $1,900 a month. Take care!

  5. Sounds a lot like my current life Jim! So many moving parts right now, and I don’t know where half of them are going to land! Such is life! 🙂

    I’ll figure it out… eventually!

  6. Thanks Jim. Enjoy the thoughts. If you had a full time gig you wouldn’t be able to do any of this.

    1. It’s one of those things you look at and think, “how did I ever get things done like this before?”. 🙂 I think we all have times with a lot on our plates but it’s definitely a little easier having some more free time to be able to stay on top of everything.

  7. Sounds pretty stressful, but I’m sure you can figure it out.
    Good luck with the apartment. It’s pretty tough out there right now with housing.

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