Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go?


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Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go?

Life is funny sometimes. We made plans for the future, retired early, sold everything we had, and then moved to Boquete, Panama in 2019.

What are the chances a once-in-century pandemic hits shortly thereafter and throws everything out of whack? The odds can’t be very high I would guess.

I’ll tell you what – it’s been one helluva ride so far.

The first six months were pretty awesome. We got settled in, had the opportunity to be on House Hunters International, found a place to live, and had fun learning the ins and outs of this beautiful country.

We barely took any time to rest during that first half a year. Sure, Faith was doing some homeschooling, but outside of that – busy as all get-out!


Some of the fun we had during those first months included:

  • Exploring the town and learning the nuances of how things work here
  • Going on a whale-watching excursion – simply amazing!
  • Taking in the spectacular mountain views from some of the hikes we went on
  • Enjoying some delicious meals at just a few of the 75-85 restaurants in this small community
  • Figuring out the bus to the city of David about an hour away… only $1.75!
  • Visiting a couple of animal sanctuaries (the girls even got to hold a sloth!)
  • Making horseback riding lessons a weekly part of Faith’s routine
  • Going on geological hikes to learn more about the volcano and its history (and future!)
  • Taking Faith trick-or-treating thanks to a friend who got a group of neighbors on-board to make it happen (they don’t really celebrate Halloween here)
  • Taking advantage of the pool, hot tub, gym, and racquetball court offered in our gated community
  • “Getting away” for a couple of days at a beach resort
  • Taking a 9-hour bus ride from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama
  • Taking in the Christmas parade that seemed to be endless (we left after 2 hours and it was still going strong!)
  • Partying it up at Big Daddy’s Grill for Halloween and New Year’s Eve
  • Just walking around, taking in the wondrous landscapes, and appreciating the beautiful weather
  • Making some wonderful new friends – both adults and kids Faith’s age

And don’t forget, during those six months, we left for a little over a month to comply with tourism rules since we don’t have residency here. So that’s a heckuva lot of fun accomplished in such a little time.

Things were going well and we were getting a nice groove going. Who needs plans for the future when things are going so well? What could stop us now?!

Oh, yeah – that shitty pandemic, that’s what.

Even though we’re extremely blessed to be in the position we are, the pandemic really took its toll on us. Things got locked down hard here in Panama – some of the toughest restrictions in the world. Aside from some extremely short gender-separated windows of time to go to the store, bank, or pharmacy, we were all mandated to stay at home… inside.

We just made do much like anyone did and tried to appreciate how fortunate we are. But eventually, we made the decision to head back to the U.S., which ended up happening on July 1, 2020. The borders were closed and we took a humanitarian flight back knowing full well that we might not be able to get back to Panama once we left.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Flight out of Panama
Nothing like taking a flight out at 3 am and arriving in Florida shortly after the sun rises!

Still, it was good to be able to see family and friends again and the restrictions were still relatively loose there. But we were still being careful and that essentially meant we weren’t much better off than we were while in Panama.

So, we decided to buy a car and take a road trip across the country. Leg 1 took us from Ohio to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. We then stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s house for a few weeks in Texas before moving on. Leg 2 had us in El Paso, Tucson, and Las Vegas. Then, during the last part of the trip, we ended up sleeping in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in the cold before visiting the Grand Canyon. Finally, we made our way back to Ohio with stops in Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Grand Canyon Visit
Our first-ever visit to the Grand Canyon…

It took exactly 40 days from the time we left Ohio until we got back. Although a lot was closed because of the pandemic, it gave us something fun to do to take our minds off things and bide some time during these weird times.

As we got closer and closer to accepting the idea that we would never get back to Panama, we started to realize we better make some plans for the future. Then Panama suddenly announced a slow re-opening of the borders starting on October 12. It was a pain-in-the-ass process, but we managed to make it happen and arrived back in Boquete on October 14.

So here we are a couple of months later and things should be good again, right?

But they’re not. Again, like much of the world, nothing is normal. There are still a lot of things I wish we could be doing right now. And honestly, even though we’re still doing the best we can, we’re back to spending a lot of time staring at the walls here.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Watching the Cleveland Browns game at Tap Out sports bar.
Don’t worry, we still find time to sneak out and have some fun and maybe even catch an occasional Browns game outside at the Tap Out sports bar!

Frankly, I don’t anticipate much changing until the vaccine becomes widespread enough for herd immunity to take place, which probably won’t be for another year. Looking back, that won’t seem like a long time in the span of things, but right now, a year is a long way away.

Although some things will loosen up over time, we sure picked a bad couple of years to make our move to Panama!

It is what it is though and we’ll continue to try to enjoy it for what it is. But now it’s time to start making plans for the future.

Why do we want to create new plans for the future?

We purposely designed our strategy to take everything one year at a time. We knew moving to a new country would be different and we weren’t sure if we’d like it or not.

The good news is that we do like it. Personally, Faith and I love it, and would be good to stay here for the foreseeable future. Lisa, on the other hand, has really enjoyed it as well but would prefer to be back in the U.S. at some point.

Regardless, I’d say having the flexibility to figure out what we want to do is nice. Making plans for the future is obviously much easier when neither one of us has a regular job we need to report to. Fortunately, we’re in a position where we can more or less decide our next steps without too much stopping us.

However, there are two big fat wrenches in the works that are weighing in on what our plans for the future will be:

  1. We need to ensure we’re always making Faith the priority.
  2. Being away from family and friends is tough.

Both of these points were at the top of our minds going down this path. However, we need to re-evaluate them periodically just to question if we’re still on the right track.

The Faith Factor

As far as Faith goes (who’s now 10 years old, by the way), moving to Panama has been an amazing opportunity for her that most kids might never get the chance to experience. Hell, this is the first time Lisa and I get to experience it as well.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Faith Volunteering at Amigos de Animales
Where else could a 10-year old (9 during this picture) be allowed to do volunteer work at an animal clinic as she got to do several times at Amigos de Animales?

Being able to experience another culture and to also realize that other areas in the world can actually be wonderful places to live has paid for itself a million times over. Faith knows there’s no reason to fear or have disdain for other people just because they were born in or live in a different country – something still way too common in US society. Different is good and I’m glad this has been a part of her life.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Faith painted her face in celebration of the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos)
Faith did some research on the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) on her own and then painted her face in celebration last month on November 2.

Despite that, Faith is almost halfway through her second year of homeschooling. COVID-19 has helped many parents to understand that homeschooling is not an easy endeavor. We absolutely had a rough time with it at first as well but it’s gotten better over time. It’s not perfect, but there’s a sort of swing to things now, which makes it flow a little easier.

But is homeschooling the right option for Faith for the long haul? I don’t have the answer to this. I think it’s different for every kid and every scenario. I also think that Faith is learning just as much as she would get from a regular school, if not more, while we’re doing this.

I also don’t think it’s affected her social abilities. She’s always been an outgoing person (sometimes too much!) and she’s made a few friends here in Boquete.

There are two problems though…

  1. There aren’t a lot of expat kids here in Boquete. That means she’s not able to just go outside and play with neighbor kids in the late afternoons, evenings, and weekends. There aren’t any kids nearby that I know of. So when she wants to get together with her friends, we need to arrange it with the other parents and figure out how to get them together. That means scheduling and driving to meet somewhere. Although that’s OK, it’s not very convenient and ends up not being something that happens as often as we’d like for her.
  2. The extracurricular activities here in Boquete for kids here are slim. We get to do enough activities together that I don’t feel she’s missing out on having fun in general. However, she loved gymnastics in the U.S. and that’s not available here. And now that horseback riding lessons closed up due in part to the pandemic, she’s got nothing. They do offer martial arts classes but Faith didn’t seem blown away by that option when I mentioned it to her.

In other words, we need to be sure that when we’re making plans for the future, we consider things like this.

The family and friends conundrum

This one is a mixed bag. Of course, you’re going to miss family and friends if you move somewhere else – it’s the nature of the beast and we knew this going in.

Right now, even if we were back in the States, we still wouldn’t be spending a ton of time with friends just because of the pandemic. And the fact that we’re not able to do as much here because of the pandemic is why we’re sitting here missing our friends even more than we would be. A funny little catch 22, right?

But either way, this one is something we need to at least keep in the back of our minds when creating our plans for the future. Sure, we’ve met some wonderful people here, but you can’t help but share a special bond with the friends you’ve known for decades. And we all know you can’t replace family.

New plans for the future?

I wish we had some cool device that would allow you to see the outcomes of different decisions you make in life. Unfortunately, I checked on Amazon and couldn’t find one. So now we’re stuck just trying to make the best decisions we can for ourselves.

There’s one thing we know so far – we’re staying here in Boquete until at least August of next year. We’re happy where we’re at and, although we didn’t sign a lease renewal, that’s the expectation we gave our landlord so we’ll stick to that.

Technically, this second year here at this condo would take us into September of 2021, but we’re still going with August as our date. The reason for this would be that if we decide to put Faith back in school, we’d need a little time to get her enrolled and prepared to go.

Again, we don’t know for sure if we’re heading back and we also don’t know if we’d put her back in a regular school if we do go back. But either way, if we’re serious about making plans for the future, we want to give ourselves as much breathing room on choices as we can.

Some of those options on the table include:

  • Staying another year in Panama and continuing to do what we’re doing now.
  • Going back to the “normal” way of living. Move back to Ohio to be closer to friends and family, put Faith back in school, and let her go back to gymnastics.
  • Same as the above option except continuing to homeschool Faith.
  • Move somewhere else in the U.S. where it’s not as cold throughout the year (i.e. Tennessee or maybe South Carolina?).

The pros and cons of any plans for the future

I think there are a handful of factors that come into play with whatever we decide:

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go?

Weather

This one’s an interesting one. Boquete, Panama is up in the mountains and has some pretty great weather. With little variance, it’s about 75 degrees every day. You don’t need heat and you don’t need A/C. You also can’t beat that for hiking and walking-around weather. There is a rainy season and sometimes that sucks but I’ll take that any day over snow.

Ohio can have years with wonderful summers and falls. But the rest of the year kind of sucks. I’m a freeze baby and hate the cold, snowy winters. And for some reason, spring tends to be a facade as well. It’s usually cold and rainy with a few nice days sprinkled in periodically until the end of the season.

South Carolina gives me that vision of beautiful warm days of going to the beach. But with the humidity there, it can make for some hot summers where you’re stuck living in A/C. Mild winters sound great, but what about hurricane season… I wouldn’t look forward to that at all!

Places like Tennessee don’t help you escape the cold completely but at least the winters there are usually much more tolerable. You can still get some crazy heat in the summer though and they do get a good number of tornadoes there.

So Boquete, Panama wins on the weather aspect hands down. The other places have their good and bad points but only in Boquete would we be able to comfortably enjoy walking around and enjoying the outdoors year-round.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Boulder 54 Receipt
This was dinner out at a fancy restaurant called Boulder 54 last week. $65 for the three of us including a few beers and dessert… not too shabby! And that was before using the $25 gift certificate Faith had won at a New Year’s Eve party elsewhere.

Cost of living

One of the other reasons we moved to Panama in the first place was the cost of living. Although it’s not dirt cheap here in Boquete, it’s still less expensive than it would be in the U.S. – and we’re able to live it up more for less.

I talked quite a bit about how our money situation would be affected if we left Panama in my post, The Financial Impact of Moving Back to the U.S. In a nutshell, costs do go up if we move back.

We purposely planned our financial independence numbers on living in the U.S. just in case it didn’t work out in Panama. That said, we’re not going to be able to live it up so freely if we move back to the U.S.

On a brighter note, it would be easier to do some side hustling in the U.S. than it is to do that here in Panama. Without residency, there are limits as to what you can do for income here. For example, it’s fine for me to earn a little money from this blog. However, if I wanted to sell any goods or services directly to people here in Panama, that wouldn’t be allowed.

I also think Lisa would be happier going back to doing some part-time work but that’s just my opinion. She hasn’t told me that but I think she enjoyed working part-time and the time spent with coworkers.

To have some more breathing room and enjoy “some of the finer things in life” if we’re back in the U.S., a little more income would probably be worthwhile.

Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? - Faith horseback riding
Horseback riding at the Boquete Equestrian Center

Activities for Faith

This one’s a gimme for the United States. Regardless of the choices of places we’d be looking at in the U.S., there would be a lot more for Faith to do than there is here in Boquete.

If we chose to live in Ohio near where we lived before, she’d also be able to hang around with old friends who she still keeps in touch with while here.

If we chose to move to a place like Tennessee or South Carolina, we’d be sure to move to an area where she’d be around other kids as well. She’s an outgoing, nice kid and I think she’d be able to make friends pretty easily.

If we stay here in Panama, she wouldn’t have a lot to choose from on the activities side of things. Maybe we’d find something for her to do though – and who knows, maybe she would want to try martial arts.

On the plus side, she’s made a few great friends here, and I can only assume those relationships would grow tighter over this next year.

Ohio wins this one, followed by other states like TN and SC. However, I don’t think this is a deal-breaker staying here in Panama if we put forth more effort into getting her together more with the kids she knows.

Distance to family and friends

Not much I can say on this. It’s pretty straightforward that going back to Ohio would easily be the winner on this. Being back in the Cleveland/Akron area would plop us right back in the vicinity of friends and family. Even moving a little further south like Columbus (about 2 hours south) would still be pretty reasonable.

As far as other states go though, I don’t see it as being too much different than living in Panama. Sure the distance is greater being in Panama, but once you’re out of the vicinity in general, it’s still a lot of planning to visit people in other states.

Tennessee would be less dramatic than South Carolina to visit Ohio but it would still not be convenient by any means.

Faith learning programming with her Ozobot

Homeschool or regular school

We still go back and forth on this subject. They both have their pros and cons. We have so much more flexibility in what Faith learns which is wonderful (personal finance, anyone?). We also have flexibility on when we do the homeschooling and can even do it while traveling. Being able to have one-on-one interaction with your student is huge as well.

On the flip-side, it ain’t easy homeschooling a kid as a lot of you know. It’s hard to get that same respect that a teacher can get from his/her students. And a teacher is trained to hopefully be a little more versed in what they’re teaching. Lisa works with Faith for the majority of her schooling but Faith also does a good job moving forward on her own once she has some direction and knows what she’s supposed to be pursuing and learning.

A regular school also provides that opportunity to make new friends and create some lasting memories. She’s definitely making some great memories here in Panama, but they’re almost all with mom and dad. That’s not horrible but is she missing out because of this?

Currently, we’re residents of Texas living as tourists in Panama. Lucky for us, the homeschooling laws in Texas are extremely loose. It’s very easy to just do our thing when we don’t have to worry about what the state thinks.

If we move to Ohio, there are more rules we need to follow. The same goes for Tennessee and South Carolina. They’re not highly regulated but they’re also not a low-regulated state like Texas.

But moving back to the U.S. does give us the option of doing either. We could homeschool Faith while being in any of those states or we can send her to a regular school. Here in Panama, we can homeschool or send her to an international school. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the international schools here (some great and some not so great) but at present, we’d most likely opt to continue homeschooling while here.

Ok, this doesn’t really fit into the discussion, but still worth including in this post… it’s not every day you go to get rid of a gecko in the house and its tail falls off!

To try to wrap this up, I want to emphasize that we truly do love it here in Boquete and plan to be here until at least next fall. However, we just aren’t sure if it meets all of our needs to stay here for the long term.

Would going back to the U.S. completely satisfy all our needs? Absolutely not – that has its own problems (higher cost of living, winter weather, crazy political climate, etc.). Our job is to determine which route will meet most of the important factors we value as a family. After that, we can always adjust or move on as needed.

It should be an interesting decision. Although it’s still eight months away, it’s always important to make plans for the future so you don’t get stuck in a rut. And you know I’ll keep you posted with our thoughts along the way!

If you’re interested in moving to Panama, the Complete Panama Relocation Guide may be the investment you need to make the process as seamless as possible.

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

35 thoughts on “Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go?”

  1. Thanks for continuing to share your journey in such a transparent manner. Regarding homeschooling and activities for Faith, have you connected with other homeschooling families in the Volcan area?

    1. Hi Barak – we have not connected with other families doing homeschooling in Volcan. Without a car, we’d still struggle to get together with them on a regular basis. Faith’s good friend here is the daughter of a homeschooling group teacher though. She’s met a few other kids through them when we get together with them sometimes.

      That said, it’s not so much that there aren’t other kids, but rather that there aren’t other kids right in our area. Although Faith would actually generally prefer just hanging out with adults, we want her to get some time in with other kids as well.

  2. Jim, that’s great that you guys are committed until August next year! And it’s also wonderful that Faith loves to be there. She is never going to forget her experience and she’s gonna appreciate it for the rest of her life. I’m saying this is someone who lived overseas until he was 14 years old as a son of foreign service officers.

    You’ve given me something to think about actually. My wife and I have been talking about homeschooling our kids forever as well. But instead of forever, I think we will try until the sixth grade or right before middle school. Giving grades don’t matter until about the eighth grade when you may have to test into a high school, what do you think about that plan?

    Also, people tell me that you can homeschool in three hours what it takes seven or eight hours at normal school. Is that right? If so, I would think my wife and I could split the courses evenly, and it wouldn’t be that bad. What do you think about that?

    Thanks,

    Sam

    1. Hi Sam – no doubt that all of us will appreciate our time here regardless of whether we stay or go. I didn’t realize that you were overseas for that long as a child – that’s really cool!

      I agree that middle school is where things can get a little iffy depending on your commitment to homeschooling. The earlier years are probably easier to cover anyway and, like you said, grades aren’t as critical.

      As far as the duration, it varies from day to day, but for us, it probably comes out to be about 3-4 hours per day of actual schooling. Based on what we have and also from what I hear from other homeschooling parents, the tougher part is the complaining about doing it. That adds in some extra time throughout the day and drags things out longer than they would need to be otherwise.

      Splitting up the course-load sounds like a good plan if both of you guys click with the kids while teaching and helping. Lisa and Faith spent a lot of time at the beginning bumping heads but they do pretty well now. She takes Faith through all her courses on a regular basis and then I teach her personal finance lessons every Friday.

      I think it’s worth a try to see how it goes. There’s no reason it has to be permanent. Try it for a year and if it’s just not working the way you expected, you can always send the kids back to school. Good luck!

      1. Sounds good Jim!

        When you say complaining… complaining by the kid or by the parents? Honest question!

        I can see how it’s hard to be both the parent and the teacher. It’s NICE to have another authority figure a kid must listen to.

        So, we are going to try both! Let’s see what happens and what our kids enjoy the most. Our son is tough now b/c he is 3.7 years old and tantrumy etc. HOpe things get easier over time!

        I think my wife and I can divide and conquer 4 hours a day of schooling. Let’s see!

        I guess i’m not stressing so much about grades etc b/c we don’t retain much. Better to learn stuff we enjoy and more practical things.

        Sam

        1. Haha, that’s fair – probably a little bit of both but it’s usually Faith that starts it. I can’t speak for other kids but as I mentioned, I have heard this from other parents as well. Maybe it’s that kids think they can get away with more or don’t have that same respect that they would for a regular teacher. It’s not horrible, but we get the whiny, “Can I be done?” or “Do I have to do this?” pretty regularly. I can’t imagine that happening much with kids in a regular school. You get through it but you just have to think, “Man, if you just did the work instead of complaining, you would be done hours ago!” 🙂

          You’re at that tough age for your son right now but it should get easier… hopefully! I think you guys will do just fine with homeschooling and there are so many pros to it that I think it’s worth it if you can do it. Just know that it’s a big learning curve so expect some pain for a while while you work things out. It takes time to really get a routine that works well for everyone involved.

  3. There’s lots of after-school logistics in the US too – I see so much secondary youth shuttling and commuting to keep kids occupied in organized activities with complex parental arrangements and driving and cost and more structure – argh! Glad I did not have any of that. Unstructured play/leisure also has a role in kids’ and adults’ lives, as well as Faith’s volunteering. I don’t think 2021 will be much different from 2020 in terms of the virus’ effect. I hope I’m wrong. Did Panama’s severe springtime constraints provide their desired results?

    1. Great question about the constraints providing the desired results here, Mary! I’d say that Panama’s in much better shape than a lot of places because of the measures that were put in place. It’s not perfect and we’re still seeing around 1,800 cases a day in the whole country, but I read that’s because testing has gone up 500% recently. The number of deaths has also decreased dramatically.

      They’re now implementing measures based on regions instead of just blanketing the whole country. For example, the region of Panamá Oeste has had a lot more cases lately so they now have a 9pm-5am curfew and a ban on alcohol sales and consumption during curfew hours. It’s become a balancing act but I’ve actually been pretty impressed with how this has been handled.

  4. Hello Jim,
    You’re always on top of things , great you’re already thinking about the next move 👍. Love that you’re teaching Faith personal finance 🤗 wish schools did that!
    Just wondering if you considered Texas, since you have family there and weather’s warmer? Also, don’t think they have state income taxes🤔 So many great choices, otherwise wouldn’t have without FI👍
    Happy Holidays

    1. Thanks, Kathy – we try! Only time will tell if we did alright or not! 🙂

      We haven’t talked much about Texas, which is funny considering we already made that our state of residency. After being there this past August for a few weeks during our road trip, I can say that I was not a big fan of the 108°F temps we were seeing. Having to hop from A/C to A/C seems silly but I guess if I want the perfect temps in the U.S., I better be prepared to pay the price of places like San Diego… PS, I’m not willing to pay the price! 😉

      Happy holidays to you as well!

  5. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m a couple years ahead of you age wise and a couple years behind you expat experience wise. I think it’s really cool that you are willing to always keep options open and be flexible. This is really important with a family, each member of whom has their own individual needs. What I can say is that in a few quick years (and they do pass quickly!), once your daughter gets into college or post-high school life, your own life is going to become extremely flexible and things that may be a bit challenging now are going to become super easy, relatively speaking, then. Figuratively and literally, the world really opens up then–more good news, you’ll still be young enough to take advantage of it! Until then, hang in there, wherever “there” is! : )

    1. It’s funny that you mention how flexible things will be once Faith grows up – I was just thinking about that this morning. I would bet it’s pretty bittersweet. It’ll be hard letting go but nice to have time to do other things. I’m dreading it and looking forward to it at the same time! 🙂

      1. It is bittersweet for sure. It’s sweet not just because you get to have time for yourself, but also nice/gratifying to see them spread their wings–we often forget about the latter. However, the price for both of those pluses is the one negative of not having them around on a daily basis.

  6. Hey Jim! Good analysis of your options!

    Don’t be afraid of the hot, humid summers in SC and TN. You like to travel and the summer is a good time to fly somewhere cooler, especially if Faith is in school full time Sept-June. Or just head up into the mountains and you’ll leave behind a lot of that heat and humidity! (early retired North Carolina resident here; we get the heck outta town every summer and usually go somewhere cooler on purpose).

    1. I never thought of that, Justin. I know you guys like to travel a lot – I just didn’t realize that you did a lot of it during the summers. That makes a lot of sense though. I’ll have to throw that option out to Lisa as we start figuring things out more. Thanks for the idea!

  7. It sounds to me like a nomadic lifestyle with a home base in Ohio may be your best option.

    Go with something modest there, and you can visit different places with better weather for weeks or months a time as you wish. The homeschooling would have to continue for that to happen, but 10 is a good age for it, I think. It may become more challenging as high school years approach.

    Enjoy the next 8 months or so in Panama while you plot whatever comes next!

    Best,
    -PoF

    1. Lisa actually mentioned taking over one side of the duplex we still own in Ohio. The other side covers the mortgage payment easily. That would mean essentially no housing cost and then we could spend a few months out of the year in Panama or wherever without having to think about two housing payments. I don’t think we’ll do that specifically, but if we do move back, we’ll probably stick with a modest place somewhere to keep costs down to allow more room for travel. Regardless of what we decide to do, I’m going to soak up every second of Panama while we can! 🙂

  8. Keep the wife happy and everything should be fine … the great thing about being FI is that you have the flexibility to choose your location (s) and whether you work or not … we have been in Asia for 22 years-ish , and am planning to go back to Canada for my daughter to finish her education … then maybe back to Asia some place like Hong Kong or maybe Europe …… etc……. back in the States you could get your ICT teacher certification and teach around the world in international schools like me etc … so many choices 🙂

    1. You’re so right about having the flexibility with FI. We can just test the waters somewhere and if we don’t like it, just move on. Obviously, a little more complicated than that but much easier than if we were both still working.

      Your plans sound pretty awesome. That’s probably going to be so interesting going back to Canada after living so long in Asia. I look forward to hearing about your thoughts after being back for a while. 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing. I think another year in Panama is a good option for now.
    Maybe Lisa can figure out if she wants to go back to work part-time by then.
    Faith is such a great kid. She’s doing so well. It’s more difficult with our son. He doesn’t like school at all, at home or at school. I still plan to let him finish elementary school, then take a year off to travel in 2022. The best you can do is plan and try to be adaptable. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future?
    Best wishes.

    1. Haha, don’t let Faith fool you – she’s a good kid but she’s doesn’t like school either. 🙂

      I think you really nailed it Joe with “the best you can do is plan and try to be adaptable.” Life’s always going to be a roller coaster so you just have to do the best you can to guide the ship in the direction you want and re-adjust as needed.

      I’m excited to hear about your traveling in 2022. That will be a great experience for all of you and I’m sure a ton of fun! Do you already have somewhat of an idea of the places you want to go?

      1. We’ll make a home base in Thailand and travel around that area. That’s the best option right now because I need to spend time with my parent.
        I’d love to visit Eastern Europe and South America someday.

  10. It’s an interesting dilemma Jim, and one of the reasons why I like reading your blog.

    Life is hardly ever easy, nor is it predictable. Who would have guessed that a pandemic would come along in 2020? My point is, long-term planning very rarely works out. The world is just too unpredictable.

    Businesses love to make 5 year plans and ask “where do you see yourself in five years?”, but rarely do those plans ever fully come to fruition. Winging it, putting out “fires”, and “hoping for the best” seem to be reality these days.

    By that measure, you guys are doing just fine.

    1. It’s definitely been one helluva year for everyone and you couldn’t get more unpredictable than the pandemic!

      Good point on the 5-year plans of businesses. The best you can do is keep adjusting along the way.

      It’s been a fun adventure for sure, but here’s to hoping 2021 stays on track a little better. 🙂

  11. What an amazing dilemma to be in. I’m super appreciative of you sharing this…because we plan to live abroad when we FIRE. I have 2 daughters and I’m concerned about the same things you talk about on your blog.

    Any choice you make will be the right one. Having already made the move to Panama, you can say you took the chance. You won’t have any regrets when you’re an old man looking back. I’m looking forward to reading along your journey.

    1. Absolutely, Noel – no matter what happens, we won’t be looking back decades from now and wondering “what if…”

      I wish you the best on your path. Living abroad has been an amazing experience for all of us. One suggestion that I’m glad we did – plan your numbers for living in the U.S. If you decide to head back for whatever reason, you won’t be forced to go back to work again (if you don’t want to). And if you don’t move back to the U.S., you just have more money for more fun while abroad!

  12. Jim,

    It’s great to hear about you and your family’s experience in Panama. I’m still working very part time until June, so my family and I bought a 5th wheel RV and have been traveling around the US before heading internationally. It’s been great fun, but Covid has made it a bit more difficult as it has everything this year. It’s interesting to hear how Panama has been handling the pandemic.

    My family (me, my wife and our three kids, 12, 13 and 15) plan to head international this summer. We’ve been looking at Albania, Taiwan, Panama and Mexico at this point. We’ll probably firm up the decision in late February to March. We’ve been homeschooling all the kids for the past 10 years, so that part of the Covid/travel challenge has continued to go smoothly. If we do end up going to Panama, Boquete has been my choice for several years. We’ve been holding off on braces for two of our kids, waiting to get them cheaper when we start our international travels and I know a worldschooling family that lived in Boquete and their kids braces done there. I’ll definitely let you know if we end up as neighbors.

    Have you guys thought of living anywhere else in the world? I saw Albania was one of the few places that was open to US travel after the covid epidemic began so I started looking at that as a possible destination. After researching it, it seems more and more attractive, with mountains, the Mediterranean Sea, Greek food, Italian food, Turkish food and a really low cost of living. I’ve also started the process to get a Taiwanese visa to give us a Covid free option in Asia as well. It’s a little more expensive than the other options, but there are no restrictions there and it’s a beautiful island. The only downside there is a potential Chinese invasion!

    I’ll keep up with you guys and see where you end up. Great to follow another FI/RE family that’s off living internationally.

    1. Sounds like a fun adventure planned! I’m told that you see so many kids in braces here in Panama just because they are so inexpensive.

      It would be fun to go elsewhere in the world and maybe we will at some point. However, if we decide to leave Panama, the main push would be Faith so we could get her closer to her old friends and family. So maybe at some point in the future… time will tell!

      Best of luck on your journey and maybe we’ll see you in Boquete sometime!

  13. I’m envious…still at the work place with bright lights, computer screens, mostly nice folks (the nasties stand out though), lotta interruptions. I long for NATURE…TN, NC. Alas, I have a sophomore in high school so one he goes off to college, my options open up. Thanks for your thoughts it’s much appreciated. FI saves lives.

    1. I can relate to your longing to get out. I spent a lot of years in that same position just staring out the window and I know that sometimes it does kind of stink. But all you can do is live in the moment and enjoy today while you’re working your way closer to FIRE.

      Sounds like you’re not too far off though! The good news is that when you get there, you’re gonna love that freedom!

  14. If there are grandparents or other senior relatives that Faith would have daily or weekly time with if you returned to the states, I’d strongly consider that for the next few years. Once she’s high school age, she’ll have a million activities. But grandparent-grandkid time while they’re still active and she’s young enough to be available is golden. Just my perspective from what I see of friends’ experience. Good luck.

    1. Valid point for sure – Faith does have two sets of grandparents in Ohio and that’s one of the bigger reasons why we’d consider going back there. Definitely a lot of things to consider overall, but that one does play a heavy part in our consideration of why we’d go back.

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