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The Minutiae of Moving to Another CountryMinutiae.  It’s such a funny word.

It makes me chuckle just saying it, so I thought it would be perfect for what I want to talk about today.

We’re learning pretty quickly that when you want to move to another country, you can’t just pick up and leave.  There’s a lot of minutiae that will need to be ironed out in the planning.

See, wasn’t that was fun to read that word again?  Minutiae.

Anyway, I thought I’d take some time today to talk about some of the minutiae we’re starting to think more about lately.

Fine, I’ll stop saying the word… for now.  But I do have a funny feeling it’ll find it’s way into this post at some point down the line!

For any new readers, we reached financial independence and I left my job at the end of 2018.  And in the summer of 2019, we’re moving to Panama.  This will give us a lot more bang for our buck and it’s a beautiful country with wonderful weather.

Here are some of the details that are starting to surface and come into place as we get closer to our move…

 

Two suitcases?!  Are you insane?!!

You heard that right – we’re taking two suitcases each on our move.  The rest of our possessions are either being sold or put into a small storage unit for a while.

This might be a little scary to some, but to me, it’s a challenge and I love it!

You can’t pack the same as you might for a vacation for two reasons:

  1. There will be some things that would take up more space and just make sense to buy when we get there.
  2. There will be some things that you need to take that you wouldn’t need on a regular vacation… you’re moving after all!

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Two suitcases?!  Are you insane?!!

Every square inch of those suitcases is going to be valuable.  The good news is that we don’t have to bring winter clothes… woo-hoo!  We’ll still pack some sweatshirts though because it does get chilly at night in the mountains where we’re moving.

But it’s not the clothes weighing on my mind.  My thinking is that we’ll each bring one suitcase with clothes and one filled with other stuff we think we’ll need.  It’s still early in the game, but my second suitcase (along with my carry-on) should be pretty interesting:

  • Nintendo Wii – that’s right… we still rock an old-school Wii – don’t judge!  This might be strange, but I want to have something in place that can ease the transition for our daughter and still remind her of home.  That and, who can resist a game of Mario Kart!  Plus I hacked it so all our games run off a small hard drive.
  • Hard drives for HTPC – we’ve been rocking a home theater PC for almost a decade now.  All our media (photos, videos, music) is stored on a computer connected to our TV.  We also run the antenna through it and can do live TV with a guide and it acts as a DVR.  It’s bad-@#$ and has saved us a fortune over the years.  Considering the computer is over 9 years old though, it’s time for a new one.  The drives are newer SSDs so we’ll take those with us and buy a new computer once there for me to set up with them.
  • Chromebook – Ok, this won’t be in the suitcase (carry-on), but I’ve gotta have something to keep Route to Retire rockin’, right?!
  • WiFi router – This should be pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll see if this even happens.  If I don’t have room, it’s out and we’ll just buy one down there.
  • Norelco Razor – I’ve been an electric razor guy most of my life, so this will be coming along for the ride.
  • Hair cutting kit – I started cutting my own hair a handful of years ago and I don’t intend to stop now.  This is another one of those “if I have room” things.  Otherwise, I’ll just buy a new kit in Panama.
  • Beard trimmer kit – Same as above.  I’ll probably try to just take the pieces from both of these kits that I use and mash ’em together.
  • Podcast microphone – If you’re sick of hearing me on podcasts, let me know in the comments and I’ll leave my ATR-1100 here in the States!
  • Collapsible baton – We can talk about firearms in a different post, but I won’t be bringing mine.  So, I’d like to have at least some kind of protection to have at our place, as scant as it may be.
  • Kindle Paperwhite – You don’t have a Kindle Paperwhite?!!!  Best money spent ever.
    • Stores tons of books on it
    • Read it in the night (backlight) or in the bright sun (no glare)
    • Click on words for definitions (huge fan of this feature!)
    • A battery that lasts weeks
    • As light as a paperback
    • Can also borrow books for free online from most libraries and push right to it
    • Love it!!!
  • Umbrella – It rains in Panama… almost every day.  We’ll need one to get us started.
  • Playing cards – Small to pack, but hours of entertainment until we get settled.
  • Google Chromecast / Amazon Fire Stick – These will help us with our TV needs because I’m guessing most, if not all the TV stations, will be in Spanish.
  • Google Home Mini – We got a few of these free during the holidays.  They’re addictive, so one of these will likely make the trip.
  • Harmonica – If you read my post on some of the things I plan to fail miserably at, you’ll remember that learning the harmonica was on the list.  I apologize to all future neighbors in advance.

So, who knows?  This is just an initial list I jotted down.  Don’t forget that almost all places are fully furnished there, so that gives us some good breathing room.

Mrs. R2R isn’t as OCD as I am and hasn’t really started putting a list together yet.  Time will tell what she comes up with.

More importantly, I’m excited to see what our daughter packs in her second suitcase.  I picture us getting to Panama and unzipping her suitcase to see an explosion of stuffed animals all over the place.

 

Um, we probably need a place to stay

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Um, we probably need a place to staySo, yeah… when we get to Panama, it would probably make sense to have a place to stay.

Our plan is to move to Boquete or Alto Boquete, but we’re not going to sign a year lease for a place sight unseen.  So, we’ll start with an Airbnb or VRBO for a few weeks in the area until we find what we need.

So this isn’t that big of a deal – we just need to get a place booked for those first few weeks.  From there, we can start our hunt for a place to rent for our first year there.

The good news is that Jackie from Panama Relocation Tours recently filled me in on the rental prices in Boquete.  She said they’re averaging around $700-$750 for a two-bedroom house.  That’s really nice, to begin with, but a huge benefit is that almost all rentals in Panama are fully furnished.  On top of that, rent generally includes utilities and, in many places, a weekly gardener as well.  Score!

 

Vroom, vroom!

To buy a car, or not to buy a car, that is the question.  It sounds like a simple question, but it might not be.

First off, with both of us not working 9-5’s, we definitely know we’re not going to need two cars.  So, the easy assumption would be that we should just get one car while we’re there.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Vroom, vroom!

But, I think we need to really need to ponder this a little more.

A lot of the decision really depends specifically on where we live.  After all, the city of Boquete isn’t very large.  In fact, the population is only about 25,000 as of a few years ago if that gives you an idea of how “town-like” it is.

The actual city is 188.6 square miles, but the downtown area of the city is not very big at all.  And if we’re near that area, it’s where we’d be doing most of our grocery shopping along with a lot of other things.

With 75°F weather every day, I’d be good with biking or walking most of the time.  We could get a bike trailer to do our grocery shopping as needed.

The problem we’d have though is getting to the beaches and the bigger city of David (about 45 minutes down the mountain) or other places we’d want to go.  They do have Uber in Panama, but it hasn’t made its way over to Boquete yet.  There are taxis, but that loses some of the simplicity you get with Uber.

All in all, we’ll probably need to do some car shopping once we get settled.  We’ll likely just get a simple, used car – enough to get us around when the trips are too much for biking.

 

Homeschooling

I’ve talked about the plan to homeschool our daughter while in Panama.  This will definitely be for the first year while we’re there because we’ll be leaving the country a few times.  That’s because we’re not applying for residency for at least a year until we’re sure it’s the place for us.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Homeschooling

As such, we have to follow the tourist laws of the country.  That means we need to leave the country every 6 months for 30 days before we can come back.  Unfortunately, though, our U.S. driver’s licenses are only good for 90 days at a time there (no idea why).  That means we might actually be leaving Panama every few months instead.

Leaving’s no problem, but schools tend to frown upon you pulling your kid out for 30 days at a time – multiple times per year.  So that’s why we’re going to do homeschooling… at least for the first year until we go after residency.

Mrs. R2R has been doing a lot of research when it comes to this topic.  The options are a lot more plentiful than they used to be.  That’s a good thing, but it takes time to figure out what makes the most sense for your kids.

I’m told we’re getting close to what curriculum will make the most sense for us and our daughter.  I’ll see if I can convince Mrs. R2R to write a post about what she’s learned and what we know so far.

 

Banking

This ain’t no small detail.  We need to be able to get to our money while we’re there.  Most places down there don’t take credit cards so you need to be able to have cash on hand.

My financial advisor, David (who’s played the role of expat recently), Jackie from Panama Relocation Tours, and Clark Howard have all said the same thing… open a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account.  So, we just did.

What’s awesome about this account is that there are no ATM fees worldwide (or they reimburse you as a statement credit).  There are also no foreign transaction fees, account minimums, or minimum balances.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Banking

That means we can move our money around as needed and use this as our checking account.  We can get cash out of the ATMs as needed and not have to worry about getting dinged with fees either.

As I post this, if you open an account with my link, they’ll also give you a $100.  And that’s just me being nice – I don’t get anything for it.  I am a nice guy, aren’t I?

We’ll also open an account at a Panamanian bank as well.  That will make paying bills much easier, plus it’s a requirement once we are ready to apply for residency.  We should be able to just write a check out from our U.S. bank to ourselves and deposit it in the Panamanian account to fund it as needed.

 

Hello?  Are you there?

From our last visit to Panama, we learned that it’s pretty easy to just buy a SIM card for your phone (as long as it supports GSM), pay a cheap fee, and you’re all set for the month.  In fact, we bought a SIM card for my phone at the Tocumen airport right after we landed.  It’s more expensive than you’d find elsewhere, but I wanted that security before we wandered off in a foreign country.

The cost… $20 for unlimited data.  In most countries other than the U.S., they charge by the minute and text message, but not necessarily the data.  Because of that, you’ll find apps like WhatsApp to be extremely prevalent all over the world as a primary means of communication.  That’s because these are Voice Over IP (VOIP) solutions that make their phone calls and messaging over data plans.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Hello?  Are you there?

So that’s all well and good, but what about if you’re moving there?  We’ll probably buy a SIM card for the month just to get us started, but then we’ll need to figure out a more “semi-permanent” solution.  There are a few providers there, so that’s the easy part.

The hard part, though, is going to be communicating with family and friends back home.  It’s not because it’s really that complicated, but rather, that means we’ll have to teach others at home how to use these apps.  Ever try to teach your parents new technology?  Yeah.

To make it a little easier for everyone, I’m going to try to leverage Google Voice.  This is a free service that’s been around for a long time and used to be called Grand Central before Google bought them.  I was a user even back then and loved it.

The idea is that you can use some technology smoke and mirrors to have one phone number that you give out to everyone.  That number can then be easily forwarded to different phones (even at the same time).  It has some other tricks it can do like call recording and voicemail transcription.

But I’m thinking that I’ll be able to use Google Voice in combination with Hangouts (or whatever Google decides to replace it with) for calling to and from the U.S.  That might involve some tweaking, but porting our numbers over to Google Voice would allow friends and family to stick with what they know.  Additionally, I’m thinking that can help everyone avoid paying for international calls (we’ll see!).

Here are a few guides I plan to start with:

 

Miscellaneous minutiae

That’s right – I found another place to slip the word in… sue me.

We’ll also have to figure out some other minutiae (yeah, I said it) like determining how to get our stuff from the airport to our new place.  We’ll probably have to take more than one taxi or something.  I talked to Jackie at Panama Relocation Tours and she mentioned touching base with her beforehand to see about getting a private driver, so that might be a good option.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Miscellaneous minutiae

Another detail we’ll need to figure out is mail forwarding.  Panama’s a little strange, in my opinion, in that there are no street addresses.  Yeah, figure that one out… it makes Google Maps or Waze a little more fun.  Also, if you want mail, you need to get a PO box or get your mail via courier.

I’m not too worried about that since we do everything possible online.  However, when we want to order things through Amazon, for instance, they won’t ship to Panama.  But, you can get a mail forwarder designed for this sort of thing in the U.S.  They’ll ship to your address in Miami (or wherever it might be) and the forwarder will then ship the package to you in Panama.

I don’t know everything about this yet, but I’ll let you know once I start digging into the pros and the cons of each service.


Overall, there are a lot of fine points to get ironed out along the way.  These aren’t major hurdles, but it does take some planning.  I’m excited to get this rolling and it seems like it should go pretty smooth, albeit a learning curve along the way.

Minutiae.  Ok, that time, I just wanted to say it again for giggles!  Have a great week!

 

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country
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24 thoughts on “The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country

  • February 5, 2019 at 7:02 am
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    Exciting times, Jim. I can’t imagine all of the details you have to iron out. Just eat that elephant one bite at a time! One other consideration:. Vaccinations. When I traveled internationally for work, my company was obsessive about us getting “the right shots”. May be worth a call to your doc. Add it to your list!!

    Reply
    • February 5, 2019 at 7:55 am
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      Good call, Fritz – I should have probably talked about that. We actually got all our vaccinations in preparation for our previous trip. So we’re covered on that front… now quit trying to add minutiae to my list! 😉

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 8:38 am
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    Sounds like you have a good plan in place and still a lot of time to figure everything out.
    I admire the two of you for planning to home school your daughter, that is one thing I would never consider.
    Cheers. Caroline

    Reply
    • February 5, 2019 at 11:23 am
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      Yeah, the homeschooling aspect should definitely be interesting. I’ll let you know sometime next year if we’re loving life because of it or if we’re pulling our hair out. 🙂

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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    Oh the minutia of minutia. 🤣 Sounds like a lot of things I wouldn’t have thought about. Most seem typical, but still, there’s so much planning.
    Good luck with both suitcases and figuring out all the rest of the minutia that pops up that you didn’t know about until it happened. 😁
    I think I used minutia as much as you, ha!

    Reply
    • February 5, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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      Wow, that’s a lot of minutiae in that comment! 😉

      Love it – thanks, Mr. SSC!!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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    Sounds very exciting! Very happy for you guys – you’ll be there before you know it.

    If you haven’t already done so, you may want to check whether it’s possible to purchase a car while in-country on a tourist visa. In Mexico (which is where my wife and I are looking) it sounds like you need a non-tourist residency permit to register a car – wasn’t sure if that’s the case in Panama as well? Something to think about in any case.

    Also was curious if you have plans / concerns around state taxes while you are in Panama. We live in a (relatively) high cost state, so one thing we’re looking at is establishing residency in FL or TX before we leave to avoid state taxes on our capital gains and dividends. My initial thinking is that it may not be worth the hassle, but curious to get your input.

    And yeah, the guns. When we move I’ll miss having some protection in our house just in case. We also will have to figure out how to legally either sell or transfer my firearms to someone else while we’re out of the country. One of them is an AR and most of my relatives (to whom I would want to transfer them) live in New England where the laws are even more stringent than where I live.

    Looking forward to the post on home schooling – our kids are much older so it may not apply to us, but still will be interested in your take. I know that I was very concerned about impact to college admissions, but my reading is that this isn’t really that big of a deal for colleges – they just put more weight on test scores, but there are definitely standard ways of handling that.

    In any case – enjoy the minutae! We’ve moved several times for work, and one good thing to remember is to focus on the long term. In your case, by the end of the year you’ll be enjoying life in Panama! The path from here to there may be challenging initially, but in the end it will be worth it 🙂

    Reply
    • February 5, 2019 at 5:29 pm
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      Thanks, Jim – I’ll dig into the car purchasing. That may help decide for us if we’re getting one! 😉

      As far as the state taxes, we’re doing exactly what you’re talking about. We’re going to drive to Texas a few weeks before we head to Panama to establish residency there. My brother lives there so we’re basically moving in with him as our state of domicile.

      I think the homeschooling is still a moving target for us, but as it’s becoming a little more accepted for society, I’m not too worried about the college part… for now. She’s only 8 though so if we decide to continue with it down the line, I’ll need to dig a little more into it as we get closer.

      Thanks for the wishes – we’re excited about the adventure! 🙂

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 3:27 pm
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    Exciting and informative! Sounds like things are falling in place as the date gets nearer! WiFi routers are pretty cheap, like $10, and often free with broadband connections in our part of the world (India). My kids love Uno – if you want more cards 🙂 to carry! All the best!

    Reply
    • February 5, 2019 at 5:32 pm
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      Yeah, if I’m out of space (I will be!), the router will likely be the first to go. I love the Uno idea – I would put good odds on my daughter having that packed in her suitcase. In fact, I’m going to add it to her list right now!

      Thanks, Anand!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 8:51 pm
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    I can feel your excitement in this post Jim! The date is getting closer!

    Minutiae indeed! I’m surprised by how many electronics you’re bringing. For example, if you’re paying for a SIM with unlimited data, can’t you just have the phone act as a wifi router? That would be one simplification I can think of.

    The kindle is one other example. You could just read books on your phone. There’s many apps for book reading on the popular phone OS’s.

    Another is the Wii. If you have a powerful enough/modern computer, a Wii can be accurately emulated by a PC. You only need the controllers/ wii sensor bar.

    Just some ideas. Obviously a good phone is a given these days.

    Reply
    • February 6, 2019 at 10:33 am
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      Haha, I actually felt guilty as I was writing this, Mr. Tako. Your recent post went through my head (for real) and I thought, “Oh, boy, Mr. Tako would not approve of this list!” 🙂

      I really like your ideas! I’ll have to think through some of the nuances a little bit to see if everything will work for us (I’m the opposite of a luddite!).

      I’ll never ditch my Kindle Paperwhite though – soooo much better to read on then a phone or even a regular tablet. The good news is that one’s not a space hog.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 6, 2019 at 8:22 am
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    Jim,
    Awesome! I remember so well moving to Chile, and everything I crammed into my two suitcases! A couple of tips from someone who’s lived in another South American country–clothes and electronics cost more, a LOT more, in many Latin American countries. So bring as many electronics as you can (just remember to bring adaptors!). Clothes are also way more expensive, and I remember regretting not bringing more clothes with me to Chile. Also, tip for your wife–tampons aren’t really sold in a lot of Latin American countries (go figure) so she may want to bring a supply or switch to a cup. Sorry to do that to you, Jim! But these are things to think about when you move to a new culture! 🙂 I’m so excited for you guys and think your plan for the first few weeks sounds great! Once you get down there you’ll be able to figure out a lot more about how locals do phones, transport, etc. Oh and thanks for that Charles Schwab link! I’m definitely opening an account!

    Reply
    • February 6, 2019 at 10:40 am
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      These are awesome tips, Laurie!! Thank you! I’ll put the “girlie” stuff out of my mind, but I’ll definitely tell my wife to read this. 🙂 They do use regular 110 voltage so we should be good on that aspect… but you’re definitely making me feel better about stuffing my suitcase with electronics.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 6, 2019 at 10:16 am
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    Good luck with the move! It sounds like there are a lot of little things to deal with.
    I’d leave the umbrella at home. Don’t bring anything you can buy cheaper over there.
    You 2 bags are already overflowing at this point.
    Yes, use your phone’s hotspot feature. I did that in Thailand and it worked pretty well.
    Nice cheap internet access.

    Reply
    • February 6, 2019 at 10:52 am
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      Haha, you’re right about the overflowing part! On the upside, I’m bringing the electronics for all of us (obviously), so hopefully, my wife and daughter have a little more breathing room in their suitcases (not gonna happen). 😉

      I do like the hotspot idea – I’ll have to dig into that a little more.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 8, 2019 at 4:59 pm
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    I am interested to know how you hacked all your files through the TV. I save a bundle on a cable box by using Tivo – but it isn’t free. Maybe another post once you are settled and stuck inside on a rainy day.

    Loved my visit to Panama – still trying to convince my wife to try the experience…

    Funny part is that Panama is probably closer to our kids on the east coast than SoCal is….

    Reply
    • February 9, 2019 at 5:23 pm
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      I didn’t want to bore everyone with too many details on the home theater PC, but maybe that would make for a good post down the line. In a nutshell, we’re using a combination of Kodi and Plex running on a desktop computer that we bought specifically to use for this. The TV acts as the monitor and the Kodi and Plex software organize all your media on the computer. Then I have an antenna plugged into the computer and that gives us live TV. Kodi and Plex see that as well and give us a TV guide and we’re able to record shows just like you would from a cable provider.

      It’s pretty awesome, but it did take a little work to setup. When we buy the new computer once we’re in Panama, we’ll probably try to just use Plex instead of the combo. Plex is incredible even though there is a one time cost. Kodi is free and has been great for us, but Plex seems to run circles around it in different things.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 11, 2019 at 12:11 am
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    We are intl perpetual travelers now in Year 4, and Schwab is as awesome as you have heard!

    In addition, we use Traveling Mailbox for any snail mail that still makes it’s way to us, esp now at tax season. Check them out, or a similar service that can provide you with a TX mailing address. These services can open and scan in your mail and send it to you via email. No need to burden family or friends with your mail, just fyi.

    Make sure you both get your TX drivers licenses and register to vote while in TX before you head out to clearly establish your domicile in TX and to make sure you ‘divorce’ your old state.

    Enjoy the adventure! You will make some incredible memories. We sold our house and gave away the rest, and are traveling with 1 suitcase each (carry-on size, but expanded way too much to actually carry on, haha) and a carry on backpack each, albeit without a kiddo. There are plenty more out there like us, and like your family. You can do it!

    P.S., I think you will find most things you really need when you get there, and won’t need to order things on amazon, have them sent to Miami to ship to you, etc. That sounds like a nightmare. You may find, like us, that you really don’t need that much, and you can find similar substitutes for what you do need. Panama sounds pretty advanced, so I bet you can get what you need in the bigger cities if you can’t find it locally. Plus, it sounds like you will be making several trips back to the states, anyway. YMMV of course!

    Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 11:55 am
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      Thanks for the good information, Lisa – that’s really helpful! That’s amazing that you’ve been traveling now for four years…truly awesome!

      I’ve heard of Traveling Mailbox as one of the forwarding options so I’ll definitely keep that one in mind. We did plan to do driver’s licenses in TX along with a couple other things, but I didn’t think of voter registration, so we’ll add that to the list!

      As far as the shipping goes, I’m kind of with you on this. I just want to have an option in our back pockets, but with us traveling back and forth for that first year, we can always bring back what we need if they don’t have it.

      Thanks for the great comment and info!! 🙂

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 11, 2019 at 12:13 pm
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    Jim, hope this is not TMI, but if you “check the box” when getting your drivers licenses in Texas, they will automatically register you to vote (motor voter is in every state by law). Plus, you can actually vote in every election from abroad! Check it out later on, brought about to allow service members deployed overseas to vote, but applies to any citizen overseas during an election. Every state must allow it by law, but each may have their own system. We do it in WA state from wherever we are at the time.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 12:17 pm
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      Definitely, not too much info – I’ll take whatever you want to share! Thanks for the tip!

      — Jim

      Reply

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