We Decided Not To Move Back Home to the U.S. Yet!

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We Decided Not To Move Back Home to the U.S. Yet!

I’m excited to announce that Lisa and I recently made the decision not to move back home to the U.S. just yet.

We’ve been taking this year by year since we moved here to Boquete, Panama in the summer of 2019. Over the past couple of months though, it looked like our time here was going to be ending in the fall.

But I’m happy to tell you that we finally came up with a new plan. We’ll have the opportunity to stay here a little longer in this beautiful country before moving back home to the U.S. down the line.

Today, I’m going to tell you what we’ve decided to do, why we’re doing it, and when we’re actually going to move back.

Why this was such a difficult decision?

In early December, I wrote a post title Making Plans for the Future – Stay or Go? discussing our thoughts in depth. Deciding whether to continue living here in Boquete after this fall or moving back home to the U.S is not an easy choice.

In a nutshell, Boquete, Panama is a wonderful place. With temps around 75° F almost every day, beautiful mountain views, vivid flowers and palm trees, and some amazing hiking trails, it’s hard not to enjoy nature here. Add in close to 1,000 species of interesting birds and cool animals like sloths and coatimundis, and you’ve got yourself one fun place!

Additionally, the people here are wonderful – both the Panamanians and expats. Sure, there will always be some rotten eggs wherever you are, but for the most part, it’s great to have such friendly and helpful people in a community.

And of course, the cost of living here ain’t too shabby either! It’s not the cheapest place in the world, but it’s still a lot less expensive than even what we were used to in Ohio. And for what you’re getting, it’s hard to complain. Living in a place like San Diego, California might get you some great weather, but you’d be paying a premium for it for sure!

Wonderful, right? Why would anyone want to move back home to the U.S. with so much greatness going on here?

Well, there are two problems we’ve run into living here:

  1. It’s tough being so far away from friends and family.
  2. There aren’t a lot of kids’ activities or kids around Faith’s age in Boquete.

These obviously don’t apply to everyone but they’re both two important considerations when figuring out our plans for the future. When we were discussing our plans a few months ago, we were leaning on moving back home to the U.S. around August of 2021, around the time our lease would expire.

That way we could get Faith back in school in case we decided to go that route. She’s been doing homeschooling for the past couple of years and we’ve been trying to decide if that will continue after this year.

The biggest downside to all of this is that we got kind of shortchanged with the pandemic. We lost a lot of time where we couldn’t go out while here in Panama, to the point where we spent months in lockdown. Even now, we’re still holding back on doing things until we feel comfortable enough to be in close contact with other people.

So that stinks. We’ve had some awesome experiences here before the pandemic and still made the best of times during our time in lockdown. We even had an awesome road trip back in the States. Even so, there were a lot of things we wanted to do here and never got to… such is life.

But then I came up with a thought…

What’s the plan?

I had a random idea while jogging back from the gym a few weeks ago…

Anyway, my thought was – why do our choices have to be so cut and dry? Why are we limiting it to having to either move back home to the U.S. in the fall or stay another full year after that?

Guess what – there are other options! We’re retired and have all the flexibility in the world as long as we ensure that we take care of Faith in our decisions.

So when I got back, I pitched a new idea to Lisa. Here were the highlights of my proposed plan…

  • We’re still not residents here in Panama so we’re required to leave the country every 6 months for 30 days. We’re about to make a trip back very soon and then we’ll technically have until September here in Boquete before we’d have to leave again. Instead, let’s go back to the U.S. in July for a month to reset the clock again. That’s helpful because we’ll only have to wait a few months from the time of this trip in February to see family and friends again instead of the usual half a year.
  • While we’re in the U.S. in July, we’ll get the COVID vaccine (assuming it’s available to us then). Although we’d be able to get the vaccine here in Panama, I’d rather we get it in the U.S. – that’s a discussion for another post. Then we’d head back to Panama in August.
  • Once we’ve been vaccinated, I’ll be a lot more comfortable with us being able to do things again. We’ll still be careful around others, but now we’d be more relaxed to get back on the buses or taxis in Panama. That opens up a lot more fun for us to be able to have here (since we don’t have a car here). Faith can also spend time with friends here without us having the worry we’ve had.
  • We’ll start to knock some of the fun things off our list like more beach trips, a trip to Boca Chica, maybe a stay at the Rambala Jungle Lodge in the rainforest of Bocas del Toro, or even a night at a treehouse lodge! Plus, we’ll be comfortable enough to get back to doing group hikes again.
  • We could then plan to go back to the U.S. for the holidays. I don’t know if that would be Thanksgiving through Christmas or just include Christmas through New Year’s. Either way, it would be nice to spend time with our families again for the holidays.
  • Then we’ll go back to Panama again (thank goodness for all these travel rewards paying for most of the cost of our flights!). This would be our last hurrah in Panama to have some more fun and start to wrap things up.
  • In May of 2022, we’d move back home to the U.S. with two suitcases each just like we did when we first moved here in 2019. I’m still not sure of where we’d be going, but I’d imagine it would be back in Northeast Ohio again… family wins out!

After thinking about it for a while, Lisa was on board with the idea. So that’s it, my friends – we’re getting a little bit of the best of both worlds. We’re going to stay in Panama a little longer to be able to enjoy some “post-pandemic” fun here and then we’ll move back home to the U.S. to get Faith back to a “normal” childhood.

So you’re planning to move back home to the U.S. for good in 2022?

I feel good about this plan overall. The opportunity we’ve had to live in another country is something that not a lot of folks get to experience. Being around other cultures is good for all of us, but that’s especially true for Faith. She already knows at this young of an age that there’s more to this planet than just her home country.

Having a little more than another year here should help fill the gap of what I was afraid we were going to miss out on, too. I think I’ll feel that we fulfilled everything I set out for when we first planned to move here.

That said, being around family is important, too. Faith needs more time with her grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Getting her involved in other activities she has an interest in can be healthy as well. Whether that’s back to gymnastics, trying out something new like martial arts, or learning to play an instrument, there are a lot more opportunities in the U.S. than in the smaller town of Boquete.

But the years will pass quickly and Faith will continue to grow up (why does that happen?!).

So who knows what we’ll end up doing down the line? I can’t say that moving back will be forever, but it would likely be until Faith’s at least older and moved out. After that, maybe we’ll move back or be snowbirds in Boquete. Or maybe we’ll end up somewhere else completely. It’s just too early to tell.

In the meantime, we’re going to ensure that we enjoy every minute of our time here in Boquete until we do move back home to the States. And then, we’ll enjoy our time in the U.S. as well. Both places are so completely different but we love our time together and have fun regardless of where we live!

If Panama sounds like a place you’d want to consider moving to, I highly recommend checking out the Complete Panama Relocation Guide. This online resource provides you with access to recommended lawyers, honest real estate companies, a list of English-speaking health care providers, and tons more. Additionally, it’ll answer a lot of the “how-to” questions that might be on your mind like getting mail from the U.S. (including Amazon), buying a car here, and even bringing your pets to Panama. It should be mandatory reading for anyone considering relocating here!

What do you think? Are we crazy for moving back next year, crazy for living here to begin with, or just crazy no matter how you look at it?

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

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

29 thoughts on “We Decided Not To Move Back Home to the U.S. Yet!”

  1. Is it crazy? To me the craziest thing is never trying something new 🙂

    Bouquet is such a beautiful spot in the world. Your lives will always be enriched by the experience.

    I’m curious however where you will end up in the years to come. I love that you see it as an open book. Maybe someday I’ll convince you to take a year to do the Big Lap around Australia. 🙂

    1. Australia’s a place I would love to visit, but I don’t think I could take that long of a flight. I start to get real antsy anytime we start pushing 5 hours. Maybe once all the dust settles, we’ll take a cruise there – that’s more my speed anyway! 🙂

          1. Deborah Quinette

            Hi Jim , whats the current lockdown situation now ? Whats going on with covid in Panama ?
            Thanks Jim

          2. Hi, Deborah – things are mostly relaxed here right now in Boquete. They did just announce a lockdown for the country the weekend of 2/13-2/14, which hasn’t happened in a while. But that’s when Carnival normally takes place so they’re trying to discourage large gatherings. Other than that, everyone’s free to move about and do their thing for the most part. You’re still required to wear a mask in public. They take your temperature and spray you with hand sanitizer going into stores and restaurants. And there’s a daily curfew in place here in Boquete that I think is from 9pm-4am daily. People are careful here but continue to live pretty normal lives right now. It’s a lot better than it was last spring for sure.

            As a side note, that’s just the Boquete/Chiriqui area – places like Panama City have some tighter restrictions in place because of the widespread cases.

      1. Hey Jim saw a interview with you and I’m a single 52 year old professional who retires in 3 years . I live in Canada and really liked your review of Boquete. I would like to spend Jan to may each year I love small village life also the idea that I can get to beach which I also love. I really want to be able to golf also not sure if that’s possible where you are located ? Does your current location offer flexible lease options like a speak to ? I would like to have a break down of your thoughts . Thanks Chad

        1. There are a lot of folks doing exactly that, Chad – snowbirds in Boquete. And Valle Escondido (where I live) is right on a golf course. In fact, one of the greens is just outside our condo.

          There are short-term leases available as well. That’s obviously the peak tourist season for Boquete so the prices are usually higher but many landlords offer the ability to rent for just a few months each year.

          Your best bet would be to do some more digging into it and then make a trip down to visit and scope it out. And if you’re serious about living here, you might want to consider buying the Panama Relocation Guide from Jackie at Panama Relocation Tours. That’s a living document packed with good information that will answer a lot of questions you might have as well as provide you with actual resources and contacts.

          Good luck – it’s a beautiful place!

  2. Is it easy to access hiking trails where you live or do you have to get transport to trailheads? I would imagine that would be a great adventure with little ones.

    1. Hi Allie – there are a lot of hiking trails around but most of them require a car to get to. We were doing a lot of them together before the pandemic when we were ok with getting in cabs. We also did a few over the past couple of months since our neighbor was kind enough to let us use her car while she was out of town.

      But you’re absolutely right – the hikes are amazing and we all love ’em! 🙂

  3. Sounds like a great plan. It’s funny the many ways we limit ourselves without even realizing we’re doing it. Panama used to seem pretty boring in my head but seeing your pictures now I want to go there!

    1. Although there are some things that remind you that it’s still not the U.S., there are plenty of things that make you glad that it’s not. It’s worth putting on your list as a place to visit sometime. 🙂

  4. It is not crazy in the slightest. Living in another country does bring benefits that isn’t as apparent as living domestically. The United States will welcome you back with open arms when you decide to come back in 2022.

    I am hopeful that the vaccine will be available to us by July…. They are vaccinating people at an alarmingly slow rate, it seems like.

    1. Thanks, David! Fingers crossed on the vaccine. I’ve been following along as well with the progress – West Virginia’s been doing a great job on getting the vaccine distributed. Hopefully, other states learn from them how to do things.

  5. Sounds like a great plan. I’ve had many friends that emigrated and then came back 1-2x per year for family visits. It’s a nice way to do it if you can and still get the best of seeing a new place and visiting family.

    As an aside, do you have any plans to afford a similar lifestyle back in the US? Are you likely to have one person working/or grow online income till then? or wait and see what the future holds?

    1. That’s a question we’ll have to figure out the answer to over the next year. Technically, our portfolio should sustain our living expenses while in the U.S. but I think it would be tight without any extra income. It would also depend on the cost of living in what area we decide to move to.

      As of now, Lisa might be going back to work part-time when we get there just to have something to do so that would be helpful. And we’ll see if Route to Retire continues to grow and throw off a little more income. Other than that, we’ll play it by ear. 🙂

  6. Nothing crazy about it. You do what works for you guys. It sounds like family is really important for you guys, and that’s great — you have the freedom to make the choices about how you live your life. Fantastic!

    *And* you also got to experience life in another country (one with fantastic looking weather I might add)!

    Sounds like a win-win in my book.

  7. I think the plan sounds good. You can enjoy the best of both worlds.
    Also, it’ll probably be harder to move around once Faith starts school again. At that age, you don’t want a lot of disruptions.

    1. Thanks, Joe. Assuming we put Faith back in school, I’m really going to miss the flexibility we’ve had over the past couple of years. It’s nice being able to just change her schedule to travel or even just to go outside and do something fun.

  8. I think the plan sounds good. You can always look into traveling elsewhere in the future when the dust settles. School is definitely one big decision when you try to geoarbitrage. 🙂

    1. Absolutely – the schooling has worked really well for us over the past couple of years but I don’t think we want to homeschool too much longer. There are pluses and minuses, but it would be good for Faith to be around other kids again before she gets to her high school years.

  9. Hi Jim, My wife and I saw your HH International episode, then about a week later I stumbled across your website… I said to my wife, look it’s the family from HHI. It was a nice surprise to find your site. My wife and I are now 45 years old, and my son is now 27. He moved out from our house some time ago. We’ve been planning for early retirement since we were married in 2004, long before I ever heard of FIRE. 50-51 is our target age. Our Financial Advisor had initially told us our savings goals were in line with people making well into the six figure income mark, and we were barely clearing $60,000/year combined, at the time. Going on 17 years later he now says “you guys weren’t kidding. You should be our poster couple for retirement planning”. That made us feel pretty good. So, I agree with you that your income level is, or doesn’t have to be, necessarily proportional to your saving goals. We haven’t lived a destitute life either. We’ve traveled to Europe, cruises, traveled the states a bit and even owned an RV for about 5 years. Anyway, I digress. I am writing to ask if you would be moving back if your daughter was older, and is just you and your wife? I ask because Boquete Panama is a place that intrigues us. We would not want to consider perusing it as a possibility if there might be other more serious reasons people are considering leaving. Thanks, and best regards, Neil!

    1. Congrats to you guys getting close to pulling the trigger on early retirement – that’s fantastic! I wrote “Will You Be Part of the 1% to Be Financially Independent by 50?” and you guys are going to be right on that cusp. You should be very proud!

      To answer your question about moving back from Boquete if it was just Lisa and I… I don’t know for sure. We’ve already talked about possibly moving back here when she’s moved out. However, what if we get a grandkid a few years later? Or something else happens that we feel a need to stay in the U.S. In other words, it’s easy to say we’d come back (we’d like to), but it’s hard to tell what the future will bring.

      I would absolutely dig more into it if it intrigues you. It’s a beautiful place with good people and with the exception of Faith and homesickness, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

      Best of luck, Neil!

      1. Thanks, Jim! I appreciate the response, and we will continue to research Boquete, as well as other options. Our biggest kickeer in the whole FI/RE is the healthcare costs in the US, which is why we are considering the overseas options. It makes complete sense what you are saying about the future, and you are 100% correct, you never know what the future holds. My wife and I discuss this all the time when we talk about being able to retire early. Our goal doesn’t have to necessarily mean retirement for life, but more of the FI aspect and being in a place where we have choices and flexability. Not being bound by a Just Over Broke, otherwise known as a Job! We constantly try to impress this on our son as well.

        In todays information age, the olny person that most people have to blame for where they are financially is themselves. The information is out there if you are willingto put in the effort. Just like your Be part of the 1% post (thanks for pointing this one out), it is like dieting, without the willpower and commitment, you already failed before you even started. To many people live with the microwave mindset of wanting the instant gratification, and so they spend all their extra money just to get that short term gratification, and ultimately miss the big picture potential. It is just terribly viscious cycle for many.

        1. It’s funny how the problems in our healthcare system in the U.S. are actually a contributing factor for folks like us to discover that other countries actually have a lot more to offer than we might have initially thought. I never would have considered moving to another country until I was looking for options for a lower cost-of-living. I’m so glad that we did though – otherwise, we never would have gotten to experience this wonderful area! 🙂

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