What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years!


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What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years

It took a lot for me to not write a blog post last week. After not missing a single week for over 6 years, it’s just became ingrained into my weekly routine. So my first week off gave me a little bit of a strange feeling.

I generally write the following week’s post sometime later in the week. However, I don’t usually get it completely done in one sitting. I might start a post on Thursday and work on it for a few hours and then continue on Friday and/or Saturday before getting it scheduled for Tuesday morning.

So the latter half of the week is where things seemed, well, just a little off. It wasn’t a bad thing at all, it just was a slight feeling of “shouldn’t I be on my computer writing, right now?”

Bear in mind that my Route to Retire schedule probably averages out to about 20 hours a week. And I still kept up with social media, responding to emails and comments, and all sorts of other related fun last week.

So, I probably only gained about 8 hours of time back in my routine, but still, that’s like a full day’s work.

I’ll tell you what – I quickly adjusted and enjoyed getting that time back, too. In fact, it turned out to be a great week of family time and trying out a new hobby.

Here’s a look at some of how my first week off from blogging went…

Spending a day in David during my first week off

Lisa needed to have a routine visit to the doctor for a mammogram. After thinking about the options, she decided to get it done here in Panama instead of doing it in the U.S. on our next visit.

She found out that she could go to Hospital Chiriquí for the exam. And this might sound odd, but you don’t need an appointment – you just show up during certain hours. So, we decided that we’d go during my first week off from blogging… hey, it’s not all partying in early retirement life!

Anyway, that was all well and good except that Hospital Chiriquí is in David, which is about 45 minutes from Boquete. Since we’ve still been avoiding buses completely (and taxis most of the time), that meant we needed to figure out how we’d get down there.

We decided to rent a car since we can get them for cheap here and then run some other errands as well. We got an SUV for $35 out the door (insurance included) at Boquete Cowboy Cars. They don’t have a website or I’d link you to it, but they’re great people and the place to go here in my opinion.

Ok, so the day started with Lisa’s mammogram appointment at the hospital. I’m not going to give you the details of this visit because that’s worth a post in itself! However, know that it went well and everything’s all good.

Once that was done, we decided to try someplace different for lunch. Restaurante Boca Chica is a seafood restaurant that Lisa had heard good things about and it was not a letdown. The food was very good, really big portions, and the prices were what I like to see…

After a hearty lunch, we decided to do a little shopping here. We like going into El Campeón because it’s like deal central there if you know where to look. The key is knowing that it’s a balance between quality and price. For instance, I’ve gotten some gym shorts there for $2.50 which are great for sitting around in. However, the pockets are so shallow that my phone falls out immediately if I sit down.

Regardless, it was a good opportunity to get Faith a few presents for her upcoming birthday. She’s into Hot Wheels now all of the sudden so we got her some of those and there was a Panama bag she had said she really liked so I slipped away and got that for her, too… ssh, don’t tell her!

The most important use of the rental car though was being able to stop at the grocery store in Boquete on our way back and small buy a tub of ice cream. Since we don’t have a car here, picking up ice cream to bring back is a tough feat. The 10-15 minute walk in 75-degree weather isn’t something that usually matches up well with that bit of deliciousness!

What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years! - Faith showing off a tub of ice cream

As luck would have it though, they didn’t have chocolate in stock so we got vanilla. However, this isn’t something we can’t fix with a lot of Hershey’s syrup! 😉

Partying it up for Lisa’s birthday

Another fun day during my first week off without writing was to celebrate Lisa’s birthday.

We went to lunch at the Río Cristal Restaurant in Boquete Tree Trek. This isn’t just a regular local restaurant either. Boquete Tree Trek is up in the mountains where you can go and enjoy a bunch of fun. It’s the place we’ve gone to a couple of times before to go zip-lining through the treetops… really cool.

We’ve been wanting to try out the restaurant there for a while so what better excuse than having lunch there for Lisa’s birthday!

It’s a narrow and steep road to get there and we don’t have a car… but that challenge is half the fun! We could have taken a taxi but since we knew they have a free “shuttle” service, we opted for that instead.

The view is nice and lunch was very good. And, the price was right up my alley. Weird, I’m noticing a common theme about many of the restaurants here – delicious and inexpensive!

When we got back to our place, we had something else up our sleeves. Faith and I had snuck out the day before Lisa’s birthday and picked up some surprises. So we presented a bunch of cool deserts (she didn’t want a cake) and a few small gifts.

What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years! - Hanging out on the balcony for Lisa's birthday

Then we hung out of the balcony and played cards… what more could you ask for?!

It’s finally time to start harmonica lessons

I used to play the keyboard when I was younger (not well, mind you!). I also like the drums – I can keep a beat but that’s about all I can offer on that instrument.

But the one musical instrument I’ve had on my mind for years now is the harmonica. What a strange pick, right?

What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years! - My Lee Oskar harmonica
My Lee Oskar harmonica in all its glory!

I had bought a Lee Oskar Harmonica in 2011. The reason why is that over the years back then I was slowly building a supply of disaster preparation resources. I had a room in our basement filled with everything from shelves of food that we continually rotated to our pantry when we went shopping to totes of supplies ready to be loaded in a car.

What can I say – I like to be prepared!

But with these supplies, I also had bug-out bags for each of us. And in these bags, I included a couple of items to help prevent boredom like playing cards and – you guessed it – a harmonica!

As a side note, this was all before we sold off almost everything we owned and moved to Panama. The irony is that I had this supply of resources ready to go for years “just in case” and nothing happening (a good thing!). Then we move to Panama and a pandemic hits – it figures. Sitting in our storage unit in the U.S. at the time… a giant box of almost impossible-to-find N95 masks. Life’s funny, ain’t it?

What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years! - Faith demonstrating our N95 mask stash
These would have been extremely handy to have when the pandemic started and nobody knew anything about the virus. Too bad this box was 3,800 miles away at the time!

Ok, back to the scheduled show. I like the harmonica because it can fit in your pocket and just seems like a cool instrument to learn to play. So much so, that I brought it here with us to Panama with the intent to start learning how to play it one day.

Well, my first week off of blogging seemed like the perfect opportunity to get rolling. I had already signed up for lifetime access to a 22½-hour course on Udemy called “Learn to play HARMONICA, the easiest instrument to pick up!” that had 4.5 stars out of 5 with over 5,000 ratings so I was pretty confident this would be worthwhile. And for a total of $9.99, it seemed hard to go wrong.

I pulled out the harmonica and got to work. The nice thing is that most of the lessons are under 10 minutes long so you don’t need to set aside a lot of time for each. I’ve done about an hour’s worth so far.

Here’s what I learned… the harmonica isn’t something you just pick up and roll with. Like anything else, it’s going to require a lot of practice. The good news is that I’m retired so I’ve got plenty of time. Now I just need to prioritize to make sure that my practicing becomes a regular task.

Step aside, Blues Brothers… Jim from Route to Retire is about to show you how it’s done!

This Amazon Explore session was great for my first week off

I had found out about this a while ago and scheduled it to happen during my first week off from blogging.

Amazon has been ramping up promotion on something new they’re doing called Amazon Explore experiences. These are essentially one-on-one virtual experiences you can do.

Want to take a rickshaw tour through Tokyo with a guide? Check. Learn how to cook authentic manchamanteles mole with a Mexican chef? Check.

There are literally hundreds of unique choices. The gist is that you schedule a date/time with the host during checkout. Then when it comes time for your session, you click on the link they give you and start a video chat with the host. You can see and hear them but they can only hear you so feel free to lounge in your underwear if you want.

There are no other customers on it so it’s just you and the guide. You can ask questions, ask them to modify things a little, and even take photos through the host’s camera.

Right now, Prime customers can get 50% off (I’ll get to that momentarily) – not too shabby! We had a coupon code to get it for free, which, unfortunately, isn’t available anymore. But we booked a 50-minute tour called “Get up-close with wild animals in Costa Rica at the Toucan Rescue Ranch.” It took place at the Toucan Ranch in Concepción de San Isidro, which is just outside of San José, Costa Rica.

In the blink of an eye, we were connected with our tour guide, Stephanie, in Costa Rica (no airplane hassle needed!). At the start, she gave us a few choices of which animals we wanted to see. She then took us through the animal refuge giving us some great information about the animal or bird type in general as well as specific info about that particular creature there.

We asked questions throughout and she knew what she was talking about. It turned out to be a fun little event to do. In other words, we had a Costa Rican tour without the crowds and all from the comfort of our living room.

Honestly, I was impressed with how it all went. Here are a handful of the photos we took during our session…

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll want to check these out. You can browse through the Amazon Explore experiences here. Right now, you can 50% off all live virtual experiences they’re offering. It’s a great way to visit the rest of the world without having to actually leave your home. It looks like the promo is only good until the end of the day today though (06/22/2021) so check it out and get something on the schedule while you can.


Obviously, that wasn’t the whole week. Plenty of time walking around town, working out, studying Spanish, playing Mario Kart with Lisa and Faith, and Super Mario Bros Wii with Faith, and watching TV/movies together took up a good chunk of the week as well.

And then there’s a big change in our plans that we had to handle that I’ll be filling you in on in another post. How’s that for a cliff-hanger?

I’d call this first week off from blogging a success. That said, I did miss writing to you guys. I have so much info and news I want to share with you, but that’s for another day. So I’ll just keep on writing… but not necessarily every week.

The lesson is that life’s about balance. My brain wants to do everything and wants it all done right now, but that’s not how life works. We all only get 24 hours in each day. Have fun, try new things, and find a balance that provides you with the ultimate amount of happiness!

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

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

12 thoughts on “What I Did During My First Week Off in 6 Years!”

    1. Haha, you might be onto something Sam! I’m not sure what life holds for me so I’ll just take it one day at a time. In the meantime, it’s nice to be able to try new things and not worry too much about the money side of the equation.

      Enjoy your summer, my friend!

  1. It’s weird. Once you start to take a break from a routine, after the first month of doing it or so, you itch to get back to the routine that you really wanted to leave in the first place.

    Who knows? Maybe this week off will catapult you into working 40 hours a week on the blog next week! Just kidding.

    1. Haha, 40 hrs/wk would definitely be swinging to the other extreme! 😂
      “Weird” is a good word to use. I wish I could just do everything I enjoy every single day but there’s just not enough time in the day. The good thing is that I have to choose between all sorts of things I enjoy doing. However, I actually have so many things I’m chomping at the bit to write about but I need to just keep working on pacing myself. Balance is the key that I need to keep working on.

  2. I enjoy reading your blog….you often have great ideas for having fun and making/saving money. I will try the Amazon Explore Experiences. This could really open-up a world of possibilities for people that have health conditions that limit their ability to travel, but still love exploring the world beyond their four walls.

    1. Thanks, David! That’s a great thought on those who can’t travel – not perfect, but still pretty cool. This would have been a nice outlet all of last year when everyone was cooped up for so long.

  3. That’s great! Maybe you should take the whole week off and get off social media. 😉
    I cut back a bit for summer and it’s been good.
    I’m spending more time with my son. I take him to practice tennis and baseball in the morning. Both of us need the exercise. We’ll travel more too. Next month, we’re going to Yellowstone!
    Summer is the time to relax. No need to work a lot.

    1. You’re right – I do need to lay off social media for a week, too!

      I think that’s so awesome that you’re spending more time together with your son. To me, that’s the best part of FIRE – something that’s a lot more difficult to do while still working a 9-5. I read about your plans to go camping at Yellowstone for several days and that sounds like it’ll be an awesome time! Enjoy the summer, Joe!

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