When we first sought out our new adventure, we thought we could basically just pack up and go. I mean, you just sell everything and move to Panama, right?
Ha! Wishful thinking! There’s a tremendous amount of planning involved to make this a smooth transition.
I’ve talked about some of the minutiae we’ve encountered in our planning, but now it’s time for more scoop.
And considering we’re about to embark on a huge adventure, I thought it would make sense to try to update everyone a little more frequently on how things are coming along.
Sometimes I get caught up in trying to stick solely to money topics that I forget our readers also want to know what’s actually going on in our lives.
That’s likely even truer right now due to the bold moves we’re making in life right now. Between having just reached FIRE and our plans to sell off everything and move to Panama, there’s a lot more than the everyday stuff going on.
You’re probably all hoping that we fail miserably so you can tell your friends, “See, I knew this FIRE stuff was garbage! And moving to Panama? I shook my head in disgust as soon as he told us about that!”
Ok, hopefully, that’s not the case, but no worries here. I’m pretty easy-going so if it fails miserably, I’ll be sure to make the announcement here so you can give me the old, “I told you so!”
Just kidding – everyone’s been super supportive thus far and that’s truly appreciated. We’re actually starting to get really anxious for July to roll around. You know how when you plan out a vacation a year in advance and it seems like it’s never gonna get here… yeah, that’s our feeling right now.
It’s all gotta go!
The biggest chore we have right now is selling all our stuff. And I’m learning quite a bit in the process.
What I’ve now grasped though is that my strategy might not have been the smartest.
We’re going to keep a small 10’x10′ storage unit for a year until we decide if we’re staying in Panama for the long haul. If we’re going to stay there, we’ll sell off the remainder of our stuff after that year is up. If not, at least we’ll have some things in storage (like tools) for our next adventure here in the U.S.
10’x10′ is really not that big and that’s where I screwed up a little. My thought was that we should focus on selling the big stuff first.
A dresser can be sold in one shot, but a small box of collectibles takes a lot of time to go through and sell off. In the worst case scenario, we can always toss that collectibles box in the storage unit, but a dresser, on the other hand, occupies a ton of space.
Logical so far, right?
So I decided to start putting things up on OfferUp. If you haven’t used this before, it’s kind of like Craigslist, but probably a little easier to work with. The app is excellent and allows for easy messaging between parties.
It also seems to be a little better on the safety aspect in that they work with local businesses to provide Community MeetUp spots in well-lit areas with security cameras.
Anyway, it’s a snap to use the app and put things up for sale. I added most of our big bulky stuff like furniture on sale to get the ball rolling… and that was my mistake.
I’m newer to selling stuff this way and anticipated some good lead time. After all, we weren’t leaving for a few months so no hurry, right?
Yeah, not so much. All this stuff has been selling like hotcakes!
That’s a good thing overall, but it means we had to empty all our dressers, bookshelves, desk, etc. as the stuff would disappear. I’m a pretty organized person (ok, extremely organized), so this is making me antsy. We have stuff everywhere…
Not the end of the world, but it might not have been the smartest way to do this. However, it’s really pushed us to start selling and eliminating even more junk.
Time to say goodbye to the 2009 Malibu
I learned over time that it’s stupid for us to buy new cars. To us, a car just gets you from point A to B, so why put ourselves in a position of wasting money on car payments?
That’s a tremendous amount of money that could be saved over the years. Since that realization, we’ve been driving our same cars for years now. I have my 2009 Chevy Malibu and my wife has a 2011 Ford Escape.
They’ve served us well over the years, but they’re not coming with us to Panama. So, we have to sell my Malibu before we leave the apartment. When we pack up and go, we’ll take Mrs. R2R’s SUV for our crazy July adventure. Then we’ll sell it in Texas before we fly out to Panama in August.
This should be interesting because after my car is gone, we’ll be a one-car family. I don’t anticipate too many times where this will be an issue since I’m no longer working. However, I have a feeling that Uber and I will be spending a little time together until we leave at the end of June.
I’m Ok with that though. I’d rather put it up for sale now and take our time in selling it at the right price than risk pushing our time of leaving and possibly being stuck with it. I’ll also get to drop the insurance after it sells so that extra month should save us a whopping $48.67.
So here’s what I did. I decided to take the Malibu to CarMax. I’ve heard some good things about that service and wanted to get a quote on what I could get for the car. This would give me a better idea of where I stood. They make you a no-obligation offer that’s valid for 7 days and it saves the aggravation of selling it on your own.
Believe it or not, I have less than 80,000 miles on it so that should keep the value from being too horrible. Kelley Blue Book suggests a trade-in price of $3,615, but those tend to be pretty high from what I’ve seen (reminds me of Zillow!).
Funny enough, though, I was at my cousin’s house and was telling him and his girlfriend our CarMax plan. Before I knew it, they were discussing her car lease ending in May and how they want a used car… and my car might be great for what they need.
I told them I still wanted to take it to CarMax first just to get an idea of what they were offering and in case they would throw an overpriced offer my way.
My expectations were low, but I was hoping for something above $2,500. Well, they offered me $3,000. That works for me!
I let my cousin know and he said, “We’ll match that.” Fair enough – I’d rather sell to them anyway. And his girlfriend’s a notary so that’ll make the transfer even easier.
So probably later this week, bye-bye, Malibu! You’ll be missed!
The July adventure – the ACTUAL start of our pack up and go…
I talked about our change in plans a couple of months ago. Since our lease at the apartment is now up and we’re now going month-to-month, we decided to end our lease a month earlier because… well, why not?!
So we finally got our entire adventure mapped out. We’ll be floating around Ohio for most of July before making our way to South Carolina and then Texas. Here are some of the places we’ve got lined up:
- A week or two at Kelleys Island
- A day at Cedar Point
- A couple of days at Great Wolf Lodge
- 3 or 4 days of camping
- A couple of days in Columbus for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
- Possibly a night to stay with some family in southern Ohio we don’t see that often
- A week in Cross Hill, South Carolina (vacation with family)
- Lunch in Atlanta with an old friend
- A few weeks at our new home in Leander, Texas with my brother and sister-in-law
Along the way, we’ll be vagabonds and stay at different places and hotels as we go. Even with all the places we’ll be visiting and the cost of the various hotels, we should still come out to be at almost the same cost of where we would have been if we just stayed in our apartment!
The latest scoop on solving some other problems
Communication will hopefully be a little easier for friends and family once we move with a change I made. If you read my recent post, Using Google Voice to Stay in Touch While Living Abroad, you’ll see how we were able to leverage Google Voice to simplify things dramatically.
We’ll count that as a definite win!
Virtual mail for our physical address
Another interesting puzzle we had to figure out was how to handle our physical mail here in the U.S. That becomes extremely important as we establish residency in Texas before leaving for Panama.
We’re moving in with my brother and sister-in-law come August, but I don’t want them to be stuck with our mail once we leave. My goal is to try to be as invisible to them as possible so we don’t drive anyone nuts. And a PO box wouldn’t work well because we’ll be in Panama and won’t be able to pick up our mail.
So I dug into a bunch of different online virtual mailboxes. The whole idea is that a business (maybe a UPS store) issues you a suite number based off of their address. That becomes your new mailing address.
When mail comes to them addressed to you at that address (the key being the suite number), they then scan the envelope and let you know via email, text, or their app. You can then choose what to do with the mail – trash it, shred it, open and scan it, or forward it to a different physical address.
I compared a number of them and spent way too long reviewing all the details like I always do. They all have their pros and cons and you’ll find folks who love or hate one over the other. However, for our needs, I decided to go with Anytime Mailbox.
One of the offerings that separated them from the others was that you can swing by and pick up a piece of mail if needed. The location I chose is about 10-15 minutes from my brother’s house, so that could come in handy. A good example would be when we receive a replacement credit card for one that expires.
They all have limits and they nickel and dime you on things, but it should suffice for our purposes. I’ve already moved some things over and I love that I can check my mail from anywhere.
I have some financial documents already going there because we’ll need those to be in place when we get to Texas. I have my brother’s house as the physical address and the virtual mailbox as the mailing address. That way, when we get there, I can print off statements to use as proof of residence when getting our TX driver’s licenses.
Although Boquete, Panama is a pretty big expat community, English speakers are still the minority there. My understanding is that the population is about 30,000 and 4,000 are expats.
When we go to the grocery store, a restaurant, or anywhere else, folks working there will almost always speak Spanish. Although we can get by with a few Spanish words and the help of Google Translate on our phones, it will be tremendously easier to know how to speak the language.
I took a couple of years of Spanish in high school, but as I learned when we visited Panama in 2017, there are definitely some cobwebs around those memories. And Mrs. R2R and Faith are brand new to the language.
So we’ve been spending some time trying to get a little better with our Spanish skills.
We’re not aiming to become fluent, but we want to be able to effectively communicate without too much of a struggle there. “Otra cerveza por favor” will only take us so far… or is that good enough?!
Time for the travel rewards to pack up and go, too!
A little less than a year and a half ago, I started us down the path of credit card travel rewards. I first realized just how much money we were leaving on the table by not taking advantage of this opportunity after listening to a ChooseFI podcast.
I dug into things further from there and we began our journey to build up our travel rewards.
Over that small time frame, we’ve built up:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 232,490 points (these are hugely valuable!)
- United miles: 97,465
- Southwest points: 100,122
- American miles: 66,376
Additionally, that garnered us a couple of cards to reimburse us for the Global Entry passes for Mrs. R2R and I. That includes TSA Pre✓, but it covers international travel and customs expedition as well! We still had to pay for Faith’s, but two out of three ain’t bad… that saved us another $200.
Another benefit was that we received a handful of passes to allow us a couple of stays at the United Club – perfect for the long layovers in Panama City for flights to and from David, Panama!
I had signed up for the Southwest Plus card when they ran a promotion to be able to get the Companion Pass through the end of this year. That means we basically get a buy-one-get-one on any tickets we buy. That’s exciting as we travel back and forth between Texas and Ohio when we come back to visit.
However, Mrs. R2R recently signed up for the Southwest Plus card through my referral link. That will give me another 10,000 miles which will give us a total of just over 110,000 total points. That’s an important number because that will ensure we have that awesome Companion Pass through the end of next year, too.
Once we get that, we’ll be done for now. We want to a break so we can focus on the big move instead of maximizing rewards. But once we get settled, we’ll more than likely begin again.
We haven’t changed our spending habits at all and this small amount of effort has given us thousands upon thousands of dollars in value in return… extraordinary!
You can find the cards we used and recommend here. Any cards you sign up for from the links there won’t cost you anything, but it will help keep this blog up and running.
Moving the businesses
Ugh – this has been on my mind for a while. I currently have three small LLCs and I’m trying to figure out how to handle them…
- Do I leave them here in Ohio? Does that mean I need to register them in Texas as a foreign LLCs there?
- What about the rental property LLC where all business is done in Ohio (that’s the only property we have)? Do I have to do anything with that one?
- Would it be better to convert the LLCs to Texas entities? More costly, but simplified in the end?
I could go on and on, but the gist is that I’m not qualified to answer all these questions. It would be nice to move them as a sign to the state of Ohio to say, “Yes, I’m actually moving my state of domicile to Texas and not just trying to avoid taxes.”
I’m currently talking to a couple of business attorneys to try to figure this out, but I’d imagine that in the end, it’s not going to be cheap.
If that’s an area of expertise for you, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In between all this fun, some things have stayed pretty consistent. Mrs. R2R and I are still working out on a consistent basis. I’m also obviously still working on the Route to Retire site. New site design still to come!
And Mrs. R2R is feeling pretty confident about what she’s come up with for homeschooling our daughter. She’s currently working on writing a post to tell you more about that in the near future.
So, pack up and go? Yeah, right. But at least we’re getting closer to making this happen. The anticipation is growing daily!
Thanks for reading!!