The Realities of Adventure: Are the Headaches Before and After Worth It?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and we may receive a referral fee (at no extra cost to you) if you sign up or purchase products or services mentioned. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Realities of Adventure: Are the Headaches Before and After Worth It?

There’s no doubt we’re making the most out of our early retirement freedom. I left my career at the end of 2018 and we’ve done a lot of unique things since then, including:

The point is that we’ve stepped out of our comfort zone to do some different things – some involving a fair amount of adventure. There are two on that list that really stand out though on the adventure list just because of the commitment, work involved in making them happen, and the time spent doing them:

  • Moving to Panama for 3 years
  • Traveling the country in an RV for 8 months

Both of these were amazing parts of our lives. And, although we learned that full-time RV’ing isn’t the right life for us, we wouldn’t trade the experience we had for anything.

Here’s the problem though – with each big adventure, the stress and headaches involved in making it happen and getting back to “the real world” afterward are crazy and stressful. There’s so much time and effort involved with a stupid amount of details that need to be handled – not to mention the costs of getting things back to “normal” again.

My head is spinning just thinking about all the stuff we still need to do to get back on track over here now that we’re done with our RV adventure.

So is it worth it?

Making memories with each new adventure!

Moving to Panama was so out of our realm of comfort and something we had initially dug into simply as an option to reach financial independence sooner since the cost of living is less expensive than it is here.

But later on, Lisa came up with the thought that if we did this and then later hated living in Panama, we would either have to move back and go back to work or suck it up and live in a place we weren’t happy in. So I continued to work and save until we could afford to live in either place.

Regardless, we decided to move to Panama just for the adventure… and it turned out to be amazing. The landscapes and the vibrant flowers and trees are incredible. The people are kind and friendly. The weather in the highlands of Boquete where we lived was 75°F every day of the year. And, the prices allowed us to live a more elevated lifestyle without breaking the bank.

We met so many new people – both expatriates like us and also Panamanians. We tried different things like staying at a jungle lodge, going whale watching, taking a bus to and from Costa Rica, and ziplining through the cloud canopy of the rainforest. We ate different foods and found what we liked and didn’t. And we didn’t have a car since the town is so walkable, which allowed us to be outside a lot and get some good exercise as a bonus.

This was the pinnacle of adventure in that it changed our understanding of other cultures and places. The move to Panama opened my eyes to realizing there’s more to life than what we knew and were comfortable with.

Sorry, I’m a big fan of the old Disney movies – what can I say?

Our time there lasted almost three years until we decided to move back to the U.S. to be closer to family. Moving back was extremely hard for me to do and actually pushed me into a deep depression for several months.

After my bout of depression, Lisa, Faith, and I were brainstorming a way to get out of Ohio for a while (particularly for the winter). We then came up with the wacky idea of buying an RV and traveling around the country.

This was another adventure that was completely out of our wheelhouse. We had some mixed emotions by the time we were done – we got to see some breathtaking and cool places that we would never have seen otherwise.

We were also able to see so much of the “cool” wildlife out west that you don’t normally see in Ohio like bison, prairie dogs, elk, pronghorn antelope, burros, roadrunners, and all sorts of others.

But, eight months was too long for us. It got old for us being full-time RV people. We’re glad we did it and saw and did things we probably would never get to do otherwise, but we wouldn’t do it again (at least for that long of an amount of time).

Prepping and getting back on track after the adventure… what’s the big deal?

On the surface, jumping into a big adventure like the two I mentioned might not sound like there’s a ton of downside. After all, we’ve got time and flexibility – how hard can it be to make something like this happen?

Very hard.

We’ve made this mistake on both the Panama move and the RV road trip. We went into them thinking it would be a little bit of legwork but nothing too crazy.

Yeah, well, we were wrong.

Think about the Panama move – we had an astounding number of things to do to prepare. At a high level, it doesn’t look too bad…

  • Sell everything we had here
  • Fly to Panama
  • Find a place to live there

Easy peasy! Yeah, right. There were so many details it would make your head spin. First of all, think of how stressful and involved it is to just sell a house. Now add in selling, giving away, or donating almost everything in it including two cars. That was a mind melt in itself.

But the details of all the little steps to make this move happen could drive you mad. Thank God we had something like Trello to help us stay on top of things, but it was still a mess. Here are just a handful of the things you might not even think about right off the rip…

  • Get vaccinated – that means figuring out what we each needed, finding a clinic, making appointments, getting the first round of vaccinations, and then going back for the second round.
  • Moving to apartment until ready to leave – yeah, that’s another move – that also means canceling homeowner’s insurance and finding/getting renter’s insurance
  • Moving some things to a small storage unit
  • Researching and getting travel insurance
  • Renewing passports and getting Global Entry (and all the details that go along with making that happen)
  • Researching and finding a virtual mailbox company – changing our address for everything to that
  • Finding a place to stay for a month in Panama so we could have feet on the ground while looking for a more permanent place
  • Making our travel plans and flights to Panama
  • Opening a checking account at Schwab since it’s more travel-friendly and then moving everything over to it
  • Porting our phone numbers over to Google Voice so we could use our U.S. phone numbers to continue seamlessly communicating with friends and family while abroad
  • Figuring out homeschooling and how to leave the regular school system and transition over to it
  • Adding travel notices to credit cards, banks, and STEP
  • Head to Texas to change our state of domicile plus learn everything that needed to go into doing this
  • Close accounts with utilities and our U.S. phone plans

Again, this is just a tiny sliver of things that needed to be done… and that doesn’t even include any of what needed to be done once we got to Panama!

And guess what – when we moved back, we had to reverse many of the things we did to move there. That also meant buying new “everything” for the new place we moved into once we returned to the U.S. after Panama.

I’m not looking for any sympathy here. We didn’t expect it to be so much work, but it is what it is and you deal with everything and eventually get it done.

However, you’d think we would have learned a lesson before we moved onto the RV adventure… not so much!

Instead, we went through a lot of work similar to the move to Panama. This time we moved everything into storage, changed our address to my mother-in-law’s house, bought an RV, bought a towing vehicle, and more. Again, these are just high-level items – it truly was a lot of work. Plus, it was an unexpected amount of work on the road always trying to map out where to go, for how long, places to visit, and all the details that go along with life on the road.

And now that we’re back, we’re in the middle of the headaches of undoing everything again:

  • Finding a storage location for the RV (done)
  • Selling the RV
  • Selling the tow vehicle
  • Selling the RV accessories (done)
  • Finding and an apartment (done)
  • Moving into the apartment
  • Closing out the storage unit
  • Changing our address everywhere… again
  • Canceling and changing all the insurance policies – auto, RV, renters

This is another one where the list goes on. But the point is that each of these presents a lot of time, effort, and stress to do.

So, is it worth it for the fun we garner with each adventure?

Is it worth all these headaches to need to “undo” everything later?

I’d like to say “hell yeah” and leave it at that.

However, it’s not that simple of an answer.

For our Panama move, there’s no doubt in the world – it was absolutely worth it. That’s the crazy adventure that opened our eyes to the realization of a whole new world out there. We had an amazing time living there – and that was living there throughout a lot of the pandemic!

For our RV trip, I’d still say that it was worth it… but with that one, there’s more eye-rolling and sighing at what needs to be done. Maybe it’s because this was only for 8 months versus almost 3 years for Panama. Or maybe it’s because we now know that full-time RV’ing isn’t something we’d ever want to do again.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re so glad we did it and saw and did some truly amazing sites and wildlife… but we’re also glad it’s over (which I can’t say the same for with our time in Panama).

Or maybe it’s because I’m getting older (I’ll be 50 next year!). As you get older, sometimes the headaches don’t seem worth it for the adventure.

Or possibly it’s just that it gets old in general selling things, moving, buying things, moving again – and all the other chores. Been there done that.

Are these headaches going to keep us from our next adventure though?

It’s hard to say. I’d like to say no, we’d do it in a heartbeat, but I guess that would depend on what sort of wacky dream we come up with next.

We did decide to settle down for a little while though so Faith could spend more time hanging out with friends her age. She’s 14 now and spends all her free time at a barn volunteering with other horse-riding friends and loves it. She deserves to have her own room with more freedom and not be trapped in a small RV with her parents.

As part of this decision, we’re going to do less crazy-long knee-deep sort of adventures and do more one or two-week (or longer) traveling vacations. So, there won’t be insane details like letting apartment leases lapse or buying or selling vehicles, but rather just some costs we’ll absorb and try to utilize travel rewards and status matches to help out, too.

We’ll continue to use the free service Travel Freely as our main hub to help us manage our credit cards and sign-on bonuses and to help us find the next cards as we go. If you haven’t tried it out before, you should – it works great and it’s free – how can you argue with that? 🙂

But what about once Faith gets done with high school and heads to college? We’ll see what happens. We might be chomping at the bit to do something more adventurous or we might be content just taking several trips throughout the year.

I guess we’ll need to see what happens and take it one small adventure at a time in the meantime!

If you enjoyed this post, consider jumping on the mailing list so you don’t miss another. As a thank you, I’ll send you a welcome gift with some really cool spreadsheets I created for myself that I thought are worth sharing:

Sound interesting? Sign up here…

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

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

10 thoughts on “The Realities of Adventure: Are the Headaches Before and After Worth It?”

  1. Two thoughts, Jim. 1) Panama allowed your dollars to stretch, and it has now been 6 years of living on savings. Financially, Panama likely mitigated much of your sequence of return risk as you continue your journey. 2) Forest Gump derived satisfaction out of mowing the grass at the high school. Fictional I know, especially since most HS fields are fake grass now, but there is still a point to choosing something that appears simple and doing it well. I’m about ready to take up welding, or glass blowing….

    1. Both good points, Kev! Funny enough, i always talk about doing the Forrest thing. I was a landscaper for a single season but loved the mowing part of things a ton. It was outdoors, got a nice tan, and was too tired later to spend the money I made for that day! 🙂

      That was almost 30 years ago so I’m sure I’m only remembering the good parts but maybe I need to find a single client or two and run with it!

  2. Jim, add to that the emotional letdown after any big adventure (as you experienced after Panama), and there’s an emotional adjustment as well. We’re with you on the disadvantages of long RV travel. In our case, we’ve settled on taking a few Mon-Fri camping trips in local State Parks, and one longer RV trip every year of a month or so. It works well for us, and we face none of the big headaches “making it happen” or “undoing” it after it’s done. It sounds like you’re heading in the same direction – I wish you the best of luck!

  3. Hi Jim,
    You mention in your to do list above that you have found an apartment but is that back in Ohio? And are you planning to write about the details of the new place along with the process of finding it? I ask as I really enjoyed your writing on that topic and the at times hassles you can run into when attempting to rent without a “standard real job”. It always seems so crazy to me that a family with 1.5m+ in liquid assets and no debt somehow can often have a harder time getting qualified for an apartment rental than say someone making 40-60k per year at a job but with no savings whatsoever but apparently that is often the case from what I’ve read especially at the large corporate owned apartment complexes. Anyway I think it is an interesting topic and hope you will write about your recent experience like last time after moving back from Panama. Also, love your blog in general and though I rarely comment read it regularly. Thanks.

    1. Hi Lou – thanks so much for the kind words! Yes, we’re back in Northeast Ohio again. Funny enough, after looking at way too many places, we decided to go back to the apartment complex we were in before we left for the RV trip. So the nice thing is that we didn’t need to deal with the headaches of finding someone new who could look at our assets/portfolio to know we’re good. We just did it the same as last time and I submitted some redacted account statements and called it a day. Yeah, it is pretty silly that that can often times be a struggle when renting (or trying to do other financial endeavors) when you’re probably in much better shape than most others doing the same thing. Such is life I guess.

      I try to write what’s on mind. Hopefully, I won’t go through that depression again like I did when we got back from Panama, but if I do, I’ll write about it. It gives me a little bit of therapy doing it. Otherwise, I’ll continue to write about whatever is going on in life, including the mental aspects.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.