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I’ve been regularly putting my entire life out there publicly on this blog since 2015. So when someone is surprised to find out we’re moving back to the U.S. from Panama, I’m sometimes confused for a second… doesn’t everyone follow our journey on this site every week?
Of course not! Though you should be! 😉
When friends ask us about why we’re moving back, I usually fill them in. And when blog-reading friends ask us why we’re moving back, I usually sum it up and then refer them to a post I wrote titled, We Decided Not To Move Back Home to the U.S. Yet!.
But I realized that I wrote that post in February 2021… over a year ago! Not many of my readers go back through all my posts to know everything that’s been going on throughout our route to retire (see what I did there?).
Considering that we’re leaving from Panama in just over a couple of weeks in mid-April, I think it’s time to talk more about the reasons we’re moving back to Ohio and what our short-term plans will be.
Let’s start with why we’re moving back and then we’ll talk about what we’re going to be doing once we leave…
Reason #1 for moving back… we think it’s the right thing for Faith
Our daughter, Faith, was so crushed by our decision to move back to the U.S. when we first told her last year. In fact, she’s still not thrilled about the idea, though she is finally starting to get excited about some of the things we have planned over the coming year.
So, what Faith wants isn’t really what’s driving our move back. Instead, it’s what we think is best for her – at least for the time being.
We’ve lived in Boquete, Panama since the summer of 2019 and the time we’ve spent here has been something none of us would trade for the world. And for our daughter to be able to experience living in another culture for over 2½ years now is worth its weight in gold. Not many kids will ever have this incredible opportunity so that’s something we’ll always be happy about.
But she’ll be 12 years old soon and that puts her right around the corner from her teenage years. Those are the years where you generally start developing stronger friendships, experiencing your first love and the heartaches that go along with it, gaining some deeper education in high school, maybe getting a part-time job, developing a deeper interest in hobbies or sports, and plenty more.
That’s not to say that she couldn’t make a lot of this happen here in Panama. She’s got a best friend here who’s such a great kid and the two of them might as well be twins with their personalities!
Faith’s already been discovering new interests and hobbies while she’s here. She’s got a YouTube channel called Fun with Faith (click the Subscribe button on it and she’ll love you forever), she’s starting a podcast with her BFF here (which I’ll fill you in on once it’s up and running), she was doing weekly horseback riding until the pandemic ended up shutting that down, and she’s probably the most creative arty-craftsy person I know.
Those are just a few of the things keeping her busy and it’s wonderful to see her mind at work and watch her slowly transform into the person she’s going to become.
However, Boquete is a small town. And most of the ex-pats here are older – folks who have moved here after retiring at a traditional age. That means there aren’t a lot of ex-pat kids here. There are tons of Panamanian kids but that language barrier has made it tougher for us to integrate into the culture.
The bigger problem though is that the opportunities for kids here aren’t great. The extracurricular activities are limited, the international schools are good but not stellar, and future career opportunities aren’t abundant here. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to raise great kids here – plenty of folks have made the magic happen here. But building a solid future for her would likely be easier in the U.S. than it is in Boquete.
And, as any parent would do, we want to give our child the best chance to succeed possible. So that’s our biggest reason for moving back to the States.
But Jim, couldn’t you move anywhere in the U.S. then? Why would you go back to a place with cold winters?
We could, but…
Reason #2 for moving back… family
Our second big reason for moving back is to be closer to family again. I’ll be honest, I don’t struggle with homesickness like Lisa and Faith do. They always have a hard time for the first day or two when we’d leave the U.S. after a visit. And then after a few months in Panama, the tendency to miss family and friends ramps back up again.
After talking with several ex-pat friends here, it seems like homesickness tends to be more prevalent for women than men. I’m not sure if that’s normally the case but it seems I’m not alone in being content while away.
That said, that’s the reason we’re moving back to Ohio… and that was all me. I always feel bad when the girls miss family and I just can’t see that much of a difference between moving to a place like the Carolinas versus being in Panama. Either way, you’re still looking at making some travel plans just to go back and visit.
So why not skip the games and go right to the heart of where everyone is?
I’m not looking forward to going back to the cold winters of Ohio, but I think it’s the right thing to do for Lisa and Faith. Not only that, but we’ll be looking for a place within an hour’s radius of family. That puts us back in the Akron/Cleveland area and we’ll be close enough to family and friends that we can get together again on a regular basis.
So those are the two biggest reasons we’re moving back from Panama. If you notice, it’s not because of Panama itself. I love Boquete – the small-town feel, the beautiful 75°F temperature every day, the people, and the simplicity.
It’s a magical place and I do hope to return here at some point. But for now, moving back is the right thing to do for our family.
If Panama’s on your radar as a possible place to retire to, check out Retire in Panama Tours. It’s a first-rate way to see different parts of the country, learn about the pros and the cons of living here, meet other ex-pats living here, and gain a lot of the right resources to make the transition easier (immigration attorneys, for example).
Oscar, Rod, and Megan are great people, too. They have the knowledge to guide you through Panama, answer your questions, and ensure that Panama’s the right place for you. Check out Retire in Panama Tours for more info!
Our short-term plans
Ok, so you’re moving back to the U.S. from Panama… now what?
Well, first off, we’re taking our time getting back. We’re leaving Panama in a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean we’re going back to the U.S. right away.
We’re going to be making our way to Mexico for a couple of weeks first… I gotta know what authentic Mexican food tastes like!
We’re going to stay in Ajijic in the Lake Chapala area for eight nights and then we’re off again to enjoy a few nights of an all-inclusive vacation in Cancún. Then we’ll head back to Ohio.
But even so, we’re not planning on staying put long. We’re going to stay at my in-laws until June and then we’re hoping to take another month-long road trip like we did in 2020. We’re not going to let the rising gas prices dictate our trip completely, but if it’s getting out of hand, we’ll probably cut down on the miles we go and add additional nights camping along the way.
Once we’re back in Ohio in July, we’ll look for an apartment to live in for the time being. We’ve talked about finding something “not so posh” so we can save some $$$ and travel more often with that extra money we’re saving, but we’ll see how that plays out.
But we already couldn’t help ourselves and recently booked a Caribbean cruise for October on MSC Cruises. We’ve cruised with them twice before and had a lot of fun. Cheap for families, not the party crowd like Carnival, and, well, it’s a cruise.
It was hard to pass this up since we got an 8-night cruise with a balcony on a new ship along with an upgraded drink package for just over $2,096 (tax included). This might be the last year of finding good deals like this as a residual of the pandemic so we went for it.
Besides that, we’ll be able to pay about a third of the cost using some Capital One travel rewards we still have leftover. If you’re looking for some good credit cards to provide some free travel, I recently updated my Recommended Credit Cards page.
That’s what we know for now. We’ll be continuing to homeschool Faith for the 2022-2023 school year. After that, we’re undecided. We’re almost positive she’ll be going to a real high school (as opposed to a fake high school?) so we’ll probably have her go back to school for her 8th-grade year just to have a chance to re-bond with old friends first.
Lisa plans to go back to work part-time just for the structure and socialization side of things. I’ll continue to write on the blog for as long as I continue to enjoy it.
And, of course, we’ll spend time hanging out with friends and family. However, I might become somewhat of a hermit in the winter unless we get the heck out of dodge during that time.
That’s the great thing about early retirement – we don’t have to decide on the “what else” right away. After our first year back of moving back and getting settled in, it’s anyone’s guess what might be going on.
We might find a more permanent apartment or house to rent (we’re not planning on buying, at least for now). We might also become snowbirds for a few months out of the year. We could be exploring other countries or doing more road trips… it’s hard to say.
When Faith’s older, maybe Lisa and I will find ourselves back in Boquete. Perhaps we’ll be in another country altogether. We could be traveling a lot. Or maybe we’ll just be content where we’re at in Ohio… or some other state.
Moving back isn’t the end of our journey… it’s only the beginning. And that’s what’s beautiful about financial independence – we have the freedom to choose the path that’s the best fit for us at the time and can change that path much easier whenever we see fit.
There’s no doubt that we’re going to miss Boquete. But it’s exciting to see what our future holds for us once we’re back. We left for Panama just half a year into my retirement so we really haven’t had much of an opportunity to live in the U.S. while I’m not working… that’s exciting!
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Thanks for reading!!