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We started our early retirement in Panama in the late summer of 2019. It was just me, my wife, Lisa, and our daughter, Faith, who was 9 at the time.
Things were moving along very well. The weather in the mountains of Boquete where our place resides is wonderful – 75° F every day! We spent so much time walking around and just enjoying the welcoming country and the new experiences.
We found a rhythm homeschooling Faith and taking her to horseback riding once or twice a week. I continued to spend time working on Route to Retire, learning Spanish, and working out. Lisa and Faith volunteered every month at a spay/neuter clinic called Amigos de Animales.
Relationships were forming with new friends (including Faith with other kids). Life was going pretty well and the plan was to take it year-by-year for as long as we enjoyed it… what could go wrong?
Yeah, about that. What are the odds of moving to a different country and having a once-in-a-century global pandemic hit during your first year there?!
So, things have changed and now our retirement in Panama may very well be over.
The COVID-19 pandemic was nice enough to provide a twist in life for all of us. Some folks have had it rougher than others and I don’t ever forget just how fortunate we are. However, it’s still given us our own bit of trouble trying to enjoy our retirement in Panama.
Panama’s been very aggressive in their attempt to slow the spread of the virus since the beginning. Unfortunately, not everyone played by the rules, and the active cases have continued to grow in the country.
If you’ve been following along over the past few months, we had a tough decision to make. At the end of June, we decided to head back to the U.S. We made that decision even though we knew we might not be able to get back to our retirement in Panama anytime soon thereafter.
Sure enough, here we are in Ohio without any idea if we’ll be able to return. The Panamanian government hasn’t done a great job of laying out an actual timeline of when things will open back up in the country – including the borders and airports. And that makes it tough for us.
We’re “stuck” away from our home in Panama.
This past spring, the President of Panama (Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo) closed the airports and borders temporarily. Since that time, he’s continued to extend the suspension in 30-day increments. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes planning very difficult.
As of right now, the airport suspension is slated to be lifted around August 23. That would be easy enough, but in all likelihood, it’ll be extended another month… and possibly more after that.
But here’s the real clincher – when and if the borders do open, the chances of them allowing U.S. residents in is pretty slim right now. They’ll probably follow suit with so much of the world in blocking access to U.S. citizens where the virus has been spreading so severely. As a side note, we don’t have residency in Panama – otherwise, we’d more than likely be able to travel back there a little more promptly.
In other words, even if we’re able to get back to our retirement in Panama, I would guess that it’s not going to happen for at least the rest of this year. And remember that part where I mentioned we were taking this year-by-year?
Well, we were probably going to make this our last year (summer 2020 through summer 2021). The biggest reason is that this is probably the last year we’d feel comfortable homeschooling Faith. Once she’d be going into 6th grade in the fall of 2021, we were leaning toward putting her back in school.
That means that if we can’t get back to Panama this year, it probably won’t make a ton of sense to go back… at least until Faith gets older and moves out.
So now what?
First off, we do hope to go back in the next couple of months. However, we know that it’s probably not going to happen.
One of the good/bad things we have going on is that our rental lease for our place in Panama is set to expire in mid-September. If we don’t think we’ll get back there, there’s no sense in renewing it and continuing to pay rent for an unknown number of months. I’d also like to give our landlord 30 days’ notice which means I’ll need to let her know in the next couple of weeks.
I’m sure she’d probably be flexible enough to let us go month-to-month considering the circumstances. But not knowing how long this would be for, does it really make sense to pay for it to sit like a storage unit?
Speaking of storage, one of the best things about retirement in Panama is that almost all places are fully furnished. That means that we didn’t buy a lot of home furnishings or other stuff while living there.
But we still do have some of our stuff in the condo. That means we need to figure out what to do with those possessions. Luckily, most of it could be boiled down to two or three suitcases worth of our property that we’d like to hang onto.
My hope is that I could burden our neighbor to pack those things up in a few suitcases we still have there and ship everything to us. I’ll feel guilty asking her for help and It’s going to be crazy expensive, but I guess that’s the way to cookie crumbles.
If all goes well, I’ll be talking to my neighbor this week to let her know the plan and see if she’d be willing to help out. Then I’ll talk to the landlord and fill her in. And just like that, our retirement in Panama will be over.
I wish we were able to stay there longer, but that’s the way it goes, folks. Fortunately, we’re pretty good at adapting as needed and finding ways to enjoy life regardless.
If retirement in Panama is out, what’s the plan?
This question’s a little more difficult to answer. The short-term plans are pretty easy – we’re taking our road trip around the U.S. and leaving next week. When all is said and done, we’ll probably be back to Ohio sometime in September.
But the long-term plans are a little more complex.
During our road trip, we’re going to take a couple of days to check out some areas of Tennessee. We’re familiar with some areas between Nashville and Knoxville and thought that might be a cool place to live. It’s no retirement in Panama, but it might have to do!
Or maybe we’ll find another area during our travels that sucks us in. I doubt that’ll happen, but you never know.
Otherwise, there’s also the possibility that we’ll just move back to Ohio. We could get an apartment here and even send Faith back to her old school. I hate winter with a passion but maybe that’ll make sense at least for the time being.
We’ll see where life takes us!
One thing that would be an interesting twist though is that our living expenses will most likely take a jump. A lot of factors should remain similar, but healthcare is that fun dynamic that we’d have to consider.
I would guess that we’d go back to a health sharing ministry like Liberty HealthShare. I’ll talk more about that and how living in the U.S. affects our financials in a future post.
Thank God, we planned our retirement numbers around living in the U.S. in case we decided to come back from Panama. This wasn’t the way I anticipated it could ever happen, but I’m glad we prepared accordingly.
I also think that Lisa would likely go back to work – not full time, but some kind of part-time work. She misses having something routine like that in her days. Maybe I can convince her to write about her thoughts on this. More importantly, maybe I can convince her to get a job at a place like Starbucks or another company that offers health insurance for part-time workers! 😉
Not this guy though – maybe someday, but right now I’m loving that Route to Retire is my job. I still feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day, but once Faith is a little older, maybe that’ll change.
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!
So that’s it, folks. I loved our retirement in Panama and certainly wish we could go back, but it just seems like the stars aren’t going to align for that to happen in the near future. We’re still hoping that we can go back, but time’s running out quickly. I’ll keep you posted though as we make our final decisions on where life is taking us next.
Thanks for reading!!