Six months ago I picked up my suitcase, a computer bag, and a carry on and left the life I knew behind. I took a Greyhound bus to Ft Lauderdale, and a plane to Panama City.
I remember that trip, remember being so excited. This was the real deal. I was going to Panama to live! Could I manage? Could I do what needed to be done? We had been talking about this for so long, planning it, working towards it. Had the actual day arrived? I hadn’t planned on going by myself, but I had done all I could in the US and getting things ready in Panama made sense. But, how long would it be until we were back together?
The first thing I learned is that you cannot buy a one way ticket to Panama, not unless you are a legal resident. So, after buying the cheapest return ticket the agent could find, I was allowed on the plane. The second thing I learned is you can buy a phone as soon as you arrive in Panama, but it won’t necessarily be charged up and ready to go. But, I managed to get a short call through to my friends, and the rest of the trip proceeded without a problem.
As it turned out, things fell into place very easily. Friends asked their mechanic about a car, so he sold me his wife’s car. I had emailed my housing requests to Eduardo Horno, an agent who helps with rental properties, and the first house he showed me was just perfect. A trip to the Do-It Center had me fixed up with appliances, beds, pots and pans, and all the essentials. Of course there was still more to do, but little by little I learned my way around town, got life organized, made friends with the neighbors, and got settled. My Spanish wasn’t great and that made things harder, but I was so thankful that I could at least communicate some. I was getting by!
Things in the US also went much faster than anticipated. The house sold quickly so I ended up going back to the US for closing, and then I was there to assist Joel and his mom on the trip down. We were actually apart only three weeks, and then all of us were here in Panama.
So, what do I think after six months living here? How has reality compared to what I thought it would be?
It has been better than I expected. Life feels calmer, more simple. Part of it is us, no jobs to worry about, no home owner concerns, enough money to cover expenses. We have a lot less to worry and fret about, less to manage, less weight on our backs.
Part of it is the country. The people are so warm and friendly, and have welcomed us and gone out of their way to be helpful. What we need is available in the stores here. The internet works, electricity is reliable. We have barely begun to explore the country but we are already happy with the beauty and opportunities to have fun right in our backyard. The weather is a bit hot at the moment, but generally we climate suits us and we don’t worry about hurricanes or other natural disasters, or snow and ice.
What are we missing here?
Mail as we knew it. It takes a while to get mail sent here, but now we have a mail service so for a bit of extra money this has improved.
Reliable water. Especially now in the dry season the water tank runs dry at times, but we have learned to keep water on hand, and it’s not as hard to deal with this as one would think.
US TV. Something went on with the cable service here and they do not make the major US networks available. But, we never watched much TV before so we don’t care. And, I discovered some shows we watched occasionally, like Pickers or Pawn Stars are available here dubbed in Spanish.
If I had it to do over, would I do it? Would I do anything differently?
Oh yes, oh my goodness yes I would do it!
Differently? Not really.
We could have drawn up power of attorney papers so Joel could sign my name at closing for the house. We didn’t realize how slow it would be to send papers back and forth.
I could have bought a phone on a previous trip so it would be charged up and ready to go. It was frustrating not to be able to contact the friends who were waiting for me at the other end.
I could have bought a round trip ticket so I wasn’t stuck making a last minute decision, but this was only a bit of wasted money.
But these things are minor in the big picture, and I have no regrets about how we managed the overall move and transition.
It will be interesting to see how everything feels at the end of our first year. We’ve been here long enough that what is considered the honeymoon phase should be over. But also, since Joel’s mom as recently returned to the US, this is another beginning with our changed living circumstances.
I think I can say with confidence that we are doing very well in Panama, and that we will continue to be happy here!