I haven’t published a blog post in quite some time. It seems I blink and a month has gone by! We’re going on three years , this January, since the start of our project. Wow! How did that happen? Lately Iv’e noticed that we’ve begun to have more of a rhythm to our days. I think this must mean that life is beginning to be more about ‘living’ here and not as much about ‘settling’ here. What does that mean? Well, just that its felt like up until recently this new life here in Panama was so focused for us on finding our footing and getting things set up. But, now as I sit back and take a look at what our days consist of, well, our days are not especially exciting and not especially new. Our days are just ‘our life’. Somehow we aren’t settling in so much as just living the life we’ve made.
When we made this move we announced to ourselves that we had ‘retired’ from the workforce. We left our traditional 9 to 5’s(more like 8 to 8’s) and set off to begin anew! We packed up, sold off, donated and threw away much of our material possessions. Even after all that purging we still managed to stuff a 40ft container of personal belongings to ship out here. Of Course the majority of those, ‘personal belongings’ as you know, consisted of Scotts tools! Okay, so maybe I had a few boxes of dishes, and some clothes, maybe a few too many shoes for this new life but, come on, have ya seen that workshop that Scott filled up?? Huh? But, I digress… My point of this paragraph was to point out that when we initially set out on this journey together as newly retired people we had purged our life and we were starting out fresh and new. And each day for the last nearly four years (May is our 4 year anniversary of living here), It’s been just that , our lives have been about getting started again, settling in and creating a new life… like I said, up until recently it’s truly felt as if life were an ongoing , in-the-process, never-ending , daily journey of newness. Then, seemingly suddenly I’ve begun to realize that we’re no longer ‘setting up’ a new life! This is it! We’re here! Everything we brought with us in that 40 foot container has been unpacked and finally has a place. We’re home! We’re not in limbo. We’re not waiting for visas or learning about all the basics in terms of setting up a new life. Life is just life now….
Does that sound stupid to you? Well, It might. But, it’s true. We’ve been so completely engrossed in starting over for what has felt like so long, that I don’t know when exactly we crossed over into just plain ol’ life. So… we’re here. We’re living our life. As I said, our days have begun to take on a rhythm and a flow that’s no longer about getting set up and finding our place. We’re no longer learning the ropes and searching for answers. Not that we know it all, noooooo, that’s not what I mean. But, we sorta, ‘get it’ now. We understand with a fairly clear focus just what living in Central America means for us. We’ve worked hard to immerse ourselves in the culture, to learn the language , to understand how things are done here. We’ve had experiences of feeling totally clueless and of searching for the best ways to get things done. Trying not to depend on others to do things for us, but really getting out there in our new community and finding a way to feel like we belong. The moments when we’ve needed a service provided or been shocked to learn we’re lacking a permit for this or were supposed to have gotten an inspection for that, have often been experiences that stretched us and made us one step closer to feeling like we’re as self sufficient as we were in our previous life. Mind you, this is not to say we’ve gotten to the place where we’ve stopped learning new things or that we’re not occasionally shocked or surprised by some cultural difference that makes us scratch our heads in bemused confusion! Nah, that day may never come. I hope we never stop learning new things about this wonderful country and the Panamanian people who are now our neighbors.
Its an interesting thing to go through, moving to a place where you must learn even the basics all over again. How to do the simplest of daily tasks. Where to obtain services and documents that are essential to living your life. Doctors, dentists, mechanics, bankers, the list is long when your starting from scratch. Things that we took for granite living in our home country our entire lives that never really took much effort somehow became a big deal. Things like just finding out how and where to get a driver’s license. Where to buy things, like tires, or new brakes for our car. Even learning that brakes on a car are called “Tacos”! Hahaha! Tacos? Yep! We’ve faced quite a lot of interesting new life lessons living here. Then , as you know, we dove into a major construction project just to make our entry into this new life in a foreign land even more interesting! We thought simply setting up our new life was confusing and at times frustrating, try figuring out how to develop land all on your own! We had labor laws to learn about, we had to collect a crew of competent construction workers in a town where we knew next to no one. Then we had to learn how to communicate in Spanish which, before we moved to Panama we knew next to zero. There was the process of permits and finding materials, getting them up here to our land was just one more challenge we had to overcome. All this was going on at the same time as our process of becoming legal residents here in Panama. This was a huge process of jumping through what felt at the time like endless hoops. We had to travel back and forth to Panama City several times, dealing with lawyers and gathering the ever changing documents that all had to be notarized, and apostilled. Ugh! Then the process of shipping our belongings out here, getting them through customs and transported up to our storage units in the nearby town of Dolega.
Mind you, our grand plan to begin again here in this beautiful mountain town in Western Panama, has been quite a bit more complicated than many who make this move. Most of our friends, not all, but many of them here have had a very different approach to their new life living here in Panama. And, I often envy the simplicity with which many others have made this move . We’ve seen so many people arrive with very few possessions, a few suitcases of belongings, and a plan to simply find a long term rental, call it home, settle in and live their life. Easy-Peasy! I look on in awe at this wonderfully simple approach. We’ve met some who plan to settle here in this beautiful mountain town temporarily, only to decide down the road where they will move on to next. They plan to live for short times in different exotic locals. Experiencing many different places along their journey. There are many who have built homes, not unlike we chose to do, but few who have done it the way we’ve done it. There are so many different ways to make a transition like this and I never tire of meeting so many different expats who embrace their very own unique adventure and creating the life that makes their hearts soar!
Scott and I have always been the type of people who get a thrill and a huge amount of personal satisfaction in doing things ourselves. We busted our butts working hard and living a frugal lifestyle all our lives leading up to this move and we were able to do it earlier than most people. Some have said we are ‘lucky’ to be able to retire and do this at such a relatively young age, (we were 47 when we moved), but if you ask us we will tell you there was no ‘Luck” involved. Our relocation was very strategically planned out and researched, we spent seven long years planning out each step to get to where we are right now. Which, as I’ve said in this blog post, we’ve somehow, seemingly gotten to the place where I can say, We are here! We’re home! Sometimes I just can’t believe it! 🙂
Of course we’re still working on our house, we may never be totally done! hah! Although its mostly finished, there’s still quite a bit more to do. But I can happily tell you that the major projects are behind us. We still have what they call ‘Provisional’ electricity. And we still need to have the gas lines all inspected in order to be allowed to use the larger 100lb gas tanks. At the moment we are still using small propane tanks to power our stove and our water heater (the type you use for your BBQ). They work fine but we much prefer to not have to go into town to get full tanks so often. We have yet to have gotten our final inspections and our actual occupancy permit, shrug, but we’re getting close. Scott has a long list of little details to take care of and then we will figure out what the procedure is for getting that Occupancy permit. We’ve shrunk our crew from eight guys and are down to only four. Having fewer guys up here has really been wonderful! For Scott life is so much better not having so many workers to manage everyday. What we’re both really looking forward to is the time when our days begin to take on a more leisurely feel. When we begin to actually feel like we are a little more retired and not working so hard six days a week, nearly ten hours a day. By the start of the new year we hope to be down to only two workers and we plan to cut the work week down and not work on Saturdays anymore. It won’t be long now and we will be able to take a deep breath and let ourselves spend more time having fun and a little less time working our butts off! That sounds good to me! The Adventure has not only begun but continues to provide endless Adventure! And that elusive light at the end of the tunnel is coming into focus more and more with each passing day!