Today marks another year of living in Panama permanently. Three years ago, after much planning, research, and anticipation, we stepped off the airplane onto Panama soil to start our third life. I look back and still remember how anxious and nervous I was. Now I was going to live in a different country with a different language, different culture, different climate, different people. This time it was not like before when we had visited. This time was for good. We had sold or given away most everything – home, cars, furniture, memorabilia from many years past. All we owned was that which we had in our 4 checked-in suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and 2 backpacks, followed weeks later with a 4 X 4 X 6 foot wood crate full of kitchen supplies, tools, tv & home theatre, and anything else we though we needed that we could stuff in. Later we realized that was still too much. But some of those things have made the house we live in our home.
I had never lived outside of California, let alone outside the United States. Many of my friends and members of my family thought we were crazy. Some told us we will be back for good soon. (I have only been back to visit the U.S. three times since.) It was one thing to visit, but to live there? They would ask if it was safe; did we know what we were getting ourselves into?
We were leaving our family and friends behind, many who we will probably never see again. We would be leaving our church. There would be no more singing with Placer Pops Chorale. All these people I knew and do miss. But I have always loved to travel and explore new places. Now was our time to honestly retire and to do just that. “Our third life” did not have to be in California where we would probably still be working to make ends meet. Personally, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be spent in Panama until we came to visit and fell in love with the country. God opened all the doors and we stepped through in faith.
The first 8 days were spent in Panama City. We stayed in an apartment in the Congrejo area while we applied for our Pensionado permanent residence visa. We had spent much time previously in the U.S. collecting all the necessary certified and apostiled documents with many emails back and forth between us and the Panamanian attorney we had retained. So everything went smoothly and within 3 days, we had our temporary residence visa in hand, the permanent visa would come about 5 months later. Our driver Luis, who picked us up at the airport and delivered us safely to the apartment, also drove us to various places throughout the city including the U.S. Embassy where we had an appointment for our California driver’s license to be certified in order to apply for a Panamanian driver’s license. Luis seemed to know the ins and outs and helped us get our driver’s licenses that week before we took off to Pedasí. He even drove us about 90 kilometers to pick up our car we had bought previously through a “broker”. We have become good friends and have used his services many times since.
Moving here has certainly been an adventure. I have no regrets. Yes, there have been some challenges in learning Spanish, the culture, the Panamanian laws, and dealing with common issues such as electrical and water outages, slow internet, cars breaking down, finding certain types of food and even shoe sizes, etc. Everything has not gone as planned. Some of these things would probably be issues that would send and have sent some people back to their home country. But I have learned to “go with the flow”; problems can happen anywhere you live. I choose to look around and think about all the advantages and blessings we have received by moving here: new friends and acquaintances from all over the world; less stress (tranquilo); the warm climate and beautiful beaches; more time to do what I want to do and spend with my husband Mikkel; traveling and seeing new places. My third life has been enriched and I thank God for making it possible. I don’t know what the future may have in store for us, but I can truly say we made the right decision for us to make our home here in Panama.