For Lief And Me, This Important Next Stage Is Nearly Upon Us
For coming up on two decades now, Lief and I have been working together to identify and then position pieces of our eventual “retirement.”
We don’t plan ever to retire in the conventional sense. What would we do with ourselves if we didn’t get up each morning and draft a dispatch to you, dear reader?
For us, retirement will be transitioning to what for us qualifies as the ultimate lifestyle—one of perpetual motion.
We like to move around, and we appreciate change and contrast. As parents of school-aged children, our moving around has been dictated, these past 20 years, by school calendars. We’ve based ourselves in one place, where our children have gone to school—first Ireland, then Paris, now Panama City—and we’ve planned our travels around their breaks.
Now, though, as we begin the turn around the bend to 2017, an important milestone is coming fast upon us.
In June 2017, our son, Jackson, now 17, graduates high school.
In June, he’ll earn (assuming all goes well!) his French Bac from the Lycée Français Paul Gauguin in Panama.
From that day on, Lief and I will be able to come and go as we like.
For me, this realization is bittersweet. Sure, it’ll be nice to be able to hit the road when we want, to wander where we want, as often as we want, and to stay in each place as long as we’d like.
On the other hand, I admit that I’m not looking forward to the day our petit dernier (little last one) walks out the door and into the world.
That day is coming soon, though, so Lief and I are working in a more focused way than ever to fit together the pieces we’ve accumulated into a more formal Next Stage Plan.
This plan has Paris as its hub.
No, we won’t be decamping from Panama City. That city, where our Live and Invest Overseas headquarters are now firmly established, is part of the long-term plan, too. So is Los Islotes, on Panama’s Pacific coast… Medellín, Colombia… Istria, Croatia… Cayo, Belize… and beyond.
Paris and Panama City? Medellín, Colombia, and Cayo, Belize? The crashing Pacific coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula and a medieval mountain village in the heart of Istria, Croatia?
As I said, we like contrast.
Thanks to our natural affinity for the place and the four years we lived there when the kids were younger, Paris feels like home, and, when we’re too feeble to get on another plane, that’s where you’ll find us.
Until that day, we also want to spend time regularly in the other places on our list and maybe in some others, too, that we’ve yet to identify. When we come and go from these spots, we want to do it as “locals,” not tourists, and with a purpose. That’s why we’ve worked hard to build infrastructure in each location that has gotten under our skin and stirred our imaginations. In each of these places, we’ve made friends and made investments, we’ve found partners and launched businesses…
We’ve bought apartments, built houses, planted trees, and cultivated gardens.
We’ve become involved in the local communities, contributing, as we can, to help support local schools, for example.
When we show up in each location, we want to have something to do with ourselves (in addition to drafting these dispatches). We want company for cocktails and companions for dinner, but we also want to be engaged in activities with an aim.
In Cayo, Belize, we’re trying to learn a little about farming and self-sufficient living, with the help of friends in that part of the world who qualify as experts at those things.
In Istria, we intend to try our hand at viticulture. What we know about wine right now is that we like to drink it. Istria is a great place to grow grapes to make it, so we’re counting on friends with experience in the region to show us how.
On Panama’s Pacific coast, at Los Islotes, we’re building an oceanfront community in the Spanish-Colonial style. Here we’re also investing in a small woodworking operation so we can learn to make doors, windows, and moldings for the houses we’ll be building and maybe furniture, too.
With only seven months to go until Jackson’s graduation from high school, I’m coming face-to-face with the passage of time. The eventual “Next Stage” of life that Lief and I have been piecing together in the background for years is nearly upon us. We’ll soon be “Next-Stagers.” Yikes.
For my 40th birthday (more than a decade ago), Lief took the kids and me to Galway for the weekend. We were living in Waterford at the time.
Walking along the seafront in Galway town the eve before the big day, Kaitlin, then 14, looked up at me and asked, “Does it bother you that your life is over?”
Before I could respond, she continued…
“I mean, you’re married. You have two kids. You’ve been doing the same job forever. Does it bother you to think that everything for you is already all figured out and over?”
A 14-year-old’s take on turning 40.
Now that milestone is way back in the rear view, as is the big 5-0.
Does it bother me? Well, sure. We’d all like to slow things down if we could.
On the other hand, nothing’s over ‘til it’s over.
When will that be? Lucky for us, we don’t know. So we’ll keep pushing ahead and moving around, Next-Stagers with a plan…