For better than 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 was directed until recently primarily by school calendars. Over the past 20 years, we’ve based ourselves in one place, where our children have gone to school—first Ireland, then Paris, then Panama City—and we’ve planned our travels around their breaks.
This year, though, we’ve embraced the start of the next phase of our plan. Now empty nesters, our daughter grown and our son a freshman at NYU Shanghai, Lief and I are able to come and go as we like.
For me, this transition has been bittersweet. Sure, it’s 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 have to admit that adjusting to the idea of being a mom without kids in the house has taken some effort. What is a mom to do when her kids no longer occupy her attention full-time?
I say: Hit the road!
Over the past year, Lief and I have worked in a more focused way than ever to fit together the pieces we’ve accumulated over the past two decades into a more formal Next Stage Plan.
This plan has Paris and Panama as dual hubs.
We were full-time residents of Panama for more than 10 years… and we’re in Panama to stay. Our Live and Invest Overseas business is headquartered in Panama City… while this country’s Pacific Azuero Sunset Coast is the location of the Los Islotes community we’re building.
We’re all in on Panama… and more bullish on this country’s prospects long-term than ever. Panama is one of the best places in the world to start a business or invest in real estate… and we look forward to every chance to spend time on the Azuero Peninsula. Mother Nature has outdone herself on this coast.
After a decade hunkered down in Panama, this year we’ve been able to spend extended time again in Paris… and have remembered why, for us, time in Paris is one of this world’s greatest delights.
We also enjoy spending time in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic… Lisbon, Portugal… Medellín, Colombia… Cayo, Belize… and beyond…
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 young, 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 all the other places on our we-love-it-here list… which continues to expand. After our recent visit, for example, we’ve added Singapore and Shanghai to this roster.
When we come and go from the places we most appreciate, we want to do so 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 and education programs, for example. We appreciate every chance we’re able to identify to help give the next generation a leg up.
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 Colombia, we’re involved in a forestry program. We like trees and, with local friends, we’re learning about growing them on a grand scale.
On Panama’s Pacific coast, at Los Islotes, we’re building an oceanfront community in the Spanish-colonial style. Here, we’ve also invested in a small woodworking operation. With the help of one of the most impressive cabinetmakers I’ve ever worked with (imported from Costa Rica), we’re learning to make doors, windows, moldings, and furniture for the houses we’re building.
All of the tables and chairs for our just-opened Panama Jack’s Beach Bar, for example, were made on-site at Los Islotes. We take a sense of satisfaction from that.
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…