As you consider locations for where you might reinvent your life overseas… comparing and contrasting one to the others… I recommend thinking specifically… practically.
If you were to live in FILL IN THE BLANK OVERSEAS DESTINATION… what would the view be from your bedroom window each morning… or your back terrace each afternoon?
How would you get from here to there each day… and what sights would you see along the way?
How would you spend your Friday nights and your Sunday afternoons?
Focusing your thinking this way helps you to imagine what your new life overseas might be like long term.
Think about what your routine life would evolve to look like in each place where you’re considering basing yourself. Would it be an improvement over your current routine life?
Wouldn’t want to go to all the hassle of relocating yourself to a new country only to find you don’t like how people in that place spend their time.
When we were living in Waterford, Ireland, for example, our Friday evenings and our Sunday afternoons and all the time in between were spent out-of-doors.
After a year of searching from one end of County Waterford to the other, we found and purchased a 200-year-old Georgian-style country house that had been sitting vacant for three years. It was nearly overtaken by brambles outside and, inside, rotting away from damp.
We broke down the challenge of restoring our little County Waterford homestead—the pastures, gardens, and outbuildings surrounding the old stone country house—into pieces and then addressed each piece in series.
Lief and I were working full-time… building a business… and we had young children… so we knew we needed help.
We hired a hand, an Irishman named Ian. Monday through Friday, Ian worked according to our directions.
Ian reclaimed flower beds, rebuilt tumbling-down stone walls, and repaired barn doors…
He planted trees, mulched gardens, and trimmed hedgerows…
Then, Friday after work straight through until Sunday after dark, Lief and I and the children would pick up where Ian had left off the week before.
We had 2 kids, 4 chickens, 3 horses, a dog, and 10 acres… and, on these Irish country weekends, we embraced them all.
Jackson took his first steps in our back garden one Saturday afternoon while “helping” me to repaint our mud room door… then he tumbled head first into a red clay pot. No damage done to Jackson or the pot.
Twelve-year-old Kaitlin was tasked several weekends in a row with painting the picket fence around our kitchen garden. The photo of her, one such Sunday, splattered hair, knees, feet, and fingers with white paint and looking up into the camera as though to plead for parole or pardon is one of my favorites and sits on my dresser today.
On weekends in Ireland, Kaitlin would ride then brush down her pony and clean out his stall…
Jackson, as he grew, would run up and down the white stone drive and from end to end of our green fields, trying to keep up with our Irish sheepdog Daisy.
While Lief mended horse fences and stacked firewood, I weeded the cottage garden and oiled the black iron front gate…
We’d work from breakfast until dark… in the fog and the Irish mist (that is, the rain)… bundling sometimes three layers beneath our waxed jackets… and we learned to appreciate every weekend that delivered sunny skies.
Our six years living in Lahardan House in Ireland, that was the routine of our lives. It suited us at the time and provides for sweet memories all these years later.
Our weekends in Paris were spent walking. It was both a practical necessity and our favorite pastime.
You don’t need to own a car living in central Paris, so we didn’t. Why mess with the hassle of keeping and parking a car on these city streets, we wondered, when wandering them on foot is one of the world’s best forms of entertainment?
Every Saturday and Sunday, we were up early and out the door with long to-do lists. Sometimes we’d divide the lists and go off in separate directions—to the market, the bakery, the dry cleaner’s, the bank, the hardware store, the wine shop—but, if possible, we stuck together—Lief, me, and our two children—turning weekend errands into family outings.
Our apartment in the 7th arrondissement was less than a five-minute walk from three Metro stops. Sometimes, when we were loaded down with heavy bags and packages, we’d take the Metro back home.
But each Saturday and Sunday morning we set out on foot.
It was a 20-minute walk along Boulevard Saint-Germain to the supermarket we liked best… and 30 minutes to BHV, Paris’ department store that is also one of the city’s biggest and best source of supplies and materials for do-it-yourself home-improvement projects…
It was 5 or 10 minutes down rue du Bac to our local butcher, baker, fromagerie, and wine shop…
And about 15 minutes to W.H. Smith.
At least two Sundays every month I’d walk with my children across the river and through the Tuileries gardens to the English-language bookstore W.H. Smith. The trip was our reward. We made it Sunday afternoon, after all the weekend chores and shopping had been crossed off our lists. We lingered long, browsing, reading, and choosing. We bought two books apiece each visit. By the time we left Paris for Panama, we’d built a nice library.
Each Thanksgiving, Lief and Jackson would bring our turkey home, on foot, from the butcher who roasted our bird for us every year. Our Paris apartment-sized oven wasn’t big enough to cook a turkey. The walk from the butcher who offered this service was more than a mile. Lief carried the steaming hot turkey on a wooden platter. Jackson carried the bag of gravy.
Every Christmas, we dragged our tree home, on foot…
We brought everything home, on foot—gallons of paint, rolls of wallpaper, pots, pans, dishware, rugs, a vacuum cleaner, Jack’s pet turtle…
In every season… through crowds of tourists… the kids recruited to help and sometimes their friends, too… over the bridges of the Seine and up and down the stairs of the Metro… we schlepped and hauled every necessity of life on foot.
Then, weekend evenings, we’d set out on foot again. Within 15 minutes of our apartment were 10 movie theaters and more restaurants, cafés, and bistros than I ever took the time to count.
That was our routine of life in Paris… the routine of life for many in Paris…
What about Panama? What is our routine of life in Panama City?
We moved from Paris to Panama with an entrepreneur’s agenda straight-up. The nine years we’ve been living in the Hub of the Americas have been focused on the Live and Invest Overseas business.
We’re at a different stage of our lives here in Panama, and our routine of life reflects this.
The sorry truth is that here in Panama we spend many weekends working. Our daughter is grown and married (and working in the business with us). Our son is graduating high school this year and preparing for his next steps, post our full-time involvement.
And Lief and I are hunkered down, like so many others in Panama City, building a business. This town is all about business. We fit right in.
And, like all the other businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and investors who call Panama City home, we escape the routine of life in this busy, frenzied boom town as often as possible.
Every Panama City dweller who can afford one has a home at the beach. Most prefer the nearby City Beaches.
Lief and I prioritize privacy and elbow room, so we travel farther afield for our weekend beach escapes… to the west coast of this country’s Azuero Peninsula and Los Islotes.
These weekends are the ones I call to mind when I’m stuck again in traffic or otherwise facing head-on the challenges of day-to-day life in this gritty metropolis.
Life out on the Azuero Peninsula is a world apart from life here in the big city…
What, specifically, practically, is the routine of life like out at Los Islotes on Panama’s Azuero Sunset Coast?
Honestly, I don’t know. I can tell you what it’s like to come and go from this beautiful coastal outpost as a weekend tourist, but I haven’t yet had the chance to get to know the region as a more full-time resident.
This will change soon. The house that Lief and I have been building at Los Islotes will be finished by May 1. We intend to spend as much time enjoying it and getting to know its neighborhood as possible as soon as possible.