The Road To Ithaca
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
And to anchor at the island when you are old,
Rich with all you have gained on the way,
Not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you…
— Constantine Cavafy, 1863-1933
“What are we doing?” Lief asked me yesterday morning as we were dressing for work, rushed, hurried, pulling ourselves together, while, meantime, making breakfast for Jackson, pushing him out the door in time for his school bus, collecting papers we might need in the office, grabbing laptops and cell phones, feeling already that the day was getting away from us, as, frankly, we feel most mornings…
“What?” I asked, barely registering his question, trying to tidy up the bathroom before we headed downstairs and out the door.
“What are we doing, here in Panama?” he asked.
“Well, we’ve got to be somewhere,” I replied, finally looking at him.
It wasn’t the first time we’ve had this kind of conversation. In the near-15 years that Lief and I have been moving around the world together, we’ve had many of these taking-stock moments. And, while Lief and I have been pursuing this live overseas lifestyle together for 15 years, I’ve been focused on it for coming up on 30!
I was introduced to these ideas, by chance, by my first employer, a man who became my mentor, my partner, and, now, my friend. When I hitched my cart to his horse, at the tender age of 21, almost three decades ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Lucky for me, he recognized something in me worth cultivating, and, with his support, I set out, all those years ago, with an open mind, a spirit of adventure, and a naïve enthusiasm, to see what I might see.
From my original base in Baltimore, I traversed the globe until, finally, I had the chance to relocate my base. I met Lief, he and I enjoyed a whirlwind courtship, and then we married and moved, together, to Waterford, Ireland, where we put down Euro-roots. While living in Waterford, we established sub-bases in Granada, Nicaragua; Quito, Ecuador; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Panama City, Panama, traveling among these “local offices,” as we called them, regularly. Even remembering those times today makes me tired.
After seven years in Ireland, we shifted base camps again, relocating the family to Paris. Over the four years we lived in the City of Light, we further expanded our Euro-presence to include operations in Italy and Croatia.
Then, four-and-a-half years ago, we shifted our geographic perspective again, moving from Paris to Panama City, where we currently hang our hats, raise our children, and run our businesses.
That’s what we’re doing in Panama, dear husband.
Shall we continue?
We struggle day-to-day with the traffic, the humidity, the maddening manaña approach to everything in this part of the world. Just as we struggled in ways in Ireland and in Paris, too…just as we’d struggle in ways anywhere on earth.
We’re committed to Panama long haul and for good reason. When Lief wondered aloud yesterday morning what we’re doing here, I don’t think he was questioning the sense of Panama. I think, perhaps, he was questioning the ride…the journey…our personal road to Ithaca…posing the philosophical version of a child’s, “Are we there yet, Dad?” from the back seat of the family car at some point during the long drive to summer vacation.
The road to Ithaca isn’t always smooth or well-paved, at least not in our experience. But, as I approach the 30th anniversary of journeying along it, I find myself stopping more often to reflect on its twists and turns. Memories from our life in Waterford, our time in Paris, even our early days here in Panama, when they come to mind, they distract me, in a good way, and make me smile.
How much longer will we make our base in Panama? Who could say. Where to from here? Who knows. Our ultimate destination? We couldn’t tell you with certainty.
Our Ithaca beckons still from the far horizon. We tire now and then, we question our situation, our options, our choices, but we continue on the journey, down the road, happy, in truth, that we don’t know where it leads.
And we’re delighted that you’ve chosen to come along with us for the ride.
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