Stories are how we make sense of the world around us.
And, when it comes to our conferences, nothing beats the power of the personal stories shared by our expats up on stage.
Of course, we dedicate many conference hours to giving you the practical information, too. You need to know the laws surrounding residency… you need help identifying the best places to start looking in a particular country… and what’s involved in shipping your belongings (and your pets)…
But hearing how that all comes together—straight from the people who’ve gone through a move—helps make everything seem real… and achievable.
Dusty Tubbs was the first of our expat speakers to take to the stage at last week’s Live and Invest in Panama Conference in Panama City. Full-time resident in Chitré, Dusty walked attendees through the nitty gritty of what you need to do to get your new life set up in Panama… sharing his own anecdotes along the way.
“Moving is easy,” Dusty told our crowd gathered in the Las Americas Golden Tower Hotel last Wednesday morning…
“It’s transitioning that’s the challenge.”
Just think about this for a moment. You spent your whole life up to now building up gradually to your current lifestyle. You were (presumably) born a resident of your country. You got a driving license, opened a bank account, bought a home, got utilities connected… all at a steady, manageable pace.
Now, suddenly, you have to do all of these things together… in a different country… possibly dealing with the extra challenge of a foreign language or quirky foreign practices.
When you look at it this way, the moving bit does seem easy.
Peg Fairbairn and April Hess—the next expats to take the stage—are two of the fastest overseas movers I know…
When Peg retired from her career as a schoolteacher, the couple decided that the best way to stretch her teacher’s pension—and enjoy a comfortable life—was to move overseas.
“After a little internet searching, we narrowed our options to Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Panama,” Peg told our attendees.
“Uruguay was a bit too far. Costa Rica was too expensive. So I focused my research on Panama.
“One day, I found a lot for sale on the internet that looked perfect. I chatted online with the sales guy… and, when April came home, I told her I’d found our new home.
“She responded with:
“‘Don’t you think we should visit Panama before we buy?’
“I’d been reading Kathleen Peddicord’s book ‘How To Retire Overseas.’ So, I got back on the internet and saw that there was an excursion to Los Islotes—Kathleen’s and Lief’s development out on the western side of the Azuero peninsula…
“Accepting April’s condition that we leave our checkbook at home, I booked us on the tour.
“When we finally stood on a hill in Los Islotes… looking out over the Pacific and surrounded by nature, we knew this was the place for us…
“The checkbook was at home. But there was PayPal…
“We pulled the trigger for Panama on that first visit. Lot #68 was ours.”
Then Peg and April set out to make a plan to build their dream house on that Los Islotes lot.
About three years later, on March 8, 2018, they moved into their custom-built home perched high on a hill with a sparkling view of the Pacific Ocean.
Here… take a look at the house that Peg and April have built for themselves…
It wasn’t a straight line from Austin, Texas, to Los Islotes, Panama. While they waited for their new house to be finished at Los Islotes, Peg and April hop-scotched around the country, staying in rentals and getting to know Panama better.
“We started in Pedasí on the eastern side of the Azuero Peninsula,” Peg told the group last week. “There we spent three months in the Buena Vida Spanish School trying to get a leg up on our non-existent Spanish skills. It really did jump-start our learning.
“We then moved to Santa Fe, which is much like Boquete from a natural beauty standpoint but lacks all the gringos and is a cheaper place to live.
“Finally, we spent several months in a small village named Palo Seco on the west side of the Azuero Peninsula.”
And it wasn’t an easy thing building a house on the frontier coast where they decided to settle.
“Buy me a glass of wine when you see me,” Peg said, “and I’ll tell you some of our home construction horror stories.”
No, building a house in this remote coastal region of Panama is not easy (though, to be fair, it’s easier today than it was when Peg and April set out on their adventure).
“Would we do it all again?” Peg mused.
“We’re loving life out on this Azuero Sunset Coast… confident that we never could have afforded to live in a community of this standard with two private beaches anywhere in the United States. Not on my teacher’s pension…”