In the course of my search for a suitable retirement haven, I happened upon what sounded like the perfect chance to explore my top candidate for expatriation. It’s called Panama Relocation Tours, and it’s a six-day tour of the majority of the country. This is an informational tour, not a “selling” tour – the agenda is to give attendees a boots-on-the-ground view of many of the different climates in Panama, from fancy high-rise condos on the beach to smaller towns in the interior, to the second-largest city, then on to the highlands in Boquete.
I booked the trip in August 2017, and went on the tour in February of this year. It’s hands-down the best thing I could have done to prepare for moving to Panama. As we rode on their big yellow bus, the tour leader, Jackie, was at the front on her microphone, constantly feeding us information and answering questions. I figure I’m thousands of dollars and years ahead in knowledge by having gone on this trip. The information I gleaned from it is priceless, and so far the process for acquiring permanent resident status has gone flawlessly.
Thanks to the advice given and the contacts provided on the tour, the timeline is sooner rather than later because that trip only confirmed what my prior research had led me to believe. Originally, I had planned to make the move by the end of the year, but now I’m planning to leave the first week in August. First, I have to stay in Panama City for 10 days to get my residency visa documentation wrapped up, and then it’s on to my ultimate destination, Boquete.
I’m going to travel light, with only a big suitcase, a carry-on, and a backpack. I’m planning to have a few boxes shipped to me about a month after I arrive and get settled. Before I leave, I’m going to have a moving sale, trying to get rid of many years of accumulation. The shedding of “stuff” is part of the sense of freedom I’m looking for – looking to keep it simple in the future. Some people bring their entire worldly possessions with them when they move to Panama, filling a 40-foot shipping container. Ugh! That’s definitely not my style, but to each their own.
I’ve already rented a couple of places that I’ve actually laid eyes on when I was there in February. For the first month, I’ll be staying in an adorable one-bedroom apartment that’s walking distance to downtown Boquete. I stayed in a studio apartment in the same building for a couple of days after the tour was over, so I’m very familiar with the area and the lodging.
While I was there, I also looked at a spacious two-bedroom apartment about a mile further out of town that I really liked, and haven’t been able to get out of my mind. So I put a deposit on it to stay there for at least a month, after I leave the first apartment. If I like it, I may stay there longer. At least these two places will give me plenty of time to explore and see what’s available for the long term.
I’m planning a return trip back here before Thanksgiving for a couple of weeks, to see some friends and pack another suitcase full of items. Then it will be a one-way trip back to Panama to truly settle into my new home!