So in the beginning of this adventure, there was Panama.
We decided that our international adventure would take place in Panama. There were a lot of factors that went into that decision, but on the top of the list was weather, infrastructure, stability, favorable economy and some expats with whom to share the journey.
Leaving the USA in October of 2014, we started out thinking we would live in Panama for 2 years then return to the US in time for our oldest daughter to attend high school in the USA. Sounds like a great plan, right? Well, we didn’t much stick to that plan!
We had never been to Panama so we had no idea where we wanted to settle. So we decided to spend our first month in the mountain town of Boquete. They have a language school and at the time, they were offering a good discount for the month of October. We figured a month of language school for the whole family would be a worthwhile endeavor. The girls and I (Dan) needed to get some basic instruction and Allison needed to brush up on the Spanish she had learned in Spain and Ecuador. There were some nice vacation homes in Boquete and it provided a soft landing for our family of four with 13 suitcases.
Within a few weeks we met the Smith Family who were on a similar journey, having started 2 months prior to our start. They were spending a month in Boquete as well, but they had just decided to settle in Pedasi. Pedasi is a small fishing town a few miles from the beach but about 5 hours from Panama City. It had been coming up over and over again in our own research of towns in Panama. That sealed the deal. Sight-unseen we decided we would also settle in Pedasi.
It didn’t take long, but soon our “when we return to the USA” talk started to slowly change to “IF we return.” But we’re getting ahead of the story.
After a month of learning the language (except for yours truly dropping out during the last week) we coordinated with the Smiths, hired a van and a driver and moved our two families, with our combined 32 suitcases, to Pedasi. We drove for 8 hours and arrived just after dark to a small blue rental house at the end of a dirt road. (Remember, all sight unseen… it’s called an adventure for a reason, right?) The house had open air dormers above the living room, with screens to keep the bugs out and that’s it. So no air conditioning, of course. It was very hot and sticky. Thankfully, the bedrooms had A/C but the unit above our bedroom sounded like an Army helicopter was hovering over the house. Pedasi already feels like you are at the end of the road but a small blue house at the end of a road at the end of the road with Army helicopters hovering overhead…? Well, it was a tough night that first night.
You can read about the rest of our journey in Pedasi here, on the blog (The Panama Pause… clever, hey?) we kept as we experienced it. But the short version is… we settled in, met tons of great people, enrolled the girls in local public school as well as Spanish language school and got into a routine of regular homeschool too. We had visits from Allison’s mother, my sister and Allison’s BFF from the states and her family. We experienced power outages, internet outages, water outages, road outages, various bugs and animal encounters, a bridge washing out in front of us, monthly parties at the disco a block away blaring Panamanian techno music until 4am… the list goes on. Oh, and the parades. So. Many. Parades! Suffice to say… we had an experience. We got to know locals and other expats and settled into a comfortable, semi-unpredictable life in Pedasi. In short, we LOVED it. And since it’s a coastal town, with not much else to do for daily recreation, we spent more time in the sand than a sand crab.
As time marched on, however, we grappled with the decision of what to do next. We all agreed that we were having a very interesting experience and there was no need to return to the USA yet. Then when I found out about a little IRS thing called the FEIE, well, that cinched the deal. So we weren’t sure what we should do. Should we stay in Pedasi, buy a house and settle down? Should we just move to another area of Panama? Rent, buy? Should we go somewhere else?
In the end we decided that we had learned so much from our experiences in Panama, that surely there were other countries that had interesting things to learn as well. Was Costa Rica the same or different? How was Spanish spoken in Chile? What’s it like to dive into cenotes in Mexico? Is Gouda cheese better in Gouda Holland than in Wisconsin? The list is endless. So we became intrigued about what the world had to offer this curious little family. We decided “Let’s Just Travel”.
In December of 2015, the lease was up on our Pedasi house that we lived in during our stay in Pedasi. This coincided with the end of the academic school year in Panama, marking an entire year that the girls had attended Panamanian public school. We decided it was a natural break in time and so onward we marched. We have become official WorldSchoolers. Essentially, we are teaching the kids through travel. We are visiting this huge world of ours, while educating the girls through our shared experiences.
So in the beginning there was Panama. Next stop: Mexico.
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