The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country

General Finance

By: Jim | Route To Retire

Minutiae.  It’s such a funny word.

It makes me chuckle just saying it, so I thought it would be perfect for what I want to talk about today.

We’re learning pretty quickly that when you want to move to another country, you can’t just pick up and leave.  There’s a lot of minutiae that will need to be ironed out in the planning.

See, wasn’t that was fun to read that word again?  Minutiae.

Anyway, I thought I’d take some time today to talk about some of the minutiae we’re starting to think more about lately.

Fine, I’ll stop saying the word… for now.  But I do have a funny feeling it’ll find it’s way into this post at some point down the line!

For any new readers, we reached financial independence and I left my job at the end of 2018.  And in the summer of 2019, we’re moving to Panama.  This will give us a lot more bang for our buck and it’s a beautiful country with wonderful weather.

Here are some of the details that are starting to surface and come into place as we get closer to our move…

Two suitcases?!  Are you insane?!!

You heard that right – we’re taking two suitcases each on our move.  The rest of our possessions are either being sold or put into a small storage unit for a while.

This might be a little scary to some, but to me, it’s a challenge and I love it!

You can’t pack the same as you might for a vacation for two reasons:

  1. There will be some things that would take up more space and just make sense to buy when we get there.
  2. There will be some things that you need to take that you wouldn’t need on a regular vacation… you’re moving after all!

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Two suitcases?!  Are you insane?!!

Every square inch of those suitcases is going to be valuable.  The good news is that we don’t have to bring winter clothes… woo-hoo!  We’ll still pack some sweatshirts though because it does get chilly at night in the mountains where we’re moving.

But it’s not the clothes weighing on my mind.  My thinking is that we’ll each bring one suitcase with clothes and one filled with other stuff we think we’ll need.  It’s still early in the game, but my second suitcase (along with my carry-on) should be pretty interesting:

  • Nintendo Wii – that’s right… we still rock an old-school Wii – don’t judge!  This might be strange, but I want to have something in place that can ease the transition for our daughter and still remind her of home.  That and, who can resist a game of Mario Kart!  Plus I hacked it so all our games run off a small hard drive.
  • Hard drives for HTPC – we’ve been rocking a home theater PC for almost a decade now.  All our media (photos, videos, music) is stored on a computer connected to our TV.  We also run the antenna through it and can do live TV with a guide and it acts as a DVR.  It’s bad-@#$ and has saved us a fortune over the years.  Considering the computer is over 9 years old though, it’s time for a new one.  The drives are newer SSDs so we’ll take those with us and buy a new computer once there for me to set up with them.
  • Chromebook – Ok, this won’t be in the suitcase (carry-on), but I’ve gotta have something to keep Route to Retire rockin’, right?!
  • WiFi router – This should be pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll see if this even happens.  If I don’t have room, it’s out and we’ll just buy one down there.
  • Norelco Razor – I’ve been an electric razor guy most of my life, so this will be coming along for the ride.
  • Hair cutting kit – I started cutting my own hair a handful of years ago and I don’t intend to stop now.  This is another one of those “if I have room” things.  Otherwise, I’ll just buy a new kit in Panama.
  • Beard trimmer kit – Same as above.  I’ll probably try to just take the pieces from both of these kits that I use and mash ’em together.
  • Podcast microphone – If you’re sick of hearing me on podcasts, let me know in the comments and I’ll leave my ATR-1100 here in the States!
  • Collapsible baton – We can talk about firearms in a different post, but I won’t be bringing mine.  So, I’d like to have at least some kind of protection to have at our place, as scant as it may be.
  • Kindle Paperwhite – You don’t have a Kindle Paperwhite?!!!  Best money spent ever.
    • Stores tons of books on it
    • Read it in the night (backlight) or in the bright sun (no glare)
    • Click on words for definitions (huge fan of this feature!)
    • A battery that lasts weeks
    • As light as a paperback
    • Can also borrow books for free online from most libraries and push right to it
    • Love it!!!
  • Umbrella – It rains in Panama… almost every day.  We’ll need one to get us started.
  • Playing cards – Small to pack, but hours of entertainment until we get settled.
  • Google Chromecast / Amazon Fire Stick – These will help us with our TV needs because I’m guessing most, if not all the TV stations, will be in Spanish.
  • Google Home Mini – We got a few of these free during the holidays.  They’re addictive, so one of these will likely make the trip.
  • Harmonica – If you read my post on some of the things I plan to fail miserably at, you’ll remember that learning the harmonica was on the list.  I apologize to all future neighbors in advance.

So, who knows?  This is just an initial list I jotted down.  Don’t forget that almost all places are fully furnished there, so that gives us some good breathing room.

Mrs. R2R isn’t as OCD as I am and hasn’t really started putting a list together yet.  Time will tell what she comes up with.

More importantly, I’m excited to see what our daughter packs in her second suitcase.  I picture us getting to Panama and unzipping her suitcase to see an explosion of stuffed animals all over the place.

Um, we probably need a place to stay

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Um, we probably need a place to staySo, yeah… when we get to Panama, it would probably make sense to have a place to stay.

Our plan is to move to Boquete or Alto Boquete, but we’re not going to sign a year lease for a place sight unseen.  So, we’ll start with an Airbnb or VRBO for a few weeks in the area until we find what we need.

So this isn’t that big of a deal – we just need to get a place booked for those first few weeks.  From there, we can start our hunt for a place to rent for our first year there.

The good news is that Jackie from Panama Relocation Tours recently filled me in on the rental prices in Boquete.  She said they’re averaging around $700-$750 for a two-bedroom house.  That’s really nice, to begin with, but a huge benefit is that almost all rentals in Panama are fully furnished.  On top of that, rent generally includes utilities and, in many places, a weekly gardener as well.  Score!

Vroom, vroom!

To buy a car, or not to buy a car, that is the question.  It sounds like a simple question, but it might not be.

First off, with both of us not working 9-5’s, we definitely know we’re not going to need two cars.  So, the easy assumption would be that we should just get one car while we’re there.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Vroom, vroom!

But, I think we need to really need to ponder this a little more.

A lot of the decision really depends specifically on where we live.  After all, the city of Boquete isn’t very large.  In fact, the population is only about 25,000 as of a few years ago if that gives you an idea of how “town-like” it is.

The actual city is 188.6 square miles, but the downtown area of the city is not very big at all.  And if we’re near that area, it’s where we’d be doing most of our grocery shopping along with a lot of other things.

With 75°F weather every day, I’d be good with biking or walking most of the time.  We could get a bike trailer to do our grocery shopping as needed.

The problem we’d have though is getting to the beaches and the bigger city of David (about 45 minutes down the mountain) or other places we’d want to go.  They do have Uber in Panama, but it hasn’t made its way over to Boquete yet.  There are taxis, but that loses some of the simplicity you get with Uber.

All in all, we’ll probably need to do some car shopping once we get settled.  We’ll likely just get a simple, used car – enough to get us around when the trips are too much for biking.

Homeschooling

I’ve talked about the plan to homeschool our daughter while in Panama.  This will definitely be for the first year while we’re there because we’ll be leaving the country a few times.  That’s because we’re not applying for residency for at least a year until we’re sure it’s the place for us.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Homeschooling

As such, we have to follow the tourist laws of the country.  That means we need to leave the country every 6 months for 30 days before we can come back.  Unfortunately, though, our U.S. driver’s licenses are only good for 90 days at a time there (no idea why).  That means we might actually be leaving Panama every few months instead.

Leaving’s no problem, but schools tend to frown upon you pulling your kid out for 30 days at a time – multiple times per year.  So that’s why we’re going to do homeschooling… at least for the first year until we go after residency.

Mrs. R2R has been doing a lot of research when it comes to this topic.  The options are a lot more plentiful than they used to be.  That’s a good thing, but it takes time to figure out what makes the most sense for your kids.

I’m told we’re getting close to what curriculum will make the most sense for us and our daughter.  I’ll see if I can convince Mrs. R2R to write a post about what she’s learned and what we know so far.

Banking

This ain’t no small detail.  We need to be able to get to our money while we’re there.  Most places down there don’t take credit cards so you need to be able to have cash on hand.

My financial advisor, David (who’s played the role of expat recently), Jackie from Panama Relocation Tours, and Clark Howard have all said the same thing… open a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account.  So, we just did.

What’s awesome about this account is that there are no ATM fees worldwide (or they reimburse you as a statement credit).  There are also no foreign transaction fees, account minimums, or minimum balances.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Banking

That means we can move our money around as needed and use this as our checking account.  We can get cash out of the ATMs as needed and not have to worry about getting dinged with fees either.

As I post this, if you open an account with my link, they’ll also give you a $100.  And that’s just me being nice – I don’t get anything for it.  I am a nice guy, aren’t I?

We’ll also open an account at a Panamanian bank as well.  That will make paying bills much easier, plus it’s a requirement once we are ready to apply for residency.  We should be able to just write a check out from our U.S. bank to ourselves and deposit it in the Panamanian account to fund it as needed.

 

Hello?  Are you there?

From our last visit to Panama, we learned that it’s pretty easy to just buy a SIM card for your phone (as long as it supports GSM), pay a cheap fee, and you’re all set for the month.  In fact, we bought a SIM card for my phone at the Tocumen airport right after we landed.  It’s more expensive than you’d find elsewhere, but I wanted that security before we wandered off in a foreign country.

The cost… $20 for unlimited data.  In most countries other than the U.S., they charge by the minute and text message, but not necessarily the data.  Because of that, you’ll find apps like WhatsApp to be extremely prevalent all over the world as a primary means of communication.  That’s because these are Voice Over IP (VOIP) solutions that make their phone calls and messaging over data plans.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Hello?  Are you there?

So that’s all well and good, but what about if you’re moving there?  We’ll probably buy a SIM card for the month just to get us started, but then we’ll need to figure out a more “semi-permanent” solution.  There are a few providers there, so that’s the easy part.

The hard part, though, is going to be communicating with family and friends back home.  It’s not because it’s really that complicated, but rather, that means we’ll have to teach others at home how to use these apps.  Ever try to teach your parents new technology?  Yeah.

To make it a little easier for everyone, I’m going to try to leverage Google Voice.  This is a free service that’s been around for a long time and used to be called Grand Central before Google bought them.  I was a user even back then and loved it.

The idea is that you can use some technology smoke and mirrors to have one phone number that you give out to everyone.  That number can then be easily forwarded to different phones (even at the same time).  It has some other tricks it can do like call recording and voicemail transcription.

But I’m thinking that I’ll be able to use Google Voice in combination with Hangouts (or whatever Google decides to replace it with) for calling to and from the U.S.  That might involve some tweaking, but porting our numbers over to Google Voice would allow friends and family to stick with what they know.  Additionally, I’m thinking that can help everyone avoid paying for international calls (we’ll see!).

Here are a few guides I plan to start with:

Miscellaneous minutiae

That’s right – I found another place to slip the word in… sue me.

We’ll also have to figure out some other minutiae (yeah, I said it) like determining how to get our stuff from the airport to our new place.  We’ll probably have to take more than one taxi or something.  I talked to Jackie at Panama Relocation Tours and she mentioned touching base with her beforehand to see about getting a private driver, so that might be a good option.

The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country - Miscellaneous minutiae

Another detail we’ll need to figure out is mail forwarding.  Panama’s a little strange, in my opinion, in that there are no street addresses.  Yeah, figure that one out… it makes Google Maps or Waze a little more fun.  Also, if you want mail, you need to get a PO box or get your mail via courier.

I’m not too worried about that since we do everything possible online.  However, when we want to order things through Amazon, for instance, they won’t ship to Panama.  But, you can get a mail forwarder designed for this sort of thing in the U.S.  They’ll ship to your address in Miami (or wherever it might be) and the forwarder will then ship the package to you in Panama.

I don’t know everything about this yet, but I’ll let you know once I start digging into the pros and the cons of each service.

Overall, there are a lot of fine points to get ironed out along the way.  These aren’t major hurdles, but it does take some planning.  I’m excited to get this rolling and it seems like it should go pretty smooth, albeit a learning curve along the way.

Minutiae.  Ok, that time, I just wanted to say it again for giggles!  Have a great week!

Republished with the permission of RouteToRetire.com.

Last modified: March 31, 2019

5 Responses to :
The Minutiae of Moving to Another Country

  1. short texan says:

    Going through the same minutia at our home now for a move to Costa Rica. Looked at Panama, even took Jackie’s tour, but decided we like the vibe of CR a little better.

    No kids or home schooling to worry about, so a little easier on that end. But I’m not as savvy on the computer/networking end, so trying to figure out all my little toys I need. Have put our entire life on two 2 TB SSD’s as well as Backblaze.

    Our storage situation is going pretty well. I do full 3D cad work, so I can tell you how everything is going to be packed into a 10’x10 storage space.

    Enjoy Boquete. If we tried living in Panama it would be there.

    1. That’s awesome to hear from someone doing something almost exactly the same as us! I might need your skills as we downsize from a 10’x15′ to a 10’x10′ storage unit in another month or two!

      Keep me posted on your journey – I’d love to hear how it’s going.

      — Jim

  2. If you have money to retire with, why do you need to move to another country?

    1. Hi Wayne – initially our plan was to move to Panama to be able to retire sooner. But then my wife brought up the point that if we don’t like it and decided to move back, we’d be in a tough spot. I’d be forced to go back to work, which I definitely didn’t want to do.

      So we decided that I would keep working until we had enough money to cover our expenses of living here in the U.S.

      But we still decided to move to Panama because we can. It’s not a matter of really “needing to”, but more of a matter of “wanting to.” Where we’re moving, the weather’s 75 every day, it’s less than an hour away from the beach where the temperature is in the high 80s or low 90s, and the lifestyle is so much simpler.

      Not only that, but the money we saved gets us by in the States just fine, but down there, we’ll be able to live it up a little more. So we thought, let’s try it. I’d rather go there, hate it, and move back than be 75 and look back and wish we had tried it. If it’s not for us, we move back – no harm, no foul, just a great adventure to remember.

      — Jim

  3. The important take out from this exercise is to ask ourselves “Is there a better way?

    And if so what are the activities we can do right now that will start to improve our life in a positive way?”

    For myself this required what others may call a radical shift .

    I expanded my business and relocated from Sydney to Cairns the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.

    Doing so has saved me $50,000 less per year in my “job”, as a result my income increased and I have more time to exercise, entertain, grow and help others. The very things that are important to me and my happiness.

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