There are lots of ways to travel.
Some people travel fast — and I’m not talking about fast jets.
They cram as much as is humanly possible – sometimes more! – into the smallest time frame possible. These are the people who “do” Europe in 5 days. Heck, I can’t even do Epcot in 5 days!
Of course, the way you travel depends in part on the reason you’re traveling.
If you’re a tourist on vacation, you’ll travel differently than someone who’s making a move to a new place.
For example, when my husband and I were considering our move to Panama, we spent a week in 2011 exploring the country. I know it’s a small country, but a week isn’t a long time.
Here’s what we did.
- Started in Panama City, and took the bus to David.
- Stayed in David for 3 days, and took a day trip to Boquete
- Left David for a 3-day stay in Las Tablas, taking the bus again
- Enjoyed Las Tablas so much we extended our stay another day, skipping our planned last stop in Penonome
- Took the bus back to Panama City, and flew home
Were there other areas of the country I’d have liked to see? Of course. But we had a specific purpose in mind, and we found the place we would be happy living. Mission accomplished.
I also have a bucketload of stories I can regale you with from that week, because I was fully immersed in each moment so I remember the time vividly.
Could we have seen more in less time? Of course — but I just don’t do fast travel well.
Once we were actually living in Panama, we didn’t do a lot of touristy things. Part of that was because, after years of stress in the US, I was exhausted most of the time and didn’t have much energy for it. But mostly it was because we were busy living our lives — meeting new people, making new friends, and exploring Las Tablas.
Organized Relocation Tours
If you’re thinking about moving to a new country and you want a good overview of what different areas of the country have to offer, you could do something similar. Or, you could take an organized country relocation tour if you’re willing to travel a little faster, or if you want someone else to make all the arrangements.
Lots of companies offer them, in many different countries.
There’s one important criterion in choosing a tour: stay away from any tours that promote specific real estate options.
First, you should always rent before you buy in a new country.
Once you’ve arrived and gotten involved with the community, you’ll have a much better understanding of what’s available, the pros and cons of particular areas or neighborhoods, and you’ll also be able to buy for a better price because you’ll have local knowledge.
Second, if your tour is showing you lots, houses, or condos for sale, they’re earning a commission for the qualified buyers they bring to that seller and developer. When they have a financial interest, they may not be objective in what they show you, and you want that objectivity.
If you do decide to take an organized country tour. . .
- Choose a reputable company that’s been around for a while.
- Make sure there’s no real estate sales component.
- Read the fine print carefully to make sure you understand what’s included, what you’re responsible for in addition, and what your options are if you have to cancel for any reason.
There is one relocation tour company I know of that does it right. It’s called Panama Relocation Tours, and I’ve known Jackie, the owner, since 2013. (And yes, that is an affiliate link – remember our discussion from last week?)
She reached out to me when I was living in Las Tablas to ask if I’d be willing to meet her tour group and join them for lunch when they came through town. After that, it became a regular part of my schedule.
Once a month, I caught up with Jackie, and met her group. It was fun for me, and they met a real live expat living in the community. (She does this all across the country – it wasn’t just me!)
At some point, she hired me to redesign her website, and I’ve done more website work for her occasionally since then.
I’m also going to feature her on an upcoming podcast episode, so you’ll hear from her directly.
Jackie is determined to provide tour members with an unfiltered view of what it’s like to live in Panama. That’s why she arranges for expats to meet with them in a variety of places, and there aren’t any sales pitches or rose-colored glasses. Just a solid overview of what the country and its regions have to offer.
What’s your traveling style? Slow? Fast? Leave a comment below.