Opportunity or Burden

I’ve been living back in the US for just over a year now.   It has been an interesting transition.  After living abroad for a few years some things look really different when you return.  It’s like going back to your childhood home and finding the huge hill you used to ride your bike up is nothing more than a bump.

One of the biggest differences is the lack of  free time.   The pace of life is so different.  When you run into a friend in Panama it’s easy to chat for as long as you like (sometimes too easy, when Rum is involved).  Here I feel everyone is always in a rush.  I sometimes find myself wanting people to get to the point, because I have other things to do.  This bothers me.  That is not how I want to interact with others.

So I try to cultivate a Panama pace when I can.  I consciously remember that I am drenched in abundance.  I have a car, a cell phone, electricity and running water in my house.  It was not long ago these things would make me the wealthiest person on the planet.  In fact just a few generations ago I would have been branded a witch for having such luxury.

The opportunities we have in the US are great.  Great that is until they become a burden.  And the problem is that most people don’t realize that they are a burden.  It takes some perspective to see things clearly sometimes.

When we first came back to the US we immersed ourselves in the “opportunities” we had missed.  Our kids were taking soccer, gymnastics, music lessons, cross-country running, science club, Spanish Club.  Holy Crap!  I went from a guy who sat in a hammock reading books (after surfing of course) to a rat sprinting on a wheel.

In Panama it helps the local economy when you hire locals to do your chores.  It was an adjustment to get used to but as  a “rich gringo” people can be offended if you decide to do your own lawn care or house work.   So after a short time you find yourself with no chores and oodles of free time.  I remember many times being frustrated when I was unable to find a piece of clothing I was looking for, until I finally found it – clean, folded, and put away.   How novel, my stuff is actually where it belongs.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some serious advantages here too.  I just read this post from a friend of mine living in Panama

“Gah! Nearly two weeks and still no working fridge.  Gosh, I forgot how unreliable repairmen are.  Another no-show today”

I don’t have to deal with the Mañana culture when it comes to repairmen and that’s nice.

But to adjust to the pace in the US  we have cut back on the extra curricular activities and try to cultivate free time.   It can be challenging with the level of maintenance required.   Either I work at maintaining or I work to earn money to pay someone else to maintain for me.  Neither are great.

The best thing to do is to constantly simplify, so there are less things in life demanding your attention.  No car payments, a renter in the basement paying half the mortgage, less after school activities for the kids, pay off debt etc.

With a little focus it is possible to create some space in your life.  And one of the best things you can do to get that focus is try living somewhere with a slower pace of life for a while.  If you try it you may stay permanently like Coley, or you may come back with new perspective on life, well-rounded kids and a focus on creating a better lifestyle.

Either way it is a great experience.


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8 Responses to "Opportunity or Burden"

  1. Since I left my full-time job in September I have been bouncing back and forth between lots of free time and buried in projects from clients. I have been using that free time to advantage, in ways that I had nearly forgotten that I could. The “corporate grind” had become so ingrained that I simply did not know what to do with myself if I had a couple of days with not much more to do than cook some meals and clean up after.

    Working on simplifying and getting rid of a bunch of stuff that has accumulated over the years is definitely helping.

  2. Guest says:

    That sir was a  wonderful keepsake for the noodle thank you

  3. Mary says:

    I live on the coast of GA in Savannah (If you’re a Georgia boy, you know where I live!).  I inherited my childhood home there.  My kids are older and they have a home near Statesoboro where they go to school.  I’ve never fit into the “corporate” track, it never felt right to me but I am learning how to slow it down. The first 20 years of my career, I felt like a race horse until I figured out I was working to pay for crap.   When we moved back to Savannah I took a job that I was way overqualified for just because of the schedule (lots of time off)…rented out the house we lived in and now live in a travel trailer refurbing the little house my mother left, raising chickens and a garden and basically living back with the simple folk…it is VERY liberating to live like this although all my old friends are fixated on cars, houses and stuff….I don’t watch TV anymore and I’m going into teaching…I really don’t want to live a complicated life and its not easy to find friends who aren’t on that “treadmill”…the bad economy has forced some people into simplicity…thanks for the post…good observations.

    • I know just what you mean about finding like minded souls.  It can be a little tough and people think you’re crazy, but it is just so nice to live a simpler life!  Thanks for the comment.

  4. M says:

    Trey, Why’d you return to the US? I thought you were still in Panama all this time.

    • My wife was ready to live closer to family and to have the kids enrolled in “traditional” schools.  I miss surfing and all my Panama friends but we are lucky that we live in the mountains of Boone NC, where resiliency is alive and well.  Also we are happy to have our “escape hatch” in Panama if we ever need it.

      • Mary says:

        Boone is a wonderful place to raise a family…we frequent NC in the summer and hopefully will be buying a piece of property to put this travel trailor on once the house on the coast is finished….we like to have all things PAID IN FULL so there is no worry or fret about keeping it….welcome back to crazy land….I’m sure its not so crazy there if you can stay away from the gated community-golf course and walmart folks….lol that’s just about everybody!

  5. Mukluksforall says:

    My wife an I are slowly weaning ourselves from all the things that enslave us.  It is mind blowing how much time and energy is spent on gadgets that do not add much, if any value to our lives.  THere is an economic boom where we live so we are living a pretty hectic pace right now with the goal of getting set up for a slower pace.  We will always keep property here in Canada but are on the lookout for our safe haven.  My friends think I am nuts, but when I look at their lives, it boggles my my mind they can’t see how ridiculous they are scurrying to buy things they cant afford, and so busy they are not really experiencing life- they are basically just existing.   

    Really enjoy the posts, please keep them coming.  Reading the posts for me is inspirational, and it is nice to know there are like-minded people out there.  Take care out there all.

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