We are packing our bags and....
In 2018 our youngest, Luciana, turned a year old. And as parents of young children, EVERY SINGLE PERSON advised us to, “savor the moment,” and “enjoy the girls.” They told us “things will go by in a flash,” and “don’t miss it.” And so Guapo and I looked at each other and thought, we’d better listen.
So we made a plan. We would slow down. We would take things off our plates. We would choose to BE with our young girls and cherish the days.
So in March of 2018, we decided we’d leave our beloved Austin, put our careers on hold and we’d take a life sabbatical.
We’d go somewhere where life was slow, and we could just be together.
A few months later, in May of 2018, we gave away half of our belongings, stored the rest, and moved to Panama. Panama, Central America. All of it went pretty quickly.
Guapo did all the planning, and I packed our bags. I landed on Panamanian soil, sight unseen. I didn’t do a lick of research. I just trusted.
We arrived with 6 suitcases, 2 car seats, a stroller, a 3.5-year-old and a 1.5-year-old.
The night we arrived, Guapo assured me a luxury van was going to pick us up and take us to a hotel. When we walked out of the airport into the wet humidity, I saw no luxury vans. But I did see some janky vans. “That one!” He was pointing to the janky van. “Oh my God,” I thought. I got in the van, and it didn’t have a way to affix the car seats. “Great,” I’m in a foreign country, and I can’t keep my baby safe. What did we get ourselves into?
But then we walked into our new home, and I thought, “alright, alright, alright!” It was clean and beautiful and had so much space! Turns out, the cost of living in Panama is A LOT less than Austin.
The girls’ bedrooms were the priority, and so we went to go buy a crib for Luci, and Guapo asked for “ropa” to tie the crib to the top of our rental car. And so they kept sending him to the 2nd level of the store – where they sold….CLOTHES! Lasso. It’s a lasso. We needed a lasso to tie the crib.
We have SO many of those stories.
It took us about 3 months, but we learned a new way of life. A slow one. When I arrived, I continually wanted to be productive and busy because that’s how I had always operated. But in Coronado, there was nothing to do. There was the beach, the gym, and golf. Those were your choices. And so, I learned to just sit and not rush from place to place.
And then, the most magical part started to happen. We began to BECOME more attuned to our children. We spent days, seeing them for who they were. We learned better ways to parent. We took so much off our plate that we did what we set out to do – we enjoyed our girls. We spent countless hours in the pool and in the hammock and dancing in the kitchen. We absolutely changed the dynamic of our family. We learned how to be intentional with words and time, and we have seen our girls flourish because of it.
And once the four of us got our bearings, we started to settle in, and build a community. We made Coronado, ( a small beach town 90 miles west of Panama City) our home. We became friendly with the fruit stand attendants, the beach club staff, the team at our local salon. I took a part-time job as a gym instructor and even got a Zumba Strong certification along the way. Guapo went surfing and started Jiu-Jitsu. And we had BBQs and game nights and play dates with friends. We really loved people, and they loved us back.
And now Alexandra is 5 and Luciana is rounding the corner on 3, and it’s time to pack our bags and go back to Texas.
We have had a rough several months here health-wise and a few nights ago our home got broken into while we were sleeping. But even though the last few months have been rough – I am still so glad we came.
We did it.
We did it.
I mean, I’m just a girl from Weslaco. I grew up in the same house my entire life. Getting up and moving to a foreign country was a big deal for me. And I did it. I figured it out. I figured out the traffic and directions. I figured out how to teach a gym class in Spanish! I figured out health care and school systems. I figured out how to build a community, one intentional act at a time.
Today, I told some of my friends we were moving, and my girlfriend said, “What are we going to do without your light?” She squeezed me tight. And I cried.
Never in my wildest dreams did I picture our life sabbatical unfolding the way it did.
It was rich in experience and love and courage. We did exactly what we set out to do – we slowed down, and we loved Alexandra and Luciana well. Which may sound cheesy, but how good do you feel when someone loves you wholly and completely? We are all the better for it.
What an adventure.
If you’re out there and you’re wondering if you should take a leap. DO IT. If you’re wondering -- it’s because your soul knows it needs to stretch. It’s because your soul knows that there’s so much to be experienced and learned and felt and enjoyed when you take the leap. I can’t tell you how your leap will turn out, I can’t promise you it’ll turn out like a fairy tale, but I can guarantee you that you will be delighted when you realize just how strong and capable you are. Go for it, adventure awaits. And come back and tell us the story.
I'm Catia, a woman, wife, mama, sister, sister friend, you know -- I wear a million hats just like you.
One of my biggest whys is that I want people to feel good about ALL of who they are. Including you.
If I could choose ten words that best describe me I would say: honest, welcoming, giving, curious, loving, earnest, empathetic, spiritual, playful, and sassy. Let's add: adventurous. That's 11.
Nice to meet you!