That question was central to filling the empty nest. How did I decide to create new alliances and seek new relationships after the boys went off to university? My husband and I (now ex) made the decision to go on an adventure to a place that we knew a little about – Panama. But, this was just the first of many decisions made in very subtle ways that influenced the series of events that followed. There were many conversations to be had that didn’t happen, not out of ignorance, just wanting to “see how it works”, “we can always do something else”. But, the attachment to place and having a home base that I have talked about in my last post drove me to make the next nest. This is what I do.

But, what does that mean in an international context? What are some of the mini decisions to be made? One that I discovered is what I call the “to expat or not to expat”. This plays out in very subtle ways and are influenced by many factors. On the Caribbean island where we first lived, Bocas del Toro, there certainly was an array of expat living. American characters abounded -  everything from “salty-dog” types (big drinkers) to do-gooders (some druggers, some with credentials) to serial killers. I kid you not. There were other foreigners as well, but the decision to become part of this expat living American style is what I refer to because that is where I came from. I am fortunate that I had a professional connection and speak Spanish, so I did not rely on this community for social and financial connections. It works for many people, but I guess I felt that I had more freedom because I didn’t have to rely on English speakers. Plus, many of the expat group ran businesses, etc. (one person for fourteen years!) and still didn’t learn Spanish. I did not want to judge, but I had to make some context for myself… my rule of thumb became more like…if I wouldn’t be friends with them in the US, why would I be friends with them here? This may have saved me from some destruction…like hanging out with someone that might have killed me…. look up the “Wild Bill” story. He was a serial killer of other expats for their land. Yep.
Where is home? This is a question about how we define where home is. I am very attached to place and often get a little moment of panic when I realize that I do not have my house where I can go and feel a complete comfort level of having my stuff all how I want it…. I don’t have a shelf of all of my books to refer to nor my nana’s antique buffet to find some old photos that I want to look at. This is what I have given up and I am still grappling about home. Two of my recent “homes” were taken away from me – it is one thing to make decisions to move on, sell the house, go on an adventure. It is another to have my father’s house, that he built and thought-to-be my refuge in my home town, be appropriated by my wicked (who knew?) step-mother and not available to me. The other was my home in Panama with my former partner (see Narcissist post) who decided it was time for me to move on. So, now my definition of home is to be reinvented once again. Will it be finding a little house to build or buy? Will it be some shared living with some of the special people that I have known and want the same things? I think home is about to become something new for me in concept and in reality.