Fly Away Home


Pupusas in Panama


download-5My husband Juan and I are both big on family. We are each incredibly close with our families and when we got married our families became one giant family. I often joke with him that I married him for his family. That’s only partly true, but it does have everything to do with why he is such a great man and an amazing father to Joaquin.

Luckily for us, everyone in our big, giant family lives in California – the Napa Valley to be exact. Not a bad place to go home to, that’s for sure. And, seeing as we only have two visits home per year if we’re lucky, it’s fantastic that we only have one destination. It’s not exactly a vacation – we are busier than ever when we go home – but it’s the good kind of busy. The kind of busy that includes breakfast on the deck overlooking Wild Horse Valley, sleepovers with my nieces, coffee and shopping and walks with my mama, eating my sister’s cooking, late night glasses of wine chatting about old times, and now more recently the best of all – plopping Joaquin into all of their laps!

A lot of people back home ask us how we do it. How do you live so far away? Don’t you miss everyone? Do you get lonely? I get a mix of admiration and skepticism from others about the concept of actually living in another country, especially now with a baby, and most of all for two people who are so family oriented.

The answer is not simple. The truth is that of course we miss everyone. A ton. We love Skype for all the obvious reasons but it breaks our hearts that it is the primary way that our families have seen Joaquin grow over the last 15 months. When family gets together for dinner or a holiday or when there is a crisis or a celebration, we want nothing more than to be right there in Napa. We want Joaquin to “grow up with” his cousins. The list goes on. Fundamentally, this is the hardest part of living abroad, and it’s definitely not for everybody.

But for us, it works. We both truly love the challenge and the rewards of setting up shop in a totally different place. Somehow over time, for both of us, living in Panama has become home. We have built such an amazing community here of friends from all over the world who have become our Panama family. Friends of all ages, friends with kids, single friends, and many friends who are living the same type of experience as us which inevitably brings us closer together. We celebrate, we commiserate, we travel, we cook, we laugh, we support, and we live as if we were family. I have never known my neighbors nor my neighborhood as well as I do in Casco Viejo, and that is invaluable to me.

There is no way to compare the two. There are perks to living where one comes from and perks to living abroad. If you’re considering it, my only advice would be to just not over think it. Of course the essentials are necessary (income mostly) but with some committed research that is always possible. Life is short and if you have an adventurous spirit you will see that you can plant your roots (even just temporarily) wherever you want to with a little bit of planning and a whole lot of gumption. The “worst” thing that can happen is that living abroad will help you to realize how much you love where you come from, and you pack up an head home with a great story to tell. The world is actually quite a small place once you start putting yourself out there.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you live abroad or have you considered it? What rewards and/or challenges have you faced?

Photos: Avenida A, Casco Viejo : Brunch with friends in Casco : A walk through Napa Valley last December with my family : Salvadorian food with friends in Panama : Joaquin with his beautiful cousins in Napa.

  6 comments for “Fly Away Home

  1. Adaptation
    May 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Most humans are bad at “affective forecasting,” that is, predicting how we’ll feel in the future. We overestimate the intensity and duration of our emotional reactions (“Oh my, I could never raise my son in a third world country”). But according to research, within a year, lottery winners and recent-paraplegics have both (on average) returned most of the way to their baseline/original levels of happiness…

    The winner takes his winnings for granted and has no way to rise any further, while the paraplegic’s expectations are reduced to zero and everything from that point on is “a bonus.”

    Families like yours know how to constantly recalibrate: you create for yourselves a world of targets, and each time you hit one, you replace it with another. After a string of success you aim higher. After a massive setback you might aim lower.

    In the long run, it doesn’t matter much where a family like yours is physically located. Good fortune or bad, you will always return to your set point — that great default mindset of challenges and rewards — which was determined largely by (you guessed it) your genes.

    So many people in this treacherous and ever-changing social world are stuck, like hamsters on a treadmill: running, running, running, always wanting more but always stuck in the same physical place.

    But we now know that environmental and demographic factors influence people like you very little. In fact, you’re something of the opposite: running around from place to place, always content with precisely what you want.

    So it’s only natural that you’re able to portablize “family” with you wherever you go.

    Love your blog.

    • Molly Berry
      May 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      I really appreciate this comment. Humans are such an interesting study, aren’t we? How one is genetically programmed combined with environmental and social factors is what makes us all unique, positively and negatively. Your comment has made me consider a few future posts – I will be sure to update you when they’re published!

      In my next post I will be exploring the “entrepreneurial” spirit that seems to come along with the many like-minded friends in our Panama community. Stay tuned!

      Thanks again,

  2. Patty
    May 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Q Xopa mis fren!

    Love your blog and I testify that I loved even more sharing quality family time with you both and then three. Even though, far away, I am so excited that I will not be missing out on your beautiful family’s adventures!!! It has brought back such wonderful memories of our times shared. Please continue sharing these beautiful family stories which truly keep us humans grounded on what is really important in this life.

    Los quiero mucho.

    Con Cariño,


    • Molly Berry
      May 11, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      Q tu me va da?!
      We love you too Patty, and miss your gorgeous smile and melodies around these parts. Sending so much love and thanks for your kind words. You will ALWAYS be a part of our family here in Panama, no matter where we all may live. I mean c’mon, if it weren’t for you my first three months solita in Panama would have been a dark and dreary time. I am forever grateful to you for helping me to see all the beautiful and crazy things to love here.
      Te queremos y estrañamos mucho!
      Molly & gang

  3. ari
    May 12, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    i love your blog Molly !! :) Im actually going to show this post to Gerardo because he feels we have to head back home (Mexico) to start a family. I think it will be possible and fun to stay here and have a baby around :) Our main reason for wanting to go back when a baby comes is our family too !!!! I just completely feel the same way about living abroad . It was hard at the beginning but as we spent more time here we become more and more confortable and we enjoy more. The list of things we will miss from Panama keeps growing everyday and a possible option of going back home becomes less easy to take even in the imagination! The thing about planting roots somewhere is that those roots grow , so the bigger they are the harder the future transplant of them. I also believe that once you understand that you´ll always return to your home place you start understanding that its not difficult to move away from it , but moving away from another place where you live is a little bit harder because the odds of coming back to that place are not the same .

    good luck with the blog and keep writing , ill keep reading :)


    • Molly Berry
      May 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Ari! Thank you so much for your comment, it’s great to hear your thoughts regarding home & starting a family. It’s exciting to know that you’re beginning to consider this next stage of your life:) It seems that obviously the choice is different for everyone because we are all faced with different options. Primarily, if both you and Gerardo explore this option for you more amd you end up on the same page about it, then by all means you can begin a family here! One of the first things we looked into seriously was the medical attention I would receive and in the end, I did the whole process at Punta Pacifica and we were so happy with every doctor, the hospital, the procedures, everything. Those are the finer details, but they matter. I’m here if you ever want to know/ask more. Overall though, I have to say that there’s been something very special about beginnin our little family “independently”. We have had a lot of family visit us and we’ve gone home twice with Joaquin so far, but mostly it’s been Juan and I growing closer win every experience as we’ve started this whole process together in Panama. Although there are times when I wish for nothing more than te help and experience of my mom & sister, but Skype helps a lot and Juan and I have managed to navigate our way as a team – at least for these first 16 months – and it’s really special.
      I can relate entirely to what you mean about always being able to go home but most likely not returning to Panama once you go. I completely agree and think that is a major reason we have stayed and aren’t sure when we will go home to California. We know that when the day comes for us to return and really make our family’s home in California, the chances are small that we would live abroad again, and we definitely aren’t ready to settle for that yet. I guess we never know, but for now, raising our family here is working.
      I encourage you to take it one dy at a time, follow your (motherly) instincts, and enjoy the process of “figuring it out”. We are all very lucky for the many options that we have.

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