Dear Miss Move Abroad,
I plan to move to Panama next year and wanted your advice on how best to bring my possessions with me. I want to bring my cars, my appliances, and most of my furniture. I plan to ship a container from Miami to Panama, but hear that getting a container through customs can be a headache. Any advice?
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read:
We all live within that cycle, but we can resist it if we put in some effort.
My advice to you is to pare down. (If you know now that paring down for you is as likely as rock-hard abs for Santa Clause, then skip to some concrete advice on shipping to Panama).
But why lug your old life with you to a new country, especially when you have to pay so dearly for the privilege? And you will pay–thousands of dollars for shipping, high tariffs (duties on imported goods), and time and energy navigating the bureaucracy.
The easiest way to bring your possessions into Panama is as checked luggage on a flight. But most people–even adventurous souls who decide to pick up and move to another country–have a lot of stuff that they’ve accumulated over the years.
If you’ve lived in one place for a while, I’ll bet that you’ve been meaning to purge your belongings–to have a garage sale or take a few trips to the Salvation Army drop-off station.
It feels good to pare down, and a lot of people who move abroad do so in part because they want to simplify their lives.
You can start simplifying long before you make the move, by thinking carefully about what possessions you can’t live without, then selling or giving away the rest.
“I thought about selling all my favorite things, all the great stuff I’ve collected over the years, and I just couldn’t do it,” says Mary Ann Jackson, who moved to Costa Rica in 2004. “But I wasn’t going to lug it all with me, either. So I gave it all away to friends. Now I can visit my stuff in their houses.”
But ok, if you want to ignore my advice and still bring all your stuff to Panama in a container, then here’s some practical tips on shipping to Panama, courtesy of Our Man in Boquete, a German-born jazz-loving former airline pilot who relocated to Panama in late 2009.
Photo of skateboarders in Panama City by David W. Smith.