Military Roots: From Bahamas to Panama

Linda shares her expatise experience, working for the military in the Bahamas and St. Croix to her plans for a Panama retirement.

… although the locals are people of color, the majority of my coworkers were not. The base was known for being the home of the ‘Good Ol’ Boys’ club, so people of color and the locals were not treated fairly.

Let’s start at the beginning, where are you originally from and when did you leave?

I’m originally from Arkansas, I lived abroad in Bermuda and Sicily during my military years (1981-1992). Outside of the military, I moved abroad to the Bahamas in 2012 for six years. I then moved to St. Croix USVI in 2018. Although this is US territory it is still different from living stateside. I am now in the process of trying to relocate to Panama this year. 

How were you able to migrate? (Job, Visa, Spouse, family another channel?)

I was able to migrate to the Bahamas through a job opportunity. I also migrated to St. Croix through a job opportunity as well. My move to Panama will be for retirement. 

Why did you decide to move and did you know anyone there?

I moved to the Bahamas because I was ready for a change and I was ready to leave my job and Florida. I didn’t know anyone upon my arrival. The person that I knew who helped me get the job had already left. After being there for a few months, I helped my best friend and my brother find a job there as well.

 I decided to move from the Bahamas to St. Croix, Virgin Islands because the island in the Bahamas was very remote and there was nothing to do. The military base I lived on was very small with a lot of restrictions. The food source was limited and very expensive. My working hours were very draining, I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, then off for 7 days. My reason for wanting to relocate again to Panama was because my job in St Croix VI was very stressful, everything is very expensive and limited here as well. Customer service is very poor and business is very slow.  I didn’t actually know anyone personally when I moved here although I knew the brother of the lady that I rented the Airbnb from. One of my brother’s lived in St Croix about 10 years ago and he briefed me about the island.

I resigned from my job in St Croix in December 2019 so my reason for moving to Panama is because of the economy. It’s very affordable and Panama is a beautiful country. I’ve visited there 3 times. I actually do know someone in Panama. Two gentlemen that I worked with in the Bahamas are retired there and I met another friend through them. I also went on Jackie Lange’s Relocation tour in February so I now have a few contacts there from that trip. 

How did you find the job searching process. Was there anything about working overseas that surprised you?

The job search for the job in the Bahamas wasn’t hard since I knew someone that previously worked for the same contractor. I wasn’t surprised by working overseas because of my military background. This was a government job on a military base. 

The process for the job in the Virgin Islands was lengthy, it took a year and a half to get the job after applying. The work ethics in the Virgin Islands is very different from stateside so that was surprising.

How was the experience finding a new home?

Finding a home in the Bahamas was not difficult because housing was provided for us.  I was fortunate to find my housing in St. Croix through facebook.

I’m hoping house hunting in Panama won’t be too hard because of my friends and other people I met on the tour as well as Jackie Lange, whose background was real estate so she has connections. 

How is the social scene? What was your experience making friends?

The social scene in the Bahamas was not a good experience for me. There weren’t  many people of color on base and outside of the base was very remote so there was no social scene really except for a couple of island bars. I didn’t make many friends outside of the ones I already knew. I also would travel back stateside during my off days. 

The social scene in St. Croix was much better, I met most of my friends through my job and through other people.

From my previous trips to Panama, the social scene seems pretty good and I doubt if I will have any problems making friends there. There are a lot of people relocating to Panama so we will all be in the same boat. 

Did you date overseas? If so, what was that experience like, any memorable stories?

I dated someone in the Bahamas for almost a year. That was not a good experience, the base and island was too small therefore everyone was always in our business LOL.  

Do you feel your race impacted your experience? If so, how?

Yes in the Bahamas for sure, although the locals are people of color,  the majority of my coworkers were not. The base was known for being the home of the Good Ol’ Boys club, so people of color and the locals were not treated fairly. In St. Croix, not so much because almost everyone here is a person of color but not being a local has it’s disadvantages. The island is small so almost everyone is related or knows each other’s families. 

What has been the most challenging thing about moving abroad?

Moving abroad wasn’t really challenging for me, it’s just each location is a different experience.

What has been the most rewarding?

Being able to try something new, learning other cultures, trying different foods and learning the history of each place.

Tips & Advice for the Her Expatise Community

What in your experience would you say is the min. monthly cost of living?

$1000 USD

Any advice on the visa/migrating process that could help someone else’s process go smoother?

I didn’t need a visa in the Bahamas because it was a Government job, and St Croix is US Territory. Definitely do get a lawyer if you’re thinking of moving to Panama. If you take Jackie Lange’s Relocation Tour, she will connect you with some lawyers. 

Finally, If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before you got on that plane, what would it be?

I have no advice, each experience was a learning curve.

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