Part One…Reviewing the criteria we established in March 22, 2012…Are we still on track?

Fiji is lush, green, and beautiful. There are no snakes here and few biting insects other than mosquitoes. Flowers bloom year-round, views are breathtaking, products and services are reasonable and there’s free medical care for all locals and visitors. Sounds like an ideal country for retirement for those seeking a permanent location.

It’s raining again and although today we’ll return to the dentist for Tom’s abscess check, we’d hoped we could do some sightseeing. With fog, dense clouds, and rain, it doesn’t appear sightseeing will be on the agenda. 

We can’t deny we may be running out of photos as we wind down to less than three weeks remaining on this island of Vanua Levu. With limited photos, we must admit, writing a story each and every day can be challenging at times especially when we haven’t been out much.

With Tom on massive doses of antibiotics and the bad weather, we haven’t been out since shopping on Thursday. Laying low always seems like a good idea when one has a raging infection and trekking through a rainforest in the rain just didn’t seem like such a good idea. We’ll head out on the next sunny day.

The view from atop the hills in our area.

During quiet times such as these, we often read past posts getting a kick out of our thoughts and ideas from long ago. With today’s post as #1201 having begun posting on March 15, 2012, long before we left Minnesota, we’re often astounded by how we’ve changed in some ways and how we’ve stayed constant in others.

One post that Tom stumbled upon yesterday, caused both of us to laugh out loud over how little we’ve changed in the criteria we established 44 months ago when we wrote the post for  March 22, 2012.

Knowing many of our readers have joined us partway through our journey, having never read the earlier posts, we share this post again today. With each and every one of our past posts located under “previous posts” (click on the little black arrow) on the right side of the page, we realize many readers never read archives, not on our site nor any other site.

Too often, we’ve been sightseeing on rainy days. Photos are more appealing on sunny days.

Ours is a continuing story.  However, it may be picked up partway through.  We often provide links to past posts which may help the reader “catch up” to a degree. We rarely upload a prior post’s text as we’re doing today.  This won’t be a regular habit but, the content may be of interest to new readers who joined along the way.

Today, we’re copying and pasting the criteria we posted on March 22, 2012. All of the text copied will be in italics with comments at the end. If you recall this portion and prefer not to read it again, you call pass over all of the italicized portions to our comments at the end.

Here it is, a post from 44 months ago:

Our strict criteria, March 22, 2012:
 
 At the end of my last entry, I promised to explain the strict criteria we have established to ensure the financial goal of our world travel:  our total travel expenses would not exceed the expenses we would have incurred to live in a $1500 a month condo in Arizona or any tax-free state such as Florida or Nevada.  
Using an Excel spreadsheet we listed the normal expenses we would experience in our new retirement lifestyle, entitled “Basic Living Expenses”  

  1. Rent or mortgage payment:  include association dues, if applicable
  2. Taxes: federal, state, and property, if applicable
  3. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating.  All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  4. Auto expenses: payment for a newer vehicle still under warranty, gas, maintenance, insurance
  5. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, health club dues, alternative therapies, and supplements
  6. Other insurance
  7. Cable and Internet: including a few premium channels (we love Dexter, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Shameless)
  8. Cell phones: a smartphone with unlimited data
  9. Utilities: gas, electric, water, trash 
  10. Entertainment and dining out (carefully limited)
  11. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  12. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, greeting cards, postage
  13. Publications: magazines, newspapers, online subscriptions
  14. Miscellaneous:  occasional purchase or replacement of household goods, donations, cash for incidentals
  15. Pet care: food, treats, toys, groomer, and vet (no pet now since we lost our WorldWideWillie last April) but we would have a new dog if we settled into a retirement lifestyle
  16. Banking fees; interest on credit cards, if applicable; 
  17. Savings
Upon keeping our costs as low as possible, in an effort to live a relatively conservative retirement lifestyle we had a total. Thus…

Criteria #1:  Do not have a permanent home!

With these numbers in mind, we created the next worksheet in our Excel workbook, entitled “Fixed Living Expenses” which were those we’d incur if we traveled but didn’t have a permanent home. Although we are not accountants nor possess a degree as such, we labeled the tabs that we felt best represented the analysis we chose to perform. These were expenses we’d have whether we were on a cruise, temporarily living in Spain, or on a safari in Africa that didn’t include travel expenses.
  1. Taxes: federal, state, and property, if applicable
  2. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat and poultry with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  3. Health:  insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, supplements 
  4. Other insurance 
  5. Cell phone (one between us):
  6. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  7. Gifts:  for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, postage
  8. Banking fees;  interest on credit cards, if applicable
  9. Savings
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars!  (And resulting payments, depreciation, storage, insurance, gas and maintenance)

We will sell both of our cars before we step foot out of this country, instead, renting a car if necessary. While calculating our auto expense, considering the two payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance, the total was $1523 per month which more than covers all of our upcoming flights, trains, ferries, taxis, and rental cars (three of our credit cards provide free rental car insurance when the card is used for the rental car charges)!
Then we took the “Fixed Living Expenses” and created an “Average Daily Expense” which, no matter our travel expenses or living arrangements, would always be relevant numbers in our financial planning.

Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels other than a short term! How is it possible to travel without staying in hotels? Sleep in a tent?  Hardly!  Rent an RV?  Too expensive! Mooch off people you may know that life in exotic places? Never! Staying in a hotel requires the expense of meals in restaurants, tips, city, county, state, and local taxes, outrageously priced cocktails and beverages, and of course, the tempting “tourist trap” shops and services. 

Simple answer:  Only stay in houses, condos, townhouses, villas, apartments, and other such property owned, but not currently occupied, by private parties. Property owners are often anxious to rent their own homes and rental properties at reasonable rates knowing full well that the distraught economy and worldwide strife has tempered world travel.  We have found that we prefer to rent houses and villas as opposed to apartments, which are often noisy and offer fewer amenities.
Criteria #4:  Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!  The above described $1500 month was the magic number that fit into our predetermined budget.  How is this possible? Only $1500 a month for a house? Yes, the gorgeous 17th century, totally renovated villa in Tuscany, Italy is $1400 a month! Yes, the amazing little beach house in Placencia, Belize is $1250 a month!  Yes, the charming house in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, surrounded by the free-roaming Big 5, is $1387 a month! We will share more of these astounding rentals as we continue here.
There is so much more to share including the remaining Criteria, how to calculate total expenses, why we have booked five cruises thus far with two more waiting to be posted.  How and why we have booked ahead 571 days from this coming Halloween, Tom’s retirement date. How we will experience the first 10 months of our adventure without ever stepping foot onto an airplane.  

Certainly, we have a “to-do” list that is daunting. Certainly, there is a degree of risk  Certainly, there is some blind faith that we are going to enjoy our new lives, free from all the familiar comforts that we have reveled in all these years. And most certainly, our love and devotion to one another will see us through all the challenges we encounter along the way.  

We have mutually agreed that if at any time, one of us is tired, bored, or tired of being on the move, we will stop and find “home’ wherever that we may be.
Through the mist and clouds…

It’s hard to believe that so little has changed in our criteria over these past almost four years since we began posting. Certainly, we could go back over there and see we’ve changed especially in the amount of rent we’re willing to pay. 

The most we’ve paid to date has been slightly over USD $3,000, FJD $6,488 a month in Morocco over a period of almost three months. Overall, our vacation home rent generally runs about 20% to 30% less than in Morocco.

Over time, we did adjust the budget’s annual estimates upwards to compensate for this increase although all other estimates and final numbers have fallen within the original budget. Each time we add a new location, we check transportation, entertainment, and food costs in order to be able to enter realistic estimates. 

As we incur each expense while living in each location, we keep a running tally of every last cent spent, entering it as final expenses at the end of the rental period which we always share here with our readers on the day or our departure.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the second portion of this post which we entered the next day and we’ll provide an update on the results of Tom’s dental appointment today after we discover if his infection is gone needing no further treatment or, treatment down the road.

Have a fulfilling day. Thanks to each and every one of our readers for being at our sides as we continue on.

 Photo from one year ago today, November 16, 2014:

Mike, the condo manager, explained the interesting story of the Milo tree, detailed in this post

Holes in our itinerary…

The piece of driftwood decorates the beach by our villa. The sidewalk to the center-left is the sidewalk directly in front of our villa.

Yesterday afternoon while lounging on the veranda, swimsuits still damp from playing in the pool, we contemplated our upcoming itinerary. Having canceled the one month stay at the stone house in France for April 18, 2014, to May 17, 2014, left an almost three-month gap in our schedule to open up.

We had intended to use this gap to take a long term cruise out of South Africa on March 1, 2014, getting us back to Europe.  A number of such cruises had been posted for 2013 and we’d hoped they’d reappear in 2014.  So far, not the case.  Cruises appear to be posted approximately 18 months in advance. 

The only cruises available from Cape Town, South Africa during the time frame would cost $25,000+ for the two of us for a balcony cabin, not an expense we are interested in bearing for a mere 15 days.  There were a few less expensive options, but on lower-rated cruise lines which we’ve chosen to avoid in light of multiple negative reviews.

So, here we are, with a gap from March 1, 2014 to May 15, 2014, without a decision made.  With less than a year remaining, we knew we’d better get our butts in gear!” 

The shaded grounds of Laru Beya, all-natural vegetation planted in sand.

On May 15, 2014, we’re scheduled to arrive on the island of Madeira, Portugal to stay until July 31, 2014, with another open spot until October 26, 2014 when we board a cruise onto our eventual destination of Hawaii for the holidays when our kids and grandkids will visit for Christmas, staying until May 15, 2015. Beyond that, we haven’t decided where we’ll go, but we will continue on. It’s just too early to secure vacation homes.

Many laughed about our advance planning beginning in January 2012.  We didn’t.  As we’ve experienced life on the move, we realized it was none too early.  When most travelers plan a two-week vacation, it is not unlikely to plan a year in advance to ensure preferred reservations in preferred locations.  (Airlines, won’t allow booking reservations prior to 330 days before travel, not an issue that’s been a concern to us).

We learn as we go.  We’ve accepted the reality that we will not be able to cruise to all of our locations for a few reasons  1).  Cruises aren’t necessarily available when and where we’d like to travel; 2). The cost may be prohibitive if they do.  With 9 cruises booked ahead of us over the next 20 months, we’re satisfied with our choices. 

Based on future plans, we’ll be required to fly no less than 7 times over the next few years.  We’ve accepted this reality, determined to gain a more cavalier attitude about airports, baggage fees, and the actual flying. 

Ditching the three large suitcases to be shipped to my dear sister Julie in California on April 13th while we’re in Miami for one day, we’ll be left with two regulation-sized large suitcases and the usual carry on bags. We’ll then meet the airline baggage restrictions in both weight and size. The most we’ll pay is the standard fees for two checked bags, where applicable. 

On May 21st, we’ll fly back to Barcelona, Spain from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emirates Airlines, which allows two checked bags per person in coach at no additional charge.  Many other airlines we’ll use, charge $50 per bag or, only $50 for the 2nd checked bag.  Prior to flying, we’ll check the weight of our bags as we’re packing on our trusty mini travel scale to ensure we won’t incur outrageous overweight fees.

I know, reading this may be confusing. But, it’s no more confusing to us than anyone planning a busy schedule whether working, retired, have children at home, grown children, grandchildren, or are caring for senior parents and relatives.  Somehow, we manage to keep it all straight.

It’s surprising how heartily vegetation grows in sand.

Back to the veranda…we researched, we talked, we laughed, we consulted our budget, we calculated foreign exchange rates, and much to our surprise, we discovered not only a viable option for March 1, 2014, to May 15, 2014, but a particular option causing me to do my usual “jumping up and down.” Tom, of course, has the usual non-assuming smirk on his face.

Contacting the owner with a proposal, we anxiously awaited a response. With a six-hour time difference between Belize and the owner’s location, we anticipated it could be a few days until we received a response. 

This morning, hearing back from the owner, we negotiated an acceptable arrangement for us all, much to our delight.  Today, we’ll receive the contract via email subsequently paying the reasonable 15% deposit by PayPal.  Once this is completed, hopefully by tomorrow, we’ll tell you all about it with photos and all the delicious details. 

Of course, we don’t want to “jump the gun” until it’s a “done deal!”

Please check back tomorrow!

Memorial weekend thoughts…

As we are lounging in the comfy chairs, Indy 500 on the TV in the background, an odd sensation washed over me.  This will be the last Memorial weekend we’ll spend in this house. 

While anticipating the necessary chopping and dicing in order to prepare the shish kabob dinner we’ll cook on the grill tonight, my mind is not so much on the race and chopping as it is on the realities facing us moving forward.
Today is Day #7 with no coffee for me.  Our Miele coffee machine died last week requiring a $1000 repair.  We decided to quit drinking coffee rather than invest in the repairs or purchase a new coffee machine at this late a date.  

I love coffee.  Tom is ambivalent.  For me, a proper cup of coffee requires the requisite two tablespoons of real cream, two packs of Stevia and two drops of liquid Splenda (my vice) to ensure it is tasteful and also low carb.  Tom prefers powdered cream and real sugar, which he forfeited nine months ago when we committed to the gluten free, low carb, sugar free, wheat, grain and starch free lifestyle.  

The question becomes: “Is it worth continuing to drink coffee when we each require specific “add-ins” that may not be readily available throughout the world.” So seven days ago, I said: “Bye, bye coffee” and “Hello, tea.” Tom doesn’t drink tea, except when iced. Tom also gave it up. Luckily, no headaches or cravings for either of us.

Many of these situations arise, causing us to question the continuation of a particular habit by using products that may be impossible to find abroad. Do we really want to haul large quantities of certain items in our  overloaded bags? Probably not.

So, I started making a list (how unusual of me!), of the items we have used and loved all these years.  Here are only a few of the many habits we must break:
  1. US TV:  We currently have three multi-room DVRs.  We have dozens of shows taping around the clock (many we never have an opportunity to watch) to ensure we are entertained upon deciding to lounge in these comfy chairs in the evening or on a weekend. No more watching!
  2. US Radio:  We each have our favorite radio shows we enjoy while driving. No more listening!  It uses too much data to listen on our laptops.
  3. Smart Phones: We’ve had unlimited service for talk, text and internet.  In the middle of any night, when I can’t sleep, I listen to Dr. Joy Brown‘s most recent podcast to lull me back to sleep. And, what about talking freely to family and friends on the phone?  It will be Skype in the future.
  4. eBay Shopping.  Want to buy something?  I look online at retail stores and buy it from eBay or Amazon, or through a multitude of other discount sellers. We won’t be able to receive packages along the way considering the delivery time and shipping fees to wherever we may be. No more online shopping!
  5. No Cars: It would be foolish to bear the expense of owning cars, paying for insurance, licensing and storage.  We calculated this expense at about $1500 a month. We will rent OPC (other people’s cars). No more driving one’s own car!
  6. King-sized Sleep Number Bed:  We have the over-sized Sleep Number California King Sleep Number bed whereby the head and foot rises upon command from a remote.  Oh, we sure will miss our bed when sleeping in OPB (other people’s beds) with possible bed bugs, dust mites, uncomfortable mattresses and who know what else? Yikes! We will be packing our own hypo-allergenic mattress and box springs covers. No more comfy bed!
  7. Fresh Produce: We have salad every night with dinner. It’s often my favorite part of dinner with our limited diet; adding low carb veggies, nuts, grated cheeses and fresh bacon bits. Marcia, the travel nurse at Park Nicollet Travel Clinic advised against consuming any fresh produce, except in the US, Canada and Europe.  The risk of disease is high. Salads, fresh fruit, raw veggies?  No more raw veggies or salad!
  8. Toiletries, Sonic Toothbrush (too heavy) and Cosmetics:  Oh, no!  This is tricky for me as a daily user of a wide array of cosmetic items, all paraben-free and mostly organic products (when possible).  Many of these items will not be readily available and, many of which I usually purchase online.  I’ll pack as much as possible purchasing whatever is available in other countries.
  9. Favorite Foods: Will they have sugar free items, almond meal, coconut flour (gluten free flour we can use), coconut oil, unsweetened Greek yogurt, Crystal Lite Iced Tea, Himalayan Salt, unsweetened coconut milk,   protein powder?  Grass fed meat?  Free range eggs?  No more familiar foods!
  10. English: Will anyone understand us? Or will we understand them? Perhaps, no English in some countries!
  11. Newspaper: Tom reads the StarTribune newspaper seven days a week from front to back, practically memorizing every word that he reads. He is my go-to person for local and world news updates.  I always joke that he reads the paper so thoroughly that he even reads the page numbers! No more paper, Tom!
  12. Working Out:  It’s highly unlikely there will be a health club within the three familiar miles I have traveled several times a week for many years. It appears there are no health clubs within an hour’s drive of many of our vacation rental homes. I guess I will start doing lunges and pushups at home.  No more health clubs!
Without a doubt, we will say “goodbye” to many of the familiar items and rituals we’ve enjoyed over the years.  But then, we’ll be saying “hello” over and over and over again!

Tire of traveling?…BugsAway clothing?…

The topic of tiring of traveling may become a frequent point of discussion, particularly once we are “on the road.”  We’ve frequently been asked this question by friends and family members.

Traveling for years, as opposed to the usual one or two weeks or, for a retired few, a month or more, may become tiresome after a while. With 949 days booked out from this upcoming Halloween, it is difficult to draw upon any prior experience to use as a reference as to how we will physically and emotionally handle moving from location to location all over the world.

Tom and I often discuss this topic, invariably easing our minds by this simple fact:  We will rarely stay in one location (except for the one week in Las Vegas next December) for less than one month, most often staying for two to three months or more.

After one month or more, we will have had the fine opportunity to become familiar with the area, made friends, forgotten about the burden of our bags (our biggest nemesis) and be excited to move on.  As we peruse our itinerary we can visualize a certain ease we will acquire as we anticipate an upcoming location with enthusiasm and childlike wonder, lessening the burden of packing up and moving on.

There are a few travel burdens that hover in my mind; the required three airplane trips to three of our locations:  Kenya (for three months), South Africa (for three months) and later, the island of Madeira, Portugal (for two and a half months).

We aren’t afraid of flying.  We simply have little tolerance for the commotion at an airport; the waiting, the crowds, the security check and most of all, the baggage restrictions.  
The cruise lines have minimal restrictions on the number of bags that a passenger may bring aboard.  Thus, we can take everything we need for the 949 days and then barely enough to get by, in the above referenced locations when we have no alternative but to fly: one checked bag and one carry-on each.  We are considering some storage options for these ten months to avoid the expense of excess baggage fees which can run upwards of $1000 extra per person, per bag.

Tiring of travel, while living in vacation homes is highly unlikely.  If we do give up along the way, it would most likely be a result of illness, the painstaking process of packing and hauling our bags, or the necessity of more air travel than we’d prefer which may be the final “deal killer.”   Of course, whatever happens, we will post it here.

Tom always reassures me by saying, “We won’t be on vacation. We’ll simply be living life, in a variety of locations.  What will we do if we tire of it?  Take a break for three months and relax??  We will be staying for three months in many locations, sometimes longer, with ample time to regroup and relax, preparing us for the next adventure.  

This morning, with little piles of mostly newly purchased clothes on my bed, I made an assessment of any additional items I may need. We had decided to bear the expense of purchasing new clothing for both of us.  Over the past several months, Tom has lost 25 pounds from our gluten free, sugar free, grain free, starch free and wheat free diet. Nothing fits him.  
There seemed little point in packing older, overly worn and overly washed items, knowing we’d be gone for this extended period. Since these may be the only items I will be wearing over the next three years, plus a few purchases along the way, puts an entirely different spin on  packing.
As an accomplished bargain hunter with little interest in shopping at large malls or strip mall stores, we make 90% of our purchases online, all brand names, quality clothing befitting our travels.  

Often, I will find items at the major retailers and then proceed to make the actual purchases at eBay, all new with tags, at less than half the price.  Whether bidding on items or purchasing with BUY IT NOW, the process is fun and rewarding. Tom and I are both easy to fit, making it a rarity to return an item.  

Most sellers are very willing to handle returns.  Reading the reviews and rankings from past purchasers is a good clue as to how the seller will handle any issues.  We tend to avoid sellers with less than a 95% satisfaction rating, clearly visible on the site.

Another website we have used for years is Amazon.com. In the past week, we purchased a replacement bulb for our LCD TV (wouldn’t you know?), retailing for $125 in local stores, $85 at most websites.  It was only $40 at Amazon with free SUPERSAVER shipping.  They stand behind all purchases offering an easy return policy.  The bulb arrived in two days.
Today it took two large rubber bins to hold my clothes until we actually begin the packing.  This will translate into two large suitcases. This is frightening. It’s time to get to work on Tom’s wardrobe next, an easier proposition.  

While writing this post, I heard a knock at the door.  The UPS driver handed me a large box from Sierra Trading Post. I placed an order with them last Thursday for the following items shown that arrived in the box: two BugsAway baseball caps, four pair BugsAway socks, one pair men’s BugsAway convertible pants (unzips to shorts) and one long (roll-up) sleeve BugsAway men’s shirt, all retailing for a total of $299.  

As shown in the receipt below, I paid $130.25 for everything!  That’s why it pays to search for great prices online.  Sierra Trading Post  included a 20% off coupon for my next purchase. That’s some fun online shopping!  

A start on Tom’s BugsAway clothing for Africa with 2 pairs of socks and a cap for me!
Receipt for $130.25 for all the above clothing, retailing for $299!
Next “buggie” night, Tom and I will put on our BugsAway caps, socks, pants and shirts and see if the mosquitoes will dine elsewhere.  Otherwise, back in the box with the included return shipping label!

Too much togetherness???…

  1. When describing our upcoming travel plans, we’re often asked the same two questions:
  2. What happens if we tire of traveling? (I will address this in the next post)
  3. How will we comfortably exist at each other’s side, day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month and ultimately, year after year?
Tom and I met 21 years ago.  On a blind date with a dud, whom I ditched when I went to the ladies room to call a girlfriend to join me at another hot spot for a night of fun. The jerk had lied about himself, was a full head shorter than me (another one of his lies) and was wearing a pair of pink and black zebra zubaz (remember those?)

With no guilt about leaving him behind, my friend and I met at a well-known, now defunct nightclub for a “girls night out” of dancing, drinking and playful banter. That’s the night I met Tom.  Baring the details of our first few rocky years, four years later we decided to marry, much to our mutual surprise.  He always says I married him for his health insurance and I always say he married me for my high heels.

My two sons were adults (my eldest son was living in Las Vegas).  My younger son lived here in Minnesota as did Tom’s adult son and daughter.  We were determined that somehow our families would blend with harmony. After a time, they did.

Having both failed at previous marriages and determined to make this one work, we muddled our way through the first tough few years to settle into what has proven to be an inseparable bond of love, support, compassion and trust.  We like each other.  We enjoy each other’s companionship.  

Along the way, we have discovered 10 aspects of our relationship that have been vital in enhancing our adoration and love for one another and our ability to spend long periods of time together that has worked well for us:
  1. We don’t snip.  Snipping, snapping and expressing signs of annoyance is sure fire “deal killers.”
  2. We don’t nag.  Ask once, ask twice or ask three times.  We maintain a pleasant and genuine sound in our voices. It seldom takes a second “ask” to encourage the other to participate in the task.
  3. Don’t complain.  Whining is a pointless, childlike behavior we choose to avoid.  Although. Tom may whine or moan a little when he’s sick. It’s a guy thing. 
  4. Listen. Tom’s obsessed with Ancestry.com.  No matter how deeply his head is buried in his computer, he looks up at me and listens when I talk. Over the years I’ve been obsessed with health, diet, fitness, food, technology and of course, the endless array of information on the Internet, now centered on travel. I, too, drop whatever I am doing to listen to him, although not quite as quickly as he does.  He doesn’t complain when I don’t immediately respond (refer to #3 above).
  5. We share our common interests and encourage one another to have separate interests.  We are different.  It is these very differences that make us interesting to one another.  We are supportive of each other’s ideas and opinions, not always agreeing. But disagreeing with interest and support for each other’s passionate viewpoint .  
  6. We make an effort to stay appealing to one another.  We smell good, wear fresh clothes, attempting to look as good as our aging bodies will allow. We try to be playful, tease endlessly, laugh, laugh and then laugh some more.
  7. We kiss “hello,” “goodbye,” and “goodnight” and… for no reason at all, many times a day. We often touch as we walk by, lock eyes or smile for no reason at all.
  8. We are compassionate.  We comfort each other during times of sorrow, disappointment, concern, emotional or physical pain or discomfort.  
  9. We are patient.  I am a “bull in a China shop,” often dropping and breaking things.  He never judges me.  He observes and smiles, glad he didn’t do the breaking.  He is a determined and highly capable “fix it” guy. When frustration sets in, I try to step back and let him figure it out at his own pace.  This is hard for me. I could be very bossy. But, I’m not. 
  10. We dream together.  For us, the concept of building a dream, however realistic, creates lively, animated discussion, shared research and enthusiast speculation. Over the years, some of our dreams, as yours, have “wafted away” as unfulfilled expectations.  

But this time together, side by side, day after day, week after week, month after month and ultimately year after year, we will do more than just “comfortably exist.”  We will enjoy living this dream together

The final criteria, lots more to follow…

Here we go! We’re wrapping up the all-important criteria today, allowing us to proceed to the equally important itinerary in the next post. As I mentioned earlier, listing these vital “rules” again and again is certainly tedious. 

Seeing them over and over, reading them aloud to Tom each time I write, is exactly what we’ve needed to be reminded of the importance of following these guidelines. Without them, the temptation to book expensive vacation rentals, overpriced cruises, and the occasional exorbitant hotel rooms would throw our financial plan out of whack.  

The goal of avoiding the necessity of tapping into our savings or investments is a huge motivator. Fear, the infinite motivator. Fear, being forced to stop this adventure due to financial constraints. Fear, canceling future travel due to health issues. Fear, the caves with the bats, the guano. Fear, the zip line.

Friends and family have asked, “What happens if you get bored?” We didn’t get bored living in our home together for the past 21 years, in the comfy chairs, enjoying lounging in a lawn chair in the summer, eating homemade meals, watching episodes of our favorite TV shows, chatting, laughing, and socializing.  

They also ask, “What if you get tired of traveling?” We’ll stop. We’ll cancel future plans, maybe lose a deposit or two but we’ll stop. We’ve agreed that if one of us wants to stop, the other will agree. Knowing this, comforts us. Knowing this, removes the fear. 

So, the remaining criteria:

Criteria #7:  Never stay in a vacation rental for less than one month. The rationale behind this rule is simple. Staying in one location not only reduces transportation expenses, but provides us with the opportunity to negotiate better rates when staying a month or more.  

Many of the property owners allow a stay of as little as three or four days, requiring added paperwork, liability, and cleaning. Their piece of mind is a substantial motivator for them to accept a lower rent for their property. As each month’s stay is extended in the negotiations, the price goes down proportionately. This will be illustrated by the rental amounts we will post with the itinerary.

Criteria #8:  No trinkets!  As tempting as “bargains,” “souvenirs” and local “handicrafts” appeal to us during our travels, we will resist the temptation. The cost of excess baggage along with the horror of hauling some heavy wooden objects all over the world is preposterous!

We will make a list of the items we encounter that tempt us. Once we settle someday, we will easily be able to find similar items online or in some cases, purchase them from the actual vendor’s web site. Often these tempting artifacts can be found for half the price on eBay, from sellers who found they were tempted during their travels. Most often, when we look back at such a wish list at a later date, we’ll find that we have lost interest anyway.

Criteria #9:  The availability of Internet/cellphone access with us at all times. This was a tough one. I’ve spent no less than an entire week researching various options. We now have discovered solutions (of course, subject to technology changes over the next several months). For Internet access, 24/7, in our rental, on the road, and part-time on cruises, we’ll use MiFi Rental with XCom Global. In a future post, I will write about the cost and how this works.  

As for cellphone service, we will be buying an Unlocked International cell phone into which we can purchase and install a local SIM card using the available local network (which is what most cell phone users in many countries use for service). SIM cards result in considerably lower rates, all without the use of a contract. Here again, I will write an entire post on this subject.

Criteria #10:  Cook and eat in! Due to health concerns we live a low carb, wheat-free, starch-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free lifestyle. Occasionally Tom will indulge along the way! He won’t be able to resist pasta in Italy or a baguette in France. But, for me, my ongoing health from this way of eating it a huge motivator. Cooking and eating in the kitchen of our vacation rental will save us $1000’s along the way.  

We currently spend about $800 a month on food (all organic produce with grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, and eggs, organic dairy). This may sound like a huge sum for two people, but that totals only $26.67 a day. After considerable research, we feel confident that we’ll be able to maintain this budget and our food requirements. I currently pack 3 meals a day for Tom’s long 12 hour workdays.

We could never eat two to three meals a day in a restaurant in any of the countries we are visiting for a mere $26.67 for both of us! We have budgeted the cost of enjoying a dinner out in a nice restaurant, once or twice a week depending upon local prices.  

That one dinner a week may cost $25 in Belize including tax and tip, but could be $125 in Tuscany, resulting in an expenditure of $6500 a year, enough to pay for a vacation rental for 4.3 months or 8.6 months, if eating out twice a week. It’s a matter of trade-offs.  

I don’t think we’ll mind grilling a steak on the veranda in Majorca, Spain while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

In review, here is a complete list of all the criteria:

Criteria #1: Do not have a permanent home!
Criteria #2: Do not own cars!
Criteria #3: Do not stay in hotels unless absolutely necessary!
Criteria #4: Do not pay more than that which we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!
Criteria #5: Use the cruise!
Criteria #6: Bag the excess baggage!
Criteria #7: Never stay in a vacation rental for less than one month!
Criteria #8: No trinkets!
Criteria #9: The availability of Internet/cellphone access with us, at all times!
Criteria#10: Cook and eat in!

Sure, all of the above is subject to change. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s a work in progress. By the time we are ready to leave in seven months and ten days, we may laugh or even cringe at what we “thought” we knew and posted here, this early in the process. In any case, we learn as we go, on a perpetual mission of gaining knowledge, reducing fear, and ultimately, having the time of our lives.  

Continuation of the strict criteria…

Yesterday, I wrote about the first four criteria that we have discovered making long-term world travel affordable for us as a retired couple (Tom retires on Halloween), on a fixed monthly income. Let’s review those points before I continue with the others:

Criteria #1:   Do not have a permanent home! 
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars! 
Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels unless absolutely necessary!
Criteria #4:   Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!

Criteria #5: Use the cruise!  As described earlier, we have booked five cruises so far with two more in the works.  Of the 571 days, we have booked thus far, beginning October 31, 2012, 71 days will be spent living aboard a cruise ship, rated a score of 4 or more (out of a possible 6).  

A vital factor in maintaining the integrity of our budgeting is that cruising results in a maximum average cost per day, not to exceed a combined $350 including fees, taxes, and tips. This amount far exceeds our average daily rental of $50. However, we are booking cruises to be a mode of transportation to and from countries where we’ll have booked a vacation rental. 

Cruising replaces the following usual travel expenses:
1.  Cost of Rental
2.  Three (or more, if preferred) meals per day
3.  Transportation to and from the rental location
4.  Taxis, car rental, trains, buses, and other local modes of transportation while getting around the area

Some cruise pricing includes tips, others do not. Keep in mind that tipping may be as much as $25 per day, per person. We have included them above in our daily total. Also, every cruise has an ongoing credit account for the charges, WiFi, non-included tips, drinks, meals in specialty restaurants, spa services, certain activities, and of course, the casino and shopping in the “tourist trap” shops.  

Internet access to your digital equipment is very expensive. Turning off data and roaming features will avoid the shock of one’s life when seeing the bill at for the onboard WiFi fees.

It’s imperative to check in advance with the cruise line as to WiFi policies and charges. Future posts will explain cell phone usage and Internet access while traveling abroad, a challenge for long term travelers like ourselves visiting 25 countries in less than 2 years (Yes, the itinerary will be posted soon)!

The cruise guy (and company we are using) Joaquin, at Vacations To Go has an appealing pre-booking incentive: book cruises in advance, and as prices drop, the customer receives the benefit of the reduced pricing, up to 90 days prior to the sailing date, being unaffected by potential price increases. 

Pre-booking secures a decent cabin that we choose at the time of booking by paying the deposit, usually around 25% of the cost of the cruise. We refuse to stay in an inside cabin many of which have little space, if any, to even walk around the bed. All of the cabins we are choosing are either a “Balcony” or “Mini-Suite.”  

In summary, cruising costs about $200 more per day than staying in a rental. Building a budget that allows for this expense, adds much to our enjoyment while freeing us on transportation costs, preparing meals, and handling baggage. The opportunity to see a little piece of many locations in a short time span is appealing.  Adding to the experience is choosing a cabin on the correct side of the ship, allowing the best viewing advantage of land throughout the cruise.

Most cruise fares include port charges but getting off the ship at various ports will undoubtedly result in often hundreds of dollars in additional charges for excursions, meals, shopping, and the usual hawkers selling their wares. We will stay on the ship as much as possible to avoid these tourist traps. 

Soon, Criteria #6 will be posted. Thanks for stopping by!

Our strict critera…

At the end of my last entry, I promised to explain the strict criteria we have established to ensure the financial goal of our world travel: Our total travel expenses would not exceed the expenses we would have incurred to live in a $1500 a month condo in Arizona or any tax-free state such as Florida or Nevada.  Using an Excel spreadsheet we listed the normal expenses we would experience in our new retirement lifestyle, entitled “Basic Living Expenses”  

  1. Rent or mortgage payment: include association dues, if applicable
  2. Taxes: federal, state and property, if applicable
  3. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  4. Auto expenses: payment for a newer vehicle still under warranty, gas, maintenance, insurance
  5. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, health club dues, alternative therapies, and supplements
  6. Other insurance
  7. Cable and Internet: including a few premium channels (we love Dexter, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Shameless)
  8. Cellphones: a smartphone with unlimited data
  9. Utilities: gas, electric, water, trash 
  10. Entertainment and dining out (carefully limited)
  11. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  12. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, greeting cards, postage
  13. Publications: magazines, newspapers, online subscriptions
  14. Miscellaneous: occasional purchase or replacement of household goods, donations, cash for incidentals
  15. Pet care: food, treats, toys, groomer and vet (no pet now since we lost our WorldWideWillie last April) but we would have a new dog if we settled into a retirement lifestyle
  16. Banking fees; interest on credit cards, if applicable; 
  17. Savings
Upon keeping our costs as low as possible, in an effort to live a relatively conservative retirement lifestyle we had a total. Thus…

Criteria #1:  Do not have a permanent home!
With these numbers in mind, we created the next worksheet in our Excel workbook, entitled “Fixed Living Expenses” which were those we’d incur if we traveled but didn’t have a permanent home. Although we are not accountants nor possess a degree as such, we labeled the tabs that we felt best represented the analysis we chose to perform. These were expenses we’d have whether we were on a cruise, temporarily living in Spain, or on a safari in Africa that didn’t include travel expenses.
  1. Taxes: federal, state and property, if applicable
  2. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat and poultry with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  3. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, supplements 
  4. Other insurance 
  5. A cellphone (one between us):
  6. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  7. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, postage
  8. Banking fees: interest on credit cards, if applicable
  9. Savings
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars!  (And resulting payments, depreciation, storage, insurance, gas and maintenance)

We will sell both of our cars before we step foot out of this country, instead of renting a car if necessary. While calculating our auto expense, considering the two payments, insurance, gas and maintenance, the total was $1523 per month, which more than covers all of our upcoming flights, trains, ferries, taxis and rental cars (three of our credit cards provide free rental car insurance when the card is used for the rental car charges)!
Then we took the “Fixed Living Expenses” and created an “Average Daily Expense” which, no matter our travel expenses or living arrangements, would always be relevant numbers in our financial planning.

Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels other than the short term! How is it possible to travel without staying in hotels? Sleep in a tent? Hardly! Rent an RV? Too expensive! Mooch off people you may know that live in exotic places? Never! Staying in a hotel requires the expense of meals in restaurants, tips, city, county, state and local taxes, outrageously priced cocktails and beverages, and of course, and the tempting “tourist trap” shops and services. 

Simple answer: Only stay in houses, condos, townhouses, villas, apartments, and other such property owned, but not currently occupied, by private parties. Property owners are often anxious to rent their own homes and rental properties at reasonable rates knowing full well that the distraught economy and worldwide strife has tempered world travel. We have found that we prefer to rent houses and villas as opposed to apartments, which are often noisy and offer fewer amenities.
Criteria #4:  Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!   The above described $1500 month was the magic number that fit into our predetermined budget. How is this possible? Only $1500 a month for a house? Yes, the gorgeous 17th century, totally renovated villa in Tuscany, Italy is $1400 month! Yes, the amazing little beach house in Placencia, Belize is $1250 a month! Yes, the charming house in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, surrounded by the free-roaming wildlife is $1387 a month! We will share more about these astounding rentals as we continue here.
There is so much more to share, including the remaining Criteria, how to calculate total expenses, why we have booked five cruises thus far with two more waiting to be posted. How and why we have booked ahead 571 days from this coming Halloween, Tom’s retirement date. How we will experience the first 10 months of our adventure without ever stepping foot onto an airplane? 

Certainly, we have a “to-do” list that is daunting. Certainly, there is a degree of risk. Certainly, there is some blind faith that we are going to enjoy our new lives, free from all the familiar comforts that we have reveled in all these years. And most certainly, our love and devotion to one another will see us through all the challenges we encounter along the way.  

We have mutually agreed that if at any time, one of us is tired, bored, or tired of being on the move, we will stop and find “home’ wherever that we may be.