“Getting our ducks in a row…”

Tom shot this photo from our veranda of a barge, the ferry and a tugboat passing by. Great shot, Honey!

With only 28 days until we depart this island, its time to begin planning our next month on the main island in Fiji, a short tiny prop plane flight away. It goes without saying that a one month holiday or vacation would require a certain amount of planning beyond the initial research and booking.

I try to imagine what it would have been like in our old lives if we were planning a one month vacation in a remote area of an island when we were only four weeks from departure.

In essence, that’s us each time we move. This morning I wrote to the owner asking the address of the property which generally owners don’t divulge until close to the rental period for the sake of some perceived security in waiting to do so. 

After recently watching a David Attenborough documentary on the in-depth life cycle of caterpillars, we had an entirely new perspective on these amazing creatures with two entirely different lifecycles as they eventually morph into butterflies.  We spotted this one on the veranda a few days ago.

Once the final payment is made in full which we paid a few months ago, most likely there’s little risk for an owner in the renter having the address. The bigger risk for the owner is once the renter moves in if they fail to be responsible. That’s never us.

As for a renter, there’s a degree of risk:
1.  The property could not be there. It could have been a scam for which we’re prepaid $1000’s. We take that risk each time we move. There’s insurance for this risk, for which we’ve evaluated the cost via risk factor and for us, it would be $1000’s per year, not worth the expense.
2.  The property could be different than as described in the listing.  his happened to us in January 2013, on our first vacation home outside the US in Belize. We left in a week, losing one month’s rent, but couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We found a fabulous resort where we lived for two remaining months with the ocean outside our door.  It was glorious.

Never again, did we suffer such disappointment. We have no doubt it will occur sometime in the future and stay mindful and prepared for that eventuality. We’ve budgeted for this type of potential loss. 

A Paul Gauguin cruise ship sailed by our view. It would have been fun to take a cruise in this area, but we’ve already done so and will do so again on our several upcoming cruises touring the perimeter and surrounding islands in Australia.

The best way for the average traveler to financially prepare for such an occurrence is to purchase the insurance, but the time and effort to find another location on short notice is an equally big risk, especially for us when we stay for extended periods in most locations.

We’ve come to accept that if we plan to stay for less than a month, it may be easier and more suitable to stay in a hotel, as we’d done over a year ago in Paris and London for a little over two weeks in each city. 

Dining out for every meal is the only obstacle of staying in a hotel and of course, the cost which is generally higher than a vacation home of some type. The space limitations of a hotel don’t bother us. After all, we easily spend weeks on a cruise in an under 200 square foot (19 square meters) cabin, managing fine without feeling confined.

Closer view of the cruise ship with passengers on their verandas. We always book a “veranda or balcony cabin” as opposed to those shown below the veranda levels which include “ocean view” and “inside cabins” none of which has appealed to us. Being able to stand outside day or night has been a highly enjoyable aspect of cruising.

As for “getting our ducks in a row,” preparing for the next location requires considerable online research along with many conversations by email with the owner or manager. 

In the case of the upcoming next house in Pacific Harbour, Fiji, we’ve already had numerous chats with Susan, the owner, who’s been very helpful and informative.

With the house 89 miles, 144 kilometers from the airport, prearranging transportation is vital. It’s not a “grab a taxi” kind of ride. Susan suggested an air-conditioned shuttle service which most likely is a van type vehicle.

A tug boat passing at a distance.

How easily we recall the shuttle service we used for the four-hour drive on rough roads with no AC from Belize City to Placencia in 90F, 32C. We assumed at that point that this would be our reality for the long haul and anything better would be a bonus. We assumed correctly. Anytime we have a vehicle with AC for long drives, we’re pleasantly pleased and surprised.

Also, in many taxis and shuttles, if we’re getting a “deal” for the transportation we don’t ask the driver to turn on the AC with the outrageous cost of fuel on many islands. For example, here in Savusavu with Rasnesh, our round trip cost to the village including helping us carry the groceries to the house totals USD $13.92, FJD $30.  We don’t ask him to turn on the AC.

Originally, he’d quoted us USD $9.28, FJD $20 for the round trip. But, after a few trips, we negotiated upwards if he’s helped carry our entire week’s groceries up the long, steep, and uneven path to the house. It takes him, young and strapping as he is, an extra five minutes and worth every penny of the extra USD $4.64, FJD $10 to us.

A barge passing at a distance.

As for transportation in the upcoming Pacific Harbour, Susan suggested it’s not worth renting a car when there’s plenty of equally low-cost drivers in the area and many markets and restaurants within walking distance. 

The thought of being able to walk to go out to lunch or dinner, if we can find a suitable restaurant for my diet, is exciting. Here, we don’t attempt an evening out when the walk to the house in the dark would surely be too treacherous along with the fact that we’d been unable to find suitable dining establishments for my needs. 

Don’t get me wrong, there appear to be some excellent restaurants in Savusavu as reviewed by tourists on TripAdvisor. It’s just the tricky diet that keeps us from trying, when this area is less populated by tourists than many others thus, most restaurants serve the local starchy, sugary sauces and foods I can’t eat, savored (rightfully so) by most tourists.

If I didn’t eat this way, surely I dragged Tom out to lunch for which he’d go kicking and screaming when he can’t stand the taste of the spices in typical tropical meals. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t season our food. I do so with gusto. Over the years I’ve learned how much he’ll tolerate while still enjoying the meal. Undoubtedly, his taste buds have branched out but, curry and/or Moroccan seasoning is not his thing. 

With the mosquitos on a rampage after dark,  as food for the bats, we’ve had difficultly standing outside to take photos of the flying bats we see through the windows as darkness falls. We took this photo through the glass door, excited it came out as well as it did.  Having had a fear of bats most of my life, I am no longer fearful of these important mammals, vital to the ecosystem.

Today, we’ll arrange the shuttle from the airport in Nadi (pronounced Nan-di in Fijian) to Pacific Harbour and once settled, a taxi to the market to purchase groceries and supplies for our first meal in the new location.  Much of this, we’ll figure out as we go. 

With our experience these past three years, we’ve been able to take many of the steps in these transitions in our stride. Moving and packing everything we own every few months has its challenges, more in the anticipation than in doing so. 

Packing takes no more than an hour at most, unpacking 30 minutes. “Getting our ducks in a row” in a new location seems to take a few days as we become familiar with the new property and its surroundings. 

For the most part, we enjoy the process, especially once we’ve arrived in the new location with all of our bags in tow and discover the property is what we’d expected.  We both sigh with relief knowing one more step in our journey has brought us to our “new home” wherever that may be.

Its been raining for the past three days and nights. The heat has lessened although the humidity is high. There are no ants or fruit flies in view. We’re content. May all of you be content as well!

Photo from one year ago today, November 8, 2014:

The Maui countryside took our breath away as we drove on roads far from the main highways. For more details, please click here.

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