Nuances of vacation homes…One year ago…Total expenses for 16 nights in Paris…Check it out below!

This cockatoo settled on the fence at the pool.

Only once, since beginning our travels outside the US, did we vacate a property when we weren’t happy with the accommodations. We stayed for a painstaking week while we furiously scoured every possibility to find another affordable rental. Prices were high in Belize during the season, winter in the northern hemisphere.

Belize, located in Central America, had become popular over the prior decade with its relatively short distance from the US making it a popular mid-winter vacation destination. Availability was limited on the more affordable properties especially with our short notice request for occupancy.

We discovered a new beach on a return drive from cairns, Machans Beach which is a modest beachside community the closest beach to Cairns City. Travelers staying in Machans beach usually do so to escape the busy hustle and bustle and a large number of tourists that flock to Cairns and many of the other northern beaches each year. Due to staunch protests from the locals at Machans Beach tourist infrastructure such as hotels and resorts have remained at bay creating a tranquil and unspoiled hippie-style beachside community.
There were several issues with the property, making it inhabitable for us.  The city water was shut off most of the day (a long term, ongoing situation), on for about one hour and then off again. We were supposed to collect water to use for the toilet when the water would be off for the remainder of the day and night.  If we didn’t shower when the water magically came on at an unpredictable time to a dribble, we were out of luck. 

Doing the laundry was nearly impossible. Simple things like washing our hands become a luxury. We felt dirty and our surroundings felt unsanitary. It only took a few days for us to realize we had to leave permanently as fast as possible. 

Although Machan’s Beach has been subjected to substantial erosion that has been rectified by a rock wall and the slow but gradual return of lost sand, there is still plenty of beaches to enjoy and a lush grassy playfield by the beach that is great for playing sports, picnics or spending time with the family.

On top of it all (long term readers, please excuse the repeated story) the no-see-ums were swarming us when there were either no screens or the holes in the few screens were too large allowing the sand flies them to freely enter. It was hot, humid and we wanted the windows open which was impossible. 

I had no less than 100 inflamed sand fly bites making me miserable both during the day and at night. I was unable to sleep for more than a few hours a night for an entire week. 

It was an awful seven days until we finally found a fabulous resort to rent for the remaining two-plus months and quickly moved out, losing our first month’s rent which the owner had promised to refund.

Recently, the completion of the rock wall ended with a well deserved party for the locals who tolerated the trucks coming and going over an extended period as the wall was built.

Of course, we’d never have rented the property had we known of these issues. We weren’t naïve in assuming that living in other countries would be easy. But, we weren’t willing to risk our health as a result of improper sanitation and lack of cleanliness without water. We’d purchased several huge jugs of bottled water at times having no choice but to use it for the toilet and cleaning what we could.

We never saw a refund. What were we to do? Sue them? Did we want to start our world journey with a lawsuit in a foreign country? Hardly.

If you’re interested in reading the story about the fiasco in Belize and seeing the photos from this period, please begin by clicking here.

A lone sea bird at Machans Beach.

That was our first vacation home outside the US. At that point, it would have been easy to pack it up and head back to the US. But, that never occurred to us. We knew we’d encounter some less than desirable situations and we were committed to figuring them out along the way.

If money were no object, we’d run into less of a risk by renting only upscale properties. And, although at times we’ve been able to negotiate some upscale properties, most of our vacation rentals are in the mid-range and overall, very nice with amenities we’ve found to pleasing.

Here in Trinity Beach, Australia, this property has been much more desirable than we’d expected. We’ve learned to keep our expectations at bay and were pleasantly surprised when we arrived continuing to further appreciate it here the longer we stayed. 

Dozens of cockatoos have been swarming the yard over several of the past late afternoons, stopping to check out the pool.

The owners, Sylvie and Andy, have gone overboard to ensure we have an excellent experience and unquestionably, we have. The well equipped property; the cleanliness; their providing additional items we’ve needed; their vacuuming and washing the floors for us every two weeks (while we sweep and dust in the interim) and their warmth and friendliness, all have contributed to a highly positive experience.

When we look back at past vacation rentals, overall, we’ve had great experiences once that first week in Belize was behind us. Now, as we look to Fiji, we realize were in for a totally different way of living than we’ve experienced thus far in modern, abundant Australia.

These birds are very noisy wasting no time in announcing their arrival.

I added a measuring cup and measuring spoons to my next grocery list to include in the box of food items we’re accumulating to ship to Vanua Levu, Fiji.  People don’t bake while on vacation/holiday. We don’t expect there to be a muffin tin, baking papers or lemon extract for our Low Carb Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, one of which we have each night with dinner as the ultimate two carb treat providing us with that sense of a small bread item with the meal.

We won’t have a clothes dryer and will hang our clothes outside to dry as we’ve done in most parts of the world. Having a dryer here has been a rare treat. We won’t have a TV and unable to hook up our HDMI to watch our shows, nor will we be able to watch news which we often have on in the background on a staying-in day. 

The biggest challenge will be not having a car. Mario, the property manager, explained that navigating the steep hill to the property requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle which to rent for three months would be outrageously expensive. He further explained that a highly competent driver will be available for our all of needs at reasonable rates. 

With the fees we’ve paid for rental cars in the past, we can easily use a driver five times a week for less than we’ve paid for the rentals. Most likely, we’ll negotiate set fees with the driver (to include a tip) to various locations avoiding the necessity of discussing the rate each time we go out.

This appears to be an agave plant. Agave sugar was the rage a few years ago. But, now its been found to cause a higher spikes in blood sugar than high fructose corn syrup causing weight gain and inflammation.

Also included in Fiji is daily maid service which is a mixed bag for us. I like running around and tidying up. I don’t even mind cleaning and making the bed, tasks we both share. With daily maid service, each day, we’ll have to get out of the way for whatever time it takes for the maid to clean up. 

Since both of us arise early and are showered and dressed by 7:30, most likely we’ll arrange a set time making it easier for all of us. While living there, my household tasks will consist of cooking and laundry while Tom will continues to do dishes.

The remainder of our time will be spent doing what we love to do; posting here, sightseeing and taking photos, searching for future travels, shopping at local markets, walking the beach and enjoying the tropical climate and the beautiful surroundings. 

Wildflowers growing in the yard.

Some have mentioned, based on personal experience, that they don’t like Fiji mainly due to the poverty. We’d decided long ago to accept the reality of poverty we’ll see throughout the world. 

Although we don’t necessarily live in the poverty-stricken areas, we often shop in the same markets and make purchases from the same vegetable stands and from the same vendors utilizing the products and services offered by these hard-working locals.

Not every vacation home has all the amenities we’d chose in a perfect world. In essence, its the imperfections in the world that ultimately we find the most interesting and its our own imperfections within that world that we strive to improve as we adapt to yet another new way of life.

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

Tom’s last dinner out in Paris ended with this banana split. While dining out during the month we spent between Paris and London, Tom ate whatever his heart desired. It wasn’t until we settled into our next vacation home in Maui, Hawaii in October 2014,  that I started cooking again and he joined me in my way of eating.  For the final expenses for our costly 16 nights in Paris, please click here.

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