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

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

  1. Jessica

    Michelle, how sweet of you! Tom appreciates your prayers. We did have good news and we'll be writing about it today. Thanks for writing! You mean so much to us!

    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

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