What’s the deal about applying for visas for various countries?




Fisherman casting toward the huge surf.
Long ago, we applied for second passports which basically consists of a US two year second passport with different passport numbers from our main passports.  Most US travelers aren’t aware that a US citizen can apply for a second passport.


Why did we need a second passport?  Two years ago, it was necessary to send in one’s passport to a consulate in order to get visas from some countries. We didn’t want to be stranded in a country without a passport in our possession while a visa was being processed through snail mail. 

Tourists stopping to read a sign on the Kauai Path.  Notice the cross on the shore, most likely as a memorial to a swimmer’s death in the sea in this area.

Over these past few years most countries have since begun issuing electronically produced visas for travelers to their country, making it unnecessary for us to send it in to acquire a new visa.

Over these past two years we’ve used these second passports for all of our entries and exits to about 40 countries resulting in our main passports which don’t expire until 2021, having no stamps posted as yet.

In December, the second passports expired.  As a result of the use of electronic filing for visas, we decided not to renew it.  When we soon leave the US, for the first time we’ll use our 10 year passports.

Tiny green balls growing along the beach which appear to be some type of weed.

How have we been able to get visas is all of our travels to date?  We’ve been able to acquire 90 day visas when we arrive at immigration at any airport, train station or port.  The ease of this was surprising to us. 


This easy process doesn’t apply to every country’s immigration process.  For some odd reason, US passport holders seem to be presented with an easier process to enter and exit most countries.

If you have a passport from any other country please check with your travel agent, passport office, immigration or consulate for the country you’d like to enter to determine the process applicable to your country’s passport in regard to obtaining visas.  This can vary from country to country.

The Kauai Path is an easy to walk path along Donkey Beach and other beaches.

Thus far, for us, its been a breeze.  When traveling to multiple countries via a cruise ship, the immigration staff aboard the ship collects all of our passports. When we arrive at a particular port of call, an immigration officer boards the ship and processes all of the passenger’s and ship staff’s passports for entry and exit.  

Prior to reaching a country’s port, our passports are returned to us, in most cases which we bring with us on our tour whether arranged by the ship or a self guided tour. 

There’s never a shortage of roosters wandering about.

When arriving in a country, we wait in what is usually a long line at immigration processing, tell the agent how long we’d like to stay and as long as the stay doesn’t exceed their set duration of 60 or 90 days, we receive a dated stamp providing us with a visa which is stamped in our passports.

Australia, where we’ll be arriving in little over a month on June 11th after an 18 day cruise from Honolulu, Oahu to Sydney, Australia requires a pre-arranged visa before entering.  If we arrived at our ship without processing the visas the cruise line wouldn’t allow us to board. 

The wind and waves were substantial on Monday which has since settled down. 

In reality, a more stringent process may be wise for most countries to follow for obvious reasons I won’t get into here.  Here’s a quote from Tom:

“When we applied for our driver’s license in Nevada before we left the US, they asked me to take off my glasses when they took the photo.  I said that I needed to wear my glasses to drive.  They said, its not for that reason.  This is a facial recognition photo.  Why isn’t this technology used for passports?”

Good point! Why isn’t it?

Last night, we visited CIBT at this link.  In less than 10 minutes, with our passports and a credit card on hand, I completed the online documents separately for each of us and our individual visas for Australia were processed, completed and confirmed at a cost of US $45 each.

This view at the Kauai Path is similar to the views we had from the two houses we rented on the Big Island in December.

(By the way, once we arrive in Australia, we’ll be entering all dollar amounts posted here in both USD and AUD (Australian dollars) as we ‘ve done in all other countries which use a alternate form of currency).

The visa process will be slightly more complicated for some of our upcoming stays including both Fiji and Bali.  We’ll report back the processes for those. 

The vast expanse of the ocean never disappoints.

Our Australian visas were issued last night for which we won’t need a piece of paper.  It’s recorded electronically in the Australian immigration department’s system and will appear when we check in at immigration at Sydney.  The visas are good for one year until June 10, 2016. 

With our visa on file in Australia we’re allowed 90 day visits only and in one year we’d have to file again which may be more complicated the second go-around.  Before we book more time in Australia, we’ll figure it out.  At this time, we are only booked for 89 days in Australia (leaving one extra day for cancelled flights, etc.). 

Alternate view of the above fisherman.

We decided that we’ll investigate other options in Australia once we are there and get a feel for the “lay of the land.”  Prices on vacation homes are as much as 100% higher than other countries in which we’ve lived, making it difficult to rent vacation homes to fit within our budget. 

We still have the over two month gap to fill beginning next June and have yet to decide where we’d prefer to go.  We shall see what we decide and of course, report it here promptly.  We’re attempting to stay somewhere in the South Pacific, if possible.

At certain areas, the beaches are less pristine as is the case here in the southern end of the Kauai Path.

With the imminent visa task handled for the moment, we’re now beginning to tackle the other items on our lengthy “to-do” list, found here.

We’re down to 17 days until departing Kauai to fly to Honolulu for one night.  On the 18th day, we’ll board the ship.  We’re excited to say the least.  We haven’t been on a cruise since this past September. Hopefully, we’ll have good weather as we travel so far across the ocean.  If not, as always, we’ll just hang on!

Happy Hump Day!
____________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, May 6, 2014:

Strawberries were small in Marrakech as shown here.  They don’t do GMO (or pesticides).  As a result the berries are small and unevenly shaped.  When buying giant, uniform strawberries or other fruit, its easy to assume that nature alone doesn’t make them that huge, uniform and sweet. Remember the strawberries we ate as kids? They were tart and small.  For more photos from that day’s post, please click here.

More visas needed???…Check, check and recheck!…

Our cruise company sent us this email message a few weeks ago:

“Dear Mrs. Lyman,

Thank you again for booking with Vacations To Go!

I wanted to send a quick email to remind you that one or more of the ports of
call, you will be visiting, will require a Visa.

If you are a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident or a Canadian citizen
residing in Canada and have not contacted CIBT, to verify your visa
requirements for this sailing, please contact them as soon as possible.

All other, non-US or Canadian citizens must verify proof of citizenship, and
visa requirements with the embassy, consulate or immigration office of the
countries in their cruise itinerary.

Vacations To Go has partnered with CIBT, one of the nation’s largest passport
and visa services companies in the country, to assist U.S. citizens, permanent
residents and Canadian citizens in obtaining any required visas or a passport.
Visas may be purchased within six months of the start of the vacation but,
please be aware that for some countries it may take up to 30 days to secure a
visa.

If you are a US citizen or permanent resident and need to obtain a visa,
click here.

If you are a US citizen and need to obtain a passport, click here.

If you are a Canadian Citizen residing in Canada and need to obtain a visa,
click here.

For visa or passport questions, call CIBT customer service at 1-877-841-8602.
Be sure to identify yourself as a Vacations To Go customer and reference
account 45585. CIBT is available from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST, Monday
through Friday.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Sincerely,

Joaquin Contreras
Travel Counselor
Vacations To Go
jcontreras@vacationstogo.com

We have total faith in our cruise counselor, Joaquin, and his company Vacations to Go for providing us with the most updated important information, superb customer service, and the best possible pricing.  I imagine, that the above letter is a standard letter sent to upcoming cruise passengers via the cruise lines on their behalf resulting in the “travel agents” presenting the information to their clients. 

Upon reading this letter, we followed the links to CIBT, a highly reputable visa and passport company per online reviews, the Better Business Bureau reports, and recommendations by VTG. 

Previously, we had used  VisaHQ, a company located on Embassy Row in Washington, DC in order to obtain our second passports (to find detailed information about the necessity of having a second US passport, please type “second passports” in the search box on our home page to go directly to our posts regarding the necessity of a second passport.)

With these links and information on hand, we proceeded to go to CIBT to set up an online account.  When asked, “what country will you be visiting?” I was stymied.  With four countries requiring a visa in our upcoming cruises through June 2013, my hope and expectation would be that we could apply for all four at once. 

Those countries requiring visas include Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. The other dozen or more countries in our upcoming eight cruises in 2013 (two more scheduled so far for 2014) do not require a visa for stays under 30 days. 

The dilemma we faced after receiving this letter:
1.  To apply for a visa, one must send their passport to the processing company along with a stack of ancillary documents, based on each country’s particular requirements.
2.  To avoid paying extra processing fees, as much as $150 per visa, one may apply early to ensure the documents are received in time for the cruises and…to get one’s passport back with the documents. When we ordered our second passports they were sent to us by registered mail to our mailing service in Nevada which we picked up when we went to Las Vegas for Christmas.
3.  Thus, without having established an address here in Belize and the potential for slow transit from the US to Central America, it’s likely should we try to apply now for June, there’s a high risk of not receiving our passports and visas in time before we depart on April 9th.

After Tom and I discussed this at length, after confirming that we did in fact need visas for these four countries we’ll visit on our cruises from May to June, we came up with this plan:
1.  Complete all the paperwork while here using our portable printer and scanner.
2.  Begin the process of applying online while here, leaving out the mailing of our passports until we get to Miami on April 13th when our ship, the Carnival Liberty, docks at the Port of Miami for approximately 10 hours.  
3.  Grab a cab, heading directly to a UPS store near the pier, mail our documents registered mail to CIBT, pick up our forwarded awaiting mail and packages we’d pre-arranged to arrive on April 13th, mail our excess luggage to my sister in Los Angeles, get back on the ship and continue on to the next cruise.
4.  In the packet to CIBT, we’ll have requested the visa and 2nd passports to be sent to our hotel in Barcelona Spain, where we’ll stay one night, May 5th, boarding our 15-night cruise in the morning through the Suez Canal to see the Great Pyramids, Giza, Cairo, The Sphinx, and more (will post details later), where three of the four visas are required. 

Whew! This is cutting it very close…one night in Barcelona with documents being delivered in a very narrow window. Of course, the hotel would gladly hold the package for us for a few days.  But what if it didn’t arrive, or was lost? 

Suddenly, we both felt a twinge of stress.  Our only piece of mind would be to have them sent from the US to Barcelona, the quickest, most expensive way.  We were willing to bear this expense. And yet, there still was no guarantee.

Our goal thus far has been to keep stress at a minimum, avoiding that angst-ridden feeling one takes on in bed in the middle of the night, interrupting sleep, a familiar feeling from our “old lives”, a feeling that seems unavoidable in the hustle and bustle of daily life.  

Lounging on the veranda yesterday, creating a definitive plan we both could live with, a thought occurred to us simultaneously; let’s call CIBT explaining our dilemma and see what suggestions they may offer. 

Since we no longer have a cell phone plan, using Skype and SIM cards as needed, we knew we could call their toll-free number using Skype, incurring no cost at all.  We discovered much to our delight, that we can call any business in the US without incurring any costs, as long as they have a toll free number.  They answer on their regular phone systems while we call on Skype for free.  Nice.  Thanks, SKYPE!  

Dialing their toll-free number, we were connected to a representative within 30 seconds. The call was clear with a bit of an echo.  Explaining our dilemma to the representative, she asked us to kindly wait and she’d be right back.  Watching the clock on Skype, she returned in less than a minute asking us the names of the cruise lines for these two upcoming cruises.  We responded that the May 6th cruise was with Royal Caribbean and the second was with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Again, we were on hold for a short time. She returned to the phone with glee in her voice, “I have good news for you!” We held our breath. “You will not need pre-arranged visas on either of your cruises. You’ll receive them on board your ship at the time you disembark to go on your excursions.  Both of these cruise lines have an arrangement with these countries to provide visas at their ports of call.”

We squealed with delight.  Tom, or shall I say, “doubting Thomas” wanted more verification of this, worrywart that he is.  Immediately, we contacted Joaquin, our cruise guy by email.  An hour later, we received an email confirming that CIBT is correct, we don’t need to obtain visas in advance for the four countries, not always the case, but in these particular two situations, we could relax.

Had we not “called” receiving this valuable information, we would have followed the procedures online, paying the expenses of upwards of $600, while dealing with the stress of the timing.

Who knows how to travel the world for 5-10 years or more, managing all the details, documents, financial and medical concerns?  We don’t.  But we’re learning, day by day in bite-sized pieces with so much more ahead of us.  We’ll flounder, we’ll make mistakes, we’ll trust when we shouldn’t and wrongfully mistrust when we should.

Lesson learned.

 

Visa day tomorrow…on the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi…

Contact Mr. Burgies and Get your ticket at the Placencia Terminal is locate at the water Taxi Gas Station

                                                 Hokey Pokey Captain (we think).

While still in Minnesota, we researched the possibility of getting our visas for Belize based on our extended stay of two and a half months. 

As indicated in the post regarding disembarking in Belize City on January 29, 2013, the immigration officer that boarded our ship would only provide us with a 30 day visa, ending on February 28, 2013. 

In Belize, it’s only possible to get one 30 day extension per personal visit to an immigration office, resulting in the necessity of our going twice to immigration, once good until March 30th and another good until April 9th, the date we depart on our upcoming cruise out of Belize City. 

From what we’ve heard from expats, they will not make an exception for the extra 10 days and give us a visa from February 28th to April 9th.  We understand the necessity of such rules applying to everyone and surely, we have no right to an exception.

Tomorrow morning at 9:30 am, our trusty cab driver, Estevan will arrive to take us the five mile drive to the village of Placencia to the pier to hop a ride at 10:00 am on the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi to take us the relatively short distance across the lagoon from Placencia to Mango Creek/Independence, located on the mainland.  The cost per person is US $3 per person each way.

Once we arrive in Mango Creek, it will be necessary to take another taxi for a ride to the immigration office at an unknown address which apparently is too far to walk.  Both Tom and I looked online for an hour for an address finally giving up looking.  From comments we’ve read online, most taxi drivers know where it is. 

In order to be granted a visa extension, a number of documents must accompany our passports.  Here’s the list copied directly from their form:

The application form  MUST  be FULLY completed, signed and dated, then submitted with the  following:  1. Your passport
2. One recent passport ­sized photograph
3. Proof of Travel Arrangements:  Copies of Tickets or a Confirmed Travel Itinerary
4. Proof of Accommodation: Copies of Confirmed Hotel Reservations or Full contact details of family/friends in Belize
5. Proof of Financial Means: Copies of most recent bank statement or Letter from Financial Officer (for Business travel  only)
6. Purpose for Trip: Educational – Letter of Introduction from University or Educational Institution Business – Letter of Introduction from Company or Organisation and supporting documents Tourism – see number 3 above.
7. Payment of Fees: Single Entry $50 per person, per extension

Our equally trusty Planon PrintStik, printed all of the above and we’re ready to go.  Providing a bank statement is a bit unnerving but, if asked (and we may not be) we’ll be prepared.  It would be a shame to go through this process and not have the necessary documents in one’s possession.

We could have applied to the immigration department in the UK.  However, we are unable to send or receive mail here in Placencia in a timely fashion to ensure we’d get our passports back in time for departure.  We have two US passports but, feared it would be returned long after we’ve left.

Another option was to rent a car and drive the two hour winding Hummingbird Highway to get to Belmopan, the capital city and apply in person.  This surely would be a full day’s outing. 

We opted for the trip to Mango Creek/Independence, hoping we can get done in time to return to Placencia Village on the 12:00 PM Hokey Pokey.  This would give us time to have lunch in Placencia at one of the highly recommended diners, grocery shop in the larger grocery store, the fresh fish market and the vegetable stands, having Estevan pick us up when we’re done around 2:30.

This choice gives us an opportunity for a fun outing as opposed to a long drive up and back.  It all made more sense to us.  If the time at the immigration moves quickly, all could go as planned.  We shall see how it goes, reporting back here tomorrow with photos and a rundown of our day.

Have an enjoyable evening watching the Academy Awards!  Much to our delight (mine more than Tom’s) we’ll be able to watch it in HD on the flat screen TV in our little villa.  Oh, we’re getting spoiled.  Expectations will be reduced considerably after we leave this fabulous spot! 

Budgeting, wills and taxes…

Its been nagging at me.  I think about it every day with a sense of dread. 

On the massive Excel spreadsheet, I created for our 5 to 10-year worldwide journey, there is a worksheet page entitled “To Do in Scottsdale.”  It contains all the paperwork tasks we’ve had to complete before leaving the country on January 3, 2013. 

“To Do” lists never intimidated me, no matter how lengthy. I’ve always taken great comfort it chipping away at task after task ensuring each one completed in its entirety before going on to the next. 

Yes, I know.  I’m rather obsessive. We live with that.  It doesn’t intrude in the enjoyment of our lives, we don’t fight about it and it doesn’t prevent us from a rich and full life. 

Perhaps, in a certain way, it adds to our lives by eliminating thoughts of all the “things” we have to do.  One by one, I chip away at them, freeing our thoughts to more fulfilling moments.  No one ever heard me say, “Oh, I can’t come to the party ’cause I have to fill out forms.”  Never.

So, on that “To Do in Scottsdale” sheet we’ve knocked off everything (many of which I posted here and there) except for the following:
1.  Prepare and get new wills notarized (our bank here will notarize at no cost)
2.  Prepare and get new Living Wills and health care directives notarized.
3.  Prepare our taxes up to date, amending the last two weeks of this month at the end of the month forwarding everything to our accountant by snail mail. 

Oh, tax prep, I despise this task!  Always have, always will. Yesterday, I began the process and today, it will be completed except for additions as mentioned above. 

We couldn’t imagine living in Belize, steps from the ocean and ever feeling like going through that bag of receipts, let alone hauling them along with us. In future years, we’ll have used our handy Doxie portable scanner, saving all tax-related items.  Much easier to do as we go then dread it all along.

A few people have asked, “Will you still file tax returns and pay taxes in the US?”  The answer is “yes,” always. We will always remain US citizens, as do many ex-pats living outside the US. 

Having saved every receipt for absolutely every dime we have spent since leaving Minnesota on October 31, 2012, it was also time to enter our “actual” costs into that budgeting expense record.  Upon completing the tax portion which I will finalize today, I started totaling the other expenses, such as food and entertainment.

Our total cost for the three-day drive to Scottsdale $780.  We had budgeted $1065 but arrived one day early.  Fortunately, the property manager didn’t charge us for arriving a day early but had he, we still would have been within the budget.

Preparing the taxes and totaling the receipts (all of which we’ve saved) finally enable us to see how we’re doing on our budget.  As I mentioned, going forward, we’ll log (scan) and toss each receipt as the expense occurs to avoid hauling around a growing bag of receipts.

Here’s where we are so far for the variable expenses for food and entertainment with only 18 days left in 2012.

Groceries for Scottsdale
Budget:  $ 1700.00     Actual: $ 696.00

Dining Out & Entertainment for Scottsdale 
Budget:  $  300.00      Actual: $501.00

Total Budget for Groceries and Entertainment for two months: $ 2000.00
Actual (so far):                                                                   $ 1197.00
Balance available until we leave for Henderson next week:     $   803.00

Groceries for upcoming 8 days in Henderson over the holidays
Budget: $ 600.00

Dining Out & Entertainment for upcoming 8 days in Henderson over holidays:
Budget: $ 450.00

We’ve been in Scottsdale 40 days as of today, arriving on November 3rd for an average cost of $30 per day.  With 6 more days until we leave for Henderson, we’ll plan to spend another $180 for a total of $1377, leaving us an overage of $623.00.  Thus, our total available for Henderson is $1673.

Preferably, it won’t be necessary to use this overage, putting us ahead of our budget right out of the chute.  We’ll see how it goes, posting our “actual” costs later.  Of course, there are other costs we are reviewing and will be posting as we go along.

Today, I will finish the tax prep after my trip to the health club, leaving the file ready to receive the remainder of this month.  Tomorrow, we will re-do our wills bringing them up-to-date and re-do our living wills, getting them notarized at the end of the day.

Also, VisaHQ, our visa, and passport processing company, sent us an email that our second passports will be in our mail within one week.  Yeah!  We did all the paperwork correctly! 

By this weekend, we can relax knowing that the worst of our paperwork is done, a huge relief.

Isn’t this part fun?

Living in Scottsdale, budgeting for this life..

 

Our Scottsdale dining table set for tonight’s dinner guests. Much to my amazement, there were linen napkins and placemats in the condo.  Five for dinner tonight.

We’ve been living in Old Town Scottsdale for almost a month, an ideal area for travelers.  Within a mile to the upscale shopping mall in downtown Scottsdale, walking distance to the Arts Walk District in Old Town, a mere 10-minute walk from our condo, we are literally within range of hundreds of eateries, shopping, and entertainment.

Fine dining is abundant as well as casual theme orientated bistros, cafes, and local versions of fast food, this area is limited in the usual sprinkling of chain restaurants, a delight to see.

While living in Minnesota, far from everything, we seldom dined out.  Tom drove almost an hour each way to work and back and the thought of a long drive to dining out was never appealing to us on the weekends.  We always blamed it on the fact that I enjoyed cooking and we loved lounging at home.

Now, we’ve confirmed that it was the drive more than anything that kept us away.  Living close to everything prompts us to look at one another each day asking, “Shall we go out to breakfast?” or “Want to go out to dinner tonight?”

Fast and furiously my fingers are flying across the keyboard reading the multitude of online reviews for the local restaurants.  We have yet to venture out to the half-hour drive to the McCormick Ranch area, where I had tried to find us a vacation home to rent for the two months, finding nothing under $4000 a month.  

Living in our well equipped and well kept 1100 square foot one-bedroom, poolside condo, we’ve been content.  The high-speed Internet works, although problematic when we first arrived, fixed immediately by the management company, allowing us to continue to work on our technology and research. 

View from our dining/living room in Scottsdale condo.

The kitchen has every gadget known to man/woman, except a rolling pin (I thought of making low carb tortillas, scrounging around looking for one).  There’s linen placemats and napkins (yeah!) and reasonably nice dishes.  The frying pan situation is lacking with one difficult to clean stainless steel pan and another old flaky Teflon pan I refuse to use. 

I’ve made breakfast using Reynold’s No Stick foil (on the dull side) on a glass 13 x 9″ pan, placing the sausages and bacon in the oven at 375 degrees to bake for 20 minutes while the huge low carb, gluten-free pancake bakes in the same time frame in a pie plate, again covered with the foil.  In the last four minutes I drop the eggs into the pan I used for the bacon and sausages.  Voila! We have a delicious baked breakfast and I must admit perfect jumbo pancake and eggs.

One might think it would make sense to buy a $10 pan while here for two months, but I decided long ago… improvise.  There will be vacation homes around the world severely lacking in many of the amenities we’ve enjoyed in the past.  Change and flexibility are in order going forward.

Last night we went out to dinner at a local diner in Old Town, David’s Hamburgers for one of the best bun-less burgers on the planet.  We’d gone there for a great breakfast on Thursday morning. 

Upon ordering the lettuce wrapped avocado adorned, stringy cheese, crisp onion, and fresh tomato covered burger for breakfast, I told Tom we must come back here for him to enjoy the same for dinner after he had eaten eggs, bacon, and sausage for breakfast. 

Drooling over the prospect of another of those burgers for two days, we went back last night enjoying a great reasonably priced meal in the cozy diner before attending another hilarious night at The Comedy Spot also in Old Town. 

We’re already “regulars” in Old Town as many of the seniors moseying around the area have become. Perhaps, the comfort of the familiar goes hand-in-hand with being a senior citizen.  In simple terms, “love the one you’re with.”

Living on a strict budget, documenting every expenditure makes us conscious of how we spend our money.  Now on a more fixed income, committed to all of our future travel plans, its imperative to continue to refer to our pre-planned budget so meticulously outlined on our Excel workbook with multiple spreadsheets. 

We have local copies of our budget saved to both of our laptops, to DropBox and also to SkyDrive, the cloud that came with Windows 8 and, of course on our new My Passport 2 terabyte external hard drive.  It’s safe.  

With that budget in mind, we’ve only dined in more upscale ($$$) restaurants three times since we’ve arrived in Scottsdale, each time spending $100-$120 with tips. Having budgeted for a few of these such occasions each month, we were comfortable spending the money. 

Our budget allows for $800 a month in groceries and approximately $300 a month for entertainment.  If we spend less on groceries, we have more for entertainment or we can roll it over to extras we may purchase on our upcoming eight cruises. 

Some may cringe at the thought of two people spending $800 a month on groceries.  Based on our diet of mostly organic vegetables and grass-fed meat, occasionally entertaining others, beverages, purified water, paper products, and cleaning supplies, we have found it nearly impossible to trim this number. 

Without a doubt, it will be near this number in other locales, although the grass-fed meat may be more economic in some parts of the world where it is more prevalent than the grain-fed meat supply here in the US.  We shall see and report back later.

Tomorrow, Monday, we’ll purchase two cashier’s checks made out to the US Department of State for $170 each to send to VisaHQ along with all the necessary completed forms, after paying their $154 in processing fees, to apply for our 2nd passports with extra pages.  They’ll be awaiting us at our mailing service in Las Vegas when we’ll head to Henderson to spend Tom’s 60th birthday on the 23rd and Christmas with family in yet another vacation home.

Lots of details, aren’t there?  When speaking with my wonderful friend Chere on Friday, a loyal reader of this blog, we both marveled at how travelers managed to explore the world before technology, before credit cards, before cell phones, before the Internet, before cameras, and before the myriad gadgets we use today. 

This left me asking, “what benefits do we derive having the availability of all of these resources?”  Convenience, simplicity, preparedness, and awareness, all of which could fly out the window in a single moment if something goes wrong. 

Oh.

Why 2nd passports?…Visit to Nevada…

Over the past many months of writing this blog, I have mentioned the need for 2nd passports.  One may ask, “Why isn’t one passport sufficient?”

Usually, one passport is sufficient for most travelers.  If visas are needed for travel, one must send in their passport to the appropriate embassy along with other pertinent documents as required by the country into which one is seeking access.  Doing so, would leave us in a foreign country without a passport in our possession for a week, a dangerous situation.

Visas are not required by all countries, many are only required for stays of 30 days or more, many for as much as 90 days. It is imperative that we check the requirements at the embassy of the countries we’ll be visiting, found easily online at a number of sites.

Rather than take the time and effort to apply for all the visas we will need as we need them and, based on our long stays in many countries, we have decided to use the services of VisaHQ, a company located on Embassy Row in Washington, DC.  They have the ability to quickly and easily process the paperwork, not only for our 2nd passports but also for our many upcoming visas.

Unfortunately, it is necessary to wait about 30 days before traveling to a specific country, since they usually are only good for a specific period.

Of course, there are additional fees for processing each visa, usually under $79 each.  Early on in our budgeting discussions we decided to include this expenses rather than taking the time and the effort at each of our locations to do the paperwork ourselves. Doing so would create stress, distracting us from the enjoyment of the experience at the time.

VisaHQ, along with other such websites, has the traveler complete a master form kept secure on their site.  When a visa is needed a single page is all that is required to complete online along with sending in the 2nd passport and any necessary documents which are quickly returned. 

Second passports are only good for two years.  We’ll note the renewal date on our calendar upon receipt.  For this reason, we are waiting until we are down to the wire to ensure we have full use of the two years.

Once we apply and have experienced the process of our first application online with VisaHQ we will report back here with the details.  Of course, we already have our “first” passports, good for another nine years in our case. (US passports are valid for a of a total of 10 years).

This past Friday while here in Nevada, we had additional passport photos taken at a Walgreens pharmacy, who along with CVS are certified to take passport photos, making this process easier than in years past.  The cost for each pair of photos is $10.99. 

We each ordered two sets leaving us with a total of four passport photos plus a fifth we already had of an older photo. Generally, passport photos are valid for six months. (Yes, us old timers do change in appearance in six months, I suppose). 

The time here in Henderson, Nevada has been low key as we continue to prepare to leave the US, visiting family, playing with family kids and dogs, Monty and Owen. 

We dined in the past two nights.  On Saturday while at Whole Foods we purchased a huge chunk of bison sirloin steak, gluten free of course, that I cut into two nice sized pieces to marinate.  After all, we are trying “new things.”

Nah, Tom took one bite and gagged.  It didn’t help that we were watching a show on TV, Extreme Cheapskates, whereby the “star” of the episodes would go “dumpster diving” at restaurant dumpsters for dinner. 

That didn’t bother me!  I busily chomped away on my big steak, noticing a “gamey” flavor but hungry enough to eat the entire thing.  I eyeballed Tom’s plate considering attacking his steak also deciding not to “pig out.”  Bison in the future?  Not so much.

Undoubtedly, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to try new foods along the way as we travel the world.  Later.

Our new residency…State of Nevada

It feels different living away from Minnesota, not better, not worse.  Just different. No snow, no cold, predictably warm and sunny days and a mad excess of shopping and restaurants.

Yesterday afternoon, while driving the five hours to Las Vegas from Scottsdale for the weekend, we stopped for gas in the desert town of Kingsman, Arizona, a familiar stopping point for a travelers along their way to California or Nevada.

Getting low on gas with another hour plus to go, Tom pulled in to a busy gas station, right off the highway.  Lo and behold, they didn’t accept credit cards, only cash a customer may have on hand or, from their cash machine conveniently positioned on the gas pump island, in order to collect a $2.75 “processing fee” from the machine for every transaction. 

By avoiding paying standard credit card fees by allowing only debit cards, the gas station was allowed to line their coffers with the excess revenues they were generating  from the cash machines!

What a rip off!  Customers were furious as they were sucked in by this scam grumbling as they begrudgingly complied.

Not my guy!  He whipped out of there so fast that his SUV’s tires were squealing,  We proceeded a quarter mile down the road to pump gas at a station with no such policies.  As he was filling the tank he realized that the gas he was pumping was $.50 more per gallon!  Oh good grief! 

Everyone had warned us about getting ripped off outside the US! Ha!  It was a good reminder to be suspicious; not paranoid, to be mindful; not obsessive, wherever we may be. So we shall.

So today, situated in to our comfortable family member’s home in Henderson for the weekend, located in an ideal area, we prepared ourselves for several tasks today:

1.  Go to MailLink in Las Vegas and pick up all of our accumulated forwarded mail from the past two weeks.
2.  Go to a CVS or Walgreen’s pharmacy to have take additional passport photos necessary to apply for our second passports (will explain this soon) and also as required when applying for certain visas around the world.
3.  Apply for Nevada driver’s licenses and voter’s registration. (We’ve been warned that the wait is horrifying.  More on that in a moment.)
4.  Find a good restaurant for breakfast.
5.  Find our bank in order to deposit some checks that had arrived in the mail.
6.  Locate a Target  store to  purchase a new FitBit pedometer after the most recent device fell apart.  (I must get back to tracking those 10,000 daily steps, severely lacking over the past two weeks.)

OK.  The Nevada DMV, a pure nightmare, we heard.  We had talked to several residents warning us to be prepared for hours spent waiting in line.  Of course, we had a plan.  Showing up 15 minutes before they were to open at 8:00 am and getting in the growing line outside the building seemed like a reasonable solution. 

Upon arriving at 7:43, we cringed as we witnessed no less than 40 people in line while a light rain was falling on a chilly morning in the low 50’s.  Unprepared, arriving without jackets or rain gear we decided to tough it out.  We were tempted to drive away and come back at a later time, anticipating that the line might lighten up later in the day. 

Let’s stay, I coaxed Tom, he too in a lightweight long sleeved shirt.  In line we went. At 7:55 they started letting us inside. Much to our surprise, there were no less than 25 stations utilizing a sophisticated numbering system, reminiscent of a computerized female voice moving the cattle-like crowd in sci-fi movie we watched years ago. 

In no time at all, we were both seated in front of a DMV “officer” providing our copious documents to satisfy the state’s requirements.  We were well armed.

An hour later, we were out the door with our Nevada residency in tact, former Minnesota residents (Tom, a lifelong fifth generation Minnesotan, that predates Minnesota statehood) and me, having enjoyed the frozen tundra and Minnesota nice (to be missed) for the past 40 years.  Thank you Minnesota.  Hello, Nevada.

And, soon, my friends…48 days…hello, world.

 

Big Itinerary change!…Part 2…

Here is the fabulous condo we will be renting for 13 nights, after arriving by cruise ship (as listed in the last post on November 12, 2012) in Dubai on May 21, 2013. 

With only six months until our arrival date, we felt it was imperative to lock in a location, having noticed that many of the properties we’ve chosen thus far seem to get snapped up quickly as vacations are planned all over the world.

Prices are high in Dubai.  When we began looking at our favorite vacation rentals sites (before we booked the cruise to ensure it would be an affordable month), Vacation Home Rentals and Home Away, we became discouraged that maybe this cruise wasn’t right for us at this time.

Many of the properties, in great locations close to the notorious Palm Island as shown on the map, were $300-$500 a night or more, way out of our budget.  As always, a little negotiating and perseverance prevailed.  We found this ideal property at the newer Elite Residence Tower, the 2nd tallest residential tower in the world at 91 stories.

 

Here is the link to the rental property. Notice the location of this property on the map in relation to Palm Jumiera, the world famous man made island represented with palm fronds of exclusive properties.

The owner writes, in describing the location:

“This location is in the middle of most of the tourist attractions of Dubai. Such as Palm Jumeira, Atlantis Hotel, JBR Walk, beach, Mall of Emirates, indoor ski resort, Wild Wadi, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Marina Mall, etc.  There are an array of restaurants serving multi-national cuisines such as Chinese, Italian, Indian, Persian, Lebenese, Japanese, Pakistani, Mexican, Continental, etc.

Read more at http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p3484936#rkgAyAl7uPtKmT9l.99

Need I say we are pleased with our “home body selves” for taking on this added adventure.  “What’s happening here,” some family members ask?  “Have you gone completely mad in your advancing age?”

No, not at all.  Each day while living in Scottsdale until the end of the year, we complete paperwork, taxes, digital equipment needs,  Nevada residency, new driver’s licenses and our 2nd passports (will explain that soon), we stretch to challenge ourselves in little ways we never attempted in the past, such as:

  1. Attending a Windows 8 computer class.  Stubborn that we were, we always took more time to teach ourselves, rather than go out to a class.
  2. Going to a sports bar in the morning to watch the Vikings Game.  Only once in our years together, did we ever go to a bar to watch a game.
  3. Dining out and trying new foods (that comply with our way of eating, of course).
  4. Jess, drinking beer when we’ve gone out to dinner. Getting drunk after one beer I’ve hesitated to drink.  What the heck?  Live it up!  So what if Tom has to carry me out to the car after drinking one Michelob Ultra (low carb)!
  5. Walking, actually going for a structured walk.  All these years I asked Tom to go for a walk with me.  Never did he walk further down the road than to our friends Chip and Sue’s home for happy hour or dinner, only four doors away.  Now we go for walks in our temporary neighborhood.  After all, when we’re traveling, we won’t have a car most of the time.  Walk, we shall!  (Tom can’t believe he’s walking.  I knew he eventually would!)
  6. Shopping together.  I can count on one hand how many times over the years that Tom has gone into a grocery store, let alone a department store.  Yep, we do both together now.  That’s change.

Some of our family members ask, “Are you doing anything different than you did before?” (Which meant for us, staying home and enjoying every minute of our lives).  Yes, we are family!

Yes, we are sitting at our new computers in our temporary home, fast and furiously doing tons of preparation necessary to travel the world without a home for the next 5-10 years.  It’s a daunting task. 

We spend about two hours each day doing research for upcoming trips, locations and cruises, one hour of paperwork, two more hours setting up and learning our new laptops (Windows 8), two hours in household tasks (laundry, cleaning, doing dishes, etc.), two hours out and about shopping and researching our digital equipment, one hour walking, two hours a day dining, and one hour of happy hour commiserating over the previous 13 hours, totaling 14 hours plus…

Yes, family, at night after dinner, pooped from the days activities, we do the dreaded, sit in a chair (definitely not comfy as our old chairs) and “veg out” snacking on sugar free candy, nuts and low carb protein bars and…the most awful…watching mindless drivel on TV, all the while with a smile on our faces, often looking at one another with a new found intrigue while excited, grateful and in love.

Belize;  get your lawn chairs ready. Egypt, we’ll ride camels on the way to see your Great Pyramids and Dubai, we’ll research your history.  Tuscany, we’re ready to walk your open markets, living amongst your citizens for an entire summer.  Africa, we’ll live with your animals in Marloth/Kruger Park, we’ll go to see the Great Migration as it crosses the land to the Masai Mara, perhaps in a hot air balloon.

The south of France: we’ll drive along your coast to Cannes, staying overnight in a fancy hotel and then, we’ll live in a little stone house in Cajarc where there are few tourists.  The island of Madeira, Portugal; we’ll live in a huge contemporary house overlooking your sea for the an entire summer and ride bicycles in to your town filled with history.  Hey Europe, we’ll spend five months roaming around without a plan until we leave for our five scheduled months in Hawaii.

Chill out, family.  We’re not bored for a second and don’t think for a minute, that we’re sitting here doing a thing

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Responsibility travels well…

Life is filled with responsibility.  There’s no escaping it.  It goes wherever we may go.  Self discipline is the driving force to commit us to responsibility.  

Some have asked if we will have a sense of freedom, leaving behind work, finally both retired, of the day to day responsibilities of the upkeep and maintenance of a home, a lifestyle we have clung to for decades and the love-centered responsibilities that come with the care and feeding of family and friends. 

Will we feel free and unencumbered by “stuff” that for us, as for most, dictates the tone of our daily lives?

The answers to these questions are yet to come from the upcoming experiences in our near future. It’s easy to speculate as to “how” one will feel when a certain scenario transpires. Anticipation in itself is often fodder for disappointment. How do we temper it?

Perhaps, by facing the responsibilities that will follow us around the world. These thoughts are not in an effort to dampen our enthusiasm. It is to maintain a level of reality that essentially will give us peace of mind that will ultimately enhance our experience.

Loaded with tasks to complete before we leave, we must gather the list of that which will carry with us, not in our overloaded luggage but in our minds and on secure Internet storage. Here are some of these:

  1. File income taxes each year in the same manner we have done while in the US.  Our long time accountant is prepared to do our taxes all via email and documents forwarded to him by our upcoming mail service with our direction.  He will file electronically (as we’ve done for years) and our refund will be deposited in our bank account.
  2. Handle all snail mail through our mailing service.  They will send us a daily list of mail and will scan and email anything of importance.  They will snail mail replacements debit/credit cards and packages for a small fee plus postage.
  3. Apply for necessary visas and maintain second passports. Second passports are necessary in order to submit a passport with each application for a visa.  We don’t want to be in a foreign country without passports in our possession at all times. Second passports must be renewed every two years in the US.
  4. File insurance claims and stay updated on policy changes as to coverage while out of the US.
  5. Handle prescription refills.  We are still awaiting a response for our prescription plan as to providing us with one year of refills at a time. 
  6. Stay updated on both business and personal email/Skype. Email and Skype will be the primary sources of communication with our family and friends. Tom and I are both diligent checking email and will continue to do so provided we are able to receive an adequate connection.  If we have a problem, we will seek out other local Internet resources frequently.
  7. Seek out health clubs at each location.  In Placencia, Belize, there isn’t a health club!  There are hotels with adequate facilities and also private trainers.  As soon as our bags are unpacked, I will be on a mission to establish a relationship with a facility to ensure I can maintain my current level of fitness.  The walking we will surely be engaging in will not be a strenuous enough activity for me, although it may be adequate for Tom.  
  8. Find a dentist every 6 months. Tom and I are diligent about daily flossing and having our teeth cleaned every six months.  As the time nears, we will ask the locals for reliable dentists in the area, paying out of our pockets. Our dental plan will be useless abroad.
  9. Arrange vision exams every two years.  Tom’s family history of serious eye disease and blindness require exams by an ophthalmologist every two years.  Overall, we will be living in remote areas around the world.   Taking the time and bearing the expense to seek out quality care will be a prerequisite.  My vision issues are typical age-related, remedied by mono vision contact lenses.  I have packed a two year’s supply.  Tom will have eye exams and new glasses before we leave the US.
  10. Family members birthdays. All these years we have given gifts to our grown children and grandchildren at the time of their birthdays.  For the future, our gift to our adult children will be occasional plane tickets to visit us for a “free” vacation.  As for the grandchildren, Amazon will be our friend and theirs, where we can purchase gift cards, allowing them to choose something fun from Grandma and Grandpa each year on their birthdays. 
  11. Trip planning.  We have yet to book beyond the arranged 949 days from October 31, 2012.  As the time nears, it will be necessary to book airfare, train travel, ferries and auto rentals. There are some holes in our itinerary that we are holding for the five cruises we want to book that are not posted as yet. Once we are a year out, we will be able to complete some of these bookings, sooner rather than later. Neither of us are “last minute” planners. (As you can see)!
  12. Food shopping. Our special dietary needs will be a challenge wherever we travel.  Finding gluten free, sugar free, wheat free, grain free, starch free, low carb foods will surely be a challenge. Here is another mission for us as soon as we unpack.  If we can find grass fed beef and pork, free range chicken and eggs, wild caught fish and organic vegetables, we will be able to enjoy our meals. We use Greek yogurt, almond flour, coconut flour, coconut oil, unsweetened coconut milk, real butter, spices and Stevia. If these items are available, we will be delighted!  
  13. The constant tracking of all of our expenses. Every receipt and all cash purchases will be logged daily in our expenses spreadsheet to ensure we are staying within our budget.  If necessary, adjustments will be made if we are over the budget to cut back and cover the shortage over a period of months if necessary.  If we are “under” we may choose to dine out more often or upgrade to first class when we have no alternative but to fly. (We are bringing a tiny portable scanner and printer in order to scan receipts, making it unnecessary to haul the receipts with us for years. The printer will provide boarding passes and other documents as needed).
Yes, this list could be overwhelming.  Here in the US, its familiar and a part of our everyday life. From afar? Maybe not. We can only look at these responsibilities with optimism and a sense of challenge, rolling it all into the adventure, chipping away at it, as we go.

As they say, “You can run but you can’t hide.” Hum…