Trip to town…Nuances in a small village…

A mooring spot for the locals.

Each Thursday Rasnesh picks us up to take us to go to the village to shop after we’ve completed and uploaded the day’s post.  In most cases, we’re done by 11:30 am.

Timing is everything.  We can’t choose just anytime to go when Rasnesh
takes off for lunch each day around noon and Helen is gone from the her store, Fiji Meats, usually between noon and 2 pm.   Fiji meats is always our last stop after the Vodafone kiosk (data), the Farmers Market and New World Market.

If we wait to go after 2 pm, the Farmers Market had thinned out for the day and its difficult to find items on our list.  Each week, we carefully plan the meals before shopping.  Although its often subject to change when we can’t find basic ingredients such as lettuce, which is never available at New World and is hard to find at the Farmers Market later in the day.

As a result, we’ve chosen 1 pm as our pick up time.  We usually arrive at the Vodafone Kiosk at about 1:20.  The time awaiting our turn varies.  Yesterday, we waited in the queue for at least 15 minutes with only two customers ahead of us.

A fishing boat we’ve often noticed on the road to the village.

Even our turn at the kiosk takes a good 15 minutes when the lovely rep we’ve come to know works quickly to upload the data onto our SIM cards.  Yesterday, we added a total of 48 gigs between our two dongles at a cost of FJD $150, USD $69.40, enough to last another week.

We always purchase data using a promo she provides of 8 gigs for FJD $25, USD $11.57 which is available via a scratch off card.  She enters each scratched off PIN into her phone to activate it.  Yesterday, we purchased six cards.  We could easily purchase the cards, take them home and load the data ourselves.  But, she does is quickly so we wait.  By the time we walked away from the kiosk, it was pushing 2 pm.

Upon entering the Farmers Market, we noticed many vendors had already left for the day.  The pickings were slim but we managed to find everything on our list.  The good looking green beans were long gone.  We settled for what we could get, a single somewhat withered batch for FJD $2, USD $.93.

Finding cabbage and cukes was easy.  We lucked out finding six small bunches of lettuce at a total cost of FJD $9, USD $4.15.  As we headed toward the door, the egg man still had a dozen or so of the 2 1/2 dozen eggs flats. We purchased one flat at FJD $12.50, USD $5.77; fresh, free range and antibiotic free brown eggs, always perfect upon cracking.

Yesterday, this cruise ship we often see from our veranda arrived into port. Passengers were brought into the village via tenders.  Displays of handicrafts were scattered throughout the village to accommodate the ship’s passengers as they shopped for trinkets.
With our yellow insulated Costco beach bag filled to the brim, which on ccasion a few Americans have noticed along the way, we headed to New World Market.  Rasnesh informed us he’d be getting a call around 2 pm to transport another customer, another 40 minute round trip.  There was no way we could avoid waiting for him to return.  As we walked from the Farmers Market to the New World, we saw Helen walking quickly rushing to get back in time for us.  It was a long walk back to her store from the center of the village.  We’d called her earlier in the day saying we’d be there between 2 and 2:30 pm to pick up our standing order.  After the long wait at the kiosk later for Rasnesh, there was no way we’d make it in time.

Arriving at the New World Market we were excited to find they had thick fresh cream, sour cream and cheese ensuring we’d be able to make our salad dressing and various dishes planned throughout the week.  They even had fresh mushrooms but we’d recently had our fill and had decided to take a break.

This boat off the back of the ship was most likely taking passengers snorkeling.

As always, we called Rasnesh as we entered the checkout line only to discover he wouldn’t be back to the village another 40 minutes.  We could either wait outside in the heat or stay inside the market air conditioned comfort,  We found an out-of-the-way spot to wait with our trolley and our purchased and bagged items.

Rasnesh finally arrived apologizing for the wait.  Since he’s the only driver in town that can make it up the steep hill to Mario’s properties, we had no choice but to wait for him. Last week, he’d sent a friend to pick us up when he couldn’t make it back in time.  The drive up the hill was a difficult when the unfamiliar driver struggled with a front wheel drive vehicle. We didn’t complain, although deciding we’d never use a another driver again.Once we arrived at Helen’s, she casually mentioned how she’s rushed to get back by 2 for us.  We apologized profusely for being late when the delays at the kiosk and the 40 minute wait for Rasnesh left us behind schedule.  What could we do?  As regular customers spending around FJD $150, USD $69 each week, she’s always happy to see us regardless of the time.  She understood. 
Leftover fireworks from Diwali celebration were on sale at the market.

Back home by almost 4 pm, I spent the next few hours putting away the groceries and sorting and washing our produce.  In all, we spent a total of FJD $416, USD $192 for groceries plus the cost of the data.

Overall, we’ve spent no more than this amount on any given week, which for living on a island where all food products arrive by ferry, is reasonable.  We don’t purchase laundry products, most cleaning supplies (other than dish soap and toilet bowl cleaner) or toilet paper which are otherwise provided.  Based on expenditures to date we expect to be under our budgeted allowance for groceries while in Fiji by a few hundred dollars.

As compared to other shoppers throughout the world, we don’t purchase snacks, breads, baked goods, chips, ice cream, potatoes, rice or any type of packaged processed foods which cuts down on the grocery bill.

We were facing this candy display as we waited for Rasnesh.  Tom hasn’t purchased candy or junk food since he purchased fudge in Maui last year.

If we consumed those products, we could easily spend FJD $650, USD $300 per week.  Overall, prices are reasonable in Fiji but, we purchase some more expensive imported cheeses, butter and dairy products, mainly from New Zealand.

At 5:30 pm Junior stopped by to replace our only table lamp which had burned out the previous night.  We’ve used this lamp as opposed to the bright overhead lights when dining and watching our shows in the evening.

By 6:30 pm, we were at the table enjoying our meal of Helen’s roasted chicken, green beans, the last of the mushroom casserole, salad and a low carb homemade muffin slathered in that fabulous New Zealand butter.

A pretty yellow flower on the grounds.

As always, Tom did the dishes.  Unfortunate, a gecko fell into his hot dish water and died.  I scrubbed the table with hot soapy water and Tom washed the plastic placemats.  We’re still holding back on the ants.

In our old lives, I’d have jumped into the car leaving Tom behind driving a short distance to the grocery store.  I’d purchase food for the week, load the car and drive home.  In the house, the cable company provided all the data we could use and all the shows we wanted to watch on Demand or DVRs.  Our cellphone contracts provided calls and data as needed. 

There was no gecko poop in the house and ants rarely visited.  But, somehow we love this life, its nuances, its challenges and its never ending rewards and purpose.   Thanks to all of you for sharing this journey with us.


Photo from one year ago, November 13, 2014:

There were high surf warnings in Maui.  Not our photo but a good shot of an expert surfer.  For more details, please click here.

Our transit through the Panama Canal…Watch us live!

Here’s the link of our passage through the Panama Canal

If you’ll go to this site right now, we are currently approaching the Gatun Locks.  By clicking on the webcam view for the High-Resolution Gatun Locks, you may be able to see our ship, the navy blue and white Celebrity Century, approaching the entrance to the Gatun Locks, currently in line behind several humungous ships.  Based on the poor Internet connection aboard ship, I am unable to load our photos now as I post this. However, this webcam view will show you what we’re able to see.

At 5:15 this morning we quickly managed our way to the 12th floor of the Celebrity Century to the Hemisphere Bar, the highest point on the ship except for the navigation bridge.  We wanted to ensure we grabbed two comfy padded front row chairs facing the full glass wall at the bow of the ship, a firsthand view of the upcoming Panama Canal.
In a mere two and a half hours, we’d begin the eight to ten-hour journey through the canal commencing at the Miraflores Locks.
After a fitful night’s sleep of only three hours, we both bolted out of bed at exactly the same moment when the sounds of the ship changed from a familiar purr to a rumbling series of roars indicating we were slowing down. It was 4:00 am.
Over the past two days, we discussed various strategies as to how and where we’d secure an advantageous spot for viewing the transit through the canal, hopefully in air-conditioned comfort at the bow of the ship. 

The air, thick and murky with dense humidity left us glistening and sweaty as the hot wind licked at our faces on the long outdoor walk past the pool to the 12th floor. 

Our trusty coffee mugs, loaded with a mixture of lukewarm regular and decaf would have to last us the few hours until we were willing to leave our seats for fear of losing a moment of the exhilarating view.
Comfortably ensconced in those perfectly positioned chairs provided us with a bird’s eye view of the “road ahead” or shall I say, the “canal ahead.” We were content.
A lively conversation ensued as others, as anxious as us, found their way to nearby seats, they too with fantastic views.  With nary a thought of our exhaustion until hours later, our heightened senses were tuned in for this adventure, the Panama Canal from the best seat in the house, an experience of a lifetime, one of many yet to come. 

Oh my, we’re so grateful. How did this happen to us? How did we manage to unload everything we owned, leaving our family and friends behind, to follow this newly discovered dream of spreading our wings in a much wider expanse than we’d ever imagined, to travel the world, to be free of hearth and home, while carrying “heart and home” with us?

As we entered the first of five locks on our way from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, Tom with his extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the canal, narrated the process for me, while in the background the voice of Panama’s “Ambassador” and our onboard educator, Uncle Marty blared over the loudspeaker.

With literally no audible sound or sensation, our huge 830-foot long, ship, gently maneuvered through the first three locks, utilizing the power of aquatic gravity along with the use of six low gear locomotives drawing us forward through the Miraflores Locks to 54 feet above sea level. 

Eventually, we made our way through the third and final “raising” lock to a high of 85 feet above sea level and into Gatun Lake, a man-made reservoir that supplies Panama

Amazing!  Purely amazing!  Simple gravity coupled with a small amount of motorized assistance is still working almost 100 years later. That feat, in itself, is mind-boggling.

Soon, we were traveling through Gaylord Cut, the nine-mile winding section of the canal at a snail’s pace, passing tankers, cargo ships, and container ships, one after another during the nine-mile crossing through the lake.

We passed by Gold Hill, the continental divide on our long journey to the remaining three lowering locks to eventually take us out to the sea, the Atlantic/Caribbean Sea. It’s all so hard to believe. 

This morning the sun came up over the Pacific but due to our location, we had a sense that the sun was rising in the west.  This evening, the sun will set in the Atlantic, again perceived as setting in the east as opposed to the west.  An odd phenomenon, for sure.

Soon, we’ll enter the locks and finally be back out to sea.  We’d love to post photos, but our Internet connection is barely able to post the text.

Exhausted? Yes!  Exhilarated? Yes!

Ah, our amazing world yet to be discovered by us as we continue on

Walmart in Mexico?…What?…

Last night’s view from the deck of our ship, the Celebrity Century, overlooking another ship in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Over the years, we’ve chuckled that we aren’t the best photographers. Our subjects are usually off-center, blurry, and often unrecognizable. Laughing about our lack of photo-taking skills over the years, we’ve depended upon family members taking photos of memorable occasions, storing them helter-skelter on our computers, marveling at the fact that they are actually exist.

As an otherwise digitally adept person, I’ve always accepted that my lack of photo-taking skills was purely a result of a lack of interest as to how a camera works.  Tom, not particularly handy with digital equipment in general, followed suit.
As our blog has grown, we’ve both agreed that we must make an attempt at photo taking and editing photos as needed. Mistakenly, we have assumed that our new digital phones could suffice as a photo-taking medium for our travels, having taken a number of reasonable photos here and there.
Live and learn. With poor Internet connections on the cruise, XCOM Global wasn’t always working close to land as hoped, the former ease we’d experienced uploading photos from our phones to our laptops, we realized that we needed to buy a camera now as opposed to waiting until we get to Europe, our original plan.
As our ship, the Celebrity Century, an under 2000 passenger ship small enough to fit in the Panama Canal, makes its way from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean via the Panama Canal six days from today, the scenery will be worth sharing. 
Yesterday, as we neared the pier in  Puerto Vallarta, we saw a Wal-Mart!  Ha! Here we are on the first leg of our worldwide adventure on our first outing off of the ship and they’re within walking distance was a Walmart. Good grief!
Not Wal-Mart shoppers in general, we were suddenly excited about the prospect of walking to the store, about 1/2 mile from the pier to purchase a new camera.  Surely, they’d have familiar brands and, it would be a good experience for us to make a
purchase in a non-English speaking country.
No English indeed. Not a word. The busy store, jammed with locals and few tourists had price signs in pesos.  Oh, oh, I didn’t bring my phone with my money conversion app.  We found a bank inside the store asking the conversion rate to discover that about 12 pesos were equivalent to a US $1. 
The camera selection was limited.  My brain was scanning through my memory of the hundreds of cameras I had researched online and their prices. 
We decided to buy a familiar brand at a low price. If we didn’t like it, we’d replace it when we
arrive in Europe in April.  Our purchase, a 16.2 mp Samsung ST66, digital, 5x zoom, 4.5-22.5mm, 1:2.5-6.3, 25 mm. I have no clue what some of these numbers mean. We’ll learn. We have all of the time in the world. 
Walking around Puerto Vallarta wasn’t ideal.  The cab drivers continually barked at us to take a taxi downtown to the shopping area. With no interest in shopping in general, let alone after the hour spent in Walmart waiting for the camera to be rousted up from their “warehouse,” we were ready to walk back to the ship with unruly traffic whizzing past us as we walked the narrow sidewalk.
Thirsty and unable to find a cold drink without ice (we were skeptical of the local water), we made our way back to our ship, sweaty from the heat, and anxious to cool off with a cold icy drink in the air-conditioned comfort of our cabin. We charged the new camera, took a few photos, showered, and dressed for dinner.
In any case, we were glad that we’d ventured out, proud of our purchase at US $102, pleased to find the familiar USB and electric plugs in the box along with instructions in English.
Again last night, Tom ventured into foods unknown and tried the shrimp and scallops risotto.
Having heard Chef Ramsey extol the virtues of a well-made risotto, he was ready to give it a try.  I had made it a few times over the years with him thumbing his nose at the prospect of a single taste. Last night, he marveled at the exquisite taste. I bear no resentment. He’s stepping outside the box.  I’m thrilled.
Tom’s risotto.  He loved it!

After the delightful dinner in the Grand Dining Room, at 10:00 PM we attended a hilarious comedy show in the Celebrity Theatre as the ship rolled from side to side. 

After dining on a big meal of Caprice salad, braised lamb shank, wedge salad, and Tom’s uneaten Brussels sprouts, I felt queasy for the first time since boarding the ship, resting my head on Tom’s shoulder from time to time during the show.    
My Caprese salad.
We both had a fitful night’s sleep.  By 6:30 am Tom was showered and dressed ready to head to breakfast in the Island’s Cafe while I languished in bed trying to muster the energy to get up.  How could I be so tired? 

I haven’t exerted much energy these past four days, other than two high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions in the ship’s health club and the approximate 10,000 steps we walk daily according to my FitBit pedometer.

It must be the winding down after many months of preparing to leave, both the physical and emotional toll, or perhaps, just a poor night’s sleep after all.

Forcing myself to get up after Tom left for the restaurant for coffee and to read his online daily newspaper, I managed to meet up with him a short while later, still sluggish but ready to enjoy the next two days at sea.
By 1:00 PM, we’d managed to attend two classes, the second in a series of five informative and well-presented sessions on the history and culture of the country of Panama and the building of the Panama Canal.  Our second course was by geology/paleontology professor, Dr. Connie Soja on the Coral Reefs of the Mexican Riviera. 
How enriching, during this time of new discoveries in our lives to be learning more about our world? Our mutual interest in these and other such topics all become relevant to our travels.  We couldn’t be more content.
With yet another 12 days on this cruise followed by another 8-day cruise to Belize, we are comfortably settling in, not into a cocoon so prevalent in our past but into a wider scope of wonder, experimentation, and new experiences.
It’s good. It’s very good. Photos will follow.

Laundry around the world…

Peculiarly, caring for our clothing is somewhat of a hobby of mine. Perhaps, I was a laundress in another lifetime (not to say there is such a thing as another lifetime). Perhaps, I slept in a laundry basket as a baby.

It began when I was quite young, this fascination with laundry.  The middle of three sisters, I was assigned the task of washing, folding and ironing the family’s wardrobe when I was 10 years old. I didn’t mind at all. 

In grade school I attended a “girls only” home economics class (remember that, babyboomers?) where I learned to iron a man’s 100% cotton long sleeved dress shirt from the inside out in two minutes flat.  Failure to do a perfect job resulted in a brisk slap on the hands with a wooden ruler. (Can you imagine what would happen to that teacher in this day and age?)

Over many months, my hands were red and bruised every Thursday after the class.  I didn’t cry or complain to my parents. Determined to get it right, I practiced at home, night after night with a clunky old Sunbeam iron and a wobbly ironing board, often leaving rusty iron stains on my father’s old white dress shirt.

In time, I became the best “ironer” in the class. By the end of the school year I was presented with a pink and white certificate. Not only were my shirts the most neatly ironed in class, but I was able to accomplish the feat in 90 seconds flat.  I’d make a good housewife someday. This was 1958.  

Over the years, my ironing skills honed as irons improved and I could iron a dress shirt in 60 seconds, still doing so today.  

Folding is also quite enjoyable.  I love laundry. Putting away?  Not so much.

In this old house, the laundry is located in our creepy, cobwebbed basement, a full flight of stairs and long walk away. I don’t mind. The exercise is good, up and down, six times a day, to accomplish a mere two loads of wash.

Six flights a day, on average, over the past 26 years and I’ve run up or down, 56,940 flights of stairs!  I’d probably weight 100 more pounds had our laundry room been on the main floor.  I like laundry.

Of course, as time marches on toward the beginning of our year’s long world travels, I can’t help but think about laundry. 

Here are my concerns while living in vacation homes:

  1. Will the washers and dryers work efficiently in each of our rental homes?
  2. Will there be a nearby laundromat in the event one or both doesn’t work or in the case of the Stone House in Cajarc, France with no washer or dryer in the house at all?
  3. Will I be able to remove wrinkles with our new dual voltage steam iron?  
After considerable research, I have discovered that most cruise ships, on which we’ll spend almost one third of our time during the first five months, have no self service laundry facilities. This was both surprising and disappointing to me, far beyond my personal pleasure in doing our laundry, for the following reasons:
  1. Sending out a single tee shirt to be laundered by the ship’s staff may cost upwards of $4! Can you imagine the cost of an entire load of laundry? Including the tips payable for the staff person returning the items to the cabin and two loads of laundry may cost $100!
  2. Irons are not allowed on cruise ships and are confiscated upon entry, an obvious safety hazard (I get this). Thus, one must “send out a dress, shirt or suit coat” to be ironed, costing more than $15 each.  Ouch!  Hopefully, we can depend on that steamer.
  3. Piling up dirty underwear, socks, tee shirts and daily wear to repack in one’s suitcase is rather unappealing. Some of our cruises two weeks or longer. How many pairs of dirty underpants will we accumulate between the two of us and how much space will they take in our otherwise stuffed bags?  No, we won’t turn our underpants inside out and wear them again the next day!  No, thank you!  Dirty socks?  Yuck!!!
My little brain went to work on these realities. As for the vacation homes, we’ll just have to wing it, unaware of what we are up against until we arrive.  If the facilities are not manageable, we’ll plan a weekly outing, doubled up with other activities when we’re already renting a car and make the trip to the local laundromat a fun experience,  playing cards or reading aloud while we wait.  

I’d more than be willing to go to the laundromat without Tom, laundress that I am, but Tom insists that he’ll join me. In certain areas one won’t be safe alone at the laundromat. Daily laundry as I have known, most likely will be a thing of the past. Also, I surrender the fact that I will not be ironing unless an iron is provided.  

As for the cruises, my fingers went flying across the keyboard searching for a solution. In reading reviews at varying cruise websites, I noticed a common comment: many cruises purposely don’t have bathroom sinks with a closing drain.  Here is our solution to washing our own underwear, tee shirts, and small items, purchased from
Laundry Pack w/ Sink Stopper  Price  $16

Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets, 50-Count

Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets, 50-Count

by Travelon

List Price: $7.19
Price: $4.42 ($0.28 / oz) & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details
You Save: $2.77 (39%)

I purchased four of the above laundry packets which fit into the palm of my hand weighing only a few ounces.  These will provide us with 200 sinks-full of wash.  With the above clothes line that suctions inside the shower walls plus soap for my delicate items, we’ll save $100’s while cruising, leaving instead with a small load to deal with at our next vacation home.

Traveling the world for several years with no home, no place to return to repack, restock and replenish, all of these items will save us money, frustration and most of all, precious time doing that which we love, for me; a lot of love and laughter, a touch of adventure, and a little bit of laundry; for Tom, a lot of love and laughter, a touch of adventure and a smile while watching me do laundry. Ah, life is good.

We’ll have bug bites, we’ll be hot and sweaty, the bed will be lumpy, our feet will be tired, we’ll leave a shoe behind, a flight will be cancelled and a vacation home won’t be as described online.  But, in any case, our clothes will be clean.

Is a good memory needed for travel?…How I improved my memory after it started to decline…

Peculiarly, my memory is better now than when it was when I was 20 years old (so I think).  When I turned 50, while working at a stressful job, my memory started deteriorating rapidly. I expected to be a mindless blob at 60, let alone, my now almost 65.  

I’d find myself wandering around a room, wondering why I was there, forgetting my keys (don’t we all?). On occasion, I’d get into a stranger’s unlocked car in a parking lot that
happened to be the same color and model as mine. That scared me. Remember names? Forget about it! Impossible, at that time.

About 10 years ago, I started working out after a five year hiatus during the stressful job.  The more I worked out, the more I noticed that my memory was gradually improving over time.  
Changing to a low inflammation diet and upgrading my exercise routine over the past year as I wrote in a post two weeks ago, gradually enhanced and thus, creating a leap in my memory. Plus, spending seemingly endless hours researching for our adventure, pushed my memory to a whole new level.
To sum up what worked for me:
3. “Exercising my brain” via hours of research, learning new information, decision making.
4.  Being passionate about any topic of interest which fires up brain cells.
Many studies suggest stress relieving activities such as meditation, yoga, and Pilate’s may be instrumental in improving one’s memory.  For me, learning new information is fuel for my soul, providing great stress relief and enjoyment. Thus, my memory improved.

Through this lengthy and time consuming process of planning to travel the world for years to come, I discovered that good memory was a benefit of good record keeping.  

Documenting our travel plans in a methodical order on an series of Excel spreadsheets within a single workbook was highly instrumental in building a foundation for our itinerary.  Keeping detailed records of our itinerary, deposits paid, balances due, a to do list, an estimate of eventual “actual” travel and living expenses, cruises, flights and other means of travel is a constant point of reference leading to building my memory.  

Subsequently, referring to this Excel workbook, without even trying, somehow I’ve memorized every detail.  Much to my surprise.  Its seems to me that, “the more I remember, the more I remember.”  This is a far cry from where I was over ten years ago.
Dementia is a common and expected fact of aging.  We see it in our family members, friends and acquaintances.  We witness lapses of memory in our loved ones, dismissing it, in part for fear of embarrassing them and also, for our own vulnerability. 

Perhaps, we may be able to prevent our own memory loss by being physically active, eating healthfully and living a proactive life. If we stay engaged, busy, passionate about our lives, purposefully and frequently memorizing tidbits of information while entering into lively animated conversations (easy to do in this heated political environment), we can retain and actually improve our memory. 

If we read to learn, not only to entertain and listen to others with undivided attention, maybe, just maybe, we will remember, not only what happened 40 years ago and also last year and… most of all, minutes and hours ago.

After all, every step of our lives is but a memory only minutes later.  Drawing upon those memories is the essence of life’s richness to share with those we love, to gather into our hearts in times of sorrow and to take with us into our old age.
As I close for today, it would be typical for one to make a joke, a play on words on memory loss. I won’t. I can’t think of any!

Why blog?…Why not blog?…

While at a party last weekend, a guest asked me, after hearing that I’m writing a blog, “What could you possibly write about before leaving to travel the world?”  
In the beginning, I was concerned I would run out of ideas, writing every other day. So far, so good. Readership is in the 1000’s, growing rapidly, much to my surprise from all over the world.

As time marched on, it became therapeutic, as in writing a journal. In the near future, it would serve as a means of updating family and friends as we saunter from place to place about the world, living “life” as Tom says, not vacationing. (Vacations are for leaving one’s home to enjoy visiting other surroundings, relieve stress, experience new cultures and adventures to ultimately return home to “the real world”).

We won’t have a “home”.  That explains the therapeutic element. Having no home is an emotional adjustment, is not for everyone and was inconceivable to us only a few years ago. Of course, in no way do I mean to imply it is comparable to being “homeless,” a sorrowful fate for many without the love, support and emotional freedom to escape poverty.   

In our case, choosing to be without a home defies all traditional convention and social mores. Many are shocked by our willingness to do this, some amused and others annoyed, saying, “They won’t last.”  Maybe we won’t.  If we don’t, we will write about it here, baring our souls for those interested.

In the next few months, with the help of a highly professional web/blog designer we will enhance this blog.  We’ll be creating links for money saving travel information, insurance needs, prescription drug savings tips, travel concerns, travel products we’re using, foods we’re experiencing around the world that fit into our low carb, wheat, starch, grain and sugar free lifestyle, restaurant observations, vacation homes we love, cruise commentaries, airline experiences and more. 

Most of all, we will share the photos and stories of the nature we are blessed to behold and the people we are fortunate to meet. Hopefully, we’ll both become better photographers.  Currently, we are researching lightweight, easy to use, digital Bluetooth enabled cameras with a few new prospects being released soon.  (We’ll keep you updated).

To offset some of the cost of the professional blog designer, we will be incorporating some relevant advertising, as you will currently find on most web sites and blogs. 

A few days ago, I ordered business cards with our email and blog addresses, after both of us tired of writing on little pieces of paper (especially with my horrific illegible handwriting).  When they arrive, I’ll take a photo and post it here. More to pack!

You may email us at any time, if you prefer not to post online comments. Always feel free to make suggestions to us, as many have thus far in “comments” and in private email, all of which we appreciate and take to heart.  Research is one thing, experience is another.  We more than welcome your experience. And please, take advantage of our hundreds of hours of research, if you are looking for a bargain or a shortcut.

BTW, if you want to read my story on the blog of Jonathan Bailor, The Smarter Science of Slim, please click here.  My story is the second story down, moving from the first spot over the past week.  Thanks to all of our readers and, to Jonathan’s readers who have come over here to read our blog.  

Off to the health club now for my 10 minute killer cardio workout, after an hour long walk with my neighbor earlier this morning. Then off to the grocery store to stock up for the long weekend.  

Friends are coming for Eggs Benedict brunch on Sunday when I’ll be using that cute little 1950’s double boiler as seen in the photo in the last post, maybe for the last time. (The recipe is also posted there).

Bye, double boiler. Hello, world.  

Time is of the essence…

“Time is of the essence” is a term in contract law which indicates that the parties to the agreement must perform by the time to which the parties have agreed if a delay will cause material harm.”

After spending 25 years as an broker/owner of a real estate company, I came to appreciate the significance of being on time, not only to ensure my buyers or sellers complied as stipulated within the term of their contracts, but also my being sensitive about the time of others by always being on time.

Now as Tom and I near the time to leave our home for good, in the hands of others, on October 31, 2012, a mere 2 months and 16 days away, time seems to be moving so quickly.

There is still so much to do.

Tom leaves at 5:30 am each day, often not returning until 7:00 pm or later. Exhausted, he showers, eats a down-sized gluten free, low carb dinner with me and falls into his comfy chair with only a few hours before bedtime. He can’t help me during the week. Understandably so.

On the weekends, he tends to the yard, works on his file which he is preparing as a legacy for his family before we leave. He does any needed household maintenance with aplomb and a smile and then…spends valuable time chatting with me about our endless planning. Time is flying by.

A friend recently asked me to spend a day visiting at her home. With only 76 days left, I had to apologetically say “no.” Maybe an hour for tea, not a day.

Another friend asked me to help with the planning of a new business, something I would usually have loved doing. Again, I had to say “no”.

In the past, I always said “yes.” Always.

Nothing is more important than spending valuable time with our family and friends. But, as time nears and more tasks are facing us and…with every one’s busy lives, there never seems to be enough time. How does one spend more time together now to “make up” in advance for the time we won’t spend together in the future? You can’t.

Much to our surprise, we’re not overwhelmed. Maybe we’ve had too much time to prepare, to think, to accept, and to discuss. Sure, I could share the seemingly endless list of “to do’s” many of which may only be done during the last month. But, I won’t bore you with the details on a list. I will share them as they transpire along the way, as I have done thus far.

People often ask if we are excited yet. No, not yet. We are saving that for the day we leave. I am trying to enjoy the process, the challenge, the management of the mixed emotions that flutter through my head each day, occasionally questioning the sensibility of this mammoth decision, to moments later, smiling at our adventuresome nature.

Every minute that passes brings us one more minute closer to the end of our lives. Perhaps, for some, this is a morbid thought. For us, this is an opportunity to embrace every moment, living in it fully as it transpires and joyfully planning for that which is yet to come, should we be so fortunate that more time is on our hands.

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…

Last 4th of July!

Flag cake is easy to make: white or chocolate cake mix,  Cool Whip or whipped cream, sliced strawberries and blueberries.  My small hand skills are limited, but the grand kids don’t notice the imperfections.

How odd it is. Our last 4th of July. It dawned on me today that many holidays we celebrate here in the US, won’t be celebrated abroad. Duh! No 4th of July. No Labor Day. No Thanksgiving. No President’s Day. No Memorial Day. 

With our intent of blending in while learning the culture, we’ll make every effort to embrace those national holidays that are befitting our personal beliefs and respecting those that are not.  

Thanksgiving cooking was tough last year. I prepared an entirely gluten free meal including GF Coconut Flour Biscuits, GF Homemade Croutons to make GF Turkey Dressing, GF Almond Flour Gravy and GF Nut Crust for the sugar free GF pumpkin pies. (We had to ditch the traditional green bean casserole.  There’s no good substitute for those canned onion rings!)  

Before Thanksgiving, I’ll post some of these recipes for anyone who may be interested.  Tom didn’t love everything.  He has picky taste buds..  I can eat my shoe, enjoy the taste and digest it with nary a belch. Not picky. I ate all the leftover GF items for days while Tom nibbled on the turkey and the GF broccoli salad.  After the fourth pumpkin pie, I was done. We won’t miss the Thanksgiving meal so much.

Now, as the 4th of July approaches, the plans and menu are in place.  Here’s the menu.  Recipes follow for the starred items. 
Fresh Summer Fruit Salad
Homemade  Salsa* & Corn Chips
Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Raisins & Toasted Almonds
Barbeque Baby Back Ribs
Oven Fried (GF) Chicken
Roasted Root Vegetables on the Grill
Mom’s Secret Cornbread Recipe* (No secret now! See below.)
Flag Cake 

Luckily for both Tom and I, most of these recipes are gluten free, except for the cake and cornbread.  Also, we gave up corn and all its products last August after reading the book, Wheat Belly by Dr, William Davis to discover the way corn has been genetically manipulated to increase production, stripped of nutrients and loaded with chemicals.  That was a tough one to leave behind.  

Our friends and family still eat corn, except for daughter Tammy and her family. (The rest of them have grown bored with my endless food warnings soapbox so I finally stepped down, preaching only to dear Tom who acts like he’s listening).The salsa recipe is easy to make and often a crowd favorite.  Here it is:

Jess’s Salsa
2 – 28 oz. cans of  Italian style whole tomatoes, save juice, chop tomatoes (I used to use fresh tomatoes, but unless they are home grown, generally those at the grocery store are relatively tasteless) 

1 large bunch cilantro, cleaned, chopped 

1 large onion (Vidalia is available now)

2 jalapeño peppers or a small can of diced hot jalapenos

3 cloves fresh garlic 

4 T red wine vinegar
Add juice from cans
Add salt and pepper
Add juice from one large lime or two small. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. Keep chilled in jars for one week in the refrigerator.
My mother, Sylvia (may she rest in peace) was a quirky woman but, a fabulous cook.  Much to the surprise of other good cooks, she didn’t like to share certain recipes.  This cornbread was always a huge hit among those fortunate enough to try it; moist, sweet and flavorful.  

She didn’t give me the recipe until I was 30 years old, old enough to keep the “family secret recipe.”  She made me promise not to give anyone the recipe in “her lifetime.”  
When she passed away in 2003, my friends were chomping at the bit for the recipe which I gladly shared.  Here it is! If you take the five minutes it takes to dump these ingredients into a bowl, stir well and keep an eye out with a toothpick while it bakes, you and your guests will experience the best tasting cornbread on the planet! 
Jess’s Mother Sylvia’s Secret
Cornbread Recipe
2 cups Bisquick½ cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup sugar

Mix well


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 stick melted butter (1/2 cup)

Pour into a 9” baking pan
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done when a toothpick is inserted.


Tom and I don’t eat this due to the cornmeal, sugar and Bisquick.  The smell while baking in itself is quite intoxicating, reminiscent of another time.
Tomorrow, Tom will place our traditional 200 small flags along both sides of the peninsula.  

We’ll take out our red, white and blue hats, leis, tee shirts and serving pieces. We’ll celebrate the 4th of July with the same fervor we have each year, watching the boat parade at 7 PM, tossing water balloons, making giant bubbles and sitting at the end of our dock at dark to watch the head turning five fireworks displays all at once.   Bittersweet!  
Next summer on June 2nd, while living in Tuscany, we’ll celebrate the Anniversary of the Republic or on August 15th, Ferragosto.Bye, bye, 4th of July!

Paper towels and toilet paper…

While grocery shopping yesterday, I grabbed a 12 pack of my favorite paper towels.  Shocked by the outrageous price of $14.96, I stepped back while my eyes scanned the other options, all of which were lower priced.  I had tried the other towels over the years but none could equal my favorites.  (BTW, this is not an ad for paper towels.  Note, no mention of a brand.  Email or call me if you want the brand name).

Then it hit me!  On average I use two rolls of paper towels a month.  With slightly over four months until departure, we will end up with about three unused rolls of paper towels including the additional cleaning to do before we sign off on the house.  No need to buy the 12 pack.

With the eight pack in hand at $9.97, the math swirling around my head, I laughed aloud at my ridiculousness, threw the eight pack in the cart and moseyed over the toilet paper, again going through the same preposterous calculations.  

I passed on the toilet paper, having counted the eight rolls on the shelf above the toilet before heading to the grocery store this morning, as I often do.  No imminent need for the ultra soft, zillion sheets, favorite toilet paper either. (Please email or call for that brand).

Certainly, a reader of this blog thinks I am the female version of Howie Mandell. I am picky, but I can be kissed, hugged, shake hands and touch the rail on the escalator at the mall (although I seldom go to a mall preferring to shop online).  I wash my hands about 20 times a day, less from obsession, more from a logical desire for the safe handling of our food. 

OCD?? Not really.  I prefer to call it “detail orientated.”  Perfectionism?  I suppose, to a degree.  I have messy cupboards and drawers with the intent to prove that I’m not a perfectionist. After all, wouldn’t a perfectionist, try to be so perfect as to try not to appear to be a perfectionist? 

Who knows and basically, who cares?  No one. Tom is hardly annoyed.  Our kids think I’m weird in any case.  And, most of all, I am neither stressed nor suffer any angst as a result of it. Periodically, I engage in a bout of worry in the middle of the night.  Then again,  who doesn’t occasionally worry in the middle of the night?

Thus, I am a content “detail orientated” individual that may annoy some of the people some of the time that, if they choose, may tease me relentlessly and I will genuinely chuckle. 

Yes, I’m packing too much stuff.  Yes, I spend too much time looking for a better deal on a small item.  Yes, I will hang clothes in the shower to get out the wrinkles.  Yes, I will wear a different outfit every formal night aboard ship and have ample choices for Tom as well.  

Yes, I will continue my healthful, low carb, wheat, grain, sugar, starch and gluten free diet. (Tom, not so much, especially aboard ship). Yes, I will continue to workout and take a handful of supplements each day.  Yes, Tom will continue to spend endless hours working online, fine tuning his ancestry.

We will bring with us, into this new life of world travel, who we are, our endless peculiarities, our annoying habits, our comfortable and seemingly pointless rituals and of course, some of our stuff.  I don’t think we’ll bring paper towels or toilet paper but then again…