Twenty one days…

“They” say it may take 21 days to break a habit.   Yesterday, armed with this assumption, I began the process of changing the familiar routines that so shaped my days over the past two years of my own retirement, over the past 26 years of life here on the peninsula.  

Awakening at 4 am with a rare and unexpected head cold, I rationalized my stuffy nose and sore throat as the Universe’s way of reminding me to slow down, to breathe more deeply, to choke my organized and purposeful actions into a much gentler pace.  

In 21 days these daily habits, entrenched in our lives all these years, will be reshaped into new and unfamiliar patterns; brewing my usual morning tea in a strange teapot, pouring it into a different cup while tasting a slight variance from using bottled water. 

As always, the first sip will be accompanied by my gaze out the window in the near future at the vast expanse of the sea, mysterious and foreboding, as opposed to the cozy comfort of gazing at the lake for all these years, a shoreline in the not too distant horizon, predictable even on the windiest of days.  Not so the sea.

Stuffy head, I welcomed the cold, crisp air on the early morning walk, especially chilly at 32 degrees, fingers numb and tightly tucked into my pockets, having failed to wear gloves.  

Wiggling my toes in my tennis shoes hoping to ward off the cold, I picked up the pace walking almost an hour, stopping periodically to look up at a noisy flock of geese honking their way south or to blow my nose into the soft paper towels I had stuffed into my jacket before walking out the door.

When will I be so cold again?  In Belize, at the little oceanfront house, when the average daily temperature is 83 degrees in the winter months?  In Tuscany, next summer?  Doubtful. In Africa next fall, again a house on the sea, in a time in which it will actually be their spring? Unlikely. Or, in the prime season in Kauai in 2015, the ocean at our doorstep, the warm breezes in our faces? No, it won’t be cold.

The colorful leaves, crispy under my feet, a part of my expectations in any fall season yet to come, will forever be embedded into my memories of seasons so clearly defined.  We’ve enthusiastically welcomed and sadly bid adieu to the seasons, ready to move on to the next, often too cold with record breaking temperatures and snowfalls or, too hot with record breaking heat.

Twenty one days to break the habit of that which we have known and loved, at times bemoaned and begrudged, to begin anew in a strange land, finding our way with a touch of trepidation, with an abundance of wonder and with a never-ending desire to become familiar once again. 

A Belize Solution…

We originally booked the cozy beach house in Belize from February 1 to March 31, 2013.  Based on our cruise from Miami arriving in Belize City on January 29th we felt confident we could easily find a hotel for a few days until the first of February which proved not to be so easy.

At the end of our Belize trip, our cruise departs from Belize City on April 9, 2013 presenting us with another eight nights for which to find housing, as mentioned in previous posts.  

We’d hoped the owner of the cozy beach house could accommodate all eleven nights, prorating the rent accordingly.  At the time, she suggested we wait and see if the beach house would be available.

We’d been waiting to hear from her when I made the request this past weekend.  Fortunately, she was able to accommodate us for the earlier dates for which we are thrilled and appreciative but, the later dates in April were booked.

These eight days put my fingers to work online searching for a hotel.  The options were few.  Apparently, we had waited too long to solve this dilemma. Of all the available hotels in Belize, most were booked or were running about $300 per night plus the requirement of dining out for all meals, adding substantially to the overall cost.  

Although we only needed a hotel for eight nights, this cost would be comparable to the cost of the two months rent for the cozy beach house!  This would not only throw our budget out of whack but result in frustration that we hadn’t planned this leg of our travels more carefully.  Live and learn.

With this reality, I became all the more determined to find an affordable alternative that would fulfill our objectives of the following: a full service kitchen, a location near the ocean, conveniently located to avoid the necessity of full time auto rental, plus…be attractive, clean and if possible, charming.   

Unable to find a hotel befitting our objectives and available for these dates, I wandered back to one of the sources of our worldwide home rentals:, to execute a search for a short term rental. Success!  

This is the property we locked up for the eight nights, for half the cost of a hotel room and with a well equipped kitchen, allowing us to eat in, located on the island of San Pedro in Ambergris Caye, a highly desirable location.  The owner was fabulous to work with as are most of the owners of vacation rentals.

A year ago, if all we were planning was this eight day trip to Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Belize to stay in this lovely casita we would have been delighted. Who knew that this would be but one small part of the so far 949 days booked to experience the world.

Transportation will be our next challenge. Placencia is a three hour drive from the port in Belize City. The above property is located on the island of San Pedro in Ambergris Caye, requiring a water taxi ride from Placencia. We could fly in little airplanes to get around, hauling those bags.  No thank you!

Next, we’ll get to work figuring our modes of transportation for this part of our adventure.  But then again, that’s part of the fun; overcoming challenges, finding solutions and of course, planning well in advance, when possible. Doing so, saves time, effort and money, all of which is done in preparation for those unknown events, that are certain to occur along the way.

Fine tuning the itinerary…

There are some gaps in our itinerary. It’s unavoidable. We’ve tried to book our vacation rentals as tightly as possible around our cruises. Many owners have a preconceived notion that booking their properties from Saturdays to Sundays or from the 1st or the 15th of any given month, results in a more desirable scenario for the next renter. 

With our far-reaching bookings, some of which are all the way into May 2015, we have found the owners feel more secure in sticking to these notions to ensure what they see as more desirable availability in the future.  We understand. 

By negotiating amazing rental prices we have been able to maintain a $1667 a month average, with many of the homes in the $1100-$1200 month range, to the one month high of $4651 in Hawaii for our family gathering at Christmas 2014.  (Although this Hawaii rental sounds outrageously high, it actually breaks down to a mere $155 a night, a bargain rate for Hawaii during the high season. Most often, a basic single king room with an ocean view will start at $225 a night)!

However, this entire adventure would be impossible for us if we were staying in hotels at $155 a night and eating all of our meals in restaurants as most of us have done when taking one or two-week vacations.  

Thus, with our overall nightly rate average of $54.82 for the rental homes, we aren’t complaining when we see a gap of a few nights.  We will either stay in a mid-range hotel or,  ask the owner of the vacation rental to accommodate the additional nights at a prorated amount if the house is available. These additional potential hotel costs have already been factored into the above monthly rental rates.

Originally, we had promised ourselves to keep the monthly rental average to no higher than $1500.  However, adding the higher one month in Hawaii plus the five additional following months in Kauai at $2000 per month, our numbers were thrown off for 2014.  

When we depart on October 31, 2012, we’ll begin to breakdown these numbers, year by year, as they actually accrue rather than by our current estimated “running total” for the entire period.  For now, this has aided us in keeping a lid on the costs.

We have created multiple spreadsheets for all of these estimated costs which will be changing constantly knowing full well at this point, other than the fixed rental amounts, the numbers are estimated.  

We will continue along this path in the next post this upcoming Sunday. We have an eleven-day gap in Belize, three when we arrive by a cruise in Belize City on 1/29/2013 (our rental begins 2/1/2013) and eight when our rental ends on 3/31/2013 when the cruise ship comes back to Belize taking us back to Miami. We need a plan for these dates at both ends.  

Our options:
1. As mentioned above, we can ask the owner to extend the rental, if it is available on these dates prorating the rent.  This plan is the most cost-effective.

2.  Find a reasonably priced hotel in Belize City near the port and check out the local attractions while there.  Unfortunately, Belize City doesn’t sound like a safe and desirable place to vacation for three days.  

3.  Travel to another area, such as Ambergris Caye (highly desirable, very expensive) to incur additional transportation costs, pricey hotel rates, and the necessity of dining out for each meal.  

Do we choose “easy” or “adventuresome?”  Or, is living out of a suitcase for 949 days so far, not having a permanent home, being away from our family, friends, doctor and dentist “adventuresome” enough for two 60-somethings like ourselves used to “sitting in our comfy chairs, watching endless TV, rarely dining out” and amazingly enjoying it all?

Any suggestions?