Changes over the remaining 10 days in Sumbersari…Can YOU do this?

Fishing boats handmade out of plastic tubes.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

All family members participate in fishing, including the youngest members of the family.

With the owner’s arrival at their villa next door and their use of the Internet we no longer have the mediocre WiFi signal we’ve had over these past many months. We don’t have much signal. I cannot open my email or prepare for today’s post using the usual online application Blogger.

Instead, at the moment, I’m writing in Live Writer, an offline program that enables me to prepare the post minus photos to upload at a later time when we can get a signal if the owners aren’t online. The system at these two houses isn’t suitable for both houses be online simultaneously. We’ll just have to live with it for the next 10 days. 

Hopefully, over this period, until our departure from the villa we’ll manage to upload a post each day. If you don’t see a post on a certain day, please know we’re trying and will be back online as quickly as possible.

This guy was standing on the beach with a camera waiting the motorcycle club to drive by.

Once I posted each day, I don’t mind being offline. I have plenty of books to read and mindless drivel type games to play on my computer and phone. For Tom, who can easily spend an entire day online, minus walks, talks, pool time and dining, it’s all the more frustrating.

Tom had hoped to call his brother Jerome today on his 88th birthday, but Skype won’t be working with this poor signal. Also, we’d hoped to stream the third presidential debate tomorrow morning, but that, too, may not be possible.

Posting photos will be especially tricky. We’ll do our best hoping to share new photos we’ve been saving for these last days at the villa.  It’s hard not to find myself in a mindset where I have little interest in taking more photos when the prospects of being able to upload them is minimal.

The photographer crouched down when he realized the bikers were approaching.

Our use of the Internet is such a vital element as we travel the world sharing stories and photos each day. It’s unlikely we’d be traveling as we are if it weren’t for the availability of the Internet.  It would be too difficult to plan to travel and live in so many locations utilizing various means of transportation from one country to another.

One may ask, “Are we prisoners to the Internet, more dependent on it than we “should be?” In our minds its as vital to us as our response would be if we were asked, “Are we prisoners to electricity or running water, more dependent on it than we “should be?”

Undoubtedly, we’re sensitive to the fact that many don’t have electricity or running water, many right here in this little village walking distance from the villa. And, our hearts go out to them as we fully appreciate how well they’re managed to thrive without such modern conveniences.

A group stopped to help when one of the bikers motorbikes quit working.

As “they” say, everything is relative. Many of us have been blessed with power and water all of our lives. Based on this fact, does that make us spoiled and uncompromising? Not necessarily. 

We’re all products of our environment. It doesn’t make us any less the people that we are, by having been fortunate enough to have access to modern technology. That doesn’t have a bearing on the empathy we feel for others less fortunate who may never have a cell phone, a computer or a TV. 

We can admire them for their fortitude functioning well in a world where they may feel deprived. In some of the more remote locations throughout the world they may have no concept of what they’re missing.

In my humble opinion, none of this requires us to feel ashamed or guilty for what we have, nor do we feel less compassion for those who do not. It’s the nature of the world we live in.

In no time at all, they make the repairs and the biker was on his way.

Am I attempting to justify our “need” for a good WiFi connection.  Perhaps, yes. Many who do not know or understand our lifestyle would say we’re living a seemingly easy and affluent life of world travel. 

We don’t believe nor have we ever intended to ever make this life on the move appear easy. It’s not. It’s required an enormous sacrifice that few would undertake even if it were affordable. As for affluent? That’s not us. We pinch every last penny, diligently keeping track of everything we spend and how much we can spend in the future totally determined by our income.

Sure, most retirees on social security only, paying for insurance required by Medicare and health care needs, cannot do what we’re doing. It is only through Tom’s 42 years of working on the railroad, saving chunks of money along the way, that has made this possible for us. 

Add the reality of our careful planning, the constant negotiations for better pricing and refusal to spend endless sums on dining out, partaking in pricey tourist attractions and drinking alcohol at home, that makes this possible. 

 This may be this baby buffalo’s first walk on the beach.

Cooking all of our meals, two to three days at a time, saves us huge amounts on groceries. Not paying utilities, cable bills, phone bills, car payments, car and home insurance, property tax and household maintenance have an enormous impact on our ability to travel.

There are locations throughout the world where those who’d like to travel may do so for half as much as we spend, opening up possibilities that may be suitable within their means. But, for those at retirement age or with families, it’s a difficult proposition requiring all the more planning and diligence.

We’ve read numerous stories where expats live in Ecuador, for example, for under IDR 19,537,483, US $1500 a month including rent, utilities, groceries, medical and transportation.

If a traveler is young and fit backpacking and living in hostels may work, occasionally working at odd jobs, living for even less than the above example is possible. Those of us who aren’t affluent must ask themselves this question, “What am I willing to sacrifice to live such a life?” For many, its not even a remote possibility, or even of interest.

Coconut palms growing from abandoned coconuts.

We spend the majority of our days in outrageous heat and humidity; living with insects often crawling on us (I found a slew of ants on my toothbrush a few mornings ago); having no TV in our language or no TV at all; missing family and friends; no access to good medical or dental care; limited availability of foods we like and can eat; a possibility of an uncomfortable bed or furniture every few weeks or months, and never having anything we can all our own other than that which is contained in a few pieces of luggage. It’s not easy.

Then, why do we do it? Because we love the adventure. Because we love the sense of freedom. Because we love the culture, the local people, the vegetation, the scenery, and the wildlife.  Because somehow we fit in, we’re accepted.

If something isn’t working, we discuss it, analyzing our options, discussing it with a positive attitude to those who may be able to assist. But, the most important aspect for us living this peculiar life is simple…don’t complain…not to staff, not to locals, not to people we meet along the way, not to property owners or managers, not to shopkeepers and service providers and…above all, not to one another.

And so, we have lousy Internet? We live with it. We find other ways to entertain ourselves while hoping for a moment when we can get online, upload a post, say hello to family and friends and hopefully stream a show; the debate (tomorrow) and the Minnesota Vikings game (next Monday).

Be well. Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2015:

 One year ago, we posted this story. The gentleman on the front right is Tom’s brother, Jerome, who celebrates his 88th birthday today. He’s blind and each day, Tom removes all the photos from our posts and send Jerome only the text which he “hears” on his computer. Tom’s mother, shown in front row center, wrote a book, “Memories of Muggs,” of the family’s history. On the date of the “book signing” the family got together to celebrate the special occasion. This family photo was taken in 1997 by Tom, his mother Mary and his siblings.  From left to right front, seated: Rita, Mary, Jerome; middle row: Mary Ellen, Margie, Patty and Sister Beth. Back row includes Colleen, Tom and Jim. The book is listed at the Minnesota Historical Society. For the rest of this story, please click here.

No cooking, no laundry, no making the bed…Itinerary until December…

Our new itinerary…

 Sydney Hotel 1  4/15/2016 – 4/16/2016 
 Cruise – Sydney to Singapore  14  RC Voyager of Seas   4/16/2016 – 4/30/2016 
 Bali House  59  4/30/2016 – 6/28/2016 
 Hotel Singapore 7  6/28/2016 – 7/5/2016 
 Hanoi Hotel 3  7/5/2016 – 7/8/2016 
 Cruise – Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City  15  Viking Mekong    7/8/2016 –
 Phuket House  41  7/22/2016 –
 Bali House w 59  9/1/2016 –
 Sydney Hotel  1  10/30/2016 –
 Cruise – Sydney to Perth  16  RC Radiance of the Seas   10/31/2016 – 11/16/2016 
 Cruise – Perth to Sydney  17  RC Radiance of the Seas   11/16/2016 – 12/3/2016 

Late yesterday afternoon, as we lounged on the deck overlooking this vast farmland and the sea, each of us sipping on a glass of wine (more on why I may be occasionally drinking wine in tomorrow’s post), it dawned on me that we won’t have to do much housework up until December 3, 2016 when we arrive in Tasmania.

These unusual mushrooms appear translucent.

Mentioning to Tom that we hadn’t been able to do laundry for days due to rain which finally stopped around 4:00 pm, it dawned on me that over the next many months, hanging laundry won’t be on our radar.

Once we leave New Zealand in less than a month, we won’t have to wash a dish, make a bed or do our laundry with the exception of the 41 days we’ll live on the island of Phuket, Thailand where we won’t have household help other than a weekly cleaner.

We started recalling our itinerary, as Tom easily recalls from memory long into the future. A month from today, we’ll board Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas after spending one night in the Sydney Hotel. Then the lazy days begin.

An unusual “mushroom” in our yard fell over from its weight.

Upcoming in Bali on both occasions as shown in the itinerary, staying at the same property, we’ll have a full staff. There, if we choose we won’t have to cook if we’d prefer not to do so.

Although I need to have a close handle on how food is being prepared, the owners explained we can shop, if we’d prefer and the cook will chop, dice and prep food while I put it together seasoning and finishing. 

The staff in Bali will serve our needs throughout the day handling all household tasks, later setting the table, preparing the meal and cleaning up after dinner, later departing for the evening.  

We never stop noticing a pretty flower.

What will I do with myself when I spend the better part of most days running about the house engaged in various household tasks most of which I don’t mind? Also, preparing our meals requires a little time each day.

We easily recall this similar scenario when living in Marrakesh, Morocco for almost three months beginning in March, 2014; never washing a dish, cooking a meal, making the bed, cleaning or doing laundry. It took some getting used to.

We discovered that we easily navigate being around people all day never failing to treat them kindly, respectfully and often with a degree of warmth and affection when appropriate. 

We think these are Rhododendron.  They have a velvety texture.

We generously provide tips when its time for us to go as will be the case going forward with hotel staff, cruise cabin steward and other cruise staff and various household staff members.

A lot of daily walking and swimming in the pool in Bali will be in order during these many months when we could easily become lazy with this lifestyle over these many months. 

Fortunately, during the 62 days of cruising, using the health club (me, only) and lots of walking are great options to keep us active and moving about along with the many tours we’ll be on during these periods. 

Roses continue to bloom in the cooler weather.

Regardless of the situations we encounter as we continue to travel the world, we make every effort to not only adapt to our surroundings at any given time but to also find ways to stay active and busy whether we have household help or are on our own.

We hope your day is filled with that which you find appealing, that which works for YOU, whether its reading a book, watching a favorite TV show, taking a leisurely walk or pounding it out at the health club.

Photo from one year ago today, March 16, 2015:

The beaks of the Albatross are used for preening and for signs of greeting. Or, they may be used in aggression if an intruder threatens them or the nest.  One year ago, we spent considerable time at their nesting site.  For more details, please click here.

What, no oven?…We made an error in booking a future rental…

Two intertwined white Hibiscus flowers.

In this past week, amid all of our busy days and nights, we realized it was time to start preparing for the upcoming trip to Australia and the South Pacific. In the process, we reviewed the upcoming rentals over the next year to see if there were any issues we needed to address.

Kauai always presents a beautiful mountain view.

Disappointed that we missed it during the booking process, we discovered that there is no oven in the first house in Fiji. There’s only a built-in stove top. How did we fail to notice this when we carefully read every detail before booking any property?

I suppose it was not unlike when we booked the house in Kenya, we didn’t think of asking if there was an indoor living room or lounge area or indoor sofa (there was not). 

Hanalei Beach is seen from one of the wraparound lanais at the St. Regis Hotel, where we often walk.

As a result of our failure to ask if there was a living room, we spent three full months from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm sitting outdoors on the screen-less veranda, getting bitten by mosquitoes and other insects, carefully stepping over poisonous centipedes seven days a week in scorching humid heat. (This proved to be a good thing when it toughened us up for the remaining almost nine months In Africa).

Who ever thought of asking if there’s a living room? (It was so hot and humid that the zippers on our luggage turned green). We now ask or verify in photos that there’s an indoor lounge, salon or living room. Lesson learned.

There’s always something burning in that area.  We aren’t certain what it is.

We booked Fiji after the no-living-room-situation in Kenya. In the fuzzy photos we could barely see a modern kitchen with a built-in stovetop assuming that there was an oven below. We also observed a microwave on the countertop assuming if there’s a microwave, surely there’s an oven We’d never discussed anything about an oven.

Lo and behold, a few days ago upon further inspection on the website, and based on the fact we’ll be moving into that particular property on September 8th, a mere 4½ months from now, we carefully inspected the listing to discover that there’s no oven, no toaster oven, no convection oven.

Savusavu villa rental - very spacious living room with fully equipped kitchen and dining of Villa B.B.
The kitchen in Fiji is along the back wall.  Its easy to see how we could have missed noticing if there was an oven or not by looking at this fuzzy photo.  We’ve never been in a property with a stove top but no oven. As a result we “assumed” if there was a stovetop, surely there would be an oven. We learn as we go.

For some travelers, not having an oven would be no big deal. However, spending 89 days in a single location cooking most of our meals, we need an oven. Plain and simple. Our way of eating requires considerable cooking in an oven.

View to the sea over African Tulip trees.

First step, rather than panicking was to contact the property manager Mario, to ask a few questions about the lack of an oven:
1.  What would the on-site cook charge us (its a resort) to come get our prepared items, bake them for us in whatever kitchen she uses to prepare meals for guests and return it, ready to be eaten?
2.  Is there a portable convection oven anywhere on the grounds that we could  use or have in our house for the 89 days?

Mario, a most thoughtful and helpful property manager, immediately went to work on coming up with a solution when I kindly asked for his assistance or suggestions.

Within 12 hours, Mario got back to me. He went to town and purchased a full-sized stove/oven which will be hooked up awaiting our arrival in September! We were both shocked and extremely pleased by his generosity and thoughtfulness.

View from several stories above this beach at the St. Regis Hotel. Tom has verbal slips, often referring to this as the St. Frances Hotel. His sister Beth is a nun and her order is the St. Frances. How that trips up his brain makes me laugh!

We never expected this amazing solution, nor would we have backed out of our commitment to end up booking somewhere else with an oven. The deposit we’d paid to date was only $300 and if we were different people, we may have forfeited the $300 and moved on. There are other rentals in Fiji.

Backing out is not our style. Mario had locked up that property for us over a year ago for our three-month stay.  Leaving them in the lurch just isn’t our style. 

We would have learned to cook everything on the stove top. I even went as far as looking online to see if there was a way to bake a low carb pizza or low carb muffins atop the stove. A microwave just won’t cut it. 

A bit of ocean, mountain and vegetation create an exquisite view.

We use an oven almost everyday for something; baked eggs muffins, Tom’s blueberry scones, a roast, a whole chicken (all low carb, starch, sugar, and grain-free) and on and on. It would have been very limiting. Plus, there’s no grill available on the property which would have been a difficult but acceptable alternative.

This kind of attention to detail and desire to please the customer doesn’t occur without the utmost of appreciation and gratefulness on our part. He didn’t even ask for a portion of the balance of the rent in order to buy the oven which isn’t due for several weeks. Wow!

We stopped for a moment to savor the view as we wandered through St. Regis Hotel.

Did we learn a new lesson? Most certainly. Added to our list of other items to verify in the future is now an oven. Here’s are some of our considerations for all of our rentals:

1.  Wireless broadband, directly in the property. TV not required.
2.  A living room with sofa and/or comfortable chairs. 
3.  Ceiling fans or if not available, air conditioning in the bedroom for hot nights (we’ve never used it here in Kauai).
4.  A full kitchen with an oven and stove top.  Dishwasher not necessary.  Microwave optional. 
5.  Ideally, an ocean view or other significant view if the property is located in the interior.
6.  A table and chairs or counter top area for dining. 
7.  A coffee pot, a large bowl, dishes, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, and knives.
8.  Bath towels. Believe it or not, some properties advertise to “bring your own linen.” This doesn’t work for us. 
9.  Easy access to a washing machine. We don’t need a dryer, only a drying rack or clothesline. We prefer to avoid taking our laundry to a Laundromat.
10. Access to a grocery store within a 30-minute drive.
11. A parking spot if we have a rental car. (In Fiji, we’ll use a driver).
12. An outdoor area of some sort. A pool preferred, not necessary.
13. Access to a safe area for walks or walks along the beach.
14. A comfortable bed, preferably larger than double. In the past, we’ve managed with a double bed provided it has adequate pillows and comfortable, clean bedding. There’s no way to determine this until the first night’s sleep.  In these past few years, we’ve adapted to some horribly uncomfortable beds. If a problem arises, we don’t hesitate to address it with the property owner. In December, on the Big Island, the owner immediately replaced an awful bed and threadbare linen upon at our request.

The chandelier at St. Regis Hotel is not necessarily befitting this tropical environment.

Anything included beyond the above, is considered a bonus and in many cases when we’ve walked in the door of a new property, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by some extras we hadn’t expected; a laundry basket, cleaning supplies, a vacuum, a blender or an ice machine (as opposed to using ice cube trays which is most often the case).

When we look back at all the abundance in our old lives such as possessing every kitchen gadget known to woman/man or TV’s with DVRs, high definition all access cable channels, or comfortable chaise lounges on a sunny patio or an outdoor table and chairs with an umbrella, it’s easy to see how much we have changed.

View across an indoor water display at St. Regis Hotel.

We’ve lowered our expectations, not only in what amenities we’ll expect in a vacation home that we rent for a period of time or, in a hotel for one night or, even at a restaurant. There’s nothing more satisfying than a pleasant surprise.

On the other hand, we make every effort to prepare ourselves for potential disappointments by figuring out workarounds rather than whining and complaining for two to three months. 

These commonly seen bright balls grow on various palm trees as future leaves, not always flowers.

I’ll send this post to Mario to ensure he realizes how much we appreciate what he’s done for us and how much it means to our level of enjoyment and comfort while in Fiji. Thank you, Mario. We look forward to meeting you and Tatjana in September.

Have a thought-provoking Tuesday filled with solutions for what may keep you awake at night. I only had to think about an oven in the middle for one night, thanks to Mario.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2014:

On the rooftop of our riad in Marrakech, a small area was designated for the washer. With Madame Zahra and Ouimama doing our laundry, we never had to use it. Of course, as is the case in many countries, wet clothes are hung outdoors. For details and more photos of the riad, please click here.