Creatures of habit…Are we willing to change?…Queen of routine?…

Its funny how we stumble across interesting articles on the web when we’re researching another topic, often leaving our original search in the lurch. It’s easy to forget our original thought as we become entranced by a new topic.

Today, while searching for information about “creatures living in Tuscany” I was taken to a great article about “creatures of habit.”

Laughing while getting sidetracked is normal for me when its a topic I’m drawn to regarding our habits which have become so obvious to us as we’ve left our old lives behind to begin anew. 

Bringing along our old habits didn’t surprise us.  They occupy no space in our luggage whether big or small, useless or useful, beneficial or harmful, annoying to one another or not, we brought along all of them.

Unfortunately, or not, we’ve discovered that our environment as we’ve moved from country to country, is not conducive to maintaining many of our old habits. The question for us has been.Shall we replace one habit with another more befitting our environment or,ilet it go entirely?

Without a doubt, we’ve reshaped many of our old habits, most of which are simple daily tasks that we adopted such as preparing the coffee pot at night to easily turn on in the morning, a task many of us habitually perform. Most likely, most of us have 100’s of such rituals we exercise each day, finding comfort in the routine, often performing these tasks without conscious thought.

Then, there are the others, the habits we believed we’d never change, never need to change as being harmless and insignificant in the realm of our daily lives. 

Suddenly, almost nine months after leaving Minnesota, those we’ve surrendered are glaring, as places we live force us to strip more and more habits away.  I must admit with a bit of trepidation, that I was the “queen of routine.”  I wasn’t bored by any means but kind of “stuck in my ways,” a state in which many of us see ourselves. 

Few of my habits were particularly harmful to myself or others, albeit annoying at times to my family and friends, less so to Tom. He’s always considered my quirks as mildly entertaining.

One cannot travel the world and find joy in the process while “being stuck in one’s ways.” Ultimately, it would create angst, frustration and unhappiness. What would be the point?

So, beside saying goodbye to the people we love and a lifetime of “stuff,” we’ve both had to say “goodbye” to many of the routines and habits that we thoroughly enjoyed, often looked forward to on any given day in our lives.

Here are a few of the habits each of us have forfeited in our travels:

For Tom:
1.  Reading the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper every day of the week. Based on poor quality of the download service by the few companies that offered the daily paper, he was forced to quit, not replacing it with any other daily publication.
2.  Sunflower seeds, salted in the shell. Quitting smoking last Halloween when we left Minnesota, he’d taken up a replacement habit of eating sunflower seeds. Now, as we travel the world, we’re unable to find them at any of the local grocery stores.
3.  Turning on the TV, remote in hand, able to “flick” to his favorite TV shows at leisure, all spoken in English. There are two financial news show, BBC news and France News, here in Italy spoken in English plus, reruns of Jimmy Kimmel. 

For Jess:
1.  Eating dessert every night. With easy access to low carb, gluten-free, sugar-free, starch-free, grain-free products, I was able to make desserts we’d enjoy every night after dinner during our last year in the US; the perfect plate of dessert, a special fork and a neatly folded linen napkin eaten while watching a favorite pre-recorded TV show provided great comfort. This habit is gone. Ingredients to make any type of dessert are not available.  If I find myself hungry a few hours after dinner, I may have a piece of hard cheese. Habit gone. That was the hardest one for me. 
2.  Crystal Light Ice Tea:  for no less than the past 10 years, I had my insulated mug filled with this ice tea with lots of ice at my side most days and night, out and about, in my car, visiting family and friends. I gave it up a week ago.  ts not available here and we were running low on our supply. The ice tea is 99% caffeine free. It was habit. Its over now. I’m free, instead drinking bubbly water with lemon. Its OK. After a few days, I stopped thinking about it.
3.  Watching Dr. Oz (with whom I didn’t always agree with his many mixed messages but enjoyed none the less) and also, Dr. Phil, every afternoon, since retiring, I turned on these two shows while chopping and dicing for dinner, folding laundry, baking desserts or other productive tasks, never sitting down  just to watch. These shows are unavailable for downloading or streaming outside the US. We could pay for a service but choose not at this point.

They say, “old habits die hard.”  Yes, they do. For us, new habits replaced them such as with the bubbly water and lemon, watching downloaded shows and reading books on our phones. 

In the past, we’d dine at 6:30 each night. Now, we try for 7:00 pm. We used to awaken the same time each morning, going to bed the same time at night. Now it changes from day to day. I used to do laundry every day. With no dryer, the weather is a factor for hanging clothes. I used to go to the health club on the same days each week. Now there’s no health club within an hour and a half drive on the mountain roads. I work out in the neighborhood, walking the hills.

Looking at the clock on my laptop as I write this, I see that’s it close to 4:00 pm.  It’s tea (hot) time. That habit, I’ll never break. Although I’ve decided that when I run out of my favorite Taiwan Pouchon in the next month or so, I’ll start drinking Earl Grey which appears to be available everywhere we’ve been. So far, that is.

Fitful night..Worrying…

Worrying is an enormous waste of time, especially during the night when restorative sleep is so vital to our well being. Each morning I am able to see how well I slept the previous night by plugging in my fitness armband to my computer.

As a lifelong fitness fanatic (“nut,” as Tom would say) I have been wearing a fitness armband for the past two years made by BodyMedia which tracks all my activities, calorie burn and sleep patterns which I can view on 
either my Android smartphone or laptop throughout the day to see how I am doing. My goal is take 10,000 steps per day, a tough goal lately while spending considerable time online these past months researching for our future travels.  

Each morning I plug the Bluetooth enabled device into my computer to recharge. As the data is uploaded, I can view how well I’ve slept the previous night. Invariably, my sleep pattern is totally dependent upon how much worrying I’ve done during the night. Last night my sleep efficiency was 81% indicating that approximately 19% of my lying in bed was spent worrying.
Sure, I may have spent 5% of the 9 hours lying in bedthinking pleasant thoughts, chatting with Tom, planning my day, wondering about the weather, and contemplating getting up. Subsequently, I actually slept about 7.5 hours, certainly plenty on an average night.
Why spend any time worrying? My theory has always been that worrying is only beneficial when the avoidance of it is so powerful that it inspires one to change that which they worrying about. Otherwise, it is wasted energy, time, and health. Years ago, my eldest son Richard, reminded me of this quote: 
“Worry is interest paid on a loan that never comes due.”
Tom has reminded me of Richard stating this quote many times over the years. Oddly, for most of us, we worry at night. As we busy ourselves with the activities of our day, our worry dissipates, only to be revived in the middle of the night. Years ago, I made a pact with myself: if worry appears during the night, do whatever I must during the day, to make it go away.  
Today, I have a bit of a dilemma. What task is necessary to stop worrying about one small part of our travels that kept me awake last night? Here is the source of my worrying, that started last night while reading online about traveling to Belize this upcoming January 29, 2013, a mere 9 months away: 
We will take the cruise from Miami, disembarking in Belize City, one day before its final destination. We were able to get permission from the cruise line to disembark early at Belize City, it’s second to last port. There are no cruises that actually “end”  or “begin” in Belize City with the reverse occurring when we leave on 4/9/2013, in both cases, missing out a few days of the cruise. The pricing both ways was less than the cost of a hotel, airfare and meals and thus we have been thrilled with this plan.
So, what am I worrying about? When we arrive in Belize City on January 29th, we must find a way to get to Placencia, Belize, a 17-mile long peninsula, a four-hour drive from Belize City! This map illustrates the location of our rental property. Toward the right side of the page is item #69, listed as “Decked Out House.”  I was worried…how do we get there? Here are the options:
1.  Rent a car in Belize City for the entire two and a half month period at the cost of $3000+. They don’t allow other “drop off” locations leaving us stuck with a car the entire period, barely using it with so much within walking distance as indicated on the map.
The popular means of transportation in Placencia is a nearby (walking distance) golf cart rental for about $10 hour, handy for grocery shopping, and nearby sightseeing. We anticipate that we’ll rent a golf cart for 8 hours a week.
2.  Fly from Belize City to Placencia at a cost of approximately $400 round trip for both of us plus cab fare from the airport to property about $40 plus the cost of the golf cart. Little prop plane. No thank you. Golf cart rental plus airfare for a total of $1240
3.   Shuttle: $175 each way for an air-conditioned shuttle, leaving at specific times each day (may require some waiting) plus the cost of a golf cart for 8 hours a week for a total for entire period = $1150
Writing this down today, calculating the costs, realizing we won’t fly in the little plane, the solution is clear…we will use the shuttle and rent the golf carts for 8 hours a week. If we decide we want to wander further away from Placencia, we’ll rent a car in Placencia, for one day at a time. Worry dismissed!
What will I worry about tonight? Our Placencia rental is from February 1 to March 31, 2013.  Our cruise drops us off on January 29th and our picks us up on April 9th. Where do we stay on January 29, 30, and 31st? Where do we stay from March 31 to April 9th?  
In checking out hotels on either end, it appears the average night in a decent hotel will be no less than $200 a night, plus transportation for 11 days, plus meals for 11 days (requiring us to eat every meal in a restaurant), plus taxes, plus tips may total $4000 or more, the usual cost of an 11-day vacation in Belize. This doesn’t comply with our budget and can throw off our numbers.
Time to get back to work on the Internet to find a solution for this dilemma, get that sleep efficiency number up to 95% tonight, and get in my 10,000 steps! Once this is done, I can start worrying about the zip line in Belize! Ha!

Giving up habits..Wean me slowly!…

Bye, bye tea!

“They,” say it takes three weeks to break a habit. Yes, we still have six months and fourteen days until we leave for our adventure, but I feel compelled to start weaning myself off of some of my habits and routines. Most likely, Tom will bring his habits with us! 

We often chuckle over our routines and habits, as written in the first entry in this blog on March 14, 2012, describing in painstaking detail how we jointly manage to change clocks twice a year for daylight savings. That bi-annual event is but the tip of the iceberg!

Creatures of habit, we are! As we anticipate the homes we will occupy in the countries we will visit, many of our familiar and comforting routines will be tossed aside. Never staying long enough in any location to firmly establish new routines, we will strive to find ways to feel at ease and comfortable in someone else’s space.

The master bath in our home has a sink with brass fixtures, a bit outdated, but still attractive and befitting our lodge-like home on a lake here in Minnesota. The faucet in the pedestal sink drips. Over the years we’ve had several plumbers looking at it, telling us that the faucet cannot be repaired and must be replaced with a more current design. It still looks quite nice.

The faucet leaks when not shut off tightly (mostly by me). It drips onto the brass ring and stopper at the drain. This annoys me. Two to three times a day, I get out the Barkeeper’s Friend with a little sponge kept at the bottom of the closet (have to bend over each time), wet the sponge, sprinkle the Barkeepers, and scrub the drain until it sparkles, drying off every last drop of water with a piece of toilet paper. 

Good riddance!

Throwing the t.p. in the toilet, I consider flushing it but don’t. Why waste water?  Why don’t I throw it in the little plastic bag inside the little decorative brash trimmed, off-white porcelain trash can? Simple, I don’t want to have to feel compelled to empty the trash! (Now you can see why the details of planning this extended many years life of world travel, make me feel right at home as if you didn’t already know)! Two or three times a day, I do this! Twenty-six years!!!

Will I immediately go to a grocery store upon arriving in Belize, buy a Barkeeper’s Friend equivalent, and a small scrubby sponge to run back to our little ocean side house and start scrubbing the sparkly stainless steel drain two to three times a day? I don’t think so. Some habits will die on their own. Good riddance!  

However, other habits will be harder to break. This morning, as usual (another habit) I awaken at 5:30 am. I get up, hit the loo (Ha! Look, I am already getting more familiar with foreign expressions!), brush my teeth, wash my face and put in my contacts in order to see and go back to bed to look at my phone, an AndroidX loaded with 100’s of apps, but only a few I habitually use: Gmail, Facebook, Pulse, and Amazon Kindle Free App (containing my latest reading obsession).  

This morning I realized that this may not be possible once we are no longer on US soil. Yes, we will have access to the Internet on our laptops, many times provided as wireless broadband by the property owners. During these periods, we will be unable to use the Internet on our phones unless we are willing to pay outrageous fees. 

When I calculated the possible fees, it would be about $5000 a month for playing with our phones, considering our current megabyte usage, utilizing our current service provider! No thank you! (We will get into this in more depth on this topic as we move along here and discuss XCOMGLOBAL and SIM card options). Thus, another habit to break! Playing with our phones! Yikes!

We have three flat-screen TV’s as do many Americans, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the kitchen. From the moment we are up and about, until going to bed, the TV is on in the background, quietly or off when talking or loudly when watching due to Tom’s hearing loss (42 years on the railroad).  

Although recently distracted with our laptops; Tom with ancestry, me with travel stuff, we usually spend most evenings together watching shows we programmed during the week. This “getting outside your head” form of entertainment is a delightful respite from the stresses of everyday life.   

Most of the vacation rentals will have tiny hard to watch old TVs with shows in foreign languages. No more piling up our plates with tasty homemade dinners to sit and watch yet another episode of “Downton Abbey”, “Dexter” or one of our favorite mindless, sinfully deliciously reality shows.  

Guess we’ll watch TV on our computers when we have Internet access or watch the many movies we plan to download to a yet-to-be-purchased portable four terabyte external hard drive.  

Here’s another habit, hard to break. Every afternoon at 4:00 PM, I brew tea, one cup at a time, at exactly the correct temperature, with precisely the same pot, for exactly three minutes, with a certain strainer, a special timer, a sterling silver spoon, in a pale green cup, with 3 drops of liquid Stevia, my own version of Happy Hour.  
I only like one type of tea, Pouchong, a hard to find, buy-online-only tea grown in the spring in Taiwan. I have tried numerous other teas to no avail. Oh, no! The bag of tea, the strainer, the cup, the timer, the Splenda, the pot, the spoon all weigh 2.7 pounds which equals 3.85% of our allowable luggage when we fly. Bye, bye tea!