Jackets..too hot…too cool?

Our mission to find the appropriate jackets for our adventure is yet another challenge.  Here in Minnesota, a heavy winter coat is appropriate from November to May.

Tired of wearing coats all winter, I have preferred to bundle up with sweaters the remainder of the year, currently not owning any lightweight jackets suitable for travel.  Tom, on the other hand, has a few older lightweight jackets and, although still in reasonable condition are not ideal for our upcoming long term travel.

Buying clothing while still here in Minnesota has been a vital aspect of our preparations for our three plus years on the road.  Minnesota has no tax on clothing and shoes, saving us as much as 8%.  Also, buying online with deep discounts and/or free shipping has also saved us a bundle.

A perfect example of these savings came as a result of my getting “points” from the company Earndit, only yesterday when I redeemed 1000 points I accrued from wearing the BodyMedia exercise armband for the past 18 months, now to be replaced by my new “wear on body” exercise device, FitBit which also accumulates Earndit points.

Both of these devices have kept track of my activity levels, steps, calories, burned, and quality of sleep.  (I discussed this device in a prior post).  Recently, I replaced the BodyMedia with the FitBit with the goal of eliminating the $6.95 monthly membership fee required by BodyMedia.

Sure, I spent $75 on eBay to buy the FitBit but, in less than 11 months, it will pay for itself.  Also, I must admit that convenience played a role in this decision. The BodyMedia is worn on the upper arm often eliciting annoying inquiries as to its purpose. FitBit is worn inside one’s clothing attached to undergarments, making it entirely invisible.

Yesterday, while we were sitting in our comfy chairs, taking a short respite from the heat outside, I redeemed 1000 of my 2500 points at Earndit for a $100 gift card to RailRiders to be redeemed with a $175 or more purchase.

I purchased the Men’s Insect Shield Pants for $98 and the Women’s Insect Shield Pants for $89 for a total of $187 plus $7.95 shipping for a grand total of  $194.95.  Using the $100 coupon, I paid $94.95 for an average price per pair of $47.48.

Women’s Insect Shield PantsPrice: $89.00

Men’s Insect Shield Pants, Price: $98.00  
Thrilled that my daily exercise monitors afforded us each an additional pair of pants, I am now ready to commence my search for jackets now we otherwise  have enough clothing for the upcoming eight months in Africa. 

Since we plan to bring only one jacket each they must serve us well throughout the world. The requirements for jackets include:

    • Lightweight, comfortable
    • Attractive
    • Waterproof
    • Lots of pockets
    • Hood
    • Removable sleeves, if possible
Sound easy.  However, I’ve spent no less than four hours researching online to find only one manufacturer, Scottevest that may fit the bill, except for this fact: the lightweight jackets are not so attractive. Tom wants a jacket that has a safari look and I agree. We love all the pockets in their jackets but, the look, not so much.  

Most would say, “who cares about looks when function is the key?”  If one is going to be wearing the same clothes, day after day, month after month, year after year, it’s not a bad idea to like it!  (Not too dissimilar from our “liking” one another).

 

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!

 

Last Easter with the family for awhile…

Family life is often filled with traditions, the traditions we created for our children when they were young, that we adapted as they matured and those that we’ve rekindled for their children, our six grandchildren, years later. 

The comfort and familiarity of reenacting holiday traditions, each year filled Tom and me with guarded anticipation. Over these past years, we have come to accept, although at times painfully so, that our adult children have the right to build their own traditions that may at times, not include us.  

We recall the struggle and oftentimes, the guilt we felt when the first Christmas morning came when we chose to stay home as opposed to going to our parents’ homes. We wanted to savor Santa’s bounty with our own children, their eyes wide with delight as they anxiously ripped open package after package, them in their cartoon character pajamas, us with big coffee mugs warming our hands, all with the ease and comfort of spending this special time cozy at home.

And now, as their families have grown, their own traditions firmly rooted in their lives, in their own homes, we especially find ourselves reeling with the anticipation of all of them breaking away to spend special time with us once again, this Easter Sunday.

Practically dancing on my tiptoes, around our ten-foot-long dining room table, my arms were laden with gifts of every variety, candies carefully selected for special diets and preferences, I gleefully fill the 17 Easter baskets (including four pet baskets). I swap out one Thomas toy train for a Transformer truck from one basket to another, stepping back, visualizing the correctness of my decision, and smile. Each year, we always say, “this is the best year yet.” And it is.

Oh, good grief! I’d better improve my photo taking skills before we leave!

The meaning of Easter is not lost on our abundance of baskets, the colored eggs, the homemade bunny rabbit cake, the carefully planned and executed brunch, and of course, the painstakingly thought out game and Easter egg hunt. No, it’s not lost. It’s for forgiveness. It’s for thankfulness and, most of all, it’s for love.

This year is no different, the traditions are all here, the pile of fuzzy bunny rabbit ears everyone will place on their heads when they enter the door, the laughter over the rambunctious silly games, the glee in the voices of the little ones when they discover yet another plastic egg filled with candy, a small toy or a dollar bill.  It’s all the same. It’s all predictable. Laughter fills the air. It’s all heartwarming.

Tom and I will look at each other from across the room, our faces hurting from too much smiling, our eyes glistening with too many tears, as we enjoyed this last Easter tradition, knowing full well that we and they, will be building new traditions in the time to come.

 

Missing…

Last Saturday as I was getting ready to head out the door to a family member’s baby shower, Tom said, “Move slowly and look out the window to your right.”

As usual and to our delight, there was one of Mother Nature’s delectable morsels in our yard. I moved gingerly toward the window to my right. 

A wild turkey lumbered around the stone patio with eyes darting fervently for a possible intruder. As I moved to grab my phone’s camera, which proved to be too quickly, he spotted me and scurried away. A wave of sadness came over me, not over missing the shot, but after missing the frequent sightings of God’s precious creatures, abundant here in Minnesota, abundant here on the lake.
I will miss the coyotes, their grace, their piercing eyes, their hunger for the little dogs here at the point, along with the caution we’ve exercised all these years to avert their consumption of own little wonders. I will miss the eagle that swooped into our yard to settle high up on a favorite tree, the glaring stance, the perfectly poised talons, easily able to grab a fifteen-pound unsuspecting furry pet in seconds.
Early spring this year, the loons appeared. With their pointy beaks, banded throats, and musical calls they flirt with one another primping for the prospect of little chicks yet to come, who will somehow know that shyness is quite appropriate in this land of predators and humans. I will miss that sound.

We will miss the adventure of the one-day event of baby wood ducks being mercilessly tossed from the wood duck house by their parents, hoping they’ll survive the long fluttery jump to the ground, the short trek to the water.
They scurry about the yard frantically, unsure of which way to go, a few wanderers ending near the house, only to be coached along with us humans, careful not to touch and leave our scent. The cheep, cheep, cheep of the fluffy little puff balls will be hard to forget in the days to come.  

The heron, so playfully referred to as “Big Bird” by my husband, to our long lost WorldWideWillie who enthusiastically ran to the end of the dock to chase this leggy character, unfazed by its disgruntled roar as it flew away. With the utmost curiosity, he’d sniff its remains. I will miss “Big Bird.”  

Of course, I will continue to miss Willie. No longer will we be able to stand by his little grave marker in the yard. Willie inspired me to write my first blog, a blog that will end on April 9, 2012, the one year anniversary of the day he died. Each night after writing that blog, I’d read aloud the day’s writings to Tom holding back the tears. 

It’s sad and ironic that when losing a beloved pet, we not only cry for the loss of their companionship, we cry for the loss of their peculiar habits, their tricks, their ticks, their characteristics, and their rituals all of which bring us humor, familiarity, and comfort.  

And sometimes, when we cry for the loss of our pet, we cry for all the losses of our lives at the same time; the loss of people, the loss of relationships, the loss of meaningful work, the loss of success, the loss of hope, the loss of health and the loss of a dream, whatever that dream may be.

Yes, we will miss Mother Nature’s gifts here in Minnesota, but the nice thing about her is, she goes wherever we go, even if we only stop for only a moment to we breathe in the fresh air, to look and to listen. She will be there. 

Ouch!…Plunge, twist and release…

After two hours of being terrified at the prospect of contracting one of many horrifying diseases throughout the world, I left the Park Nicollet Travel Immunization Clinic with my head swimming. WHAT ARE WE DOING????

If we don’t die from the side effects of the Yellow Fever or Typhoid shots, we might die from one of the many diseases for which there is no immunization or treatment! Why tell me, overly efficient, profoundly knowledgeable, delightfully warm Travel Nurse Marcia, who hugged me when I left, that we could die?  

On information overload and losing my competency to make reasonable decisions, I agreed to our taking $10 a day malaria pills (fewer side effects) that we’ll need to take for eight-plus months, $700 rabies shots, $80 for tuberculosis tests, and also, an array of 10 or more other vaccines that will total in the $1000’s. We sure hope the insurance company will pay for these. I hadn’t budgeted $300 a month for malaria pills!

I felt as if I were buying a car from a persuasive, albeit highly competent “salesperson” who was trying to sell me safety features that invoked so much guilt that I couldn’t resist buying. I signed up for everything. Oh, I did hesitate on one thing, flu shots. Why would we need flu shots that are derived from viruses only prevalent in the US? Go figure! What if we went out to dinner with an American couple we meet on a cruise ship who currently has the flu? We signed up for that too!  

The dreaded Yellow Fever shot will be on May 1. I am terrified. Four people died from the vaccine alone (OK, four deaths of out one million, not quite a high risk). I said to Travel Nurse Marcia, trying to reassure myself, “Those four people could have died that day anyway, right?” She reassuringly nodded her head. On May 1, please pray for me. Later, for Tom.

Tom has yet to go to his two-hour appointment. I suggested that Travel Nurse Marcia not tell Tom everything she told me for three reasons: 1. He gets bored listening to medical stuff. 2. He’ll pretend to be listening when he isn’t. 3. He’ll refuse the shots and tell her to take a hike.   

Oh good grief, I can picture my dear husband, sick with some dreadful disease, ensconced inside a mosquito net, with me at his side, frantically trying to nurse him back to health. Sounds like a scene in a movie! No, thank you. PLEASE my dear handsome, charming, funny, adorable, “best husband in-the-world,” agree to get your shots, take your $5 pills with food and SHUT UP about it!

So, lovely Travel Nurse Marcia left the room after handing me my stack of 100 CDC documents to read, moments later returning with a tray loaded up with four, that’s right four, giant syringes on a sterilized stainless steel tray. She gently set the tray down on the counter, leaving the room again. I stared at the tray, my heart pounding so hard, I could hear it in my head. Minutes later, she returned instructing me to get up on the exam table.  

The rest is a blur, rolling up my sleeves, taking a deep breath, feeling the brutal violation of my pale winter skin while each of four syringes plunges deep into the tender flesh of my upper arms. OUCH!!! It felt as if she “plunged, twisted, and released” those horse-sized syringes. Then,  it was over, for now at least. I waited for something to happen. Nothing happened.

After sleeping fitfully all night, unable to lay on either side. My arms hurt as anticipated from the warning by Travel Nurse Marcia. After two huge cups of coffee this morning I’m back to my “old” self, dressed in workout clothes, off to the gym and then to the bank to transfer the 25% deposit in 1481 francs (today’s going rate, which is about $300 US dollars) to the owner of the charming “Stone House” in Cajarc, France for one month beginning April 18, 2014 (yes, 2 years from now). Nothing like planning ahead!

BTW, the itinerary will follow later today. 

 

 

The final criteria, lots more to follow…

Here we go! We’re wrapping up the all-important criteria today, allowing us to proceed to the equally important itinerary in the next post. As I mentioned earlier, listing these vital “rules” again and again is certainly tedious. 

Seeing them over and over, reading them aloud to Tom each time I write, is exactly what we’ve needed to be reminded of the importance of following these guidelines. Without them, the temptation to book expensive vacation rentals, overpriced cruises, and the occasional exorbitant hotel rooms would throw our financial plan out of whack.  

The goal of avoiding the necessity of tapping into our savings or investments is a huge motivator. Fear, the infinite motivator. Fear, being forced to stop this adventure due to financial constraints. Fear, canceling future travel due to health issues. Fear, the caves with the bats, the guano. Fear, the zip line.

Friends and family have asked, “What happens if you get bored?” We didn’t get bored living in our home together for the past 21 years, in the comfy chairs, enjoying lounging in a lawn chair in the summer, eating homemade meals, watching episodes of our favorite TV shows, chatting, laughing, and socializing.  

They also ask, “What if you get tired of traveling?” We’ll stop. We’ll cancel future plans, maybe lose a deposit or two but we’ll stop. We’ve agreed that if one of us wants to stop, the other will agree. Knowing this, comforts us. Knowing this, removes the fear. 

So, the remaining criteria:

Criteria #7:  Never stay in a vacation rental for less than one month. The rationale behind this rule is simple. Staying in one location not only reduces transportation expenses, but provides us with the opportunity to negotiate better rates when staying a month or more.  

Many of the property owners allow a stay of as little as three or four days, requiring added paperwork, liability, and cleaning. Their piece of mind is a substantial motivator for them to accept a lower rent for their property. As each month’s stay is extended in the negotiations, the price goes down proportionately. This will be illustrated by the rental amounts we will post with the itinerary.

Criteria #8:  No trinkets!  As tempting as “bargains,” “souvenirs” and local “handicrafts” appeal to us during our travels, we will resist the temptation. The cost of excess baggage along with the horror of hauling some heavy wooden objects all over the world is preposterous!

We will make a list of the items we encounter that tempt us. Once we settle someday, we will easily be able to find similar items online or in some cases, purchase them from the actual vendor’s web site. Often these tempting artifacts can be found for half the price on eBay, from sellers who found they were tempted during their travels. Most often, when we look back at such a wish list at a later date, we’ll find that we have lost interest anyway.

Criteria #9:  The availability of Internet/cellphone access with us at all times. This was a tough one. I’ve spent no less than an entire week researching various options. We now have discovered solutions (of course, subject to technology changes over the next several months). For Internet access, 24/7, in our rental, on the road, and part-time on cruises, we’ll use MiFi Rental with XCom Global. In a future post, I will write about the cost and how this works.  

As for cellphone service, we will be buying an Unlocked International cell phone into which we can purchase and install a local SIM card using the available local network (which is what most cell phone users in many countries use for service). SIM cards result in considerably lower rates, all without the use of a contract. Here again, I will write an entire post on this subject.

Criteria #10:  Cook and eat in! Due to health concerns we live a low carb, wheat-free, starch-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free lifestyle. Occasionally Tom will indulge along the way! He won’t be able to resist pasta in Italy or a baguette in France. But, for me, my ongoing health from this way of eating it a huge motivator. Cooking and eating in the kitchen of our vacation rental will save us $1000’s along the way.  

We currently spend about $800 a month on food (all organic produce with grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, and eggs, organic dairy). This may sound like a huge sum for two people, but that totals only $26.67 a day. After considerable research, we feel confident that we’ll be able to maintain this budget and our food requirements. I currently pack 3 meals a day for Tom’s long 12 hour workdays.

We could never eat two to three meals a day in a restaurant in any of the countries we are visiting for a mere $26.67 for both of us! We have budgeted the cost of enjoying a dinner out in a nice restaurant, once or twice a week depending upon local prices.  

That one dinner a week may cost $25 in Belize including tax and tip, but could be $125 in Tuscany, resulting in an expenditure of $6500 a year, enough to pay for a vacation rental for 4.3 months or 8.6 months, if eating out twice a week. It’s a matter of trade-offs.  

I don’t think we’ll mind grilling a steak on the veranda in Majorca, Spain while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

In review, here is a complete list of all the criteria:

Criteria #1: Do not have a permanent home!
Criteria #2: Do not own cars!
Criteria #3: Do not stay in hotels unless absolutely necessary!
Criteria #4: Do not pay more than that which we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!
Criteria #5: Use the cruise!
Criteria #6: Bag the excess baggage!
Criteria #7: Never stay in a vacation rental for less than one month!
Criteria #8: No trinkets!
Criteria #9: The availability of Internet/cellphone access with us, at all times!
Criteria#10: Cook and eat in!

Sure, all of the above is subject to change. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s a work in progress. By the time we are ready to leave in seven months and ten days, we may laugh or even cringe at what we “thought” we knew and posted here, this early in the process. In any case, we learn as we go, on a perpetual mission of gaining knowledge, reducing fear, and ultimately, having the time of our lives.  

Bag the bags!…

Writing a blog about upcoming travel is very different than writing after traveling has occurred. Although we both have traveled extensively in the past, long before we met and little after we met, we know full well that predicting the outcome of future travel, its level of enjoyment and personal enrichment is highly speculative.

There is no doubt that later on, as we roll out each leg of our endless itinerary, that we may change our minds and subsequently change or add to these criteria that we have determined as important for financial success (staying in the budget) and security (of traveling exclusively utilizing our monthly income as opposed to using investments/saved funds).

The process of explaining this is a bit tedious for a writer such as me, preferring a more “flowery” and “expressive” type of writing, as opposed to the more “clinical” aspect of describing this process. 

Undoubtedly, as we move along, traveling and writing, there will be a 50/50 ratio between technical details and the emotionally enlightening experiences such as cruising through the Panama Canal during its extensive renovation, catching our first king salmon in Alaska, and feeding a giraffe through the window of our temporary home in South Africa. The first 571 days of the itinerary will follow soon.

Here are our “rules” so far…

Criteria #1: Do not have a permanent home!
Criteria #2: Do not own cars! 
Criteria #3: Do not stay in hotels unless absolutely necessary!
Criteria #4: Do not pay more than that which we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!
Criteria #5: Use the cruise!
Criteria #6: Bag the excess baggage! Cruise lines are more liberal on the number and weight of bags than airlines. In the first 10 months of our itinerary, we won’t step foot on an airplane. The temptation is to load up our two suitcases each and our carry on bags. 

Upon investigating baggage fees, for example, for the possible airlines that can fly us to Africa, the fees are astounding. Some only allow 44 pounds in checked baggage per person! When we flew to Florida for 7 days last fall, we each had two bags totaling 100 pounds! I calculated that we would have had to pay an additional $800 each for overweight baggage, more than the cost of the flight per person from Rome to Kenya!

How will we pack lightly? Can’t imagine! Even Tom has a penchant for packing everything he owns when we’ve traveled in the past. Later on, we will write about how this preposterous scenario will unfold.  

How will a woman, such as myself, pack lightly, one who insists upon using a wide array of cosmetics, having a fresh change of clothes daily, likes a certain tea, a certain coffee bean, a certain low carb sweetener, a certain baking pan and an endless array of gadgets? 

What about workout clothes and the requisite rotating tennis shoes? What about the 20 different bottles of vitamins and supplements we each take in what may prove to be a futile effort to stave off “old man time?”  What about heavy jeans, jackets, rainwear, hiking boots, Tom’s suit, and my evening dress (dresses) for “dress up” dinners aboard the cruise? I’ve spent hours reading about how to pack for travels; two pairs of casual pants, four tee shirts, one dress shirt, one pair of dressy shoes, one pair of walking shoes, a raincoat, an umbrella, and la la la.  

Last week I bought a travel scale. I weighed it on the kitchen scale. It was advertised at 1.5 pounds, but in fact, weighed 2.3 pounds. I am already using 0.052% of my allotment (44 pounds) on the scale itself! Oh, dear, packing is almost as frightening as the zip line in Belize!

Criteria #7 to follow next time. Please come back!

 

Continuation of the strict criteria…

Yesterday, I wrote about the first four criteria that we have discovered making long-term world travel affordable for us as a retired couple (Tom retires on Halloween), on a fixed monthly income. Let’s review those points before I continue with the others:

Criteria #1:   Do not have a permanent home! 
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars! 
Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels unless absolutely necessary!
Criteria #4:   Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!

Criteria #5: Use the cruise!  As described earlier, we have booked five cruises so far with two more in the works.  Of the 571 days, we have booked thus far, beginning October 31, 2012, 71 days will be spent living aboard a cruise ship, rated a score of 4 or more (out of a possible 6).  

A vital factor in maintaining the integrity of our budgeting is that cruising results in a maximum average cost per day, not to exceed a combined $350 including fees, taxes, and tips. This amount far exceeds our average daily rental of $50. However, we are booking cruises to be a mode of transportation to and from countries where we’ll have booked a vacation rental. 

Cruising replaces the following usual travel expenses:
1.  Cost of Rental
2.  Three (or more, if preferred) meals per day
3.  Transportation to and from the rental location
4.  Taxis, car rental, trains, buses, and other local modes of transportation while getting around the area

Some cruise pricing includes tips, others do not. Keep in mind that tipping may be as much as $25 per day, per person. We have included them above in our daily total. Also, every cruise has an ongoing credit account for the charges, WiFi, non-included tips, drinks, meals in specialty restaurants, spa services, certain activities, and of course, the casino and shopping in the “tourist trap” shops.  

Internet access to your digital equipment is very expensive. Turning off data and roaming features will avoid the shock of one’s life when seeing the bill at for the onboard WiFi fees.

It’s imperative to check in advance with the cruise line as to WiFi policies and charges. Future posts will explain cell phone usage and Internet access while traveling abroad, a challenge for long term travelers like ourselves visiting 25 countries in less than 2 years (Yes, the itinerary will be posted soon)!

The cruise guy (and company we are using) Joaquin, at Vacations To Go has an appealing pre-booking incentive: book cruises in advance, and as prices drop, the customer receives the benefit of the reduced pricing, up to 90 days prior to the sailing date, being unaffected by potential price increases. 

Pre-booking secures a decent cabin that we choose at the time of booking by paying the deposit, usually around 25% of the cost of the cruise. We refuse to stay in an inside cabin many of which have little space, if any, to even walk around the bed. All of the cabins we are choosing are either a “Balcony” or “Mini-Suite.”  

In summary, cruising costs about $200 more per day than staying in a rental. Building a budget that allows for this expense, adds much to our enjoyment while freeing us on transportation costs, preparing meals, and handling baggage. The opportunity to see a little piece of many locations in a short time span is appealing.  Adding to the experience is choosing a cabin on the correct side of the ship, allowing the best viewing advantage of land throughout the cruise.

Most cruise fares include port charges but getting off the ship at various ports will undoubtedly result in often hundreds of dollars in additional charges for excursions, meals, shopping, and the usual hawkers selling their wares. We will stay on the ship as much as possible to avoid these tourist traps. 

Soon, Criteria #6 will be posted. Thanks for stopping by!

 

Our strict critera…

At the end of my last entry, I promised to explain the strict criteria we have established to ensure the financial goal of our world travel: Our total travel expenses would not exceed the expenses we would have incurred to live in a $1500 a month condo in Arizona or any tax-free state such as Florida or Nevada.  Using an Excel spreadsheet we listed the normal expenses we would experience in our new retirement lifestyle, entitled “Basic Living Expenses”  

  1. Rent or mortgage payment: include association dues, if applicable
  2. Taxes: federal, state and property, if applicable
  3. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  4. Auto expenses: payment for a newer vehicle still under warranty, gas, maintenance, insurance
  5. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, health club dues, alternative therapies, and supplements
  6. Other insurance
  7. Cable and Internet: including a few premium channels (we love Dexter, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Shameless)
  8. Cellphones: a smartphone with unlimited data
  9. Utilities: gas, electric, water, trash 
  10. Entertainment and dining out (carefully limited)
  11. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  12. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, greeting cards, postage
  13. Publications: magazines, newspapers, online subscriptions
  14. Miscellaneous: occasional purchase or replacement of household goods, donations, cash for incidentals
  15. Pet care: food, treats, toys, groomer and vet (no pet now since we lost our WorldWideWillie last April) but we would have a new dog if we settled into a retirement lifestyle
  16. Banking fees; interest on credit cards, if applicable; 
  17. Savings
Upon keeping our costs as low as possible, in an effort to live a relatively conservative retirement lifestyle we had a total. Thus…

Criteria #1:  Do not have a permanent home!
With these numbers in mind, we created the next worksheet in our Excel workbook, entitled “Fixed Living Expenses” which were those we’d incur if we traveled but didn’t have a permanent home. Although we are not accountants nor possess a degree as such, we labeled the tabs that we felt best represented the analysis we chose to perform. These were expenses we’d have whether we were on a cruise, temporarily living in Spain, or on a safari in Africa that didn’t include travel expenses.
  1. Taxes: federal, state and property, if applicable
  2. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat and poultry with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  3. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, supplements 
  4. Other insurance 
  5. A cellphone (one between us):
  6. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  7. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, postage
  8. Banking fees: interest on credit cards, if applicable
  9. Savings
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars!  (And resulting payments, depreciation, storage, insurance, gas and maintenance)

We will sell both of our cars before we step foot out of this country, instead of renting a car if necessary. While calculating our auto expense, considering the two payments, insurance, gas and maintenance, the total was $1523 per month, which more than covers all of our upcoming flights, trains, ferries, taxis and rental cars (three of our credit cards provide free rental car insurance when the card is used for the rental car charges)!
Then we took the “Fixed Living Expenses” and created an “Average Daily Expense” which, no matter our travel expenses or living arrangements, would always be relevant numbers in our financial planning.

Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels other than the short term! How is it possible to travel without staying in hotels? Sleep in a tent? Hardly! Rent an RV? Too expensive! Mooch off people you may know that live in exotic places? Never! Staying in a hotel requires the expense of meals in restaurants, tips, city, county, state and local taxes, outrageously priced cocktails and beverages, and of course, and the tempting “tourist trap” shops and services. 

Simple answer: Only stay in houses, condos, townhouses, villas, apartments, and other such property owned, but not currently occupied, by private parties. Property owners are often anxious to rent their own homes and rental properties at reasonable rates knowing full well that the distraught economy and worldwide strife has tempered world travel. We have found that we prefer to rent houses and villas as opposed to apartments, which are often noisy and offer fewer amenities.
Criteria #4:  Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!   The above described $1500 month was the magic number that fit into our predetermined budget. How is this possible? Only $1500 a month for a house? Yes, the gorgeous 17th century, totally renovated villa in Tuscany, Italy is $1400 month! Yes, the amazing little beach house in Placencia, Belize is $1250 a month! Yes, the charming house in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, surrounded by the free-roaming wildlife is $1387 a month! We will share more about these astounding rentals as we continue here.
There is so much more to share, including the remaining Criteria, how to calculate total expenses, why we have booked five cruises thus far with two more waiting to be posted. How and why we have booked ahead 571 days from this coming Halloween, Tom’s retirement date. How we will experience the first 10 months of our adventure without ever stepping foot onto an airplane? 

Certainly, we have a “to-do” list that is daunting. Certainly, there is a degree of risk. Certainly, there is some blind faith that we are going to enjoy our new lives, free from all the familiar comforts that we have reveled in all these years. And most certainly, our love and devotion to one another will see us through all the challenges we encounter along the way.  

We have mutually agreed that if at any time, one of us is tired, bored, or tired of being on the move, we will stop and find “home’ wherever that we may be.