Happy 4th of July to all our friends in the US…How do I get health insurance now?

Bay view on a sunny morning in Connemara.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Many Irish names begin with “Mac,” which translates to mean “son of.”

Firstly, let’s start today with wishes for a safe and festive July 4th weekend to all of our friends and family members in the US. With the holiday falling on a Thursday, it may be a four-day weekend for many workers.  
In our old lives, we celebrated the Independence Day of America with considerable enthusiasm. We had 300 small flags lining the lakeshore, which Tom had put in place the previous night; I baked an American flag sheet cake using strawberries and blueberries for the stars and stripes, and we often had a party for friends and family.
Today, here in Ireland, this is another lovely Thursday in Ireland. To celebrate the day, early this morning, we took a drive in the countryside, taking photos along the way.
We spotted lots of cattle on a morning drive but few sheep.

It is still a cool day at 10C, 59F, but the winds were light and the sky sunny. Now a few hours later, the clouds have rolled in, and there isn’t a spot of blue in the sky.  But the weather doesn’t keep us from reveling in the scenery we see out any window in our vacation home, constantly reminding us of this beautiful country.

As I had promised myself over a month ago, on the 4th of July, I’d be able to walk up the hill from the driveway on my own with no help from Tom. This morning, I gleefully accomplished this task and have decided to repeat it at least five times a week to build my stamina for walking up steep hills.

That is not to say my healing is complete. At a little over 4½ months from the bypass surgery and three months since the two-leg surgeries, I’d be deluding myself to say the healing process is complete. I still have pain and discomfort in my sternum and legs. I’ve read that some patient’s chests don’t heal for over a year.

Flowers blooming on the side of the road.

I don’t think it will take me a year, but I will progress considerably by the six-month mark. The wound in my left leg should be closed within a month. The other already-closed incisions are still tender to touch and feel painful at night in bed.  

The hematoma in my right thigh is starting to look a little better but requires a pillow between my legs at night to avoid keeping me awake from the pain. I’m hopeful, and when I think we’ll be on a cruise in 5½ weeks, I continue to exercise, try to get enough sleep, and eat a healthy diet.  

While on the upcoming cruise from Amsterdam to Amsterdam, we have a very busy and active two-day small group tour to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m working hard to prepare myself for this tour. In the evenings, we’ll return to the ship for the night meeting with the van at the pier the following day.

The online translation of this monument was tricky to accomplish. Can any of our new readers in Ireland translate this for us?  If so, please send an email or comment at the end of the post.

Speaking of my health situation once again (apologies for the repetition), we’ve been busy the past several days searching for a health insurance policy that accepts pre-existing conditions. We weren’t hopeful.

And, not surprisingly, we cannot find insurance for me that would include anything to do with my heart and arteries. In the worst case, I may qualify 12 months after no further treatment was required. This 12-month period would begin on May 10, 2019, when I no longer needed any medical care.

We still have coverage with the company that isn’t paying our claims, and until they provide us with formal notification, everything else is covered. The rate is almost Euro 709,  US $800 a month, which doubled after the surgery.  

A bull in a field with lots of what appeared to be pregnant females.

There’s nothing we can do at this point, short of returning to live in the US to get Medicare, Part B, and a supplement (they don’t pay outside the US). We are not willing to do this at this time and forfeit this wonderful life.  We’re eager to take the risk.

You may think we’re nuts for not moving back to the US for this reason. But, we all have to make choices for our own lives. This works for us. Quality of life is an essential factor, motivating us to continue joyfully. I could make myself stressed thinking of this, but I choose not to. Instead, we’ll continue to dream and make plans for the future.

As mentioned above, may all of our readers in the US have a safe and fulfilling holiday weekend.  And may the remainder of our readers have an equally good day and upcoming weekend.

Photo from one year ago today, July 4, 2018:
This parade of elephants consisted of more than 30. For more photos, please click here.

We have to let it go and move on…You may not agree…How to identify fake scallops…

Chef Ramsay might be pleased with the color from browning these scallops in butter. “Inside, you will also find a vivid orange roe (also called coral), which is often discarded but is edible. Rinse (don’t drench) several times in cold water to remove sand or grit. Once shucked, scallops can be cooked. If scallops are mushy to the touch, they’re undercooked. If they’re firm, they’re overcooked.” They are delicious!  For more on “fake” scallops that are often sold throughout the world. Please click here.  Scroll to the end of this post for details on this topic.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“The guillotine was used in Ireland before it was used in France. The earliest use
dates back to 1307.”

The battle with the insurance company is coming to an end. We’ve concluded they aren’t going to pay, nor will we be reimbursed for any of the bills we paid out-of-pocket.  

The stress of dealing with this has the potential to harm my future health. It simply isn’t worth it. At times, we all have had to face the reality that we’re losing money we shouldn’t have had to lose. Such is the case here. We need to move on.

We considered a lawsuit but here again, more stress and focus on the negativity that not only may affect both of us but also prevent us from truly enjoying our plans with this hanging over our heads.  

We can only imagine the endless conversations with a solicitor/attorney in the UK, where the company is based, and how those calls would impact the quality of our experiences. These types of phone calls could transpire while we’re on a cruise or touring. We need to move on.

A Connemara Pony a few doors down from us.

Why do they deny the claim? In 2007 I had a cardiac ablation in the cath lab (in Minnesota) by an “electrical” cardiologist to remove a genetic tiny extra electrical valve which suddenly caused tachycardia.  

Once he removed the tiny valve (no replacement necessary), he explained I wouldn’t need further treatment, medication, or any follow-up. I didn’t have a “heart” condition. I was not a heart patient.

Less than a week later, I was back at the health club pounding it out, feeling great with no residual symptoms. It was over. During this period, I was on a low-dose hypertensive drug that kept my blood pressure totally under control.  I still wasn’t considered a “heart” patient.

When we applied for the insurance, I knew it would be construed as a heart condition if I disclosed this. The doctor who did the ablation told me specifically not to make a deal of this when applying for insurance. I didn’t have a heart condition.

Another Connemara Pony and her colt.  The dad was nearby, and he was a dark brown like the colt.

When our current annual travel insurance discovered the ablation, they denied the claim, stating I had a pre-existing heart condition. During all the tests I’d had before the bypass surgery, I was told over and over there was nothing wrong with my heart itself.  

From a lifetime of working out, my heart was comparable to that of a healthy 35-year-old. My arteries are the issue, and I did not know, no prior treatment and no medication for this genetic condition, inherited from both sides of the family.  Heart disease, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, spinal disorders, and other inflammatory diseases were rampant on my mother’s side of the family.

One can argue I should have disclosed this when applying for the insurance because I had no known heart disease. I saw no reason to disclose it.  Would one admit every sprained ankle, every infection, and injury when applying for insurance, only to have those recovered body parts excluded from the policy?

I had disclosed I’d had back surgery in 1995, and they excluded any possible claims for anything to do with my spine, neck, and vertebrae even though I no longer had pain or was on treatment for any of this. My restrictive diet rid me of any pain, and at the time of application, shortly after we began traveling the world, I disclosed this condition in the application.

This insurance is not Medicare and has nothing to do with insurance in the US.  Medicare doesn’t pay outside the US, nor is it possible to be reimbursed for any claims. The policy was “major medical” only and didn’t cover doctor visits, dental, vision, or prescriptions.  

We had so few doctor appointments over the years of travel, up until the recent surgery.  Prices were so low for office visits in other countries, such as Euro 30.44, US $40 for an office visit. There was no need to cover office visits.

So there it is. Right or wrong. Delusional or realistic. This is the situation, and we have to live with it to avoid the above stress.

But, a new problem comes out of this. How do we get insurance for me now with the recent four surgeries?  We’ll share what we’ve discovered in tomorrow’s post.

Authentic scallops with the orange roe connection piece, which in itself is delicious!

Moving right along…tonight, we have scallops again. We can’t get enough of these. Although I’ve reduced my beef consumption to once a week, we have the scallops with steak for a quasi “surf and turf” dinner. It’s no special occasion.  We’re just enjoying good food along with coleslaw, baby asparagus, and cooked spinach (for me). Tom will have rice with his dinner.

Following is the article we found online about “fake” scallops, which we’d wondered about for years. After eating the scallops here, delivered each week by fish guy John, I doubt we’ll ever trust scallops in other countries, including the US. I never recall them tasting so delicious or having the little reddish/orange pouch on its side.  Wow!  Unbelievable flavor and texture.

“Identifying Fake Scallops (from this site)

While you can’t always trust labels, you can trust your eyes. Here are a few tips to help you decipher if scallops are authentic or fake.

Scallops from nature will vary in size and never have a perfect cylinder shape to them. Fake scallops have an identical circumference because they are made using a cookie-cutter device. Also, if you see one edge thicker than the other, it’s either stingray or skate wings that taper significantly from one side to the other.

*Look at the texture. Genuine scallops have distinct grains or fibers running lengthwise, as the edible part of scallop meat serves as a muscle that holds the two scallop shells together. A fake scallop will have fewer fibers and appear more solid and dense.

And finally, look at the thickness and see if it’s the same on all sides. If it’s made from a stingray or skate, it will be thicker on one side because their wings taper significantly from one side to the other.”

Next time you purchase scallops, you may want to check for authenticity. Enjoy the day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 3, 2018:

Notice the pellet crumbs on Ms. Bushbuck’s nose. Often, there are lots of crumbs in the enormous bags of pellets. Most wildlife is happy to lap up the crumbs if we place them on the tile steps. For more photos, please click here.

Medical emergency aboard the ship…Today, right back where we were in 2015…

We stood on our cabin’s veranda awaiting the arrival of this medevac helicopter to transport a heart attack patient from the ship to an appropriate hospital.

“Sighting on the Ship in Australia”

Can of tomato soup. Hmm, what’s the significance here?

Yesterday afternoon, while at sea, shortly after I’d watched another silly movie, the remake of Ghost Busters, I headed back to our cabin.  Tom was relaxing after he’d walked out of the movie only minutes after it had started. 

I knew this wasn’t his kind of movie, but I stayed in the theatre to watch it on my own when my taste in movies is slightly more tolerant than Tom’s. It was a ridiculous plot, but I always get a kick out of the special effects.

No more than a few moments after I opened my laptop to check email, I mentioned to Tom that the ship wasn’t moving. Checking to see what was going on, in no time at all we discovered there was a medical emergency onboard that required a passenger be airlifted by helicopter to hospital.

As the helicopter approached the ship to land on the ship’s helipad. 

A few hours earlier, we’d heard announcements from the bridge (in code) that something was amiss in the fitness center. As it turned out, from what we heard later, a man had a heart attack while working out.  He had to be revived. Frightening.

On a previous cruise on RC Legend of the Seas, June 10, 2015, on its way to Sydney, a similar situation had transpired requiring the patient be lifted in the basket when high seas prevented the helicopter from landing on the heli-pad on the ship’s bow. 

This is the third medical evacuation we’ve witnessed while cruising, twice by helicopter, once by the ship rerouting to Burmuda.  Please see photo below for the first helicopter evac. Here’s the link to our story.

Photo we’d posted on June 10, 2015 while we were cruising on Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas when a passenger also had to be evacuated, but in the basket when rough seas prevented the helicopter from landing on the ship’s helipad. The patient was wrapped in an exterior covering the basket with paramedic holding on to the passenger.  Scary.

With calm seas yesterday, the helicopter was able to land safely on the heli-pad which we weren’t able to see from our veranda, although we could see the touchdown from our TV that broadcasts a steady cam from the bow of the ship, as shown in this photo below.

It was heart wrenching to consider the worry and distress for the passenger and his spouse or travel companion with the necessity of being airlifted off the cruise. From what we’d heard, he’d been revived, but it was several hours later when the helicopter whisked him away to a hospital.

Based on the location of our cabin, we weren’t able to get close enough to the bow of the ship to see the helicopter land. Instead, we took this fuzzy photo of the TV display.

This further validates the value of travel insurance (which we have) when the cost for such evacuations can be outrageously expensive.  When passengers pass away on a cruise ship, the body is not evacuated instead being stored in an appropriate facility that most ships have available. 

In yesterday’s case, we can only pray for the passenger’s survival and return to health after being treated at whatever location he’d been transported. Of course, we’ll never hear and the scuttlebutt aboard the ship is unreliable.

Fortunately, the seas were calm and the helicopter was able to land. The ship had stopped during the rescue mission until the patient was safely in transit to the hospital.

We both researched online on a mission to discover how many cruise ship passengers are actually transported off ships for medical emergencies. We weren’t able to find any information or stats in this regard.  Perhaps cruise lines are particularly lax in providing such stats to avoid scaring travelers away from cruising.

As we age, this becomes more of a concern.  Not only is there the anxiety associated with a life threatening illness or injury a passenger may incur during a cruise, but loss of time in getting treated also adds the stress. 

Yesterday’s passenger wasn’t taking off on the helicopter until over five and a half hours later. We can only hope the doctor on the ship has sufficient knowledge and skill to keep the patient stable during this extended period.

The Medevac team preparing to land with medical personnel ready to get into action.

This is a reminder for all of us to have adequate travel insurance cover and to strive for the best possible health when choosing to travel. A high risk and/or elderly patient should seek medical advice prior to embarking on a cruise to ensure cruising is a suitable form of travel based on current health conditions.

Then again, many medical emergencies and accidents occur to passengers of all ages while on cruise ships, while on tours and when traveling to and from various points of interest. ‘This should be of the utmost consideration for possible travelers.

Today, we’re staying on the ship while it’s docked in Yorkeys Knob in Queensland, Australia. We lived in Trinity Beach adjoining this location for three months beginning on June 11, 2015. During that stay, we toured all the important sights, including many located in and around Cairns.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more new photos and stories as we continue on to Day 7 of this highly enjoyable 33-night cruise. 

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 5, 2015:

In the one year ago post, we re-posted a few memorable photos. We took this photo of Mount Kilimanjaro from the window of our tiny plane on our way to the Maasai Mara for a photo safari, one of many great experiences in our then three years of world travel. Please click here for more details.

Healthcare while traveling the world…What type of insurance pays abroad?…Check out the precious photo from one year ago!…

A Cattle Egret we spotted while driving.

It’s been a long time since we’ve written about our health insurance, a relatively boring topic as far as I’m concerned. Nonetheless, it’s a topic we must address at least once a year.

A drove along a beach road at low tide.

People we meet often ask about the type of health insurance we have and how it works when we’re traveling the world. Three years ago when we began to plan our travels, we asked these very same questions:

1.  Will Medicare pay for my medical expenses while aboard? NO
2.  Will Tom’s health insurance, still in effect until he’s 65 (he’s 62 now), cover him outside the US? YES
3.  Are any prescriptions covered? NO
4.  Are doctors visits covered? NO FOR EITHER OF US.

Many sunbathers are out on cloudy days.

I’m reminded of these questions this morning when I called the UK from which our travel insurance generates (calling at only $.023 a minute on Skype) to give them a new credit card number (an old card number was stolen and since replaced while we were on the Big Island) instructing them to go ahead and charge the annual US $3462 due at the end of this month for the policy that covers both of us.

Why have coverage for both of us when Tom already has insurance?  His insurance doesn’t include emergency evacuation.  Our combined policy with Healthcare International covers emergency evacuation for both of us and the cost for either of us to travel back to the US in the event of the death of an immediate family member (up to $5000).

Snorkeling on a sunny day.

When I turned 65 in February 2013, I qualified for Medicare and now have a Medicare card for Part A which only covers a portion of major medical. Since Medicare doesn’t pay while outside the US, I waived Part B (via a document to the US govt.) and also the purchase of a supplement. Why pay $250 a month (for Part B and a supplement) for insurance we can’t use while we’re traveling? 

With a plan to be outside the US for years to come, health providing, and with little need for doctor visits at this time (neither of us has visited a doctor in 26 months) it made no sense to pay for anything other than major medical and travel insurance for me.

Each night we wander across the street to check out the whales and the waning sun.

In actuality, Tom is double insured for major medical when he joined me in the policy for the emergency evacuation and family member death features which includes major medical (hospital stays). 

If and when we need to visit a doctor in her/his office, we’ll happily pay out of our pocket when costs in most countries are considerably less than in the US. Many would say this plan is foolhardy. For us and our unique circumstances, it makes the most sense financially and otherwise.

The trek down to the beach across the street from us is treacherous.

Of course, the policy with Healthcare International covers 100% of any hospital stays including surgeries and other procedures if necessary. In other words, as referred to in the US, we have “major medical” coverage, all we feel we need at this time. 

In 10 years, we may feel differently but for now, this plan works for us. It may not work for others, if they frequently visit their doctor for prescriptions and medical checks.

Healthcare International has a wide array of other policies including more comprehensive coverage that includes doctor visits but for us, at this time, it is unnecessary. 

A solitary orange leaf amongst green other leaves.

Tom no longer takes any prescriptions and I take only a few which I purchase online from BBB approved ProgressiveRX buying one year’s worth at a time, paying out of our pocket without the use of any insurance. The total annual cost for these three meds is under US $500, less than we previously paid for co-pays for these same drugs. Go figure.

If any of our readers have further questions regarding our insurance please feel free to click the included links, post a comment at the end of today’s post or ask us a question via our email posted on our site at the top of the page, on the right side. We’ll answer your questions within 24 hours at most.

It’s always easy to find a beach at the end of any road heading in any direction.

This can be a complicated topic. For us, we like to keep it simple, like everything else in our lives when possible.  In all probability, we may be traveling for the remainder of our lives. Should we settle somewhere if health requires, we’ll address the issue at the time. In the interim, while continually on the move, we’re comfortable and at ease with our current solutions.

Today, we’re off for our lunch date at the Westin Hotel in Princeville with Elaine and Richard where we’ll take more photos of the exquisite luxury resort and perhaps of few of ourselves while we languish in delightful conversation with our new friends.

Have a fabulous Friday!

                                            Photo from one year ago today, February 6, 2014:

Its hard to believe it was a year ago that we took this photo of a Vervet Monkey and her baby as they looked down at us while we sat on the veranda at Khaya Umdani. What an amazing start to a day. We love the baby’s super thin pinkish ear which eventually will be close to the head. For more photos from that date, please click here.

Health concerns for travelers of any age…Questions and answers applicable to all…

Sunday’s sunset from Jeri and Hans’ third-floor veranda, the last rain-free day.

The following comments are not intended in any manner to substitute for professional medical advice. This post is entirely based on our personal travel experiences regarding preparedness in the event of medical issues or emergencies.  Please seek the care of your medical professionals in regard to your personal healthcare.

Coupling our interest in health and well being with our worldwide travels has been important to us. Many seniors and younger travelers alike choose to address health concerns before traveling. Many others “wing it” hoping for the best, in many cases a poor decision or, simply a lack of a decision at all.

Checking online over the past almost two years, we have discovered a wealth of resources available that may be of assistance, too many to list here.

We’ve found that researching credible medical sites are crucial, not simply the opinions of a few travelers with a good or bad experience, often seeking a place to vent frustrations and unfortunate experiences.

Some of the questions we had and the answers we’ve discovered that have worked for us, that we’d asked ourselves when planning our world travels include and on an ongoing basis:

  • Will we get intestinal distress from eating uncooked fruits and vegetables? If so, how does one reduce that risk? Yes, illness is often a result of produce eaten raw. This risk does exist when non-purified water is used to rinse produce, which is then eaten raw, such as lettuce, celery, and fruit. Usually, cooking vegetables destroy most of the bacteria. We rinse all of our produce in a bowl of purified water, replacing the water as needed. Always remain mindful of cross-contamination of washed and unwashed produce. We washed all of our produce immediately before placing it in the refrigerator.  This may reduce shelf life, but our “shelf life” is more important.
  • Is it safe to drink the water? Before we arrive at each location we research to determine if the water is safe to drink.If not, we arrange for the property owner to have a several-day supply of purified water awaiting us to ensure we have ample time to get to a grocery store.
  • What about brushing our teeth? This is often a cause of illness. We keep small bottles of purified water in the bathroom for wetting the brush, rinsing our mouths after brushing and rinsing our toothbrushes. Daily, we brush with baking soda and then do a full 20-minute coconut oil gargle which kills bacteria in the mouth, spitting it out when done. Once a week we disinfect our toothbrushes (and my contact lens case) in hot boiled purified water.
  • What happens if get water into our mouths while taking a shower? Immediately, spit it out and promptly rinse the mouth with mouthwash, and brush our teeth following the above process using purified bottled water.
  • Can water be boiled to become safe to use? We don’t recommend this process. Considerable bacteria may remain if the water is not boiled long enough, 15 to 20 minutes, or more. This would only be done in the case of a dire emergency.
  • What about washing dishes?  Ideally, we could use purified water to wash dishes.  Unfortunately, the cost of bottled water is prohibitive and if done properly this isn’t necessary. Wash and rinse dishes, pans, and flatware in the hottest cleanest soapy water your hands can take. Drain on a clean cloth. Wipe dishes dry with another clean towel and leave out, not stacked, to further dry on the clean counter to ensure that no water molecules remain.  Wash your hand before handling dishes which we each do so often it’s ridiculous.
  • Do we need to take malaria pills or other prophylactic medications while traveling? Taking pills for the prevention of malaria depends on the location of your travels. Check with your local travel clinic for detailed maps and information for every country in the world. Other prophylactic medication? For us, we take a Bifidus Probiotic  (30 billion CFU minimum) supplement daily to keep the balance of good bacteria in the gut.  These may be purchased online or at any quality health store.  Research for a quality brand, most of which require refrigeration for freshness.  We have been taking multiple individual supplements for years.
  • What do we do if our luggage is lost or stolen containing all of our daily medications? Do we need to bring along copies of our current prescriptions, written letter explaining the use of medical syringes, if applicable, etc.? Yes! Yes! Yes! We have copies of all of our prescriptions and a doctor’s letter listing all of the supplements we use. Even so, we had trouble boarding a Carnival Ship in Belize (see the posts of April 9th and 10th, 2013 for details of our ordeal).  Also, we carry several Epipen syringes, in the event, we have an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to stings from insects or other substances, including a doctor’s letter of authorization.
  • Will our insurance pay if we become ill?  Do we need to purchase emergency evacuation insurance?  Is it costly? Every policy is different.  Check with your policy benefit well in advance of travel to determine what will or won’t be paid. Generally, Medicare usually doesn’t pay outside the US, but check on your supplemental policy’s terms and conditions.  Emergency Evacuation insurance is a must if you’re traveling outside your home country unless your regular policy provides this coverage. Check for specific details well in advance of travel.  On its own, emergency evacuation insurance usually is US $200 to US $300 per person for a two-week vacation. Keep in mind, that “travel insurance” and “emergency evacuation insurance may be entirely different from one another; one if in case of cancellation on non-refundable fares, etc. and, the other is for medical purposes. A few policies have both features combined. Check carefully for details.
  • Do we need vaccinations to travel abroad?  Again, check with your local travel clinic, a highly valuable resource when planning a trip abroad.  Countries in Africa may require proof of vaccination for Yellow Fever and other communicable diseases.  We keep a copy of our entire vaccination record (we had around 18 separate vaccinations) on the inside flap of our passport holders. We haven’t been asked to produce these records yet , but entry into a country can be refused if not provided.
  • How much in advance must we plan for the vaccinations? We both began the vaccination process 6 months in advance of our departure from Minnesota.  Many vaccines require waiting periods between boosters.  Many vaccines may be given at one appointment, which is not detrimental to their efficacy.  The question becomes…how will you tolerate multiple vaccines in one appointment? If dubious, space them out as I did with no side effects.  Many vaccines such as Yellow Fever don’t require a booster for 10 years.
  • Did our insurance cover the cost of the vaccinations?  At the time we had the vaccines, both of us were covered under Tom’s policy from work which much to our surprise, paid 100% of the cost.  With the number of vaccines we chose to receive, the total cost would have been over $1500 each.  If you have Medicare or under the new guidelines, this may not be covered. Please check with your company to determine what, if any is now covered.
  • Will the tours and excursions in which we plan to partake fit within the confines of our current physical conditions and limitations?  Most tour operators specific the “difficulty level” of each of their tours and excursions.  However, these are often minimized, leaving participants gasping for air and exhausted or perhaps at severe risk.  Read reviews and comments online at travel websites such as Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor.  These comments are often a better resource of “factual” information as opposed to the sales orientated tour companies and cruise lines.
  • Did we bring along extra prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and supplies, (and hearing aid batteries, if applicable).  What if we lose any of these?  How do we plan to replace them?  We both have our optical prescriptions with us, even if they expire.  In the event of a loss, most prescription eyewear and contacts can be replaced locally or through the mail.  Tom has three pairs of backup prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. I brought along 24 boxes (6 packs) of contact lenses enough to last three years. I do purchase lens solution at a local pharmacy due to the added weight of the bottles which may be difficult to find in some locations (Belize and Italy).
  • If we use any particular medical supplies, what happens if they’re lost or quit working? Although Tom nor I use any particular devices, we suggest bringing a backup in the event of loss or failure.  We do have a thermometer, small blood pressure cuff, emergency suture kit, and emergency dental supplies (dental glue) in the event a crown or filling falls out or dislodges.
  • What over the counter medications did we include? We packed Aleve, Tylenol, Tylenol PM, aspirin, Milk of Magnesia and Benadryl, cortisone cream, antihistamine cream, antibacterial cream, and hydrogen peroxide.
  • What first aid supplies did we bring? Besides the above comments above, we have Bandaids, bandages, sterile gauze pads, sterile gauze wrap, ace bandage, liquid bandage, and Lidocaine patches.
  • Immediately upon arrival,l in a new location, what precautions do we take in the event we become ill or injured? Upon arrival at our new home, we ask the owner/landlord or property manager the location/phone of the best local hospital, medical clinic, physicians, and dentists in the event of any emergency. For example, here in Kenya, we have the phone number of a physician who will make a house call in the event of a non-life-threatening emergency.  Otherwise, there is a hospital within 10 minutes on the main road.

Yes, I know, this stuff is difficult to address. And for many of you who seldom travel it may be boring. But, for those who travel even short distances on a day-long road trip, being away from one’s home base can present challenging health concerns.

Years ago, I was meeting up with a bunch of girlfriends in Mexico for pre-arranged dinner plans. When they hadn’t arrived after a two-hour wait, I tried calling to no response. A day later, I received a call from one of the other friends in the group informing me that the friend had fallen into a hole under a “grate” on the sidewalk resulting in a serious compound fracture of the leg.

The only way to receive quality medical care was to return her to the US immediately.  With her not having emergency evacuation insurance and the requirement of payment in full in advance of the flight with the air ambulance service, the friend had no alternative but to ask family members for their credit card numbers to cover the then cost of US $25,000 when her own card had a US $5000 limit. Can you imagine the stress of returning home facing your own credit card bill, but also that of the cards of family members? That airfare was 30 years ago. Can you imagine how much it would be in this day and age?

This scenario remained stuck in my mind for 2 reasons; one, don’t walk on grates, wooden boards, or any potentially unstable surfaces on roads and sidewalks (in any location). Of course, Tom has adopted this practice also, as we’ve always alerted one another to possible hazards.  And, the second reason, always have an emergency evacuation policy in effect when traveling outside your home country.

Last night, we ventured out to dinner during a massive rainstorm that had started on Monday continuing all the way through today, Wednesday.  As is typical in Diani Beach restaurants, the walk from the taxi drop off area to the restaurant is long and treacherous with uneven steps, many often twice as steep as we’d expect, multiple tripping hazards, slippery surfaces, and the risk of falling tree limbs and coconuts.

Always carrying our LED mini flashlights has proven to be vital to our safety.  Last night, leaving the restaurant in torrential rains and gusty winds, luckily under an umbrella provided by the restaurant, I hung onto Tom for dear life.  If one of us went down, we both were going down. The long, steep outdoor steps were particularly hard to maneuver when their design was inconsistent and there was not a light or handrail at any point.

We both sighed with relief when we found Alfred, our trusty regular taxi driver, waiting for us and quickly jumping out to open the car doors as we handed off the umbrella to the restaurant server who escorted us. We were soaked all the way through to our underwear, but grateful to have made it to the taxi without incident.

No traveler can sit back and make the assumption that they are invincible and exempt from possible injury or illness when traveling.  With all the effort we’ve made, on a few occasions, we’ve fallen prey to unforeseen illness and injury. We can only hope and pray that we’ve exercised more than adequate foresight to guide us through those tough situations.

As they say on a mindless drivel TV show, Big Brother…” expect the unexpected.”  Doing so need not reduce the quality of our experiences or result in needless worrying.  But, preparedness, certainly minimizes the risks enhancing the quality of our experiences.

Languishing in Paradise…Making a new to-do list…

There’s no free lunch.  No matter where we go, how untangled we strive to be, Life is filled with responsibility. 

Many years ago, my eldest son Richard and I discussed the merits of “living under a palm tree in a tropical climate, weaving baskets.”  At the time, it sounded like an uncomplicated analogy of how simple life could be if one so chose, escaping from the constraints of our everyday living.

Tom and I have had no delusions that traveling the world would be a far cry from escaping responsibility.  With banking, bills to pay, investments to oversee, health and personal property insurance, ongoing tax liabilities, and the time-consuming process of managing one’s household on the road, there was little opportunity to allow one mind’s freedom of letting it all go. 

On top of it all is the time-consuming process of continually planning the next step: airline reservations, hotel bookings, cruise bookings, finding health clubs, arranging transportation, locating Fed Ex offices, and on and on.

Beginning our travels on October 31, 2012, after 10 months of planning, we knew the flow of responsibility would follow us no matter how much we thought we’d prepared in advance. The 10 months were only the tip of the iceberg.

Today, comfortably ensconced at our new location at Laru Beya Resort for the next two-plus months anticipating the move on Sunday into our own condo/villa, reality slaps us in the face that our days of bemoaning our waterless situation are behind us and, it’s time to get back to that which we want and must do.

Here’s what’s on the agenda for the remainder of the month:
1.  Complete our excel spreadsheet with deductions and tax information for our accountant.  We’re almost done when yesterday our tax documents finally arrived via our mail service in Nevada, MailLinkPlus who will snail mail the actual documents to him.

2.  Complete the review and application for my new health insurance policy and both of our Emergency Evacuation policies.  Pay the annual premiums for all of the policies. (Tom still has insurance until age 65).

3.  Apply for visa extension for Belize. We have to take a boat to get to the immigration office on the mainland after finding our way to the boat launch area in Placencia Village.  (I mistakenly thought it was on an island as mentioned in a prior post. Excuse my error).

4.  Arrange for storage of our excess luggage in Miami for one year, while we’re in Europe and Africa.  On April 9th we’ll embark on a cruise from Belize City (midway through the cruise) sailing to Miami, arriving on April 13th at 8:00 am.

We’ll be staying on the same ship, the Carnival Liberty, in order to embark on yet another cruise later in the day.  We’ll disembark the ship in the morning with only our passports and our excess luggage grabbing a cab to go to a Self Storage 3.5 miles from the pier. They will store our bags for $15 a month plus a one time $22 service fee, in a climate-controlled space.

Once we drop off the excess luggage, we’ll have the cab driver take us to a Fed Ex office .6 miles from the storage facility to pick up our XCom Global device. While on this cab ride, we’ll stop at a drugstore to restock a few toiletries and a grocery store to restock our favorite Crystal Lite Iced Tea and our favorite sugar-free chocolate (unheard of here in Belize).

Normally, in the US a six package container of Crystal Lite iced Tea sells for around $3.49. Yesterday, we purchased nine containers priced at $7.75 US each. The owner gave us a discount of 3% for wiping out her entire inventory. Our final cost in Belize was $67.66 US as opposed to $31.41 in the US. 

5.  Order XCom Global MiFi device to take with us over the number of upcoming cruises, having them ship it to the Fed Ex Office near the pier in Miami so we can pick it up the same day we drop off the excess luggage at storage on April 13th, as indicated above.

6.  Apply for visas for Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan from a different online company from the company we had previously used for our second passports (they don’t do visas for the Middle East), using the services of a company suggested by our cruise agent.  Yet to research.

7. Search for cruises to get us from South Africa back to Europe in March 2014, from Europe to Hawaii to meet up with our kids and grandkids in December 2014. The best route we’ve found thus far is from Barcelona to Miami when we’ll pick up our excess bags from storage and then possibly head out on another cruise from Miami to Los Angeles.  

Here’s the deal on the cruise from Barcelona to Miami.  What a great price!  We’ll book this cruise within 24 hours in order to receive the $100 onboard credit offered below.

14 nights departing October 26, 2014 on
Norwegian’s Norwegian Epic
Brochure Inside $899
Our Inside $599
You Save 33%
Brochure Oceanview $1,299
Our Oceanview $829
You Save 36%
Brochure Balcony $1,299
Our Balcony $829
You Save 36%
Brochure Suite $1,699
Our Suite $1,099
You Save 35%
$$$ Two-Day Sale! Book by February 8, 2013 and receive a FREE US$100 per cabin onboard credit on select categories.
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
Sun Oct 26 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Mon Oct 27 At Sea
Tue Oct 28 At Sea
Wed Oct 29 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 9:00am 6:00pm
Thu Oct 30 At Sea
Fri Oct 31 At Sea
Sat Nov 1 At Sea
Sun Nov 2 At Sea
Mon Nov 3 At Sea
Tue Nov 4 At Sea
Wed Nov 5 St. Maarten 8:00am 6:00pm
Thu Nov 6 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 8:00am 4:00pm
Fri Nov 7 At Sea
Sat Nov 8 At Sea
Sun Nov 9 Miami, FL 8:00am

Once we arrive in Miami, we’ll stay on the Norwegian Epic as it commences another cruise on November 9th, in order to “kill” another week.  Invariably, cruising with the meals included is a lower cost than staying in a hotel and dining out every night plus, its our means of transportation ultimately getting us to the next destination, enjoying each day in the process.

On November 17, 2014, upon completion of the second round on the Epic, we’ll find our way from Miami to Hawaii either by another cruise or by air.  It’s a toss-up:  airfare and where to stay for an extra month in Hawaii which is pricey or cruise and pay more overall saving on the daily rate.  Time will tell.

We’ll post the 2nd cruise which we’re working on right now with our cruise guy, Joaquin at Vacations to Go, embarking on November 9, 2014, once we book it in the next 24 hours. 

Today, we’ll drive the golf cart to Placencia Village to return it, taking a cab back. The cost of the cab is estimated at $10 US.  With no wheels for the next two months, we’re considering what would be the most cost-effective options. We’ll keep you informed.

Also, we found some local adventures we’ll partake in once we get situated in our new home, the LaruBeya villa, and complete some of the above tasks on our new to-do list.  There’s definitely no “free lunch.”

The continuing medical concerns…

When meeting with Nurse Marcia a month ago at the Park Nicollet Travel Clinic, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, we had discussed the rabies vaccine.  The cost is outrageous at $350 per person per injection, a series of three injections spread a month apart at a total cost of $2100 for both Tom and I. 

At the time, I suggested we hold off on rabies until further down the road. With only a little over five months left to departure date, the time had arrived to investigate this further.  I called our insurance company.  Much to my surprise, they will cover the cost in full! Thus, we decided to proceed with the rabies series.  My first rabies vaccine will begin on June 5th with Tom’s over the next few months.

We made this decision based on a few concerns; one; we will want to explore the bat filled caves in Belize (guano!) next February and two; while living among the animals in Kruger National Park in South Africa in December 2013 we will be exposed to a possible incident.  Surely, these two situations warrant a radical precaution such as the rabies vaccines.  

Is it likely a rabid bat will bite us while riding in an inner tube through the caves in Belize?  Highly, unlikely. Is it possible we will be bitten by a rabid wildebeest while lounging by the pool in South Africa?  Possible, yes. Likely, no.  

We have decided that any precautions we can take in the planning of our lengthy journey will be well spent both in time and in money. Unquestionably, situations will occur that we aren’t able to anticipate at this point, in regard to health and well being and their resulting costs.  

The more we prepare, the less likely we will experience angst and frustration. Remember, our journey…”wafting through our worldwide travels with joy, simplicity and ease,” requires as much preparation as possible.  Thank goodness, we’ve had the time and the determination to plan ahead to this extent.  

Yesterday, I had an appointment with our long time family practice physician, Dr. Dennis Showalter, a fine youthful doctor with a bright smile, kind and uplifting demeanor, sharp knowledge and a passion for his work.  

An advocate of main stream medicine, he and I have butt heads over the years with my penchant for alternative medicine and my obvious obsession with online research, (albeit reliable medical schools, universities and research institutes). All in all, Dr. S. always sought the best course available for any of our various ailments, real or imagined, and has provided the utmost of care.

Now, as our journey approaches, he and I discussed the challenges we may experience along he way, requiring medicine and/or medical care.  Here’s are a few of our concerns and possible solutions:

  1. Prescriptions:  Our insurance company only allows refills every three months with no regard to the willingness of the physician to write the prescriptions for longer periods.  With little access to mail as we flit about the world, receiving the prescription can be tricky.  Solution:  With our mailing service in the US, they can receive the prescriptions and forward them to us at the post office closest to our current location. We must ensure that we have an ample “extra supply of meds” to account for the extended mailing time. In the interim, I have requested a “travel waiver” from the insurance company which I will receive soon and process.
  2. Illness:  How often does one become ill at home in the US in 949 days?  For us, seldom, perhaps a cold or flu once every year for one of us.  Do we normally go to the doctor or get medication in these cases?  No. Tom and I seldom visit the doctor other than the required once a year exam in order to refill our medications. 
    Solution: Dr. S. can accommodate this requirement by conducting an online appointment with us as offered by our medical group. Should we require emergency medical care, we’ll seek out the closest, most highly recommended, medical facility within reach of our location.
  3. Emergency Illness:  Hopefully, we won’t require emergency medical treatment/surgery due to illness or injury. 
    Solution:  Many countries we will visit have excellent medical care and we’d go to the nearest hospital for care as one would here in the US.  If we are in a country with inferior medical care, we will use our then in-force Emergency Evacuation Insurance, a plan we have investigated and yet to purchase. (Many plans will not cover our extended period out of the US.  This particular company, requires an annual renewal.  However, they will provide coverage for us at about $100 a month per person, a cost we have budgeted).
  4. Preventive Medications:  As most of us, from time to time, we use over the counter medication that may provide temporary relief from annoying minor ailments which includes: antihistamines, aspirin, ibuprofen, antibacterial cream, cortisone cream, anti-itch cream, etc. 
    Solution:  Dr. S. and the travel clinic will provide us with prescriptions as preventive measures: Epipen (both allergic to bees), various antibiotics, allergy meds, anti-viral, ear patches (sea sickness, highly unlikely for either of us as long time boaters) cough medicine and other non-narcotic medications in the event we are far from medical treatment.   

In September, after having completed all of our vaccines with the travel clinic, we will book our final appointment with Dr. S. to review all of our medications, conduct last minute tests, perform our annual physicals, and send us off with his medical blessings for a safe and healthy adventure.