What are the benefits of our international health insurance?…

On a cloudy day, beachgoers still took advantage of local beaches.

We’ve written about international health insurance in past posts. As we acquire more worldwide readers including an increased number of ex-pats and baby boomers retiring and deciding to travel long term, we felt it was time to review this once again, especially in light of yesterday’s annual premium payment.

We paid NZ $5855, US $3745 for the upcoming 12 month period. This insurance doesn’t cover us while in the US. I’m not quite certain, why not, but with little time spent in the US during these past 40 months, with only a few months to be spent in the US upcoming in the summer of 2017, we aren’t worried about it at this juncture.

We drove to Wairau stream to check out the scenery.

Tom will continue to be covered by the health insurance from his prior work until he turns 65 in December 2017. In the interim, we’ve both been covered by this annual ex-pat policy with Healthcare International.

What happened to Medicare for me when I turned 65 almost three years ago? Every US citizen is entitled to Plan A which covers hospitalization in part. See here for details.

Why didn’t we just go with Part A for me?  Simple answer: It doesn’t provide coverage outside the US in most instances. Plus, monthly payment for Plan B is required at NZ $158, US $105.  See here for details. 

Most beaches in this area are rocky, but this popular location is preferred by many surfers and sunbathers.

As a result of this monthly expense, useless in our case, while traveling the world long term, we opted out of Part B by signing a waiver document explaining why we weren’t willing to pay. There are penalties for opting out which will result in a higher premium should we decide to activate it at some point. There again, we aren’t concerned about penalties at this point.

Plus, most Medicare recipients add a “supplemental policy” to cover some deductibles and ancillary costs, here again, an unnecessary expense for us considering none of these would apply to our out-of-the US needs. Had we included these, we’d have been paying as much “out of pocket” annually as we’re currently paying for our annual policy with Healthcare International.

Surfing and kayaking are popular in both New Zealand and Australia.

These drastic measures would not make any sense for those living in the US or US territories where Medicare would pay. Such action is only beneficial for those with very good health who don’t visit doctors frequently, take a lot of medication, and often have medical tests and treatments, since none of these are covered by our current policy.

If we visit a doctor, regardless of the reason, we pay out of pocket as we do for my few prescriptions. Such payments have proven to be approximately 25% of the cost for the same services in the US in most countries as we experienced in our 2015 medical exams and tests in Australia.

This is a first for us, spotting a tractor hauling a boat along the beach.

Our situation is unique and does not apply to most travelers nor to most Medicare recipients in the US. Even those US citizens embarking on a one-year trip outside the US are best to keep their existing insurance (including Medicare Part B and supplement) in place, adding emergency travel insurance as an adjunct.

Our policy with Healthcare International includes coverage for both of us for hospitalization with NZ $3014, US $2000 deductible per hospital stay, emergency evacuation, and bereavement expenses for travel in the event of death of an immediate family member only (sibling, child, parent) covering up to NZ $7536, US $5000 in travel expenses. 

We were intrigued by the stone roof on this oceanfront home.

This benefit is only available for those who are the physical relative of the deceased family member.  In other words, if one of Tom’s family members passes away, the benefit would cover his costs to return to the US, not mine, and so on.

Our decision to choose this type of policy was wrought with considerable research and consideration over an extended period. Each year we’ve researched other options but, to date, this plan makes the most sense for our needs and appears to be the most cost-effective.

  Many homes in New Zealand have metal roofs helping maintain warmth in the cooler winter season reducing heating costs. For the warmer sunny days, as we’ve experienced, it gets hot indoors requiring the opening of screen-less doors and windows.

Of course, when we soon file our taxes for 2015, we must provide “proof of insurance” to avoid paying penalties to the US government. I have a copy in our tax prep file which we’ll soon forward to our accountant along with other pertinent documents.

This can be confusing. Finally, we feel we have a handle on it although it took time to decipher the various options.  If any of our readers have questions, most of the links we’ve provided here will assist you. If you have questions we can answer please post a comment at the bottom of this post and we’ll be happy to answer to the best of our ability and/or provide you with resources to aid in your decision.

Energy efficiency is exercised by most residents in New Zealand from what we’ve seen thus far.

We realize this topic is dry and relatively boring especially for those who aren’t living outside the US for the long term.  For those in other countries, we can only suggest you contact your home insurance, your government-provided insurance, and Healthcare International or another such company. Most likely they’ll be able to assist you based on benefits you may currently have available.

We’re staying in today watching the political caucuses in New Hampshire, USA which is on TV during the day here based on the time difference, although it’s Wednesday here in lovely New Zealand.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 10, 2015:

One year ago, this albatross is sitting on an egg. Both the male and female sit on the nest, the other heading out to sea for food. For more details and map of our location while in Kauai, please click here.

Paying for health insurance from abroad…Signing documents online?…A credit card compromised again!

View from our area.

I love technology. Without it, our lives would be much more complicated. As an example, our health insurance policy’s annual single premium is due on March 1, 2016, and we’re able to sign online and provide credit card information as securely as possible. The ability to sign online has been available for approximately the past 10 years but many have never used it and are hesitant to do so. Today’s post may ease your mind.

Preferring to pay the insurance bill a bit early, this morning I worked on sending the payment. A few days ago we destroyed the credit card that Healthcare International had on file for us when we received a notice that charges were made on the card in Texas, USA.

Country view.

We’d hardly purchased fuel and spent NZ $281, US $186 at a Walmart store in Houston, Texas. Every few days, I check all of our credit cards online to ensure everything is accurate without any suspicious charges.

As it turned out, on a day I hadn’t checked, I received an email from the credit card company inquiring as to suspicious charges on the card. Their files indicate we’re in New Zealand at this time and it was unlikely we’d flown to Houston overnight to shop at Walmart.

We keep “travel notifications” updated for each of the credit cards we use, requiring updating every 60 days. To remind me to do so, I have it marked on my online calendar with a pop-up reminder. When we first began traveling, we were annoyed with having to log the travel notifications on the credit card company’s online site for every country we’ll be visiting over the next 60 days. 

View of downtown New Plymouth.

Now, with our third incident of fraud in the past 40 months, we understand the benefit and necessity of updating these notifications. Also, updating the travel notification prevents a “decline” at the register when the card’s system doesn’t recognize the current location for which the charges are attempted.

In each case, a new card has been sent to us wherever we may be at the time. The credit card company pays the fees to mail it. Since we don’t need the card quickly with other cards we can use in the interim, we don’t incur any overnight shipping fees. 

Credit card companies may charge when a new card is shipped overnight internationally.Thus, we didn’t request an overnight shipment when the fees can easily top NZ $151, US $100. The new card will arrive here at the farm in NZ within three weeks.

Trees along the rocky shore in the town.

When a credit card is compromised, in some cases the credit card company will pick up the fraud when most theft systems charge $1 as a test to see if the card will work. Once that works, the process of making additional illegal charges begins which may result in thousands of dollars in charges.

It’s imperative for the customer to check their charges on a regular basis and report any suspicious charges immediately and report them promptly. If the charges are made in your home country while you’re residing in your home country, these charges are all the more difficult for the credit card company to catch. You may be using the card while on a local weekend away.

For those outside their home country, this is all the more likely to occur when devices are set up at fuel stations, restaurants, shops, and other establishments where one uses a card. 

Lava rock along the shoreline.

Note:  You will not be charged for any of the unauthorized (illegal) charges providing that you notify the company in a timely manner. Waiting months to do so could result in the customer’s responsibility for the charges.

The new “computer chips” offer no protection in avoiding theft. In each case we’ve experienced theft, we always had the card in our possession. Often, it isn’t the physical card that is compromised, only the number

The rocky beach in New Plymouth.

Now, on to our annual health insurance bill…Each year, when the annual premium is due,  Healthcare International (in the UK) has used the credit card on file to pay our bill. 

I’d contacted them by email asking for the last four digits on the card they had on file to pay our premium.  When the email arrived this morning with the information, I realized it was the “stolen” card that had been canceled a few days ago.

Sugarloaf in downtown New Plymouth.

It’s important to avoid sending a credit card number, social security number, or any other pertinent ID information via email without special security measures in place. Email isn’t secure as much as one may assume. Scammers have equipment breezing through email worldwide attempting to “pick up” such information for illegal purposes. 

Luckily modern technology has provided for secure options but only when certain the message you’ve received is valid from the source you requested. This can be tricky. If uncertain, contact the company on an approved phone number and provide the information in that manner.

Mount Taranaki after more snow on a cool day.

Our bill for the upcoming year including air ambulance, major medical, and other benefits is NZ $5855, US $3745. Luckily, this year, Healthcare International provided an app via Adobe ID to securely assist in entering a new credit card number and to be able to accept an online signature. 

Familiar with this app which we’ve used in the past when an online signature is required, I was comfortable using it again to send via a secure link the app easily provided to be sent by email to Healthcare International.

Yesterday, we posted a photo with eight baby alpacas. This morning, we took this photo with nine babies, although there appears to be eight. Can you find the ninth?

It seems as if I’m contradicting myself by sending this information by email. However, Adobe ID is as secure as any other “secure” site but, let’s face it, any website can be compromised and data were stolen. I completed the necessary information and forwarded it to Healthcare International via a “secure” email through their account with Adobe.

The reason I bring up credit card fraud and this insurance bill together is simple. Paying this amount of money using a credit card is safe for the consumer if any fraud is reported promptly. We were not responsible for any portion of the illegal charges on our credit card, nor would we be for future such charges. This gives us peace of mind.

A moment later a head plopped down on a playmate.

Having one’s identity stolen is another entirely different matter which we won’t get into here today.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the benefits of the policy along with any of the negative aspects of buying health insurance while traveling for extended periods when one doesn’t have other health insurance or has limited coverage outside their home country, as is in our case.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2015:

The residents of Hawaiian are very proud of their love and preservation of wildlife and their land.  For more photos, please click here.

Exploring our area…We’ll never run out of sights to see…What an island dream come true…More new friends…

The mountains exhibit a hazy cast even on sunny days most likely as a result of low lying clouds and humidity from vegetation.

Were we asked to choose the most beautiful island we’ve seen so far in our travels, there’s no doubt we’d have to say Kauai. There is no tropical island we’ve seen that compares.

This sign was posted between residential properties as a small park that provided access to the above views.

Of course, there are the distracting points; traffic, tourists, lines, and “reservations required.” But, we can live with all of that over these next four months.

This tiny park with an expansive view consisted of the benches on the left and rough terrain access to the valley below to the right of the little hut.

We have no doubt that we’ll never run out of photos to share. One needs only to drive down what appears to be a dead-end road to find views.  Jumping in the car for even a short drive we’ve found wondrous new scenery awaiting us.

To the far left is a private residence with many signs posting, “private property.”

I supposed now is as good a time as any to be in Kauai. Oddly, from what I recall 30 years ago, it’s not that much busier now than it was back then. And certainly, it’s not busier than it was on the other three Hawaiian islands we’ve recently visited: Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawai’i.

Down an unexpected road, we stumbled upon this view.

We’re already spoiled living in the lush and exquisite area of Princeville. The area was so well planned that each building, each venue, and each point of interest takes advantage of the surrounding natural beauty.

A narrow river ran through this valley, lush with greenery.

Taking a drive around the entire island isn’t easy in Kauai as shown in the above map without taking many out of the way roads. But, we look forward to exploring during our many months on the island.

In the interim, we’re reveling in our surroundings, often in awe when making the shortest of trips. Since joining the Makai Golf Club a few days ago which we’ll most likely visit each day, we find ourselves taking side roads after leaving the club, only to find one amazing slice of beauty after another.

And beyond, is the sea, the beach, and more mountains.

Today’s photos are from one of those unplanned explorations that we share with enthusiasm. We can hardly wait to go out again on our next foray into the wonders of the garden island, aptly named for it’s garden-like natural beauty.

The magic of mountains, greenery, and water always creates a magnificent sight.

Much to our delight, a new couple moved in next door to us on Tuesday night in the adjoining condo owned by our owner, Jim. Exhausted after a day-long trip from South Carolina they were anxious to get to bed. They are also impressed with the property and its views. The roosters…well, they easily could do without the crowing.

These smaller bodies of water are a paradise for the birds on the island.

Last night, Jessica & Ed joined us at our place for a happy hour for a delightful start to the evening. Finally, we split up to make our respective dinners knowing full well we’d all be getting together again soon during their remaining eight days on the island.

Lovely home with views of the valley from their backyard.

How fortunate we’ve been meeting couples here in Kauai. The laid back atmosphere and feeling of less “hustle and bustle” seems to contribute to the ease with which friends are made.

Fences to keep chickens out most likely weren’t successful.

We couldn’t be more content after one week in Kauai. How did we get so lucky to find this fabulous newly renovated condo in this perfect location? Perhaps, once again it’s “safari luck.” Although on safari in Kauai one might only see chickens!

Mr. and Mrs. Poultry hanging out.

Happy day to all of our reader friends!

                                           Photo from one year ago today, January 22, 2014:

It wasn’t only possible to see wild animals in Marloth Park. When we stayed at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, approximately 150 miles from Marloth Park, here too, the wild animals gathered on the grounds as a normal course of their day. It’s what South Africa is all about! For more details about that date, please click here.

On our own, once again…Content and at peace…

Full moon, clear and crisp over the Pacific Ocean.

After an entire month of family living with us, today we are alone. Late yesterday, Camille and Madighan moved to Kona to be closer to the airport and to languish poolside at an upscale hotel until their departure in a few days.

After an emotional goodbye to the last of our family members to leave, Tom and I grabbed chairs facing the ocean to do our own languishing of whale watching before the sunset. 

Another view of the moon rising.

The whales were hiding and for the first time and we didn’t see a single blowhole. Disappointed? We were not.  We wandered back indoors for dinner, content to return to our usual evening routine. It was over.

Was the family visit perfect?  No, it wasn’t.  But then, family visits over extended periods are rarely perfect. We all have our own routines and day to day needs and behavior, often contrary to those of others. We’re all unique.

Let’s face it…who among us can live easily with our grown children over many days, if not weeks in our case?  Although harmonious, we all had to adjust in one way or another. And we all did. 

Moon rising at sunset.
When it came time to say goodbye, we all did so with love and respect, unsure at this point when we’d see everyone again. Our grown children, from almost 40 to 47, have their own busy lives, their own family lives. 

The only difference between us and the grandparents that move to warmer climates is perhaps fewer visits every few years. We make every effort to stay in close touch via Skype face time, email, Facebook, and now a phone number we’ve added that makes it possible to pick up their cell phones and ring us without access to Skype.

So now, here we are, Tom and I, content and at peace, as we live in the moment in beautiful Pahoa, the fourth sunny day in a row, looking forward to some final exploration on our own to wrap up our remaining nine days on the Big Island.

Yesterday, Madighan and I finally made the gingerbread house.

Once again, we’ll begin discussing our future plans, researching our options including dates, destinations, flights, cruises, and expenses, all a part of our everyday lives.

Although the upcoming four months in Kauai is a little intimidating in its length of time, we’ll lick our wounds from this pricey holiday season and spend as much time as possible getting to know the island. 

She was so excited that we’d made the gingerbread house.

While in Maui, we’d come off of being on the go for months; two cruises, Paris, London with Normandy; Stonehenge; Cork, Iceland; Faroe Islands; Boston’s family visit; and then six days in Vancouver before the cruise to Honolulu. 

Having been so busy for a few months, Maui proved to be a resting point and we had little interest in exploring.  Luckily, the fabulous condo and ocean view made staying relatively quiet extremely rejuvenating.

A pink Trumpet flower.

Living on the Big Island has kept us on our toes with the family visit and now, alone again, we easily slide back into our pleasing routine of traveling the world, albeit stationary for a period of time knowing the exciting experiences that await us.

In a little over four months, we’ll be on our way to the South Pacific; Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Bali with more countries and planning yet to come. 

Huge pods growing on a local tree.

The excitement and enthusiasm are no less today than it was over two years ago when we left the US to begin our new lives. In many ways, it’s greater than in the past. We are no longer apprehensive and fearful having acquired the knowledge and experience that have begun to make us seasoned travelers.

Thanks to our readers for sharing this journey with us, for your comments, feedback, and suggestions, and for taking the time to read about not only the exciting days of our travels but also the mundane days of simply living life on the move.

Have a terrific Tuesday!

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

Clive, whom we may now believe is a “she,” aptly renamed Clove, when we’ve later seen her with chicks on Facebook, came to visit our house in Marloth Park for the first time on this date, one year ago. It was a delightful visit.  She/he wasn’t shy about letting us get close for photos. For details from that date, please click here.

Moving day…Wow! What a lot of work!!…Time to unwind and relax…

A beautiful sky before sunset.

With the family moved out and Tom and I now alone, yesterday we began the process of moving from the bigger house to the smaller house which Tom affectionately refers to as the “bird house.”

Usually when we move we only have to pack our clothing and supplies, tidy up after ourselves and be on our way.  With 12 days remaining on the Big Island, moving next door was the most comprehensive move we’ve had in 27 months.

A distant dorsal fin.

What made it more difficult was twofold; one, we paid deposits on both houses and want them back in their entirety, and two, we had food and household supplies to move, all in a 24 hour period. Now, this doesn’t sound like much. But, believe me, it was.

There were two refrigerators to clean and one to make room for the transferred perishables. (We’ll toss leftovers when we leave on January 15th).  There were beds to make, laundry to do, floors to sweep and wash, bathrooms to organize, and of course, the unpacking of our luggage. 

Lots of action here.

When we repack for the 15th, I will be reorganizing and further lightening our load for the next flight from Kona, Hawaii to Lihue, Kauai with a layover in Honolulu for an hour. 

The thought of staying put in Kauai for four months is pleasing for both of us. We’ll have plenty of time to explore the gorgeous island, lounge at the beach, and try a few of the highly-rated restaurants in the area. 

Correctly timing the shot from considerable distances is a craft that neither my bad shoulder nor our camera can do. If we upgraded to a camera with a higher capacity for distances, it would weigh more. It’s a catch 22.

Although there’s no pool at the condo we rented we’ll certainly find a good spot to whale watch when the Hanalei Bay is across the street in the fabulous Princeville area. We couldn’t ask for more especially since we chose this particular condo for its excellent price for the otherwise pricey area. 

Sacrificing a little in amenities over price was our plan as we prepare for the next leg of our journey. The segue in Princeville for us is a place to regroup, plan, and get ready for our next big foray outside the US which will be for at least the upcoming two years.

The black and white fluke. It was almost dark outside.

Last night, our final night at the big house, we found ourselves on the lanai having exhausted all of our energy in packing and moving all day, we saw one pod of whales after another, more than we’ve ever seen before.

Getting good photos of whales is especially difficult for me. My bad shoulder prevents me from holding up the camera for long enough to capture the perfect shots. Plus, our camera, although capable of taking good photos, is not capable of the long-distance shots required when whale watching. 

Two whales, side by side.  It could be a mom and baby.

Sure, a tripod would help but the added weight is not practical for us when we’re already up to the max with our two large and one medium suitcase, one carry on duffel bag, one computer bag, and one handbag. I can’t imagine a free hand able to hold a tripod. 

So, this is the way it is, the best we have to offer thus far as we continue to watch for the massive gentle beasts that waft through the sea with grace and ease. We love every sighting, hollering “blow hole” each time we spot the spewing stream of vapor exuded by these amazing animals.

When Tom yelled, “Over here!” I was focused on another whale and missed all but this shot when two whales did a full breach, simultaneously. I saw it but just didn’t focus on it quickly enough.

Now, each time we holler “blow hole” we’re reminded of the fun times we spent with our family, eyes peeled at the ocean, squealing with delight each time we spotted a whale. In their absence, we’ll continue this enjoyable pastime well into the future months to come.

It takes looking at this photo for a moment to see the fluke and how its positioned.

May you have a fabulous weekend. Once fully settled in a few hours, we’ll surely do the same.

Photo from one year ago today, January 3, 2014:

Often, when zebras came to call, they’d attempt a sip out of the pool. As soon as they detected the taste of chlorine, they wandered away in search of other more potable sources. For zebra facts and photos of multiple zebras at the pool and the story from one year ago today, please click here.

Happy New Year to all of our readers…Its a new beginning…

Today, there is a high surf warning.

It’s almost as if on New Year’s Day we have the opportunity to begin anew; to plan, to dream, to make our wishes come true. Yet many promise themselves a new start beginning for a few days or weeks only to falter down the road dismissing the promise as having been unrealistic or frivolous.

The surf, a few minutes ago in front of our house.

And yet, year after year, we make the commitment, hoping magically “this will be the best year yet.” I know from experience. I’d done that for most of my life; the diet to lose the last 10 pounds, the renewed commitment to becoming more organized, keeping my closets tidy, doing my taxes without an extension, and spending more time doing ‘this or that.”

Invariably, after a month into the New Year “life” would get in the way, making it easy to blame “it” for my lack of commitment.

More big surf. We move back next door in two days on January 3rd.

Somehow, its different now. The 10 pounds are gone, I am as organized as I care to be, I clean my closets entirely every six weeks to three months, and I’ve accepted the fact that our new accountant needs us to file an extension (since we’re new and old clients come first).

Burgundy tips on the edges of the leaves.

Its not about being “better” at life.  Its all about acceptance. This is my life and darn it all, I’m going love it, one way or another. We both choose happiness. 

Yes, there are obstacles, sorrows, life events that could easily chip away at that happiness. But, when we choose the life we want to live, we manage to continue to veer down that path we’ve chosen, not allowing anything to get in our way.

These are huge here.

Its not that the sorrows of life don’t have an effect on us. They do. No one with a heart is exempt. But, we both choose to give the attention to that which is heart wrenching and carry on with the knowledge and acceptance that life is short and this moment is the only certainty. It could change in the blink of an eye.

What are small houseplants on the mainland are giant trees and bushes here in Hawaii?

Today, we wish all of our family, friends and readers a New Year of acceptance in that we all live the life we’ve chosen, finding peace and contentment in this moment and strive to make the next moment as precious as the last.

Happy New Year to all.

                                               Photo from one year ago today, January 1, 2015:

It was one year ago today that we celebrated with new friends in Marloth Park at Jabula Lodge. For details of that date, please click here..

Fitful night…Worrying…Up at 5 am…A new beginning in a New Year…A year ago closeup of a visitor…

Late in the day yesterday, we spotted these whales. The much-anticipated fluke, the tail was the prize. Wonderful! 

Even an overly bubbly type has a bad night now and then. Last night was mine, worrying about my sister, unable to speak to her until this morning when she was able to take the call, somewhat awake and alert.

First, we saw the blowholes of these two whales.

We’ve always been very close, my sisters and I. The distance hasn’t changed a thing. We haven’t lived near one another for many years but, we’ve never missed a beat in each other’s life. On any given day, we could easily imagine what the other was doing, our plans for the day, our hopes, our dreams, our sorrows, our shortcomings; always accepted, always loved.

This morning at 7:00 am Hawaii time, 9:00 am in LA, we spoke and I was relieved to hear her voice, so relieved and comforted to know she’ll now begin the healing process. 

The dorsal fin appeared.

I am sorry that I couldn’t be with her. I had been in the past. This time, with family here with us, her partner, and friends of which there are many, were at her side, keeping me informed.

So the days continue on, in the Big Island. The three remaining family members were gone overnight to Kona for swim-with-the-manta rays late-night outing and overnight in the “big city” of Kona. 

Another whale’s dorsal fin.

In three days, they’ll leave the Big Island to return to Minnesota, and once again, we’ll be together alone. Are we sad? Not at all. We loved seeing them all and now as we all roll into the New Year, back into our “real lives.”

For us, our “real life” at the end of the family holiday, begins a new year in our travels which we anticipate with excitement and joyfulness…the vacation that sees no end. How couldn’t one be happy to begin again?

This morning from the lanai.

Over the next few months in Kauai (we leave for the island in 17 days), we plan to explore, learn the nuances of the garden island, lick our wounds from the pricey family get together, take care of insurance, taxes, investments and other such necessary “paperwork” and, most of all, take as many photos as we can to share with our readers each and every day.

Today, a trip to the village is in order for a few things at Island Naturals, the only open grocery store in Pahoa after the evacuation for the still moving lava toward the Pahoa Marketplace. 

The sun desperately tried to peek through this opening in the clouds.

I’m now writing on my new Acer, 15.6, touchscreen, 1 Terabyte, lighted keyboard, Intel Core, i5, 8 gigabytes, la la la…laptop I purchased at Costco on Sunday night for a reasonable $589 including tax at less than half the regular retail price.

Yesterday, I transferred all my data, installed all my apps and email folders, MS Office, and Outlook and I’m loving every moment. It’s been almost a year since my last Acer died due to my dropping it in South Africa and I’ve suffered using an international version of a not so good notebook with keyboard issues from the get-go that finally went kaput in the past two weeks.

Had I been there seconds earlier, I could have taken the rays from the sun reflecting on the ocean. This was the view by the time the camera loaded.

Finally, I feel at ease as I write here each day no longer struggling with the keys and look forward to sharing the future with all of you as we continue on…

Have a terrific Tuesday!

                                          Photo from one year ago today, December 30, 2013:

This kudu looked me in the eye, “You got any pellets this morning?” he asked.  I dropped a handful onto the ground and backed up so his huge antlers didn’t stab me. For details of this date, please click here.

Winding down…Family heading back…Trip to Kona today…Two plus hour drive…New whale sightings photos!

Tom captured this morning’s sunrise.
At this house, we are able to see the sunrise whereas as the first house, it is blocked by this house.

We knew this time would come and we’d carefully planned for it. We’re all good about saying goodbye having had a great family visit. We all have our busy and fulfilling lives awaiting us.

It’s hard to say goodbye to the grandchildren knowing they’ll be so changed when we see them again, when that will be at this point, we don’t know.

A whale’s back, spotted yesterday. I took all of these whale shots from the lanai.

The life we’ve chosen has a price to pay. But then, every kind of life we choose has its limitations, restrictions, obligations, and challenges. It’s the way it is. Choosing to be happy in those choices, whatever they may be, is the key.

We choose happiness, not sorrow and sadness for being away from our kids and grandchildren, our siblings, and other family members and friends. For many, if not most, being in close proximity to family is their way to achieve happiness

The dorsal fin.

For me, after years of illness to finally feel well, inspires me to see the world for as long as I can. For Tom, after 42 years of working on the railroad, the regimented schedule, the often long hours, and the hard work inspired him. 

For us as a couple, the adventure, the excitement drives us on with a wild sense of discovering as much of the world as we can, sharing the experience together as lovers, companions, and friends. 

More dorsal fin.

Documenting these experiences only add to the depth of our choices as now we say goodbye to this chapter, rapidly approaching the next months in Kauai, with time spent exploring and, time spent in quiet contemplation of where we’ve been, where we are at the moment and where we hope to be in the future as the planning continues.

After today, they’ll all be gone except for Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent who are staying until January 2nd, a mere five days away. After today when TJ, Sarah, and the two boys leave, we’ll spend our remaining time in the two houses winding down our rental agreement.

not the best angle, the tail known as the “fluke.’

On January 3rd, Tom and I will move back into the first house to spend our remaining days in the Big Island until January 15th when we fly the short distance to Kauai.

Today, we’re driving to Kona to take TJ and family back to the airport after their three-week visit. A stop at Costco in on the agenda in order to pick up the new computer awaiting me that I ordered over the phone yesterday morning.

Another whale spotted a short time later.

We’ll be back with more while spending Tammy and family’s remaining days on the island. They are quite the adventurers so I’m sure we’ll have much more to share in photos on the Big Island of Hawai’i (as spelled by locals).

Have a satisfying Sunday as we wind down to the New Year.

                                             Photo from one year ago on December 28, 2013:

It was one year ago today that we spent time at the Crocodile River wrapped up in the magic of a small herd of elephants engaged in their usual routine.  For more photos and details, please click here.

Foggy day in the islands…More fabulous photos from more outings on the Big Island…

Tom and Jayden walking to a secluded scenic spot we stumbled upon.

This morning upon awakening, we were surprised to see a heavy fog over the sea this morning. For the first day since arriving, I wasn’t able to drink my mug of tea after one mug of Kona coffee. I’m sweating up a storm in the humid air, although the temperature is only 68 degrees at the moment.

As much as we love sandy beaches, we’re acquiring an affinity for the dark lava rock shoreline.

Each morning before opening the windows, Tom uses the hose to wash the salt off of all of the windows off of the ocean side of the house, allowing us to see outside. It’s odd to see how the sea salt sticks to everything, ultimately damaging most surfaces.

A narrow road close to the shore.

Also, before we go out for the day, he does the same to the car windows which also get covered in salt. We’ve found that water alone is best for removing salt. We know how easily salt dissolves in water.

With the high level of spirituality in the islands, many cemeteries are unique awe-inspiring.

With financial matters to attend to today along with the inclement weather, Tom and I plan to stay put. Most likely TJ and family will take off for a few hours for the opposite side of the island to check it out giving them time to shop for trinkets and check out what they’d like without us tagging along.

Caves pop up frequently in the rocks, often used by drifters to drink and sleep.

Yesterday afternoon, we all piled in the car, heading to the local community pool. Unfortunately, the pool doesn’t have any lawn chairs so we loaded the minivan with two plastic chairs for Sarah and I to lounge by the pool while Tom, TJ, and Jayden hung out in the cold water of the unheated pool. Nik was uninterested in the pool and stayed behind.

Frequently, TJ takes videos to post on FB.

There’s no fee to use the community pool which surprised us. With a great additional “keiki” (small children in Hawaii) pool, it will be fun to bring the four other grandchildren to the pool on nice days.

It appears that at the tail end of the obscure roads we take as we explore, we end at the ocean on the Big Island.
From time to time, we spot an area where flowers and plants have been newly planted as a memorial to a lost loved one.

Today, we share more photos from our many outings on the islands. There’s never a shortage of scenery on the islands, wherever we may travel. Taking photos is a fabulous way to keep those memories alive for many years to come.

Another pretty shoreline.
The combination of sea and trees outlining a scene creates an appealing photo op.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. Thank you so much for sharing our ongoing journey with us, however may mundane our days be at times. Of course, we’ll be back with more photos and details of our continuing outings and adventures on the Big Island.

                                            Photo from one year ago today, December 12, 2013:

It was on this date one year ago today, that we had eight sets of visitors in one day. We couldn’t have been more excited. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Another day in paradise…Family style…Sightseeing!…More family photos!…Daily whale sightings, photos to follow in a few days…

The 442 feet Akaka Falls.

The first few days here in Pahoa, situated up close and personal to the sea, we weren’t as familiar with spotting whales as we are now. From our last fruitless whale watching expedition in Maui a few weeks ago, we learned to watch for the “blow hole” spout of steam, not so much water, as explained to us by the on board marine biologist.

We took the “suggested circle route.”
With little time as we’re preparing to leave for the day, I wasn’t able to find the name of this flower we spotted at Akaka State Park.

Since that point, we’ve learned to keep our eyes peeled for the spray from the blowhole which has proved to a perfect way to spot a whale or pod of whales. As a result, the six of us, have spent most of our time at home, yelling, “blowhole!” At that point, we all scramble to get cameras and binoculars poised for action.

A type of Hawaiian tropical plant. Tom said it looked like a lobster cocktail, as opposed to a shrimp cocktail.
Type of orchid. We can’t seem to find the name on this one either.

Yesterday alone, we had no less than a dozen sightings, squealing every time in a frenzied state of excitement.  It’s hard to look away long enough to go inside to “check the tire pressure,” an expression used by our safari guide in the Masai Mara when one needed to take a bathroom break in the bush behind a rock or tree.

Another view of Akaka Falls as it hits the basin.
A smaller waterfall in the state park.

Exploring out and about half the time during daylight hours, we’re left with ample time to whale watch. But, today we’re off for the Kapoho Tide Pools especially after reading these reviews at TripAdvisor.

Family at Akaka Falls.

Sarah and TJ are making breakfast as I sit here preparing today’s post and Tom researches our plan and route for the day. Homebodies that we are, we’re really enjoying heading out with family exploring this lovely island.

This hanging flower is a Rattle Snake. Interesting.
The Hawaiian Cup of Gold.

Although somewhat less filled with “attractions” than some of the other islands, we’re content with the offerings of the lovely island of Hawai’i, which has the perfect amount for us.

Notice the Green Day Gecko atop this Hawaiian Tropical Flower.
Wow!  Busy item!

Simply driving through country-like areas in itself is interesting and entertaining, which we’ll continue to do during our time here. With the high cost of some attractions, it’s rewarding to be able to relish in the island’s simple beauty while on the road.

A smaller waterfall at the Akaka State Park.
Double waterfall at Akaka State Park.

Having family on hand to enjoy these treasures with us is beyond description. How often we’ve mentioned in our travels, how much our kids and grandkids would enjoy what we’ve seen. 

Pools from the falls.

Today, we share more of our photos from Monday’s road trip with more to share as we continue on.

Possible type of Plumeria?
Wild weed type plants growing along the road to Akaka State Park.

Have a happy hump day for those still working and another “who cares what day of the week it is,” for those of us retirees.

                                            Photo from one year ago today, December 11, 2013:

We were the owner’s dinner guests in the boma at the Royal Kruger Lodge in Marloth Park when we scheduled a visit to the lodge to familiarize ourselves with life in the park. The hosts were fabulous as well as the food. For more details, please click here.