Part 2…Our year in review…Photos of us…Busy preparing new itinerary, ready for tomorrow’s post…

In July, we had a great evening at The Elephant Bar in Henderson, Nevada, with friends that live in Las Vegas.

New Year’s Day proved to be another good holiday. We stayed busy posting until later than usual and then spent the rest of the afternoon making future travel plans.

Why do we plan so far ahead? Our lifestyle gives us tremendous piece-of-mind knowing what’s coming down the road. Also, it gives us an opportunity for good prices for upcoming venues.

Tom standing next to the Giant Bamboo tree to gain a perspective of its massive size. The vegetation at Zoo Ave in Costa Rica was almost as interesting as the wildlife.

Although we’ll post the itinerary tomorrow, we’ve yet to book all of the vacation homes for the upcoming visits to various countries, but the cruises are already booked. Over the next few months, once we’re in Africa, we start booking vacation/holiday homes in these various locations.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, cruises are a driving force in our decisions to visit certain countries, although as shown, we don’t hesitate to fly when necessary.

I used repellent while at Zoo Ave in Costa Rica but still got a few mosquito bites.

Planning is a daunting task, and today, we’ll continue with the preparations for tomorrow’s post. We’re happy we’d committed to posting the itinerary. It motivated us to “get the show on the road” and finally decide for the future.  

By no means, our failure to get this done wasn’t due to any lack of enthusiasm on our part. Instead, it was based on the simple fact that we’ve been rather busy this past month with the cruise and socializing. 

We set up the tripod to take this photo of us in Costa Rica on October 31, 2017, the fifth anniversary of our world travels.

All along, we have intended to post a new itinerary around the first of the new year. We’ll have this accomplished by tomorrow as we joyfully share it with all of our worldwide readers.

As for yesterday, New Year’s night, we ate the remainder of the food purchases we’d made for sharing with Margaret and Con. By 7:30 pm, once again, we gathered in a big booth in the Prodeo Hotel’s dining room with food which included roasted chickens, coleslaw salad which I made in our room, olives, cheese, meat, and nuts.  It was another fine evening.

On formal night aboard Celebrity Infinity only weeks ago. My teeth were purple from the glass of red wine I’d just finished.

By 11:00 pm, we were sleeping, and although intermittently, I feel hangover-free and refreshed today, ready to tackle a new day in Buenos Aires. In a short time, once we’ll upload today’s post, and we’ll head to a local barbershop for Tom’s haircut, which opens after 12:00 pm.

He hasn’t had a haircut since October. He’s facing “hat hair” on the upcoming Antarctica cruise when we’ll both be wearing hats for several hours each day. This is less of an issue for me when a few swipes with the flat iron and I’m back to normal. 

We were with our wonderful new friends, Lisa and Barry, whom we hope to see in June in South Africa.

But for him, his hair tends to be spikey when either too short or too long. He’s thumbing through past posts right now to see how short he wants it cut today. We’ll post photos soon.

Tonight, we’ll walk to Serrano Plaza, our favorite area for dinner. There are many restaurants we’ve yet to try.  After eating in these past few nights, we’re looking forward to getting out again. Now that the holiday season is over, we expect to find more dining options.

On the ship’s deck as we sailed through the Chilean Fiords on the most recent cruise.

May your new year begin and end with considerable contentment and joy in all of your endeavors, whatever they may be. Happy day to all 

Photo from one year ago today, January 2, 2017:

Green/spring onions were being processed for wholesale distribution at a Penguin, Tasmania vegetable processing farm. For more details, please click here.

Day 10…No sunshine…Acceptance of conditions throughout the world…

The guard at the gate to the Government Building in Suva, the capital of Fiji.

Since arriving in Pacific Harbour it’s been cloudy and rainy for no less than 17 out of 21 days. While in Savusavu, we experienced similar amounts of rain occurring almost every day during the three-month stay. 

As positive as we attempt to be about conditions where we’re living at any given time, it would be ridiculous to say we’re not looking forward to the coo, sunny climate of New Zealand, definitely not in the tropical climate category. 

At this point, it’s hard to believe our four months in Fiji are coming to an end. Overall, we’ve enjoyed Fiji, mainly for its friendly locals, beautiful surroundings, colorful vegetation, sparkling sea, and some of the finest organic produce, grass-fed meats and free-range chicken on the planet, all at affordable prices.

Recently, dining out on several occasions has been enjoyable with many options befitting my diet, which wasn’t the case in either Savusavu or Trinity Beach when most menu items included starches, sauces, and sugar.

Distant view of the Government Building in Suva.

Fiji is truly an affordable place to visit for the long term when staying in a vacation property and perhaps at different times of the year, it rains considerably less, making it all the more ideal vacation/holiday spot during those periods. 

We remind ourselves that literally everywhere in the world has aspects that may not be ideal to the average traveler or even the long-term resident. Years ago, we often discussed how many Minnesotans retired to Arizona and Florida for the great climate.  But, after visiting both states and watching weather reports over the years, we’ve seen and experienced that their winters can be cool with inclement weather.

When we first left Minnesota to travel the world, we spent our final two months in Scottsdale, Arizona, a beautiful desert community, a haven for many retirees, making final preparations to leave the US long term.

It was warm when we first arrived in Scottsdale in early November 2012 but quickly became cool requiring we wear jackets most days. We never had an opportunity to use the pool outside our condo door. It was simply too cool.

The long fence surrounding the Government Building in Suva.

During our Scottsdale trip, we rented a vacation home for a week in Henderson, Nevada for a family gathering over Christmas. There too, it was very cool and we never used the pool in the backyard. 

On many earlier visits to son Richard in Henderson, Nevada, we recall very cool weather in the winter months. Tom and I easily recall waiting outside a casino after a show for the valet to return our car, freezing while we waited 20 minutes.

Where is the ideal year-round warm climate? Does it even exist anywhere in the world?  If it’s warm, it’s usually humid. When it’s humid, there are usually mosquitoes and a wide variety of insects and…lots of rain.

The more we travel the more we accept these realities, especially when we’ve spent such a huge portion of our travels living in a tropical environment. Over the past 12 months, we’ve lived on four islands of Hawaii, Trinity Beach, Australia, and Fiji, all considered tropical climates, all of which included clouds/rain at least 50% of the time.

The top of the President’s house in Suva.

In the past 12 months, we’ve only spent 18 days cruising. Although we spend a lot of time discussing and planning cruises, some years we spend little time actually doing so. 

In other years it’s much more such as in the upcoming 12 months, beginning on January 5, 2016, during which we’ll be sailing on five cruises encompassing 76 days, approximately 21% of the year. 

Most often, conditions on cruises are highly satisfactory with little inconvenience and adaptation required; no insects, air-con comfort throughout the ship, comfortable beds and seating, relatively good food, no shopping or cooking required, no housework, and frequently, good enough weather to spend a little time each day lounging by the pool. 

Sure, we’ve experienced rough seas on several cruises and a few bouts of “cruise cough” a harsh inevitable reality on some sailings. Once it starts it’s difficult to avoid, especially when one of us “catches” it and transmits it to the other. 

The beach in Suva has several seating areas.

Illness is a downside of cruising for which we’ve promised to be even more mindful of in our upcoming cruises.  No handshaking, touching, and too close proximity to others.  Plain and simple. 

There were a few occasions we excused ourselves as graciously as possible to leave a dinner table when upon being seated near or next to a coughing passenger. This is an awkward must-do. Even so, we’ve fallen prey to the cough on three or four occasions. 

We wash our hands no less than 12 times a day but need to increase the frequency and beef up other methods we’ve implemented over these past 11 cruises. More on that later.

Why cruise? Mainly, the opportunity to visit many parts of the world in a short period, the highly pleasing social interactions, and the relatively easy living onboard a ship continue to provide a tremendous draw for both of us.

ANZ National Stadium in Suva mostly used for rugby and football, popular sports in Fiji.

As we begin the countdown to departure and the end of 2015, not so much anxious to leave Fiji as opposed to looking forward to the next leg of our journey, we reflect on this past year as being one of considerable enjoyment, personal growth, and discovery. 

With many plans and new countries on the horizon, we hold onto our seats for yet another enriching “ride” in the awe-inspiring world in 2016.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, December 27, 2014:

Family day at the beach park on Christmas Day, posted one year ago today. Although it was raining, Vincent and Miles (not shown in this photo) were more interested in looking for fish in the shallow tide pools than stopping to eat. For more details, please click here.

A new day…A new dawn…Booking plans for the future…A challenging task in the South Pacific…

I talked Tom into posing in front of this beautiful palm frond. We hadn’t seen this type of frond since we’d been in Belize in early 2013, taking a similar photo of me at that time.

It was a fitful night after the hottest day and night we’ve had in a long time. The humidity was at 94% making otherwise moderate temperatures in the high 80F’s, 30C’s, feel somewhat uncomfortable.  

Lipstick plant, commonly seen in tropical climates.

With no AC, we cranked up the one ceiling fan in the main area of the house, stripped down to the skimpiest of clothing and distracted ourselves. When the wifi went out, we played Gin. Tom’s on a winning streak again. He beat me in Australia and is ahead already in Fiji. 

When the WiFI returned I spent a few hours searching for vacation homes in other parts of the South Pacific with little luck. I went as far as inquiring to a few properties both writing back explaining they weren’t interested in long term rentals during the peak season. 

Palm trees produce a variety of colorful seed pods in tropical climates.

Our open dates of December 3, 2016 to March 1, 2017, are considered peak season, not so much due to the Christmas season, as it is to it being summer in the southern hemisphere. Property owners can get higher rates for short term rentals than we’re willing to pay for the long term. 

Finding a house in any area in Australia is entirely out of the question. The prices are even higher than any of the surrounding islands. They’re some of the highest prices we’ve seen anywhere in the world. We’re lucky to have stayed in the great property in Trinity Beach at a reasonable rate to at least ensure we had the experience of living on the vast continent. 

The verandas for two of the units in the large house behind us.

It appears that now we’ll have no choice but to expand our horizons and find other locations in the South Pacific to fill this and the other gap, prior to our last cruise in Australia ending up in the US where we’ll be visiting family and then be back on to other adventures outside the US.

In communicating with another world traveler Tom met on cruise critic with plans to travel for a total of two years, she wrote “I find myself working on the booking details in the middle of the night.” We know that booking multiple locations, one after another is a daunting task, nothing we take lightly.

We can use this pool if we’d like, but with no lounge chairs on the edges, we have little interest.

Luckily, we’ve been able to gradually add new locations, mostly filling in various gaps from time to time.  It’s easy to recall before we left the US, when I worked on my laptop 12 hours a day for many months booking two years into the future. 

Planning even a single two week holiday/vacation is a huge task, ensuring visas, hotels, transfers and transportation are in order, even when using a travel agent. 

View from the veranda of the upper unit in the house behind us.

Only once, in these past years have we used a travel agent, when we booked the flights to Fiji with an agent in Trinity Beach when our connection was too slow to book online. We’ve become fairly adept at booking vacation homes as long as we have a good wifi connection which right now, holding our breath, is working well.

Over these next months in Savusavu, we’ll continue to conduct more research, hoping to fill this first gap. If we can accomplish filling the second gap from March 13, 2017, to April 22, 2017, it will be a bonus.

A type of rose at the end of the season.

Today is a busy day. Ratnesh is coming to pick us up at 11 am to take us to the ATM, then to the post office to pick up the package we shipped from Australia with supplies.

Then, we’re off to purchase more data for my phone (which I accidentally burned up leaving a call online), the farmer’s market, the grocery store and the meat market. Food shopping requires these three stops when there’s little choice of produce and only frozen meat at the tiny grocery store.

None of these berries are edible.

On Wednesday, Ratnesh will return to take us sightseeing and when done we’ll stop to pick up two cooked chickens at the meat market which we’ll reserve.  The chickens we purchased and cooked had little meat and were dry and tough.  The cooked chickens made fresh daily at the meat market, are moist, meaty, and delicious. 

Also, in this warm weather, it makes no sense to have the counter top oven on anymore than is absolutely necessary. If we purchase two cooked chickens each week, we only have to cook five more dinners.The less we cook, the less ants come to call.  Plain and simple.

These orange pods contain the seeds for future palm trees of this variety.

This morning Mario stopped by with the post office receipt for the package and to check on how well the wifi is working.  His care for his guests is beyond reproach. How fortunate we’ve been to have quality landlords in the majority of the vacation homes we’ve rented these past years.

Have a fabulous Sunday or Monday, depending on which side you’re located on the International Dateline! 

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

The Sheraton Club Intrawest located in the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre was a great place to stay for six days while awaiting the upcoming cruise to Hawaii. For more details and photos, please click here.

Hotel bookings…How to get free rooms!…Hotel nuances…One year ago, great last photo of Paris…

Note the wide beak on this beautiful duck.

There’s no magic, coupons, or complicated processes required to acquire free hotel nights when traveling. It’s a matter of a few steps to get the process rolling.

We have a link on this website to the right of what you’re reading now for You may wonder why we suggest you use the link on our site. Simple answer. We receive a small commission (very small) for every one of our readers who uses the links on our site.

There were several bodies of water along the edges of the rainforest.

These small commissions help pay a tiny portion of the cost for maintaining our site on a year by year basis.  Using our links does not result in your paying higher prices for products or services than you’d pay to go directly to the web addresses for these various companies. It just helps us in a small way.

For those of you who use our links, we really appreciate you clicking on our site as opposed to clicking somewhere else. That’s all it takes. We thank our readers for participating in our links.  Also, we have multiple travel-related links on our site. For today’s purposes, we’re describing one of those which we used yesterday to book a hotel.

The most exciting aspect of our rainforest hike was spotting pelicans.

Today, we’re going to take you through the necessary steps to acquire free nights in hotels that may work for those who travel only a few times each year:

1.  Click on the link on the right side of this page.
2.  Sign up for an account, saving your user name and password, keep in a safe place.
3.  Feel free to add a credit card to be saved for future use. This is a secure site and sure, things can happen, but we’ve felt comfortable doing so. 

If you prefer not to leave a credit card on file on the site, you can add it each time you book a reservation and you’ll still receive full credit. Suggestion for those worried about security: Talk to your credit card company asking their policy if your card number is stolen. They will explain that you are not responsible for any charges you did not make. 

A number of ducks hanging out in the freshwater lake at the edge of the rainforest.

Our credit card numbers have been stolen twice in the past three years and have been easily resolved by the credit card company canceling the old card and immediately shipping us a new card, usually overnight. We were not responsible for any of the unauthorized charges. 

We check all of our credit cards online by setting up a “favorite” with the link. Every few days we check to be assured that no charges are posted that we didn’t make. It takes less than one minute. 

Most likely, this was the mate of the pelican photos we posted today and yesterday, found in the wild.

It’s easy to set up a request with each of your credit and debit card companies to send you an email each time a charge is made if you prefer not to check it online. We live in a world that is high risk of identity theft. Taking the initiative to ensure your safety and security is entirely up to you.

4.  Once your account is set up, you can proceed to check for hotels entering your preferred dates and location.  If you choose to check at a later date, click on the link on our site to enter to check hotel prices at any time.  Once you stay 10 nights at a hotel you’ve booked through the site, you get a free night. Easy. You can easily access your Rewards status at any time by logging in and selecting the link on the site under “Your Account.”

When booking your free night, make sure, once you’ve selected the hotel and date for the free night, that you check the box that asks if you want to use the Rewards you’ve accumulated. Otherwise, your credit card will be billed.

Another unusual palm trunk.

Yesterday, we booked a hotel in Sydney on January 4, 2016, when we’ll have flown in from Fiji, spending one night in Sydney until January 5th when we leave on a cruise from Sydney Harbor.

The hotel is near the port, not quite walking distance but no more than a two-minute drive. Most likely the hotel will have a shuttle to the pier. If not, minimal taxi fare will get us there.  Our bags are too heavy to haul the several blocks.

Fallen bamboo

Hotels in Sydney are expensive. Using our Rewards credit toward a free night, which varies depending on how much you’ve paid for past reservations, required we pay a small amount as shown below in our receipt: Confirmation Number : 123456789 (number changed for security)

Booked: Online – Friday, August 14, 2015 3:50:26 PM GMT+10:00

Booking Details

Guest Name:  Thomas Lyman Room Type: Standard Room, 1 Queen Bed, Non Smoking – Advance Purchase
Check-in: Monday, January 4, 2016 Check-out: Tuesday, January 5, 2016, Number of Nights:1, Number of Rooms:1
Hotel Details: Holiday Inn Old Sydney the Rocks
55 George Street
The Rocks
Charges: Monday, January 4, 2016: $248.99 (AUD $337.90)® Rewards free night applied: -$202.43 (AUD $274.39)
Sub-total:$46.56 (AUD $63.11)
Total Price:$46.56
Amount paid:$46.56
Amount still due:$0.00
The sun peeking through the rainforests at certain times of the day plays an integral role in the growth and development of the forests.
Many hotels booking have the option of choosing a non-refundable rate or a fully refundable rate. If you feel there’s a possibility your plans could change, pay the slightly higher amount for the refundable rate. For us, we always choose the non-refundable rate based on our intent of getting the best rates. This fact is universal on all websites used for booking hotels. 
As shown above, yesterday we paid the excess amount, over and above our Rewards credit of US $202.43, AUD $274.39 which was the additional US $46.56, AUD $63.11. Had the hotel been a lower cost than the US $202.43,  AUD $274.30 we wouldn’t have had to pay anything which is usually the case.  But, as mentioned above, Sydney is more expensive than many cities, comparable to the rates we paid in Paris and London a year ago.
Soon, we’ll be booking 10 nights in a hotel in Vietnam to fill in a gap until the upcoming river cruise. Every 10 nights we book, pay for, and use, we’ve received one free night. In essence, this results in a 10% discount which may not seem like much. One doesn’t receive credit for the free night when it’s used, only for the paid in full nights.
The grounds of the swampy area were covered with fallen leaves and branches, suitable habitat for many small creatures.
However, travelers all over the world are booking hotel rooms with no credit. Of course, we always verify that this site is providing us with the best possible price plus…the accumulation of paid nights for an eventual free night.
If you have questions or need assistance with this, please comment at the end of today’s post. We will reply and share our combined comments with our other readers who may have the same questions.
We may not stay in any more hotels in a year than the average traveler. It may, in fact, be less often. We spend most of our nights in vacation homes or on cruises. 
A considerable part of rainforests consists of swampy areas.
Most years we don’t spend more than four or five nights in a hotel, usually between cruises or for long flights such as is coming up when we fly to Sydney, staying overnight in a hotel and flying to Fiji the next day.  Otherwise, we’d have had to wait at the airport for 10 hours, not our cup of tea.  
Whenever we encounter the possibility of knowingly spending more than eight hours in an airport awaiting a flight, we opt for a hotel stay, always considering our objective of reducing the possibility of travel stress. With easy hotel check-in and checkout these days, this usually makes sense for us.
The trunk of a species of a palm tree in the rainforest.
How picky are we in choosing hotels? Here are our criteria for selecting hotels:
1.  Location:  Convenient to modes of transportation, next flight, cruise pier, and activities we plan
2.  Reviews: In most cases, we don’t select anything under four stars unless it’s a short overnight stay awaiting a flight or cruise.  In these cases, we’ll consider a 3.5 star. As in the above-stated reservation, its list as a 4.5 star (out of a possible 5 stars). (Cleanliness and good repair are indicated in the star ratings).
3.  Availability of wifi: Preferably free although at times we’ve paid a fee when other good options weren’t available.
4.  Bed options: Tom and I do fine in a queen bed and for short stays that works fine. In many vacation homes, including here, we only have a double bed and somehow we make that work. However, we’d never chose that option in a hotel which may indicate a lack of replacing the beds and poor updating and maintenance. In many countries, bed size is a cultural thing. We don’t expect king beds as we travel.
Pelicans are beautiful up close.  Little do we realize their exquisite markings when seeing them at a beach.

Of course, there are many amenities we prefer such as complimentary coffee and tea service in the room, and an on-site restaurant when we’ll be dining. On a single night, hotel stay, a restaurant is less important to us when its nothing to us to miss a meal.

(I don’t eat breakfast except on cruises and when at a vacation home, Tom has a small serving of bacon and egg casserole I make and freeze in packets of three servings which we defrost one package at a time. Neither of us cares for lunch, even while cruising. Our way of eating causes a tremendous lack of appetite and we chose to eat only when hungry). 
This life of travel requires a tremendous amount of work and planning. For us, we enjoy the planning and details. If we didn’t plan well in advance life could be chaotic at times, a situation we prefer to avoid at all costs and efforts.
An ibis pecking on the grounds near the rainforest.
Neither of us succumbs to drama and chaos. Luckily, our personality types have grown to a point of avoiding confrontation, instead kindly asking for what we need and want. Complaining is not a part of who we are. 
If we book a hotel and don’t like it, we express our views in a review. If our room isn’t clean or appropriate, we’d kindly ask for another (which rarely occurs when booking 4 stars or more). If we booked a hotel for a longer-term, we explain why we don’t like it and work toward a refund after we’ve found other options. (This hasn’t happened).
Please feel free to ask any questions regarding this topic (or another topic if preferred) by commenting at the end of today’s post. You may do so anonymously if you’d prefer. We don’t see your email address and can only reply to you here. We usually respond within 12 hours.  We love hearing from our readers!Have a fun-filled weekend!
                                             Photo from one year ago today, August 15, 2014:
We both smiled when we downloaded this photo. It’s so Paris! Two weeks was a long time to spend in Paris and we were ready to head to London the next day, traveling on the Eurostar (the Chunnel train), excited for the first time experience of traveling under the English Channel on a train. For more photos, please click here.

Finding vacation homes…Not so easy…Holes to fill in our itinerary…

This was one of our favorite spots located on William Esplanade in Palm Cove Beach due to the colors reminding us of the village in Placencia, Belize from so long ago.

With a 65 day gap to fill one year from today, we’re chomping at the bit to fill this spot with somewhere we’d love to visit. It isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Our proximity at the time is a huge factor. We’ll be at the fabulous house in Bali located in a lovely area for 59 days (visa restrictions) to be returning two months later for two more months. We were provided an excellent price for our two separate stays and loved the property so much, we couldn’t resist the two separate visits.

The Palm Cove Beach Club. In Australia, many accommodations and parking spots are made available for disabled visitors as shown in this parking spot.

At the time when we checked flights and vacation rentals in and out of Bali, we didn’t think we’d have trouble finding a place to stay. Per our previous philosophy of advance planning as much as two years out, we now realize that waiting may have been to our detriment.

With the slow wifi here in the house, which Tom uses, and the cost of the SIM card I’m using, searching is costly and time-consuming. My connection is excellent with the SIM card but I can easily use one gigabyte a day at a cost of AUD $8.74, USD $6.69 per day. 

Spas and beauty shops also were readily available in the area.

This amount is less than our monthly cable bill in our old lives, less than a flavored coffee at Starbucks or a single cocktail in a bar compared to the daily use of one gig. In this context, it doesn’t seem like so much after all, especially when we have so few other expenses; car, fuel, rent, food, health club, and occasional entertainment.

Today, we’ll continue the search which now over the past year will have changed in a very important manner; locations we may have considered in the past are now less safe to visit for obvious reasons we see daily in the world news. Of course, we all know that there is no country or island in the world that is exempt from these horrific possibilities. 

The Palm Cove area wasn’t developed until 1986, making most of these venues less than 30 years old.

Caution will always prevail in our lives, but our sense of adventure and desire to see many parts of the world will also play a big role in where we decide to go. After all, we’ve already been to many of the areas that we wouldn’t visit now as war and strife have escalated in the past few years. We continue to review warnings from the US Department of State Travel information that we take seriously.

There were some apartments and permanent residences along the esplanade.

Let’s face it.  We’ll always make mistakes in our planning. In essence, we probably shouldn’t have booked the second stay in Bali. But, now we’re committed after paying a substantial deposit which we’d forfeit if we canceled. 

There were a number of resorts and hotels interspersed among the row of restaurants along the beach boulevard.

Did we learn a lesson? Of course, we did. It’s the same lesson we learned in staying in Kauai for over four months. Did we have a great time? Yes! Better than ever expected. 

But, without a doubt, it was too long. Ironically, we booked Bali for this extended period over a year ago. We’ve learned a lot in this past year and we continue to discover more and more as to what works for us as we continue on. 

The restaurants were varied in their ethnicity and styles of food.

At no point will we ever say we have it all figured out. With the world changing around us, we continually adapt and change accordingly. Also, with more and more experience we discover circumstances that appeal to our wants and needs.

These two side-by-side restaurants have thick vinyl windows to protect the diners on windy and rainy days and nights.

We aren’t putting ourselves in a position of urgency in selecting how we’ll choose to fill this gap. In looking at a map, the options are plentiful. In considering our budget, the options dramatically change.  We accept the possibility that filling this gap may ultimately cost more than we’d hoped.

Once we fill this spot, we’ll certainly share the details and costs here, not hesitating for a moment to share the reality of having to spend more than we intended. It’s all a part of the reality of our lives. 

The Williams Esplanade in Palm Cove has one restaurant after another.

We have certain criteria and expectations which include a quality place to live, in a good neighborhood, a living room with a good sofa, with interesting views, wifi (if possible), a full kitchen, and on-site laundry facilities. We don’t like typical apartments in a big city which if we can avoid we will. Don’t hold us to this. We may have to change our minds as time marches on.

A number of shops occupied this small shopping center along the boulevard.

It’s Sunday here in sunny Australia. We plan to stay “home” today, spend time on the veranda, make a nice Sunday dinner, and get back to work on the search to fill the gap. 

We hope your day is filled with sunshine!

                                            Photo from one year ago today, June 28, 2014:

Veranda view from our upcoming home in Fiji where we’ll be living in a little over two months. We’d booked Fiji a year ago today. For more details, please click here.

Another cruise itinerary, prices and details for a new booking on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas…A year ago…a recipe…

Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is a larger capacity ship with cabins for 3835 passengers than yesterday’s posted Celebrity Solstice’s  at 2850. We prefer smaller ships but its not always possible to find both the preferred size, itinerary and dates. The ship’s size is near the bottom of the list of our criteria.

Here’s is the total price (for two) we paid for an upgraded cabin category not shown on the various cabin categories as listed prices below.  Vacations to Go, as well as other cruise agencies, tend to list the lowest priced cabin in a category to attract passengers, later fine-tuning the price to include specific preferences

Cruise (includes port charges)   $4,283.00
Government Taxes*        431.20
Pre-Paid Gratuities        384.00
Pre Paid Gratuities       -384.00


Total                        US  $ 4,714.20

Overall, we saved approximately US $500, EU $367.57, off the lowest posted price for this cruise, comparable to the savings on yesterday’s posted cruise on the Celebrity Solstice.

16 nights departing April 12, 2016 on
Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas
Cheapest Inside $1,380
Cheapest Oceanview $1,800
Cheapest Balcony $2,145
Cheapest Suite $3,052
No brochure rates were provided by Royal Caribbean. 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.
Important Note: Visas are required for this itinerary.
Tue Apr 12 Sydney, Australia 9:00pm
Wed Apr 13 At Sea
Thu Apr 14 At Sea
Fri Apr 15 Wellington, New Zealand 3:00pm 10:00pm
Sat Apr 16 Picton, New Zealand 8:00am 6:00pm
Sun Apr 17 At Sea
Mon Apr 18 Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand 7:00am 5:00pm
Tue Apr 19 Dusky Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 9:00am 10:00am
Tue Apr 19 Doubtful Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) Noon 1:00pm
Tue Apr 19 Milford Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 4:30pm 5:30pm
Wed Apr 20 At Sea
Thu Apr 21 At Sea
Fri Apr 22 Melbourne, Australia 8:00am 7:00pm
Sat Apr 23 At Sea
Sun Apr 24 Adelaide, Australia 8:00am 7:00pm
Mon Apr 25 At Sea
Tue Apr 26 At Sea
Wed Apr 27 At Sea
Thu Apr 28 Perth (Fremantle), Australia 6:00am

With these two new cruises booked along with the cruise we’ll be taking from Hawaii to Australia on May 24, 2015 plus, the two upcoming cruises over the next several months, we now have a total of five booked cruises over a period of fewer than two years.

Although this may seem self-indulgent, we’ve made a point of choosing affordable vacation rentals to ensure we’re always able to incorporate cruising into our itinerary and stay within the strict constraints of our budget.

Sure, at times, we’re tempted to step outside the confines of the budget and “go for it!” But, we don’t. Knowing full well that doing so simply results in forcing ourselves to further tighten our belts in the future, sacrificing some of the comforts that bring us such pleasure; good food; great surroundings; and amazing views.

Each rental we choose, each cruise we book, every meal we eat, each necessary flight we take all draw from the bottom line. There’s no room or reason to push ourselves to a point of stress and worry for added luxury. 

This particular ship is rated 4.5 stars due to its age, built in 2000, refurbished in 2010 which will again be refurbished again in 2015 and completed one year prior to our sailing on May 24, 2016. We’ll be anxious to see if it’s rating increases after the renovations. In any case, we have found that we favor some of the older ships with their “Hollywood” flair.


(If interested in booking a cruise with Anna Urban at Vacations to Go,
please click the above blue link for her email address. We are not affiliated with VTG
other than as a customer).

Explorer of the Seas

Ship Rating: 
The 138,000-ton Explorer of the Seas is loaded with recreational amenities: an ice-skating rink, in-line skating track, rock-climbing wall, television studio and full-size, open-air basketball court. The Royal Promenade, which runs through the center of the ship, is longer than a football field and wide enough to accommodate three lanes of traffic. Here you’ll find restaurants, shops, entertainment and street performers. The basketball court converts to a volleyball court, and there’s also a golf simulator, nine-hole miniature golf course and jogging track. Adventure Beach, just for families, has its own pool. Spots for socializing include a champagne bar, cigar club, sports bar, jazz club, dance club and a cocktail lounge at the top of the ship. Hungry? There’s a casual grill, ice-cream parlor, the Windjammer Cafe and Johnny Rocket’s, modeled after an authentic 1950s diner (complete with jukebox). Portofino, an intimate reservations-only restaurant serving Italian fare, complements three main dining rooms.
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2000
Last Refurbished 2010
Tonnage 138,000 tons
Registry Bahamas
Length 1,020 feet
Beam 158 feet
Passenger Capacity 3,835
Crew Size 1,185
Total Inside Cabins 618
Total Outside Cabins 939
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 757
Suites 119
Maximum Occupancy per room 8
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments 
in Main Dining Room
Dining Hours 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Recommended? Yes
Tipping Guidelines Royal Caribbean will automatically add a $12.00 USD gratuity ($14.25 USD for Suite guests) to each guest’s onboard SeaPass® account on a daily basis. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges 12
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino Yes
Chapel Yes
Disco/Dancing Yes
Elevators 4
Hot Tub 6
Cell Phone Service Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings Yes
Self Serve Laundromats No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court Yes
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator Yes
Ice Skating Rink Yes
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course Yes
Rock Climbing Wall Yes
Swimming Pool 3
Note: 1 Heated
Tennis Court No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting Yes
Children’s Playroom Yes
Kiddie Pool Yes
Supervised Youth Program Yes
Teen Center Yes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
(private connecting doors)
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 26

Then again, there’s a certain degree of “safari luck” which allows us to rent superior properties at reasonable negotiated prices when we find vacation rentals that appear more expensive and out of our reach.

In the next few days, we’ll be sharing a few more of these; two more booked vacation homes in the South Pacific that we’ve yet to mention, that literally make us jump for joy. Keep an eye out over the next few days. 

The cruise described here today is a long way off, 21 months to be exact. We booked these two cruises early when we noticed online that some of their better cabins were fast being booked. 

Please scroll to the right to see the full deck plan.  We’ve chosen a cabin on this level at the “bump-out” area for enhanced viewing. As always, we checked the itinerary to ensure we will be on the better side of the ship for viewing as we sail past land. Note the deck plan indicates the location of cabins after the renovations are complete on 4/24/2015, one year before we sail.

Explorer of the Seas Deck 8 (starts 4-24-15)

Royal Family Suite with Balcony

Category FS

Two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long (one room with third and fourth Pullman beds), two bathrooms (one with shower, one with bathtub), living area with double sofa bed, private balcony, and concierge service. Stateroom can accommodate up to 8 guests. (561 sq. ft., balcony 246 sq. ft.)
Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony

Category D1

Category D2

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private balcony, sitting area and a private bathroom. Rates vary from deck to deck. (179 sq. ft., balcony 52 sq. ft.)
Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony

Category E1

Category E2

Category E3

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private balcony sitting area with sofa and a private bathroom. Rates vary from deck to deck. (164 sq. ft., balcony 51 sq. ft.)
Family Ocean View Stateroom

Category FO

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, additional bunk beds in separate area, separate sitting area with sofa bed, and a private bathroom with shower. Stateroom can accommodate up to 6 guests. (265 sq. ft.)
Large Ocean View Stateroom

Category F

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area with sofa, vanity area and a private bathroom. (178 sq. ft.)
Promenade Stateroom

Category PR

Bowed windows with a view of the Royal Promenade, two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area with sofa, vanity area, and a private bathroom. (160 sq. ft.)
Interior Stateroom

Category K

Category M

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area, vanity area, and a private bathroom. (150 sq. ft.)

Stateroom with sofa bed.
Stateroom has third Pullman bed available.
Stateroom has third and fourth Pullman bed available.
Connecting staterooms.
Indicates accessible staterooms.
Stateroom with sofa bed and third Pullman bed available.
Stateroom has four additional Pullman beds available.
Deck 8 (starts 4-24-15)

Another important factor we must mention is the “bill” we’ll receive on the last night of any cruise which includes charges for WiFi (no refunds for unused data), beverages if not included in a pre-purchased beverage package, gratuities if not included in original costs such as for our personal cabin steward, favorite bartender or a special server in a restaurant, specialty restaurants, spa services and any purchases made in any of the ship’s shops all of which offer overpriced merchandise. 

We always ensure that we have plenty of toiletries to last throughout the cruise. The cost of a tube of toothpaste, razors, or a bottle of Tylenol can be outrageous. All charges are charged to the credit card kept on file which is charged periodically to the card. One must ascertain that they have plenty of “room” on their card or another credit card on hand as these expenses add up quickly. 

There are expensive ATMs aboard ship and a bank where one can exchange currency. But, the fees for these services may be higher than expected. We don’t gamble on ships or otherwise, although we’ve seen many passengers hovering at an ATM when their gambling isn’t going well. Casinos on ships are less likely than land casinos to produce winners.

Checking on daily cruise updates has always been a “Tom task” when I’m busy updating the spreadsheets with our ongoing expenses and related tasks. Besides, he enjoys doing it where I have little interest in watching the status of cruises until it actually applies to us. It’s through Tom’s diligent research that we’ve been able to secure great pricing and cabins.

At the moment, all of our cruises and vacation homes are booked with required deposits paid. Today, after writing here and a trip to the little local market to have our skilled butcher cut meat for us, I’ll start logging our latest bookings that have been wrapped up over the past several days.

Please check back tomorrow and Thursday for two very exciting updates to our itinerary with many photos.  In the interim, we revel in the excitement of these two cruises, one highlighted today and the other in yesterday’s post.

Stay tuned.

Photo from one year ago today, July 8, 2013:

We posted our favorite low carb, sugar-free coleslaw recipe and how we’ve had to cut the cabbage by hand when we can’t ever find bagged shredded cabbage and carrots. For the recipe and detail from that day, please click here.

Missing package?…Future plans in the works…the South Pacific…

Check out the busy bee on this Bird of Paradise.

While still in Morocco, we ordered a number of items we needed, including a few clothing items for me, Crystal Light Iced Tea, a pair of shoes, and a number of miscellaneous items we needed.

After placing the shipping order through our mailing service to be sent to Gina’s home address in Funchal, Madeira fearing it would arrive before us, it has yet to arrive. It was sent on May 2, 2014, via international priority mail at a cost of US $150, EU $110.27. We have a tracking number.

It shows on the inquiry from our mailing service that it went through customs on:

Date &
Status of
May 14, 2014 , 10:43 am Customs Clearance

Why we don’t have this yet baffles us. Goodness, we received a package in Kenya without issue.

These flowers are growing outside our front door.

Last week, we stumbled across a post office in Ribeira Brava asking their staff what’s to be expected for arrival from the US when mail is sent in this matter. They said two to three weeks should be plenty of time. 

She asked us, in good English, to bring the tracking number back to her and she’ll check online and give us an update. Today, we’re planning on walking out the door around 4:00 pm in order to get to the post office before it closes at 5:00.

Since we’ll already be out, we’ll stay in Ribeira Brave in order to have dinner again at Muralha. We’d hoped to try a new restaurant each time we go out but today, we’ll bring our laptops using their free WiFi while lounging by the sea to begin the research for vacation homes in Australia. 

More colorful flowers growing outside our door.

With only a year until we arrive in Sydney on June 11, we need to get on the ball, deciding the city in which we’ll live for the first 90 days.

Over the past several days, we’ve been researching visa requirements for Australia. They are clear and concise.  US citizens require a visa to enter the country and must leave on the 90th day or sooner. Visas may be applied for online and don’t require a paper copy. Once confirmed by email, the visa remains in their system. Nice.

The color blue is less common in nature than other colors.  These blue flowers are seen everywhere.

The difficult part is having to leave every 90 days when ideally with the massive size of Australia, we’d like to be able to stay longer while living in three of four cities over a period of a year. There is a possibility of a special “retiree” visa provided one buys a government-issued bond. We’d like to avoid that rigmarole.

After considerable discussion, we’ve concluded that the easiest and best solution will be to spend 89 days in our first chosen city (yet to be determined) and then leave Australia to visit another country in the South Pacific staying for 89 more days and then returning to a different city in Australia for another 89 days. 

 A pink house down the road from us. Most houses on the island are varying shades of pink, peach, white and beige. Most homes have orange tile roofs.

This plan enables us to visit some of the most desired hot spots south of the equator in the South Pacific.  Airfare between these locations appears to be reasonable. In addition, we’ll spend one of those time periods in New Zealand which has always been on our list of places to visit.

 Bora Bora is near to French Polynesia, a location we’ve dreamed of visiting, staying in those huts over the water. The trick will be to find one at an affordable price. 

In reviewing a map our options are many. For example, if we spend 30 to 89 days in Bora Bora, we’ll fly back to Australia to our next booked city, staying another 89 days, then fly to Vanuatu for a similar visit, then back to Australia and on and on. 

An attractive entrance to a nearby house.  We are located in a beautiful area.

Although this may sound confusing it’s no more confusing than a retiree living in the US, flying out for a vacation/holiday three or four times a year. For us, we won’t have the expense of paying for our “base station” while we visit the various other locations.

We’ll leave Australia when our vacation rental period ends, taking all that we own with us each time. This is not as big a deal as it used to be, as we continue to lighten our load. 

This a rooftop parking spot for a house that overlooks the valley and the sea, further up the steep hill from us.

Our only added expense is the cost of flights back and forth which appear to be rather reasonable, most of which fly out of Australia. In any case, we would have still had the added cost of flights flying within Australia between the various areas in which we’d like to live for the 89 days at a time. 

(BTW, we always plan to stay in a location for a maximum of 89 days in the event a flight is delayed or canceled to ensure we head out before our current visa expires).

All of this requires careful planning and timing which both of us are willing and excited to tackle. We look at it this way; we need a place to live. Where that will be is entirely up to our desires and budget. We do the work.  We get the desired results

The cozy bar, frequently populated opened day and night which is located at the top of the steep hill. My plan now that I’m feeling well is to walk this steep grade at least four times per week. It certainly gets the heart rate up meeting the aerobic criteria of my HIIT (high-intensity interval training) form of exercise. 

At this point, our enthusiasm is as fierce as it was in the beginning if not more. We now have experience, are less apprehensive and have pinned down the features and amenities most important to us:  an indoor living room, decent WiFi, a view of water (when possible), a relatively well equipped kitchen, working plumbing and electricity, AC in the bedroom in extremely hot climates and a property in reasonably good condition. 

We can handle bugs as long as we can buy repellent. We can handle daytime heat. We can live without a TV or a microwave. We can handle crowing roosters, cooing pigeons, baaing goats, church bells ringing outside our door, call to prayer six times per day, and an occasional snake at our feet as long as we don’t get bit. 

One of the four goats that live next door.

We’ve learned to wear the same clothes (clean, of course) over and over, never giving it a thought. We’ve learned to use bottled water for brushing our teeth and for all of our drinks and for washing vegetables. We’ve learned to communicate with gestures and hand signals and, also managed a few words in the local language.  

We’ve learned tolerance and acceptance of other cultures so far removed from our own. We’ve learned to be meticulous money managers with nary a moment of weakness in making an impulsive unnecessary purchase. 

We’d never seen vibrant red Gladiolus such as these while on a walk in our neighborhood.

We’ve learned to manage our health without the necessity of a single doctor appointment since December 2012. (Although we’d seek medical care if we felt it was necessary). 

We could go on and on as to what we’ve learned since we left the US on January 3, 2013. As we travel, we’ll learn more and more, embracing every adventure for what we can glean from it carrying it with us in our hearts and minds as we continue on…

Photo from one year ago today, June 3, 2013:

Due to the fact that we were busy packing to leave for Italy, there was no post on this date one year ago today.  Soon, we’ll avoid mentioning that there are no posts for a particular date. At a certain point, we began posting every single day regardless of what we were doing or if we were on the move and, posting photos on every occasion.

Plans for the future revealed!…A new continent…From Hawaii May, 2015 to ????

Yesterday, we’d planned for dinner in Ribeira Brava, a 20-minute drive through tunnels and mountains. With my equilibrium still whacked from the recent illness, I had to back out of our dinner plans and head back home, to dine in.  However, we managed to make it to this beautiful garden in Campanario. 

In the past year, we’ve spent many hours looking at the world map trying to decide where we’d ideally like to travel after our last booking in Kauai, Hawaii ending on May 15, 2015. 

After tiring of long flights and thinking back to our original plans of cruising to destinations, first, we picked a country or continent we’d like to visit. Then, we began the search for possible cruises that could take us to our chosen continent/country, even if it meant a fight in between.

How handy that a Honey Bee stopped by.

We worked on this premise for a while as we contemplated our options. The problem needed to be revolved due to the fact that we had more than one possible preferred location. Over these past months we had three options:

Our choices included:
1. Alaska
2. South America
3. Australia/New Zealand

The beauty of the terraced hills and garden in Madeira. Astounding!

A huge factor in the location we’d ultimately choose is the cost of living including the rent for vacation homes.  As it turned out, as hard as we tried, we couldn’t make Alaska work in the summer and there was no way we’d consider Alaska during at any other time of the year.

For a decent house, condo, apartment, resort, or lodge, the lowest rent for a property we’d find suitable started at US $5000, EU $3668.91 a month. Let’s face it, living in a less expensive run down the basic cabin for months in Alaska was not our cup of tea. Plus, Internet accessibility is an issue in many areas of Alaska.

We were unable to get a clear shot of the worn verbiage on this sign which we’d hoped to later translate.

With the size of Alaska, we’d have to move no less than three times to get a fair sampling of the huge state. With only three months of good weather, we’d feel rushed.

Through our travels, we’ve determined that our goal is to rent a house with a lake or an ocean view if possible.  Doing so in Alaska made it all the more unaffordable. 

Love these!

Based on our lengthy research these past few years, so far Alaska and Switzerland were the two locations in the world that we found to be the most expensive in which to live.

A month ago, we decided to let go of our hopes for Alaska at this time, which continues to have much appeal for us with its considerable wildlife. We’ve decided to save Alaska for the future when we hope to eventually tour the US and Canada.

It is surprising that cactus can grow in this cool climate that rarely tops 78F, 25C at the hottest point of summer in August and September.

Next, we went to work on South America, starting in Ecuador in order to visit the Galapagos Islands to see the wildlife, eventually settling in Ecuador for three months after discovering that many US ex-pats live in certain areas. 

We were able to find affordable housing in Ecuador on the ocean that fit our criteria. At one point, we’d also considered a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru but with the masses of tourists now traipsing through the lengthy trek, we lost interest.

Oh, that I wish I knew names of flowers to share here. Never the gardener, always the admirer, we’ve never learned the names of many flowers. To research each of these and to post them here, is not a task I care to undertake with “other fish to fry.”

After Ecuador, we’d move to another South American country, staying up to three months in each of several locations over perhaps a period of a year. Of course, a cruise on the Amazon River has definitely been on our list of desired future experiences. 

No matter how hard we’ve tried, we couldn’t get excited about South America at this time in our travels. At some point, we will. Also, we hope to return to Africa to visit Victoria Falls, go on another safari, see the gorillas in Rwanda and return to Marloth/Kruger Park, South Africa. (My heart sings as I write about returning to South Africa).

We do know this is a rose.  Wow!

In reality, we only have so much time. I’m 66 years old, Tom is 61. Will our health hold out? We can reasonably envision another 10 years of traveling Beyond that, who knows?

So folks, with much enthusiasm, we’ve decided on Australia and then later, off to New Zealand! Last night, we booked an 18-day cruise from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 24, 2015, heading to Sydney, Australia arriving on June 11, 2015, where we’ll stay for a few days (very pricey big city) and then move to the first of several homes we plan to rent on the continent. 

Could this be a poinsettia?

We’ll have an extra nine days “to kill” in Oahu, Hawaii, most likely in a hotel while we wait for the cruise to depart from Honolulu.

Now, we’re excited! Wildlife, the outback, the ocean, the friendly Aussies, and with many affordable houses by the sea in the smaller communities, we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Tom, overlooking the sea. Nice shot of him wearing the same shirt he often wears in an attempt to wear it out.  No such luck!

Checking out the weather, possible safaris, and vacation rentals, we’ll soon continue our search for where we’ll live, locking them up with deposits as we make our selections. 

We’ve already found several excellent options. However, this is a time-consuming process that will take months to accomplish. As we book each property, we’ll list them here with details and photos.

The warmth of the sun made it possible to take off my jacket as we perused the garden. I’ve been wearing my warmest long-sleeved BugAway shirts while feeling cold since we arrived.

Traveling the world is comparable to having a “job” requiring diligent research and planning. As anyone with a “job” we have free time to enjoy spending time where we are living at the moment. Mix it all together and we love all the parts; the research, the planning, and most of all, the living.

Having this decision resolved for the moment, we can sit back and “love the one we’re with,” the beautiful island of Madeira!

Tomorrow, we’ll post the details of the cruise to Australia, the ports of call, the cost for our balcony cabin, and the details as to how and why we chose our cabin. With eight cruises under our belts since January 3, 2013, we now have three more cruises to anticipate over the next 12 months.  Stay tuned.

Photo from approximately one year ago today, May 28, 2013:

A side view of AIDer HQ, an office building in Dubai, UAE. This photo was posted on May 30, 2013, when we toured Dubai and Abu Dhabi the prior day. For the story for that day, please click here.

Three weeks from today…Off we go again!…We’ve only just begun…A typical Saturday morning in Kenya with animals in the yard…

Look at those “bedroom eyes!” This was shot without zoom when I visited the goats in the backyard this morning. I was afraid to move in order to get a better shot. Sudden movements cause them to skitter off.

This morning this song was running through my head. When I mentioned it to Tom, he immediately found the YouTube video while I researched the lyrics. Tom, with his cup of hot coffee (yes, we have power) and me with my hot tea, sitting at the big glass table in our outdoor living room, are loving the sunny day after another night of pouring rain.

Each day as I write the post for the day, Tom is only a few feet from me. We share the process, me, writing,him, researching, us…talking, during the entire process. Never am I alone in a corner, typing away. It’s a tremendously enjoyable shared experience.

The babies were more curious about me. Most of the others, not so much.

Once completed and posted, Tom proofreads from the perspective of a reader looking for possible errors. He usually finds several which I promptly correct. We easily miss other errors as well, mostly those that spellcheck interprets as acceptable, some a result of our simply missing it. We don’t worry about it. We have a story to tell, photos to share, and writing every day means we’re going to miss some.

So, today, our story reminds us of this song, released in the summer of 1970, 43 years ago, a busy year for Tom, the year he graduated high school, the year he started working on the railroad, the year daughter Tammy was born.

Dad or utter? I say Dad. Tom says utter. Any input?

We didn’t meet until 21 years later, in 1991, each divorced with grown kids, ready to embark on a new life together.This song rang true for us in 1991 and is befitting again in our lives today. We’re sure many of our readers will remember and relate to this song as well.

We’ve Only Just Begun (video link)

by the Carpenters

We’ve Only Just Begun Lyrics

We’ve only just begun to liveWhite lace and promises

A kiss for luck and we’re on our way

We’ve only begun

Before the rising sun we fly

So many roads to choose

We start out walking

And learn to run

And yes! We’ve just begun

Sharin’ horizons that are new to us

Watchin’ the signs along the way

Talkin’ it over just the two of us

Workin’ together day to day, together

And when the evening comes we smile

So much of life ahead

We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow

And yes! We’ve just begun

Sharin’ horizons that are new to us

Watchin’ the signs along the way

Talkin’ it over just the two of us

Workin’ together day to day, together, together

And when the evening comes we smile

So much of life ahead

We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow

And yes! We’ve just begun

In a perfect world, a few days before departing we’d start packing. Although the world is quite amazing, it’s not perfect. This is about the time we start thinking “packing.” 

One might think it’s no big deal. Fold the clothes, throw in the shoes, and miscellaneous items, and be done. Not so fast! Virtually, every physical item we own is in our possession!

Determined not to pay excess baggage fees this time, we’ve made a plan. When grocery shopping at the local Nakumatt the customer’s items are packed into cardboard boxes which we’ve been saving these past several trips.

When we grocery shopped yesterday, Alfred pointed out the local post office, which we’ll use to ship the packed cardboard boxes to our new home in South Africa, which will be a huge portion of our stuff, to ensure we don’t get slapped with excess baggage fees this time. 

This goat was definitely not camera-shy, practically stepping on my foot as she approached.

The risk of our belongings being confiscated or stolen is high. We’ll insure it, and let the chips fall where they may. By primarily packing clothing and shoes, if it is “lost” it won’t be anything we can’t live without. The cost of shipping within Africa will be considerably less than excess baggage fees between continents. Of course, we’ll send it the slowest possible way which we speculate we’ll receive the boxes within a month of our arrival.

All of our safari clothing, hats, and boots, everyday clothing, shoes, electronics, prescriptions, everyday toiletries will be in our possession. Our goal is to ship everything else to South Africa a week before we leave Kenya, in the event, it arrives quicker than anticipated. We’re able to receive packages at our new home much to our delight.

Mother and kid.

In the past, I’ve started sorting and packing at about this point. But, I’ve changed my mind, preferring to continue to enjoy our time here, to begin the process a few days prior to the trip to the post office. 

This is one more example in my own mind of “letting go,” of always working hard to be done with tasks way before it is necessary. Chill. The new me. It’s this same “freedom” mentality that allows us to not necessarily have everything booked more than a year in advance.

Many laughed at our pre-planning two-plus years in advance, imagining we were limiting ourselves by committing out that far. But, leaving our home, our family, our friends, and everything we knew and loved behind was a monumental undertaking. 

After days of rain, the flowers are blooming.

Many embarking on years of world travel have a storage facility or condo somewhere for peace of mind. Not us. 

Planning the first few years gave us a sense of comfort and peace of mind. Now, with a number of holes in our itinerary over the next 18 months (as far out as we’re booked so far) we no longer need the reassurance that we have a “home” in place for every single day of our travels. 

At this point, our motivation to book travel arrangements well in advance is predicated by how fast properties, flights, and cruises are booking up. At that point, we don’t hesitate in locking in locations and times.

Beyond, May 2015 when we leave Kauai, Hawaii, after having spent time visiting many of the Hawaiian Islands with hopefully lots of whale watching, our upcoming time is free. 

We’re considering many options that appeal to us in order to take us on our chosen path for our love of nature and wildlife. With continued good health, we have no desire or plans to stop. After all, we have only just begun. 

Booked our flight to Mpumalanga, South Africa for November 30th plus required one night hotel stay…

OK, we get it. Pronouncing Mpumalanga is challenging. Here’s a link to a site that will pronounce it using a computer-generated voice. Tom and I practiced using this app several times and I believe we now have it down.

How annoying when travelers are unable (or unwilling to take the time to figure out) as to how to pronounce where they are or where they’re intending to go. As we’ve traveled, we’ve made an effort to familiarize ourselves with the names of local cities, establishments, and basic greetings.

Here in Kenya, “jambo,” a Swahili word, is the standard greeting with many meanings as indicated in this link. It’s so easy to go overboard using a certain local word, hoping to endear ourselves to the locals.  From our humble perspective, moderation is the key, as is the case in many aspects of life, not always easy to accomplish.

(At the moment, as I’m writing in our outdoor living room, there is a peculiar sound in the ceiling above my head. It sounds as if a creature is biting into the wood beams, but we’re unable to see it. This has been occurring over the past 30 minutes. Hmm…).

Today will be a busy day for us. Soon, our driver Alfred will appear to take us to a local G4S/DHL store to inquire in person as to their willingness to accept a package of supplies we’re shipping from our mailing service in Nevada.  

Hans kindly offered to have us ship the box of supplies to his PO Box. But, with the high risk of theft throughout the local postal system, we’d prefer having the package sent to an actual package shipping service, where more security will be in place. 

Once we meet with the staff at the nearby G4S/DHL location, our minds will be at ease. It will be interesting to see how much we’ll be charged for them to hold the box for less than one day. When we’re notified by email that it has arrived, we’ll immediately contact Alfred to take us to pick it up. 

In order to arrive in Mpumalanga, Kruger National Park, South Africa, the route was tricky. Here’s what we settled on which was the least amount of waiting and flying time at the best possible price.

11/30/2013 – Departure   1 stop
Total travel time: 8 h 55 m
custom air icon
1 h 0 m 
MBA  11:25am
Terminal 1
NBO  12:25pm
Layover: 3 h 35 m
custom air icon
4 h 20 m 
NBO  4:00pm
JNB  7:20pm
Terminal A
South African
Economy/Coach (W)
12/01/2013 – Return   Nonstop
Total travel time: 0 h 45 m
custom air icon
Kruger National
0 h 45 m 
JNB  11:10am
Terminal B
MQP  11:55am
South African
Airways  Operated by 4Z/SOUTH AFRICAN AIRLINK
Economy/Coach (L)

With the 7:20 pm arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa at 7:20 pm, and the next day departure to Mpumalanga, Kruger National Park, we could either hang around the airport for almost 16 hours or stay overnight in a nearby hotel.  We opted for the hotel, taking the complimentary airport shuttle in the morning. 

The one-way fare for both of us on all 3 flights is a total as follows:

1: Adult
Taxes & Fees
2: Senior

Taxes & Fees
Expedia Booking
Total: $1,241.34

(By the way, I am the above referenced “Senior” being 5 years older than Tom. Obviously, I wasn’t awarded any benefit by disclosing this fact.)

Our seat assignments, not stated here, were established when we were directed to the airline’s website.  Luckily, we’re able to sit together. This trip will be considerably shorter than the long flight from Venice, Italy to Mombasa a mere two weeks ago today. How the time flies (no pun intended)!

The cost for the one night’s stay in a highly rated hotel was US $117.66 after a 50% discount provided to us from Add another US $125 for meals and tips for a grand total US $1484.00.

Considering the distance is over 2300 miles from Diani Beach, Kenya to our destination, this fare is not unreasonable. We’d actually budgeted US $1500 for this leg of our journey.

Soon, we’ll make further arrangements for a driver to pick us up at the Kruger Park/Mpumalanga airport to be on our way to our new home in Marloth Park, located on the edge of Kruger Park. 

At times, we’ve been asked, how we can begin planning the next leg of our travels when we recently arrived at a particular location?  It’s actually quite easy for several reasons:
1.  It takes our minds off of it, freeing us up to fully enjoy our current location.
2.  It ultimately saves us money, when the lowest fares usually sell out first.
3.  It allows us to sit together.
4.  It enables us to select flights in time frames that are most appealing to us.  Some of the options for these flights required a 5:30 am departure.  With the International requirement for arriving at the airport no less than 2 hours before the flight, choosing such a flight would result in our losing an entire night’s sleep.  Also, we consider the check-in time for the upcoming location to avoid waiting for hours to get into the property.

Overall, advance planning translates into “stress reduction.”  With the situations that occur for which we have no advance warning, we’ve avoided creating chaos, of which Tom and I are adamantly opposed.  Chaos avoidance is the crux of making our worldwide travels as seamless and stress-free as possible.

And still, regardless of our best efforts and intentions, stuff happens.

Off we go on our stop at the package store after which we’ll grocery shop. We’re having Hans and his lovely wife Jeri over for dinner tonight. Gee, I wish I had some linen napkins!