Goodbye, Arizona!…Hello, World!…A New Year. A new life.

Early Sunday morning while rummaging through the food-sparse kitchen in our Scottsdale condo, I realized we had little time to go out to eat with packing, the utmost in our minds.  Having given away most of our food supplies, we had few ingredients on hand to make breakfast.

With a plan to go to Tom’s sister’s birthday party in Apache Junction, I started cooking a rack of baby back ribs I had taken out of the freezer the night before in an effort to wipe out the remnants of any unused food. 

With a bottle of barbecue sauce on hand (no time to make homemade) I could make the ribs to bring to the party, along with additional chicken and ribs we had promptly frozen, leftovers from Christmas.  Perfect!  Any easy dinner for all!

Breakfast was another matter. Scrounging through the fridge, I found a package of organic grass-fed hamburger I had also thrown in the refrigerator to defrost the night before. With no ketchup, no salad, and of course, no buns and only hamburger patties and cheese it could be a hearty, albeit boring, breakfast.

As the ribs cooked, I fashioned three uneven hamburger patties adding only salt and pepper (the only seasonings left on hand) tossing them into the pan with the ribs.

Fifteen minutes later, Tom and I sat at the dining room table overlooking the pool, with a paltry single burger laden with three squares of unknown cheese for me and two for Tom. We looked at each other, then our plates, then back at each other again. We smiled at the exact same moment, improvise, we most certainly thought at exactly the same moment.

We knew we were getting “it” under control, “it” is the ability to make do with what we have on hand, a process we surely will master in time.  We started it two months ago when we came here and the low profile toilets became plugged every other day and we came to discover that drinking the tap water was at “one’s own risk.” 

We muddled through when the frying pan was too small to make a decent breakfast so I learned to “bake” omelets in a glass pie pan covered with no-stick foil along with a giant single baked coconut flour pancake to-die-for baked in a 9 x 11 Pyrex glass baking pan. 

Eventually, I purchased a lightweight frying pan that now feels like a burden when trying to find a place to pack it today.  There’s simply no room in our bags for a frying pan.  Bye, bye, frying pan.  No more of this foolishness.  We’ll make do with what we have.  We’ve learned our lesson.

After eating the cheesy burger balls, we returned to the repacking of our stuff, sucking the air out of the space bags finding we needed to use the seventh bag, an older black Samsonite we had brought along for the warmer clothing we needed while here. 

It would have been great to fit everything into the six orange bags.  We mutually agreed that we’ll ditch the black bag as we learn to pack leaner along the way, a necessary evil for homeless travelers such as ourselves.  We’ll get better at this. 

Later in the day, we were out the door to the party a mere half-hour drive to Apache Junction, leftovers in tow, a little tired, a little anxious, and definitely a little preoccupied.  Tomorrow, Tuesday, we leave for San Diego.  Two days later, we board the Celebrity Century to begin our worldwide journey.

After an enjoyable evening with Tom’s three sisters and two brothers-in-law, ending with a heartfelt round of goodbyes, we headed back to our condo for the last time. These two months proved to be valuable, to gather and learn our digital equipment, to organize financial matters, to prepare and execute our wills and living wills, to prepare our taxes, and to arrange our insurance.

More than anything, these two months were used to prepare our hearts and souls for this life-changing and mind and heart-wrenching experience of a lifetime that we enter cautiously optimistic, with a little fear, a lot of hope, and a wild sense of adventure.

So, we say goodbye Arizona.  We don’t know when we’ll see you again.  We say hello world, we’re on our way.  We’ll see you soon! 

May all of our readers have a very happy New Year filled with opportunities for personal growth and discovery.  We’re never too old to learn.

 

Life is never risk free..

What were our motives for starting a blog about “leaving” seven months before we are actually “leaving?”  In my mind the intent has been simple, document the process as a means of lessening the emotional blow.

Almost to the day, a year prior to starting this blog, I wrote my first blog, an accounting of the last days of the life of our precious little dog, WorldWideWillie, written from his perspective, followed by me, after he passed. 

Much to my surprise, we had over 500 followers with no marketing, no advertising, no promotion, other than by my own comment to a few friends and a few references in own poorly maintained meager Facebook account.  

Somehow, people were reading it across the seas.  Perhaps, key words. Perhaps, one person in the US, sent the link across the world to a grieving relative having recently lost their own beloved pet.

What did this accomplish for us?  Lots of tears each day as I read aloud to Tom, “what Willie wrote” as he sat at our side, nose touching my leg, tilting his little head each time he heard familiar words of which he knew so many.  

But, most of all, it was a vital part of the healing process. I love dogs. I love dogs too much, too deep, the same as with people. In time, through the words, the healing entered our hearts as we began to talk about him without crying (still do sometimes). And, I stopped counting on my fingers how many days, weeks and months had passed since he left us.

And now, this time, this blog, 1000’s, not 100’s of readers, all over the world are sharing this experience with us.  Thank you, readers.  Thank you so much for coming on this journey with us, even now at this early date, three months away.  

Most of you silently observe, some with disdain, some vicariously, some with curiosity and some, like me when reading other’s blogs, hoping to glean a tiny morsel that will somehow change our lives.

This is not just a blog about two crazy retirees traveling the world for what may prove to be many years. It is also about leaving everyone we love, everything we have loved, the familiarity of a comfortable life and all of our worldly possessions, not contained in four over-stuffed suitcases and two carry on bags.   

Writing this blog has the same powerful healing effect that we encountered when writing about Willie.  Plus, it serves as a powerful reminder of that which we have learned along the way, to reference the multitude of tasks to do now and into the future.

We “heard” through the grapevine that some people think we have no idea of what we are doing and that “we are in for some big surprises.”  Yes, we surely are!

Did the senior know what he was doing when he jumped out of an airplane for the first time on his 90th birthday? No. He took the risk for the adventure.

After 100’s of hours of research we both feel we know the risks: death due to injury; crime or illness; illness or injury requiring an expensive (although insured) trip back to US; being a victim of a crime; theft of our belongings (which will also be insured); theft of our deposit or the property not being as expected or represented; unable to obtain a visa or gain entrance into a country; being stuck in airport or on the tarmac for days; cancellation of a cruise at the last minute due to maintenance issues of bomb threat; a cruise ship tipping over; false imprisonment (we won’t knowingly commit a crime!) and more.

What if a warthog cuts us with his sharp tusks?  Or we step on a snake resulting in a life threatening bite? Or a creepy worm makes its way into the bottom of our foot to travel to our brain? Yuck!

When we read the newspaper or watch the news each day, all of these risks occur throughout the world and also, here in the US.  Seniors fall down a flight of stairs in their own homes, resulting in horrible injury or death. Food poisoning occurs in our local restaurants.  Pins are found in a sandwich on a domestic flight. Citizens are shot and killed in their own homes, as an unintended victim of violence.

Good grief!  We could spend our lives immobilized by fears, a slave to our own environment.  Or, we can venture out performing everyday tasks, enjoying our families, our friends, Mother Nature, our work and our hobbies, all of which are laden with a certain degree of risk.

Life is not without risk.  Do we “prepare for the worst and expect the best?”  

No. We choose to be as educated as we possibly can about the risks, proceed with caution along the way, avoid risk and pray for a little good luck.  And, as life has its ups and downs along the way, as it surely will, we will holster our usual optimism hopefully discovering a logical solution together.

We’ve never done this before. This is not the same as traveling for a month or two, returning “home” to repack, paying the bills, reading the mail and visiting with our family and friends.  There will be no “home” to return to.

The message is clear in the old adage, “home is where the heart is”. This will become our motto. After all, we are taking our “home” with us not only in our hearts and minds, but also in each other.

Sometimes it hurts…

Awakening at 5:50 am after a fitful night, feeling exhausted from “running” in one confusing dream upon another, a wave of sorrow ran through me.  

This past Sunday was the memorial service for our beloved friend Chip. I wrote about him in my June 1, 2012 post (please see the archives) and was honored to be asked by his wife and our friend, Sue, to share that post during the service, with the many devoted family members and friends in attendance to say their last goodbyes to this very fine man. 

Lying in bed, thinking about Chip no longer being four doors away, that involuntary rush of tears filled my eyes. Deciding to distract myself, I ventured to “read my phone,” a habit I’ve acquired since first owning a smart phone; read my email, peruse last night’s texts arriving after we’d gone to bed, check out my newest Facebook blurbs and scan through Engadget‘s daily updates for the latest advances in technology.

Spotting a lengthy text from my dear younger sister Julie, a Hollywood TV producer, I breezed through the usual, saving her message for last. She plans to make her last visit here soon to once again celebrate her birthday. I was touched by her words, “Your home has been my haven, my peaceful place to go to recoup, to recover, to celebrate so many times in my life.” The tears flowed freely.

I was reminded how hard it must be, not only for us, but for all of our loved ones, to no longer have access to this comfortable home, surrounded by water, abounding with the gifts from Mother Nature and often overpowered by the aroma of loving prepared home cooked food.

It wasn’t perfect. It never is. But, it was our home for many years. We did our best to make it “home” for a little while to whomever graced our door, to send them home with returnable containers filled with food, always hoping they’d return soon to fill them once again. And they did.

While I allowed a little sob to escape my lips, determinedly I jumped out of bed, anxious to tackle the day’s tasks, so many of which lately revolved around the “preparations,” a seemingly endless list that must be accomplished in 3 months and 8 days from today, the day we leave.

WorldWideWille, a fine dog 

Scurrying around the house, bath water running, I emptied the dishwasher, filled and fired up the tea pot (still not drinking coffee!), neatly made the bed, and stopped to take a deep breath while staring out the window.  

My eyes fixated on the tiny headstone, a gift from a dog loving friend, where our little Australian Terrier WorldWideWillie was laid to rest only 15 long months ago. 

(If you are a dog lover, click the above link to his blog, written from his perspective, over the last days of his life. Please scroll the archives to get to the beginning). 

The tears, not quite gone, reappeared with a sob, for a moment, sucking the air out of my lungs.  Willie was named for our interest and love for the wealth of information provided by the Internet so long ago, as this blog was named as a tribute to him, for our interest and love for him. 

Ah, life is so complex, yet so simple, so joyful, yet so sad. We lose the ones we love, both human and animal, maybe now, maybe later, grasping each moment as a gift, as a memory that we behold wherever we may go for however long we may have.

The house and the things in it, the ambiance created by its warmth and charm, the breathtaking views surrounding it, is merely the tools that we used to build the memories. When the tools are gone, the memories will remain, forever in our hearts and minds.

A half hour later, ready for the day, my tears dried, a second cup of tea in hand, I heard a knock at the door. There stood my next door neighbor and friend, smiling from ear to ear, just in time for me to whip up a low carb breakfast of gluten free, Portobello mushroom, Vidalia onion, and spicy pepperoni omelets laced with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Life is good.

 

Last 4th of July!

Flag cake is easy to make: white or chocolate cake mix,  Cool Whip or whipped cream, sliced strawberries and blueberries.  My small hand skills are limited, but the grand kids don’t notice the imperfections.

How odd it is. Our last 4th of July. It dawned on me today that many holidays we celebrate here in the US, won’t be celebrated abroad. Duh! No 4th of July. No Labor Day. No Thanksgiving. No President’s Day. No Memorial Day. 

With our intent of blending in while learning the culture, we’ll make every effort to embrace those national holidays that are befitting our personal beliefs and respecting those that are not.  

Thanksgiving cooking was tough last year. I prepared an entirely gluten free meal including GF Coconut Flour Biscuits, GF Homemade Croutons to make GF Turkey Dressing, GF Almond Flour Gravy and GF Nut Crust for the sugar free GF pumpkin pies. (We had to ditch the traditional green bean casserole.  There’s no good substitute for those canned onion rings!)  

Before Thanksgiving, I’ll post some of these recipes for anyone who may be interested.  Tom didn’t love everything.  He has picky taste buds..  I can eat my shoe, enjoy the taste and digest it with nary a belch. Not picky. I ate all the leftover GF items for days while Tom nibbled on the turkey and the GF broccoli salad.  After the fourth pumpkin pie, I was done. We won’t miss the Thanksgiving meal so much.

Now, as the 4th of July approaches, the plans and menu are in place.  Here’s the menu.  Recipes follow for the starred items. 

Fresh Summer Fruit Salad
Homemade  Salsa* & Corn Chips
Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Raisins & Toasted Almonds
Barbeque Baby Back Ribs
Oven Fried (GF) Chicken
Roasted Root Vegetables on the Grill
Mom’s Secret Cornbread Recipe* (No secret now! See below.)
Flag Cake 


Luckily for both Tom and I, most of these recipes are gluten free, except for the cake and cornbread.  Also, we gave up corn and all its products last August after reading the book, Wheat Belly by Dr, William Davis to discover the way corn has been genetically manipulated to increase production, stripped of nutrients and loaded with chemicals.  That was a tough one to leave behind.  

Our friends and family still eat corn, except for daughter Tammy and her family. (The rest of them have grown bored with my endless food warnings soapbox so I finally stepped down, preaching only to dear Tom who acts like he’s listening).The salsa recipe is easy to make and often a crowd favorite.  Here it is:

Jess’s Salsa
2 – 28 oz. cans of  Italian style whole tomatoes, save juice, chop tomatoes (I used to use fresh tomatoes, but unless they are home grown, generally those at the grocery store are relatively tasteless) 

1 large bunch cilantro, cleaned, chopped 

1 large onion (Vidalia is available now)

2 jalapeño peppers or a small can of diced hot jalapenos

3 cloves fresh garlic 

4 T red wine vinegar
Add juice from cans
Add salt and pepper
Add juice from one large lime or two small. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. Keep chilled in jars for one week in the refrigerator.

My mother, Sylvia (may she rest in peace) was a quirky woman but, a fabulous cook.  Much to the surprise of other good cooks, she didn’t like to share certain recipes.  This cornbread was always a huge hit among those fortunate enough to try it; moist, sweet and flavorful.  

She didn’t give me the recipe until I was 30 years old, old enough to keep the “family secret recipe.”  She made me promise not to give anyone the recipe in “her lifetime.”  
When she passed away in 2003, my friends were chomping at the bit for the recipe which I gladly shared.  Here it is! If you take the five minutes it takes to dump these ingredients into a bowl, stir well and keep an eye out with a toothpick while it bakes, you and your guests will experience the best tasting cornbread on the planet! 
Jess’s Mother Sylvia’s Secret
Cornbread Recipe
2 cups Bisquick½ cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup sugar

Mix well

Add:

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 stick melted butter (1/2 cup)

Pour into a 9” baking pan
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done when a toothpick is inserted.

Enjoy!

 
Tom and I don’t eat this due to the cornmeal, sugar and Bisquick.  The smell while baking in itself is quite intoxicating, reminiscent of another time.
Tomorrow, Tom will place our traditional 200 small flags along both sides of the peninsula.  

We’ll take out our red, white and blue hats, leis, tee shirts and serving pieces. We’ll celebrate the 4th of July with the same fervor we have each year, watching the boat parade at 7 PM, tossing water balloons, making giant bubbles and sitting at the end of our dock at dark to watch the head turning five fireworks displays all at once.   Bittersweet!  
Next summer on June 2nd, while living in Tuscany, we’ll celebrate the Anniversary of the Republic or on August 15th, Ferragosto.Bye, bye, 4th of July!

 

Sunday Morning…

Ceramic tea set our granddaughter used to serve us “tea.”  I saved this set for her as we made totes for our grandchildren filled with memorabilia.
As we sat in our comfy chairs this morning, a rerun of Sunday Morning playing in the background, our precious little granddaughter almost three years old, served us “pretend” tea from this tea set which had gone unnoticed on the bookcase for almost 26 years.
Where I found this miniature tea set fails me. Was it an arts and crafts fair, an antique shop, Apple Days in Excelsior, or merely a local garage sale? In any case, most likely I didn’t pay more than $10 for it. 

But this morning when our tiny overnight visitor served us the tiny cups of “pretend” tea, it was priceless. When she leaves later today to return home, I will carefully wrap and place this little treasure in the bins we are saving for each of our grandchildren, little treasures from our past for our treasured young loved ones. Ouch!

Wiping tears from my eyes, Tom suggested I look at the TV for a moment to see a story on Sunday Morning about Fiesta of which we have main dinner service for 25 plus a wide array of plates, serving pieces, bowls and glasses. 

In 2004, we remodeled our kitchen combining three rooms into one large space. Due to our close proximity to the lake, zoning restrictions prevented us from “building out.”

With seating for 12 at the giant wood island, eight at the 60″ square table, three at the corner banquet and two more in comfy chairs for a total of 25.

River rock granite and stones on side of fireplace.
Our Fiestaware dishes brought out the colors.

Thus, began our (mostly mine) fixation on dinnerware for 25. Searching for months online for style, function and price, we finally decided on Fiesta for several reasons:

1. We were able to choose four base colors all of which matched our river rock granite counter tops and hand picked river rock boulders in the fireplace. This resulted in either a mix and match place setting for smaller groups or one or two color place settings at any time.

2. Timeless style – Fiesta was introduced over 80 years ago

3.  Durable – I am constantly dropping things (or, as Tom would say,  I’m “a bull in a China shop.”

4.  Easy to find replacement pieces on eBay and other web sites.

5.  Playful or elegant depending upon the selection of our many matching linen napkins and place mats and, of course, the manner of folding the napkins.  Yes, I have been using linen napkins all of my adult life, folded in a style befitting the occasion along with other decorative accouterments including flowers, candles, flatware, etc.

Sample of the colors in our Fiesta dinnerware.

This was fun! Tom wasn’t into cloth napkins when I met him. In time, he came over to the other side, leaving me chuckling when he occasionally helped set the table, gingerly placing the folded napkin in the correct spot. That’s my man!

Let’s not forget for a moment that we met halfway on the multitude of differences we immediately observed when we started dating. (Those will be a point of discussion in a future post). Adapting to each other’s taste and differences is part of the reason we will be able to continue to be happy when we’re together 24/7, beginning this October 31st! We are continually challenged and intrigued by these differences while being delighted by the accommodations we each make to please each other.

Needless to say, Fiesta… in its entirety will be sold at our upcoming estate sale or sooner. Bye, bye dishes! Any takers?P.S. If its hard to say goodbye to dishes, how can one fathom saying goodbye to family and friends? Stuffing that for now. Will deal later.

The continuing prescriptions saga…

On May 17, 2012, I posted concerns about our prescription refills when we are out of the US. As is the case with most insurance plans, the servicing mail-order pharmacy will not send more than three month’s of medications at any time.

Writing that post prompted me to contact the mail order pharmacy to request an exception, due to our unusual circumstances of our being out of the country for years as opposed to months.

Here was the conversation with them: 

“We’d like to request that we receive 12 months of prescriptions in October 2012 before we depart for our journey. A year later, we will ensure we are at a location with an address and have you mail them to us for another year. Our doctor has approved this.”

“Oh, we don’t send the prescriptions outside of the US,” he said with authority in his voice.

Hum…I mused to myself. My choice was either to alienate him by complaining about their policy which was surely futile or, give him a proposal. Here’s what I proposed:

“Sir, we will be getting a new address in the US when we establish residency in another state in December 2012.  Also, we will be obtaining the services of mail handling company in the same state.  Could you send the prescriptions, 12 months at a time, directly to that address?”

“Gee, I don’t know,” he quips, question marks flying around his head.

“Can you find out?”  I asked.  This was like pulling teeth!

“Uh, yea. Can you hold?”  The authority was gone from his voice.

On hold for 15 minutes, he returns with his answers. “Thank you for holding. We’ll be sending you forms in the (snail) mail with instructions.” 

“Oh, I have poor handwriting (true).  Can you email them to me or are they available online?”  I asked with the utmost of sincerity.

“No, they have to be snail mailed and completed by hand,” he says, sounding annoyed with me.

Good grief! Where’s my old typewriter?

Within days of my inquiry, we received a packet of complicated forms, stating not only our standard identification information (OK, I get this) including every word on our ID cards (they have this). We were asked to list one prescription per page, reasons for the prescriptions, how long we’d had the illness, the diagnosis and the prescribing physician’s information.  

With our regular daily prescriptions plus an additional prescriptions for preventive and emergency travel conditions, this would result in completing 20 pages!  It would take days.  

Yes, I could manually enter the repeated information, for example; ID information, addresses and prescribing physician information, etc. and then proceed to copy and print the 20 pages, subsequently, manually entering the requested lengthy medical information.  This still would take days!

Yesterday, I called asking to speak to a supervisor, asking that our conversation be recorded (it was) and documented (hopefully, it was) and here was my proposal:
1. Complete one page with the pertinent basic information.
2. Print all of our prescriptions directly out of their system. (They could have done this!)
3. Write a letter, signed by both Tom and I, explaining our circumstances, reasons for the request, including our itinerary for the next 949 days thus far.
4.  Staple this together.
5.  Snail mail.

The supervisor agreed to my proposal.  I reminded him to post it in the system as to his agreement with my proposal.  Otherwise, they will receive the packet, send it back to me, complaining I didn’t fill it out correctly and this entire process would begin again.  Of course, I made copies of everything.

Does this scenario sound familiar?   I’ll keep you posted on the end result.

Fitful night..Worrying…

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

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

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

 

Last Easter with the family for awhile…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Finally, the itinerary…

Admittedly, I have procrastinated about posting the itinerary. Procrastination is not my style. I am a “get-it-done” kind of person who contemplates a task in advance, sorts out the details, and then fires away. Why, the procrastination?

There are a few reasons. One, as indicated in today’s earlier post, I was definitely preoccupied with the pending immunization appointment, and two, I’ve been wrapped in the details of the rental house in France, which is now complete.  

We have yet to book a portion of the time in Europe and in Hawaii (primarily due to the hesitancy of property owners committing so far out). In addition, the last three cruises, although upcoming and available, have not yet posted for bookings.

Will we continue traveling after experiencing this itinerary?  

Yes, we will if the following prevail as planned: Are we healthy? Did we follow the budget? And of course, do we want to?

Location Days  
11/2/2012-11/4/2014
Minnesota drive to Scottsdale AZ
3
11/4/2012-1/2/2013
Scottsdale Condo Rental 
61  
(included in the above)
Scottsdale to Las Vegas-hotel
5  
12/30/2012-1/3/2013
Scottsdale to San Diego – stay with family

4
 
1/3/2013-1/18/2013
San Diego to Fort Lauderdale – Panama Canal Cruise
15  
1/18/2013-1/20/2013
Fort
Lauderdale to Boca Raton- stay with a friend
2  
1/21/2013-1/29/2013
Fort Lauderdale to Belize – Cruise
8  
1/29/2013-4/8/2013
Belize Rental-House on beach
70  
4/9/2013-4/13/2013
Belize to Miami Cruise
3  
4/13/2013-4/20/2013Miami
Visit friends in Boca, Bonita Springs
7  
4/20/2013-5/1/2013
Miami to Barcelona – Cruise
11  
5/1/2013
Barcelona to Majorca (RT) – ferry
0  
5/1/2013-6/3/2013
Majorca Oceanview
Condo Rental 
33  
6/3/2013
Majorca to Barcelona-Ferry 
0  
6/4/2013-6/16/2013
Barcelona to Venice- Mediterranean Cruise
12  
6/16/2013
Venice to Tuscany-Train
0  
6/16/2013-8/31/2013
Tuscany Rental-17th century villa
76  
8/31/2013
Tuscany to Rome-Train
0  
9/1/2013
Rome to Kenya-Flight
2  
9/1/2013-11/30/2013
Kenya Rental- Diani Beach house
90  
11/30/2013
Kenya to South Africa-Flight
1  
12/1/2013-3/26/2014
South Africa Rental-Kruger National Park – House
115  
3/26/2014
Kruger National Park to Durban, South Africa-driver
0  
3/26/2014-3/30/2014
Durban to Cape Town-Cruise
4  
3/30/2014-4/17/2014
Cape Town to Genoa- Cruise                             
18  
4/17/2014-4/18/2014
Drive to Genoa, Italy along
French Riveria, to Hotel in Cannes
1  
4/18/2014-5/17/2014
Cannes to 16th Century
Stone House, Cajarc, France
30  
5/17/2014-9/17/2014
Spain, Portugal, London (take the Chunnel under the ocean) rentals
123  
9/17/2014-10/1/2014
London to Fort Lauderdale-Cruise
14  
10/1/2014-10/5/2014
Fort Lauderdale to Boca-stay with friend
5  
10/5/2014-10/19/2014
Fort
Lauderdale to
San Diego Cruise
14  
10/19/2014-10/22/2014
San Diego to Baja CA
-Hotel
3  
10/22/2014
Baja CA
to Ensenada,
Mexico
0  
10/22/2014-11/2/2014
Ensenada Mexico to
Honolulu Cruise
11  
11/2/2014-3/31/2015
Hawaii – Home Rentals-Island Hopping (Christmas booked with family on Big Island during this period)
150  
Total
Days Booked to Date (more will follow)
880

Photos of rental properties will be coming soon. Thanks for stopping by!

 

The final criteria, lots more to follow…

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

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

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

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

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

So, the remaining criteria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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