Our cell phone’s SIM cards ran out…No more phone calls, maps or data on our phones…Three days and counting…

See below for details on this cactus. I shot all of today’s photos at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, including the blooms on this cactus.

As it turned out, the T-Mobile SIM cards for our phones with calling and data ended a few days ago. At that point, with only four days remaining until we leave the US, we saw no reason to add more calling or data at the cost of $80 for one more month.

As a result, we used our Skype account to make the multiple calls we needed to handle yesterday. With no charge using our Nevada phone number on Skype ($5 a month), we could make all the calls on my computer at no additional cost because all the calls were to toll-free numbers.

Opuntia pinkavae, common name Bulrush Canyon Prickly-pear is a species of cactus that originated in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

When making calls to non-toll-free numbers, we pay a minimal charge of $.023 per minute and can call any phone number, cell phone, or business anywhere in the world. 

If we talk for 60 minutes, the entire cost is $1.38, and fees are subtracted from funds we prepay into the account as needed.  If we run out of funds, Skype reminds us to add more money to the account. Thus, we don’t get a “bill” in the usual sense.
Of course, if we call another Skype account, there’s no per-minute charge. All Skype to Skype calls are free from anywhere in the world. Only the calls directly to cell phone numbers or landlines result in the $.023 per minute rate. (As an aside…if Skype is installed as an app on a smartphone, free calls may be sent and received using the app if both parties are using Skype).

What a lovely spot to stop and enjoy the views.

Without a working SIM card in our phones, we no longer have “maps” or any driving navigation when we’re away from Richard’s home. While inside the house, we can use the house’s Wi-Fi on our phones for a connection. It’s only when we leave that we no longer have a connection.

This may seem complicated for some world travelers who insist on having a cell phone contract. Our rationale? Why pay $100 to $200 per month or more for US phone contracts for both our phones and data when we can purchase SIM cards in any country, never paying more than about $20 a month?

Mountains are surrounding the entire Las Vegas valley.

In reality, who do we need to call? When we don’t have a rental car, we need SIM cards to contact our driver to pick us up and deliver us back to our vacation home or other locations. It’s not as if we’re calling Dominoes for “pizza to go” or calling family and friends talking for extended periods. We save those conversations for free Skype-to-Skype calls or when using our $5 a month Skype phone number to call phones at $1.38 an hour.

If Tom and I separate for a few hours while we are shopping or run an errand, we can call one another on our respective phones using the appropriate SIM cards installed. 

There’s nothing quite as stunning as water and mountains to create an astounding scene.

Also, we’ve found that using SIM cards prevents us from potentially spending huge sums when calling friends and family members from our phones while utilizing a cell phone contract or using data on our phones. It causes us to be mindful of how we use our SIM cards and how easily we can chat with anyone from our computers.

In most cases, we have a decent Wi-Fi signal that allows for an apparent conversation. In most cases, we find the person to whom we’re speaking having signal issues when they’re out of range, not us. 

Who knew the desert so close to Las Vegas could be so beautiful?

For example, I tried to speak to my friend Chere last night using our Skype number to her cell number. She and her husband were driving to Wisconsin, and the signal was so poor on her end we had to cut the call short until such a time as she’d be able to get a good signal. Even in the US, cell service is yet to be perfect.

Yesterday, having postponed my visit to sister Susan until today, once I upload this post, I took off on a few errands, one to pick up VSL3 Probiotics (in pill form) when a kindly pharmacist at a Smith’s Market agreed to special order them for me. 

I prefer the powdered product, which has a much larger number of bacteria at 450 billion, but he could not get this high dose in the US (on this over-the-counter product) compared to the pills at a paltry 120 billion. Based on this dose, I’ll take a minimum of two capsules per day. 

These two Mallards found rocks on which to stand close to each other.

I have enough pills in my possession to last for the next four months with my current supply. Once we’re settled in Costa Rica, I’ll check and see if I can find more for when we head to Africa in less than seven months. Certain products aren’t available in some countries.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with more.  Today, I’ll say goodbye to my dear sister Susan which no doubt will be emotional. Tonight, we’re heading out to a movie and dinner on the Las Vegas Strip with Richard and friends, our final night out on “the town.” 

Enjoy your evening wherever you may be! We’ll be thinking of you!

Photo from one year ago today, July 28, 2016:

Check out the size of the fish and steak portions from the groceries we purchased in Phuket, Thailand, at a warehouse-type market. The brats in the bottom right of the photo are gluten, grain, and sugar-free.  Using this app to convert the Thai baht (THB) to 3,803.25, we discovered we’d only spent US $109.38 for all this!  In the US, this much food would have been at least twice as much. For more details, please click here.

Its a new day…Problem solved!…Enough about technology!

Fisherman huts located close to the sea where many spend their days after fishing in the early morning and late night hours.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

The young white horse and the boy return for a swim in the river.

Yesterday’s late posting was predicated by the fact that we were unable to get online for several hours to upload it. There was no signal at all. A few days ago, Gede had contacted the service provider located across the bay in Java, the Indonesian mainland, requesting a user name and password be designated for each of these two villas.

When we arrived almost three weeks ago we were concerned over the fact that no user name and password were required to log on. As a result, we continually used Hotspot Shield, the pay-for VPN (a virtual private network) we’ve had these past years to provide us with an added layer of security.  

A paddy field during the harvest season.

Using a VPN has a tendency to slow down web browsing by about 25%, but was necessary under these circumstances. Foolish us, when last week we were concerned that six local teenage boys were sitting on the beach in front of our house for hours wondering why they were there as they continually faced the house, looking our way.

Now, we get it. They were on their phones using our unsecured wifi connection. Why we didn’t think of this slays me. Instead, we assumed they were “casing the joint” as we stayed on alert until they left after dark. Surely, other locals were aware of this easy-to-use network. It’s no wonder we couldn’t get online.

The lush greenery of future fields to be harvested by hand with power lines impeding the view.

When we started out yesterday morning, I was able to write the post but unable to upload a single photo. We realized Gede had made the call having no idea when the new user name and password for our exclusive use would be made available. 

When we hadn’t been able to connect at all after waiting for over two hours, I called Gede, using the SIM card we placed in my phone last week. The reception was poor when he picked up. All I could understand is that he was at a doctor’s appointment with his wife (not urgent). At that point, we knew it was a waiting game until he showed up or called back.

A ride down a wide side street.

Dependable that he is, within an hour, we heard Gede’s motorbike come up the road and park in front of our villa. He’d been notified by email that our private user name and password were ready for our exclusive use. 

He’d also explained that he’d arranged a separate user name and password for the staff next door which enables all of us to be online at our discretion without lessening the quality of the signal. That was yet to be seen.

There’s plenty of spaces between most houses to accommodate motorbikes.

Getting our laptops and phones online was tricky, not as simple as entering the user name and password. Oddly, it requires we login each and every time we get online. But, who’s complaining? Once we figured it all out, during which time Gede stayed with us, we were confident the issue had been resolved. 

Now, the test was determining if our signal would be impacted by the use of the staff when they’re next door, four or five people using data on their phones all at once.

Information on many statues is hard to find online.

By the end of the day, we were satisfied with the connection, not complaining when we couldn’t get online around 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm when locals return from work and the system is overloaded for a few hours. 

We can live with this. We shower and change for dinner at 4 pm and dine at 5 pm (so the two Ketuts can go home early). By 7:00 pm, we’re looking forward to watching a couple of our downloaded shows which don’t require an Internet connection once downloaded. 

Buffalo calf on the side of the road.

By 9:00 pm, we’re back online able to conduct financial matters with a reasonably good connection. By 9:30 pm, I’m reading a book on my phone and fighting to stay awake until 10. Sound familiar? I imagine many of us throughout the world have a similar routine. Any comments? We’d love to hear from you!

This morning I was easily able to download the photos for today’s post in 10 minutes as opposed to taking two or three hours. Now we can spend more time in the pool or taking walks in the interesting and unusual neighborhood. We’re looking forward to sharing many of these photos in upcoming posts.

Desa Baluk, a small village in the Negara region, noted by a statue along the highway.

Yesterday, when we weren’t able to be online, Tom asked, “Are you bored?”  Thinking for a moment, I answered, “No, I’m never bored. I’ve got plenty going on in my brain to keep me entertained!” He laughed and wholeheartedly agreed.

As is the case on many tropical islands, papayas grow with little care, free for the picking.

Enough about technology for a few days. We don’t want to bore YOU!

We hope your day is varied and entertaining! 

Photo from one year ago today, May 20, 2015:

One year ago I shopped at this boutique in Kauai, Azure, which had a fairly good selection of women’s and men’s clothing. As it turned out most of which I purchased at that time had been washed so many times that recently I’ve given most of it the “heave-ho.” I purchased a few new items recently in New Zealand but have found shopping for clothing only once a year spending under IDR $2,714,000, US $200, doesn’t quite cut it. At this point, I’ll wait until we get back to the US in 2017 to update some items in my aging and worn wardrobe.  For details, please click here.

Mission accomplished…Tip for travelers to Australia…Solutions for us…

This parasitic plant appears to be a face looking up to the sky with leaves in its mouth and throat.

We apologize if today’s topic doesn’t apply to you. However, in today’s world, this subject is important for both business travelers and tourists, technology while on the move.

Three years ago, we found information on technology in other countries other than our familiar USA often confusing and difficult to understand. Each country has its own means of providing Internet service to its residents and the concept of SIM cards is unheard of in some countries.

Although we’ve covered this topic in the past, with our influx of new readers who may not have had the time to go back and read our prior 1104 posts (duh), we share this update today particularly as it applies to a non-resident traveler to Australia which includes Tasmania and a few other Australian islands.

It’s winter here now with fewer flowers blooming than in spring but we love seeing flowers during the off-season.

A bit of review: When we booked the house in Trinity Beach, it listed free wireless Internet access is included in the rent. For the average user, this may have been ideal.

The signal is available in this property via a router in the owner’s house above us, making the distance alone an issue by providing a strong signal in this large property. This is not unlike a router in your own home not providing a strong signal on another level such as a basement or upper level.

Also, we are sharing that router connection with the owners who are often home and online at the same time as us. This creates a very difficult scenario. If we were typical tourists only needing access to email and occasionally searching for restaurants and  “things to do” this wouldn’t be an issue.

But for us, not only posting each day with the inclusion of many data hogging photos and our intensive searching for future travels causes us to run into considerable issues with the slow and inconsistent signal especially if we’re both online on the house’s router at the same time.

Shooting up at our vacation property from our return walk. The owners live in the huge upper level while we live on the ground level smaller though the ideal property.

Within a few hours of our arrival, we realized we had a serious situation that would prevent me from being able to upload our daily posts. As discussed in an earlier post, we had no choice but to head to a local phone store, Telstra, to search for a solution, hopefully using our own global hot spots by inserting one of their SIM cards

Simply put, a SIM card is a small card inserted into phones, routers, and various wifi devices that picks up the local wifi signal for which the user is charged for the data via a prepaid or billed service. Please click the link for a more detailed description.

As it turned out, Australia is locked up with cell phone contracts. There’s no such thing as the use of a global SIM card in this country. Either purchase a prepaid SIM card or a two-year contract from one of the local providers or eels one is out of luck. 

Essentially, Telstra allowed us to borrow a hot spot without a rental fee for the device while we paid for the data which we’ve reloaded on several occasions online through their website. As it turned out, I exclusively use the hot spot while Tom uses the wifi in the house. The cost of data for my use is a cost of USD $102.26, AUD $140 for 16 gigabytes of data.

Pretty bougainvillea we found on a walk in the neighborhood.

I use all 16 of these gigs every three weeks, renewing for an additional 16 gig once it gets down below 2 gigs.  Then, I go online to Telstra’s website: m.telstra.com to easily renew. Tom could easily log on to the hot spot but his data use is calculated exponentially.

It took me a few times to figure out that the online data reload won’t accept a credit card issued outside of Australia. As a result, its been necessary to pay using PayPal, a secure service we frequently use for online payments. 

Once we activated our first SIM card in Australia, I’ve never experienced an outage, difficulty getting online, or an issue uploading posts or photos. Simply put, it works well.

However, before we leave Trinity Beach we’ll return the loaned hot spot while we’ll continue to travel in and out of Australia over the next 21 months. How will we handle our wifi needs when our own hot spots won’t work here and we’ll be at hotels, on ships, and at ports of call during which we’ll be required to pay even higher fees for data for often a poor signal?

Pink bougainvillea was in abundance in Kenya during the heat of the late fall season.

The only logical solution was to purchase our own Australian hot spot (they don’t carry unlocked universal/global hot spots) and reload the SIM card as required. Ultimately the cost of the device itself was the biggest issue.  We already knew the cost of the data.

Upon visiting the Telstra store in the Smithfield Mall yesterday, spending considerable time with a rep encouraging us to take a two-year contract, we ending up deciding on the most economical decision…no contract, buy a device, load data as needed.

With a few devices available we opted for the following device as shown in this photo which includes 3 gigs of complementary data which should see me through a few days and must be used within 28 days from purchase.  Once that data is used we’ll reload the SIM card. Once reloaded, the new data expires in a year.

Our new Australia only hot spot purchased yesterday at Telstra.

Thus,  we’ll be able to be online when we go to the airport in Cairns, when we stay at the hotel in Sydney before flying to Fiji when we wait at the airport in Sydney before boarding the plane to Fiji. Once we arrive in Fiji, the device will be dormant during our entire stay, fired up again once we’re back in Australia in January for a cruise. 

Once we arrive in New Zealand later in January, again, we’ll figure out a solution that will work for us. With Fiji upcoming, we’ll do the same. There’s no country we’ve visited in the world where the wifi was an easy option considering our use, even when we were in Hawaii where we couldn’t purchase an affordable SIM card to use in our global hot spots. Luckily, the houses in Hawaii provided strong signals.

We wondered what was beyond this barn in the neighborhood.

The cost of the hot spot was AUD $99, USD $72.33.  It pays for us. You may think that as a traveler to Australia for a two-week vacation/holiday that this won’t pay for you. However, as a traveler requiring considerable data use or those choosing to avoid paying high wifi per day fees at a hotel with a poor signal, this may work for you, especially for the business traveler. 

Unfortunately, once we permanently leave Australia, we’ll have no use for the hot spot. We look at it this way…we could go out to dinner and spend the AUD $99 without batting an eyelash.  At least for now, this is the purchase that keeps giving.

Many travelers don’t realize that using wifi on their phones results in “roaming fees” that may result in $1000’s in surprise fees on their cell phone bill when returning home. 

We’d seen these droopy topped agave plants in Hawaii, also found in Australia.

We’ve heard from others about their lack of understanding in this area only resulted in a later discovery that each time they called, sent an email or uploaded photos or, logged into Facebook while on a cruise or traveling, they incurred huge roaming fees when outside their home country.

It’s an ongoing process as we move from country to country. Technology is not universal and may never be so.  In the interim, we do our best to figure out the most logical, user-friendly, and economical solutions to best serve our needs.

                                              Photo from one year ago today, August 12, 2014:

There we were at Le Louvre. It was hard for us to believe we were actually there. For more details and photos, please click here.

Planning ahead for the future…An ongoing process that never ends…Planning the future end of our time in the South Pacific…

We searched online, but can’t seem to find the name of this grass or weed. This is commonly found along the highways and country roads in this and other areas of Australia.

With a plan to post and then head out sightseeing we realized we had to change our day when rain is pelting in buckets. Of course, the weather here can change on a dime so we shall see how the day rolls out. At the moment, the clouds and fog are so thick, we can’t see much further than beyond our house.

As I’ve mentioned recently and in the past, Tom is the official cruise planner in this family. He loves spending endless hours online calculating every option, pricing, and itinerary. 

Since my hands are full with other tasks, namely sitting at my laptop every morning posting and dealing with hundreds of photos, record keeping, and my share of the many tasks associated with simply living life; household tasks including laundry (which I like doing) and cooking.

Sunny day at the beach.

Tom does his share of tasks including handling the investments, heavy lifting, all the kitchen clean up, trash removal (which requires a drive down the steep road), and his endless pursuit of the next cruise or cruises.

Together, we clean the house once a week, tidying up daily and every other week Andy comes and vacuums and washes all the floors. It’s a perfect compromise of tasks and responsibilities with neither of us ever feel we are doing more than our fair share.

Plus, Tom drives me everywhere I want to go, nary with a complaint. I could never drive here, sitting on the right side of the car, shifting with my left hand (not coordinated), and maneuvering all the roundabouts. 

The boat launch at Holloways Beach leading to a river that leads to the sea. That’s not an animal hanging from the tree, just an unusual root clump.

Oh, good grief. Even when I’m the passenger I keep thinking he’s going the wrong way, when in fact he’s going the correct way. I’d end up going the wrong way on the road, risking life and limb. I keep my mouth shut to avoid startling him. 

It’s a good mix, us two. But, when it comes to cruises, he’s on his own. I only care about the price and the itinerary. He’s perfect at the rest, including figuring out the dates that fit within our already set itinerary.

We’ve been using Vacationstogo.com since we booked our first cruise. We adored working with our former rep, Joaquin, who later left the company. Since then we’ve moved around a few times to different reps, never quite getting that same kind of relationship we so loved with Joaquin.

This sign painted on the paved road at the boat launch says, “Be croc wise in croc country.” It would be rather terrifying to encounter a croc while launching a boat into the water

Preferring not to switch companies, we wrote to Anna, a manager, requesting a few things; one, find us a new person we can work with long term and two, we need them to match cabin credits we’ve noticed offered by some other online cruise booking agencies at times. 

This is not to say that we haven’t felt that we’ve received overall great pricing. We’re not foolhardy and won’t necessarily pay higher prices for loyalty on a regular basis. 

Any suggestions on the name of these flowers?

We look at the overall picture. Did they give us a special break on the last cruise that was beyond what anyone else may have offered? It all comes “out in the wash.” We keep good records, making it easy to look back and see what we’ve paid each and every time.

But, now as Tom regularly checks cruisecompete.com who actually has numerous companies “bid” for our business, we wondered if perhaps we can do better elsewhere.

This morning, we heard back from Anna and she’s agreed to allow our new rep to match any published price we find online including cabin credits. With this information, we look forward to a relationship with our new person and the best possible price in the world.

The pile of huge rocks appeared to have been placed at the edge of the rainforest to keep people out. 

After all, in the past 33 months, we’ve sailed on 11 cruises, have four more booked, and have an additional three we hope to book in the next week. Why do we like cruising so much? It’s a chance to see more of the world in a shorter time period and we love the people we meet aboard ships. It’s too much fun.

No, we don’t like the lines, the waiting to board and disembark, and the occasional “cruise cough.” After mentioning this to the doctor the other day, she explained that it’s not that we particularly have weak immune systems. 

The cough is a by-product of being in a “crowd” day after day in air conditioning and tight quarters.We’ve had the cough a few times out of the 11 cruises but have avoided the Norovirus entirely.

A pretty house as we drove along the beach.

We’ve also become infected with colds and flu while sightseeing in a crowded venue, while not on a ship. I suppose most people around children and crowds get a cold or virus once or twice a year.

While we were on the last cruise from Honolulu to Sydney on May 24th, arriving on June 11th, Tom had visited the future cruise booking department while I sat in the bar doing the day’s post. 

When he returned to the bar, he was frustrated when he explained that he was unable to purchase any future “open bookings” using their usual USD $100, AUD $134 per cruise per person, enabling us to avoid paying a larger deposit of USD $900, AUD $1207 deposit to book any cruise for two. 

This root laden tree is unusual, reminding us of Banyan trees in Hawaii although with smaller roots.

Why should we lay out that much money often as much as two years in advance if we don’t have to? By purchasing these “open bookings” we only pay USD $200, AUD $264 per cruise, paying the balance 90 days before we sail.

Over the past several days, he’d been in touch with Royal Caribbean explaining he’d been refused an opportunity to purchase any open bookings (meaning no specific cruise is selected yet) on the last cruise. They profusely apologized and agreed to book three “open” cruises for us using our credit card on file.  We were thrilled.

The outlay of USD $600, AUD $805 instead of USD $2700, AUD $3621 was a great relief. The transaction was completed. We worked things out with Anna and now we’re ready (Tom’s ready) to book three future cruises, the last of which will take us out of the South Pacific entirely, a long-term adventure finally ending.

Trees with unusual roots growing along the beach.

Once these three cruises are booked, we’ll share where we’ll be going on the third cruise, which may be surprising. However, we prefer not to mention future booking until all of the details are firmly in place.  Hopefully, over the next week, we’ll be sharing this information.

Tomorrow and the next day, (for us, Saturday and Sunday and for others, Friday and Saturday) we’ll be posting our long-overdue wildlife photos which we can’t wait to share.

Have a terrific day!

                                                Photo from one year ago today, July 10, 2014:

It was one year ago today, July 10, 2014, that we firmed up our booking for the house in Bali where we’ll be heading next April 30th. For more details and photos, please click here.

Reinventing ourselves in a new locale…Tolerance and patience for this new way of life…

The rainy view of what is aptly named, Double Island, as seen from our veranda. 

It’s been raining every day since we arrived. We’ve heard this is unusual for this time of year. For now, we don’t mind. Let’s get the rain out of the way while we become acquainted with life in our little corner of the world.

This surf and dive shop were having what they referred to as a “Killa Surf Sale.” I giggled when Tom didn’t get it right away. It’s Australian lingo for a “killer of a sale.” 

It’s 2:00 pm and Tom is sitting outside under cover of the veranda roof, safe from the rain, listening to his favorite radio show. The wifi signal is better outdoors that inside the house.

As a matter of fact, today, we purchased a SIM card for one of our mobile hot spots at the local phone store.  We stopped by the phone store several days ago, but they required a passport in order to purchase the card which we failed to bring along. We had forgotten in our muddled state of mind that one must show a passport in order to purchase a new SIM card.

Peering out to the mall from inside the Telstar phone and tablet store where we purchased a SIM card for our hot spot device which we don’t yet have working. I’ll work on it later today and if it doesn’t get going, we’ll head back to the store tomorrow, bringing the hot spot and my laptop.

Once we have the hot spot working, which hasn’t transpired as yet, we can drive anywhere with navigation working on our phones. To explain that further, we have no cell service on our phones. Since the cost of calling the US is too high via the use of a cell phone with a SIM card, we’ll continue to use Skype and our Skype phone number for calls to family and friends.

This morning the service was fast and friendly at the Telstar store in the Smithfield Mall.

For local calls here in Australia, we’ll use our Skype phone number which is only US $1.25, AUD $1.61, per hour or by the minute proportionately.  As for the navigation working while we’re in the car, it goes like this:

1.  Turn on the hot spot until a signal is indicated.
2.  Connect the phone to the hot spot until the signal is indicated.
3.  Use MAPS on phone to set the desired trip location. Navigate as usual as one would with an active data account on the phone.

In our old lives, we rarely shopped at K-Mart but here is Australia, it made sense when we needed a few household items. We spent US $23.14, AUD $30 for four iced cube trays with lids, two jumbo iced tea pitchers, two pans for the oven and one microwave cover. Tomorrow, we’ll tell you what we couldn’t find anywhere!

This makes life considerably easier for us. In some countries we cannot purchase SIM cards, including in the US when we were in Hawaii. This is odd to us. Eventually, required cell contracts will disappear, allowing users to have access to local signals using online downloads and/or SIM cards. 

A cosmetic store in the mall carrying many popular US brands. Shops are similar to many in the US but aren’t necessarily familiar chain stores. Australia has many of its owns brands and providers.

In some ways, we’re impressed with how readily available technology is in Australia compared to other countries we visited. No, they don’t have high speed services where we’re located and the service is slow to say the least.  But, we’re in a mountainous ocean village which typically have poor signals this close to the ocean and with this type of terrain.

In some ways, service is tricky when Andy explained how when the Internet goes down at the shopping mall, business literally stops and the shops may close. Isn’t this the case in most countries anyway? We’re all subject to modern technology.

This appears to be a parasite type plant growing on a palm tree in the yard.

Its easy for us to recall how in Kenya, both the Internet and the power would go out almost daily. That experience made us more tolerant when these unforeseeable situations occur. With our own working hot spot we hope we’ll have better control of mapping our future exploration, even if we have to drive a distance to acquire a decent signal.

Tom’s water shoes were on the veranda. When he move them, what appeared to be a lizard took off out of sight, leaving behind this live tail that wiggled around for about 10 minutes.  Can’t imagine what this was.

Resting over these past four days, we’re finally headed to the grocery store to try to shop again today. We can’t wait to take photos of the abundance at the mall where the Woolworth’s market is located and also the mall as we walk through there once again to the Telstar store.

Candle holders? Not quite sure…

With a trip to K-Mart for a few pans and ice cube trays, we discovered a missing element of life in Australia that requires an adjustment we’re surprised to be making.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the important part of our daily lives that we’ll be missing in Australia that requires a huge sacrifice.

                                               Photo from one year ago today, June 15, 2014:

We were on our way to Funchal to renew the rental car, a task that won’t be required here in Australia where we were able to rent it for the full three months. For details and more photos from that trip, please click here.

Returned to Khaya Umdani from Nelspruit with new laptop…Vervet Monkey invasion photos…Great trip with only a few scary moments…

Many times we’ve seen Vervet Monkeys holding their babies, most often from a distance. Rarely staying still long enough for a photo we were so excited to get these shots at Khaya Umdani. We’d left yogurt out overnight for the bush babies, forgetting to bring it back inside in the morning. Suddenly, we were surrounded by over a dozen monkeys only feet from us. I asked Tom to avoid scaring them off until I got a few photos that we share with our readers today.

Becoming familiar with a new keyboard is tricky as I write today’s post. I’m not manually adept, as we so well know from my dropping habits. As a senior in high school my typing class teacher suggested I drop out after three weeks to avoid ruining an otherwise excellent grade point average. I was on the verge of flunking typing.

Check out that pink ear, which later changes to black as they mature. Many of these photos were taken while I stayed put on my chair at the table on the veranda for fear of scaring them off.

I’d still flunk today. After working on computers since the 1970’s when at that time, they filled a room, I’ve yet to master the skill of typing without often looking at the keys.

They were as fascinated in us as we were in them.  However, if one of these gets inside the house, they are horribly destructive.  We chose not to eat anything outside to keep them at bay.  All windows and doors must be closed or guarded to keep them outside.

The problem now revolves around the fact that my new laptop (keep in mind, I had few options at the Incredible Connection store n Nelspruit), doesn’t have a lighted keyboard, as did the broken laptop. Plus the placement of the keys is different enough to make me struggle as I type here now.

Sitting on a log, thinking about plans for the day!

But, we have proven that you can “teach an old dog new tricks” and soon I’ll do at least as well as I did on the old laptop. Do I like the new one? Other than the lack of the lighted keyboard, it has everything I need. What did I get? An HP (not my first brand choice) Pavilion 15-n213si Intel TouchSmart Notebook PC (Energy Star).  I’m OK with it.

“Shall I eat this or not?”

How’s my installation going? Good so far, except I’m having trouble downloading MS Office. I had the discs, but lost the Product Key, thought I had it. Alas, I have no choice but to repurchase. I had a very old version anyway, seven years old. I guess it is time to bite the bullet and upgrade. With all of our Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and email folders in Outlook with all of our future reservations, Office is a must.

This character jumped up on the fence around a first floor storage area.  At this point, Tom was determined to scoot them on their way. It only took a few waves of his hands and loud noises to send them on their way. For several hours, they hung around the yard, watching us.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as downloading Office and getting a new Product Key. When trying to do so over a period of several hours last night, Microsoft picked up that I’m in South Africa and won’t let me change the location to enable me the use a credit card to make the purchase. The address used for billing on the credit card needs to match up with our US address. It defaults to SA. I tried everything to change it.

Once we arrived back in Marloth Park, it didn’t take long to spot this mom and baby Zebra on the side of the road.

Today, using Skype I’ll call to get it resolved. I’d thought of using a VPN (virtual private network) so that it will always appear my entry into websites in from the US, but they slow down the WiFi signal which is not acceptable with the already slow connections in most locations.

Notice the little dark spot on the interior of the baby’s left leg.  These dark spots grow as they grow and provide a cushion for the hooves when lying down to sleep.  Oh, Mother Nature, you didn’t miss a beat!

Overall, the trip to Nelspruit went better than expected. We encountered only one major construction delay where we didn’t move for 30 minutes. Many drivers had shut off their vehicles, getting out to move their legs with several peeing in the tall grass. 

Soon, they were on their way and so were we, anxious to return to Khaya Umdani.

I asked Okee Dokee if it was illegal to pee on the side of the road. You know, “indecent exposure” in many counties could result in going to jail and/or fines. She looked at me as if I was nuts saying, “Of course not!  Where would one go during frequent delays on the roads?” Had I been wearing my Africa boots, I may have done the same. 

A wildebeest on the side of the road refused to pick up her head for a good photo. Both male and female wildebeest have horns.

Oddly, once we arrived at the Riverside Mall where the store was located, the power was off in the entire mall, the stores all dark. For a moment, I allowed myself to think the worst, mentioning my apprehension to Okee Dokee. I couldn’t help but remember the mall bombing in Nairobi, Kenya while we were living there, imaging that the power may have been shut down by the evil perpetrators before setting off the horrifying explosives that killed many.

Tentatively, we continued on, searching for the store. How would I purchase a computer in the dark and, how would I pay for it, if the POS stations weren’t working in the power outage? Alas, moments before reaching the store, the power returned as we both sighed in relief.

Our helpful and knowledgeable rep at Incredible Connection, Borgani Mbuyane, (Ph:0829368182), whom I’d spoken to the prior day on the phone, was not only warm and welcoming when we arrived but quick to respond to my inquiries. 

With only two choices fulfilling my objectives of one terabyte memory, a 15.6 touch screen, and hopefully Intel CORE i5, no more than 20 minutes later, we were out the door, laptop box in hand.

The cost was only slightly higher than that which we’d paid in the US. With the tax included the total cost was US $983.61, ZAR $10999. Avoiding shipping and customs fees, made this a bargain. This unexpected expense was softened by the fact that we are well under budget for our time in South Africa.

On the return drive we stopped for the vendors on the side of the road, shortly outside of Nelspruit to purchase macadamia nuts and a bag of 10 beautiful huge avocados for US $3.58, ZAR $40 for the entire bag!

It was only 2:45 pm when we returned to Khaya Umdani. Gone less than five hours, it was the longest Tom and I have been apart in 16 months! It was good to see him!

Now, Thursday morning, we’re situated on the veranda for the day until Okee Dokee returns to take us to Ngwenya for dinner tonight to watch the wildlife and sunset over the Crocodile River. Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll return with exciting photos.

Although without a computer for only two days, it feels good to be back!

Have a great day!

On to an improved and more cost effective WiFi option…We received a package in Kenya…At a whopping US $458 in shipping fees…

The moon over the Indian Ocean last night as we dined Nomad Restaurant at The Sand’s Resort. Photos will follow tomorrow of our two extraordinary dining experiences, the people we met, and the tour we were graciously provided of the“over the top” accommodations,  pricing included.

Once we’d discovered a newly opened DHL store in a local pharmacy in Diani Beach, we had two thoughts in mind, one; order supplies and two; return the XCom Global MiFi to begin using the two Mobile Hotspots we’d ordered to arrive with the supplies.

We figured that once the two Mobile Hotspots arrived, we’d quickly install them, ensuring they were both working and suited our needs, we made another trip back to the DHL/Pharmacy to return XCom Global’s US $395 a month device.

Let me explain what a Mobile Hotspot is for those of you that may not be aware of these devices or, if you prefer, you can click on the above link.  Simply stated, it’s not unlike the router you use in your home for wireless connectivity, either connected to your cable or satellite service. 

The difference it that when traveling, or living in a country such as Kenya, there is no cable TV or satellite service offering Internet services to homes, only to businesses.  Thus, local residents (and tourists), desiring a connection for their computers, devices, and cell phones must purchase SIM cards to install either into their cell phones, Hotspots or routers in order to receive a phone and data signal.

The end result for us is that we each needed one Mobile Hotspot and our own SIM card. Yes, we could have used one of each among us. The signal strength is diminished by each user simultaneously online. With the heavy data load, we use each day, it is practical for each of us to have our own device and SIM card.

The moon, 10 minutes before the above photo.  This shot was taken as we sat at our table overlooking the Indian Ocean.  More will follow tomorrow.

Who provides the data/phone signal to tap into?  In Kenya, it is Safaricom. By purchasing their specific SIM cards, registering it via cell phone, they provide us with a measured amount of data that we’ve purchased in advance. 

For example, we pay Kenya Shillings (KES) $1000, US $11.76, for 1.5 gigabytes of data, (purchasing larger amounts reduced the cost), enough to last us both for 3 days, provided we don’t download movies or TV shows. Our average total cost per month for 15 gigabytes of data is KES $10,000, US $117.58 (excluding big downloads) as opposed to the meager 4.39 gigabytes per month that we were allowed with XCom Global.

Don’t get me wrong, XCom Global is a great company and for the usual traveler its an excellent option. Most travelers read their email which uses a minimal amount of data and may check a few websites for restaurants and local points of interest.

But, XCom Globals’s allowed 150 megabytes of data per day (.146 gigabytes) wasn’t sufficient most days for me to download our daily posts and photos, not leaving any usage for Tom. It just wasn’t working well for us. We were cut off a few times for exceeding the allowed data usage, not by XCom Global but by their contracted providers in various places all over the world.

With our own Hotspots, when we run low on gigs, we purchase “scratch-offs” cards to load more data by entering the code on each card. We can check how much data we have left placing the SIM card in a cell phone and dialing code, seconds later receiving a response as to the remaining balance. 

Once we install the main SIM card into my phone, we can make local calls. Hans loaned us a cell phone with one of his SIM cards installed to use for local calls so we haven’t purchased a card for making calls on our own phones. The cost to call the US is outrageous comparable to them calling us using their cell phone. Not having the SIM card installed in our smartphones prevented us from incurring US $100’S per month in calls to our families, encouraging us and family members to use Skype which is free with a great signal.

With Hans and Jeri both gone for the Kenyan holiday this weekend, we are babysitting their two little dogs. This is Jessie, whom they inherited when a nearby homeowner didn’t want her. She is a completely outdoor dog, never sleeping indoors, spending all of her days and nights outside. It was hard to close the doors on her last night when we went to bed, leaving her looking at us. I wanted to pick her up and put her in the bed with us, bt we knew not to upset her routine. She’s a sturdy little dog and an excellent watchdog. For those, who knew us in our old lives, does this remind you of anyone?

I realize that this information may be boring to our non-geeky readers and mundane to our knowledgeable geeks who already have this concept in the bag. But, just in case there are a few potential travelers out there thinking of how to save on data while traveling, a Mobile Hotspot (around US $100) with SIM cards is the way to go, if and I say, if there is no free wireless data available at your hotel, resort or vacation home. 

Please keep in mind there are areas we’ve traveled, such as the Masai Mara, where the Hotspot wouldn’t pick up any signal and we were reliant upon the weak signal that they had in the lodge. Also, the signal we do receive in Kenya is often weak, making it impossible for me to edit the blog posts, particularly the photos and their captions.  I apologize for the difficulty in reading these at times.  It goes “with the territory.”

The moon over the Indian Ocean last night at 6:15 pm.

Honestly, until we arrived in Kenya, we had free wireless connectivity at every house we’ve rented thus far. This situation here in Kenya was new for us and although I love technical stuff (kind of a geek myself), Tom took a huge interest in handling the SIM card installation while I handled the installs of both Hotspots (a one-time thing).

A good feature of the Safaricom SIM card “scratch-offs” is the ability to have some free data to be used between 10:00 pm and 10:00 am during the first two weeks after downloading the new cards.  It is during this time, in the middle of the night, that we download TV shows and movies from Graboid (US $20 a month), a service that offers downloads of current TV shows and movies.

This is Gucci, whom we’re also taking care of this weekend one of the best watchdogs in Kenya.  He alerts the security guards to any activities beyond the gate. Known to viciously bite on occasion, he is gentle and loving with us, hanging out with us most days. When we return from going out, he is very cautious in determining it is really us, barking wildly, sniffing, only relaxing when he is confident that we are who he thinks we are. Gucci and Jessie are best friends, playful and protective of one another.  They love to chase the goats and the monkeys in the backyard.

If you have questions, suggestions or general comments, please feel free to comment at the end of this post or send me an email to which I will reply within 12 hours. 

As for the package we received last week. It contained the following supplies, all ordered through the US:
1.  Two Huawei Hotspots in their original boxes plus two extra batteries
2.  A few toiletry items of inconsequential weight
3.  Crystal Light Ice Tea – 18 packages that each containing a supply to make 32 quarts. This was for Tom only. I’m now content drinking real iced tea made with two teabags and one quart of purified water, having kicked my Crystal Light habit months ago.
4.  Mezzaluna Knife – We used one of these in Italy and it made life so much easier than using dull knives
5.  Coconut Oil, organic, extra virgin – one 16 ounce plastic bottle. We use this daily swishing it around in our mouths for 20 minutes which aids in the reduction of bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract. After swishing, we spit it out followed by a thorough brushing with toothpaste which results in a cleaner and healthier feeling mouth while reducing the incidence of bacterial infections. If interested in this concept, read Dr. Bruce Fife’s book, “Oil Pulling” available at all online booksellers.

That’s all folks! That was all that was in the box, weighing 13 pounds. We had all the above shipped to our mailing service in Nevada. We watched online daily as the items arrived in our mailbox.  Once all of them had arrived, we instructed the mailing service to place everything in one box, removing all the individual shipping boxes to reduce the weight. 

The 5.9 kg, 13-pound box and its contents that we had shipped from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA to Diani Beach Kenya, using DHL Express at a cost of KES $38,953, US $458 which arrived in four business days to the local DHL/Pharmacy.

The package had to be shipped through DHL for which our mailing service arranged a pickup. They are the only parcel service within hours of us and we were able to instruct them to phone us on Han’s phone when it arrived in Diani Beach.  The regular postal service in Kenya is unreliable and often packages disappear or if they do arrive, it may take months. We didn’t want to take the risk of not receiving it before we leave on December 1, 2013.

The end result of DHL’s only method of sending and receiving packages in this area is its three-day express. That’s it. No other options. The cost for the 13-pound box (5.9 kg) was Kenya Shillings $38,953, US $458!

Yes, we could have justified this in many ways.  But we chose the simple reality. Setting up the two Hotspots and sending back the XCom Global Mifi would save us a substantial monthly sum.    

These projected amounts will vary as we discover the cost of SIM cards in other countries. Plus, this is a compilation of our estimated costs for data for Kenya, not necessarily the same in other countries, although the Hotspots will work worldwide with the installation of any country’s SIM cards:

Cost reloading SIM cards using  scratch-off at US $117.58 per month =        US $ 1410.96
Cost of Hotspot devices: (one-time expense)   US $   200.00
Cost of Shipping (entire box):                        US $   458.00 
TOTAL COST                                                 US $ 2068.96
AVERAGE COST PER MONTH:                         US $   172.41

RENTAL OF XCOM GLOBAL DEVICE                 US $   395.00

MONTHLY SAVINGS                                       US $   222.59
ANNUAL SAVINGS                                         US $  2671.04

I supposed this is what they call a “no brainer.”  No guilt over the US $458 shipping fee with DHL. 

Tom enjoyed tracking the package’s route on the DHL website daily.  When it arrived in Nairobi, Kenya it passed through customs seamlessly continuing on its way.  It took 4 business days from Las Vegas, Nevada to Diani Beach Kenya, arriving at the DHL/Pharmacy who promptly called us to come to pick it up which we did that day on our way to Nakumatt Grocery for no additional cab fare.

As for returning the MIFi to XCom Global, we did the reverse, shipping the package out on this past Tuesday, Tom tracking it online daily, with it arriving in San Diego, California on Friday.  The cost for that small package under one pound was only US $33.00, much to our surprise.

There it is folks.  Our technology needs are forcing us to learn new ways to acquire the best possible service at the best possible price.  In reality, that will never change, as technology continues to change faster than we can keep up with no access to news reports (no TV) keeping us informed as in the past.

Each time we’ve face a challenge, we remind ourselves of the brave souls that traveled across the US (and other countries) in search of a new life, in a covered wagon with no roads, no water, no electricity, dangerous elements, no medical care, limited food and of course, no technology. 

But, everything is relative and this is “our time.” We strive to continue to embrace it, no matter our age or our interests, offering up a wealth of new knowledge that only can add to the quality of our lives as we all move into the future.

Life without a phone…How’s that working for ya’?…Plus weather photos, stormy day…

This morning, as white puffy clouds rolled in over the hills.
Soon, the sky became a little darker as the white puffy clouds began to dissipate.

Almost a year ago, before leaving the US, we did an analysis to determine the cost of keeping our cell phone service with Verizon Wireless while we traveled the world. With both of our contracts expired, we weren’t obligated to continue on.

Only minutes later, the clouds rapidly wafted into the hills.

First, we determined our calling costs in many of the countries in which we’d reside. Secondly, we determined the data costs based on our usage while in the US. In other words, what would it cost us monthly to continue making calls and using data freely as we’d done in the past?

The clouds are so close to us.  It’s heavenly!
We’ve never seen clouds from this vantage point!

The estimated total for both of our smartphones would be $2300 a month, not something we could or would be willing to pay. Also, figuring the cost without making calls on the phone, the data aspect alone would be over $1000 a month. If we considerably cut our data use, most likely we couldn’t get below $500 a month. Old habits die hard.  With no data plan, we’d have no alternative to breaking the habit of using our phones as computers.

As much as it looks like smoke, it is puffy clouds.

The basic monthly fees for service for both phones were $167 a month including taxes and fees. What was the point? If roaming calls were an additional $2.89 a minute on average, using Skype for free was a logical alternative.

The question remains, will everyone we want to speak with, be willing to download Skype taking the minimal amount of time to learn how to use it?  Not necessarily, much to our disappointment. 

The clouds dissipate quickly. Tom stood by with the camera in hand getting these shots as they progressed while I was busy in the kitchen.  I’m impressed!

As we’ve discovered over the years, many users only check email and Facebook, occasionally using search engines on their computers at home and at work, with little interest in learning to use the zillions of other applications available online at little or no cost. 

Unfortunately, this prevents us from the opportunity to speak with many family members and friends who simply aren’t comfortable using Skype. We wish we could convince them otherwise enabling us to freely call any of our family and friends with the same ease we experienced back in the states using our cell phones.

The rain, although short-lived, was torrential! While the sun was still shining Tom said, “I smell rain!”  I shrugged and dismissed his comment. Within 20 minutes, the sun was hidden behind the clouds while the rains came pouring down and these puffy clouds appeared.

While in Boveglio, Tuscany the Skype connection is quite clear with or without video. We’re more than willing to talk without video if the call receiver prefers not to use their camera.  With the huge time differences, one may hesitate to be seen online in their pj’s or otherwise, understandably so.

Also, we can send and receive Skype calls on our smartphones when we’re connected to the Internet via our MiFi device or the wireless connection in the house. The call receiver may do the same using their current cell provider’s data connection with the Skype app loaded for free. Most new smartphones have  Skype pre-installed when they purchase a new phone. 

Thus, a cell to cell call may be made using Skype on both ends without incurring any cost, unless the receiver is using a data plan that charges per megabyte on their cell phone. 

In this case, they can make the call using their cell phone from their home, using their home’s wireless connection by a simple setting on their phone before making the call. It’s easy, requiring only a few steps, and is equally easy to set it back to the Internet data service provided by their carrier after completing the Skype call.

In the past several days, we’ve had to make a few personal or business-related calls. How do we do this with no phone?  Simple. We search online for the toll-free number provided by the business and make the call on Skype with no charges on our end. 

How do we make a local call?  Again, using Skype. If no toll-free number is available, for example, when we recently inquired to a local pharmacy for a product, we used Skype‘s “for fee” service. We’d deposited $10 into our Skype account for these exact purposes last January with still $8.76 remaining as shown below in this photo.

Our remaining Skype balance after making several local calls using Skype. Long-distance calls from country to country are more expensive, considerably less than roaming cell phone calls.

The local fees for local calls in most countries using Skype are a little over $.026 per minute. That same call to the US would be $2.89 per minute without the use of a toll-free number. (Also, we still can make an emergency call from our cell phones or Skype at no charge).

Why do we continue to carry cell phones if we have no service?  As explained above, for making Skype calls, emergency calls, navigational services when we use our MiFi as an adjunct, and most often, reading books on our Kindle app installed on our phones. 

FYI:  When downloading new books, we connect our phones to the wireless connection in the house, sync the new books, and disconnect. The e-books are permanently stored in the app on our phones which doesn’t require a connection for us to read at our leisure. With no TVs in the bedroom, a bit of reading time seems to aid us both in lulling us to sleep.

Why don’t we leave the house’s wireless connection all the time?  Each location is different depending on the strength of the wireless signal.  In this house, keeping the phones online diminishes the strength of the signal to our laptops.  When downloading books, we disconnect our laptops for a few minutes in order to sync the books, turning it back on when completed.

I know we’ve addressed these cell phone and Skype concerns in past posts. However, as time marches on, we learn the nuances of the systems we currently have in place while analyzing that which we may need in the future as technology continues to flourish before our eyes. 

Much of which we now use with aplomb, will become obsolete in the near future. In the interim, we both make a concerted effort to be aware of the changes as they reach the marketplace, hoping to create greater ease of use and features as we move along in our worldwide travels.

Internet’s been down all day until now…MiFi not working here…Cold, rainy day…

Our own hotspot. On the right is our MiFi that we’ve rented from XCom Global providing us with high speed Internet connection worldwide.  Unfortunately, due to our current location in the mountains of Tuscany, we’re unable to get a good signal.

What a day!  When the wireless broadband went down last night we were worried. Our MiFi, unable to pick up a signal since we arrived in Boveglio, for which we continue to pay monthly rental fees, recently has been a source of frustration.

Sending it back to the company for the $79.00 shipping fees each way made no sense. We’ll need it again in 60 days plus, when we venture out from Boveglio and… if we get low enough in the mountains, we do receive a signal for use with our smartphones. This enables us full access to Google Maps while driving  and the Internet for points of interest and information on the areas we’re visiting. 

Most likely , we’ll be needing it again when we arrive in Kenya (where we’ll have a better connection. It’s the mountains impeding the signal in Tuscany). 

To further clarify for new readers, there are two ways we can connect to the Internet while living in our vacation homes worldwide:

1.  Through wireless broadband available at the property (a criteria for us in our travels) similar to what you are using to access the Internet from your home or office.

2.  Utilizing a MiFi, a wireless portable wireless credit card-sized device that we rent monthly.  We cannot purchase the unit due to the unique contracts that XCOM GLOBAL has arranged with Internet providers all over the world (in most countries) that provide the device with the signal, once we’ve charged it and turned it on to connect wirelessly with our laptops, smart phones, and other wireless devices.  It’s battery lasts approximately three hours and then must be charged again for another three hours.  We are able to use it while charging.

As we drove higher and higher into the mountains of Tuscany on June 16, 2013, we’d hoped we’d continue to receive a signal all the way up on the winding mountain roads.  About 25 minutes before arriving in Boveglio, we lost the signal, never to return. 

Thus, we’ve became dependent upon the wireless broadband available in our temporary home which the owners, Lisa and Luca. assured us would provide a good signal 24/7 during our stay.  Unfortunately, they have no control on outages experienced by the local provider in the region.

Apparently, last night around 11:00 PM, service to the general area experienced an outage. Awaking this morning we were disappointed to discover that there still was no service.  

Of course, we became worried, concerned that it could be a week or more until it was restored, as had been the case when the cable TV service went out just before we arrived leaving us with no TV until about a week ago.  There are only two English speaking programs available, Bloomberg TV and MSNBC, both news channels.  \With these two news channels we are able to be aware of what is transpiring in the US and worldwide, important as we travel to some high risk areas. 

We had no expectations of watching regular US programming while in many countries. For entertainment purposes, which we all need from time to time, when we want to wind down and relax, we’d downloaded a few hundred shows and movies on our “MY PASSPORT,” a two terabyte external hard drive, its shows to be saved for days like today…rainy, cold, windy, and no connection.

Some have asked, “Why do we need to be online so much of the time?”  There are several reasons for us:

1.  To be able to write and post this blog.
2.  To be able to maintain contact with family and friends via email and Skype at all times.
3.  To be able to maintain financial matters, all of which are available online:  banking, investing, credit cards, payments for future rentals and transportation, etc.
4.  To be able to receive and view our online “snail mail” from our mailing service.
5.  To be able to investigate further locations we hope to visit in the future.
6.  To book hotels and transportation getting us from place to place.
7.  Organizing and arranging maps and points of interest for our weekly excursions away from our temporary home.
8.  Look up medical questions, instructions, recipes and language translation.
9.  Download books to read.  (Once downloaded, no Internet connection is required).
10. Book reservations for restaurants.  Had we not done this for dining out last Saturday, we’d have been turned away at the restaurant, as we observed happening to other “walk-in” diners.
11.  Staying in touch with the property owners of upcoming rentals, asking questions, making future payments.
12. Entertainment.  When all else is said and done, playing with our computers is enjoyable: games, streaming radio and TV shows, watching movies, staying in touch  with family and friends via Facebook or, simply reading the wealth of information at our fingertips, keeping our brains active and hungering for more knowledge.

Yes, we prefer to be outdoors as much as possible on a warm days experiencing our surroundings.  But days like today, remind us how much we utilize this amazing tool,  the Internet, that honestly, without it we’d have had a lot less enthusiasm or interest in traveling the world. 

We often speak of how difficult and cumbersome arranging long term travel was for our ancestors.  How they ever managed is beyond us. 

Some travelers use travel agencies which are quickly becoming obsolete with the advent of the Internet growing worldwide. With the complexity of our travels, we definitely prefer to take responsibility for making our own arrangements, connecting all the dots along the way. (Although, we’ve used Joaquin at Vacations to Go for all of our cruises and will continue to do so). 

Also, travel agents don’t often handle the single family vacation homes we’ve been able to find and subsequently rent for our preferred periods of time.

How did we entertain ourselves today while “out of touch?”  We washed more laundry, finding covered spots in which to dry it considering the inclement weather.

We made a great breakfast of scrambled eggs with sautéed onions and Crimini mushrooms with Emmenthuler cheese and a side of Italian sausage and regular bacon which we were surprised to find at the grocery store in Pescia. Together, we chopped vegetables for tonight’s dinner.

We found a deck of cards and played “Gin” for several hours for the first time in many years. We’d forgotten the rules, playing anyway and it all came back to us.  We weren’t able to look up the rules online! I won.Tom forgot that he always won years ago. I’m a lousy loser.He’s worse.

Feeling frustrated for a lack of entertainment for Saturday night and not wanting to drive the winding roads that had many warning signs, “Slippery when wet,” we’d decided to stay in tonight. Preferring to save our downloaded books in the event it could be a long period without Internet, we hesitated to spend the entire evening reading.

For the first time since we left Scottsdale, Arizona at the end of December 2012, I plugged in My Passport, external hard drive, browsing to determine which shows and movies we might watch tonight. 

Actually, with no TV at all in Kenya, we’d hope to save all the downloaded videos to watch during the almost three months we’ll be living there. Ah, what the heck! Tonight would be the perfect night to watch a few!

Moments after plugging the device into my computer, I heard the familiar little sound of an arriving email.  “We’re back on!” I yelled out to Tom, causing him to be startled. Yes, we were back on.

Quickly, I sat down in this not-so-comfy kitchen chair and began typing away, anxious to let our readers that we’re still here. Some readers, who hadn’t received the automatic emails (which is now working again) assumed that we’d either fallen off the steep road while driving or we’d quit writing. 

I’ll promise this, dear readers… If we don’t write a word for two or more days, either we’re traveling (it takes two calendar days to arrive in Kenya), the Internet is down or something unfortunate has happened to us. In every case, we will post at the first opportunity, sharing the story and photos describing our absence.

“Consistency” is our middle name or, if you’d prefer the less braggadocios version…we’re rampant creatures of habit. We don’t expect that traveling the world will ever change that!

Xcom Global MiFi device is on its way to us…Best customer service in the world!…

(We are not affiliated with this company other than as a satisfied customer). aXcess MiFi Mobile Hotspot

The world’s first intelligent mobile hotspot you can take with you around the world. This international wireless device is compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet powerful enough to connect up to 5 WiFi-enabled devices simultaneously to the Internet.


  • Compatible with 3G and GSM network
  • Tri-Band: 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz (HSPA / UMTS)
  • Quad-Band: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz (EDGE / GPRS)
  • Speeds of up to 7.2Mbps download and 5.76Mbps upload*
  • Enables 5 Wi-Fi devices to simultaneously connect
  • One touch remote connectivity
  • (up to 30 foot range) – no need to connect with cable
  • Compact size of 62 mm x 98 mm x 15.3 mm and 81 g
  • Removable, rechargeable Li-Ion battery with charger
  • Computer WiFi connection supports 802.11 b/g
*Achieving maximum speed depends on geographical
location and coverage.

In an effort to avoid UPS from charging us $10 per day per item for holding packages for us while we’re in Miami Beach for part of one day, we’ve decided to have the Xcom Global MiFi device that we’ll use worldwide, sent to our mailing service in Nevada.

It will arrive at our Nevada mailbox by April 1st to be placed into one of the large boxes along with the other supplies we’ve ordered for our continuing world travels.  The mailing service will wrap and ship all the items to the UPS store in Miami Beach for our pickup (by cab) when our ship arrives in port for the day on April 13th.

Once we receive the MiFi, a device that grabs the signal from Internet providers in most countries, enabling us to be online with up to five devices, we’ll activate it and be online.  The device only works when we can see land, less than a mile away.

Aboard ship we’ll use the MiFi when we’re in port for the day, avoiding the outrageous WiFi charges on the ship.  When we’re out to sea, we’ll use the Internet package we’ve purchased on the ship. For example, on our last two-week cruise through the Panama Canal on the Celebrity Century, we paid $399 for the ship’s service which served us well, although it’s relatively slow.

Adding the cost for Xcom Global service to the cost of the ship’s Internet service, we expect our total cost to be around $1000 per month while cruising and only the monthly rate of $395 to Xcom Global when we’re situated in one of our vacation homes.

One thinks, why in the world are we willing to pay upwards of $1000 a month for Internet access while cruising and $395 a month when staying put?  For us, the answer is clear.  In order to achieve the level of planning and organization we’ve chosen for our years-long worldwide travels, there are costs we must bear.

On average, we’ll only be on cruises for two months per year ($2000) and most likely we’ll only need the device for another 5 months each year (at $395 per month) which totals $3975 per year, totaling $331.25 a month. 

In our old lives, our combined cell phone bill for calling and data was $185 a month.  Our cable and Internet bill was $235 a month. The total for these two expenses was $420 a month which is $88.75 more than that which we’re paying to be online at all times as we travel the world. It all boils down to numbers. 

Another factor we consider is our lack of spending on “extras” on cruises. We don’t pay for excursions (although we will in order to see the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and Giza in May.  No point in one going off on our own in these areas). 

We don’t dine in the “extra” cost restaurants.  I don’t drink alcohol or soda and Tom drinks very little alcohol, thus our alcohol bill is low.  We don’t buy highly marketed souvenirs, photos, spa services, personal trainers, go to art auctions, buy clothing, watches, or jewelry. 

At the end of our cruise, our bill will consist of charges for Internet service, Tom’s cocktails and as on the last cruise, two bottles of duty-free liquor we thankfully brought to Belize.  Tom’s favorite, Courvoisier is US $65 in Belize, as opposed to the US $37 duty-free, we paid on the ship.  Of course, one is not allowed to drink their liquor purchase aboard the ship.

Fortunately, most locations we’ve booked for the future have wireless broadband service in the property at no charge.  For example, we are certain the connection will be adequate for our 13 days in Dubai in May, although we’ll still have the device with us and will be paying for it. 

However, the advantage we’ll have when out of our condo in Dubai, visiting the various sites of the city, we’ll be able to use the device as a “portable WiFi” which allows us to use “Maps” on our smartphones with full access to the Internet although neither of us has a cell phone contract! We love technology! 

We aren’t so certain about the Internet service at the 17th-century villa in Tuscany Italy, where we’ll be spending most of the summer, as having anything other than a dial-up connection. The lovely owners, Lisa and Luca, don’t speak English and we’ve had a difficult time using the correct words to communicate a full description of the quality of the connection at the property. 

Once we arrive in Tuscany on the June 16th, we’ll immediately test their service and if not adequate, we’ll email Xcom Global explaining that we’ll need to continue to use their service and won’t be returning the device at that time.  We’ve alerted their customer service department to this possible scenario and they are more than willing to work with us.

While on our first cruise, as we were learning to use the device (very easy), we had a few questions that we sent by email.  They couldn’t have responded more quickly with an immediate resolution.  This company has the best customer service in the world!

Some have asked us, why “rent” this pricey device when you can purchase one for under $300?  Well, let’s say this would be comparable to buying a modem from a cable company but having no service with the company. 

Worldwide WiFi is not FREE. A few countries offer it for their citizens, for which they are ultimately taxed. Xcom Global has contracted with providers all over the world to allow its customers to “tap in” to the various networks. 

These providers are well aware when we’re utilizing their network to the extent that they have some restrictions on usage, such as not being able to download huge files or use Skype. using the device. It uses too much bandwidth. Our understanding is that this is to prevent piracy of videos, movies, and large international files and, from using too much of their data that is distributed to their own customers. 

Worldwide Internet access is a complicated issue.  We have spent considerable time researching our options and are satisfied with the choices we’ve made.  In time, as technology improves, hopefully, less expensive options will be available to us.  For now, we feel we have the best service available for our needs.

After all, if we couldn’t be online, we’d hardly be able to share all of our travel experiences with all of you on an an-almost-daily basis.