A huge update and change in plans!!!…

Locals were hitching a ride to the local festival.

If we had a home during the corona-virus crisis and had been touring India, most likely we’d have ended the lengthy tour early and headed back to the US, purchasing a fair amount of toilet paper to hunker down for a while.

As world travelers without a home, if we need to hunker down, where might that be? If we return to the USA, we have no health insurance other than Medicare Part A, and even if we signed up for Part B and a supplement, we’d be stuck with it once we were on the move again.

Plus, returning to live in the US is not an option for us at this time, even with this looming virus. We’re not about to “give up” this lifestyle we recently embraced with gusto after last year’s open-heart surgery and a long recovery.

But, now we have excellent, low co-pay health insurance through United Healthcare Global (Safe Trip) that we purchase every three months, good only outside of the US. This morning we bought more coverage until the end of July, when we’ll renew for another 90 days at that time.  

Crowds of people on their way to a festival.

Yesterday, when Viking Cruise Line informed us that the 29-day cruise we’d booked had been canceled long ago, we had to figure out what we’d do for the 29 days. So far, we only have one booking in Bath, England, and a cruise from Lisbon to Cape Town next November. 

With the number of virus cases rapidly escalating in the UK and Europe, we decided against keeping the UK booking. The house owner in Bath is arranging a full credit for us for the deposit that we paid only one week ago.

The cruise line is refunding the full fare we’d already paid, which easily covers a good portion of our costs for the next 12 months. 

Guess where we’d headed, folks?

Yep, back to South Africa… to Marloth Park… to all of our animal and human friends and a vibrant social life. We’ll arrive at Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport next Friday night, spend the night in a hotel, and on Saturday morning, make the hour-long drive to Marloth Park, where dear friends Louise and Danie will have a house waiting for us.

“Buffaloes are believed to have domesticated around 5000 years ago in the Indus Valley and thrive best in the areas of moderate rainfall as they require plenty of water for their daily bath.   Indian buffaloes are considered to be an important source of milk today. They yield nearly three times milk like cows. Interestingly, 47.22 million milch buffaloes produce 55 percent of milk, which is more than half of the total milk produced in the country. Whereas, 57 million cows contribute only 45 percent of the total milk yield.”

Of course, we’d love to get back into the Orange house, but that’s booked until May 1. At that point, we’ll move around in. In the interim, Louise will ensure we have great houses to stay in as we hop from house to house as she deems necessary for the remainder of March and all of April. We can live with this plan without hesitancy.

There hasn’t been a single case of coronavirus in Marloth Park, but of course, we’ll continue with precautions as we have here in India; avoiding crowds, lots of handwashing, no handshaking, and extra careful touching any surfaces or possibly infected areas. 

Yes, we’re excited to be heading back. But, Marloth Park is remote, with fewer and fewer visitors coming to stay due to fears of travel right now. And no, there are no unrealistic expectations that South Africa will be safer than in any part of the world.,

No, we won’t bore our readers with endless photos of warthogs. We’ll strive to focus on the fascinating little things, exciting people stories, and wildlife special moments. It will be an all-new angle for our time in Africa once again.

Buffalo is movin’ on down the road. “Buffaloes, also called Bubalus bublis to belong to the family Bovidae, sub-family Bovinae, genus Bubalus, and species arni or the wild Indian buffalo. They are classified into river and swamp types. The present-day domesticated buffaloes are the descendants of Bos arni found in North-Eastern parts of India especially in Assam and surrounding areas.”

How long will we stay? As long as they’ll have us, which our regular readers know is a tricky proposition. We’ll do everything we can to last as long as possible, even if we have to fly to other countries, stay for a while and return.

As for the balance of our India tour? It’s ending about 16 days earlier than planned. We didn’t make this decision lightly. The tour company is giving us a partial refund, which we’re grateful for, but such cancellations such as this are happening all over India, all over the world. 

Temples are closing. Sporting events have been canceled, public celebrations are fast coming to a halt, schools are closing, as is the case in most countries worldwide. It’s a frightening time regarding contracting the virus and the awful impact on workers and economic conditions worldwide.

We carry on… All of us do, in an attempt to make the most of this dreadful time in history. We extend our love and prayers for every one of our family members, friends, and readers worldwide. 

Workers were loading sugar cane onto a truck.

May you and those you love be safe as you exercise every caution. Wash your hands! Use hot soapy water when possible. Don’t cough or sneeze in anyone’s face! Don’t shake hands! Wear a mask if you are sick or stay indoors at all times.

Don’t touch surfaces others have touched! Even an elevator or lift button, a grocery store trolley, or the bank counter can carry the virus. When going to the doctor, dentist, or office, don’t lean on the counter when checking in. If you need a handrail to walk up or downstairs, get someone you know to help you instead of touching the railing.

Make everything and everyone suspect, but in the interim, we somehow must do our best to find ways in which to enjoy life, enjoy people and cherish every moment we have of this precious life. God bless.

Photo from one year ago today, March 13, 2019:

With ample vegetation after many days and nights of soaking rain, the zebras still love pellets. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Balinese food prep and arrangement…Expenses for four night resort stay…

Bruschetta was served at our table each evening. Tom ate my share the way he often does when such items are served.

This morning, after we finished our final included breakfast we walked up the steep stone steps to the lobby to checkout and pay the balance allowing us to quickly be on our way by 1:45, hoping to be early in the queue at the immigration office.

This plate of mixed seafood was my favorite during the four dinners.

The fee for both visa extensions was IDR 710,000, US$54.63, which we paid for Wednesday’s tour. Our hotel bill at Puri Bagus Lovina in its entirety, including the room rate, two pairs of pants, one shirt and bottle of custom made Balinese body oil came to a grand total of IDR 10,313,030, US $793.49. 

Avocado salad with feta cheese.

We were pleasantly surprised with the total and couldn’t have found a more enjoyable and affordable alternative to driving back and forth to Lovina three times in five days for the required process. 

Although this doesn’t appear to be sweet and sour pork, it was indeed. Tom said it was wonderful to order it for two consecutive nights.    Notice what’s under the green cone on the following picture.

When we return to the villa we’ll pay for the rental fee for the van which will be IDR 200,000, US $15.39, per day for five days totaling IDR 1,000,000, US $76.94, plus fuel at IDR 200,000, US $15.39, bringing our grand total for the entire experience to IDR 12,223,300, US $940.47.

The server removed the green cone to display the rice beneath.

It was a lot easier than flying out of the country as some tourists may choose to do in order to get a new visa stamp allowing an additional 30 day stay, depending on one’s passport of origin. 

I ordered these roasted vegetable skewers along with the yellow tuna salad shown above and in the next photo below.

We’ve had an exceptional experience at Puri Bagus Lovina  with all the thoughtful attention we received from the management staff in appreciation for our four days of stories highlighting their exquisite property. We could not be more grateful for the many ways they have reached out.

That rare tuna salad I ordered was amazing.

Today we display pictures of delicious and beautifully presented meals during the four-night stay. Not only was the food in the superb category, but the gracious service and attention to detail further exemplified the objectives of this Balinese resort abundant in charm, ambiance and service. 

The western-style omelet bar where custom omelettes are prepared to perfection.

We were never disappointed with a single meal. Tasty, fresh and well-seasoned dishes were placed in front of us, of course afterwards, never weakening in perfect timing and courtesy. Drinks were served just as we prefer with plenty of ice (an American thing) and in large iced glasses. 

Tom and I both ordered the surf and turf platter. He gave me his prawns, squid and veggies while I passed him my fries, flat bread and onion rings, requested on a separate plate. The steak was a filet, cooked to perfection and the most tender we’ve had for a long time.

We were encouraged by management to inform them about any less than ideal food or service. Long ago, we accepted the realities of “island time” because we did not need or want to mention what is simply cultural in Bali… no rush, easy does it. 

There are several fixed price three course options on the varied menu. We were allowed to mix and match items we preferred. Tom ordered this salad, unbeknownst to me, with the intent of giving me all the prawns. What a guy! He’s always thinking of me.

Many tourists fail to accept such cultural differences when coming from a hustle and bustle lifestyle in their home country.They want something and they want it now. This is not to imply service was slow at Puri Bagus Resort & Spa. It wasn’t. It was gracious and done in a manner that never made us or the attentive staff feel rushed or stressed.

Tom’s said his French onion soup was divine.  He hadn’t had this soup in quite some time.

The Hindu culture centers around a gentle, low key sense of peace and well being. Puri Bagus Resort & Spa definitely exemplified this culture with ease and seamlessness in not only its good service but also in its traditional focus on nature, cleanliness incorporating the Hindu and the Balinese ways of life.

Last night I ordered this platter of three types of fish, including John Dory, halibut and snapper with a few prawns and grilled squid rings.  Fabulous!

We’ve packed our belongings and will be ready to head out the door in time to make the 2:00 pm appointment at the immigration office. Shortly, thereafter, we’ll change into our shorts for the long two hour harrowing return drive to the villa. It’s ironic the roads are so crazy when the people of Bali are so calm and peaceful. There again, its purely a cultural thing.

Tom’s Western style dinner last night; steak, onion rings and twice baked potato. Again, he passed me his veggies.

We’ve yet to share many other photos we’ve taken over these past days, which, as we continue with our stories in Sumbersari, Bali, we’ll incorporate into future posts. 

Tom’s dessert… crème Brule, around profiterole cookie with a white frosting base and bits of fresh fruit. He enjoyed every morsel.

Stay tuned, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with lots more photos and new “Sightings on the Beach in Bali.”

A special thanks to all of our loyal readers for traveling with us wherever we may go! We always feel your presence at our side. Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 30, 2015:

Savusavu, on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji is a busy little village. We loved going to town to shop at several locations for our week’s groceries. Many locals and some tourists take buses to other parts of the island. Our driver Ratnesh, took care of all of our transportation needs. For more details, please click here.

Part 1…Balinese food prep and arrangement…Romantic Dinner on the cabana under the stars…

During the daytime we stopped to see the two cabanas where the “romantic dinners” would occur. Many other decorations were still forthcoming as shown in today’s pictures below.

During our first meal of the four night stay in Puri Bagus Lovina in Lovina, Bali, we felt confident the chef had easily determined how my meals should be prepared to maintain the integrity of my restrictive way of eating.

The elimination of all sugars, starches, grains, potatoes, rice and starchy vegetables from my menu choices is not an easy feat when many Balinese dishes include some, if not all, of these items.

Even though the sun had vanished behind the clouds, we revelled in the beauty of the evening scene.

When I was introduced to my first dinner, I felt confident that we were in luck. The effort that the chef has made in recent days has been emphasized in the diligent and thoughtful preparation of each meal.  

I never had to remove delicious food from my dishes. Although Balinese meals may include rutabagas, 33 grams carbs per cup; turnips, 8 grams carbs per cup; and/or parsnips at 24 grams carbs per cup, none of these were in my meals. These types of vegetables have insulin spiking carbs comparable to a potato at 37 grams carb per one cup serving.

Before dark, the cabanas were adorned with flowers and candles for the after dark event.

Generally small amounts of starch and sugar don’t have an immediate negative effect as would gluten touching other foods, unless a person has an allergy to specific items in these categories. But, the chef at Puri Bagus Lovina was extra careful.

Sitting on the cabana mat while dining may not have been ideal for some.  But, it certainly looked appealing.

The previous night I was concerned about some delicious chunks of what appeared to be butternut squash, which contains 16 grams carbs per cup. I took a bite, realizing it was carrot, which I can eat, and immediately felt as if I’d taken a bite of a delicious dessert with the exquisite seasonings and preparation. 

Traditional Hindu decoration was used in creating the ambiance.

In most cases in fine dining, once a chef is aware of my restrictions they make every effort to accommodate. But, that rarely is the case in a casual restaurant/bar by the beach. As a result, we’ve never tried any other restaurants while in Lovina. In Sumbersari, there are only a few tiny on-the-beach type dining establishments at which we’d never considered partaking.

The flowers are easily picked from trees on the property.

In any case, we’ve had some of the best food we’ve had in our travels here in Bali both by the fabulous meals made by the two Ketuts at our villa, two hours down the road and then…here at Puri Bagus Resort & Spa in Lovina.

Carefully crafted fringe adds a final touch.

Not only has the food been delicious, but the presentation has been comparable to that which one would find in the most upscale dining establishments throughout the world.

The first course, a soup.

Last night was special when we had the opportunity to take photos of the meals served for the special menu option of a “Romantic Dinner” served under one of the oceanfront cabanas, exquisitely decorated with flowers and candles, presented course after course, while the romantic couple dines in luxury.

Surely, we’d have opted for such a special evening for ourselves but many of the food items didn’t fit into my diet and there was no way we’d expect the chef to modify each plate, bowl and platter of food to be befitting for my diet. 

Second course, crab and vegetable bruschetta.

Instead, Gede, the kindly resort general manager, arranged with the kitchen staff to ensure we’d be able to take photos of the extraordinary plates as they passed by us at our dining table on their way to the two sets of guests dining under two separate cabanas.

A starter, scallops with rice and (under the leafy cone).

Aptly named a “food voyeur,” a title Tom bestowed upon me long ago, I was totally enthralled with the smells and visuals as I took photos in the dark dining area as the foods were carried out by the enthusiastic servers, smiling all the while over the excitement of the photo taking and their part in the beautiful service.

Soon, our own platters of carefully crafted and displayed foods arrived while we found ourselves once again, pleased with our choices and the abilities of the chefs in this establishment of making each meal special in both design and taste.

The main entrée, one of these giant platters per person, included fresh seafood, a variety of meats and various vegetable and fruit dishes.

Earlier in the day and then again in the evening, we took photos of the decorations used to create the ambiance of the “Romantic Dinner” under each of the cabanas as shown in our photos.

The cost for the meal for two is a surprisingly reasonable IDR 1,350,000, US $104.33 (plus a 21% service fee for tax and gratuity) which includes a bottle of wine.

The average cost of our meals and drinks combined, including the 21%service fee hasn’t exceeded IDR 776,400, US $60, each evening.  Breakfasts have been included in the room rate.

The servers were obviously proud of their unique presentation.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to our final food and scenery photos of the lovely Puri Bagus Lovina and the total expenses for our four-night, five-day stay at this special property.

These servers squealed with delight when we shot this photo.

As for the immigration office visits so far, we’ve completed Monday’s and Wednesday’s requirements and tomorrow, Friday at 2:00 pm (the resort is providing us with a late checkout), we’ll return for the third and final visit to collect our passports and visa extensions and then to begin the harrowing two hour drive back to our villa. 

The dessert plate served to each party in the Romantic Dinner setting.

We’re both thrilled to have chosen this means of conducting this otherwise cumbersome process over the required five day period. We’ve had a fabulous experience, but we’re hardly disappointed to return to our breathtaking villa and attentive staff. 

In no time at all, we’ll be back outdoors situated on the chaise lounges overlooking the infinity pool and the sea under the shade of an umbrella and enjoying our last full day in this paradise at Puri Bagus Lovina.

Have a beautiful day filled with wonders!

Photos from one year ago today, September 29, 2015:

In Fiji one year ago, Badal, our neighbor Sewak’s dog, visited us almost every evening at dinner time. We always made him a plate of food, whatever we happen to be having.  Badal especially enjoyed chicken night.  For more details, please click here.

Change in plans for US visit in May…

We’re in awe of the ornate detail in the Hindu statues.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

The dogs on the beach show little to no interest in humans. But, they certainly enjoy hanging our together. These five were actually in a group of eight although it was impossible to get all eight in one photo.

From time to time it becomes necessary to change plans for a particular visit to a country. In a perfect world, the decisions we make we can follow through to completion. 

As we all well know, decisions may not be perfect, including ours, when we consider travel plans. Most often when we find it necessary to change plans, it doesn’t have a bearing on others. 

In this case, it does, for which we apologize to our family members if they are disappointed for the necessity of our making these changes. 

Another beautiful statue in the neighborhood of villas on the beach.

The biggest consideration in this change is the cost which escalated greatly over this past year. Over these past many days, we calculated the expenses on a spreadsheet to include the six weeks RV rental period, fuel, campground fees, US $3, IDR $40,004, per hour for generator use fees to run the refrigerator and the AC (at night only), and many ancillary fees that go along with renting an RV.

Recreational building/gathering place for villa owners/residents in the area.  This location is also where the security guards use it as a base overnight during their watch.

The total cost came in at no less than US $20,000, IDR 266,705,981. That included only the time spent in Minnesota.  With meals our daily costs would have been in excess of US $500, IDR $6,660,000 per day, definitely outside the realm of our budget especially for this extended period.

Then, we had to consider the added cost of making our way across the northern tier of the US to drive to Minnesota. In the summer, these expenses are outrageous. 

Hindu offering display.

Instead, once our Alaskan cruise ends on May 26th, we’re flying directly to Minnesota. Although the grandkids will still be in school for a few more weeks, we’ll have time to see them after school, in the evenings, and on weekends. 

During the school day hours, we hope to spend some quality time with our adult kids (if possible based on their work schedules) and visiting Tom’s retired siblings and old friends.

Kitchen on-site for resident’s use for entertaining guests in the recreational center.

The pluses to this big change? We’ve booked a hotel within 25 minutes of all of our kid’s three homes. We can visit them. They can visit us. The hotel has two indoor pools the kids will love.  We’ve booked the hotel reservation as having three children with us, enabling all of us to use the pools at once.

There’s never a shortage of exquisites views as shown from the recreational center.

We’ve negotiated a great rate which we’ll soon share. The car rental for this period will be in excess of US $2600, IDR 34,632,000 for a midsized vehicle for the six weeks, although not quite as costly as some other parts of the world.

As for meals, a complimentary breakfast is included for us and “three kids.” The hotel room will have a small refrigerator and microwave. Costco roasted chickens, here we come! 

Colorful statue in a front yard temple in the neighborhood.

With our intermittent fasting, we may only have a full meal in the evenings when we’re dining with family or friends. We’ll see how that works out. Since we never eat three meals a day (rarely two) our food costs won’t be outrageous.

A more contemporary statue at a new home construction site in the neighborhood.

With the change to a hotel allowing for greater mobility and a certain degree of practicality, we’re able to cut the cost almost in half ultimately making the time in Minnesota all the more enjoyable.

More details will follow. Happy day to all!

Photos from one year ago today, June 16, 2015:

An indoor organic farmer’s market in the mall in Trinity Beach, Australia, where we often shopped for vegetables. For more details please click here.

Sketchy weather…But, life is good…Two weeks so far on the Big Island…A year ago…Invaders for the day!

There’s never a shortage of visitors sitting in lounge chairs enjoying the views, as shown in the right in this photo.

One expects warm sunny weather in Hawaii. When we booked houses here, being situated on the ocean was a first consideration, secondly, affordable houses on the ocean. Yesterday’s optimism over a sunny day was quickly dashed when shortly after I posted it began to rain with 55 mph trade winds.

The swimming area at Isaac Hale beach which we visited on a sunny day, meeting a delightful woman from Colorado. Kathy was a college professor and moved to the island 13 years ago to lighten the load of stressful life. She seemed happy and fulfilled.

At the time we booked this first three bedroom ocean front house, fairly affordable considering the proximity to the sea, we knew that this side of the island had a propensity for gloomy weather at times. Also, at that point two years ago not all of our family committed to being able to come.

Another view of Isaac Hale Beach.

Since being together as a family was of our utmost concern, we forged ahead when ocean front properties often are booked well in advance especially at the busy holiday season, at that point unsure as to how many would actually be able to join us.

Another vegetation lined narrow road we traveled.

It was a year later that all had decided they’d come, leaving us with the only option of booking another nearby house, with at that point, there was no space for four of us; Tom and I, my sister and eldest son, neither of whom are able to come due to recent health developments.

We visited a lava-covered area marked for hikers at the dead end of long road after leaving Isaac Hale Beach, an approximate 11 mile drive down a narrow road. On Wednesday and Saturday nights, at Uncle Robert’s next door to this  hiking site a farmer’s market type party is held where goods, drinks and food is available at reasonable prices beginning at 5:00 pm. A display was already set up for the evening’s activities with tie-dyed type tee shirts at $45 each, not necessarily a reasonable price. After all, this is Hawaii.

We were faced with a total of 14 of us, with 10 planned for this house and four for the house next door, according to our rental agreement. As the six of us have lived in this three-bedroom house for these past eight days, we’ve come to realize that this house is too small for three families. 

Various stations are set up for hikers wanting to explore the lava laden area.

Thus, with the permission of the owner of the house next door, via an email response last night, the six of us are moving next door this upcoming weekend. She’s agreed that we can add two more, over the original four, at no additional cost. For this we are grateful.

See Tom in the bottom right of this photo?  We were checking out the information for the lava hike, not necessarily interested in doing this.

This benefits all of us in many ways;  it frees up cupboard and refrigerator space that is now packed to the rafters with foods for the six of us which we’ll move next door. It frees up another bedroom which the remaining eight can use as they choose. (We’ll stay out of it). This way everyone will have the room they prefer.

Alternate view of the lava covered hiking area.

Add the fact that the six of us are in a groove that works well, its’ an easy transition. Thus, as the rental agreement allows us to move in on Saturday, Tom and I will move all of our belongings over there first, cleaning up as we go.

I imagine our readers may have become bored with our seemingly endless photos of rocky lava shorelines. But, each one looks unique to us as we wander about the island.

The next day, Sunday, TJ, Sarah and the two boys will pack and move in next door with us. This will allow each family one night on their own, a little break as “roommates” over the three week stint. We’ll all pitch in once they move over and clean this house, leaving it ready for the two families moving in on Sunday and Monday.

It’s a good plan. We’re excited to have had the cooperation of the owner next door allowing us to add two more to our rental agreement giving everyone the much needed space. 

This small house at Isaac Hale Beach has been owned for generations by a Hawaiian family.

We’re disappointed and concerned for our loved ones that are unable to come, but hope to see them both during our four month stint in Kauai, starting one month from today.

Interesting driftwood.

Gee, it looks like the sun is peeking out.  We’d better get our swimsuits on and head to the tide pools before it disappears again.

Happy Monday to all. 

                                         Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2013:

Early in the morning we wandered outside to the veranda, coffee and laptops in hand.  Within minutes, we were surrounded by baboons.  Their visit taught us a few lessons about how to handle them to prevent future visits. It was an interesting day to say the least.  For details, please click here.

Change of plans…We’re back in Marrakech…A story to tell…More photos from the Atlas Mountains…

The renowned Kasbah, Kasbah Aït Ben Haddo, located in Dades Valley in the Atlas Mountains.

We’re back in Marrakech one day early. That’s what we chose when we decided to travel the world, the ability to changes our plans without apologies, without rationalizations, and without devising flimsy excuses.

We’re only accountable to ourselves as a unit of two loving, committed individuals whose utmost concern is the happiness of one another. Our own pleasure is derived unselfishly from the joy we observe in the other, making each and every experience worthwhile, even if it isn’t 100% of our own liking.

In order to get to the above Kasbah, we had to navigate across two creeks stepping on these muslin covered rocks. I must say, the distance between each step was about as far as my legs could reach. Luckily, we made it both ways without getting our shoes wet.

The second creek we had to navigate to get to the Kasbah.

For this reason, we ended our road trip halfway through. No camel ride in the Sahara Desert. No second night in a hotel. We stayed true to ourselves and to each other.

Our readers may ask, “Which of the two of you wanted to end the trip early?”

Once we arrived at the Kasbah after a steep downhill climb over uneven rocks and making our way across the two creeks, we were told a movie was in production and we wouldn’t be allowed to take photos. No photos? We left amid the trucks and confusing making the return walk across the two creeks and a long uphill climb back to Mohamed’s vehicle.

We were disappointed to be unable to see the interior of this fortress-like structure.

In our minds, that doesn’t matter. If one of us is not having a good time, the other wants nothing more than the return of the other’s usual sense of well being and contentment. In this case, it meant returning to Dar Aicha, our riad in Marrakech.

Our last look at the Kasbah Ait Ben Hado before we continued on our way.

Some may say this is condescending and patronizing. For us, it’s about being happy, letting nothing short of one of life’s unforeseen tragedies, to impose upon that blissful state of being.

What didn’t we like about this prearranged all-inclusive trip to the Atlas Mountains, ending with a trip to the Sahara Desert, that we decided to cut short?

The drive through the mountains was treacherous with endless hairpin turns on the two-lane road with the necessity of passing slow-moving vehicles. On the seven-hour return drive today, I actually got carsick for the first time in many years.

Oh, we could place blame on the rock hard bed and pillows on which neither of us slept a wink. We could blame it on the beef dinner with meat too hard to chew requiring that every six bites we had to spit out a tangled glob of a sinewy mess into our paper napkins.

We could blame it on the tiny room, a supposed “upgrade” where the towels and sheets were mismatched and threadbare, the toilet paper unperforated (never saw this before), the toilet leaking, and the minuscule bar of soap that refused to lather. Or, we could blame it on the banging drums that started at 10:45 pm to entertain the busloads of overnight guests, while us old-timers thrashed about trying to fall asleep. 

The rock formations varied throughout the area from a dull grey such as this to some of the most vibrant colors we’ve seen since our Blyde River Canyon trip in South Africa three months ago.

In reality, if blame were required and it is not, we can only blame ourselves for these reasons:
1.  Our expectations and frame of reference.
2.  Our unwillingness to spend what would prove to be almost US $1000, MAD $8133, (including tips and beverages) for two nights in hotels and three days on the road and feel forced to continue on, only compounding the angst of this expenditure.

Check out the shepherding dog in the center of this photo. We saw sheep grazing on many different elevations as we traveled.

Why not “stick it out?” Because we don’t have to. That’s the magic of being a grown-up in charge of one’s own destiny.

In our old lives, we may have considered “What will “people” say?”

We were headed to the popular tourist site of the modern village of Ouarzazate (pronounced, wer-ziz-zate). 

In this life, with thousands of people worldwide with whom we’re sharing our story, depicting our daily comings and goings, we decided long ago that many will accept our decisions and many may not. It goes with the territory. 

But, above all, we chose to “tell it like it is” to the best of our ability without hurting anyone or their business by our own occasional displeasure.

 Ouarzazate would be an excellent place to stay for many tourists for a vacation/holiday with its many modern shopping centers, restaurants, and arts and cultural centers.

What did we like about the last day and a half?  Our excellent and thoughtful driver, Mohamed provided perfection. The river view from the hotel and our room were lovely. The hotel concierge, Rashid was helpful and kind. The Atlas Mountains and surrounding villages were interesting and scenic but, not eliciting the awe and wonder of many of our adventures in the past almost 16 months since we left the US.

Yeah, we’re “Hooked on a Feeling” (click link for the song from 1968). Our past amazing past experiences surely have spoiled us, a hard act to follow for future experiences. After Petra, the exciting cruise through the Middle East, the Maasai Mara, and Marloth Park, we knew we ran this risk. 

These swirling rock formations most likely formed million of years ago, made one think these striations were a result of water.

Today, when we returned to the Medina, Adil was waiting for us to help with our bags.  When we entered the riad, Madame Zahra and Oumaima were awaiting us with hugs proudly showing off the usual spotless environment.  We were “home” and it felt darned good after only a short time away.

What do we do from here?  We continue on…with the same hope and perhaps misaligned expectations that we struggled to leave behind during these past 32 hours.  We know that that ultimate high will be ours once again, but not necessarily in the mountains of Morocco.

Tomorrow, earlier in the day than today, we’ll be back with the continuation of our many photos of the Atlas Mountains.  Have a lovely Friday evening!  We plan on it!

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

We opted out of this excursion to Mahogany Bay in Roatan, Honduras to lay on this manmade beach owned by the cruise line which charged for lawn chairs, beach towels and beverages.  Instead, we stayed behind with the pools almost to ourselves without incurring any additional expenses.  For details in Part 2 of the harrowing experience of having our vitamins confiscated, please click here.

Hawaii here we come!!!…New Big Island, Hawaii house photos to share…

Aerial view of home (middle house).

Aerial view of both houses we’ve rented in Big Island Hawaii. The larger gray roof is the second house we booked the day we left for safari, putting our minds at ease.

Here is the link to this listing on the Homeaway website for pricing, more photos, and additional details. Once we are in the house, we’ll post additional photos.

Leaving Minnesota, after a lifetime for Tom and 42 years for me, was hard for only one reason, leaving family and friends behind.

We don’t miss the snow, the cold, the erratic weather in summers, the power outages from storms, the mosquitoes, or the traffic. We don’t miss house maintenance; snow blowing, house cleaning, window washing, or leaky basements.

Tom doesn’t miss pulling out all of the heavy lawn furniture from the garage in the spring or putting it back in the fall or hauling the dock into the lake in the spring and taking it out in the fall or, constantly making repairs (he was diligent and an expert at all of this).

We don’t miss cable TV problems, huge heating and electric bills (we pay no utilities in vacation homes), enormous property taxes, or paying over $500 a month for a car, house and umbrella insurance. We don’t miss car payments, maintenance, and gasoline expenses.  Nope.  None of that.

The first of the two houses that we booked over a year ago.

Panoramic view from the living room.

 We’ll stay in this house by ourselves until we move over to the other house on December 20, 2014, returning back here from January 3, until January 15, 2015

Here’s the link to this listing on the Homeaway website for pricing, more photos, and additional details on this house that we booked over a year ago. Once we are situated in the houses, we’ll post additional photos

Surprisingly, I don’t miss the endless cooking for entertaining guests; the hours of shopping, the hours standing in the kitchen, a menu in hand while cooking often printed on pretty paper to be placed at each guest’s elaborate place setting, for a multi-course gourmet meal, at the time lovingly prepared, now so far from my reality that it’s all but a distant memory. Nope. None of that either. 

We miss the people.  Period.  The people.  Our family.  Our friends.  We chose missing them to be free of angst or sorrow, instead, a simple fact, a warm memory of their faces, their laughs, their smiles.

In December 2014, a mere one year, one month, and 28 days from today we’ll see our grown kids, their spouses, and our grandchildren once again. Comparing it to the period we’ve been gone from Minnesota (it will be 1 year, in 9 days from today), it will be here in no time at all. 

But, when we think of all we’ve done in the past year, the countries we’ve visited, the places we’ve lived, the sites we’ve seen, the 8 cruises we’ve taken, and the people we’ve met, it seems much longer.

With the size of our group, 13 of them, we decided that we needed to rent 2 houses, not one. Coincidentally, (similar to our safari good luck) we found 2 houses next door to one another, one we’d booked over a year ago and the other on the day we left for safari on October 5, 2013, paying the deposit, wrapping up the details. The luck of finding this scenario of 2 separately owned houses, directly next door to one another, is uncanny.

Over a year ago, we shared the photos of the first house we’ve booked.  As time moved on and more and more of our family members were able to arrange time off work during Christmas 2014, we came to the conclusion that one house wouldn’t be big enough. 

A month ago, after they all discovered they could in fact come to Hawaii, the search began.  Go figure.  We stumbled on the house next door, available during that same two week period. Tom and I and a few of the adults will be in one house, the remainder in the other house.  It will all work. 

Covering the expense of airfare, one car, and groceries on one house had been an expense we’d entered into our budget long ago.  Now, the budget has been revised for the 2nd house, the 2nd car, and the added groceries. The kids will cover their own baggage fees, activities, excursions, sightseeing, and dining out costs.  It will work out well for all of us.

Today, for comparison purposes, we’re including photos of both houses, including an aerial view of both.

As it turns out, our cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii arrives in Honolulu on October 5, 2014, less than a year from now, where we plan to stay for no less than one week in order to visit the local sites including Pearl Harbor.  

On December 1, 2014, we’ll be moving into the 1st of the 2 houses. We have yet to book the week in Honolulu or the remaining 50 days between finishing up the week in Honolulu and moving into the Big Island house on our own.

With each of our own WiFi devices up and running with no less than 25 gigs of remaining data until we need to purchase more, we have the necessary data to begin searching for that time period. “Searching” uses tons of data due to the tremendous number of photos popping up on the various vacation rental websites.

Also, having completed the time-intensive process of logging and posting all of our safari photos and stories we now have more available time to begin the search. We’re almost ready to begin.

Sure, we don’t have maintenance, snow blowing, yard work, or window washing. But all of that has been replaced by a litany of responsibilities for constantly logging our expenses, budgeting for the future, booking for the future, searching, searching and more searching. 

The difference? We like searching for more than blowing snow and washing windows and, more than anything, we love living in other people’s houses all over the world. 

Potential car rental nightmare…

While in Dubai from May 21, 2013 to June 4, 2013 the time had arrived to arrange the rental of a car for the summer in Italy.   Our objective was to pick up the car at the Marco Polo Airport once we arrived in Venice, Italy by cruise ship.  Once in our possession, we’d drive the five hour journey to our awaiting home for the summer in Boveglio.

Although we weren’t particularly concerned about renting a car, we had several factors to consider:

  1. When it was time to leave Italy on September 2, 2013 to fly to Mombasa Kenya, which airport would provide us with the best fares, best flights along easy access to return the car? 
  2. Which car rental companies would we feel most comfortable after reading reviews as to renting a car in Italy?
  3. The total cost for the lengthy period from June 16 to September 2, 2013, any potential “hidden” costs. (Renting a car for two and a half months isn’t typical. This is a totally different scenario that the usual one or two week rental while on vacation).
  4. Which types of available cars that would allow enough room for our over sized luggage?
  5. Which cars were most economical in regards to gasoline usage, priced at roughly US $8.50 per gallon in the Tuscan region of Italy?
  6. With us no longer owning a car with it subsequent insurance that typically provides coverage for rental cars, what would we do when the average cost for the “extra” insurance is US $10 per day.
  7. The time of day we’d pick up the car and reserve it to ensure we didn’t have to pay extra fees for a late drop-off or in some case, an entire extra day.

Shopping online at several familiar sites, comparing prices, reading  reviews and conditions of the rental agreements, it proved to take a lot longer than we’d expected.  Since quite ill while in Dubai, I left most of the research up to Tom.  He went at it with gusto.

While conducting this research, we also had to shop for the best airline prices to get us from Italy to Mombasa, Kenya from the several options in Italy which proved to be a huge factor in determining where we’d drop off the car in the end.   Would it be Venice, Rome, or Florence, all within a five hour drive of our summer home in Boveglio?

It took several days of reviewing all of these factors until, until we found the best overall conditions, considering the above factors. 

We ultimately decided that we’d pick up the car in Venice at the Marco Polo Airport with the goal of eventually flying out of the Marco Polo Airport to Mombasa, Kenya on September 2, 2013. 

Of course, with the five hour drive from Boveglio, we’d have no alternative but to spend one night in a hotel in Venice close to the airport.  (A week later we booked a nearby hotel, offering free shuttle service to the airport, allowing us to drop off the car a day early, if we so chose, to reduce the stress at the airport on our flight day).  Good plan.  

As we continued on in the booking process from RentalCars.com, a site more user friendly for Italy, we discovered a fact that threw us for a loop:

Based on the lengthy period of time for the contract, the rental car company, in this case, Budget, would require two and a half times the cost of the long term rental, to be held on our credit card for the entire duration. 

Upon realizing this fact, we jumped to other rental companies to discover that these circumstances were common, especially in well known rental car companies, such as Budget, Avis and Hertz.  We’d decided that under no circumstances, would we use a small local company after we’d read many negative reviews describing nightmarish circumstances for long term rentals.  The more well-known companies were definitely the way to go but, as it turned out, all of them required this credit card “hold.”

At the rate of US $830.00 per month over the summer in Italy, our total rental would be roughly US $2075.  None our credit cards charge an exchange rate for paying in Euros and, they offered “free” insurance when using the card to pay for the rental, which in itself saved us a small fortune.

However, there was nothing the credit card company could do to avert the necessity of the Budget (which had the best pricing) “holding” two and a half times of the funds for the entire rental period which would total US $5187.50!   

We weren’t thrilled with the concept of Budget “holding” funds against one of our cards in this amount for this extended period.  Although we use several credit cards for our travels, with future expenses, hotels, flights and rentals required to pay in advance, we were against any of our cards being tied up for this amount for almost three months.

Our only option was clear to both of us:  Rent the car for one month allowing them to “hold” over $2000 which appeared to be their concern over two factors for any long term rentals; one the credit card may become maxed out during an extended period resulting in insufficient funds to pay at the end of the rental period and two, to cover the cost in the event of damage to the vehicle not covered by insurance.  This is a sensible policy from their perspective, protecting their interests only.  For us, quite annoying.

On June 16th, we rented the car at the Marco Polo airport for one month until July 15, 2013 which ends this upcoming Monday, with the plan to contact them on July 8, a week earlier to extend it. 

At Budget rental office, we inquired as to the procedure to extend the rental with assurance that the process was simple;  either call or process the extension online within 24 hours of the end of the rental period.

Here’s how it went beginning this past Monday, one week before the car was to be returned:

  • Sent an email to Budget confirming the procedure to extend the rental when we couldn’t find a place on their international website to extend it
  • They sent an email back, after they charged us $2 for the online inquiry, informing us we’d have to call the Budget desk at the Marco Polo Airport where we got the car.  This had to be done over the phone.
  • Called the number for Budget at Marco Polo Airport, asking to speak to an English speaking representative.  After being on hold, while paying for the call (no toll-free number to the location), for no less than 10 minutes, someone came back on the line, saying “No English” and hung up on me.

Add to that, the rental agreement itself was all in Italian.  Using Google Translate we became further frustrated in an effort to translate the many numbers, codes and notations that could or couldn’t be our reservation number, customer number, booking number and contract number.  It was nearly impossible to decipher which was which.

Hoping if we waited a day to call back, they may have an English speaking representative on duty. 

  • Again, called the Budget desk at the Marco Polo Airport.  A woman spoke poor English asking me for the reservation number.  There were four numbers on the “written in Italian” form.  I read all of them to her. They were lengthy, numbers and letters.  I spoke clearly.  She kept getting them wrong.  I explained our goal to extend the contract.  She said we’d get a confirmation email before the end of the day.
  • Two days later, no response, no email, no confirmation.  Called again. Again, no one spoke English. The representative yelled at me and hung up.
  • Looking online for Budget’s International Customer Service, we found a number in the UK.  We called, speaking to a nice guy.  He couldn’t do anything since he didn’t have access to the files for Italy, suggesting we try calling the Marco Polo location once again.  I did.  Again, no one spoke English. Our frustration factor continued to grow as each day passed adding a certain amount of worry to the mix.

Need I say this process continued over five days?  Calling back the UK office on Thursday, we were given a private email address for the Marco Polo location. Sending an email to this “unpublished” email address, copying the international corporate headquarters, within hours we received an email that stated, “We extended the contract for you.”

Of course, I immediately stored the response into the “Car Rental Italy 2013” folder in Outlook for future reference.  As of this date, they’ve yet to bill us for the remaining six and a half weeks.  Hopefully, they’ll prorate the balance based on the original cost and not some arbitrary amount.  I’ll keep checking the balance on the credit card, knowing whatever amount they’ll charge will include the “holding” amount for the remainder of the period. 

I wish I could say that we’ve learned something from this annoying experience.  Is it “shut up and pay?” Possibly.  On the other hand, it may well be a by-product of the nature of our lives…to expect these types of situations to occur from time to time.

Surely, the language barrier played a role in preventing us from easily accomplishing an otherwise simple objective.  

Long ago while still in the US, I recall spending hours and eventually days, on the phone, in English, with our past cable company in an attempt to resolve an issue with the operation of our service which ultimately wasn’t resolved for over a year.  With no other options available in the area, we were a captive audience, as in this case…in possession of Budget’s little navy blue Fiat, not interested in driving back to Venice in a few days to stand in line for two more hours, only to turn around and drive the five hours back to Boveglio.  

Now this issue behind us, we’re back to the freedom of spirit and peace of mind in which we strive to languish each and everyday.  Tonight’s “taco salad night,” minus the chips, minus the shell “bowl” but with all the fixins’ will be a treat, even in Italy. Add a downloaded movie and we’re content as we could be!

Mechanical aspects in our 300 year old temporary home…Many photos include new homemade pizza recipe using local ingredients…

This paper towel holder is a dowel, a piece of string tied in loops on the ends to be hung on any available hook. Simple and clever.

Today is a full three weeks we’ve been living in a charming 300-year-old stone house, nestled in the mountains among a cluster of other attached homes built centuries ago, into the exquisitely forested and farmed hills and valleys of Boveglio in the Province of Lucca, Tuscany, Italy.

It’s at about this time, as we’ve become more settled, that we wander about our vacation rentals with a more keen eye observing its quirks and nuances, some of which may be a violation of code in the US and other countries which we find to be unique and interesting. 

More cloth wiring in the kitchen with exposed bulbs over the sink.
The electrical wiring throughout the house is all exposed, using cloth as opposed to the conduit most of us are familiar with as a code requirement in the US and other countries.  We doubt that building/code compliance inspectors travel around inspecting all of these centuries-old properties.
As shown above, in the kitchen, the main source of lighting is these two fixtures over the kitchen table, encased in glass globes. Energy-efficient as the “curly” energy-efficient bulbs we’d used in the US, this particular style takes approximately five minutes to light up the area which can be a little tricky at night.
As the designated cook (Tom’s the dishwasher), I’ve had the most difficultly operating the stove. It’s a newer “made-to-look old” range and oven and there’s nothing wrong with it. 
This hanging plant is used to hide an electrical outlet.
It’s the same a stove type we used in Belize; gas without an automatic pilot.  One has to hold in a button while pushing in the dial to ignite the oven or burner. It sounds easy, but the trick is in the amount of time one has to hold in the button and the dial to keep the burner ignited.  Let go of one too soon and gas is free-flowing without ignition.
I know it’s not rocket science nor does it require an inordinate amount of skill.  For some odd reason, I struggle with this, trying desperately to figure it out on the own without having to ask Tom.  Stubborn, I guess.  On occasion, even he, Mr. Coordinated, has trouble with this.  In several instances, we’ve had to stop, open the screen-less window wide waiting for the gas to clear to later begin again.
These cloth wires are above the small shower and near the sink in the large main bath.
Two things here to notice: One, this is Tom is he’s walking down the long hallway for which he obviously has to duck. Yes, he’s banged his head many times getting me into the habit of saying, “Don’t bang your head!” as he walks to the bedroom.  Two, this is Tom desperately needs a haircut. We’ve yet to find an available barber in any of the villages we’ve visited. His last haircut was in March in Belize for which we wrote a post with photos. Ponytail or shave?  Which will it be?
This doorway to the main bathroom was cut to fit the frame, also low, requiring that I also duck when entering or leaving. 
Another head ducking/banging doorway to a guest bedroom.
Earlier, we’d posted a different photo of access to the patio from the stone stairway. These stone steps, continue down a full flight, making this the most hazardous spot in the house. Although this patio is our new sunning spot and only place to hang laundry outdoors, we spot each other each time we hike up there. No happy hour is to be had on this patio! 
This is an old, now unused wood burning stove (we think unused) in the long hallway.
The uneven multiple steps in the long hallway along with the variety of low ceilings, present an ongoing challenge for both of us. Tom is roughly four inches taller than I am creating a much more hazardous situation for him.
The heating elements for the radiators are behind this hanging curtains in the long hallway. Hmmm….

Also, there are two uneven steps from the hallway into the master bedroom.  We’ve both adopted a habit of reaching around to the wall on the right of the doorway to turn on the overhead light.  This process reminds us of the two steps.

This meter, most likely electrical, is in the interior hallway by the front door.

During daylight hours, we leave the hallway light on all day (the only light that remains on) as a reminder to tread carefully through the areas of steps. At night, we bring our mugs filled with ice water to leave at each of our nightstands and also use the en suite bathroom to avoid the long walk down the hall.

Tom was washing dishes one night while I tended to the laundry. Hearing this box, turn off and on rapidly startled me. I ran upstairs to ask Tom when he told me it an “on-demand” hot water heater. I’d heard of these in the US, but never heard one of them in operation.  In any case, most systems are energy efficient here in Italy.
Also, during the day, we keep the bedroom door, the screen-less windows and shutters closed. These two steps keep the bedroom cool for sleeping and more importantly, keeps the flying insects from flying around our heads at night. 

In our old lives, if our dishwasher or dryer broke down, we’d be in a tizzy for days until an overpriced repairman arrived with a fix.  Now, we chuckle as we hang the wash outside, do dishes by hand, swat flies and bees flying indoors all day, cook food in batches (as opposed to leftovers) with no microwave and look down while bending our heads when we walk around the house.

This green plastic hose could be anything. 
This week, we’ll cook all the remaining frozen meats so we can defrost the tiny freezer before we go grocery shop again.  At this point, the buildup of ice is occupying a third of the space. I can’t recall the last time we defrosted a freezer.
This carved from the stone area inside the main door entry may be the water or gas meter.
 Much to our mutual delight, neither of us complains or whines to each other.  We observe, discovering solutions, and adapt accordingly.  All of these minor inconveniences become a part of the experience, a part of our personal growth as we strive to adapt, and a part of the story we’ll someday tell to anyone who’ll listen, in English, please.
Last night’s yet to be baked homemade low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, starch-free, and sugar-free pizza made with “real” mozzarella (often referred to as buffalo mozzarella in the US) and locally grown ingredients.  The stringiness factor was tripled from the pizza we’d made in the past using “manufactured” bagged shredded mozzarella which we hope to never use again. It was our best pizza ever! I’d cut double the ingredients in order to make another freshly made pizza for tonight with no microwave for reheating. Nothing like two nights of freshly made pizza!

Supplies needed to carry on…More sacrifices…Happy 4th of July everyone in the US!…

Sorry folks, no photos today except this one I’d failed to post when we visited Petra, Jordan in May 2013. 

Staying inside all day today due to rainy weather, we felt lazy, as one may feel on a holiday, watching downloaded movies. Tomorrow, with sunshine predicted, we’ll have more to share.  We hope that our readers in the US have enjoyed the 4th of July. 

Last week I found this photo from when we walked to Petra in May. I’d saved in the wrong location realizing it was never posted (to the best of my knowledge). These steps were much steeper than appearing in this photo.  To see this horse gingerly tackle them in the scorching heat was both heartbreaking and awe inspiring. 

Planning ahead is never far from our thoughts. 

Prescriptions, medical supplies, toiletries, office supplies, batteries for digital equipment, copies of travel documents must be replaced along with any other items that pop into our heads as we continue to use what we have on hand.

Many expat travelers such as ourselves choose to live in large cities with easy access to most of these items.  For us, having chosen to live in more remote areas, we must plan in advance. 

With less than two months until we leave for Africa, we’ve begun to evaluate what we may need for the nine months we’ll live between Kenya, South Africa and Morocco.

Early this morning, I found myself counting malaria pills to determine if we are short.  While still in the US, I’d ordered enough to last for our almost six-month while in Kenya and South Africa. While in Belize, we ended up booking almost three more months in Morocco. 

Today, looking online at the CDC’s website it appears there’s no known risk of malaria in Morocco, leaving us with the correct number of pills we’ll need for Kenya and South Africa, one per day for each of us for the almost six months.

However, with our current prescriptions scheduled to run out in October, we find it necessary to order enough for another year. Receiving mail in Africa in the remote areas we’ll reside in Kenya and South Africa is sketchy at best. 

Early next week, we’ll place our order online hoping to receive the package well in advance of leaving here.  Although, now not covered by insurance, the prices for our prescriptions are reasonable.

While in Dubai, I had no alternative but to use one of the two Z-Pak antibiotic prescriptions we had on hand while I was ill with a raging sinus infection as a result of an awful flu we both contracted on the Middle East cruise from Barcelona to Dubai.  Hoping to replace the used prescription, I am requesting one five day dose online. 

The weight of our bags, at this point continues to be a major concern. Learning from experience these past eight months, overstocking in a poor strategy.  But remaining mindful of crucial items we know we’ll need is a vital part of our everyday lives.

So far in our travels, we hauled a supply of Crystal Light ice tea, our daily  beverage of choice. Although the pitcher sized packets are lightweight, including a 100 packet three month supply adds an extra two to three pounds. Plus, with the product unavailable in Italy, we’d have no alternative but to have it shipped, incurring international shipping fees.

A few days ago, we both made a commitment to give up Crystal Light ice tea entirely, unless by chance we find it to be available at any local grocery stores where we’re living at any given time, purchasing only enough to use, not to carry.

Giving up the insulated mug of ice tea that I’ve carried everywhere for years, will not be easy.  Is it an addiction? I suppose there are some who may feel that anything we “have to have” may be construed as an addiction. 

With the ice tea 99% caffeine free, surely it must be more of a habit than an addiction. It doesn’t matter what we call it.  We have to stop drinking it.  The weaning process began a few days ago, diluting it by 30% until our current supply is gone in the next few weeks.

Tom’s powdered creamer is another item we’ve been unable to find. We recently considered buying it online, but there again it would result in more to pack.   While shopping last week, we purchased three possible alternatives, three liquid creamers used for latte here in Italy, a very common beverage.   

Much to our surprise, the liquid creamer had an acceptable taste, a product we will no doubt be able to find at our future destinations. I prefer real cream, but with few preservatives used in Italy (and many other countries) it tends to spoil in about five days. 

Interestingly, many foods spoil quickly here, including deli meats and cheeses, again made without nitrates and other preservatives. This fact is pleasing for one’s health, but requires rethinking storage of these perishable items. The freezer, although small, serves that purpose for most products.

Surprisingly, vegetables also spoil quickly here leaving us to wonder what spray chemical products, the local Italian farmers are NOT using on their produce. 

Shopping for two weeks in advance as we’ve done here thus far, requires we eat all the fresh produce as quickly as possible. Soon, the vegetables in the gardens in our yard will be ready to pick, eliminating a portion of this issue over the summer.

All of our luggage is currently atop a bed in a  guest room, except for the items we’d placed in cupboards and drawers. Each day, I peruse through the items, considering which items I am willing to let go. 

In the past several days, I’ve eliminated no less than five pounds.  Minus the ice tea, we’ll be down approximately eight pounds. This process must continue. We’re highly motivated to board our upcoming flight to Africa on September 2nd without paying any excess baggage fees.

Saying goodbye to stuff?  For us, it’s been a process. After a lifetime of stuff, surrounded by stuff, replacing stuff, trips to Costco, stockpiling stuff and surrounding ourselves with stuff we like, love and treasure, it definitely has been a challenge. 

At this point, it’s only practicality and function that drives our sense of attachment to an item(s). No longer do I look at an item of clothing with a smile, looking forward to wearing it again. Those days are long gone.

Above all, its the sacrifices we’ve chosen to make for the opportunity to travel the world are many. We find ourselves instead, loving the views of Mother Nature’s rich treasures, the smells that freely represent a culture, the tastes of the local foods, the sounds of the languages unfamiliar to our ears, the music so passionately represented by its citizens and most of all the people, none of which we’ll be required to place in our bags. 

These, we’ll carry in our hearts and minds forever.