Last full day aboard Celebrity Solstice…Packing day…Saying goodbye to new friends…

At the end of the day on Mystery Island, Vanuatu, the workers return to their homes at neighboring islands. Unfortunately, there are no homes or overnight accommodations on this island.

Today is the last full day aboard the ship. It’s been a delightful cruise, one in which we’ve been socializing with other passengers day and night. As soon as we mosey off from one venue to another, whether its to dine, buy a drink at a bar or lounge in the cafe, we’ve often and quickly found ourselves engaged in lively conversation.

Close the islands, scenes from the ship are stunning

It continues to fascinate us how often passengers express such a degree of curiosity over our lifestyle. Many are shocked and surprised by the length of time since we left Minnesota (almost 53 months) and others applaud us for our commitment and bravery.

Then there’s everyone in between, asking many questions that we answer with the utmost honesty and sincerity regardless of their nature. It’s not always easy explaining how and why we’re emotionally able to live “in the world” as opposed to the comforts and security of living near family and friends, rooted in one or even two locations.

A tower on a hill in New Caledonia.

We’d spent the first 60 plus years of our lives doing just that, and with my improved health due to a massive dietary change five and a half years ago, we happily continue in our journey, feeling confident this has been the right choice for us, although not for everyone.

During this cruise, we’ve handed out no less than 200 business cards. We don’t push them on anyone, but we are often asked for our web address which is too lengthy to spell. We both keep plenty of cards in our pockets, wherever we may be at any given time.

These ship cabanas are for rent at AU $265, US $200 per day on sea days, less on port days. Unfortunately, very few of these were rented during the cruise.

Making friends aboard a ship is the true highlight of our cruising experiences. Hearing about their lives and travel stories continues to inspire and enlighten us to new opportunities, often providing an entirely different perspective than our own. 

These same differences tend to interest us the most, including never-considered locations for future travel and new insight into areas we’ve previously visited.

Mystery Island, a tourists-only, uninhabited island staffed by sellers and servers when cruise ships arrive in the area.

Ironically, we discover over and over again, that in essence we are all alike in many ways. We revel in quiet unexciting times almost as much as our adventures. We embrace people we meet along the way; we consider good health of the utmost concern as we age.

Many can’t imagine how we can travel the world with my restricted diet nor how Tom has resisted eating bread, toast, cookies, and cakes during the cruise. When we explain that we’ve come to accept “eating to live” not “living to eat” they often shrug at how much a sacrifice such a philosophy entails.

Sun glare on the sea at the day’s end.

In reality, for us, it’s just the opposite…without this year’s long philosophy, I may be like my dear elder sister spending 24/7 for the past 12 years suffering from the same painful spinal condition I’ve had for the past over 25 years.  

Now pain free (except for last June’s injury, since healed) since 2011 when I adopted this way of eating, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel the world with my love, companion, husband and best friend. So who’s to argue with this way of life?

Cruising passed islands on a cloudy day.

When we often read the blogs or articles by other world travelers including many comments from “haters” on their social media, we are in awe of how we don’t hear such negative comments.

On a few occasions in the long-ago past, few readers wrote negative comments or sent us negative email messages. In both cases, we chose not to respond. But, as we always say, this is not a place for us to be “right,” “to prove a point,” or “espouse controversial views.” 

An old building in Noumea, New Calendonia.

For us, this place continues to one of sharing love, joy, and wonder. After each cruise, we’ve added another layer to our continuing awe of this world when so many beautiful people embrace us. They seem to accept our personal choices, and then, when back home, begin to “travel along with us” on the day-to-day journal of our lives on the move. 

For this, we thank every one of our readers and every one of the new friends we’ve made along the way. And, dear folks, hang on, much more excitement is yet to upcoming 40-nights in Sydney/Manly; a 24-night cruise to Seattle (via Hawaii); an Alaskan cruise; a nine-week USA visit including Minnesota and Nevada; holiday home in Costa Rica; Antarctica cruise; a month in Buenos Aires; several South American cruises; and a much-awaited return to Africa and so much more.

Grafitti on the side of a building in New Caledonia.

Thanks to new friends Sam and Phil for inviting us to “High Tea” in their Penthouse Suite yesterday afternoon. It was a beautifully presented and hosted special event for us and seven others, adding to our diverse cruise experiences. 

Whether it’s a special event such as this or dinner in the included Epernay Dining Room with a couple from a small farm in Wollongong, AU, we’ve loved meeting all of YOU! 

Tomorrow’s final cruise post will include all of the expenses we incurred on the 12-night cruise including cruise fare and extras as we make our way off the ship to our next destination. Please check back!

Photo from one year ago today, March 12, 2016:

Trish and Neil named this cria after Minnesota on behalf of Tom since we”d watched over his birth while they were on holiday during our three months stay on the alpaca farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand.  For more photos, please click here. In February, they named a girl Miss Jessica after me, a female birth we’d also observed, as shown in prior posts.  What a glorious experience!

Projecting into the future…Not a worthwhile undertaking…A year ago, my first jittery video…

This is the second odd sparse tree that we’ve seen around the island. 
The fact that we’re leaving here in a month has been running through my head since I wrote it in yesterday’s post, over and over again.
When we see these blue bags on the banana trees we know this is a banana farm. They don’t use pesticides instead using these blue bags to keep the insects off the bananas.  The first time we saw the blue bags was the day we arrived in Belize, many moons ago.
The preparations for leaving, the packing, dropping off the rental car, the possible overweight luggage and the other annoyances of departure keep flooding my brain. 
The steep stairways with railings are placed throughout the island to allow pedestrians to get “up” to the next street.
I tell myself to stop thinking about this. Let me revel in our remaining time in Madeira with the same peace and ease we’ve both enjoyed during the past month and a half since we arrived.
It’s interesting to see plants and trees we’ve never seen in other countries.
As hard as I try, the thoughts continue to waft around my head. Projecting into the future is not always a good thing. Planning for the future is. That, we have covered.
The low lying clouds always create an attractive scene.

Whenever I feel a bit of angst, I immediately start thinking of what I can do to relieve the uncomfortable sensation. Today, I keep asking myself, “What is this really about?” As I write this now (“they” say writing is therapeutic) I realize it has something to do with the packing, more than anything else. My overweight luggage.  That’s it.

Lately, it’s been cloudy several days a week which we don’t mind when the scenery remains beautiful in any weather.

The solution is clear. This week, in an effort to avoid procrastinating, I hereby promise myself to go upstairs and start making a new pile to be donated to a charity in Madeira. I still have items that remain, unused, unnecessary. Why do I hesitate to let them go? 

When we picked up our box of “stuff” at customs in Funchal weeks ago, it contained replacement clothing items for me; two pairs of jeans (one to be cut into capri length, another to be cut into shorts), three long skirts (can be worn to dinner in the somewhat dressy dining rooms on the two upcoming cruises), three plain tee shirts and one pair of comfy white leather Keds to replace the worn-out pair I now wear every day.
The decorations in the streets were in preparation for an upcoming annual “beach party.”

Not only do I have to cut off the extra material on the jeans to lighten the load but, I also have to dispose of items to compensate for the added weight of the new items. Also, I must rid myself of the items that are responsible for the fact that my luggage was still overweight.

When we saw these decorations we thought it was for an upcoming wedding. With the language barrier, it wasn’t as simple as asking.

This morning, while dressing I looked in the closet of my “dressing room” (an extra bedroom in the house) seeing many items that need to go. The sooner I do this, the more chance I’ll have of ridding myself of these annoying thoughts.

Only one neighborhood was decorated.  We assumed it was a private celebration.
Generally, I’m not a procrastinator. If there’s a task to be done, I do it. I rationalize that these past weeks have been very busy booking vacation homes into the future which has basically taken most of the day when we aren’t writing here or out exploring. 
Brilliant color as still some flowers continue to bloom.

We’ve yet to find a vacation home in New Zealand and must continue the search. We’ll be there in a mere 18 months. The problem appears as a result of high prices and to our surprise, the number of property managers that don’t reply to inquiries, something we’ve never experienced in the past.

These two tasks on hand, both of which are daunting to me, must be accomplished soon to free my thoughts which will ultimately add to my ability to enjoy our remaining time on this lovely island.

An appealing entrance to a house in our neighborhood.

OK.  The world has seen my commitment, in writing, of the intent to accomplish these two tasks within a week.  With a plan in mind, I find myself on the road to “mental freedom” looking forward to reporting back that these tasks are accomplished, the sooner the better.

Now I have to hang today’s load of laundry outdoors, do some chopping and dicing for dinner, and hopefully, run upstairs and make the first pile of items for which I’m willing to say “goodbye.”After that, both of us will be back online searching for a home in New Zealand. 
Stay tuned…
Photo from one year ago today, June 30, 2013:
This video was from the church bells ringing from the church bell tower across the way from us while we lived in Boveglio, Italy. (Having no video taking experience to speak of, it was jittery). It rang the longest on Saturday evenings at 6:00 pm in preparation for Saturday mass. For details from that day, please click here.

All my sorrows…

“Yesterday, all my sorrows seemed so far away.” The words of the Beatles song echoed in my head as I drove away from our house which may prove to be the last time I’ll ever see it.

Walking into the door yesterday morning with my dear son Greg to finally witness what was left after the fourth and final day of the estate sale was heartbreaking.  

My comfy chair, the chair from which I wrote every word of this blog (except for the past 10 days), the chair where I laughed, the chair where I cried, the chair where I lived, and the chair where I sat, and on occasion suffered Life’s challenges and sorrows.  The chair.  It sat in the dumpster.

No one bought my perfect condition, mauve colored velvet, definitely outdated, Flexsteel recliner chair, surely overpriced at my insistence of $100, more appropriately priced at $24.  And now, it sits in a dumpster.

Goodwill,  the Vets, and the thrift store, all turned it down. I offered it to son Greg. Not interested. No room. I offered it to dear friend and neighbor Jamie. Not interested. No room.  

Goodbye chair. Goodbye chair. And the chair represented it all, letting go of that life, of that time, of that house.

The estate sale people’s cars were scattered about the lawn as they carried lifted and hauled the remnants of our lives outside to go into one of two trucks and then the dreaded dumpster. They worked so hard.

A number of items didn’t sell including our 1902 Baker Rhodes player piano and all the music roles that go with. Not an offer. Anyone want it?  Pay to have it removed by tomorrow afternoon ($250) and its yours. The Italian leather down filled sectional.  I had an offer that I refused for $350.  Maybe I should have taken it. 

The 10′ long hand made table crafted from wood in our yard in 1923 by a craftsman from Dayton’s, all made with wooden screws with six chairs will be picked up today to go to a consignment store.  Thanks to friend Jamie, who lovingly coordinated it all for us.  Thank you Jamie.

The money?  Not one-sixth of what we had hoped for, a mere pittance for our lives, the quality we demanded, the unique design we sought, now all lost to the whims of a terrible economy, conservative buyers in tough economic times.  We never counted on any return from the sale into our travel budget.  Good thing.

The five estate sale people worked so hard.  They cleaned, they scrubbed, they vacuumed, they washed everything in site.  It looks nice for the new people. When I returned in the afternoon to pick up the cable boxes, they were still there, almost done.  It looked great.  Thank you, Jason, Nadine, Jessica, and all. You worked so hard.

Tom quit smoking yesterday.  I took his car to have it detailed, free from smoke residue, making the drive to Scottsdale more pleasant for me beginning tomorrow, Halloween, the final day in the month’s long countdown.  Between son Greg and dear friend Chere, I had transportation during the four hour period the carwash had Tom’s car.

Chere and I spent three hours together yesterday, working out, having lunch, running errands and commiserating over the years we have known each other while wishing that Life would have allowed us more time together.  What is more important than love and friendship?  Sitting in the newly cleaned car, I cried when we said goodbye. 

Finally, back in Tom’s car, now alone, I returned the cable boxes only to discover that I was two boxes short.  I found one in Greg and daughter-in-law Camille’s SUV (which Tom drove to work yesterday).  Today I have to go back to the house one more time to look for the missing cable box.   Ouch!

Besides, I need to walk around the yard and say goodbye to our three pups buried in the yard.  How did I forget?  Bart, run over by the mailman at five, BenBenBen, died from Cushing’s Disease at 12.  And them my WorldWideWillie who passed away 18 months ago from cancer.  

I wrote a blog for Willie during the last 17 days of his life, from his perspective, a real tear jerker that helped me heal. We had over 500 followers.  How did they find it? They came from all over the world. They cried with me. We named this blog in part for Willie…worldwide…

More goodbyes today, the road tomorrow.  I’ll write along the way relieved that this sad part is behind us, finally allowing ourselves to experience the joy of the adventure that lay ahead and… “all my sorrows seemed so far away.”  Hello, world. One more day.

Snail mail solution…Tasks piling up…

I don’t like snail mail. Every day between noon and 3:00 PM, the white rickety US mail trunk comes bobbing down our bumpy private road, the driver bouncing about, oblivious to the numerous potholes, the narrow road, and the little dogs.  

Living on a private road of six homes, situated on a narrow peninsula, the little dogs can roam freely. Sorrowfully, about 15 years ago, our little five-year-old Aussie, Bart, was run over by the then mailman who later commented, “Yeah, I’d thought I hit something but didn’t think I needed to stop to investigate.”

Had it not been for the second kiss goodbye to Tom that day that inspired me to follow him outside and kiss him through the open car window, I wouldn’t have noticed Bart lying dead behind Tom’s back tire. He would have backed up driving over him, assuming he had killed him. Thank goodness, Tom was (and still is) deserving the second kiss. 

That’s one reason I don’t like the mailman, the truck, or the mail itself, an endless barrage of junk indicating we are on some kind of arbitrary, categorical list that perpetually invades our privacy. 

The second reason I don’t like the mail is simple: about halfway through every vacation, I start thinking about the fact that this glorious experience has to come to an end. And, what is the first thing you do when you get home from a vacation??? GET THE DARNED MAIL!!! The therapeutic benefit of this much needed time away turns into a dreadful experience of wading through the annoying pile of useless paper. (We went paperless years ago on all of our monthly/annual/quarterly obligations).

After rifling through this mess, there remains perhaps one item worthy of a toss into the pile on the kitchen counter, which invariably requires some type of task in order to warrant its eventual disposal. I hate mail.

In my mind, one of the major contributors to my desire to travel the world is this: We won’t have to come home to the mail! Ah, but who are we kidding? Do you think it’s easy to get rid of mail?  Mail is relentless! Mail seeks and finds. There is no freedom from the mail!

So, when we started making the daunting “to do” list that will make this many years-long adventure possible, at the very top is “what do we do about the mail?”  

It’s not that simple. One might think we should get a PO box, sending all the mail there. No, this won’t work.  It piles up and then what? Have a family member collect it, go through it, and send it to us? No, that’s too much to ask with everyone’s busy lives and their own mail to contend with. 

Every dilemma has a solution, right? We’re assigning a mail forwarding company the task of our mail. They give us an address, receive the mail, toss the junk, scanning, and sending by email anything we may need to review and assess its value.  

If we choose to touch it for some odd reason, they will snail mail it to us anywhere in the world, overnight if need be. It’s not costly and requires little time commitment plus, partial mail freedom. Full mail freedom only occurs a period of time after one’s demise. We’ll settle for partial. Cost: about $10 month plus additional fees for scanning mail and for sending us anything oversees. One task, resolved. 

Now back to the required second passport for obtaining visas; the visas themselves; the scanning every photo we’ve ever taken; the international health insurance issues; the medical evacuation insurance; the immunizations; the process of renewing prescriptions; the packing of two suitcases each with enough to last us for however long; the disposal of everything we have owned for 26 years; the estate sale at the end; the international cell phones and new computers with an external hard drive loaded with 100’s of movies, TV shows, e-books; the ability to have Internet access worldwide; Tom’s retirement party; the comprehensive spreadsheets of all projected expenditures including fixed expenses, taxes, banking, exchange rates and of course, the itinerary including cruises, ferry rides, air travel, train travel, vacation home rentals, the safari, all of which is already booked out to January 2015.

Oh, oh, I just heard the mail truck bouncing down the bumpy road, the bobble-headed driver behind the wheel. I’d better go check it out!  Just think, only 7 months and 21 days left to partial mail freedom. Yeah!