Car rental expense and special story of an amazing rep…More house photos…Pool shot from cruise a year ago…

This vehicle was almost twice the size of the one we’d booked online. We found that we can fit our luggage into very tiny cars, but this upgrade was an unexpected pleasure. The driveway in front of the house is tiny and on a hill.  There’s no other practical way to park the car than as is shown here.

Arriving at the Alamo window at the Funchal airport in Madeira at approximately 1:30 am, Friday, we waited in line for 10 minutes. Exhausted, we could hardly wait to get through the annoying time-consuming process of renting a car. 

The interior of our rental car, a Renault Clio small SUV. Although there’s a navigation system, it doesn’t work on the island of Madeira.

From past experience, we knew that the language barrier and the big sales pitch for the extra insurance were only going to add to the time required to stand at the desk once it was our turn. 

The beautiful wood floors are continued throughout the house including on the stairway to the second level. The house was designed by Gina’s brother Carlos, who is an architect, the actual owner, and lives next door to us with his family.

The rep spoke broken English which I was able to understand although Tom has trouble with dialects due to his hearing loss. After the rep at Alamo, Nelo Gouveia went through his required spiel, our contract was ready for signature and we were handed the keys.

Our new home, a photo taken by Gina, for highlighting the house in HomeAway.

Suddenly, Nelo looked at our two luggage carts asking, “Is those your bags?” His question came up after we’d chatted with him when he’d asked where we were from and where we were going. 

He practically flipped when he heard we were traveling the world for possibly years to come. He thought it was the greatest adventure he’d ever heard. We giggled over his enthusiasm as tired as we were.

The long upstairs walkway from one end of the house to the other.

When we nodded “yes” that they were in fact our bags, he immediately started shaking his head, “No, no, no!” he said, “This little car,” he pointed to a photo on the wall of the car we were getting, “Will not work for these bags!”

“I give you bigger car, for you nice people. No extra charge!” 

“No extra charge?” I inquired.

“No extra charge,” he reiterated.

This is the master bedroom where we sleep and Tom keeps his clothing. In order not to awaken him when I often awake earlier than he, I use another bedroom and bath for my clothes and for bathing and dressing for the day. This bedroom has an en suite bathroom.

Having to do over all the paperwork for the larger car would take time but we were willing to wait for “no extra charge.” Ten minutes later after it was completed and signed he offered to take Tom to the awaiting car. This was far beyond our expectations. No rep had ever done this in the past. By this time it was 2:15 am. 

He helped us haul our bags to the curb telling me to wait there while he took Tom to get the car. Before he and Tom left to get the car, he approached two nearby police officers telling them to keep an eye out for my safety at 2:15 am alone on the curb of an airport. 

This is the third bedroom with the twin beds.

Five minutes later they drove up, Nelo waving his enthusiastic arms out the window. I couldn’t stop smiling when they drove up in the much larger Renault Clio SUV type vehicle with loads of room. We couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Based on the fact that we now only rent cars for 30 days at a time, later renewing online to maintain the best online price, I asked Nelo how we could get this same car again. He explained that we should again sign up online for the best price, call him and ensure he was at work when we return the car, and he’ll give us the same car for the same price. Whether or not this will all work out is not a certainty. Surely, we’ll try.

This is the another shot of the third bedroom.

The cost for the rental car for 30 days is US $1055.70, EU $758 plus, they hold the additional US $835.62, EU $600 on our credit card, an excess for possible damage. Once we return the car, the excess will be released within a few days for which I always keep checking the credit card we use to ensure it was handled.

Our luggage easily fit into the upgraded car and we were on our way with Gina’s translated directions as to how to find the house. It was tricky, very tricky. Somehow, we persevered in our exhausted state, staying calm through the long 45 minutes. At one point we got off onto the wrong exit, wasting 15 minutes. Finally, we found Campanario and the house, after going through several tunnels. We didn’t fall into bed until 3:30 am. 

Each of the bedrooms has doors opened to a small veranda as shown in the second bedroom where I store my clothes.

Too tired to bring our bags inside, we only brought in the laptop bags, my purse, and the pill bag. I slept in the tee-shirt I wore all day. I didn’t care. Finally, after the third night of sleeping in this house, we both finally feel rested after last night’s full eight hours. 

My huge soaking tub.

Last night’s dinner was fabulous; our coleslaw made with already cut up cabbage to which we added carrots chunks. For ease, we made the breadless sandwiches with nitrate-free meats we’d purchased at the deli in the market. Tonight, we’ll repeat last night’s dinner as we often do; the same dinner, freshly made each night, two nights in a row. Doing so saves time and money.

Tomorrow, we’ll head out for errands and our first dining out experience in Madeira. Gee…it feels so right here.

One of the many tunnels we drove through on the drive from the airport to our house.

By the way, I beat Tom at Gin during our two and a half months in Morocco, for the first time after playing almost every day in four countries. He’d won in Italy, Kenya, and South Africa. With only one country win under my belt, I have a lot of catching up to do. I can’t imagine why he swears at me every time I win a hand!  Otherwise, he never swears at me.

Photo from one year ago today, May 18, 2013:
There were no photos taken on this date as we sailed through the Gulf of Aden. Instead here is a photo of Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Sea’s pool area posted on May 17, 2013:

The ship’s pool area. At this point in time, we were still using the little Samsung camera, although we had the new Sony which I had yet to learn to use. Soon, you’ll note that our photos improved in quality. We’ll let you know when that transpires as we move through the dates from one year ago. For details of the post without photos on May 18, 2013, please click here.

Grand Turks and Caicos…Last port of call before Miami tomorrow…

The beach at Grand Turks and Caicos.

Today, as we spend our last full day aboard the Carnival Liberty, we’re unable to use our WiFi device while out to sea. With only minutes left on the Internet package we purchased on the ship, I’d contemplated not posting
today. Yesterday, we burned up 70 minutes trying to post the  blog and the photos with the ship’s poor signal.

If we were to purchase more Internet time from the ship, we’d pay $.75 a minute, outrageous considering it takes about four times longer to load anything than when using our MiFi when available. For one additional hour we’d pay $45. 
As mentioned in prior posts, Xcom Global MiFi works when we are close to land in most of the countries we’ll visit. The small island country of Grand Turks and Caicos was not one of them. We spotted a few towers but their signal was not sufficient for us to get online. 
The cruise line owned beach set-up with “pay for” cabanas.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll arrive in Miami at 8:00 am.  Once in port, we’ll be able to use our MiFi as we wait for our turn to disembark the Carnival Liberty. Our goal is to be among the last passengers to leave the ship.  Most passengers will have already gone through customs and the lines resulting in shorter lines.

With our next ship, the Norwegian Epic, docked at the pier next door, we won’t be able to get on board until noon, leaving us to carefully time the move from one ship to the other. Refusing to be left standing at the pier for hours with our remaining pile of luggage in tow, careful timing is in order.
 Many passengers got off the ship to bake in the sun. We opted to stay behind and enjoy the quiet time on the ship.

Once we’re situated on board, unpack, attend  the required emergency procedures meeting at our designated Muster station, and sign up for their largest Internet package, we’ll post again. 

Once the ship sails, we’ll only be able to use the ship’s Internet package for the crossing of the Atlantic ocean for a 15 day cruise ending in Barcelona, Spain (one eleven day cruise plus one four day cruise resulting in another back-to-back, same-cabin cruise).
With only one port of call in the first leg of this upcoming cruise in Madeira, Portugal, on April 28, 2013, we’ll have little use of our MiFi. While in Madeira for eight hours on April 28th, we plan to meet with the owner of the house we’ll be renting in Madeira beginning May 15, 2014, when we’ll return for a 2 1/2 month stay in her gorgeous house overlooking the ocean. Gina will give us a tour of the house and the island, a wonderful way to spend our day in port.
 The dock at the beach set-up.

Overall, the two Carnival cruises were fine, although not memorable. The two downsides were the issue with our vitamins and the need to move to a quieter cabin. The upsides, excellent service, extraordinary food at Diamonds Steakhouse, clean environment, no Norovirus and a smooth sailing ship.

Would we book Carnival in the future? Probably not, unless we needed to use it as a means of transportation when no other cruise line was available. Would we recommend it to others? If a party cruise is your style, this cruise line is ideal.  For us, we prefer a more mature crowd and more quiet environment.
Various boats that passenger charter for a number of activities.

Stop back tomorrow to read about our move to the Norwegian Epic, a bigger ship than we’ve experienced thus far, cruise #5 since January 3, 2013.

No cooking for over two months, beginning in 11 days…

The sun reflecting on the sea created the white line of the horizon.

Something startling dawned on me yesterday as I responded to a sweet email message from my new friend Nancy, who left Placencia, Belize a week ago today. Gosh, I miss her. I wrote that when we’re leaving Belize on April 9th, we won’t be cooking another meal until after June 16 when we arrive in Tuscany, Italy.  We’ll be cruising most of the time.

It was around 7:30 am.

What an odd reality, especially for me, the proverbial foodie, ambitious cook, and hostess. It’s hard to wrap my brain around it. 

Cooking has always represented love to me; creating and preparing great recipes, considering the nuances of a loved one’s dietary needs and interests all the while presenting a mouth-watering array of selections at each meal.

We’ll miss this view that we awaken to each morning.

At the end of each day, I’ve padded around the kitchen, banging cabinet doors, leaving the refrigerator door open too long, dropping morsels of food on the floor, and more in my hair, enjoying every moment of the preparation of the next meal.

I’ve never tired of the grocery shopping, putting the groceries away, chopping and dicing, mixing and stirring, standing over the hot pan or oven to eventually plate the delectable meal, proudly handing it over to Tom to partake.

Yesterday afternoon, around 5:00 pm, there was another wedding here. We didn’t want to intrude, taking this photo from our veranda which was much further away than it appears.   

He seldom comments about the food.  Our routine is that I ask if he liked his dinner when he puts down his fork. He looks at me and smiles, “It was OK.”

If the sound of the “OK” is uplifting and cheerful, he liked it.  If the sound of the “OK” is a monotone, not so much.  I won’t make that dish for him again. Ah, the language of love. He never needs to criticize. He knows it may hurt my feelings. That, he wouldn’t do.

Yesterday, we hitched a ride to Placencia village for our final grocery shopping trip, taking a cab back when we were done.  I’d made a list, as usual, on the grocery app on my smartphone, reviewing it frequently as we hustle through the store. 

This view as well…

With the Easter holiday upon us, the shelves were well stocked.  There wasn’t an item I couldn’t find including fresh ricotta cheese for a new low carb zucchini recipe I’m making for Easter. I’ll post the menu tomorrow, the recipe after we tried it, to ensure it’s worth posting. You never know. Tom won’t eat zucchini, but perhaps our Easter dinner company (there will be four of us) will like it. I’ll test it on our guests.

After spending our usual $160 at the grocery store, plus another $15 at the vegetable stand and $15 for the cab, we found ourselves well stocked. With plans to dine out twice with new friends, tomorrow night and again next Tuesday, we’ll be left with nine more dinners to prepare. 

Then, I don’t cook again until June 17th, the day after we arrive in Tuscany, Italy, shopping within the first 24 hours of arrival. 

With the upcoming 13 days living in Dubai beginning May 21st, we may not cook.  Instead, we may choose to dine out in order to experience the vast array of extraordinary international cuisine within walking distance from our vacation property. 

It won’t be worth the expense of purchasing spices and other cooking supplies while in Dubai, the only “short stay” of under two months in our upcoming travels. Himalayan Salt, pure, unprocessed, chemical-free salt from the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, is the only seasoning that we pack in our bags, the only salt we use when cooking.

Letting go.  Letting go of people.  Letting go of “things.”  Letting go of that which we know and love is a part of our journey. It’s not all “vacation-like.”  It’s not all romance, sunrises, sunsets and smiling photos.  We miss our children and grandchildren, more than they will ever know. Do we even have a right to say we miss them?  We’re the ones that left. 

All the quotes espousing “living the dream,” all the life-enhancing seminars attended in one’s career, all the wish-fulfillment sayings one ponders in their lives have come to fruition for both of us.  So, we won’t cook. 

A road trip today with photos….

Us on the beach at the Lost Reef Resort where we stopped for lunch today.

Our delightful new friends and neighbors, also from Minnesota, invited us to join them to travel by car to Big Creek for all four of us to renew our visas, as opposed to riding on the Hokey Pokey boat and taking four cab rides.

Our Minnesota friends and Belize neighbors, Nancy and Roger.

Still recovering from our recent fall on the collapsing steps, it made more sense to ride in Nancy and Roger’s SUV than to bounce around on the 20 minutes boat ride each way. We jumped at the chance. 

The pool by the sea at the Lost Reef Resort.

Besides, we so enjoy their company, we knew the process of going to the Immigration Department (a two hour round trip drive) would once again be a delightful experience. It was.

This is our final visa for Belize: Once we disembarked the Celebrity Equinox on January 29, 2013, another only a few short weeks ago and the third and final today. Visas in Belize are extended for 30 days only. Based on our upcoming departure on April 9, 2013, there was no way to avoid a third visa. No exceptions are made at immigration.

Great photo of this darling couple, Nancy and Roger, who own the villa next door to us.

Leaving at 10:00 am this morning, we arrived in Big Creek at 11:00 am, behind a good sized line of others seeking to renew their visas as well. The tiny office only holds five tourists at a time, leaving us to wait outside in the 90 degree humidity. With little breeze, we anxiously squeezed into the tiny air conditioned space when our turn came up.

The immigration officer asked, “Why are you here so early when your visas are good until March 20th?” I giggled to myself. 

Guests relaxing at the Lost Reef Resort

Tom explained the time frames we are in Belize and she nodded in understanding, extending each of our visas inside our passports to April 12, 2013, when we’ll be long gone.

I couldn’t help but add, “Old people are always early,” in an effort to get a chuckle out of the overly serious immigration officer dressed in a military-type uniform. A wide grin spread over her face.  It worked.

Back in the SUV, Roger suggested lunch to which the three of us enthusiastically agreed that is on the way back to Placencia in the little town of Riverdale.  Owned by American friends, the Lost Reef Resort is a quaint, picturesque resort with an ambiance of relaxation away from the rest of the world.

 The restaurant at the Lost Reef Resort.

Often when dining out with my restricted diet, I tend to read and reread the menu looking for acceptable options.  No problem at the Lost Reef Resort. Their amiable chef was eager to please preparing a hearty grilled chicken salad with a wide array of fresh crisp vegetables. 

Nancy and Roger had what they described as delectable chicken wings and onion rings while Tom dined on a robust burger and fries (he “cheats” when we eat out).  Heir food was fresh, the service impeccable and the atmosphere charming. 

Lisa and her husband have owned a charming resort for seven years.

Lisa stopped by to visit our table, her warm demeanor, making us feel as if she’d known us forever. Seven years ago, she and her husband purchased the resort. He continues to work in the US splitting his time between the states and Belize, while Lisa stays behind running the resort. 

After lunch, we meandered out to the resort’s beach, only steps from the restaurant.

It’s not surprising that we’ve met several ex-pats that have found their way to Belize to begin anew in this land of white sand beaches, balmy ocean breezes, unique architecture, and friendly people. 

Unfortunately, for some ex-pats who buy or start a business in resort communities throughout the world, find themselves working harder and longer than they ever worked in their home country. The appearing idyllic life of “getting away from it all” is not always as easy a life as it may seem.  For others, it proves to be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

This adorable little guy stayed put allowing us to take this fine photo.

For us, we’ll stay on the move, making new friends, experiencing new cultures, and reveling in the gifts Mother Nature has bestowed on us all to savor each and every day.

Countries we’ll visit, real estate to explore, plus photos…

Famous long sidewalk in Placencia Village with houses scattered along the way.

After spending most of my career as a real estate broker in Minnesota, USA, real estate in Belize peaked my curiosity and Tom’s as well.  With our possible plan to “settle somewhere” when and if we tire of traveling, we’ve decided to research real estate when we find an area particularly appealing. 

An excellent example of local property design, the restaurant, the “Caribbean Breeze Coolspot,” offers sweeping views of the lagoon and the mountains from the deck.

With our newly discovered wanderlust, we can’t imagine living in one locale for an extended period.  But, let’s face it, advancing age may require a fixed location some time down the road

House along the drive into Placencia Village.

How can we make this potential eventuality fun and exciting, rather than a dreaded eventuality of aging?  Taking care of our health is firmly implanted in our lives.  As we all know, unforeseen medical issues can occur in a flash, no matter the attempts one has made to avert it.  We’re products of our genes, our environment, and past bad habits, that can haunt our DNA for a lifetime.

House on the way to Placencia Village.  There’s a tremendous amount of poverty in Belize.

Keeping a positive attitude isn’t a guaranty either, as much as we’d like to believe it is.  So, we’ve decided to live now, as if we’ll live long and healthy lives, full of energy, full of passion, and full of hope.

House we see each time we walk along the beach heading south on the Placencia peninsula.

This hope precipitates a desire to explore what options will be available to us for not only our pleasure but also for a certain degree of ease of living.  Would Belize fill that bill?  We don’t know.  We’re yet to define a frame of reference from one locale to another.

Occupied house near the pier at Monkey River.

We will have visited the following countries including many of their cities and regions in the next two-plus years. Health providing, we’ll add many more in the years to come.  With a three and a half month unplanned gap in Europe in 2014 and a plan to explore more countries during that time, perhaps we’ll add three to four more countries to this list.  (These are listed in no particular order).
1.      USA
2.      Belize
3.      France
4.      Italy
5.      Spain
6.      Turkey
7.      Greece
8.      United Arab Emirates
9.      US Virgin islands
10.  Honduras
11.  Grand Cayman
12.  Bahamas
13.  Puerto Rico
14.  Grand Turks and Caicos
15.  Portugal
16.  Egypt
17.  Jordan
18.  Kenya
19.  South Africa
20. Panama
21. Mexico
22. Guatemala
23. Costa Rica
24. Columbia

With ten upcoming cruises from April 2013 to November 2014, we’ll have an opportunity to look at properties while in port along the way, both for sale and for rent. This process may not give us a definitive view of our eventual long term location but may inspire us to return to live in a particular locale for a number of months to better acquaint ourselves with the lifestyle.

House along the canal leading to the lagoon, leading to the Caribbean Sea.

So often, while on vacation, we’ve all fantasized about moving to the location to live an idyllic life lounging on a pristine sandy beach, with the waves lapping at our feet. 

In only a short time, we’ve come to realize in our own naivety, that however romantic and inviting a location maybe, in time, we all settle into the comfortable and the familiar which hopefully brings us a sense of contentment, fulfillment, and a certain degree of happiness.

More visas needed???…Check, check and recheck!…

Our cruise company sent us this email message a few weeks ago:

“Dear Mrs. Lyman,

Thank you again for booking with Vacations To Go!

I wanted to send a quick email to remind you that one or more of the ports of
call, you will be visiting, will require a Visa.

If you are a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident or a Canadian citizen
residing in Canada and have not contacted CIBT, to verify your visa
requirements for this sailing, please contact them as soon as possible.

All other, non-US or Canadian citizens must verify proof of citizenship, and
visa requirements with the embassy, consulate or immigration office of the
countries in their cruise itinerary.

Vacations To Go has partnered with CIBT, one of the nation’s largest passport
and visa services companies in the country, to assist U.S. citizens, permanent
residents and Canadian citizens in obtaining any required visas or a passport.
Visas may be purchased within six months of the start of the vacation but,
please be aware that for some countries it may take up to 30 days to secure a

If you are a US citizen or permanent resident and need to obtain a visa,
click here.

If you are a US citizen and need to obtain a passport, click here.

If you are a Canadian Citizen residing in Canada and need to obtain a visa,
click here.

For visa or passport questions, call CIBT customer service at 1-877-841-8602.
Be sure to identify yourself as a Vacations To Go customer and reference
account 45585. CIBT is available from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST, Monday
through Friday.

Please let me know if you have any questions!


Joaquin Contreras
Travel Counselor
Vacations To Go

We have total faith in our cruise counselor, Joaquin, and his company Vacations to Go for providing us with the most updated important information, superb customer service, and the best possible pricing.  I imagine, that the above letter is a standard letter sent to upcoming cruise passengers via the cruise lines on their behalf resulting in the “travel agents” presenting the information to their clients. 

Upon reading this letter, we followed the links to CIBT, a highly reputable visa and passport company per online reviews, the Better Business Bureau reports, and recommendations by VTG. 

Previously, we had used  VisaHQ, a company located on Embassy Row in Washington, DC in order to obtain our second passports (to find detailed information about the necessity of having a second US passport, please type “second passports” in the search box on our home page to go directly to our posts regarding the necessity of a second passport.)

With these links and information on hand, we proceeded to go to CIBT to set up an online account.  When asked, “what country will you be visiting?” I was stymied.  With four countries requiring a visa in our upcoming cruises through June 2013, my hope and expectation would be that we could apply for all four at once. 

Those countries requiring visas include Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. The other dozen or more countries in our upcoming eight cruises in 2013 (two more scheduled so far for 2014) do not require a visa for stays under 30 days. 

The dilemma we faced after receiving this letter:
1.  To apply for a visa, one must send their passport to the processing company along with a stack of ancillary documents, based on each country’s particular requirements.
2.  To avoid paying extra processing fees, as much as $150 per visa, one may apply early to ensure the documents are received in time for the cruises and…to get one’s passport back with the documents. When we ordered our second passports they were sent to us by registered mail to our mailing service in Nevada which we picked up when we went to Las Vegas for Christmas.
3.  Thus, without having established an address here in Belize and the potential for slow transit from the US to Central America, it’s likely should we try to apply now for June, there’s a high risk of not receiving our passports and visas in time before we depart on April 9th.

After Tom and I discussed this at length, after confirming that we did in fact need visas for these four countries we’ll visit on our cruises from May to June, we came up with this plan:
1.  Complete all the paperwork while here using our portable printer and scanner.
2.  Begin the process of applying online while here, leaving out the mailing of our passports until we get to Miami on April 13th when our ship, the Carnival Liberty, docks at the Port of Miami for approximately 10 hours.  
3.  Grab a cab, heading directly to a UPS store near the pier, mail our documents registered mail to CIBT, pick up our forwarded awaiting mail and packages we’d pre-arranged to arrive on April 13th, mail our excess luggage to my sister in Los Angeles, get back on the ship and continue on to the next cruise.
4.  In the packet to CIBT, we’ll have requested the visa and 2nd passports to be sent to our hotel in Barcelona Spain, where we’ll stay one night, May 5th, boarding our 15-night cruise in the morning through the Suez Canal to see the Great Pyramids, Giza, Cairo, The Sphinx, and more (will post details later), where three of the four visas are required. 

Whew! This is cutting it very close…one night in Barcelona with documents being delivered in a very narrow window. Of course, the hotel would gladly hold the package for us for a few days.  But what if it didn’t arrive, or was lost? 

Suddenly, we both felt a twinge of stress.  Our only piece of mind would be to have them sent from the US to Barcelona, the quickest, most expensive way.  We were willing to bear this expense. And yet, there still was no guarantee.

Our goal thus far has been to keep stress at a minimum, avoiding that angst-ridden feeling one takes on in bed in the middle of the night, interrupting sleep, a familiar feeling from our “old lives”, a feeling that seems unavoidable in the hustle and bustle of daily life.  

Lounging on the veranda yesterday, creating a definitive plan we both could live with, a thought occurred to us simultaneously; let’s call CIBT explaining our dilemma and see what suggestions they may offer. 

Since we no longer have a cell phone plan, using Skype and SIM cards as needed, we knew we could call their toll-free number using Skype, incurring no cost at all.  We discovered much to our delight, that we can call any business in the US without incurring any costs, as long as they have a toll free number.  They answer on their regular phone systems while we call on Skype for free.  Nice.  Thanks, SKYPE!  

Dialing their toll-free number, we were connected to a representative within 30 seconds. The call was clear with a bit of an echo.  Explaining our dilemma to the representative, she asked us to kindly wait and she’d be right back.  Watching the clock on Skype, she returned in less than a minute asking us the names of the cruise lines for these two upcoming cruises.  We responded that the May 6th cruise was with Royal Caribbean and the second was with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Again, we were on hold for a short time. She returned to the phone with glee in her voice, “I have good news for you!” We held our breath. “You will not need pre-arranged visas on either of your cruises. You’ll receive them on board your ship at the time you disembark to go on your excursions.  Both of these cruise lines have an arrangement with these countries to provide visas at their ports of call.”

We squealed with delight.  Tom, or shall I say, “doubting Thomas” wanted more verification of this, worrywart that he is.  Immediately, we contacted Joaquin, our cruise guy by email.  An hour later, we received an email confirming that CIBT is correct, we don’t need to obtain visas in advance for the four countries, not always the case, but in these particular two situations, we could relax.

Had we not “called” receiving this valuable information, we would have followed the procedures online, paying the expenses of upwards of $600, while dealing with the stress of the timing.

Who knows how to travel the world for 5-10 years or more, managing all the details, documents, financial and medical concerns?  We don’t.  But we’re learning, day by day in bite-sized pieces with so much more ahead of us.  We’ll flounder, we’ll make mistakes, we’ll trust when we shouldn’t and wrongfully mistrust when we should.

Lesson learned.

A walk on the beach…Changing our ways…

This photo of Tom clearly depicts our quiet, contemplative, uncomplicated lives, relatively free of stress. 

Tom always jokes that he never imagined that his retirement would include walking other the necessary steps from his comfy chair to the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom, and the yard.  Yes, he was quite the handyman, fixing and fussing as needed, walking about the house.  We never took a walk together in our neighborhood.

As I began planning our worldwide travels over a year ago I budgeted for rental cars for most locations fearing that Tom would seldom want to walk to nearby restaurants, shops, and pubs.

Living in Belize for an extended period, the cost of a rental car or even a golf cart was prohibitive.  After all, we are on the secluded peninsula of Placencia, a four-hour drive from Belize City where our ship arrived. 

Upon arriving, we resigned ourselves to occasionally renting a golf cart as needed.  Much to our liking, we now have our own cab driver Estevan, whom I’ve mentioned here, who will take us anywhere we’d like to go for reasonable rates during daylight hours leaving us to “hoof it” for dinners out at night.

With multiple good restaurants nearby requiring no more than a 10-minute walk each way, our transportation needs are fulfilled.  We dine out two or three times a week and love rotating our favorites, especially on the nights they offer their stupendous buffets.  If we go on an adventure, transportation is provided.  So, we walk.  Tom walks.

After moving to Laru Beya on February 5th with a massive expanse of white sand beach in front of our villa, Tom surprised me when within a few days of arriving he suggested we walk the beach, a popular tourist outing.  I always treasured walking in our old neighborhood with our precious little dogs to their favorite spot, Poop Park, often walking with our equally wonderful neighbors and their little dogs. 

As long as the temperature was above 10 degrees we walked. The pads of their little feet would quickly freeze at lower temperatures.  Often, our World Wide Willie would stop dead in his tracks looking up at me with sorrowful eyes that asked me to carry him home when he’d had enough and of course, I did.  In the snow, on the ice, I carried him home, all 22 pounds of him, often as much as a 1/2 mile.  I loved walking.  Tom, not so much, having never walked the neighborhood with me once in 22 years.

Each day we began to walk along the beach at a lofty pace, in the water or on the sand, carefully watching for stray rocks, shells and bits of glass, engaged in idle chatter or in quiet contemplation. 

We can change, can’t we?  Life circumstances often unplanned, force us to look at our often rigid ways, leaving us open to change, to grow and to learn.  Some take advantage of the opportunity, others do not.  We revel in watching each other depart from that which we knew as familiar and comfortable, to the new people we are fast becoming. 

The chairs here aren’t comfy, the kitchen supplies are limited, finding foods for our way of eating is challenging, not owning cars is peculiar and no Walgreen’s is daunting. But we change to accept the differences, growing and learning in the process, all the while reveling in our personal ability to adapt. 

As I over-packed for almost a year in Minnesota all the things that “I couldn’t live without” much of which is now packed to be shipped to my sister in Los Angeles when we get to Miami on April 13th, I realized that I too could let go of things, learning to live without the comfortable and the familiar.

All the kind and generous advice others gave us regarding our excess luggage could only have meaning to us when we discovered it on our own, in our own time, on our own terms.  We’ve changed.  We’ll continue to change.

Suddenly, we look at one another with new eyes, with a new interest, knowing that wherever we maybe we’ll learn new ways of life, we’ll release old ways that don’t work in a new environment and, without a doubt,  we’ll walk, we’ll walk and we’ll walk. 

Moonlight becomes you…

The late afternoon moon.

This old Johnny Mathis song wound through my brain last night as we watched the moon progress from the afternoon into dark. Yes, I know. That song sure dates me! 

Here’s the link on YouTube to this song that for old timers, like me, will bring back memories.  Listen here:

The moon at 9:00 pm.

Moonlight seems to appeal to everyone, young or old, as we marvel at the wonder of space, our world, the moon and the sun.  As I sit here on the veranda, the sun in my eyes, my laptop monitor hard to see on yet another hot sunny morning, I prepare to post the photos we took last night.

Back in Minnesota, on a full moon night whether on a warm summer’s eve or in the brisk cold of winter, we always stepped outside on those nights to languish in the bright beam of light cast upon the lake, even when frozen, reflecting a magical feeling of awe and surprise.

The moon from our veranda.

Here in another land, we find that we all share in the romantic commonality of reveling in the moon’s beacon of light reflecting so graciously upon the sea. Last night was no exception, as we noticed our few neighbors also on their verandas necks stretched to the heavens.

Thank you, moon.  Thank you, sun.  Thank you, God, for making our world and it heavens only but a glimpse of what is yet to come.

Barefoot and lazy…Easy life…No shoes…

A newlywed couple, we’re dining with tonight took this photo of us.

With the exception of an occasional sick day, I’ve hardly ever had a lazy day. Except for now. 

I have no house to clean (maid service is included). I have no dishwasher to unload (no dishwasher except Tom).  There is no pile of laundry awaiting my attention as a result of no washer or dryer (laundry service, wash, dry, fold will cost us about $50 a month). 

There’s no way we can use this Hobey Cat with our bad shoulders.

Wearing our bathing suits all day, I don’t even have “what to wear” planning until the two nights we’ve decided we’ll go out to dinner, Tuesdays and Saturdays, both buffets (no doggie bags).

Our days now consist of changing the roll of toilet paper as needed, whipping up a mere five easy meals a week, making a pot of coffee in the mornings, tea in the afternoons.  No more multi-store grocery shopping, coupons to cut, trips to Walgreen’s, or stops at the post office. 

No more stops for gas on 10 degree days, hands freezing holding the nozzle.  No more car washes, oil changes, or auto insurance cards to put into the glove box twice a year. No more car.

First time I’ve ever let Tom take a photo of me in a swimsuit. 

No more coffee with friends at Caribou or Starbucks.

No more walks to “Poop Park” with the neighbor’s dogs or our own.  Our precious Worldwide Willie died almost two years ago, prompting me to write my first blog, from his perspective, for the remaining 17 days of his life.  (Feel free to read it, hankie handy, if you’ve ever lost a dog). 

“Are we bored,” you ask? 

“No, not at all,” we both say in unison. “Will we get bored?”

“No, not at all.”

After a lifetime of continually running around like a “whirling dervish” (whatever that is), I’m done “trying to do it all.” Tom is done trying to recover from 12-hour workdays, feeling exhausted on his days off, feeling unmotivated other than to do the mundane tasks of home maintenance which he completed faithfully without being asked twice, which he finished with aplomb.

We were happy in that life. Now, we’re happy in this life. But,  it’s coupled with a profound sense of freedom that is hard to describe.  No end-of-vacation blues, no piled up mail to anticipate, no Mondays, back to work.

With nothing to worry about in this simple existence, only occasionally interrupted by a move to a new location, we can focus on the little things; what and when to eat, where and when to explore, with whom to engage in conversation as strangers mull around during our one-hour daily visit to the pool. “Shall we go in the water or shall I continue sitting in the lawn chair reading my online book on my phone?”

Sitting in the lounge chairs on our veranda, we’re contemplating going inside soon to shower and get ready for dinner out tonight at Habaneros with a lovely newlywed couple we met outside, Pam and Jerry.  We’ll all take the short walk down and across the road, dine outside on the water’s edge, the no-see-ums armed and ready for fresh meat, mostly mine. I’m getting used to the sting, the itch, and the three nights of scratching using my newly toughened heels on my legs during the night. 

The bottoms of my feet are toughening-up after being barefoot all day;  walking to the pool, strolling along the beach, stopping at the office with questions (no phones in the villas here). 

Our sweet Belizean maid Gloria mentioned as I was picking flowers this morning, “Miss Yessica  (that’s how they say my name), “You finally get into the Belizean way, easy life, no shoes.”

“Yes, Gloria,” I responded, as the smell of the fresh bouquet wafted into my senses.   “Easy life, no shoes.”

Photos and more photos tomorrow too!…

Such a small pig.  Boo hoo.  It was delicious!

When living in the moment, savoring every morsel life throws our way, it’s easy to become entrenched in the details in such a way that photo-taking falls to the wayside.

Grilled red snapper.
Belizean barbeque chicken and rice. We had the chicken removing the sugary skin, passing on the rice.

So the case here.  Now, on our 6th night of living at the amazing Laru Beya  Resort after having recovered from our horrifying previous week, I find myself mesmerized by the simplest distractions; the sound of a colorful bird singing a song I’ve never heard, a bug-eyed iguana running across the sidewalk, a white hibiscus tree filled with dozens of perfectly shaped blooms, to name a few.

Marinated vegetable salad.

Do we always have the camera with us? No, but we often regret that we don’t. This morning as we walked next door to Robert’s Grove Resort where I had paid $39 a month to sign up for use of their health club, we missed yet another photo op, a perfect scene of a huge sailboat swiftly skimming across the sea. No camera.

Sweet, tender, all-you-can-eat shrimp.
Some kind of rice dish we didn’t try (we don’t eat grains)

We’ll get better at this. Taking good photos is not only the art of selecting an appealing opportunity but utilizing the camera to the photo’s best advance. It’s art. I’m not artistic by any means. Nor is Tom. We’ll get it right.

Although the lobster doesn’t look well-stocked, they continually refilled the pan, ensuring every guest has their share. It was some of the best lobster tail we’ve had.
Belizean sausage, spicy and juicy.  No corn or pasta for us.

Last night at the buffet dinner next door, again at Robert’s Grove Resort (the closest walking distance resort with three restaurants), I remembered to bring the camera.  Before the line formed for the $35 per person feast I managed to get these photos, not perfect but, we hope worth sharing.