At long last, we have sunshine…Transportation…Safety…All new photos…

This morning’s sunny day.

Yesterday, we called Ratnesh to pick us up tomorrow at 11 am for a dual purpose; sightseeing earlier in the day, shopping after sightseeing. We’re excited to be getting out.

We’d hoped to get out on Tuesday, but on Monday, he called and canceled when he had a long-distance fare to Labasa, where another airport is located, a two hour drive each way from Savusavu.

When we first arrived, we offered to request his services for specific dates, and at times when it was most convenient for him with our schedule wide open. If he has a fare where he’ll make more than with us to various sites and the villages, we’ve encouraged him to take it.

View from our veranda to the three-unit vacation home as a part of this four-unit resort. The lawn guy is here today, mowing and trimming.

We hadn’t negotiated special rates with him when we arrived when the amounts he charges for trips to the village or for an hourly rate for sightseeing is so reasonable. As we’ve mentioned in the past, here are the costs of his services:

  • FJD $20, USD $9.39: Round trip to the village for shopping, dropping us off and picking us up when we call.  We add an additional FJD $10, USD $4.70 when he helps us carry our purchases to the house.
  • FJD $30, USD $14.09: Cost per hour for sightseeing. 

We’ve noticed when we do both, sightseeing and shopping on the same day, we’re charging for the trip to the village, plus the hourly travel rate. Ah, who’s to complain at these reasonable prices? If we’re gone for four hours at FJD $120, USD $56.35, it’s a very fair fare (no pun intended)!

When we recall paying for taxi fare in London in August 2014, when we visited the highly rated pub (Andover Arms) on two occasions, the round trip taxi fare was USD $50, GBP $32, FJD $106. In Fiji, that amount would give us almost four hours on the road!  

Colorful ocean view from our area.

Although four hours on the roads in Vanua Levu may sound exciting, on this remote island, it would be four hours of bumpy roads, dense greenery, and occasional ocean views, all of which we love and easily experience on shorter trips to specific destinations. We prefer aimlessly driving when we have a rental car, stopping as often as we’d like for photos and restroom breaks.

With the sun shining, we’re excited to get out more often, subject to the availability of the only driver in this village willing to tackle the steep road in this resort area. It would be impossible for us to walk down the long mountainous road. For mountain climbers and seriously fit hikers, it may not be a problem.

How easily we could feel trapped. But, long ago we decided, after realizing we’d need drivers in various countries, we accepted that there would be days we’d want to get out and weren’t able to do so, based on our driver’s availability. Sticking to the same driver or their designated co-driver has been important to us, particularly when safety has been an issue in several countries.

The bright blue of the bay is breathtaking from this elevation.

Upcoming in 46 days, when we fly to the next Fijian Island of Viti Levi, the larger main island, where we’ll stay for one more month, we’ll be renting a car at the Nadi Airport and driving two hours to our new location, again a private house. 

With high crime rates in the downtown Nadi area, when we booked Fiji long ago, we’d decided to stay in another more, remote location where the likelihood of crime is greatly reduced.

Many tourists stay in the Nadi area in resorts and hotels, generally insulated from criminal activities when on site. The risks for tourists escalates when out on the streets in the busy city, as we’ve been warned by the locals here who often travel to Nadi to visit family. Muggings, pickpocketing, and carjacking are not unusual.

Another ocean view from our area.

With our preferred choice of vacation homes as opposed to staying in hotels, we usually don’t have the safety net of on-site security as is often available in most hotels. Generally, one can feel relatively safe from crime in a hotel, although there are isolated exceptions.

Currently, we’re living in a resort but, in the only stand, alone vacation rental house on the property. Further up the hill behind us is a separate building with three apartments, including one penthouse type upscale unit on the top floor. Mario and Tayana’s private residence is off to the side as shown.

When Ratnesh picks us up, he pulls into the driveway of the three-unit building in this resort. The driveway near the steps down to our house below is too steep for stopping the vehicle, making getting in and out nearly impossible.

Junior is around during the day and Mario is on-site in his separate house to our left as we face the ocean. We feel totally safe and protected in this ideal location.

Criminal activity on this island of Vanua Levu is almost non-existent. When we’ve driven by the courthouse on several occasions, located on the edge of town, there are no cars in the parking lot. Most likely, they only open when they have a case. From what we hear, it’s a rare occasion.

Oceanfront view of Mario and Tatyana’s house, much larger than it appears in the photos.  We took this photo from the steep road.

The fact that we prefer living in smaller towns and villages in our travels has more to do with our lack of interest in crowds and the fact that we don’t shop other than for food and supplies as needed. We love the quaint charm and nature of small villages and the friendly, less harried lifestyle of their people. 

For the average tourist, staying in a more populous area in most countries provides endless opportunities to find that special item to bring back home, for oneself, and for gifts for family and friends. Also, easy access to restaurants is an important factor for tourists whereas, for us, it’s irrelevant.

Side view of Mario and Tatyana’s recently built house.

We don’t send our grandchildren trinkets from all over the world. Instead, we send gift cards or gifts that they’d like, not what we think they’d like from a foreign country. If we did, at this point, their bedrooms would be filled with useless touristy type items, eventually to be tossed away. 

Maybe we’re too practical in the minds of others. Then again, how practical is having no home, no stuff other than what fits into three suitcases, a duffel bag and a laptop bag and, changing countries and homes every few months or less?

Have a beautiful and meaningful day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 21, 2014:

We were entranced by this colorful Gold Dust Day Gecko, commonly seen in the Hawaiian Islands, particularly in Maui where we were living one year ago.  This gecko was located on the wall by the pool but, from time to time, we spotted them inside the condo, certainly no big deal. Generally, geckos are harmless if not annoying, leaving droplets of white poop and making peculiar noises. In Fiji, we see new gecko poop in the house every few days. For more details, please click here.

Scanning and new method of shredding…Yikes, tax time!

Receipts as they went through the Doxie portable scanner.

Our taxes have been done for a few weeks.  Per our accountant’s recommendation, we are to keep all of our receipts that may prove to be tax-deductible. 

Now that we’ve added advertisers to our site, been asked to write articles for various publications and web sites, and do a podcast (we’ll share these once published), there are some opportunities for a few write-offs. 

Of course, we can’t write off any of our vacation rentals, personal meals, cruises, and basic living expenses.  But, we can, from time to time, write off expenses relative to a specific situation.

Many have asked, “Will you have to pay taxes in the US if you live outside the US on a more permanent basis?” such as we are doing, as do many US ex-pats. The answer is an absolute “yes.” One would have to forfeit their citizenship and its resulting social security benefits for any other answer. That for us will never happen.

Receipt soaking in hot water in the kitchen sink.

With our taxes sent in by our trusty accountant Steve Thomas, via “e-file” we were left with a humongous pile of receipts we most certainly don’t want to carry with us around the world. 

We have our portable Doxie scanner with us.  A few weeks ago, we purchased a clear plastic sheet at the tiny office supply store in the village, in which to place multiple receipts, subsequently to scan, one sheet at a time.   

Yesterday, as Tom unrolled and unfolded the slips of paper, many affected by the humidity, I got to work on the scanning.  Less than an hour later, we were done.  But, on the floor lie a pile of receipts, enough to fill an entire trash can.

A while back, without a portable shredder (all were too heavy to pack), we were in a quandary as to a suitable method to dispose of these receipts. We’d decided on a plan which has served us well. Keep in mind, none of the credit card receipts had our full account numbers displayed.  In most cases, only the last four digits were visible, if at all.

Grape sized “little balls of” torn receipts.

Years ago, the full account number had been displayed.  Now with rampant identity theft and the last four digits alone on the receipt, it’s a daunting task for thieves to decipher the full number. They have easier methods in which to acquire our account numbers which I won’t mention here.

Placing the receipts into a large plastic bag, I decided to implement our method of destroying the slips without a shredder, without tearing or cutting them into tiny pieces or distributing parts of them in various trash cans. 

Dumping the entire bag of receipts into a pre-filled sink of hot water, we left them to soak for several hours. At this point, we reached into the sink and starting tearing the receipts into small pieces, quite easy to do requiring only a few minutes. During the soaking time, much of the print dissipated as the paper became the consistency of wet toilet paper.

Once the receipts were in this changed state, we reached into the sink extracting small enough portions to make ‘little balls” the size of a small grape.

Placing all these “little balls” on the back of the toilet, we drop one ball into the toilet each time we flush throughout the remainder of the day.  One ball at a time.

Yes, I know there are people that will say this shouldn’t be done for various reasons.  If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of flushing them and you don’t have access to a scanner, one can place the “balls” into the garbage, first pouring tomato juice over them.  The acid in the juice will further destroy the paper.

But then again, we all throw toilet paper with colors and dyes on it into the toilet bowl each day.  The printing on the receipts is often thermal printing, most of which dissipates during the soaking.  If we didn’t destroy these “little balls” this way, they’d end of in a landfill.  There’s no perfect disposal process as yet.  Perhaps, in time, there will be.

With one more task completed, we prepare ourselves for the tasks to be completed in the remaining days 10 days in Placencia Belize.

As for the moment, we are situated on our comfy lounge chairs on the veranda.  There isn’t a hint of a breeze and the surf is quiet and almost still. I’m sipping on a m hiug of my favorite tea, Pouchong. 

Soon, our diligent and hard-working guest services staff will arrive to clean, change the linen and restock our household supplies.  Our favorite is Gloria whom we’ve come to adore.  Her commitment and joy to serve our needs is humbling. Yesterday, we hugged in a heartfelt embrace. I will miss her warmth and kindness, so much the way of the local Mayan people. 

Gently, kindly and respectfully, she gracefully handles all of the guest complaints of which there are many.  We see and hear it every day as the constant turnover of travelers brings new complaints to handle.  She never falters in her strength and courage. We chose not to complain. It’s not in our budget.

Today, we’ll prep for our upcoming Easter dinner for four. Soon we’ll walk along the beach, taking special care to spot stingrays who often flutter about the shallow waters along the surf.  Tonight, we’ll meet up with new friends Lori and Larry for our last buffer dinner at Robert’s Grove Resort.

May I say it again… we are grateful. For the people we meet, for the friends we make along the way, for the ongoing opportunity somehow bestowed upon us, no more deserving than the next person. 

Have a happy Easter, happy Passover, happy holiday, whatever you may celebrate, wherever you may be.

Six days to departure…more details…a little angst…

After a fitful night with my painful shoulder, I awoke with a sense of uncertainty. The departure date is looming.  Why am I feeling this way?  It should be a joyful time full of wonder and excitement and yet this morning I found Tom in the living room long before I ambled out of bed, not well rested at 7:30 am, quietly perusing his online newspaper. He, too, seems a little out of sorts.

This will pass.  When we’re standing on the deck of the ship waving goodbye to loving family members who insisted they are coming to see us off at the pier to hug and then wave a genuine “Bon Voyage,” we’ll feel better, I’m sure.  This is to be expected. 

After all, we are leaving everyone we know and love behind to selfishly go on the adventure of our lives, leaving us with a legacy of stories to tell our grandchildren while hopefully seeing them along the way, adding to their own life experiences. My emotions grasp at this morsel of wisdom filling my soul with hope and anticipation.

While on the return five-hour drive back to Scottsdale on Thursday, leaving the Henderson house spotless and in tip-top condition, we made a new ‘to-do” list of items we need to address in the few remaining days until we head for San Diego where on January 3, we’ll board the first cruise ship for our many year’s long adventures.

Having decided we wouldn’t do any further cooking with only four days to go we made our way to one of our favorite breakfast, restaurants, US EGG after I worked out at the local LA Fitness where I joined as a temporary member for the two months here. Lately, we’ve been eating one big healthy meal early in the day with a lighter meal in the evening.

Tom devoured his scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage while I feasted on their fluffy three egg, chicken, bacon, avocado, and cheese omelet. After several cups of coffee, we headed out to begin knocking off our long list of ‘to do’s”.

Our first task was yet another trip to our bank, one of many in preparing for our world travels.  We had opened two new “travel accounts” not linked to our regular accounts that our bank had suggested provides additional security.  Keeping lesser amounts in the travel accounts to use as needed, we keep our basic funds, secure in separate accounts. 

Then off to the tailor shop to pick up Tom’s three pairs of pants for the cruise, that were swimming on him after his recent weight loss. 

The day zoomed by as we made one stop after another, reveling in the satisfying feeling of getting the mundane tasks completed, including shopping for last-minute toiletries, a trip to the post office, a short visit to Costco. 

Back at the condo, Tom busily worked on insurance paperwork while I became preoccupied with sorting and consolidating our lofty two year supply of vitamins and supplements, all the while wondering how they’d all fit into our luggage. 

Today is the day to begin the repacking of all the clothing, shoes, swimwear, cruisewear including dressy clothes, formal nights, Africa clothing, boots, hats, special gear, gadgets, electronics, and every other item we’ve mentioned in this blog over the past 10 months as necessary for us homeless travelers. 

Our handy little suction vacuum in tow, the process will begin shortly.  The goal is to complete the packing today with our plans to leave Scottsdale on Tuesday, driving to San Diego for our final two days staying with family not far from the pier.  Tomorrow, Tom will find a sports bar so he can watch the Minnesota Vikings game, and later we’ll head to Apache Junction for Tom’s sister Colleen’s birthday party.

Once we close our bags in the next few days they won’t be opened again until we are aboard the Celebrity Century for our 15-day cruise through the Panama Canal.  We’ll keep aside two days of clothing to wear in San Diego in addition to that which we’ll wear on boarding day. 

Oh, it’s getting close, so close. It’s hard for us to believe after all the planning.  There’s still much to do before the 3rd.  We’ve made it this far. We’ll muddle our way through the rest. Stay tuned. More will follow.

CarSoup and security…I’ll take a bowl of that!…

It may be going a little overboard!  For $34 at we purchased these three items putting my mind at ease.

Months ago, Tom and I easily came to the conclusion that owning a car in the US while traveling the world was both foolish and costly. As we’d mentioned in a recent post, it will be peculiar not to own a car which took us a few days to accept.  With only a few calculations, we knew it was the right decision.

Tom’s car, only two years old, still has a remaining balance on a loan. My car also has a loan, a small remaining balance after having bought out the lease a few years ago when offered an irresistible deal for a below market price, certification and an extended warranty. 

Our combined payments are $1048 a month. Add in the auto insurance at $152 a month (me, fender benders!), maintenance at $100 month (my warranty ran out), gas at $300 a month (estimated after retirement for both cars) for a monthly total of $1600.

Keeping a car in the US would have resulted in the continuation of most of these expenses with the $300 a month intended for gas instead going to the cost of storage. Ridiculous!  We had no difficulty making the decision to sell both cars. Most certainly, we can rent cars for considerably less than this amount anywhere we may be in the world

Selling my car in October presents a dilemma: I will be without a car for a few weeks at most.  I can manage by working out and grocery shopping when Tom is home after work and on the few remaining weekends.  

Most of my time these last weeks will be spent completing the packing, cleaning and organizing. Family and friends will visit me here for the next three and a half weeks, until we move to our friend’s home for the remaining week, October 24th to October 31st, our departure date.  We’ll be out of the way during the estate sale. 

Yesterday, I listed my car for the seven day free trial at CarSoup.  If it doesn’t sell in a week, I’ll re-list it committed to the minimum one month contract for $9.95.  What if it doesn’t sell?  

The Cadillac dealer from whom I purchased my car new, most likely will buy it. A few months ago, I’d received a letter from them, inquiring as to my interest in selling them my car. Their used car inventory was low.  Serendipity.  Of course, the price will be much lower than my possible private sale, but at that point, I’ll have no alternative.

Here’s my ad on CarSoup, in case you know of anyone that may be interested. Hopefully soon, gone, gone, gone.

As for Tom’s car, we’ve made a carefully analyzed decision to drive his 2010 SUV to Scottsdale, Arizona for our last 60 days in the US. With its great gas mileage, space for all of our luggage, navigation system and a great security system we’ll be at ease with our decision.  We’ll also drive the SUV to Henderson, Nevada for Christmas with family and friends, finally driving ourselves to the pier in San Diego, for our first cruise. 

We are offering our prospective buyer a good price (a person well known to us), to fly to San Diego and pick up the SUV at the pier, where we’ll have left it on January 3, 2013.  We’ll have financial matters completed prior to this time and have sent him a set of keys.  Easy peasy.  If anything falls through (we always have to have a Plan B), we’ll engage the same practice as for my car, sell the car to a dealer, taking the hit. Whoosh!  $1600 a month, gone!

My next auto related concern: all of our luggage in the back of Tom’s SUV while we make the leisurely four day drive from Minnesota to Arizona.  Our condo in Scottsdale won’t be available until November 4th.  We thought it would be great to take our time during Tom’s first four days of retirement having fun along the way.  A road trip is a great way to start our year’s long adventure!

So again, me worrying.  What if the SUV is vandalized or stolen and our bags, all six of them, are ripped off?  Of course, we’ll be insured. But suddenly, all of our worldly possessions would be gone. Everything. Nada. All of the hundreds  of hours spent researching and buying just the right clothing and products, for at least the first three years of our travels, gone. Scary!  What would we do?  

We’ve discussed this possibility.  We’d continue on to Scottsdale, clothes on our backs with 60 days to find and replace everything we would have lost. Stressful, yes. Frustrating, of course. Doable, yes.

A solution, although not a guarantee, was to amp up his SUV’s security. First, we tested the functionality of his factory installed car alarm.  Next, we made a conscious decision to only stay in motels whereby the SUV will be parked outside our room door.  Also, we’ll be signing up for OnStar for the 60 day period at $18.95 a month.  If the car is stolen, it can be tracked by GPS, immediately reporting to the police.  

With highly sensitive hearing and as a very light sleeper, I’ll sleep with the key fob in my hand (I’ve slept with the TV remote in my hand all night. Why not the fob?).  If I hear a sound, I’ll set off the alarm long before the car alarm goes off, hopefully scaring away a possible thief.  

We are subject to many variables in regard to our two vehicles over the next 90 days.  We have accepted these somewhat painstaking scenarios are part of the process in order to be able to eventually lounge in a lawn chair, overlooking the ocean, knowing this “vacation” may never have to end.  

I’ll tell you how that feels when it happens.

X-Ray views of our travel jackets…

It would be no exaggeration to say that I have spent no less than 20 hours searching online for travel jackets for both Tom and me.  Our goals were simple: functional, all weather, comfortable, affordable and attractive. 

After the first 10 hours, I threw “affordable” and possibly “attractive” out the window.  When buying coats and jackets for us over the years, I’ve always relished in the search for the $500 jacket on sale for $195, throwing a 20% coupon in the mix for a great jacket purchased for a grand total of $156. 
With no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota, we’d be thrilled with the total acquisition cost, wearing the jacket over several years.  As a good “laundress” I’d be able to wash and dry them each year in order for them to look like new for the following year.  

Tiring of our jacket years later, long before they’d wear out, we’d donate them pleased to know that the recipient could enjoy many more years of wear. On occasion, a treasured well-fitting, good looking jacket would remain in the closet for years to come. We struggled to let it go. Would we ever wear it again? Probably not. But the attachment remained.

In frigid Minnesota, one becomes particularly attracted to warm, comfortable, functional jackets that when donned, provide us with a feeling of who we really are, or in some cases, who we’d really like to be.  Funny how an article of clothing, an inanimate object, can do that.
When the search for jackets began months ago, I took it quite seriously.  Tom poo pooed jacket after jacket that I had sent to his inbox.  At night after work, as he’d peruse upwards of 100 email jokes that had filtered in throughout the day, he’d see a subject line from me, reading, “Honey, I found your jacket! Look at this one!”

My heart sank each time he shook his head saying, “Naw, not this one.”  After awhile, I gave up asking why he didn’t like my most recent find. His answer never brought me one step closer to finding what he would like.  

I suppose it’s not unlike falling in love we just do. It’s the way that wispy chunk of silky hair falls over their right eye, the flash of white teeth in a winsome smile, or the laugh, so frequent, so sincere, that makes us fall in love. Over time, the wisp of hair becomes dull and gray, the teeth yellowed but that laugh endures, and we stay in love. I speak from experience.

Finding him a jacket he’d love “matters” to me, as he “matters” to me. Patiently the search continued.  Somehow I felt that once I found a jacket for Tom, one for me would naturally follow.   
Early on in the search, I discovered Scottevest, a travel wear company dedicated to quality and function, offering jackets with “zillions” of hidden pockets.  This concept appealed to both of us, especially during the times we have no alternative but to fly. 

With multiple pockets suited to technological gear, there are hidden plackets for headsets, chargers and devices. Very interesting!
Tom didn’t like the “look” of the available lightweight options for him, although I was drawn to The Molly in black. From time to time I’d send him information about the Standard Jacket to no response. 

Signing up at the Scottevest website to receive daily email on discounted items, last month he reluctantly agreed to the Windbreaker. I purchased a size large for him in olive along with a size small for me in blue.  With the then 20% off discount, these unisex 17 pocket jackets would serve us well most of the time, at only $60 each.  

Folding inside themselves for easy packing was an appealing feature that unfortunately requires an engineering degree. At this point we haven’t taken the time to figure this out.  Other fish to fry.  
Thus remained the task of finding a slightly heavier jacket for those cool days at sea and chilly mornings in Africa on safari.

As the search continued off and on, often days in between, an email popped into my inbox last week, offering a number of jackets at 40% off. (If interested in this sale click this link which was extended until midnight tonight but doesn’t allow for returns. BTW, we have nothing to do with the promotion or marketing of this company or their products).

And wouldn’t you know, The Molly and the Standard Jacket were both included in the sale. At last, Tom relented, finally realizing that the look may not be perfect, but the function of this 20 pocket jacket would serve him well in many ways. I ordered black for both of us in each of our chosen styles.  

Fearful they wouldn’t fit, resulting in having to resell them on eBay, I anxiously awaited their arrival.  Two days later, the package arrived.  Tom, exhausted from work and distracted, didn’t try his on until Friday night when I did the same. His recent weight loss made the size consideration tricky as this was a more fitted jacket than the Windbreaker that we had previously purchased.

Alas!  We were both thrilled with the perfect fit in each of our jackets and at last, Tom seemed content with this decision, partially due to price, partly due to practicality, partly due to the 20 pockets and perhaps, a tiny piece, to end my relentless search freeing me to attend to other tasks, only one month and six days from departure.