Getting familiar in a whole new world…

Thanks to our reader’s patience as we continue to work on our new look.  Its a work in progress and we’ll continue to refine it as we move along.

Whew!  These past five days in Scottsdale have been a whirlwind as we experience life outside of our familiar and well equipped past. We now realize how spoiled we’ve been as we try to adjust to our remaining 56 days in the US, living in our Scottsdale condo.

Here’s what conveniences we’re missing the most:
1.  No TV in the kitchen:  Intended to entertain me while I whittle away with the dullest knife on the planet, preparing our homemade gluten free, starch free, low carb, sugar free and grain free meals. 
2.  HBO and Showtime:  We miss watching Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Homeland and, being able to record shows for later viewing.
3.  Finding my way around:  I have no sense of direction. Unable to get a signal on Maps on my smart phone, anywhere in Scottsdale, I ended up driving around for 40 minutes looking for LA Fitness, my new temporary health club.  Logical solution:  Have Tom go out with me (love this!) or, send directions from my new Windows 8 laptop to my email on my phone. Tom doesn’t seem to have trouble finding his way around. What’s the deal??
4.  Lack of gas stations:  Apparently, Scottsdale doesn’t like the look of gas stations in its pristine neighborhoods.  Tom misses his Super America “double coupon Tuesdays,” let alone being able to find a gas station.  Prices are an average of $3.59 a gallon here as opposed to $3.29 a gallon we paid on our road trip.
5.  Our comfy chairs:  Nary a comfy chair in this condo, we both are nearly doubled over with aching backs.  Add the “hard as nails bed” and we are definitely reminded that we’re senior citizens.  (Ha!  Living in Arizona to boot!)
6. Mail: When we rented this condo, it was explained that we would not be able to access the mailbox or receive packages.  Prepared for the eventuality of this outside the US, we are dependent upon making any purchases in retail stores and by receiving our snail mail at our mailing service, located in Las Vegas, MailLink.  In checking with the Scottsdale post office, they have a waiting list for PO boxes, another dilemma for retirees. It wasn’t worth the time or the money to set up a nearby mailing service for the short time we’re here.  Expecting some checks in the mail, we are sending deposit slips and envelopes for the our Nevada mailing service to mail checks directly to our bank (our national bank provided us with deposit slips and pre-printed envelopes).

Here’s what we do like at this point:
1.  Both retired at the same time:  If we thought we were “glued at the hip” before Tom’s retirement, oh my.  Look at us now.  Retirement, no matter how much it’s filled with pleasant activities, is an adjustment for any couple.  Luckily, our even tempers and relatively cheerful dispositions have made this transition fairly easy for us.  Surely, from time to time, we’ll need to take a break from one another and we’ll manage to take it.
2.  The weather:  The past three days have been over 90 degrees. Much to our amazement its not uncomfortable.  Dry heat.  Nice.  AC helps at night.
3.  Close to everything:  Five minutes to Costco. (It was a half hour drive in Minnesota). We’ve shopped there twice already, once to buy our two new Acer Windows 8 touch screen laptops and secondly, yesterday to purchase our two terabyte My Passport external hard drive (more on that later). 
4. Restaurants: There are several dozen restaurants within a mile.  In our old area, we’d have to drive for at least 25 minutes to get close to a dozen restaurants. 
5.  No mail:  How nice it is to avoid rifling through stacks of garbage mail each day, mostly unsolicited advertising. 
6.  Less cleaning and laundry: Our prior home required an enormous amount of cleaning each day. This small one bedroom condo takes just minutes to clean. Sweeping the floor yesterday, I chuckled.  It took a total of 60 seconds. Without Tom working on the railroad, our laundry is more than cut in half.  Although I love doing laundry, this different has been instrumental in giving my bad shoulder a break, especially with Tom helping. 

This morning, we walked to the Staples store (yes, Tom walked!) to return the external hard drive we purchased on Sunday after deciding it was too heavy for travel, replacing it with the lightweight, My Passport.  (The price at was $179.  At Costco we paid, $159.99 plus 9.5% Arizona Tax for a total of $175.19, still slightly less than any prices we saw online with tax, if applicable and shipping. 

Yesterday morning at 8:30 am, we attended a Microsoft class for Windows 8 at the Microsoft store.  Class, free.  Beverages, free. Cost of 450 page instruction manual, free. Distance, two miles. Nice perk. 

So, we’re settling in.  We’re enjoying our busy days, time spent together and the ongoing challenge of our technological needs going forward.  Next post, we’ll share what we accomplished thus far.

Thanks for “listening.”

Changes to this site tonight…

Dear Readers,
Perfectionist that I attempt to be, I’ve not been happy with the look of this site.  It has been cumbersome for us and for our readers to find particular topics.

As a result we have sought the services of a blog design company, Smitten Blog Designs who will upload our new site tonight during the night. 

You will see changes over the next several days as I drive these qualified web designers absolutely crazy getting it to our liking.  The only way this can be done is to upload it to the Internet allowing me to make changes.

As I have mentioned in the past, I have virtually (no pun intended) skills in web design.  As a matter of fact, I have avoided learning since it is not something I am interested in knowing how to do. 

Remember, the entire purpose of our blog is to share with you that which we love to do including its invariable complications and obstacles that surely occur in the process.  Thus, this next few days, may fall into the “complications” category.  Please be aware I am working fast and furiously in the background correcting any issues.

In the end, you’ll not only see the current day’s post on the homepage, as you’ve done all along, but you will also see tabs for topics in past posts, more photos when we soon purchase a new camera and more frequent updates.

Thank you for your patience and thanks for sharing this adventure with us.

Warmest regards,

Jess & Tom

Settled into Scottsdale…two new Windows 8 touchscreen laptops…

We purchased two Acer laptops with Windows 8 touchscreen.  What a time to learn a new operating system!

We’ve moved into the vacation home in Scottsdale on Saturday afternoon.  The property, exactly as shown in photos is not only clean but, in very good condition, equipped well beyond our expectations. 

Overlooking the clear blue water of a well maintained swimming pool, this older condo is located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, navigable by a trolley we can catch only a short block away. 

We unloaded the car of the six orange Antler bags, the two carry on bags, clothes for here, clothes for cooler Las Vegas, two laptops and various household items, all in tact after my obsessive security precautions as described in previous posts.

It all worked:  the stickers on the windows warning of a upgraded security system, the indestructible Kryptonite bike locks securing 350 pounds of luggage together, the over-sized black tablecloth that covered it all. 

We never used “The Club” to lock the steering wheel.  We never felt it was necessary.  Still unopened, I’ll either return it to Amazon or sell it on eBay

Opening the orange Antler bags now is intimidating.  In essence, we could avoid opening them at all until after we leave the US in less than 60 days.  But, my goal is to repack everything resulting in one or two bags each with items exclusively to be used while cruising.  This will avoid us rifling through so many bags while in the tiny cabin. 

We plan to do the repacking mid December before we leave for our eight days in Henderson, Nevada over Christmas, returning here to Scottsdale on the 28th, heading to San Diego on January 1st or 2nd, to spend a night or two with niece Kely (yes, spelled correctly) and her husband. Dennis.

After unloading the car, a wave of exhaustion washed over me.  We had no food for dinner, had eaten little all day and I had absolutely no energy to go grocery shopping to cook dinner. 

Searching online for a nearby restaurant, we discovered the highly reviewed Citizen Public House, a charming gastro-pub offering a wide array of local brews with a somewhat small menu of uniquely seasoned and presented foods.

Not much in the way of beer drinkers, we each tried unusual ales.  Tom and I swapped our beer after the first taste.  Moments later, the ambitious and attentive server willingly traded in mine for a more moderate and traditional light beer. 

The food, cooked to perfection, couldn’t have been more perfect, mine buttermilk baked chicken breast with roasted Brussels sprouts and Tom’s, a liqueur seasoned meat loaf with mashed parsnips and smashed red potatoes. The service?  Impeccable!

And this condo, after two days, what do we think?  Although not considered upscale, it’s decorated with well maintained comfortable furnishings, acceptable towels, pots, pans and dishes, outdated TV’s (we brought a 32″Toshiba flat screen with us for this leg of the trip.  Good thing!).  With no Vikings games on TV here, we downloaded the NFL app to Tom’s phone.  We’ll plug the phone into the TV to watch it as it becomes available after the broadcast.

Also, the view overlooking the pool is scrumptious. But, the bed is hard.  It hurts my shoulder. Lots of tradeoffs.  We knew this going in.

The temperature was 91 yesterday and should be 93 today.  Yum!  Maybe we’ll grab a lawn chair by the pool one day. Ha!  Not so quick.  Yesterday, we purchased our two new Acer 15.6 Windows 8 laptops with touch screen. The learning curve for an entirely new operating system is cumbersome although both of us are grasping is fairly quickly. 

Tom is not quite a digital kind of guy. His determination to learn to use technology always surprises me.  

Here, I am writing my first blog on my new lightweight laptop while noticing a few features are missing and need to be discovered, i.e., accidentally delete a sentence and then normally left clicking for “undo” to put it back in place. 

Anyone out there know how to do this in Windows 8?  If not, I’ll find the answer somewhere online.  Where are the days of a tidy manual that provides all the answers?  Ugh!

Yesterday, when we purchased the two identical laptops at Costco for only $799 each, a steal with new Windows 8 touchscreens, we dismissed our original plans of purchasing more sturdy industrial type laptops. But, we decided lightweight laptops were more important than durability, especially now that we’ve had the experience of hauling the bags this past week. 

Today is a busy day.  We already visited Starbuck’s for coffee, had the oil changed in the SUV, arranged with the maintenance guy to repair the  problematic wireless connection (done!) in the condo, picked up the five boxes we shipped to the UPS store a few miles away and now, my task is to empty them putting everything in its place. 

Next task, go sign up at a health club and work out, doing my usual HIIT (high intensity interval training).  Perhaps after all of this, there will be time to begin the process of “chilling out” in this 93 degree weather.

Today’s the day! Happy Halloween…Off we go!

Tom went to work at 5:40 this morning for the last time after 42 years, to sign his final papers and get the traditional frosting laden train decorated cake. 

In minute he’ll walk in the door of friend Karen’s home to begin the process of packing “way too much stuff” into his SUV and head to Scottsdale, Arizona to begin the first leg of our year’s long journey.  

Most likely it will take an hour or two and we’ll be off.  One third of the stuff we’re bringing on the road trip will be ditched when we leave the US in two months. Mostly, its includes some snacks, a few remnants we couldn’t part with for now, my tea pot, my Genius chopper, sugar free peanut butter, and four bottles of Courviosier he received as gifts at his party.

Tom just walked in the door, frustrated and angry that his last day on the BNSF railroad, after 42 years of hard work, was dismissed in a few ways.  One, the usual jacket retirees receive on their last day was no where to be found and two, his departing cake had “Marty” written on it.  One would think after all these years, they could get his name right!  Marty!  Good grief! (Poor Marty. He must have “Tom” on his cake!)

Ah, let it go my love.  Your name “Tom,” was on your cake last Saturday night at your retirement party with over one hundred railroad guys and gals in attendance to celebrate YOU!  

Now, its close to 1:00 PM.  After nearly two hours, the car is loaded, the Kryptonite bike locks are entwined in the handles of the six suitcases, the over-sized black tablecloth covers it all and we’re just about ready to go.  

Surprisingly everything fits, except for the cooler which I’ll keep on the floor near my feet.  Whew!  My bad shoulder is killing me but maybe, just maybe, the manual labor will be at a minimum over the next four days as we waft our way across half of our beautiful USA.  

Goodbye, family.  Goodbye, friends.  Goodbye, Minnesota. 

Hello, New Life… the life of two traditional baby boomers, aches and pains in tow, wrinkles and gray hair escalating by the minute, hearts filled with love, hope and anticipation, embarking on the journey of our lives.  Stay tuned.

Estate sale people here today…

Yesterday, without question was my biggest packing and sorting day yet.  With a confirmation of the estate sale people arriving at 9 am today to begin pricing all of our stuff, I ran around as directed gathering up all of the items we are taking with us. Tom did the same when he returned home from work. 

Piles of papers to attend to while in Scottsdale, our giant bag of supplements, enough to last two years, our medical and financial records, our tax receipts so far this year, our passports and certifications, have all cluttered our 10′ long dining room table the past few months, in a state of organized mayhem. I moved it all to the kitchen table arranging it in a more orderly fashion.
When the estate sale people arrive here shortly, I will simply point to exclusions; Tom’s bins of memorabilia yet to be taken to a family member’s home for storage, a small section of clothes we’ll wear these next few weeks in bins and hanging in each of our closets, toiletries in the bathroom, our laptops, cables and cell phones.  

In the living room, the sofa and chairs are piled high with bins to be stored with family members which Tom has yet to transport, hopefully this week after work. Our carry on bags, luggage carts, luggage tags, cables and locks sit atop the daybed next to the fireplace.  Today, I’ll move these to the table, out of the way of the sale items.
Last night, son TJ came to take away our boat dock.  He appeared with help, at 6 PM, before we’d had dinner. Tom had been home busy packing for over an hour.  They worked on taking apart the dock and loading it on a trailer for over three hours.  

Tom finally came inside after they left, thoroughly exhausted.. During the day, I had made dinner; low carb hazelnut flour and Parmesan cheese encrusted sauteed chicken breasts, salad and veggies.  We never had dinner. I ate an entire bag of pork rinds.  Oh well.  

He spent the next hour packing the remainder of his memorabilia, took a shower and fell into bed. We never watched the debate, unusual for us.

Today, everything, literally everything else will be priced and labeled for sale, ready for the estate sale market, beginning next Thursday, October 25th and ending, most likely, on Sunday afternoon, October 28th.

We’ll move to our friend Karen’s home one week from today after Tom returns from work, takes his last shower here and we pack up the car with our remaining luggage, clothes for the week at Karen’s and the four day road trip to Scottsdale while we make our final preparations before leaving the US, 60 days later.

In the process of all this packing, we’ve decided that we need a 7th large suitcase to get us to Scottsdale. While there, we will repack everything trimming our packing down to the originally planned six orange Antler bags, two carry on bags, one over-sized duffel bag with prescriptions and supplements, computer bags, murse (he hates it!) and purse.  

Any excess will be given to family or stored at son Richard’s in Henderson Nevada, along with the six totes he’s kindly agreed to store which UPS picks up today for a cost of $304.00.  The heaviest tote at 57 pounds contains a lifetime of photos,  

The remaining six bins are Christmas decorations.  I just couldn’t let them go;  the pictures of the kids and grandkids in the little Christmas frames to be hung on the tree, the homemade ornaments, the Waterford and Swarovski annual ornaments all collected over a period of years.  

No, I couldn’t let these go.  This year, when we are in our Henderson Nevada vacation home for Christmas, the last year in the US for quite awhile, we’ll be able to decorate, not only for the holidays but for Tom’s birthday party on December 23rd.

Tom’s SUV, although fairly roomy doesn’t have enough room for a 7th large bag.  On Sunday, we ordered a waterproof roof top carrier from for a total of $48.95 with no tax and free shipping.  If stolen, it will only contain our clothes from the last two weeks here.  We’ll load it up after breakfast at the hotel each morning when on the road and bring it into our hotel room each night before going to dinner.  No worry there.
The only big event after moving to Karen’s will be Tom’s retirement party for his railroad guys and family members, a hour’s drive away.  With the madness of planning every step of this move, plus 949 days of world travel (so far), I’ve found myself busy this past week planning the details of this casual (thank goodness!) event scheduled for Saturday, October 27, from 5 PM to midnight.  

Fortunately, with many people retiring from the railroad having parties, they have set a precedent for being relatively easy to plan: arrange a hall, order a few kegs of beer, design an appropriate cake (will post photos after the party), arrange for catered food in this case from Costco, while bringing snacks, plates, forks and napkins. 
I’ll pick everything up on the afternoon of the party leaving Tom at Karen’s to relax for a few hours, go back and pick him up and off to the party we go. Happily, it’s all under control.  

Surprisingly, we are calm, although both feeling a little raggedy, Tom from many hours of work combined with hours of sorting and packing and, both of us from our recent bouts of the flu during this past week.  
Fully recovered, my only complaint is that painful “old injury” shoulder, strained from all this lifting and hauling over the past several months. Tom still coughs during the night is only lessened by a hefty slug of Nyquil before bed. Otherwise, we’re doing OK. 

Are we excited?  Hum, not yet. We are often asked this question. We’ve discussed this several times. Having already signed the necessary paperwork on our house, experiencing the loss has definitely diminished the enthusiasm. 

Of course, there’s room for a little apprehension as to everything being finalized as planned on October 31st. Saying goodbye to loved ones leaves much trepidation as well. Yes, these next few weeks may prove to be trying although we both have learned to stay calm during stressful times making a special effort never to snip at one another.  This, in itself, prevents an enormous potential for stress.

Once that day occurs two weeks from today as we drive out of town, Tom now retired, the party over, and after all the tears and goodbyes, we’ll be ready to throw our hats into the air, kick up our heels and grab each other by the hands while twirling around.  
We’ll be off to see the world.  Then, we’ll be able to say, “we’re free,”  free of the constraints of stuff, free of the obligation to maintain a home and finally free from the daily responsibility of a job!  Then, and only then will we become excited!

Road trip angst further resolved…

Like a song stuck in my head (an “ear worm”), I have continued to worry about the security of our luggage while on the four day road to the Scottsdale, Arizona beginning on October 31, 2012 as we commence the first leg of our worldwide year’s long journey.

Yes, we now have the “Club”, the window stickers and the warning lights for the console of Tom’s car creating an appearance that we have an additional armed alarm system along with the factory installed system. 

Our plan has been to take our time on a leisurely drive to Arizona for the two month stay to complete all of our paperwork, obtain our second passports, purchase health and emergency evacuation insurance, prepare our 2012 taxes to be sent by email to our accountant, establish residency in Nevada, apply for Nevada driver’s licenses and get Tom’s new eyeglasses.  

Some have asked why we are spending two months in Arizona when in fact we are establishing residency in Nevada. Before deciding on our worldwide journey, we had decided to spend time in Scottsdale, a  delightful climate and city while contemplating what we wanted to do during this last third of our lives.  

We’d committed to the condo in Scottsdale late last year and chose to honor that commitment, although we could have gotten out of it months ago.  Also, Tom’s two, possibly three of his six sisters will be a short drive from us while they spend their winter in Apache Junction.  It will be fun to spend time with them).

During this period, we will also purchase and set up two new laptops, two new unlocked smart phones and other digital equipment. We’ll spend four days in Henderson mid-November to babysit son Richard‘s dog Monty while Richard is out of town.  It will be rather entertaining to spend some quality time with our grand dog, a rambunctious pug who enjoys sitting on the back of the sofa leaning on one’s shoulder and snorting in one’s ear. 

Our long time friends of 25 years, Lisa and Brian, live only a few blocks from Richard.  As world travelers, foodies and health nuts, we always have plenty of lively and animated conversation.  

In December, we’ll spend eight days in another vacation rental house in Henderson, Nevada (will post photos later), have our final dentist appointments, throw a party for Tom’s 60th birthday on December 23rd and celebrate Christmas with friends and family.  Whew!  We’ll need a vacation after all that!

On December 28th, we’ll head back to our vacation rental in Scottsdale, pack up all our bags, heading directly to San Diego on New Year’s Eve to stay with our niece and her hubby, to finally leave the US on our first cruise which will be through the Panama Canal, on January 3rd.  

In any case, my angst is wrapped around the risk of a thief(s) stealing all of our remaining worldly (no pun intended) possessions out of the back of Tom’s SUV while we’re parked at a hotel or while dining in a restaurant along the way. 

Sure, everything will be insured but that’s not the point.  The point is that I have spent a good chunk of the past eight months outfitting our bags for their contents, commensurate with the particulars of each location in our journey; weather, activities, social events, etc.  

It would be a daunting task if we were robbed. The thought of replacing each well-thought out item while dealing with the insurance company in an attempt to recover our losses, and subsequently continuing on with our plans, is nothing short of intimidating. This dreadful possibility has continued to nag at me over the past week since purchasing the Club and the other “security” items mentioned in an earlier post.  

While driving my car the last time to deliver it to the dealer who purchased it last Friday, a thought popped into my head:  What if we were able to link all of the bags together with two “cut proof” indestructible locked cables?

With each of six suitcases weighing about 55 pounds each, plus about 25 pounds for each of two carry on bags, it would be literally impossible for one, two or more thieves maneuver 380 pounds of bulky luggage, tied together, (also anchored to the interior of the car), unload them and walk them down the street to the own vehicles.  

That may deter a theft, ultimately deciding to steal from a more convenient scenario all the while our alarm is blaring.  As soon as I returned home, albeit “car-less” I started searching online for the appropriate cables.  Here’s what we purchased:

Kryptonite Kryptoflex 1218 Combo Cable Bicycle Lock (1/2-Inch x 6-Foot)

Kryptonite Kryptoflex 1218 Combo Cable Bicycle Lock (1/2-Inch x 6-Foot)by Kryptonite

Price: $21.49 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details 
Product Features

  • Integrated, user-set, four-digit combination lock has indexed number dials for error-free combination setting; adjustable spline attachment rotates up to 240 degrees for variety of lock carrying locations
  • Flexible 12-millimeter braided steel cable with protective vinyl cover offers increased cut resistance; patented EZ Mount transportation system is versatile enough for variety of tube frames and shapes

Tying all the bags together, looping the two cables together and perhaps tying them to the steering wheel, should create a secure situation.  Covering them with our over-sized black tablecloth will provide added security.  Ah, I feel better.

Also, we’ll use the same two cables to lock together each of our sets of bags when we’re wheeling them in each of our 250-pound-capacity rolling carts. Doing so prevents a thief from walking by and grabbing a single bag. This provides us with an additional use of the cables. 

Yes, I do feel relieved enough to let this go to free my mind to continue on with the zillions of other tasks at hand, as the countdown continues, 15 days until we move to our friend’s home, 22 days until we leave. Whew!

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.

Changed the look of our WorldWideWaftage blog…

Web design is not my forte. Last night I changed the design of this blog more out of my boredom with the prior design, than anything. 

If you find this is difficult to read, please comment here.  Our readership is growing rapidly…where are all of you coming from???   We want this blog to be reader friendly so please offer any suggestions.

In time, when we move along on our travels, I will have more time to work on the design and maybe, once and for all, learn web design. Duh, while I am learning to speak Italian and Spanish?  

Thank you all so much for sharing this experience with us.  Have a happy day!

Last Easter with the family for awhile…

Family life is often filled with traditions, the traditions we created for our children when they were young, that we adapted as they matured and those that we’ve rekindled for their children, our six grandchildren, years later. 

The comfort and familiarity of reenacting holiday traditions, each year filled Tom and me with guarded anticipation. Over these past years, we have come to accept, although at times painfully so, that our adult children have the right to build their own traditions that may at times, not include us.  

We recall the struggle and oftentimes, the guilt we felt when the first Christmas morning came when we chose to stay home as opposed to going to our parents’ homes. We wanted to savor Santa’s bounty with our own children, their eyes wide with delight as they anxiously ripped open package after package, them in their cartoon character pajamas, us with big coffee mugs warming our hands, all with the ease and comfort of spending this special time cozy at home.

And now, as their families have grown, their own traditions firmly rooted in their lives, in their own homes, we especially find ourselves reeling with the anticipation of all of them breaking away to spend special time with us once again, this Easter Sunday.

Practically dancing on my tiptoes, around our ten-foot-long dining room table, my arms were laden with gifts of every variety, candies carefully selected for special diets and preferences, I gleefully fill the 17 Easter baskets (including four pet baskets). I swap out one Thomas toy train for a Transformer truck from one basket to another, stepping back, visualizing the correctness of my decision, and smile. Each year, we always say, “this is the best year yet.” And it is.

Oh, good grief! I’d better improve my photo taking skills before we leave!

The meaning of Easter is not lost on our abundance of baskets, the colored eggs, the homemade bunny rabbit cake, the carefully planned and executed brunch, and of course, the painstakingly thought out game and Easter egg hunt. No, it’s not lost. It’s for forgiveness. It’s for thankfulness and, most of all, it’s for love.

This year is no different, the traditions are all here, the pile of fuzzy bunny rabbit ears everyone will place on their heads when they enter the door, the laughter over the rambunctious silly games, the glee in the voices of the little ones when they discover yet another plastic egg filled with candy, a small toy or a dollar bill.  It’s all the same. It’s all predictable. Laughter fills the air. It’s all heartwarming.

Tom and I will look at each other from across the room, our faces hurting from too much smiling, our eyes glistening with too many tears, as we enjoyed this last Easter tradition, knowing full well that we and they, will be building new traditions in the time to come.

A dream is born!… Is it affordable?…Are we crazy?

We are everyday people. We aren’t wealthy. Tom worked hard for 42 years on the railroad. My career mostly consisted of owning a small real estate company experiencing varying degrees of success and failure, always subject to the turns of the market and my own life experiences, ups and downs.  

We’ve lived in a fabulous lake house with the upkeep that sucked up most of our income but rationalized it that the joy of living here together was worth the expense and sacrifice. Our retirement income was growing due to Tom’s contributions and we didn’t really worry much about the future.
Then the economy burst and we, like so many others, lost a chunk of security while at the same time my desire to battle the failing real estate market waned day by day. I threw in the towel and retired eighteen months ago. Good grief, I applied for Social Security, after paying in for 45 years. It was hard to believe that time flew by so quickly. It was only yesterday we were chugging Vodka Gimlets and dancing at the disco.

I had often said that I’d never retire having loved the clients, the excitement, and the gratification of helping people make the biggest financial decision of their lives. It was now over. I felt sad. What would I do but wrap myself up in the eventuality of Tom’s retirement?

My goal was to come up with some ideas to present to my exhausted husband on the weekends who still working twelve-hour days this late in his career, along with the two hours of driving time. I had felt a little guilty being home, not contributing more than packing his three-meal-lunch each day and the basic, relatively easy everyday running of our two-person household.

The days until Tom’s upcoming retirement had been a daily reminder in an app I had installed on my DroidX phone, Retirement Countdown Free that today says: 7 months, 16 days. I look at it every day. It doesn’t seem to move. But it does. It’s Halloween. I keep counting on my fingers to ensure it is accurate. It is.

Strangely, during this time, we negotiated a deal, albeit at a loss, to be rid of our house to free us to move on. Not what we had wished. We knew that living on a retirement pension the upkeep would be prohibitive forcing us to live the last third of our lives in a perpetual state of stress, leaving no room to travel. We hadn’t been on a real vacation together in over fifteen years never wanting to spend the money or to leave, or a beautiful home.
Invariable, Tom and I spent the bulk of our vacation time working on projects around the house, him oblivious to his skills as a hard-working handyman. He can fix just about anything. I have been “the helper” washing the insides of the windows, cleaning, doing laundry, and happily cooking our favorite meals and desserts (more fun when we weren’t low carb, gluten-free).  

Neither of us ever minded the definition of the stereotypical male/female roles. We grew up in an era when gender roles were more defined than today. We never fought it. We never fought with one another over it. We relished in giving each other the very best we had to offer, without complaint, without judgment, without “snipping” (in itself, the secret to our marital success).

So, as we counted down the days, each weekend we began talking about that which most Minnesota “Snow Birds” do; move to a warm climate in an income tax-free state, downsize our “stuff,” sadly say goodbye to our family and friends, sell one of the two cars, and occasionally go on a Viking River Cruise with other “old timers” like ourselves.  

We finally relented buying the proverbial AARP card, good for a full five years. Wow, we can get a discount at Denny’s in Las Vegas, Perkins in Rapid City, or Old Country Buffet in Miami! Here come the Golden Years! Ouch, more than those crunchy joints are hurting!

In our typical fashion of online researching of literally every thought, our brains regurgitate, we investigated best places to retire in the US,  buying an RV, moving to a retirement community, or simply renting a condo in Scottsdale, Arizona while we think it over. Although not an income tax-free state, the climate is good in the winter, the desert appealing for its mysterious beauty and the population not unlike ourselves. A good temporary solution.
On my laptop, an Excel spreadsheet in front of me, I plugged in formulas and numbers to create a “feasibility study” to determine our future financial life considering the average rental cost of a typical condo, utilities, groceries, health insurance, medical including prescriptions and co-pays, cell phones and Internet, food and entertainment, etc. We could survive, we determined.  
It was Saturday afternoon, January 7, 2012. We had just reviewed the numbers in the spreadsheet while sitting in our usual comfy chairs in the family room, the TV on quietly in the background, freshly poured frosty glasses of iced tea on the side table, the smell of pot roast in the oven wafting through the air (love that word!) and we looked at one another, our eyes locked in a gaze as powerful as an embrace.  Tom took a deep breath and quickly blurted out, his words running together awaiting my reaction and said, “Let’s not have a home and travel the world instead.”  
I gasped. I paused. I said, “Wait, give me a minute.” I looked at the spreadsheet. I removed the rent, the utilities, the car and its insurance, the annual vacation, and all the expenses that would go away if one didn’t have a home.  

I added back the following onto the new worksheet: visas, taxes and tips, airfare, ferries, taxis, auto rentals, cruises, food (eating in 6 days a week, eating out once), a monthly (or longer) vacation rental home fully equipped with kitchen and all household goods, entertainment, unexpected expenses and on and on. We talked. We giggled. We dreamed aloud. We accepted that our preliminary numbers were subject to change as we completed more research.

The pot roast was done. The time had flown. We inhaled our dinner anxious to swallow the next bite in order to say something more, interrupting each other, as we often do. We couldn’t watch the favorite shows we had taped during the week. We talked all night long. The remainder of the weekend was a blur, fingers flying across the keys in our relentless pursuit of more and more information. 

Tentatively, tempering our enthusiasm, over the next several weeks, we came to this startling realization: If we didn’t have a home, with its fixed monthly expenses, we could travel the world as long as we wanted to, living off of our monthly income alone, as long as it met strict criteria.

Now, two and a half months later, after hundreds of hours of research, we have booked and paid deposits for 492 days beginning October 31, 2012, with more plans brewing imminently. Planning is a full-time job in itself.  

The next post will include: the strict criteria to make this possible. And soon, the set itinerary thus far, the resources we have used to make this possible, the endless list of “to do’s,” the amazing people we have encountered all over the world, and most of all the preparation we are making for all the “what if’s” that we will surely encounter along the way. Then, of course, there are the “unknowns” that we choose to acknowledge exist and pray that our good sense and resources will guide us along the way.

Fearful? A little. Joyful? A lot.