A sad event impacts our future travels…Changing plans…Changing lives…

It’s Sunday morning at 11:00. We’re going out to dinner on Tuesday with Alan and Fiona for her birthday. I just spent two hours in the kitchen making Tom’s favorite low-carb, grain-free pizza, which we’ll bake at dinnertime, and a three-night portion of sauteed chicken breast tenders with mushrooms, onions, and garlic for me. We’ll enjoy these main dishes Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. I won’t have to cook for days. I don’t eat the pizza when it’s too fattening for me since I dropped a few more kilos.

But, of course, you don’t care to read about my morning in the kitchen, do you? What is happening with no post yesterday and some arbitrary change in plans?

On Friday afternoon, Minnesota-time, our dear brother-in-law, Gene, husband of Tom’s sister Colleen, sadly passed away after a long and challenging illness exacerbated by a brain injury that occurred years ago when he fell on ice and snow in Minnesota. We often hear of injuries seniors suffer from falling in the long winter months in Minnesota, which is certainly one reason we don’t want to visit Minnesota in the winter, especially with my unstable legs.

Multiple species in the garden.

When Colleen wrote to tell Tom the sad news, it was 11:30 pm here, and I was sound asleep. He didn’t want to awaken me, knowing this information could keep me awake all night, wondering what we’d do when we leave here on October 21st, less than three weeks away.

As it turned out, I awoke at 4:00 am, unable to go back to sleep, almost anticipating something had happened. At 5:30, Tom asked me if I was awake and told me the news. We were sad to hear about this, but it also significantly impacted our upcoming plans.

Colleen is Tom’s sister, whose home we planned to stay in for three months in Apache Junction, Arizona. With Gene’s passing, Colleen wanted to get out of Minnesota for the winter and spend time with her sisters in warm, sunny Arizona.

I ran out onto the road to take this giraffe photo.

She hadn’t been able to go to her home in Apache Junction due to Covid-19 and Gene’s poor health since 2019, when we were last there with them before we took off for India in January 2020. We could not prevent her from going to her property by staying in it for three months during the winter.

Lying there in bed at 5:30 am, discussing this, we considered a few options. We could rent a holiday home somewhere in the US. But, before deciding on Arizona, we’d extensively searched for holiday homes in the US states with warm winters. Since the onset of Covid-19 and losses incurred by holiday homeowners, prices for long-term rentals have gone through the roof.

In suitable locations, even without being overly picky, any properties we may have considered were three times the cost of our rent here in South Africa. Of course, after India, we’re not willing to stay long-term in a hotel. The handwriting was on the wall. We needed to stay in Marloth Park and fly to a non-bordering country in Africa to get our visas stamped.

At a decent hour, I contacted Louise, who we know is an early bird, to see when we could stop by to discuss our possible living arrangements if we did decide to stay another three months. We met up with her at 10:00 am.

When I walked back up the driveway toward the house, Tom distracted Broken Horn with pellets to ensure my safety. This vast animal could be startled and gore an unsuspecting human.

An important fact remained in our minds. Recently, we booked several cruises, a few of which are expensive compared to our average day-to-day expenses. We figured if we could live inexpensively for several months, we could stay within our budget for the year with the costs of these cruises.

But, if we had to pay enormous rent over the following months, we may have to reconsider what we’ve booked. Let’s face it. We’re not getting any younger. I am approaching 74, and Tom will be 69 sooner than later. When we return to South Africa by a cruise in December  2022, we will celebrate Tom’s 70th and, two months later, my 75th birthday during those first three months we are here.

We’ve decided to budget to the best of our ability to ensure we can visit new places we’ve longed to see throughout the world for whatever time we have left that we can do so. Traveling like this isn’t easy. It requires a lot of careful planning and physical energy on travel days and a lot of work necessary to pack and move all the time. Many seniors would find this simply too exhausting and too much work, which we understand. But for now, we still have the stamina to do it. For us, it’s not a chore. It’s an adventure every single time.

Lots of kudus this morning, including Bad Eye, whose torn eyelid looks much better.

It appears we can move our original flight to Arizona without penalty from Delta Airlines due to Covid-19 changes, and thus, we won’t incur any losses by changing our flights. Louise can let us stay in this same house until January 23, 2022, when we’ll leave for Florida, where we’ll stay with friends Karen and Rich before and after their February wedding.

We booked round-trip direct flights to Zambia on October 21st and returned on October 26th for our visa stamps. Louise is helping us book some events in Zambia, which we won’t wrap up for a few days when the tourist offices reopen on Monday.

We called Colleen, offering her our heartfelt sympathies, and told her she could now go to Arizona for the winter since we’ve made other plans and won’t tie up her one-bedroom property. She was so sweet and more than willing to let us stay. But we knew her going there would suit her during this grief and sorrow.

We’ll report with definitive plans for Zambia to stay in the next few days, one of the few countries we can fly to on a direct flight from Nelspruit. There was no way we were interested in booking an expensive trip with long flights going through Johannesburg. Nelspruit is a 75-minute drive from here, and the flight is less than two hours to Livingstone.

We’re good. We were not worried. Not stressed. It was the right thing to do.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2020:

One year ago, this photo was posted in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #194. In Bali, a dragonfly fluttered around the two koi ponds by either side of the front entryway. Much to my delight, it returned almost every day to the exact location. For more, please click here.

We understand that many seniors would find this simply too exhausting and too much work

, physical energy on travel days, and a lot of work necessary to pack and move

We’re not willing to stay long-term in a hotel after India

Day #3…We’re on the move…A tolerable “red eye”…In Frankfurt now…

Elephants we recently spotted in Kruger National Park.

It’s 8:00 am Frankfurt time, at the same time zone as South Africa. Our Lufthansa flight landed at 5:45 am. Our next flight to Chicago takes off at 10:45 am. We’re inching our way to Minnesota with only two more flights to go, with two behind us since we left Marloth Park on Tuesday morning. In 16 hours, we’ll land in Minneapolis/St. Paul and be making our way to the vaccination center at the airport. Whew! What a daunting travel experience.

The letter “n” on my keyboard isn’t working again. I have to pound very hard to use it. Also, spell check doesn’t seem to catch everything I type. So please be aware that a few “n’s” may be missing in today’s post. Once we get settled in Minnesota, I’ll get back to work on this. Otherwise, I may have to purchase a new device while in the US.

The flight from Joburg to Frankfurt wasn’t too bad. We purchased an upgrade to Business Class at the check-in counter for both of us for ZAR 16400, US $1152, which was well worth the added expense. We had the two seats in the center section with tons of leg and elbow room. The seats lay down to a comfortable bed with a fluffy sanitized pillow and an amply sized blanket.

My Fitbit says I only slept 1 hour and 53 minutes, but I know I slept another hour before midnight. Tom did about the same. A passenger passed away on the flight. The back and forth down the aisle by staff kept us light sleepers awake, along with the frequent interruptions by staff over the intercom, requesting assistance from a medical professional. We don’t believe anyone responded. The plane was only about 50% full, and thus less likely a doctor or nurse was on board. How sad.

The flight attendant didn’t wait to leave South Africa to offer alcoholic beverages, considering the current alcohol ban a few days ago. So in no time at all, I was served a nice glass of Australian red wine, and Tom had a cocktail. We settled in to watch a movie while we perused the printed menu for the three-course dinner options.

The food was good, fresh, and hot. Tom got to eat more bread, and I stayed true to my low-carb way of eating. There were several suitable options for me. Unfortunately, since Lufthansa is a German airline, there was a shortage of movies to watch that we either hadn’t seen or were in English.

By the time we dined, and each watched a second, we both tried to drift off, although doing so, as mentioned above, wasn’t accessible amid all the commotion. A good night’s sleep in Minnesota will do us both good. The flight on the vast 747-8 two-story new plane was seamless. We never felt any turbulence, and take-off and landing were smooth. We’d fly Business Class on this airline again in the future.

With little sleep, I don’t have a lot of steam to keep writing. So the next time you see us here will be tomorrow from our hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. On Friday, we have a busy day meeting son Greg and family for lunch and Tom’s siblings for happy hour and dinner.

Thanks, dear readers, for following along with us! We appreciate every one of YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, July 1, 2020:

While in Trinity Beach, Australia, we stopped at a fish shop by the beach. We’d never seen scallops in the shell. We can imagine a plate of six of these covered in almond flour and Parmesan-crusted buttery topping. Tom likes scallops, so this will be a no-brainer. For more photos, please click here.

Our travel days continued…Flying in a small prop plane to Savusavu…Tomorrow’s post, our shocking first night in Fiji…

Tom was standing in front of the tiniest airport we’ve seen to date, except for the dirt landing strip with no airport in the Maasai Mara.

Peering out the scratched window of the plane to Fiji’s exquisite terrain below to make our world seem infinitesimal and insignificant. The 19 seat passenger plane with only 14 seats occupied, along with two pilots in the cockpit, reminded me of only a few weeks ago when we were packed into the semi-submarine in the Great Barrier Reef. Tight quarters.

It was windy during our flight as shown in this photo of me at the Savusavu Airport. In less than three months we’ll return to fly back to Nadi to live on the larger island of  Viti Levu for one more month. We’ll certainly gain a good perspective of life in the Fijian Islands.

At this point, I believe I could fly in an aircraft of any size having accepted this mode of transportation as necessary in our desire to experience life in somewhat remote areas of the world. 

That was the plane we flew on from Nadi Airport to Savusavu Airport.

Who are we but a dot in the horizon for anyone on the ground as our lives are suddenly predicated by two pilots, sometimes one, navigating an aluminum tube with two props, our lives in their hands?

Unlike our first such flight in an even lesser sized plane on October 5, 2013 while on our way to a photo safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, I’m no longer afraid.

The captain made a safety speech before we took off.

Once we were above the clouds unable to take ground photos, I felt compelled to write, in a similar manner I’d written while flying two years ago. Was it a diversionary tactic on my part to avoid thinking about our current mode of travel? Or, was it my voluminous expectation that the situation prompted my more creative self?

I’ll opt for the latter while my heart fluttered with excitement as we embark on yet another remote adventure, those that make me feel most alive.

Tom and I sat below the wing.

With childlike wonder, Tom continually diverted my attention to look below at yet another pulse-pounding scene. With the camera in his hands he snapped away with a burst of creative thunder to take more of those magical shots he’s become known for in my eyes and at times, in the eyes of others.

He too, was in the clouds with me, literally and figuratively. This is the dream we acquired that grew within us in a short span of time, none of which we possessed a mere five years ago.

As we left the Nadi Airport from the largest of the Fijian Islands, Viti Levu to head to the second largest island Vanua Levu.

Back then, if someone had asked, “How would you like to give up the life you’ve always lived for a life of travel?” I would have chuckled, saying, “That’s never going to happen!”

The views from the plane were impressive.

And yet, almost three years into it, we’re figuring its a mind-boggling head-scratcher. Who knew that these two relativity main stream overly responsible individuals would merge into a somewhat adventurous traveling machine, hell-bent on seeing the world before our inevitable end?

With the small seat and unable to move around, the scratched window, and the location of our seats, we could only take photos that included the underside of the plane’s wing.  Nonetheless, the views made it worthwhile.

Sitting here now, copying the above words I’d written on my phone on the plane on Tuesday, the sun is blissfully bursting through the screened window with a lofty breeze cooling our skin, roosters crowing around us, and a vast array of birds chirping in harmony.

It’s ironic how at our ripe ages of 67 and 62, respectively, we’d thrive on gaining personal strength and integrity in experiencing less than convenient scenarios in the hopes of handling them with dignity and grace.

Fiji has an interesting terrain with scattered hills and mountain ranges, lush green valleys and endless waterways.

No delusions here. It’s not always easy. But, we chose this life, this life that allows our eyes to scan the vast ocean before us, the dense rainforest of Mother Nature’s finest vegetation, and the endless sounds of wildlife encircling us. 

In a sense it’s “heaven on earth” and God willing, when our time comes and we arrive at the Pearly Gates, we can say, “Oh, we’ve already been here.” 

Photo from one year ago today, September 10, 2014:

In October of 1986, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for the Summit Meeting in this building in Reykjavik, Iceland which was formerly the French Consulate. The meetings broke down to be carried on at a later date.  See this link for details of that meeting. Please see our link for that day’s tour, please click here.