Dar Aicha…A small palace…A big lifestyle…Photos of the “riad”…

Looking up at the sky, day and night, is a rare treat, from inside the riad, defined as traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard.

The water pressure and the consistency of the hot water makes taking a shower a pleasant experience.  The lack of insects, snakes and centipedes allows fearless roaming at night in the dark. It’s no longer necessary to lather from head to toe in insect repellent several times a day. 

Link to the listing on Homeaway.com

The sunlight in the courtyard provides a welcoming warmth as we acclimate to the cooler weather.
Morocco is known for its traditional design, architecture befitting the lifestyle of its people for many centuries. Our bedroom is through these white drapes.  On the interior, there are heavier drapes for added privacy. So far, we’ve been up and dressed before staff arrives between 8:30 and 9:00 am, staying until after dinner is served and dishes washed.

The cool temperatures from a low of 50F, 10C to a high of 75F, 24C prevents us from the necessity of wearing the least amount of clothing possible while maintaining a certain level of modesty as we did over the past many months. Sleeping is easier and more comfortable with a fluffy comforter we don’t need to kick off during the night. I wore socks to bed these past three nights. Nice.

The one end of the salon, comparable to a living room, is where we’ll spend most of our free time when not out.
The opposite end of the salon as shown above. We’re delighted to have discovered the BBC, an English speaking news channel, allowing us to stay current in world affairs.

After nine months of hot weather, beginning in Tuscany during Italy’s heat of summer, with no AC;  then on to Kenya’s humid heat with no AC; later on to South Africa’s heat of summer with AC in the bedroom, it’s taking time for us to acclimate to the cooler, albeit pleasant, weather of Marrakesh (may also be spelled, Marrakech, still pronounced with the “esh” sound).

The dining room where our meals are served each night we choose to dine in with Madame Zahra cooking. One of the conditions of staying in Dar Aicha is to have all of our dining-in meals, prepared, served, and cleared by Madame Zahra and other staff. Employed as a full-time chef, we stay out of the simple kitchen other than to get our beverages, which we prefer to do on our own. Soon, we’ll head to a grocery store for snacks and cheese, also which we will be able to serve ourselves. However, we may not cook at all during the two and a half month stay.

This morning I’m wearing a long dress, long socks, and a hot pink fluffy robe provided in our room and I’m also covered with a blanket. Gee, what will we do in Iceland in September?

This is the entrance to the artist’s studio.  The owner of the riad is a renowned artist currently living in England. On occasion, she spends time at Dar Aicha when it isn’t rented. The staff gave us a gracious card from the owner with a thoughtful handwritten note, welcoming and thanking us for visiting Dar Aicha, a touch we greatly appreciated.

Finally, we’ve adapted to the two hour time difference between South Africa and Morocco with both of us awakening this morning at our usual times. I’m more rested today than a few nights before we left South Africa when fitful sleep plagued me over several nights while anxious over the upcoming long travel period. 

This second-floor lounge area was where we initially anticipated, we’d spent most of our free time. But, once we tried the lower level salon, as shown above, we found it to be a more ideal location for us, although at times we will use this area.

(By the way, we both have combated any future anxiety over lengthy flights and travel time. Although we were tired, we did very well, comfortable that we’ll easily manage any long trips in the future. Traveling to Morocco was our longest travel time thus far).

Most of the rooms surrounding the courtyard are long and narrow but, by no means feel cramped or small. This is where we sleep in this comfortable bed and covers. The colorful glass in the windows blocks out enough light to provide privacy and block out the light when sleeping.

We chose the “blue” room for its calming atmosphere. 

The Moroccan furnishings are interesting and well made. This chest is where Tom stores his clothing while I keep mine in another bedroom preventing me from awakening him when I awake about a half-hour before him each morning. He stays up later than I.

The first night, we both kept walking into the protrusion on the right side or this ornate bathroom door that is at shoulder level. With our bad, right shoulders, we quickly learned to avoid walking into this. On the right, is the last of our now worn large orange suitcase, used for Tom’s clothing.

The interior of the master en suite bath, all blue to match the room. The darkened colors on the walls are not water stained. It’s simply a variation in the color. The bathrooms, as well as the bedrooms, are fully equipped for all of our needs, soaps, toilet paper, and tissues, and a hand mirror. The sinks are all hammered brass, which hasn’t rusted as typical for brass near water. 

The colorful daybed is reflected in this antique mirror in our bedroom

This is the doorway from our bedroom to the sunny courtyard.  We can easily drop these drapes for more privacy, if we choose, which hasn’t yet been necessary.

All in all, we’re very comfortable. The food is manageable for my way of eating and for Tom’s taste buds, the people are warm and friendly and we feel safe, although continuing to maintain our usual level of caution.

I chose the pink bedroom for my clothing and for showering and dressing in the mornings. At first glance, these en suite bathroom doors appear to be a mirror, giving one the sense of “Alice in Wonderland,” walking through a mirror.
 This is the interior of my pink bathroom.
 This bathroom is cluttered with my stuff, illustrating why it’s best that Tom and I don’t share. In my old life, I had an entire cupboard filled with stuff. Now, I only have what is shown here, a bit messy, but all that I use.
 The interior of my pink shower. Great water pressure and fast hot water. After using water, the pipes make the most unusual sound, a “whoosh,” we’ve never heard before.
The window near the bed in the pink room.  I use the bed to keep one of the smaller orange bags for easy access to our supplies.

The riad is ideal for us, although for the less sure-footed, the one or two steps off of each room into the courtyard could be a tripping hazard. The bedrooms are all up a flight of stone steps with another flight to the rooftop which may be difficult for some. 

The smallest of the three bedrooms is the yellow room which we don’t use at all, ideal for children.
This doorway has an “Alice in Wonderland” l than any of the others, especially when entering its charming yellow en suite bathroom.
No photo can do justice to this playful and colorful en suite bathroom.

With our diminished activity level with no housecleaning, laundry, cooking, or dishes, other than walking in the Medina, and up and down the steps, we will make a concerted effort to keep moving around as much as possible.

Today, we share our photos of Dar Aicha and a link to the website where we originally discovered this lovely property. Although not officially a “palace” its style is commensurate with the layout of an open-air center courtyard, as typical in many homes in Marrakesh. 

Another blue sky view of the sky above the center courtyard.  At night, the stars are breathtaking from inside the riad.

This morning, as I stepped from our bedroom to my own “dressing” bedroom, I noticed three of the “tibbits,” (birds) flying in the house. No, it’s not as exciting as a warthog family of four or five or, a kudu with his white “got milk” mustache or, a giraffe thudding through the yard munching on treetops.

Last night’s vegetable course of Madame Zahra’s fine dining. We were so busy chatting I forgot to take a photo of the main course, a flavorful and spicy meatball dish made with cooked eggs on the top. We enjoyed it all.

But, it was exciting to see the little birds freely flying in the courtyard, their chirping music to our ears, and the sounds of other familiar birds of Africa flying over the house, creating a shadow in the courtyard, in the morning sunlight.

For now, we couldn’t be happier. Dar Aicha is our home.

Note:  This afternoon, we’re heading out to the Souk and Medina to find a good spot for dinner. The options are many! Our outing provides Madame Zahra a night off which we’ll happily do a few times each week.  We’ll report back tomorrow with more photos, of where we dined, what we ate, and more new areas of the Medina and the Souk that we’ve yet to explore.

Itinerary change…Maui, Hawaii, here we come in 11 months!…No photos available due to WiFi issues…

The rate for the first of two houses we booked in Big Island, Hawaii for our upcoming family visit, is a rental cost of US $101.56, considerably less than we would have paid a small one-room hotel. With a full kitchen and all supplies, we’ll surely love dining on the lanai, with sunset views. We’d never imagined that we could find an affordable vacation home in Maui that would fit our expectation of an ocean view. After searching online to fill the gap from October 5, 2014, when we’ll arrive by cruise ship in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii to December 1, 2014, has been a daunting task.

We’ll be moving to the Big Island on December 1, 2014, with our kids and grandkids arriving around December 20, 2014, for Christmas, living in the two homes we’ve already booked, side by side, on the ocean. The two houses we’ve booked for their visit are described with photos in our post of October 22, 2013.

Deciding that staying in Honolulu in a hotel on the ocean for a short period of time would allow us time to visit Pearl Harbor and other local attractions. Honolulu is a congested city filled with tourists, traffic and noise, not particularly our cup of tea for a lengthy stay.

Looking online for a house or a condo to fit our budget, after an 11-night stay in Honolulu became a source of frustration when we couldn’t find the right property. Both of us spent considerable hours online with our slow Internet connection, finding few options. 

With the high prices for hotels and vacation homes in Hawaii, our preferences for ocean views plus AC, free WiFi, washer and dryer and an updated attractive décor, we considered lowering our expectations and increasing the price we were willing to pay.

Property owners in Hawaii have no motivation or desire to negotiate prices with the high demand for vacation rentals year-round. Early on in our search we made no less than six offers for reasonably discounted rates based on our longer stays than most. None responded. 

Yesterday, out of curiosity, we began searching Maui, the most expensive of the islands in hope that we might get lucky. And, did we get lucky! By evening, we’d paid the requested US $300 deposit for a rental on the glorious island of Maui, in the Maalaea area, 25 miles south of Kaanapali Beach (the most popular but congested area for travelers). 

With a rental car during our 57-night stay in Maui we’ll have the freedom to tour the island at our leisure, visiting many points of interest, fabulous restaurants and larger grocery stores than we’ve had available. 

We’d love to post the photos for the website where the property is listed. But our slow connection prohibits the posting of these difficult to maneuver photos.

Here’s the link to our new condo in Maui which includes photos and a detailed description. 

Here is our total cost for 57-nights:
Rental Amount:  US $5014.00
Cleaning:           US $    90.00
Taxes:               US $  684.96
Total:                US $5,788.96

Now that this gap in time is booked, our next task for Hawaii will be to secure a hotel reservation on the beach in Honolulu from October 5, 2014, to October 16, 2014, when we’ll fly to Maui.

Here’s our five-month rundown of our time in Hawaii, all of which is booked, except the first 11 days in Honolulu Hawaii:

Honolulu , Oahu – October 5, 2014, to October 16, 2014 (not yet booked)
Maalaea, Maui – October 16, 2014, to December 1, 2014 (new booking)
Pahoe, Big Island  (first house) – December 1, 2014, to January 15, 2015 (booked)
Pahoe, Big Island (second house) – December 15, 2014, to January 3, 2015 (booked)
Princeville, Kauai – January 15, 2015, to May 15, 2015 (booked)- Our longest stay in any one location during this period, we’ll be preparing for the next leg of our upcoming travels, at this point yet to be determined. 

In each of these locations, except Honolulu, a rental car will be necessary for which we’ve budgeted.  Obviously, the smaller the island, the higher the costs of rental cars, groceries and dining out.

If you check out the listing on Homeaway, you’ll see that the owner has already blocked off our dates giving us the peace of mind to book rental cars and the hotel in Honolulu.

With yesterday’s booking, we’ve fulfilled our desire to spend time at each of the four largest and most desired Hawaiian islands. During this time, back on US soil, we’ll arrange dental and doctor appointments. 

Now, we’re back to work pinning down the Honolulu hotel for 11 nights. The search never ends as the journey continues on.

Why so long???…

Our family and friends are asking, why so long? Why 880 days (so far)?

There are only a few answers to this question. Aging is one. By the time we leave the US, I will be 65 years old and although physically fit as a result of healthy eating, healthy living, and daily exercise, the ravages of “old man time” (darn him!) can be felt every morning as I step out of bed.

Tom will be 60 years old (“They,” say I robbed the cradle!), but after 42 years on the railroad, his knees and other joints are worn to the bone and he too feels the aches and pains upon awakening.   

There is no doubt that down the road, when and if we tire of traveling, we’ll hunker down to a warm climate and into the predictable senior citizen condo complex. We’ll get a little dog, play some bingo, hang out with guys whose pants are pulled up six inches above their waists, and with the ladies with the purple permanents wearing silky flowered print blouses. That will be us, as well.  

We have traveled very little these past years, always preferring to stay home to enjoy Minnesota’s short summers and our lake home. It often felt as if we were on a vacation on the warm summer days with the fish jumpin’ and the birds’ singin’, while we lounged in the comfy white lawn chairs.  

We didn’t have a care in the world other than to fire up the grill, pour ourselves a cold glass of something good, or to haul some wood to the fire pit for a roaring fire when the sunset (and the mosquitoes came out to indulge in our tasty flesh).  

We had traveled in our minds, a few years ago when we recorded every episode of the TV show, House Hunters International. We dreamed while we discussed the possibility of owning a home in an exotic location. As time has neared, (7 months and 2 days), we knew that staying in one place was the opposite of what we really wanted. We want to be “free” to explore the world.  

Tom believes that the state of the economy and that hyperinflation will take hold in the entire world. We will travel before the effects of such inflation will prevent us from being able to do so.  

Our last reason is simple. Tom and I both had our children when we were teenagers. We spent our 20’s making every effort, with a certain level of immaturity, to be responsible parents. In some ways we were successful. In other ways, we weren’t. 

As our family has grown with the addition of significant others, and six precious grandchildren, we feel their lives and their traditions are established and we can let go, with the love, with the hope and, the dream to share a piece of our adventure with all of them in times to come and to build new memories to cherish together, forever

Ouch!…Plunge, twist and release…

After two hours of being terrified at the prospect of contracting one of many horrifying diseases throughout the world, I left the Park Nicollet Travel Immunization Clinic with my head swimming. WHAT ARE WE DOING????

If we don’t die from the side effects of the Yellow Fever or Typhoid shots, we might die from one of the many diseases for which there is no immunization or treatment! Why tell me, overly efficient, profoundly knowledgeable, delightfully warm Travel Nurse Marcia, who hugged me when I left, that we could die?  

On information overload and losing my competency to make reasonable decisions, I agreed to our taking $10 a day malaria pills (fewer side effects) that we’ll need to take for eight-plus months, $700 rabies shots, $80 for tuberculosis tests, and also, an array of 10 or more other vaccines that will total in the $1000’s. We sure hope the insurance company will pay for these. I hadn’t budgeted $300 a month for malaria pills!

I felt as if I were buying a car from a persuasive, albeit highly competent “salesperson” who was trying to sell me safety features that invoked so much guilt that I couldn’t resist buying. I signed up for everything. Oh, I did hesitate on one thing, flu shots. Why would we need flu shots that are derived from viruses only prevalent in the US? Go figure! What if we went out to dinner with an American couple we meet on a cruise ship who currently has the flu? We signed up for that too!  

The dreaded Yellow Fever shot will be on May 1. I am terrified. Four people died from the vaccine alone (OK, four deaths of out one million, not quite a high risk). I said to Travel Nurse Marcia, trying to reassure myself, “Those four people could have died that day anyway, right?” She reassuringly nodded her head. On May 1, please pray for me. Later, for Tom.

Tom has yet to go to his two-hour appointment. I suggested that Travel Nurse Marcia not tell Tom everything she told me for three reasons: 1. He gets bored listening to medical stuff. 2. He’ll pretend to be listening when he isn’t. 3. He’ll refuse the shots and tell her to take a hike.   

Oh good grief, I can picture my dear husband, sick with some dreadful disease, ensconced inside a mosquito net, with me at his side, frantically trying to nurse him back to health. Sounds like a scene in a movie! No, thank you. PLEASE my dear handsome, charming, funny, adorable, “best husband in-the-world,” agree to get your shots, take your $5 pills with food and SHUT UP about it!

So, lovely Travel Nurse Marcia left the room after handing me my stack of 100 CDC documents to read, moments later returning with a tray loaded up with four, that’s right four, giant syringes on a sterilized stainless steel tray. She gently set the tray down on the counter, leaving the room again. I stared at the tray, my heart pounding so hard, I could hear it in my head. Minutes later, she returned instructing me to get up on the exam table.  

The rest is a blur, rolling up my sleeves, taking a deep breath, feeling the brutal violation of my pale winter skin while each of four syringes plunges deep into the tender flesh of my upper arms. OUCH!!! It felt as if she “plunged, twisted, and released” those horse-sized syringes. Then,  it was over, for now at least. I waited for something to happen. Nothing happened.

After sleeping fitfully all night, unable to lay on either side. My arms hurt as anticipated from the warning by Travel Nurse Marcia. After two huge cups of coffee this morning I’m back to my “old” self, dressed in workout clothes, off to the gym and then to the bank to transfer the 25% deposit in 1481 francs (today’s going rate, which is about $300 US dollars) to the owner of the charming “Stone House” in Cajarc, France for one month beginning April 18, 2014 (yes, 2 years from now). Nothing like planning ahead!

BTW, the itinerary will follow later today. 

Continuation of the strict criteria…

Yesterday, I wrote about the first four criteria that we have discovered making long-term world travel affordable for us as a retired couple (Tom retires on Halloween), on a fixed monthly income. Let’s review those points before I continue with the others:

Criteria #1:   Do not have a permanent home! 
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars! 
Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels unless absolutely necessary!
Criteria #4:   Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!

Criteria #5: Use the cruise!  As described earlier, we have booked five cruises so far with two more in the works.  Of the 571 days, we have booked thus far, beginning October 31, 2012, 71 days will be spent living aboard a cruise ship, rated a score of 4 or more (out of a possible 6).  

A vital factor in maintaining the integrity of our budgeting is that cruising results in a maximum average cost per day, not to exceed a combined $350 including fees, taxes, and tips. This amount far exceeds our average daily rental of $50. However, we are booking cruises to be a mode of transportation to and from countries where we’ll have booked a vacation rental. 

Cruising replaces the following usual travel expenses:
1.  Cost of Rental
2.  Three (or more, if preferred) meals per day
3.  Transportation to and from the rental location
4.  Taxis, car rental, trains, buses, and other local modes of transportation while getting around the area

Some cruise pricing includes tips, others do not. Keep in mind that tipping may be as much as $25 per day, per person. We have included them above in our daily total. Also, every cruise has an ongoing credit account for the charges, WiFi, non-included tips, drinks, meals in specialty restaurants, spa services, certain activities, and of course, the casino and shopping in the “tourist trap” shops.  

Internet access to your digital equipment is very expensive. Turning off data and roaming features will avoid the shock of one’s life when seeing the bill at for the onboard WiFi fees.

It’s imperative to check in advance with the cruise line as to WiFi policies and charges. Future posts will explain cell phone usage and Internet access while traveling abroad, a challenge for long term travelers like ourselves visiting 25 countries in less than 2 years (Yes, the itinerary will be posted soon)!

The cruise guy (and company we are using) Joaquin, at Vacations To Go has an appealing pre-booking incentive: book cruises in advance, and as prices drop, the customer receives the benefit of the reduced pricing, up to 90 days prior to the sailing date, being unaffected by potential price increases. 

Pre-booking secures a decent cabin that we choose at the time of booking by paying the deposit, usually around 25% of the cost of the cruise. We refuse to stay in an inside cabin many of which have little space, if any, to even walk around the bed. All of the cabins we are choosing are either a “Balcony” or “Mini-Suite.”  

In summary, cruising costs about $200 more per day than staying in a rental. Building a budget that allows for this expense, adds much to our enjoyment while freeing us on transportation costs, preparing meals, and handling baggage. The opportunity to see a little piece of many locations in a short time span is appealing.  Adding to the experience is choosing a cabin on the correct side of the ship, allowing the best viewing advantage of land throughout the cruise.

Most cruise fares include port charges but getting off the ship at various ports will undoubtedly result in often hundreds of dollars in additional charges for excursions, meals, shopping, and the usual hawkers selling their wares. We will stay on the ship as much as possible to avoid these tourist traps. 

Soon, Criteria #6 will be posted. Thanks for stopping by!

Our strict criteria…

At the end of my last entry, I promised to explain the strict criteria we have established to ensure the financial goal of our world travel: Our total travel expenses would not exceed the expenses we would have incurred to live in a $1500 a month condo in Arizona or any tax-free state such as Florida or Nevada.  Using an Excel spreadsheet we listed the normal expenses we would experience in our new retirement lifestyle, entitled “Basic Living Expenses”  

  1. Rent or mortgage payment: include association dues, if applicable
  2. Taxes: federal, state and property, if applicable
  3. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  4. Auto expenses: payment for a newer vehicle still under warranty, gas, maintenance, insurance
  5. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, health club dues, alternative therapies, and supplements
  6. Other insurance
  7. Cable and Internet: including a few premium channels (we love Dexter, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Shameless)
  8. Cellphones: a smartphone with unlimited data
  9. Utilities: gas, electric, water, trash 
  10. Entertainment and dining out (carefully limited)
  11. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  12. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, greeting cards, postage
  13. Publications: magazines, newspapers, online subscriptions
  14. Miscellaneous: occasional purchase or replacement of household goods, donations, cash for incidentals
  15. Pet care: food, treats, toys, groomer and vet (no pet now since we lost our WorldWideWillie last April) but we would have a new dog if we settled into a retirement lifestyle
  16. Banking fees; interest on credit cards, if applicable; 
  17. Savings
Upon keeping our costs as low as possible, in an effort to live a relatively conservative retirement lifestyle we had a total. Thus…

Criteria #1:  Do not have a permanent home!
With these numbers in mind, we created the next worksheet in our Excel workbook, entitled “Fixed Living Expenses” which were those we’d incur if we traveled but didn’t have a permanent home. Although we are not accountants nor possess a degree as such, we labeled the tabs that we felt best represented the analysis we chose to perform. These were expenses we’d have whether we were on a cruise, temporarily living in Spain, or on a safari in Africa that didn’t include travel expenses.
  1. Taxes: federal, state and property, if applicable
  2. Groceries: to include specialty items for our restrictive organic, gluten-free, low carbohydrate, sugar-free, wheat, and grain-free way of eating. All meals are homemade (no processed foods) utilizing grass-fed meat and poultry with organic produce, dairy, and eggs.
  3. Health: insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions, dental, vision, supplements 
  4. Other insurance 
  5. A cellphone (one between us):
  6. Clothing, personal effects, toiletries, and grooming (all items discounted and purchased at the best possible price)
  7. Gifts: for family members/friends for birthdays/holidays, postage
  8. Banking fees: interest on credit cards, if applicable
  9. Savings
Criteria #2:   Do not own cars!  (And resulting payments, depreciation, storage, insurance, gas and maintenance)

We will sell both of our cars before we step foot out of this country, instead of renting a car if necessary. While calculating our auto expense, considering the two payments, insurance, gas and maintenance, the total was $1523 per month, which more than covers all of our upcoming flights, trains, ferries, taxis and rental cars (three of our credit cards provide free rental car insurance when the card is used for the rental car charges)!
Then we took the “Fixed Living Expenses” and created an “Average Daily Expense” which, no matter our travel expenses or living arrangements, would always be relevant numbers in our financial planning.

Criteria #3:   Do not stay in hotels other than the short term! How is it possible to travel without staying in hotels? Sleep in a tent? Hardly! Rent an RV? Too expensive! Mooch off people you may know that live in exotic places? Never! Staying in a hotel requires the expense of meals in restaurants, tips, city, county, state and local taxes, outrageously priced cocktails and beverages, and of course, and the tempting “tourist trap” shops and services. 

Simple answer: Only stay in houses, condos, townhouses, villas, apartments, and other such property owned, but not currently occupied, by private parties. Property owners are often anxious to rent their own homes and rental properties at reasonable rates knowing full well that the distraught economy and worldwide strife has tempered world travel. We have found that we prefer to rent houses and villas as opposed to apartments, which are often noisy and offer fewer amenities.
Criteria #4:  Do not pay more than what we were willing to pay for rent in our chosen retirement community!   The above described $1500 month was the magic number that fit into our predetermined budget. How is this possible? Only $1500 a month for a house? Yes, the gorgeous 17th century, totally renovated villa in Tuscany, Italy is $1400 month! Yes, the amazing little beach house in Placencia, Belize is $1250 a month! Yes, the charming house in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, surrounded by the free-roaming wildlife is $1387 a month! We will share more about these astounding rentals as we continue here.
There is so much more to share, including the remaining Criteria, how to calculate total expenses, why we have booked five cruises thus far with two more waiting to be posted. How and why we have booked ahead 571 days from this coming Halloween, Tom’s retirement date. How we will experience the first 10 months of our adventure without ever stepping foot onto an airplane? 

Certainly, we have a “to-do” list that is daunting. Certainly, there is a degree of risk. Certainly, there is some blind faith that we are going to enjoy our new lives, free from all the familiar comforts that we have reveled in all these years. And most certainly, our love and devotion to one another will see us through all the challenges we encounter along the way.  

We have mutually agreed that if at any time, one of us is tired, bored, or tired of being on the move, we will stop and find “home’ wherever that we may be.

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.