It Was A Very Good Year

2018 was a wonderful year for us. We are well, our family is well and working toward their goals, and everything that we wanted and needed to happen, happened. After several rejections or places on a waitlist, YaYu was accepted at one of her top college choices and she’s now working hard and having a grand time. Although it meant saying goodbye to Kaua’i, we met our saving goals for the Big Adventure and finally put our plan in motion and set out on our travels at the end of August.  Brett and I saw and experienced places and things last fall that we never thought we would in our lifetimes, and we are ready to continue with Part II. We even got our deposit back from our awful landlord, something we did not think was going to happen unless we took him to court this year.

We have 11 more months of travel to look forward to this year, although some of that will be three-month stays in Japan, Portland and England. We’ll be in Portland again next summer, staying on the west side of the Willamette River for a change and living without a car, new experiences for us, so it will still be something of an adventure. Wrapping around our Portland stay will be visits to India, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and England – we can’t wait!

If this year is anything at all like the past year, time is going to slip by very quickly. Somewhere in all our gallivanting around we’re going to have to make a decision about where to land once our travels are over. Even if we decide we want to keep going in some fashion, we need some sort of a solid home base once again. Where that will be is still unknown, with our ideas currently like a bowl of jello, setting along the outside rim but with the center still quite liquid and jiggly. Eventually though everything will firm up and we’ll know where we’re heading.

Do Brett and I have any goals for this year? Of course – we always have goals! Most are fairly general and the same as last year, but we have added one new one at the end:

  • Get where we need to be on time.
  • Enjoy ourselves and each other’s company wherever we are.
  • See and do as much as we can in each place we visit without overdoing it or feeling guilty if we miss something.
  • Stick with our budget, live small, and don’t buy anything unless necessary or planned.
  • Make a firm decision on where to settle when we’re done and then work toward getting ourselves ready to be there at the beginning of December.

Everything else is fluid, with several unknowns right now. They can be planned for later.

I’m not sure we can top last year, but we’re going to try very hard. 2018 was a very, very good year!

Our Gap Year

Our unofficial gap year motto

Gap year: A constructive time out in between life stages. It can mean traveling, volunteering or working abroad.

A short while ago Bob Lowry, in his blog, Satisfying Retirement, wrote a post: Taking A Gap Year: Not Just For Young Adults Any More. Until I read it I had never for a moment considered that our current travels could be considered a gap year experience instead of just a big trip, but it looks like that’s exactly what Brett and I are in the midst of. We’re taking a year off to travel and figure out what direction we want to take next as we segue between forty years of child-rearing and becoming empty-nesters.

Up to now, I had only thought of the Big Adventure as a wonderful travel adventure. We’ve been having the best time, and are looking forward to further destinations and experiences in the coming year. We’ve learned lots along the way, about ourselves and each other; seen and experienced things we never thought we ever would or could; and our marriage is stronger than ever. It really is the trip of a lifetime.

However, our travels have proven to be more than just going from place. Over and over along the way we’ve found ourselves discussing options for what will come next and where we’d like to end up. Those choices have also turned out to be a bit more fluid than we imagined. The big changes in our lifestyle that have occurred, like living with so much less than we did before, and identifying as a couple once again versus full-time parents, have given us new insight as to where and what we see ourselves doing at the end of next year. Just like how plans for the Big Adventure changed from what we initially had dreamed of, we’ve been surprised by how differently we think about the future now. What’s currently important to us is different from it was just a few short months ago when we set out.

For example, we had been seriously talking about settling in Seattle when we finished, renting an urban apartment and enjoying life in a big city. We love the Pacific Northwest, and we love Seattle, but just a few days of cold, gloom and rain here in Portland quickly reminded us of why we moved to Hawai’i a few years ago, and that a location with more sun than not will be a serious factor in choosing where we want to land when we’re done traveling. Seattle, we’ve realized, is a place we love to visit, but it’s not where we would be happy living any more.

Getting to take this year off was so much more though than just coming up with a plan and an itinerary, or saving money. It was more than the girls getting accepted into the colleges they attend, earning scholarships and receiving adequate financial aid, more than making the difficult decision to leave Kaua’i. Instead, it was several pieces coming together for us at the right time. If even one of these pieces had not happened the way it did or when it did our life most likely would be very different now. We got lucky and we know it. I’m somewhat astonished these days, when I think about it, by all the things that had to come together to make our Big Adventure happen. We sort of stumbled onto the idea, got to planning and saving to make it happen and everything really did just sort of fall into place.

In hindsight, we could have greatly used a gap year when Brett retired from the navy into civilian life. Also, some time off between sending our son to college and having our girls come home would have let us catch our breath back then. So, I know how blessed we are to have this opportunity now, not only for the experience of travel, but to give ourselves a chance to reset as we segue into yet another different phase of life. What we’re doing is not possible for everyone, nor does everyone want or need a break between different life stages. But we have been given a great gift, a “senior” gap year, and we plan to continue to make the most of it.

We Have Options

If Brett and I have learned anything it’s that it’s never too early to start thinking of the future and making plans, if necessary. Anyone who has been reading this blog or one of my earlier ones knows that we like to set goals and then get to planning so those goals can be achieved .

Our current Big Adventure will continue for another 13 months – we will finish up at the end of a three-month stay in England in November 2019. But then what? We know from experience that it’s not too early to begin thinking of which direction we might like to go afterwards.

So, we have started talking about what happens “after.” While the topic doesn’t dominate our conversations and we aren’t close to a decision yet, we have come up with three distinct options for the future, all of which are pretty much running equal at this point. We’re not in any hurry to make a decision because none of the options will require as much advance planning as the Big Adventure did, and we have the time now to think more about and weigh each plan as well as get input from our family before a final decision is made.

The three options we have settled on at this point are:

The idea of living in a small urban apartment is very appealing.
  • Settle down somewhere. That is, rent an apartment (we have absolutely no interest in buying a home), buy furniture, etc. and set up housekeeping in one place. There are lots of advantages to this option, especially when it comes to our children and their eventual plans, and we imagine this will be their first choice for us. We would like to live in an urban area, where we can continue to walk to get our groceries and use other facilities, or use public transportation when necessary. But, east coast or west coast? Our son and family will continue to live in Japan and they come to the west coast almost every year, but there’s a very strong possibility our daughters will end up living in the east. So, lots still to think about when it comes to this option. And, Brett and I wonder if we’ll really be ready to settle down, even after another year of travel.

    We could definitely see ourselves living in Strasbourg for a while.
  • Live overseas for a while. We completely and totally fell in love with Strasbourg when we were there and can still envision living there, for at least a year anyway. We loved the city and its amenities, its affordability, its cuisine, how easy it was to get around to other areas in France from there and its proximity to other parts of Europe. Of course, moving overseas would require us doing a ton of paperwork in order to obtain a long-term Schengen visa, we would have to become more proficient in French, and we would have to find a place to live and then furnish it (hello IKEA!). The biggest negative is that we would be a great distance away from our children for a while which is something we would have to seriously consider. However, this might be the time to do something like this, before more grandchildren come along. The option is appealing enough that we are giving it serious consideration.

    Brett and I have always loved road trips and the options they provide.
  • Continue the Big Adventure in the United States. This choice would entail buying a car (a Prius most likely) and driving around the U.S. and Canada for a year or longer, staying in Airbnb rentals just like we’re doing now. Brett and I have seen a lot of the United States over the years, and we’ve lived in a variety of places throughout the country, and both of us would enjoy having the opportunity to stay in different locations for a while and see more of an area than “just passing through.” The biggest negative with this plan for us is having to buy a car and picking up all the expenses that go along with that – it’s not an idea we’re crazy about.

Brett and I are definitely, as our son has said, “restless people.” We are greatly enjoying our current nomadic lifestyle and can see ourselves continuing in some form, but the idea of settling in some place where we could continue to travel now and again also has some serious advantages. All three of the above plans come up frequently in conversation these days, with us discussing the pros and cons and how we would or could pull them off. They always seem to end up getting ranked differently each time we talk about them too which means we need to have a lot more conversation and do some more thinking about each one. Thankfully we have over a year to decide, but at some point we’re going to have to choose one and then let the real planning begin.

Which one would be your choice?

Gelato Every Day: Week 1

Day 1: I chose banana and tiramisu flavors (they paired well); Brett had mint chocolate and cookies & cream with chocolate.

We’ve been in Florence now for just over a week. One of our many goals while here was to try to have gelato every day, and we’ve been doing a pretty good job of it so far. We missed going out the day before yesterday because of the weather, but otherwise have made a point of indulging ourselves every day.

Day 2: Zuppa Inglese and a scoop of panna with chocolate & orange for me; cherries and cream and peanut butter for Brett.

The availability of different flavors has been frankly astonishing, limited only by the gelato makers’ imaginations. I think too that we’re already becoming “gelato snobs;” that is, we always choose the shop with a wide variety of different flavors versus one that only carries the “standards.”

The persimmon flavor was so amazing we both had to get some. I added green tea, and Brett had honey vanilla with his.

One other great thing we’ve discovered is that you can have two flavors for the same price as one – gelato is sold by the size of the cone or cup, not how many scoops you get. What a concept! We usually opt to have our gelato in a cone, but tried cups the other day. I didn’t think it tasted as good from a cup or was as fun so it will be all cones, all the time for me now. Brett is fine with having his gelato in a cup now and again.

Day 4: I chose ricotta with figs and black sesame. Eating gray gelato was a bit strange but the flavor was fantastic! Brett had mandarin orange and crema, which combined in sort of Dreamsicle. As you can see, the gelato was melting fast that day – it got kind of messy for a while there.

One week down, three more to go! Stay tuned for updates. Also, Brett’s job as a hand model is secure.

We tried out the little gelato shop just down the street yesterday, before the thunderstorms returned. After sampling almost all their interesting flavors I chose pomegranate and bergamot; Brett had stratiacella (crema with chocolate chips) and zabajone al marsala (egg creme with sweet marsala). Man-oh-man was the gelato at this place good – we’ll definitely be going back!

 

Goodbye June, Hello July

July is going to be busy but pivotal month for us – we’re scheduled to move out of the house on the 28th and over to the condo we rented. We’re greatly looking forward to our stay there because Brett and I will have no obligations other than to relax and enjoy our remaining time on the island – we’ll finally get to take a Kaua’i “vacation” (YaYu will continue to work right up until we leave though). The condo is the same one our son and family stayed in earlier this year, with that fabulous pool, which is where I intend to be spending most of my time while we’re there, either swimming in it or sitting by the side under an umbrella.

The “lazy river’ feature at the condo pool

Here’s how we did with last month’s goals:

  1. Pay at least $900 on our credit card. We paid $3210 toward our remaining balance (we sold an additional $435 worth of things this past weekend). Just a little more to go!
  2. Purchase travel insurance. It turned out we didn’t need to buy this because our credit card already provides insurance for things like lost luggage, cancelled flights, etc. and our health and dental insurance are valid all over the world. In fact, we discovered that – surprise! – because we have military health insurance we were ineligible for regular travel health insurance.
  3. Clean, oil and buff all the tansu. Done! Cheryl and Alan arrive this week and we’ll get them all moved over to their house.
  4. Take down and package TV; disassemble and clean girls’ bunkbed. Done! Both of these items are also going over to Cheryl and Alan.
  5. Take down all art work from the walls; fill and repair nail holes. Done! This pictures went in our shipment, and I defy the landlord to find even one of the nail holes I repaired.
  6. Empty pantry, clean shelves (repaint if necessary). Done!

    The finished pantry closet – it almost looks better now than it did when we moved in! (I wish I had ‘before’ pictures – it was a mess)
  7. Take all items to be shipped for storage into the garage for the movers. Done – the movers came and picked up everything last Friday.
  8. Start pricing items for moving sale. We’re off to a slow start with this, but will finish it off this week, once we’ve gotten everything else out of the house and over to Cheryl and Alan’s.
  9. We also took four big bags of stuff to the thrift store and are working at filling another one.

Here are our goals for July:

  1. Hold garage sale on July 6 through July 8; take all items that don’t sell to the thrift store.
  2. Deep clean the house like we’re preparing for a navy-style white glove inspection.
  3. Detail car and list for sale on July 20. The rental car for our last month on Kaua’i is already arranged.
  4. Pack suitcases and move to the condo on the 28th.

Just four goals this month, but they will keep us busy!

 

Goodbye May, Hello June

June doesn’t actually arrive for another couple of days, but we now officially have less than two months to go before we move out of our rental house, and there is more than plenty to do in the coming month to continue to get ready for that.

First though, here’s how we did with last month’s goals:

  1. Pay at least $900 on our credit card balance. We paid $4613.50 on the balance. We still have a bit more to go though.
  2. Clean out paper files. Brett took care of this, and got our entire file box compressed down to one envelope of papers to keep.

    Before: The original finish on the table was dissolving, and a hot mess thanks to heat, humidity and salt.
  3. Strip, sand and oil table top. Done – the table is beautiful and ready to go to its new owners!

    After: Believe it or not, this is the same edge on the table. Citrustrip, mineral oil and a little elbow grease made the table gorgeous once again!
  4. Reserve window cleaners and house cleaners for move out in July (we’ll need help with the windows and floors). We decided to do these tasks ourselves.
  5. Clean out bookshelves in YaYu’s room and help YaYu fill at least one bag of stuff for the thrift store. The most difficult task of all because she hates to throw away anything (but of course can’t take it with her to college either), but she got it done! We filled one bag of stuff from her room along with another bag from around the house to go to the thrift store.

Here are our goals for June:

  1. Pay at least $900 on our credit card.
  2. Purchase travel insurance.
  3. Clean, oil and buff three tansu for new owner.
  4. Take down and package TV for new owner; disassemble girls’ bunkbed and clean.
  5. Take down all art work from the walls; fill and repair nail holes.
  6. Empty pantry, clean shelves (repaint if necessary).
  7. Take all items to be shipped and stored into the garage for the movers.
  8. Start pricing items for moving sale.

Let’s see how it goes!

 

Goodbye April, Hello May

Here’s hoping we will be able to go to the beach in May!

Here’s how we did with last month’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We saved $1005 last month; it all went toward the balance on our credit card.
  2. Continue to look for and possibly book air travel down to Buenos Aires. I found a great non-stop fare from Miami, so these tickets are booked.
  3. Clean out and shut down the garage freezer. Done!
  4. Use up as many condiments as possible in the refrigerator. We made good progress with this; there are just a few more things to use up.
  5. Move my IRA from the local bank to our primary bank; help YaYu open an account at our primary bank. We decided to leave my IRA in the local bank for now to maintain Hawai’i as our state of domicile, but got YaYu’s new account opened.
  6. Order lei and a haku for YaYu’s graduation. We still have to do this, but my daughter-in-law wants to go with me to the flower shop. YaYu will be getting five different lei: one from her brother and each of her sisters, one from Brett’s sister and brother-in-law, and one in memory of her grandparents. Brett and I will give her a floral haku (head wreath).
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We could not find enough stuff to fill a bag this past month! We did take some other stuff though.

Here are our goals for May:

  1. Pay at least $900 on our credit card balance.
  2. Clean out paper files.
  3. Strip, sand and oil table top.
  4. Reserve window cleaners and house cleaners for move out in July (we’ll need help with the windows and floors).
  5. Clean out bookshelves in YaYu’s room and help YaYu fill at least one bag of stuff for the thrift store.

Once again, we’ll see how we do!

 

 

Goodbye March, Hello April

Although some good things happened for us last month, I think we were all glad to see the end of March come around. Mainly because we’ve all been pining for blue skies and warmer temperatures, but also because we are eager to keep moving forward toward the fall and the big changes that will be coming around for all of us. We’re making progress, but it still feels like there is so very, very much to get done, and not enough time to do it all. Things are still moving though, albeit slowly for now, but will pick up speed the closer we get to our move out date.

Anyway, here’s how we did with March’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We put $1067.50 in to our account. Lots of it came right back out to pay for all the reservations we made at the end of the month.
  2. Clean out at least three cabinets in the kitchen. Done! I organized two cabinets and one now holds the dishes we’re storing, and the other holds the ones we’re letting go. I also cleaned out the baking cabinet; most of what’s in there now are items we’re using now but selling later.

    Although we’re still using them for now, these dishes are all being sold.
  3. Clean out and organize my nightstand. Done! There was an awful lot of junk in there.
  4. Clean out the two tansu in the living room (they’ve both been sold). Done! Most of the stuff that’s left are things we’ll continue to use until the buyers come to claim the chests.
  5. Narrow our list of suitable Airbnb rentals for the first half of our trip. Done! We’ve reserved all our homes for the first half of the trip, with the total less than $30 over our budget.
  6. Set up an additional area in the garage for moving sale items. Done! And it’s filling up fast.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We filled one bag last month.

Here are our goals for April:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.
  2. Continue to look for and possibly book air travel down to Buenos Aires.
  3. Clean out and shut down the garage freezer.
  4. Use up as many condiments as possible in the refrigerator.

    So many (hot) sauces, so little time
  5. Move my IRA from the local bank to our primary bank; help YaYu open an account at our primary bank.
  6. Order lei and a haku for YaYu’s graduation.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Once again, we’ll see how we do!

 

Goodbye February, Hello March

It’s a new month, and time to post the goals we want to accomplish this month. But first, here’s how we did with February’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We put $1261.11 into our account in February.
  2. Combine all pantry items into one closet. Here’s how our two closets looked before . . . and here’s how they look now!
  3. Make reservations for an overnight stay on the Big Island, and a two-night stay at one of the PMRF cottages during spring break. We have reservations now for the Big Island in late June, and will be staying overnight in a cottage at Camp Kilauea (with a fireplace and jetted tub!) inside the national park. My HawaiianMiles will cover our flights over to the Big Island and back (Kona), and we have free entrance to the park, so besides.lodging our only other expenses will be a car rental and dining (we plan to have dinner at Volcano House, but otherwise will bring our own food along). Brett also got us booked for two nights in early June at one of the beachfront cottages at Barking Sands on the west side of Kaua’i. They’re fully furnished, so we’ll take along our own food, and have dinner one night at the restaurant on base (Shenanigans), which is supposed to be very good. Brett and YaYu are going to spend one day while we’re there hiking in Waimea Canyon; I will hold down the fort and relax (i.e. sit out on the beach and read).
  4. Decide on bed pillows and cases to take along on the Big Adventure.We checked out several pillows this month at Costco. Some were too heavy (I’m looking at you, Tempurpedic memory foam), and others were lightweight and cheap, and we didn’t think they’d hold up well, especially after getting stuffed into our suitcases over and over. We have settled on these pillows through Amazon. They’re expensive, but very lightweight (around one pound each) and durable. There’s no hurry to order them right now though.
  5. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We took four bags to the thrift store in February.

Here are our goals for March:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.

    The baking cabinet is on my list of clean-outs.
  2. Clean out at least three cabinets in the kitchen.
  3. Clean out and organize my nightstand.
  4. Clean out the two tansu in the living room (they’ve both been sold).
  5. Narrow our list of suitable Airbnb rentals for the first half of our trip.
  6. Set up an additional area in the garage for moving sale items.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Let’s see how we do!

Goodbye January, Hello February

Here’s how we did with our goals this past month, and our goals for February.

Our January goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings. We put $6067.96 into our travel account, which included $5000 from my inheritance.
  2. Clean off one set of shelves in the garage. Done!
    The shelves before . . .

    . . . and after. Everything on the shelf now is something that we’re going to sell (well, except for the Diet Coke – that is all mine!).
  3. Get my hair cut. Can you see how happy I am to have gotten rid of that big frizzy mess that was on my head? I tried a new salon this time and had a much better experience for the same amount as I was paying before at a different salon.

    New glasses, new haircut
  4. Get Brett’s hearing aids. They were fitted a little over two weeks ago – yeah! He saved a bundle by choosing the Kirkland brand of appliances at Costco.
  5. Have new glasses made with my updated prescription. I love having red glasses again. I also saved a bundle by ordering the frames online, and having the glasses made at Costco.
  6. Update our wills. Done! Besides creating our wills, the software we used also allowed us to prepare advance health directives and a durable power of attorney to handle our finances if we become incapacitated. And, we got the software for free!
  7. Take at least one bag of items to the thrift store. We took in three bags and one large box of stuff that WenYu cleaned out of her closet.

    Three bags of stuff ready for the thrift store.

Here are February’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.
  2. Combine all pantry items into one closet. We currently use two small hallway closets for our pantry, but will downsize and condense into one.
    We want to clean out and organize this closet . . .

    . . . so all of this will fit in there as well.
  3. Make reservations for an overnight stay on the Big Island, and a two-night stay at one of the PMRF cottages during spring break. Camp Kilauea on the Big Island is inside Volcanoes NP, and very affordable. The cottages at PMRF out in Waimea are one of the best places on the island to see the sun set, and a good base for Brett to do some Waimea Canyon hiking.
  4. Decide on bed pillows and cases to take along on the Big Adventure. We’ve got a few options in mind, but need to make a decision. We’ll wait to buy in March though.
  5. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Let the downsizing continue!