Budget Adjustments Coming Up

Brett and I had no idea when we started out last year how we would feel about traveling after a year, or whether we’d want to keep going, but it’s turned out that we enjoy our nomadic life and want to keep going. There’s still a lot of this world we want to experience. However, beginning next month there are two upcoming financial matters that are going to cause changes to our monthly budget and that will impact not only how we travel but potentially how much of it we can do for a while.

  • The out-of-pocket costs for all of my dental work this summer (three fillings, a new bridge, a tooth extraction, and teeth whitening) and Brett’s work (deep scalings) came to a whopping $3,590 – OUCH! We had both insurance and the means to pay the balance, but beginning next month we want to start replenishing our savings account by a few $100 per month.
  • The cost of attending Bryn Mawr this year will exceed the financial aid YaYu receives, and next month we will begin helping her meet her out-of-pocket costs for the spring term and on into her senior year (she is in her second year now). YaYu works very hard and is extremely frugal and has so far been able to meet her expenses, but what’s left in her savings after this fall’s payment won’t be enough to cover all of the spring term’s bill, so we will step in and make up the difference. Meiling graduated without debt, and WenYu will next year as well, but they both received much larger scholarships than YaYu and were also attending at the same time with siblings, which increased the amount of aid all three girls received. Beginning in the fall of 2020, YaYu will be our only student, and we expect the amount of aid she receives to drop (it already dropped some because Meiling is no longer attending college). So, we will begin setting aside an additional several hundreds of dollars a month for the next two years for her so that she will also be able to graduate without any debt, or at least with as little as possible. Our other children have let us know that although we didn’t provide them with similar financial support, this is the right thing for us to do now for YaYu.

These two items are going to most directly impact our on-the-road expenses, most especially the amount of money we have available for day-to-day spending. Currently, we budget for an average of $50/day, with funds covering not only food but all our local transportation costs and incidentals such as admission fees or other necessary items. Beginning in September, we will be reducing our daily spending average to $35/day. Our summer in Portland has been good training for this lower amount as we’ve tried to keep our average about there (not all that successfully, but we’re getting there – it’s currently under $25/day for August). Thankfully housing during our stay in England is already paid for as are the overnight stay at Heathrow, our lodgings in Edinburg, our train fare out to the Cotswolds from London, two tours we are taking in London, and lodging for an overnight stay in Oxford during YaYu’s visit in October. We know though we are going to have to be very, very careful with and mindful of every penny we spend in England.

Our belt will also have to be tightened a bit more when we arrive in Japan in January of next year because the cost for our housing there will be more expensive than it was before thanks to the current exchange rate, and we will be paying rent month by month rather than ahead of time. If Brett gets the cultural activities visa I can work part-time which will help our bottom line, but if our stay is only for three months finances will be quite tight. We’re not sure yet what we’ll have available for our daily spending because we don’t know what the exchange rate will be, but we know it will be less than $35. We’ve already decided that we won’t make as many outings as we did during our stay earlier this year, and we’ll focus more on spending time with our son and family and helping care for our grandchildren. Our up-front transportation costs have already been covered, but we still don’t know at this time when we will need to purchase fares to leave Japan or to where. If the lower daily amount is unsustainable we will have to lessen the amounts we’re reimbursing our savings and setting aside for YaYu, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to manage on less.

So, we’re going to have less room to maneuver, budget-wise, for a while but we are up for the challenge. I think we’ll be fine but we’re going to have to be far more careful and creative, say “no” to ourselves quite a bit more, and most likely change up how and where we travel for the next couple of years.

Summer Goals Progress Report

Mission accomplished: longer (very curly) hair, a few pounds gone, and in good health and good shape.

Shortly after we arrived in May, I posted a list of things I wanted to accomplish during our stay in Portland over the summer. As we’re nearing the end of our stay, it’s time for an update on how I’ve done.

  1. Lose 15 pounds. NOPE. When I got weighed at the end of July I had lost a whole six pounds, not the 10 I was hoping for at that point. The doctor said that I was doing everything right though (daily exercise, low carbs, lots of water) and to just give it time. I will have lost probably around eight to ten pounds by the end of our time here in Portland, but my clothes fit much better so I know I am changing shape.
  2. Get myself in top shape health-wise. DONE. My new bridge is in; I’m having my teeth cleaned today and my upper teeth have been whitened; I’ve gotten three fillings done and my broken tooth removed (along with many dollars removed from our savings) so I am all caught up with dental work. I had a bone scan and some other tests done (cholesterol and mammogram) and had one medication added as I’m still at risk for osteoporosis but otherwise no changes, and I should be off the GERD medication by the end of our time in England. The residual swelling on my leg from my fall in Auckland last February is almost gone but it may be another year before the last of it disappears completely. I can now climb seven flights of stairs without stopping and barely get winded. Things are not perfect, but all in all I’m in good shape!
  3. Read, read, read. DONE! I blew past my original goal of 30 books for the year and am now up to 39, and going for a total of 52 books read this year. I think for Christmas the only thing I will ask for is Amazon credit so I can load up my Kindle before we head to Japan.
  4. Improve my Japanese. DONE (I think)! I have no way to judge how much my Japanese has improved because I’ve had no chance to use it, but I can recognize and read a lot more kanji than I did at the beginning of the summer and I’m happy with that. I’ve been doing a half-hour of language practice every day with Memrise, but dislike that they initially relied mostly on memorizing phrases that had little to no backup or practice with grammar patterns and nothing to do with my life – I no longer want to party all night or get drunk, and will not be looking for love in Japan. And the speed tests! I can either read the Japanese phrase or the four possible choices, but not both in the time they allow.
  5. Shape up my travel wardrobe. DONE! I am super happy with the updates.
  6. Grow out my hair. DONE! I’ve grown my hair all summer and am happy with how the grow-out is going. I can’t get over how curly my hair is these days, but it’s super easy to style now.

    My summer-in-Portland bling
  7. Replace some earrings. DONE! I purchased a simple pair of silver hoops made by a local artisan, and along with what I already have I am now satisfied with my earring selection. I also bought a beautiful silver pewter cuff bracelet, designed by a NW Native American artist, so I’ve got enough shiny things for the time being, although jewelry is turning into my favorite souvenir these days – I wear my travel memories.

So, six out of seven goals were accomplished, and I’m calling that a win!

A Few Goals For the Summer

No more delicious pastries for breakfast – these days it’s a frittata and some melon, or a bowl of plain, nonfat yogurt with loads of fresh berries.

Since we’re going to be in one place over the entire summer, I’ve decided that it’s the perfect time to work on some things that I’ve either let go or have been thinking about during the past several months, as well as get myself in shape for this fall and the following months. Some of the seven goals I’ve set are more serious than others, but all are doable and I want to take advantage of our long stretch in Portland to be in the best shape all around when we leave for England in September.

  1. Lose 15 pounds. I ate w-a-y too much ever since we started traveling last August. I paid no attention to calories, carbs or any other part of how or what I ate, whether it was gelato every day in Florence or noodles, rice, and bakery goods in Japan. While we walked a great deal, I still managed to put on a few extra pounds, to the point that I’m uncomfortable with my size now and some of my clothes are a bit too snug. So, I have dropped all bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc. for the summer, am back to only having a glass of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings, and am drinking eight glasses of water a day for the duration of the summer. Brett and I plan to walk/hike at least five days a week which should help as well.
  2. Get myself in tip-top shape health-wise. Besides losing weight, I have the whole summer to get my medications set up for next fall and also get all testing caught-up and done. My general health is excellent, thank goodness, but my right shin is still slightly swollen from the fall I took back in Auckland, and the Dr. recommended compression socks to help with that, so I need to get those ordered. I’m also going to get the permanent crown put on that tooth I broke last December, and get a new bridge made for my lower front teeth (the old one is 30 years old, and crumbling).
  3. Read, read, read. This will the perfect summer for getting lots of reading done and getting ahead on my reading goal. I found it hard to read at times when we were on the road and moving around, so this is my chance to catch up. I have about 10 books on hold with the library right now, but any and all suggestions for good books are welcome!
  4. Improve my Japanese. Our three months in Tokyo really showed me how little Japanese I understand and can use these days, so I will be spending 20 minutes/day studying the language. I was looking forward to a classroom experience this time but the courses offered at the community college are still lower than my current proficiency level, so I will be instead working with Memrise and a text book. Brett will be attending the beginning class though and working on learning the kana for his calligraphy.
  5. Shape up my travel wardrobe. After nine months with same clothes and shoes I have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t when traveling, and what I am comfortable in and what’s not easy to wear or maintain. Plus, I am just plain sick of some of the things I’ve been carrying along and don’t think they flatter me so I’m going to be putting them away (meaning not taking them along again but not getting rid of them). I’m also adding a few new pieces to update my travel wardrobe. This includes replacing shoes, which got worn out – I have already bought new trail shoes, and a pair of red (!) slip-ons, but I also need to replace my navy blue Skechers and then I’m good to go.
  6. Grow out my hair. Short hair worked well for a while, but the problem with short hair is that it requires maintenance which I discovered can be difficult when traveling. I also always felt a bit frumpy with my hair short, especially as it grew out and I ended up with my “old lady pouf.” However, I have been using Aveda’s Be Curly – it helps enhance the curls and makes it easy for me to maintain them without my hair getting frizzy, so my goal is to end the summer with a more stylish (but easy to maintain) chin-length bob for my curly gray hair.
  7. Replace some earrings. I lost several earrings on this trip (grrr) and want to replace them with two or three of pairs so I have a little variety. I only wear silver these days, and my favorite place to buy silver earrings is from Novica – they have many stylish pairs that don’t cost very much.

All of these goals are doable, and will hopefully help keep me out of mischief. And of course, Brett and I will be working on plans for our time in England and getting those pulled together!

The Million Dollar Question: Decisions Have Been Made

They say you can’t go home again, but I’m going anyway.

LOL – I said I wasn’t going to write this week, but guess what I’ve been doing!

For the past several weeks, day after day after day we have talked and talked and talked some more about where or whether to settle, have over and over the pros and cons of each option again and again, have made lists, and have debated whether we wanted to buy a house again or not (we even went so far as to get a pre-approval from our bank to see how much house we could afford) or buy a car.

We changed our minds several times, and went back and forth, with a new option added to our list at one point, not that we needed another one in the mix. But, eventually we were able to come to a decision.

I now believe that our indecision is what brought on or worsened my insomnia – once we made up our minds all of that went away (well, that and a drastic reduction in the amount of caffeine I consume). All I could think about every night was where should we live? What’s the best location for us? It was driving me crazy and keeping me awake.

The order of our final list feels right. Nothing has been chiseled into stone yet, but we can finally start thinking more about and working toward what comes next.

Here is the new list, and how we ordered our choices:

  1. San Clemente, CA. I’m still a California girl at heart. And, I’ve always loved San Clemente and the surrounding area (Dana Point and Laguna Beach) – back when we decided to leave Portland, it was the #2 area on our list after Hawai’i. The opportunity to live there now ticks off a lot of the most important boxes for both of us though: warm, sunny weather, low humidity, being close to the ocean, and friends living nearby to name a few. It’s eas(ier) for family to get there, and a place people love to visit. Our biggest hurdle will be finding an affordable place to live – coastal prices in California can be like Hawaii’s, or higher, but we’re into living small and simply these days so that will help us find something affordable. We’ve definitely decided we don’t want to buy again, and we’ve also pretty much decided that we’re not going to buy a car, and that we’d like to try to get by without one for as long as possible. However, there’s a trolley service in the San Clemente area that can get us around somewhat and otherwise we will use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, or we’ll walk. If we want or need to take a longer journey we’ll rent a car. Also, Amtrak connects San Clemente to both Los Angeles and San Diego – San Clemente is located halfway between the two cities.

    The town of Laguna Beach is connected to San Clemente via Dana Point by the trolley service.
  2. Another year of travel. This option sort of popped up unbidden, but once we started talking about it we became interested in the idea, and realized we could continue if we wanted.  There are still many places we want to visit, and we’ve come to see that a longer stay in each place works best for us rather than moving around ever few days or so. However, while the thought of spending time in new places is motivating, it also feels a bit exhausting right now. To be honest, I was more enthusiastic about the idea than Brett – he would rather settle down and then travel once a year or more, staying in a place for a month or so and being Occasional Nomads versus Full Time Nomads.
  3. Northern Arizona. This was our mystery location, another choice that just sort of popped into our consciousness, but once it did it really took hold. We liked the area a lot when we visited in 2017, and there were several locations to consider: Flagstaff, Williams, Prescott, and Sedona. The big drawbacks for us were the extreme dryness and lack of water, and the cold winters, but we otherwise love the natural beauty of the area, and the proximity to the Grand Canyon and other areas in Arizona and the southwest. We’d absolutely need to purchase a car here though, something that eventually made this location less appealing.
  4. Strasbourg, France. This option went to the bottom of the list not because we don’t love, love, love Strasbourg, but because as we talked it over and got into the weeds, we could see how complicated it would be, from the language to applying for a visa to finding housing to the kids visiting and so forth. A move there is really more than we want to take on at this stage of our lives.

One of the biggest factors contributing to the order of our list as well is that beginning in 2021 we will need to contribute somewhat significantly to the cost of YaYu’s education at Bryn Mawr during her last two years there. While all the girls currently receive generous financial aid because of all three being in school at the same time, that number dwindles to two next year because Meiling graduates this June, and beginning in the fall of 2020 it will be just YaYu attending college. She’ll still qualify for aid, but it won’t cover the full cost, and we want to help her through enough that she won’t need to take out student loans, or at the least, borrow very little (both Meiling and WenYu will graduate with no debt). After crunching the numbers, a simple life in Southern California actually puts the least amount of strain on our income, even with the high rents. Although California has high taxes, we’ve done the calculations with our income and ours shouldn’t be much, especially if we don’t own a car.

We also want to set aside money every month to cover the cost of a long-term visit to Japan every 15 months or so (for at least a month) and for other travel as well, and we have to buy some furniture too, so all those are some other financial considerations.

Anyway, a decision has been made and we can now move on to planning what comes next and when. It is a big relief to us to finally have a decision, and we’re feeling very good right now about where things are.

The Million Dollar Question

At every stop since we began traveling we have been asked: Where are you going to settle when you finish? The answer is always the same: We still don’t know.

I almost can’t believe we haven’t decided where we want to end up when the Big Adventure is over. I made a list this past fall of possible locations and ideas, but after some more travel we’ve decided against some of those. We had thought Seattle might be a great place to land, but after a month in Portland in December we were reminded of why we left the Pacific Northwest, so that idea fell off the list. After just a 10-day road trip around New Zealand, and never being able to unpack our suitcases, our idea of a long-term driving trip around the U.S. felt a whole lot less interesting as well. We thought for a while that Tucson, Arizona might be a great place to end up – it ticked off a lot of boxes, and we could afford a house with a pool there! – but then we stepped off the train in the middle of the Australian desert and realized we did not want to deal with the climate, pool or no pool. Just as we would be stuck indoors during the winters in Seattle, we would be stuck inside during the summer, or trying to escape.

So, since time is becoming more and more of the essence, we’re still talking about what is important to us, and getting those things on a list. In no particular order, they are:

  • We are happiest when we’re near the water, especially the ocean, but lake or rivers make us happy as well.
  • Abundant sunshine is a must, although we don’t like dealing with extreme temperatures or humidity. We don’t mind cold weather, or snow once in a while.
  • We enjoy city life, but don’t miss it or need it as much as we once thought we did, especially big cities. We’re OK living near a city, but not necessarily in one.
  • We would prefer not to own a car, but can see now that we will probably need to have one no matter where we live, with a couple of exceptions. This will be specially true if we don’t live in a city.
  • We like locations where we can walk, even if we own a car and it’s just for walking’s sake.
  • We need to live where it’s easy and somewhat affordable for our children and their (eventual for some) families to come visit, or for us to visit them. This is the primary reason we decided not to return to Kaua’i, as much as we miss it and would love to go back.

There’s a few more things, but we are clearer now about what we’re looking for in a location, and have narrowed it down to three options. We are still doing our due diligence on #3, so I’ve left off the name of the place for now:

  • Strasbourg, France. We’re still in love with this city and it still has a lot going for it. Pros: The size is manageable and there’s lots to see and do; there is great public transportation (no car necessary); it’s flat and very walkable and also a great place for bike riding; it’s quite affordable; the food is wonderful; it’s in a great location for travel to other places we want to see; and, as for water a river runs through the middle of town. Also, our family have all said they would come visit us there as we’d only be 1.5 hours from Paris. Cons: The visa process (mostly time consuming), and the big one: we don’t speak French! We would have to spend a lot of time and money on French lessons before we go and after we arrived.
  • San Clemente, California. This charming beach town was my home away from home growing up, and is located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego in Orange County. Even though I know it’s not the same now, it still holds a special place in my heart (along with Laguna Beach and Dana Point). Pros: The weather and the beach are the primary ones, and it’s a walkable town if you’re located on the west side of US 101 (El Camino Real). We also know people who live in the area, a big plus for us. Cons: Housing costs are very high (think Hawaii high), and there is not a lot available in our price range. We would have to have a car again, and Southern California traffic can be hellish at times. Also, California is not a great place for retirees when it comes to taxes, although we’ve crunched the numbers and our tax burden wouldn’t be much. Living in San Clemente would be all about location, location, location, and because we no longer have children living at home it’s something we can afford to do. It also costs a LOT less to get to and from here than it does from Kaua’i.
  • Mystery Location, USA: We’re still doing research, but this small town is fairly near a couple of bigger cities with a university and medical facilities but without being too close (i.e. not a suburb). We’d have to drive to those cities though for many things though, including some of our groceries and such, so we’d definitely need to own a car if we settle here. The area gets plenty of sunshine overall but without high temperatures in the summer, and humidity is low year-round (it does get some snow in the winter though). The area is affordable, and it’s an OK location tax-wise for retirees, and is located near some beautiful natural areas that we love to visit, so some more positives. There are a few small lakes in the area, but not really a lot of water around which is a bit of a negative for us.

We have no need to buy a home, at least not initially. We enjoyed not owning a home when we lived in Hawaii (in spite of our awful landlord), and we’ve gone over the numbers and with new tax laws in place having a mortgage no longer makes much sense for us other than we wouldn’t have to worry about rent increases. We recognize that we are still “restless people” at heart and would prefer not to be tied down with all the many things that home ownership entails.

We’ve committed ourselves to a firm decision by the time we leave Japan in mid May so that we can start working toward that move. In the meantime we will continue to research our options, consult with our son (who is no longer quite so opposed to us living in France), and think about what will be best for us and our family in the long term.

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!