Brett & Laura Have Left the Building

Saturday evening’s final sunset view

We met our landlord yesterday morning at 8:15, turned over our keys, and were out of our apartment before 9:00 and on our way to breakfast at the Kalaheo Cafe. After breakfast we headed up to Princeville for a very enjoyable (and long overdue) visit with our friends Joy and Les, then headed over to our condo at 3:00 and promptly collapsed. The condo is small, but it’s nice to be sleeping on a real mattress again. We also have enough space and appliances to make our own meals for the rest of our time on Kaua’i.

Last Thursday the apartment’s new tenant asked us if we would move out on Saturday so she could move in a day early, but we told her via the landlord we had paid rent until May 1, and would be staying the night unless she was willing to pay for a hotel room for us (she wasn’t). The apartment was clean as a whistle when we left on Sunday and our entire deposit was returned. Such a difference from our last move-out experience!

The yard was in full bloom this past week. We’re going to miss the yard most of all, I think.

Besides cleaning the apartment all last week, we took care of some other business:

  • I consolidated my student loans to a Direct Federal Loan. I sort of wish I had done this earlier, but I had been afraid I would have to take on a much higher interest rate. However, it turned out my new interest rate will be just .375% higher than my old rate. Because I will again have a direct loan from the government versus a private lender I will be eligible for maybe some of my loan to be forgiven if rumors of that turn out to be true. President Biden is not going to forgive every student loan out there, or even forgive $50K from everyone’s balance, but an amount may be forgiven based on a sliding scale and/or have the interest reduced, maybe to 0%. We’ll see. Whatever happens, having a direct federal loan is all-around better for me for a variety of reasons than what I was previously locked into, and we have committed ourselves to paying off the balance in less than five years, forgiveness or not.
Our little guy is going to stay little. He’ll maybe only weigh 9-10 pounds when fully grown.
  • We got a puppy! Brett and I have missed owning a dog and decided we were ready for another. Our previous dogs were all rescues, but after much thought and a LOT of research we decided we wanted a puppy this time. We found a reputable breeder located near Nashville that had the breed that we were looking for and we made a deposit on a male Shih-poo (Shih Tzu and toy poodle mix). Shih-poos are smart, affectionate, hypoallergenic (they don’t shed), and are devoted to their owners. They require regular grooming, but only every 2 to 3 months. We’ve named our little guy Kaipo, Hawaiian for beloved boy or sweetest boy. He’s currently eight weeks old, but the breeder is going to continue to provide care until we can pick him up in August as well as make sure he is up to date on vaccinations. Our granddaughter is over the moon as she will be away from their family’s beloved Boston terrier for the next two years, but now will have our little guy for her to play with and help train.

We’re expecting a quiet week coming up; the only big tasks we have left are turning in the modem to our Internet provider, getting our wills witnessed, notarized, and mailed off to our son in Japan, and mailing the inflatable mattress to YaYu. We hope we’ll be able to sit out by the pool this coming, or maybe even go to the beach up here (the condo comes with beach chairs & umbrella) but the weather is expected to be less than ideal all week so that probably won’t happen.

One last look back as we headed out the door.

One week from today we’ll board a plane and leave Kaua’i once again. We didn’t think we’d be coming back when we left in 2018, and yet when the call came for Americans overseas to go home in 2020, Kaua’i was where we headed because it was home. Setting up again was a crazy ride, but with help from some very kind people on the island we found a great apartment and were able to get it furnished. Kaua’i has been a wonderful, safe place to ride out the pandemic, and we’ll always be grateful that for almost a year we were able to experience the island without any tourists to contend with (they are currently visiting in record numbers, even more than pre-pandemic). We plan to come back to Kaua’i once more though, for our 50th anniversary, but for now, it’s time to move on to new adventures!

Boring In a Good Way

We love our rental car!

After two weeks without a car, our upstairs neighbor stopped by on Thursday to ask if he could get anything for us and we asked if he could possibly take us to the airport before 1:00 on Friday so we could pick up our rental car. No problem, he said, and told us to text him when we were ready to go. We sent a text at 12:45 on Friday that we were ready and he replied he’d be down in a moment, but then didn’t show up until 1:30! When we finally got to the airport the wait to get to the rental desk was over two hours long, but because I was checked in with Budget once I got to the agent everything went quickly and smoothly, and a car was waiting for us, a Hyundai Kona (compact SUV), a better grade of car than what we had reserved. Although we were completely exhausted by the time we finally left the airport, we somehow got all our errands finished and were home at 5:30. We finished up our yard sale tasks, made our signs, and then collapsed for the night.

Saturday morning . . .

We had thankfully almost completely set up our yard sale by the end of Thursday, with everything cleaned, sorted, tagged and priced, so the last chores on Friday wouldn’t be overwhelming. Saturday’s sale turned out to be an amazing success, far beyond anything we imagined. We started at 9:00 a.m. and by 2:10 in the afternoon we had only 14 items left (priced at a total of $39), and when the last four people came on Sunday to pick up their things they bought 13 of those leftover items! We ended up cancelling the sale on Sunday, and took the $595 we earned to the bank on Monday. Everyone we met on Saturday was incredibly friendly, we never had to quibble about prices or haggle, and we “talked story” with everyone, one of the things we have enjoyed most about living in Hawai’i.

. . . and Saturday evening.

We sent two more packages to Massachusetts yesterday, filled with winter clothes, boots, and wooden hangers as well as some odd pieces for kitchen organization that we didn’t want to have to buy again in Tennessee. The one item leftover from the yard sale (a lamp) will go to the thrift store tomorrow.

Last year when our neighbors moved out, they filled our building’s 120-gallon and 90-gallon trash cans to overflowing with the leftover food in their house (it took three weeks to dispose of the trash they left behind). We took one Trader Joe’s bag to the trash this past week, and will either use up or recycle everything else.

The apartment is almost completely cleaned and ready for turnover. The weather was rainy and overcast most of last week (and still is mainly), so during one nice stretch Brett cleaned the exterior of all the windows and the screens while I cleaned the interiors. Since we were pretty much stuck indoors, whenever Brett wasn’t reading he had the vacuum cleaner out and was cleaning something or another while I worked on getting the yard sale organized. I was able to get the refrigerator and all of the kitchen cabinets, drawers, and pantry shelves cleaned as I organized for the sale.

Meals have been . . . interesting. We picked up several quick microwave meals on Friday at Target, a package of Asian chicken wrap sandwiches at Costco, and takeout from Panda Express for that evening’s meal along with a luxurious piece of haupia (coconut) cake from a local patisserie for Brett’s birthday. We went back to the deli yesterday and got a couple of big (delicious) sandwiches so I think we’re set for the rest of this week. We’ll pick up a few more things on our way up to the condo on Sunday but we’re mostly set now for food until we leave. Desserts until we depart Kaua’i are some very yummy carrot cupcakes from Costco and some very yummy vegan ice cream we found at Target.

Our hangout these last few days

We now spend most of our free time on our inflatable mattress reading because there’s no place else for us to sit and really nothing much else for us to do, although weather permitting we’re going to go up to Kukuiolono Park and walking the Pavilion loop a few times in the afternoons. I’m getting a manicure and pedicure later this afternoon and am looking forward to that – it’s been too long – and Brett’s getting his last hair cut on Wednesday from his favorite barber. We’ll deep clean the bathroom on Saturday, and otherwise will just have the floors left to mop.

It’s honestly kind of boring, but in a good way.

Beyond Plan Z

We did not see this coming. At all. It was not anywhere on our list of future or possible plans. But . . . life happens. And, family comes first.

As planned, we will be heading to Mexico after YaYu’s graduation, but in early July we will depart San Miguel de Allende for:

Our daughter-in-law works for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and toward the end of last month was offered a two-year posting at the consulate in Nashville. It’s a major promotion for her and, as she says, her “dream job.” However, our son cannot relocate because of his position and the nature of his work in Japan, so they asked if Brett and I would be willing to put our plans on hold and move to Nashville for the next two years as support for M and our granddaughter, K, who will accompany her.

We didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Our grandson, who is now in middle school, will stay in Japan with his dad. They plan to travel to Nashville 2-3 times a year, during our grandson’s school breaks, and our DIL and granddaughter will travel back to Japan at least once a year.

Everything is changing rapidly and plans are being drawn up, reworked, etc. We are being reimbursed by our son for our UK Airbnb deposits and our plane tickets to England. We’re starting the process of choosing and buying a car online to pick up once we arrive in Tennessee, and we’ll again be buying some basic pieces of furniture once we get there as well as other necessities. Instead of London, we’ll be flying from Mexico City to Boston to rent a minivan and pick up our stored things from WenYu to take along to Nashville. We don’t know yet whether we’ll be sharing housing with M and K or getting our own place. M will receive a housing stipend but it’s unknown at this time if she’ll be allowed to use that for shared housing with us or not. There are of course lots and lots of other unknowns as well but details are getting filled in as they come up.

Full-time travel for the Occasional Nomads is off the table for the time being. Following our time in Tennessee, we think we’ll either move to a permanent location in New England or do one last long road trip around the U.S. interspersed with shorter international visits. In the meantime, our priority for the next two years will be to help and support our daughter-in law and granddaughter – travel can wait.

28 Boxes

As each day passes and puts us closer to our departure, Brett and I find ourselves living more and more minimally. We’re cooking with one saucepan, one large saute pan, and four small sheet pans these days. We watch TV on my laptop. Our remaining furniture is due to leave the apartment next week and after it goes we’ll be sitting on resin Adirondack chairs and sleeping on an inflatable mattress, at least until the chairs (hopefully) sell at our yard sale. After that all we’ll have is the mattress.

You know what? We’re fine, and living with so little has proved to be much less of a challenge than imagined. In fact, it hasn’t really been a challenge at all. It’s instead been liberating and felt like a great weight is being lifted from our shoulders.

Our daughters took many of our things back home with them at the end of last year, but we’ve otherwise had no trouble letting things go and have not regretted nor missed anything we’ve sold, including items that we’ve owned for near 40 years.

We’re sort of surprised by how much we’re enjoying having less especially since we’ve always been people “with stuff.” We know it’s soon going to seem like we’re camping, but these last few weeks with just a minimal amount of furniture, a few dishes, a tiny amount cookware and utensils, and so forth has been eye opening. And, it’s also been enough. It turns out we need very, very little to live a good life, far less than we imagined.

Life in our apartment the past two years has shown us how small a space we need to be comfortable. We’ve also figured out in the past few months how few things we need in a small space as well as what’s important to us and what isn’t. We’ve completely changed our minds about what we’ll need once we finally get ready to settle down again.

When Brett left the navy in 1992, we moved 12,500 pounds of household goods from Japan. Over the years we began to slowly downsize, and when we moved to Hawai’i in 2014 we brought just 4,500 pounds with us, more than enough for our family. When we left to travel full time in 2018, just 1800 pounds of household goods went into storage. And now, after over 44 years together, everything Brett and I want to keep from our life together fits into 28 boxes, and weighs less than 300 pounds. Our plan was to to keep just 60 things but I think we ended up with 65, only because we had extra room in the last box we packed.

Will we acquire more? Of course – when we finally stop moving around we will need to buy and/or replace furniture, major appliances, and other necessary household items. However, we’re never again going to need or want as much as we have in the past. The simple life caught us and we couldn’t be happier or more satisfied.

The 2021 Highlight Reel

The past year was not the most exciting year we’ve ever spent for a variety of reasons. Brett and I practically turned into full-time hermits and stuck close to home, only heading out of our apartment for walks at the park or a few other hikes, a few trips to the beach, or shopping trips and a very occasional meal out. Our daughters’ visit was the first and only time we had others in our apartment all year, and we didn’t visit anyone else either.

I really didn’t realized how tightened down we’d become and how little we did until I went through this past year’s blog posts. I am so grateful we moved up our travel plans because I don’t think we could have survived another year of pretty much standing still.

Lots of important things did get accomplished however:

  • Health: Brett and continued to lose weight; segued to a vegetarian/vegan diet; and walked/hiked over 1,000 miles. We got our COVID vaccines and boosters; Brett finally got his wonky parathyroid gland removed, and I had an endoscopy and confirmation of a small hiatal hernia. Regular skin checks were done and we are up to date with our dental visits.
  • Travel: Plans for future travel went through several permutations, starting with walking tours in the UK and then Japan followed by short visits to some other places if possible. We then got caught up in the idea of permanent moves to first Portugal and then France, and finally ended up with a decision return to full-time travel. An itinerary was made, our Kaua’i departure date moved forward from 2023 to 2022, and Airbnb reservations were made in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Edinburgh. We have tickets to get us over to Paris in May of next year following YaYu’s graduation from college and are getting ready now to hit the road again.
  • Downsizing: We decided to once again sell almost everything before departing Hawaii, and started the downsizing process with the sale of my KitchenAid mixer in June. We sold something (or more than one thing) at least once a month, and the Etsy shop I opened to sell my hashioki collection and a few other Japanese vintage goods proved to be more successful than I imagined. All of our son’s and daughters’ things we’d been keeping were sorted and sent back to the mainland or Japan, either with them or through the mail, and Brett and I began the process of packing up the few things we will be keeping to be mailed to our daughter WenYu’s home for storage.
  • Savings: We made our last deposit into YaYu’s college savings this month. Through regular deposits, downsizing sales, the Etsy shop, the change/$1 bill bag, and other savings hustles we put away over $11,000 into our travel savings, more than enough to make our initial reservations and purchase our flight to Paris.
  • Family & friends: We had a lovely reunion with our niece and her family when they visited Kaua’i in June, and also were able to get together with another friend visiting the island the same month. While we greatly missed being able to see our grandkids, son, and daughter-in-law this past year, they sent loads of photos and we kept up through messaging and calls. The highlight of the year was having our three daughters together with us for 10 days for the Christmas holiday, and we made the most of our time together. I remain grateful for all the friends I’ve met and made through the blog, and your comments and interaction.

Although we stuck close to home this past year we still accomplished quite a bit and moved a great deal closer to reaching our goals for next year. As busy as we’ve been recently, things will be picking up after the new year, and we know our remaining time on the island will be moving along at a quicker-than-expected pace.

So, it’s goodbye to 2021 with fondness and gratitude, and it’s on to the new year with hope for all it promises to bring.

Adventures in Downsizing

How soon is too soon to start when you want to get rid of everything? That’s the question we’re struggling with these days. Is it too early now to start letting things go, or should we wait until next year or even right before we plan to go? Are there things we can live without now versus waiting until next year or right before we leave? Are we ready to embrace real minimalism?

We’ve sold a few things already that have been sitting around unused and taking up space, and that the girls have said they don’t want. A small TV, a lightbox, a lampshade, a Le Creuset baking pan, and my stand mixer have all found new owners. I put our three Japanese hibachis up for sale a couple of weeks ago, more to see if there was any interest, but while I got a lot of views there have were no takers, even after I lowered the price. So, they’re going to be listed at my Etsy shop instead and we’ll see how they do there.

It isn’t easy to figure out what to do with other items we’d like to sell. Would they sell better as an individual item through Buy & Sell, or on Etsy, or at a garage sale? Is the item something I’m willing to ship or would the cost of that outweigh what we can get for the item?

Pricing will the biggest issue we face, especially living in Hawaii. Postage back to the mainland is quite expensive, and could push the price of several items up too high. We have to accept for some items that we will never receive their true value, and will can only hope to get what we paid for them. For example, our beautiful big hibachi table will have to go for thousands less than it’s worth – we’ve seen similar sized hibachis selling online for over $4000, but I know we’ll be very fortunate to get $600 for it here, as well as the custom stand, glass top, and antique plate inside. That’s still more than we paid for everything, but we can’t take it with us and shipping it would be more expensive and more of a pain than would be worthwhile. I will be happy though if someone else is happy about getting it. I can always tell when someone is thrilled to have gotten an item and that makes it easier to let go of.

I’m grateful for the time we have to figure this out. Selling everything is going to be a bigger task than I initially imagined, but if we’re smart, time will be our friend. We were shocked by how much stuff our neighbors still had right before they moved, where they ended up having to hire a truck to haul away what didn’t sell. Our goal is to end up with no more items than will fit into the trunk of our car to go to the resale store when it’s time to go.

Imagining the Next Downsize

Only some of these things will be kept the next time around.

The other day I took two houseplants that weren’t doing so well and set them out on our front porch (where they almost instantly revived). With the plants gone, I was able to move a few things around in our living room which somehow managed to give it a fresher, more uncluttered and open look. I was surprised that the removal of only two items and a few other small changes facilitated such a big change in how the otherwise small room feels. Less had created more.

Brett and I are already starting to think about what we’ll ship back to the U.S. when we leave Kaua’i in a couple of years, and what we can let go of this time. Last time we sent back around 1,500 pounds for storage; we hoping for around 500 pounds this time. We already know we’ll be able to let go of more now, a reminder that downsizing and decluttering remain a process, not a one-time-and-you’re-done task. We know that was unbearable to let go of before can become bearable over time, and maybe even desired, and that we have a very different sense these days of what we want to live with than we did when we set off back in 2018.

While I think I already do a good job of not accumulating things, I came across an article the other day for decluttering or downsizing a room that I wish I had thought of or known about earlier, an idea which I plan to use mentally over the next couple of years as the actual process would be impossible given our current space. The exercise requires removing absolutely everything out of a room you want to declutter, from furniture to pictures to tchotchkes. Everything. When the room is completely cleared out, it’s deep cleaned it from top to bottom (and repainted if needed or desired).

The room should then sit empty for at least three days, but longer if possible while careful thought is given to the desired result for the room. After that, items should be slowly brought back into the room, maybe over a period of days, until the imagined result is reached. After that, everything else can go. The happy result should be a decluttered room with less needed than one initially imagined.

While we’re unable to do the empty room thing now, Brett and I will instead imagine a future empty space, and think carefully about how we’d like our room(s) to look. Our days on the road taught us that we prefer small, uncluttered spaces with a few thoughtful touches. What we’ll be asking ourselves going forward what pieces that we have now will be useful? What pieces will bring us joy?

We know that some things aren’t going to make the cut this next time, but it’s going to take time for us to figure it all out. For now we’ll appreciate, enjoy, and use what we have, but always with that empty room in the back of our minds.

Time to Break Out a New Spreadsheet

Before Brett officially retired in 2013, we decided we had a great opportunity to relocate to a warmer, sunnier climate. We wanted to escape the dreary, damp winters and head for someplace with a warmer, sunnier climate. But where should we go?

We started our search by determining the things that would be important to us in a new location and eventually came up with eight criteria we would use to evaluate different places:

  1. Good year-round weather
  2. Cost of living
  3. Schools
  4. Proximity to the ocean and/or mountains
  5. Nearby military facilities
  6. Proximity to Japan,
  7. Tax benefits for retirees
  8. A strong, vibrant Asian community

After determining these criteria, we then came up with places that we thought might include those things or at least some of them. Hawaii was added to our list as a joke because we knew we would never be able to live in Hawaii but it sounded fun. The next step was ranking the criteria, figuring out the things that were most important to us. We came up with the order above. Finally, we began researching different locations, taking notes and checking off which areas met which criteria. Some places were eliminated more quickly than others.

We were very, very surprised to discover that Hawaii met eight of our nine criteria. The only problematic one was the state’s high cost of living, but we eventually decided if everything else fit we could somehow figure out how to live within our means there. We talked about changes we could make (i.e. renting versus buying), ready everything we could find about living on a budget, how to shop, etc. and made it work for us. We’ve never regretted our decision to come here.

However, with the cost of living on Kaua’i rising rapidly these days we are thinking about whether it would make more sense to relocate back to the mainland. The cost of housing on Kaua’i is rising to a level that will make it close to unaffordable for us to stay. Most of our children have ended up settling back east on the mainland. Flights to Japan from Honolulu take as long as they did from Portland, and fares are often higher from here to there. Now is the time to consider whether we should leave or stay.

It’s time for us to come up with a new spreadsheet once again, and evaluate our choices. Brett and I sat down together week before last and came up with a new list of what’s important to us. We haven’t ranked this list yet, but think it’s a good basic one that covers our needs and wants at this stage of our lives. In no particular order, these are the eight things we want/need to consider: 

  • Proximity to family: As we age, and our daughters get closer to having their own families, we would like to live closer to them. Our children would like to have us closer to them as well.
  • Cost of living: Will the cost of food, transportation, and everything else in a new location fit into our budget and leave something left over for other things we want to do (i.e. travel)?
  • Cost of housing: Is there quality housing in the area that fits within our budget?
  • Tax benefits for retirees: Is Social Security taxed? Would Brett’s military retirement be taxed?
  • Weather: Is the area prone to big weather events like hurricanes, flooding? After living in Hawaii can we deal with dreary weather once again, or things like snow and other effect of brutal winter weather? Do we want to?
  • Proximity to the ocean and mountains: Is it possible to find this combination again?
  • Travel & cultural opportunities: Are there things for us to see and explore in the area? Is there a major airport nearby for overseas travel?
  • Healthcare availability: Is there a nearby hospital and otherwise good medical availability in the area?
  • Nearby military facilities: Is there a military base nearby, mainly for things like ID card renewal and possible commissary/exchange shopping?

While we now have a list, we still need to come up with areas that might work with these criteria. We know that no place needs to be a perfect fit, but it should meet at least half of what’s on our list. Before coming up with a list of locations, we still need to rank the criteria, add others to the list, if necessary, and then begin researching and seeing what might be a good fit. 

We already know that Kaua’i is barely going to meet half of these criteria, but it carries something that no place else does: our hearts. No matter how great another location turns out to be, no matter how many criteria it matches, going up against our love for this island will not be an easy task. But, getting started now on a possible move is something that needs to be done, so it’s time once again to create a new spreadsheet so we have time to get it figured out to make the best choice for all the right reasons.

Back to the Future: The R-Word

I was very surprised when I came across this post from January 2011 because I thought this part of our journey had come much, much later.

Brett and I have long called ourselves “accidental retirees.” We had never thought much about or discussed retirement although we did save, but at the beginning of 2010 we did not believe we would ever be able to retire. We were drowning in debt at that point, had depleted our savings, and we were still raising young children – retirement was nothing more than a pipe dream. While we had committed ourselves to getting out of debt we were unable to see ourselves ever surviving without being employed somewhere. However, it appears that after just one (very difficult) year of debt reduction, we were not only thinking about but apparently actively starting to plan Brett’s retirement!

The game-changer was not only the elimination of over half of our debt, but discovering Brett would qualify for an additional family allowance from Social Security. Before January 2011 we had no idea such a thing even existed, let alone that we would qualify for it. I remember Brett and I talking with a counselor at Social Security, and finding out that because we had three children under age 18 that we would receive the full allowance, at least for a couple of years. With that, and with Brett’s military retirement, a small pension from his employer, his regular Social Security, and our debt eliminated, retirement became an affordable reality.

Brett did not retire in 2012 – that didn’t happen until June 2013 because stuff continued to happen and the rest of our debt did not get paid off as quickly as we hoped. However, at the beginning of 2011, we finally knew where the path we were on was taking us and how we were going to get there, and we had an even bigger motivation for finally getting rid of our debt. That journey never really got much easier, but knowing what awaited us at the end made a huge difference. 

The R-Word

No, it’s not Rest, Relaxation, Reuse or Recycle. The R-word here is Retirement. 

Brett is eligible to retire (Social Security-type retire) in just a little over a year. This is both exciting and somewhat frightening at the same time. The date is coming fast too, although frankly, not fast enough for Brett. He wants to be done with work yesterday, although he plans to continue working at his current position until the end of 2012. His huge desire to retire is the primary factor behind our urgency to pay off our debt.

The conventional wisdom is that you should work as long as possible, and put off taking your Social Security benefits in order to draw the full benefit upon retirement. We’re in a somewhat unique position though because we have dependents under the age of 18, so Brett will be eligible to receive the full family allowance for a while along with his standard Social Security payment. It makes sense for him to retire earlier rather than later. Social Security, along with his military retirement and pension from his current job, will provide us with an adequate income when he does leave his job. He will probably continue to work part-time somewhere because he’s not a sit-around sort of guy, but that’s an unknown for now. Right around when the time comes for our youngest (YaYu) to age out of eligibility for the allowance, my Social Security and pension will kick in to bring our income back up, although my pension will probably be just enough to buy milk every month. We’re not going to be rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ll be OK, especially if we don’t have any debt.

One thing we are talking about now is whether to stay in Portland or move elsewhere and if so, where? Brett and I are both getting tired of the rain and the cold of Portland winters, but the girls love it here. Any move would have to be done after Meiling graduates from high school in 2014 as she does not do particularly well with change, and is the most embedded here. But I’m not sure we will want to stay an additional four years after that for YaYu to graduate. We have long dreamed of moving out to the Oregon coast, but realize we would face the same weather there as we do here. Although I’m originally from California, I have little desire to go back there, and any place on the east coast would be too far away from our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson in Japan. Hawaii is a possibility, although the cost of living is quite high there. We have lots to think about, and thankfully don’t need to make any quick decisions.

We made some not-so-smart financial choices in the past and would be in even better financial shape if we’d done a few things differently, but we also did some things right or smart, like making the commitment for Brett to stick it out with the navy for 22 years, even though it was not an easy life. Adopting three children when we were in our mid- to late-40s was maybe not a smart financial move, but the right thing for us, and the best thing we ever did in every other sense. Going back to school in our 40s and borrowing for that was also not the brightest choice we made, but we’re both glad we have our degrees, and in Brett’s case it has paid off. Sticking with his current employer for all these years has also turned out well, although he could have made more money elsewhere. His Fortune 500 company has provided incredible benefits that no one else could come close to matching, and some of those will continue to be there after retirement.

If I know just one thing now, it’s that time passes way more quickly than you ever think it will and suddenly something like actual retirement looms. When we were young, when Brett was deployed, time seemed to stretch out forever. I never gave much of a thought to retirement or what we’d be doing or how we’d pay for things but all of a sudden . . . here it is. “Old people” were always talking about retirement and saving and investments but we felt like we had forever to get there. How wrong we were! We know that Social Security, in its current form, should be there for us and for that we are immensely grateful. For our son, or our daughters, or others younger than us, maybe not. We’re lucky and we know it.

P.S. I was doubly surprised to see Hawaii mentioned this early as well, as I remembered that as coming much later too.

P.P.S. Neither of us has ever had to (or wanted to) work after retirement – with a changed, more frugal lifestyle, our income, approximately two-thirds of what we earned pre-retirement, has turned out to be enough that we haven’t needed additional employment.

Moving = $$$$

After many frugal months on the road, our last three weeks have been anything but. Moving always costs money, sometimes a LOT more than expected. We get that. Even when the navy (supposedly) covered all our transfers back in the day, from pack-out to unpack, those moves were still a drain on our bank account. These last three weeks though have been unlike any move we’ve experienced before.

Once the decision was made to return to the U.S., to Kaua’i, the money started to flow. Although our previous flight reservations were changed to cover our flight back with no added expense, we still had to purchase YaYu a ticket plus pay for almost three weeks in a vacation condo to cover her quarantine and have a home base while we looked for a permanent place to live. When we were searching for a rental back in March, almost everything on the island was still booked for vacations and there was a very limited selection of rentals to choose from. We ended up paying over $140/day, one of the least expensive rentals we could find, double our usual budget of $70/day. However, if we’d been able to start looking two weeks later, maybe even a week later, we could have had our choice of almost everything, anywhere on the island, and at a much better price.

Finding a place to live on Kaua’i turned out to be easier than expected although we had to pay two months’ rent upfront (one month as a security deposit). We got lucky and found a lovely, affordable place on the south side of the island, our first choice for location and with utilities included in our rent so we didn’t have to also pay additional deposits to set up electric and water service in our name. We also had to buy a car right away, and again we were very fortunate to be able to buy our old car back at a great price (and it’s in great condition). 

We knew furniture was going to be an upfront expense and budgeted accordingly. We needed a sofa, dining table and chairs, a bed and frame, bedside tables, a TV and something to set it on, and once we found our apartment we knew we wanted chairs and an umbrella for the deck, and a grill. We soon discovered we needed a coffee table (we underestimated the need for this piece of furniture – currently we have nowhere to set a drink if we’re sitting on the sofa) and lamps. Thankfully we found pieces that fit within our budget; the only piece of furniture we still want at this point is a sofa table, but it can wait. We thankfully didn’t need to buy a dresser as the closet in the master bedroom is fitted out with built-in mesh drawers, nor did we have to buy a microwave oven – the kitchen came equipped with one. We are still waiting for the apartment’s washer and dryer to be installed, but those two items still haven’t arrived at Home Depot. There will be rugs and a side table for the living room coming in our stored items, and when those and our other things arrive we will be set. Although the above sounds like a lot when I write it all out, it’s currently very minimal but enough for now.

It’s been the other small but necessary stuff to make the place habitable that has added up surprisingly quickly and been the real drain on our bank account. These are the things I like to call the hidden costs of moving, the small but necessary household items you rarely think about but add up quickly when you need to buy them. We’ve had to purchase a broom, dustpan, and other cleaning paraphernalia. Bathroom rugs. An anti-slip mat for the shower. A trashcan and wastebaskets. Basic cooking utensils including a frying pan and lidded saucepan. Command hooks. Glassware. Very basic dishes and cutlery. Bed linens and pillows. Kitchen linens. Towels and washcloths. Hangers for the closet. Placemats. Hot pads. And on, and on, and on – in our case, all the things we got rid of or stored before we left on our adventure but need once again to set up housekeeping. 

Finding things on Kaua’i can be a challenge even when times are good, but during this shutdown, it’s been more than challenging at times. We were fortunate that two furniture stores agreed to open for us, and that we found things we liked that were also good quality and affordable. Wearing our masks, and bringing along our alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer, we’ve made numerous stops the past two weeks at Home Depot, Costco, and Walmart for other necessary items. Amazon has been a lifesaver too, although shipping times, even with Prime, have been running from the sublime to the ridiculous, and almost nothing arrives in less than 10 days.

Our friends, Alan and Cheryl, have also returned a few items we gave them when we departed in 2018, including our vacuum cleaner, Brett’s tools and ladder, and some of our old dishes. They turned out not to need these items, and we’re grateful to have them back and not have to buy them again.

We have splurged on a few items to make our life more comfortable. I bought some decorative pillows for the sofa. I also ordered a good-quality hand mixer and a three-quart InstaPot, especially because that was less expensive than buying a new rice cooker and slow cooker (although the InstaPot isn’t scheduled to arrive until the end of the month). YaYu loves smoothies, and I bought her a blender she can take back to college whenever she returns. 

Thankfully, the spending associated with the move seems to have come to an end. Everything is falling into place, and all we’re doing now, for the most part, is waiting for our Amazon orders to trickle in. The apartment is comfortable and in a great location. We’re making do with what we have and learning to appreciate a more minimalist lifestyle these days.

We have come to realize though this would have been our scenario whenever we stopped traveling, although I like to think that with more lead time we could have spread all the spending out a bit, and been better prepared. A less frantic schedule under hopefully better conditions would have been easier if nothing else. Whatever, for now, we’ve landed and we’re safe and comfortable, and that’s what matters.