Three Choices (for now)

A couple of months ago Brett and I had convinced ourselves that following our time in Nashville we could move up to Maine, buy a house, and settle down. Or, we could ditch our car, store our furniture and travel the world with our dog. We had it all figured out.

But deep down a move to Maine never quite felt right to either of us. Neither did flying around the world with a dog. It turned out we were both caught up in the idea of living in Maine or traveling the world with our dog versus the reality of either of those options. Deep down we were uncomfortable with the idea of purchasing a house again and all the work and maintenance that would entail, especially in Maine. We also honestly didn’t want to keep track of all the paperwork necessary to take our little dog into different countries. We were more uncomfortable than either of us wanted to initially admit with facing winter in Maine at our ages (72 and 74 when we would arrive), and what that might cost us (either buying loads of equipment or paying someone to dig us out). As much as we loved the idea of living in Maine, we knew it would in reality be a lot more work that we wanted to take on. Same for traveling with a dog.

So, we scratched everything and went back to the drawing board. We made a list of the things that make us happy and that would be important this next time around. We came up with seven items that are important to us at this stage in our lives – proximity to family, cost of living, taxes, good weather, financial security, quality healthcare, and travel – and using those came up with a list of three possible options for a post-Nashville life. We listed the positives and negatives for each, but didn’t rank anything for now.

Below are the three options we’ve come up with so far:

1) Honolulu Condo


  • Life in Hawaii fits us like a glove. Granted, busy Honolulu would be very different than slow-tempo Kaua’i, but the underlying basics that we love about Hawaii would still be there.
  • Owning a condo appeals more to us than owning a single family home: it has all the benefits of apartment living but we can alter the interior if and as we please. There’s no yard work, external maintenance, and insurance costs are less. Many HOA fees in Honolulu are lower than they are on Kaua’i, with greater benefits.
  • Honolulu has all the amenities we would need as we age: good healthcare services (including Trippler Army Hospital), good public transit, military services (commissary and exchange), walkability, and an increased availability of goods and other options compared to other locations in Hawaii. Plus, there’s still that great Hawaii weather that we love.


  • The cost of living in Honolulu would still be very high. We know how to deal with Hawaii’s high cost of living, but we’re not sure how much we want to continue to have to do that as we age.
  • It would be very difficult for me to afford to continue living in Hawaii if Brett predeceases me.
  • We’re still not convinced we want to or even if it’s a good idea to purchase a home (condo or otherwise) at this stage in our lives.
  • It would be expensive for our children to visit us, and for us to visit our children, meaning we wouldn’t see each other as often as we like even though travel to Honolulu versus Kaua’i would be easier and less costly.
  • The move back to Hawaii would be something of a hassle and expensive.

2) Road Trip: Canada, Western National Parks, and Baja California


  • We really do enjoy being nomads, we’d have a car, and our little dog along for company too, with lots to see and do along the way. Our schedule would be of our own making.
  • There would be no expenses associated with settling down, i.e. buying furniture, setting up utilities, and so forth.
  • Driving through the west and visiting all the national parks has always been a dream of ours. Plus, we could pick where we want to be when – maybe Canada during the summer, Baja in the winter, and the west coast in between, for example.


  • A road trip at this time of our lives would be doable but tiring, more than we’re maybe able to admit to ourselves right now.
  • We’d put lots of wear and tear on our car and who knows what the cost of gasoline will be, or lodging. Both are difficult to predict right now, and would tie up much if not most of our monthly income.
  • It would difficult to form friendships while we’re on the road, and we would still have to eventually find some place to settle.

3) Mexico:


  • Even if the cost of living in Mexico increases in the next two years, we could still live a very comfortable life with many amenities, including beautiful, furnished housing and almost everything we use regularly (foods and other items and products we like). We would have enough disposable income to continue to travel throughout the year (to escape the weather we don’t like).
  • Everything we would need as we age is available here, from healthcare to home care. And, it’s affordable.
  • The visa would be easy to obtain, and the move down fairly easy as well.
  • We could afford and enjoy dining out regularly.
  • We could have a car if we wanted, but could also manage without one if we choose.
  • We could fly for a reasonable cost to the U.S. and then on up to see the girls in the northeast, over to Japan to see our son and family, or on to other international destinations. Likewise, it wouldn’t be difficult or prohibitive for our family to visit us here occasionally. The cost of living in Mexico would allow us to travel fairly frequently.
  • We could afford to live near the ocean again. There are many wonderful locations to consider in Mexico.
  • I could continue to enjoy a comfortable life in Mexico on a reduced income if Brett predeceases me.
  • There would be loads of opportunities to connect and form friendships within the expat and local community if we choose, no matter where, as well as get involved (if we want) in activities that interest us. We could have as much or as little of a social life as we desire.
  • Learning Spanish neither scares us nor seems as impossible as other languages have.


  • The dry and at times hot weather in places, or the hot and humid weather in other areas could be miserable.
  • A big unknown is how a potential expat community and their influence in any location might affect us. We like having other expats around in some ways, in others, not so much.
  • Although we’re not afraid of learning Spanish, it’s still something we would need to commit to and then work at, both before arrival and while we live here.
  • There are places in Mexico where it’s neither safe to live or travel.

Two of the above choices, the condo in Honolulu and the road trip, are more emotional choices, with Mexico on the sensible side. I would have thought recognizing that might help make a decision easier, but it really doesn’t. In the past Brett and I have always let our hearts rule us – which has thankfully always worked out – but we’ve previously had time to fix errors or make changes, something we don’t feel we have as much of any more if at all.

So, after more discussion and research than you can possibly imagine, and a LOT of back and forth, we still don’t have any idea what we want to do or where we want to go! Mexico looks like the obvious winner but it’s just not that easy. Trying to come up with a decision is sort of making us crazy as well and we think we may need to give ourselves at least another year to weigh our options, talk with our family, and maybe come up with some other ideas. There’s a good chance we’ll stick with one of the three options above, or maybe we’ll come up with something else. No place is going to be perfect and have everything we want, but we know we need to get it as right as possible this time.

So, as I like to say, stay tuned! We plan to enjoy our time in Nashville while we’re there but we’ll be working on making a final, firm decision and getting ourselves ready to make a move in 2024. Where that will be will continue to remain an unknown for the time being.


Game Changer

Brett and I are still coming to terms with how much of a game changer our move to Nashville is going to be for us going forward.

We have absolutely NO REGRETS about accepting our son and daughter-in-law’s request to move to Nashville for the next two years. The request was unexpected, but there was never any doubt about accepting. Brett and I have loads of experience making changes on the fly, can quickly adapt and adjust, and we always make the best of any situation.

However, this move not only changes our plans for the next couple of years, but, as we’ve been figuring out the last few weeks, also for years ahead.

There will be loads of things happening in the next few months we were not expecting to have to do again for a few more years, including purchasing a car and once again buying furniture and other things we’ll need, from a coffee maker to mixing bowls to bed linens and towels. We thankfully didn’t get rid of everything, but most of what we owned here in Hawaii is now gone.

With international travel off the agenda for the next couple of years, Brett and I knew the odds of returning to full-time travel once our DIL and granddaughter returned to Japan were greatly diminished. We talked about whether it made more sense to rent furniture for the next couple of years and buy a used car, but decided we would be happier in the long run if we purchased furniture pieces we could live with for the rest of our lives, and a car that would last the rest of our lives as well.

Once we accepted the above, we realized we wanted own a dog again as well and would adjust future travel plans around that reality. We’ve come up with two paths once our time in Nashville is over: putting our furniture and other possessions into storage and setting off on an extended road trip around Canada and the U.S. along with our puppy for a couple of years, or buying a house and settling down somewhere in the northeast, most likely Maine, and traveling during the winter months (our middle daughter, WenYu, has already offered to store our car and all of the girls have volunteered to watch Kaipo). Both plans have lots of positives and potential for us.

Brett and I were very excited about our upcoming full time travels once again, and have honestly felt sad at times about abandoning those plans. But we are both forward thinkers and optimists, and we also like the options and opportunities we’ve been given. We plan to make the most of our future, and will remain nomads, even if that only turns out to be occasionally.

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!

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.

Could You Travel Full-Time?

Brett came to embracing the idea of full-time travel a bit later than I did, but living on the road and seeing the world was a long-time dream for me. We sort of stumbled into our decision to travel full time back in 2017 after we’d come up with a list of places we wanted to visit and were trying to prioritize them. At one point Brett mused aloud, “I wish we could see them all.” We looked at each other and I asked, “Could we possibly do that?” From there we started investigation, crunched numbers for a couple of weeks, figured out what we would have to do to make traveling full time a reality, came up with an initial itinerary, and the first Big Adventure was born.

For us, it was an ideal time in our lives to travel full time. We had already sold our home before coming to Hawaii and were renting. Our children were grown and independent for the most part: our son and family lived permanently in Japan, and our three daughters were in college and getting ready to start their careers. Other full-time travelers we met along the way were in similar circumstances; that is, not tied down with family obligations (either had no children or their children were grown and independent) or in a couple of cases, we met whole families that were traveling full time.

We initially decided to give the experience around a year and see if and how we liked it. We sharpened our itinerary, created a budget, put some of our things into storage and sold everything else, and set out in August of 2018 after getting YaYu settled at college. We began our journey in South America (Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay) then headed to Europe (Paris, Normandy, Strasbourg, Lucerne, Bordeaux, Florence, Rome, and Lisbon) before returning to the U.S. for Christmas with our daughters. Then it was off to India, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand followed by a three-month stay in Tokyo. We came back to the U.S. for the summer to provide YaYu with a location so she could work during her break, but she ended up going to Japan for the summer and we ended up playing tourist in our old home town of Portland. In late August of 2019 we flew to England and spent three wonderful months in the Cotswold village of Blockley, visiting the area as well as London and Edinburgh, then returned to Portland one last time for another Christmas with our daughters. We followed that stay with a short visit to Kaua’i and then headed on to Japan for what we thought was another long stay. COVID had other ideas though and in late March 2020 we returned to Kaua’i to wait things out and stay safe. After working through lots of other ideas the past two years we finally realized we wanted to return to full time travel, but a bit more slowly than before, and we will set out again in around four months on another Big Adventure, fully vaccinated and boosted, and armed with additional tools and knowledge that we hope will keep up safe.

Brett and I fell in love with full-time travel because we enjoyed not only the experience and adventure of it, but also the minimalism required, and after 40 years of raising children we loved having the time and freedom to explore and see places we had only previously been able to dream about. Many travelers we met, like us, didn’t start with an idea of indefinite full-time travel, but also grew to love it, especially the ability to travel at a pace that worked for them. COVID certainly turned things upside down, limited the places an American can go, and changed travel forever. However, we’ve found it’s still possible to create a travel itinerary, domestic or international, and make it happen. Many “travel bugs” are already back on the road once again.

There are as many ways to travel full time as there are people, and no way is the best. Some people (like us) stay in Airbnb rentals, but other housesit, house swap, or travel in an RV. Some take advantage of couch surfing or staying with friends, while others stay in hotels full time or even live on a cruise ship! We’re going to be traveling slow(er) this go around, staying in Airbnbs again for at least two months in each place to give us more time to get to know an area. Our goal is not to see everything and every place in the world, but to have a deeper experience and greater knowledge of the places we do visit.

If you’ve ever dreamed of or just thought about traveling full time, Brett and I came up with a few things to consider:

  • Can you give up having a permanent home? This is where most stop when it comes to traveling full time. It’s definitely a major step to consider, let alone take. However, living on the road does not mean having to sell or permanently give up your home. Many travelers rent their homes while they travel, or return home for short stays in between longer jaunts. Some full-time travelers do house swaps. Some find after a while that they want to relocate overseas, and some discover that they no longer need or want to keep their home at all, and plan for a later, smaller purchase when the travel stops. Lodging choices around the world run the gamut from sleeping on someone’s sofas all the way to luxury apartments and homes, with everything in between, and how you choose to live on the road is completely up to you and your budget. We’ve stayed in some pretty wonderful places for not a lot of money.
  • Do you have a way to support yourself when you travel? Food, lodging, transportation, as well as possible sightseeing and so forth all still need to be covered during travel. Some have to be paid in advance, like deposits for lodgings or airline tickets. Some full-time travelers save as much as possible ahead of starting out and then stop and work for a while as needed or stop traveling when the funds run out. Some take advantage of travel hacking to save on travel expenses. Others, like us, have a reliable, steady income that we supplement with savings, and some full time travelers work remotely as they travel.
  • Are you in good health? No one needs to be in perfect health to travel full time, but you should be able to do things like move a (potentially heavy) suitcase around, climb stairs now and then, walk a bit, and so forth. If you take medication you need to plan for how to keep prescriptions refilled, and be willing to visit a doctor or dentist, if necessary, in another country. Health insurance for travel is a non-negotiable necessity and should always be included in any planning or budget creation.
  • Are you able to stick to a budget? This is absolutely critical. Living full time on the road means figuring out ahead of time how much you can afford to spend for things like lodging, food, transportation, miscellaneous costs, etc. and then sticking to that budget just as you would if you were not traveling. Some things – mortgage payments, utilities, car insurance, and such – may go away, but others, like getting from one place to another, pop up. It’s important to know your daily spending limits, set up a spreadsheet or maintain a daily journal, and be willing to track expenses for everything, every day. We eventually figured out that an envelope method worked well for us at each destination, but there are loads of ways to make sure you’re not overspending.
  • Can you save, save, save ahead of time? Unless you have unlimited funds, it helps to figure out ways to boost your savings before setting out and then possibly use those funds to help the adjustment into a full-time travel budget. Savings can come from many directions, including selling your things, even possibly your home. We learned that having savings we could rely on ahead of time went a long way when it came to getting our footing as we began our travels.
  • Are you flexible? While some planning for travel is necessary, are you able to change quickly if necessary? Travel planning means putting a foundation in place, creating an itinerary, and setting goals but it doesn’t mean scheduling every moment you’re on the road or knowing everything you’re going to do ahead of time. Things do and can change, go wrong, or not go as expected from time to time. I know of some full-time travelers who plan things out about six weeks ahead, others just a week or so. Brett and I are more the six months ahead types but we have an emergency fund, always have a Plan B and Plan C, and we can change on a dime when it’s called for without falling apart.
  • Are you willing to embrace minimalism? Full-time travel requires learning to live with what can be carried in a suitcase or even just a backpack. Minimalism does not mean having to get rid of everything, including your home, but it does mean letting go of your stuff at least for a while.
  • Can you and your travel partner’s relationship withstand the give and take of living on the road (if you’re not traveling alone)? Full time travel allows you to play to skills you already have as well as discover talents and strengths you didn’t know existed. Brett turned out to be a superb logistician – he has an uncanny sense of direction, and always got us where we needed to be when we needed to be there. He also loved tracking the daily minutia of travel including our spending each day, how far we walked, etc. On the other hand, I’m good at and enjoy planning, discovering bargains, keeping us fed, and finding entertainment, so those tasks typically fell to me. We made a great travel team! It was also important that we have a solid, loving relationship and enjoy spending time with each other. That being said, our marriage is better and stronger because of our travels.

After we first asked ourselves that fateful question, “could we do that?”, the above were the things we asked ourselves and investigated before we committed to traveling full time. A few were unknowns that we discovered as we traveled, but most of the above were examined carefully before we finally decided we could manage living on the road. The one thing missing from above though? Finances – but that’s a subject for another post.

Let’s Travel Frugally

There’s something for everyone when it comes to traveling. There’s luxury travel, cheap travel, nomadic travel, cruises, travel tours, RV travel, family travel and on and on. Almost everyone can find something to fit their needs and budget when it comes to traveling, and it’s not difficult to find ways to save both before and during one’s journey.

Brett and I consider ourselves to be experienced frugal travelers; that is, we are out to get the biggest bang for our bucks all while staying within a budget that works for us and doesn’t send us spiraling into debt. Being frugal while on the road not only means being thrifty, but avoiding waste and managing our funds with care. Being thrifty while we travel is not always about finding the lowest price but searching out the best value and getting the most for our money. For example, when we were in Rome in 2018 we signed up for a small group tour and visited the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Roman Forum. The cost per person was above our usual price point, but after reading through what the tour offered compared to other lower-priced tours we decided the one we selected would give us a lot more for our money, or in other words, a better value. We ended up with a more in-depth look at these historic places (the tour guide was a local historian) and a group limited to 12 people, small enough that everyone could hear the guide and ask questions easily – no one was left “standing at the back” of a crowd . What we saw, learned, and discovered about the places we visited on the tour provided far more value than what we would have saved by booking a cheaper tour or trying to do it on our own.

To keep our travels affordable, we stayed in Airbnb rentals, shopped locally for food and cooked our own meals almost every day. We rode trains, buses, and took cheap flights, and we walked or used public transportation to get around in each location. Brett faithfully recorded our spending every day so we knew whether we over, under, or right on budget. We balanced stays in more expensive lodgings with less expensive ones in other places, and ended up just $38 over budget overall for our lodging.

In the next few months I want to explore what we’ve learned about traveling frugally, about different ways to save before and during travel, and how to get more for less while you’re on the road or visiting any location. I’ve already posted a bit about saving ahead of time for travel (located in the Saving category), but I want to learn more and better ways to travel while spending less and getting more, and I hope you’ll follow along.

Crunch Time Has Arrived

This is it! All the “fun” things for this year’s upcoming Big Adventure II have been done: itinerary drawn up, reservations made, deposits paid, flights booked, and clothes bought. We’ve sold all the “easy” stuff and built up our travel savings account.

But . . . we move out of our apartment in less than four months and the hard work of making that transition begins now.

Things have to be shipped for storage and to others:

  • A package to our son containing some of his personal papers that we had along with his baby book and other baby items we had kept.
  • A few Christmas items.
  • The few pieces of art we’re keeping.
  • All of our pottery collection.
  • Dishes Meiling and WenYu decided they wanted to keep.
  • A few Japanese items
  • Kitchen utensils and our stainless cutlery.
  • Two pillow covers, our antique Japanese banner, and our comforter.
  • YaYu’s remaining things.
  • The inflatable mattress.

So many boxes, so little time . . . .

Things have to be sold:

  • My All-Clad cookware
  • The big hibachi table
  • A sake jug lamp
  • Our dining table and chairs
  • The barbecue, market umbrella, fire pit, and patio furniture
  • Our TV/storage cabinet
  • The sofa & coffee table
  • Our mattress & bed frame
  • The car

After all that we have to hold a yard sale for everything else and what’s left after that will go to the thrift store.

We have to pack our suitcases, and make sure we’ve provisioned ourselves well enough for a long-term stay overseas.

We have to get ourselves up to our little rental on the north side for our final week on the island.

And then, on May 9, we’ll depart Kaua’i for Pennsylvania!

Crunch time has arrived and we have less than four months to accomplish everything. Wish us luck!

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.

The Other things We Carry Part 2: Electronics, Kitchen Needs, and Miscellaneous

Our Japanese coasters help make any rental feel a little more like home

Beyond health and safety, and personal items and toiletries. we carry several other things, most of them small, that make our stays easier and allow us to settle in and feel “at home.” Many of these things we carry along came about through trial and error, or were things that were missing from the homes we stayed in and were frustrating not to have available.

Electronics: We are fortunate these days that electronics are compact and lightweight, and only a few devices are necessary to cover many functions. Brett usually carries his iPad and my laptop in his backpack, so that only one of us has to empty things out when we go through airport security. The voltage adapter from our last adventure still works well, but we figured a back-up wouldn’t be a bad idea this time. Same for a the wireless chargers, dongles, etc. All of our devices are made by Apple, and one of the tasks we perform soon after arrival is figuring out where the nearest Apple store is (or if there even is one), or where we can get our Apple products repaired, if necessary!

  • Laptop (Laura)
  • Tablet w/keyboard (Brett)
  • 2 phones
  • 2 Kindles
  • 2 wireless chargers
  • 2 voltage adapters
  • 2 laptop to USB dongles
  • 2 electric toothbrushes & chargers
  • Digital fish scale (for weighing luggage)
  • Hearing aid batteries (Brett)
Seems like so much when they’re all together, but each piece is easy to tuck in somewhere on its own

Cooking utensils: The below items are ones that we found to be sometimes either lacking in rentals and that we missed having, or in poor condition and unusable (there was nothing worse than discovering a vegetable peeler that wouldn’t peel!), and as we went along we began to carry a few of our own things. Our little spiralizer will not be traveling with us this time for an obvious reason – no sense tempting fate again.

  • Kitchen shears
  • 2 vegetable peelers (regular & julienne)
  • 2 paring knives
  • bamboo spatula
  • small pair of tongs
  • silicone spatula
  • measuring spoons
  • small whisk
  • wine opener
  • cooking chopsticks
More items that are easy to tuck in among our clothes but make a long stay easier and more comfortable

Kitchen accessories: All of these items are lightweight and can easily tuck into our suitcases and carryons. The soba choko cups are immensely versatile, and are exactly a half cup, so can be used for measuring. Some rentals have a coffee maker; others may only have an electric kettle, and we discovered that coffee filters can be difficult to find at times. We’re taking along two coffee cups out of our former collection, the ones we would miss least if anything happened to them. The small melamine plates are wonderful for corralling items and keeping things organized in both the kitchen and bathroom, especially during long stays; they weigh next to nothing and take up next to no space. The microfiber clothes are indispensable for a variety of tasks in the kitchen and bathroom.

  • 4 soba choko cups
  • 8-ounce plastic pour-through coffee filter basket
  • Size 4 paper coffee filters
  • 2 coffee mugs
  • 2 8″ melamine plates
  • Microfiber cloths

Miscellaneous items: We never used our sewing kit during our last round of travel, but know if we hadn’t carried one we would have needed one. We also accumulated quite a collection of shopping bags during our earlier travels but this time we’re taking along just two large L.L. Bean canvas bags and our beloved Japanese bag for grocery and other shopping. One of the Bean bags will double as my under-the-seat carry-on when we fly. The coasters were ones we bought in Japan during our 2019 stay, and setting them out (along with using our own coffee mugs) helps us personalize our rentals and make it feel like home.

  • Small sewing kit
  • Cloth shopping bags
  • Japanese ceramic coasters

All of these items are again fairly small and can be tucked in amount our clothing, or into our carry-on bags. Put together they seem like a lot of added weight, but we have learned a long stay in one place is a very different beast than a shorter one. What we can go without or muddle through in a couple of weeks is not as much fun during three months. We also did not enjoy having to buy things along the way and we learned to carry things from one location to another.

By the way, we carried more than I’ve listed in Parts 1 and 2 when we carried Christmas gifts back to the mainland during previous travels, so we know we can make all of these things fit and still not be overweight. We did it before and we can do it again!

Putting the Travel Wardrobe Back Together, Part I (Cool/Cold Weather)

My cool/cold weather coats and tops have been waiting patiently to be useful again.

One of the great things I have loved about our apartment is the second closet in the bedroom where Brett and I have been able to store our cold weather travel clothing. We’ve kept a light burning in the closet 24/7 since we been here – the small amount of heat retards the growth of mildew – and keep the doors open during the day so that fresh air can circulate.

We still had a bit of a problem last summer with mold growing on some shoes, and Brett had to toss the pair of boots he traveled with last time. Only a small amount of mold grew on one pair of my shoes, and it was easily brushed off and hasn’t returned. The mold did cause some musty odors to arise however and almost everything will have to be washed probably more than once or dried cleaned to remove any lingering odors.

I have only needed to add very few things for our upcoming round of travel. I’ve already bought leggings and new sneakers, and will get new Perfect Fit pants and denim leggings (the old ones were too big) at the beginning of next year. I plan to buy a turtleneck tunic from J Jill and a pair of Duckfeet Chelsea boots, but that’s all that’s needed to update. I will need a hat for fall in Scotland and winter in Japan, but plan to find something stylish while we’re in Edinburgh.

My current packing list is below, although probably a couple of things may change before we depart. It seems like a lot – it is a lot! – but it’s perfect for full-time travel and long stays. I never got tired of any of it last time around because I had enough that I wasn’t wearing the same four or five outfits over and over and over again. More importantly, having all of this kept me from buying anything else during our travels except for the black gloves (Italy), the pashmina and cashmere scarves (India and Scotland), and the beautiful long wool jacket in India. Not counting accessories (gloves, scarves, shoes) and pajamas my cold weather wardrobe consists of 35 pieces.

Here’s what’s going into the suitcase:

  • Plum quilted car coat
  • Black rain jacket
  • Short black lightweight (but very warm) quilted jacket
  • Short lime green lightweight (but very warm) quilted vest
  • Knit denim wrap jacket
  • Black leather gloves
  • 3 scarves (1 bamboo fiber, 1 pashmina, 1 cashmere)
  • 9 tops/tunics in black or shades of indigo (includes knits, sweatshirts, and a chambray tunic)
  • 8 pairs of leggings: 4 black, 3 charcoal gray, and 1 dark olive (half are back-ups)
  • 2 pairs Perfect Fit Pants, 1 black and 1 dark olive
  • 1 pair denim leggings
  • 2 sweaters (long black cardigan, grey turtleneck)
  • Black boucle knit sweater poncho
  • 6 long-sleeve knit tops for layering and seasonal transition (includes the new turtleneck tunic)
  • Long Indian wool jacket (my dress-up outfit LOL)
  • 2 pair cold weather pajamas
  • 5 pairs shoes: 2 pair short boots, black Chelsea & blue suede; red slip-on walking shoes; 2 pair slip on sneakers (black & navy)
  • 1 pair Italian wool clogs (house slippers)

Will this all fit into my suitcase and leave room for warm weather clothing? Yes!

Because we are leaving in spring, all of the coats and jackets will be vacuumed sealed in space bags and go into the bottom of the suitcase. Most of the other pieces can be rolled and take up very little space. Space is also increased with one outfit worn on travel days, and a pair of pajamas and another outfit in my carryon (more so in cold weather than hot). Also, Brett carries less clothes than I do, and he always puts a few of my things into his suitcase.

The weight of everything will be another matter, but between the two of us we somehow always managed to keep our luggage below the necessary weight limits and I am confident we will manage once again. We have vowed though not to use discount airlines if at all possible because of their near-impossible weight limits.