Taking Another Look At PLan B

With a new Covid variant, named Omicron, making its name known while concurrently remaining mysterious, Brett and I figured this might be a good time to take another look at our Plan B, or at least come up with a couple more Plan Bs, just in case.

Much remains unknown about the Omicron variant, but scientists are working hard at figuring it out, looking for patterns, how infectious it is, and for other factors. The variant’s numerous mutations are the major cause for concern, and it’s unknown whether these make the Omicron variant more transmissible. It’s unknown whether this new variant will be as deadly as previous variants, such as Delta, and resistant to the antibodies produced by previous vaccines and boosters as well. And, because it is spreading around the world, it’s unknown at this time how the variant might affect cross-border travel long term. The current travel bans in place offer only short-term solutions, but may slow things up enough to give scientists and doctors time to get a better handle on what this variant brings to the ongoing COVID pandemic and what needs to be done to fight it.

We’ve always had a Plan B whenever we make travel plans. Plan B for our upcoming travels was to buy a car and drive around the U.S. for a while staying in Airbnbs at each destination. However, this option no longer seems as fun or exciting as it once did, especially as we have been looking forward to being outside of the U.S. for a while. The plan could be adjusted in a myriad of ways; for example, we could rent a car for a few months versus buying, and then travel internationally when it’s viable again, but mostly it just doesn’t interest us much any more and would also require a lot of work to pin down the logistics.

A new Plan B is taking shape though. This one has us moving to our settle-down location, renting an apartment, and changing future travel plans from full-time to occasional. We learned a lot of valuable lessons on relocation during our abrupt move to Kaua’i in 2020, and there were (expensive) mistakes made then that we know how to avoid this time. We’re not particularly crazy about this idea either, but it would be the most practical.

Our feeling right now is that we’re going be able to travel as planned next May. We’ve been vaccinated and boostered, and even if the Omicron variant requires a new vaccine, pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.) have said they can move into rapid development and roll out new ones in a short amount of time as much of the research needed in creating a new vaccine is already done. Most are already working on new vaccines/boosters for this variant. A bigger fear for us is getting started on our travels and then a destination we’re booked into will shut down or the border will be closed (we can deal with quarantines and mask mandates). We’ve always been very flexible and able to roll with the punches, but something like this happening would affect us financially, and not in a good way.

We’ve decided that now is not a time to be fearful, but to think positively, and have faith in science and in our plans for the future. No matter what happens, we will still be leaving Kaua’i in May of next year. There are many unknowns right now, and we’re preparing ourselves for the possibility that changes may be required but keeping positive thoughts for the future.

Finding Your Way On Kaua’i

(Updated from a post originally published in November, 2017.)

That’s the St. Regis Hotel in the upper left of the picture, and Hanalei Beach in front. There’s no way to directly walk from one to the other.

Every year on Thanksgiving Brett and I watch The Descendants, starring George Clooney. It’s a wonderful film, and part of it is set on Kaua’i. Every year though we roll our eyes and sigh when Clooney and his movie family climb into a jeep with a cousin at the airport and head north, and yet somehow end up overlooking the ocean on the south shore at Kipu Kai Ranch, a geographically impossible feat. Or, when he and family walk from Hanalei beach to their hotel in Princeville along Anini Beach, making it look like there’s a seamless beach the entire way. Nope. The hotel sits perched on the top of a bluff to the east of Hanalei, and you’d have to cross a golf course, scramble down a wooded cliff and cross the Hanalei River at the mouth before arriving at Hanalei Beach. And, Anini Beach is to the east of Princeville and the hotel, Hanalei Beach to the west. There are other scenes where locations are out of place, but we chalk it all up to “Hollywood magic.”

George Clooney and family look out over the south shore of Kaua’i, after heading north from Lihue and passing through Kapaa on the east side.

Back in November of 2017 I was alerted to an article in the New York Times: 36 Hours in Kauai, Hawaii (subscription required – sorry). The article listed quite a lot of interesting places to see, shop and/or dine at on the island, but I was completely worn out by the time I finished reading just the first day! The author has visitors starting their 36 hours at the Kaua’i museum in Lihue, on the east side of the island, at 3:00 p.m (right after arriving from a long flight and picking up a car), then driving out to Hanapepe on the south side to order a custom aloha shirt at 4:30. We live between Lawai and Koloa, on the south side of Kaua’i, and the drive from here to Hanapepe with no traffic takes around 15-20 minutes. Add in the time it takes to get from Lihue to Lawai, and that’s another 20 minutes. To get to Hanapepe by 4:30 when there’s no traffic, a visitor is going to have to leave the museum after only 15-20 minutes (after paying admission to the museum at $15 per person). While the distance from Lihue to Hanapepe might not look all that long on a map (18 miles), the reality is any drive at that time of the afternoon will involve mixing with the pau hana (“quitting time”) crowd heading home to the south and west sides, and that seemingly short drive can take up to or over an hour, especially on a Friday.

Anyway, if someone has somehow managed the feat of both visiting the museum and making it out to Hanapepe on time, the suggestion is to then drive all the way back to the Kilohana Plantation in Puhi to participate in a rum tasting at the Koloa Rum Company at 5:30. Oh wait – the last tasting of the day is at 5:00 p.m. However, the next stop on the itinerary is the evening luau next door at Gaylord’s restaurant (reservations required). Following the luau, readers then are directed to drive all the way back past Hanapepe and through Waimea (in complete darkness) to spend the night at the Waimea Beach Cottages.

The proposed schedule for the first day is exhausting and impossible, even more so if one decides to follow a recommendation to take in some of the Friday evening Hanapepe Art Night (which doesn’t start until 5:00 p.m.) before heading back to Puhi. For someone from the mainland the amount of driving might not seem all that excessive, but for those of us who live here it’s positively crazy and makes no sense whatsoever.

The next two days’ schedules are equally frenetic, and involve an insane amount of driving back and forth from one side of the island to another. The lodging recommendations are bizarre considering how long it can take to get around the island (most of the highway is only two lanes). If I remember correctly, one suggestion on the second day is driving from the north shore all the way down to Old Koloa town for dinner and then back up to Princeville to spend the night. Again, insanity! Needless to say, it’s more than extremely likely that any visitor trying to follow even some of this article’s schedule will encounter the reality of Kaua’i traffic fairly quickly along the way causing everything to fall apart in a very short time.

Most of all though, the 36-hour schedule in the Times misses the whole point of visiting Kaua’i. The best reason to come here is not to try to see and do as much as possible and fill every single moment, including negotiating Kauai’s traffic, but to relax, most especially if all someone has is 36 hours to spend with a long flight on either end. Life moves slower on Kaua’i, and the best and most authentic experience of all is to embrace the slower place. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, sit on the beach for the day or go for a hike, take a nap, maybe pick a place or two to visit, go out for a wonderful dinner or attend a luau, but don’t try to squeeze in everything.

Visitors are always welcome on Kaua’i, and there are lots of things to see and do here. But finding one’s way on Kaua’i requires a change in how one experiences time and place. Geography is more than just places on a map, or distances between towns, or times posted on Google Maps. It’s more than pretty scenes in a film. The geography of a place is about how and where people live, and how they use the mountains, beaches, towns, roads and the surrounding environments. It’s about how local residents spend their time, and what they value about where they live. Even a small amount of knowledge about these things can make a visit to Kaua’i, to anywhere, more enriching.

Leaving the U.S. (for a While): Positives & Negatives

Photo credit: Rob Wicks/Unsplash

When we depart for France in May of next year, we have no plans to return to the United States for at least a couple of years, and may be outside the U.S. for as long as four or five years, depending on what’s going on with our family, how we feel, and if we are continuing to enjoy full-time travel. It sounds very exciting, but we are at the beginning stages of figuring out the positives and negatives of leaving the U.S. for a long time without a permanent overseas address. We will maintain an address in Hawaii for tax and other purposes, but otherwise will have nothing left to tie us down here.

There are both positives and negatives to being full-time nomads. I’ll start by getting the negatives (so far) out of the way first:

  • We will not see our family for long stretches. While we plan to visit Japan and see our son and his family at least once a year, spending time with the girls is going to be a bit more difficult. Meiling and YaYu are able to afford to travel and have said they will try to visit us once a year in one of our locations, but it will be much harder, if not impossible, for YaYu, who will be attending grad school. We’re going to set aside a little each month so if necessary we can help with the girls’ transportation costs if they’re able and want to come and see us overseas, especially YaYu (maybe a good reason to get that Delta card and miles?).
  • Our driver’s licenses will expire during our travels. This was one of the main things that was going to keep us on Kaua’i until the end of 2022 – we just could not imagine existing without a driver’s license. Without licenses we would not be able to rent a car overseas for short road trips. However, we finally realized we lived successfully for months on end while we were traveling before without a car and were fine, and that we will be okay again with or without driver’s licenses. Will we want licenses again when we eventually return to the U.S.? After a lot of discussion the best answer we can come up with is maybe. Another problem: without having license (or a car) when we return, how would we go about getting a license again if we do want one? That has turned out to be pretty easy to overcome though. We can sign up for a day or two of practice with a driving school, then use one of their cars and insurance to take the driving test, if necessary. People do it all the time.
  • We’re still responsible for paying U.S. taxes no matter where we go. All I can say is thank goodness for online tax preparation. Brett took care of our taxes while we were on the road before and he can do it again. They were very simple while we were traveling.
  • We will be unable to vote, or at the least it will be very difficult. As two people who have always voted, in every election, this has the potential to be a big negative for us, but we’re also thinking with everything going on right now it might be time for us to be able to observe things from a distance. We’re already looking foward to being outside of the U.S. for next year’s midterm elections.

There are positives to being outside of the U.S. for a while, for us anyway:

  • We can get necessary dental work done for less overseas. We both have major dental procedures coming up that would cost us a small fortune in the U.S. At first, the thought of having to have dental work done overseas was a huge negative, but the more we’ve learned it’s turned into a positive. There are locations overseas where we can get high quality dental work done for far less than it costs in the U.S., and our dental insurance will still cover some of it. So, the big question has become, “Where should we spend some time and see the dentist? Spain? Prague? Malta?” Medical care, if necessary, will also be less expensive.
  • We will be living car free. Brett and I have dreamed about living without a car for a long, long time, but we will have a big opportunity to put it into practice and develop strategies to see if living completely car free actually works for us. We figure if we were able to live without a car in the rural Cotswolds for three months, we can adapt the skills we used then to living car free almost anywhere, although urban settings will obviously be the easiest. We know we may still end up wanting a car once back in the U.S. – that will depend on where we eventually decide to settle – but we may learn we can live without one for good.
  • We will continue to see, explore, and learn new things about the bigger world. It’s not that we wouldn’t or couldn’t learn new things if we were staying in the U.S., and it felt comfortable coming back to the U.S. after being outside of it for several months, but this time around we are looking forward to being “uncomfortable” a bit longer and having to see and adapt to things with different eyes, not only to find what we need to get things done but to understand how others think and see the world. We enjoy learning more about the rhythms and culture of each place we visit and hope longer stays in each place will open our eyes and minds even more.
  • We’ll be putting some distance between ourselves and the current negativity and political polarization in the U.S. This, we feel, will be a very good thing. Sometimes we honestly can’t believe or get over some of the things happening these days, and the anger – the rage – and violence we read about in the news. Although we are still doing well in spite of the current inflation and other changes, there are times when we feel like we can’t recognize our country, while at the same time recognizing the current situation seems the logical end to so many things that happened in the past. We are looking forward to looking at our country from a distance for a while.

Both the pros and cons of living outside of the U.S. are of course highly personal, and particular to our situation. With a permanent overseas residence some of these things would not be an issue or occur, but there would of course be other issues popping up that we’ll be avoiding because we’re nomads. We’re also sure other issues are going to pop up that we haven’t even considered yet. But that is one of the things we found we loved about being nomads before: facing new situations, sometimes difficult ones, and finding strengths we didn’t know we had as well as challenging ourselves to figure things out, all the while learning more about not only ourselves but others as well.

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!

The Other Things We Pack Part 1: Health, Safety, and Personal Items/Toiletries

Although he has nothing to do with health or safety, Little Guy will of course be traveling along with me again for good fortune, but this time he’ll have a companion: Big Brother, who’s older and slightly heavier than Little Guy. I’ve had BB since 1982, and both Inu Hariko came from the same shop in Tokyo.

Our travel luggage consists of two large rolling duffel bags, two rolling hard-sided carry-on bags, a backpack for Brett, and a large canvas tote for me. Between all of it, we are able to (and have to) pack all the things we need for clothing ourselves year-round, and ensuring a comfortable stay no matter where we go.

I’ve divided the non-clothing items we carry into two parts because there are lots of “other things” we carry. Almost all are small but necessary, to us anyway. Some items make our stays more comfortable and organized, others mean we don’t have to purchase something new at our destination, and others are things to get us started until we can find or replenish with local items and goods. Some miscellaneous items go along to make our temporary lodgings feel a little more like “home.”

All of these “other” things can be tucked into our suitcases or carry-ons without taking up much room. We try whenever possible to choose things we can share (like shampoo or vitamins, for example) rather than having one product for Brett, another for me. We will start out with a few big containers purchased at Costco (vitamins; pain relief), but those will eventually get swapped out for smaller packages that we purchase along the way. Those big bottles from Costco are very cost efficient, but some of the most difficult things to pack and we’re always glad when they run out.

This week’s post covers items we are packing for health and safety, and our personal toiletries:

Health & safety: Last go-around we carried way, way too many of some of these items, and not enough of others. For some reason, for example, we didn’t take any cold relief medicine, and we found it was quite difficult to find overseas when we needed it. We’ve also learned that we don’t need to carry much to get started because most things can be found locally (cold relief and antacids being the exception).

  • Prescription medications
  • Hydrocortisone cream; Lotrimin (for bug bites and other itchy things)
  • Anti-bacterial cream (i.e. Neosporin)
  • Bandaids; Leukotape (for cuts and blisters)
  • OTC products (antacids, pain relief, cold medication, anti-diarrheal, motion sickness)
  • Vitamins

Personal items/toiletries: We try to keep these as minimal as possible to start out, and we buy and replace as needed wherever we are. Bars of solid shampoo and conditioner work great and are big space savers and last longer than travel sizes of shampoo and conditioner. Products that come in tubes are preferred to other types of containers as they are the easiest to pack and cut down on waste. We found American-style washcloths difficult to locate when we were in Europe last time and swore to never travel again without our own supply. There’s also no makeup on the list as I no longer wear any other than lipstick so it’s one less thing for me to pack.

  • Mouthwash/toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Solid shampoo and conditioner bars
  • Curl cream (Laura)
  • Body lotion (Laura)
  • Facial moisturizer with sunscreen/night cream (Laura)
  • Shaving cream (Brett)
  • Razors (Henry’s + blades for Brett; disposables for me)
  • Washcloths
  • Manicure kit
  • Extra pairs of glasses

The above lists are fairly basic, but we’re mostly only bringing enough to get us started, and with only a few items travel sized, things like the mouthwash and toothpaste that we can later purchase at our destinations. We aim to shop local whenever possible.

Next week I’ll list the electronics we’re bringing, and some other items we started out not carrying but learned along the way were a good idea to have, just in case.

Putting the Travel Wardrobe Back Together, Part II (Warm/Hot Weather)

My warm weather clothing – several items in the photo will not be going with me and have already been removed and sent to the thrift store.

Writing down everything I want to pack has shown me how much I am trying to carry along this time. We plan to be out of the U.S. for a long time, a couple of years at least, and while we have a travel budget figured out, we hope to avoid having to add clothing into that, for a while at least. It’s been very helpful to have to think more carefully about my clothing, and I have already culled some items that I know won’t get worn much and would just be taking up room in my suitcase.

It all still seems like so much, but I have a genuine ability to get sick of clothes quickly if I have a limited number of items to wear over and over and over again. I still clearly remember wanting to build a bonfire for my maternity clothes after our son was born because I was so sick of all of them after just six months! And when I read about people traveling for a year and carrying all their things in a backpack my skin crawls. That’s just not me. So, I want to start out with a good variety and see how it goes this time.

Only four new clothing items on my warm weather list have been purchased specifically for this trip : the black cropped Perfect Fit pants, the fisherman sandals, the long skirt, and the jeans jacket that I found on eBay. Three of the lightweight tops, one of the dresses, and the two pairs of cropped jeans were bought last year to wear here, but everything else traveled along with me last time:

  • 8 lightweight cotton and linen tops (4 sleeveless, 2 short sleeve, 2 three-quarter length sleeves)
  • 2 sleeveless linen dresses
  • 1 lightweight black sweater
  • 2 pair cropped stretch jeans
  • 2 pair cropped Perfect Fit pants (1 black, 1 dark olive)
  • 1 pair cropped white linen pants
  • 1 long lightweight cotton skirt (grey, black, and white print)
  • 1 jeans jacket
  • 3 pairs lightweight cotton pajamas
  • 2 pair leather sandals (silver Mephisto, black fisherman)

Once again, will all this fit in my suitcase along with my cold weather things? I think so. I have gotten rid of several things I packed before because they honestly didn’t “spark joy” any more or had became too big. Between losing those items and not buying too much more in between, everything should fit into my suitcase, with a few items going into Brett’s or my carry-on. The jeans jacket will be worn on the airplane. As I’ve said in the past, Brett could fit a grand piano into a carry-on bag if necessary, so I am confident all of the clothing I plan to take will make it this time. I will be using the KonMarie folding method along with rolling most of my clothing items which will also reduce the amount of space things take up. I have downsized the number of bulky items that I carried last time which will also help, and I will be using space bags to further decrease the amount of space some items could use up.

I have told myself though this still may all prove to be too much. If the amount is unpackable before we leave Kaua’i, then I will go through everything again and get rid of a few more things. Fingers are crossed though.

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.

Healthcare On the Road

photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon/unsplash

When Brett and I begin traveling next May, we will leave the U.S. with no concrete plans to return. It’s not that we won’t return, but there are no calendar dates are set and no visits planned, at least for the first couple of years.

A big consequence of this is that we won’t be in the U.S. for regular doctor visits and prescriptions refills, or to have dental work taken care of. We are doing careful planning to make sure we can get prescriptions refilled as necessary, see a dentist at least once a year, and get our vision checked regularly as well.

As it is illegal to ship prescription medication into most other countries, we will begin our journey with a six-month supply of our medications. Our regular prescriptions are for 90 days, and we can get a one-time 90-day “emergency supply” as well to carry along with us. But what do we do when that runs out?

We have a few arrows in our quivers when it comes to prescription medication. First, as military retirees we can visit any U.S. military hospital in the world and get a prescription filled, so we will carry written prescriptions from our doctor with us that will get us through the first year as well as a letter explaining the reason we take the medication. When those supplies run out we will have to have a doctor’s visit at a military hospital or in the country we’re in to get a new prescription. Our military health insurance follows us world-wide so those costs can be reimbursed, but a visit to a physician overseas is not the wallet-emptying expense it is in the U.S. For example, we will need to visit a GP when we’re in the UK because it is against the law in there for a pharmacy to fill any prescription that’s not written by a British physician. The cost for the visit to see a GP at a same-day clinic is around $55, and we can get a check up as well as our prescription. The cost for a GP visit is even less in other countries such as France or Italy.

photo credit: Yusef Belek/unsplash

Dental care is another area where we’re doing some research so we know our options before departing. We have been reading a lot about “dental tourism,” or places where excellent dental treatment is available for a fraction of what it costs in the U.S. Two noted areas for quality dental work in Europe are Spain and the island nation of Malta. Having a crown procedure in Spain, for example, is around $500, the same cost as it is in the U.S. if you have good insurance. Thankfully, our dental insurance also travels with us throughout the world, but it’s good to know that if we need any sort of major procedure done we can get it done overseas without breaking the bank, and could even get a side visit to Spain or Malta! Cost comparisons for dental procedures overseas can be found online. Japan also offers good dental care at a lower cost than the U.S. although not as low as in Europe.

Vision care is currently the big unknown. For the past few years I’ve needed a new lens prescription almost every year; it’s been every other year for Brett. Since we have no idea of what an exam and new glasses might cost overseas, we plan to set up a separate vision savings account that will be dedicated to these potential costs, and hope that we estimate too high. I will be getting new glasses next month, and Brett will get new glasses next spring right before we depart, so hopefully this is something we won’t need to worry about for a while. I wouldn’t mind getting new glasses in Japan though – they honestly have the most stylish frames I’ve ever seen.

We’re doing our homework on what’s available where, how much it costs, and how we can keep up with our prescription, but know there are still going to be unknowns. We are extremely fortunate to have good health insurance to take along with us, and several options for care no matter where we are in the world, but the goal as always is to be proactive about staying healthy so that we can enjoy our time as much as possible as we travel.

Itinerary Changes (or Adventures With Airbnb)

A future view

Brett and I had created what we thought was a perfect itinerary for most of the first year of our upcoming travels: three months in Strasbourg, eight weeks in Oxford followed by eight weeks in Bath. From there we’d head back to London to fly to Tokyo for a 90-day stay.

We found a wonderful, affordable apartment in Strasbourg, submitted our request and were quickly approved. We found another great, affordable flat in Oxford, submitted our request and were quickly approved.

And then we started looking in Bath and things didn’t go so well.

First, rentals in Bath are expensive. Very expensive. Most of what we found for our dates was over our monthly lodging budget, but we eventually found a lovely apartment that we could afford and that had the amenities we were looking for. The reviews for the place were amazing, and the dates we wanted for next year were available, so we submitted our request. Airbnb hosts are required to respond within 24 hours, and the next day we received a denial with a short note saying they would have to check with the owners to see whether they would agree to a long-term stay (even though it clearly stated in the amenities that long-term stays of over 28 days are allowed). Hmmm. That was a week ago and we have heard nothing back from the owners or otherwise.

Two days after the denial, we submitted a second request for another place. It was the same price, the dates were available, etc. but we were quickly denied with a somewhat curt note from the owner saying she “really doesn’t like to do long-term stays” even though in amenities it had once again stated that the lodging was suitable for stays of over 28 days. Although the calendar was open for our dates, she wrote “I have no idea what I want to do next year.”

We were confused. Were we applying too early? Was it something we said? Both of our hosts in Strasbourg and Oxford said they had enjoyed our introduction and were looking forward to meeting us. We’ve never been rejected before and these two shook us.

Brett and I decided that while we may have wanted to go to Bath, maybe Bath didn’t want us. So, we talked some more and eventually decided to look for a place in Derbyshire. We could save enough staying there that we could afford a car rental for a month and be able to see more of northern England. Some of my ancestors come from Derbyshire, but others come from near the Lake District (Barrow-in-Furness), and I have wanted to visit those places.

The cottage outside of Stoke-on-Trent

We found a delightful, affordable cottage to rent outside of Stoke-on-Trent, wrote to the owner, and received a lovely note, but also another denial! This time however it wasn’t us – she was in the process of selling the cottage! The owner/host assured us that the new owners intended to keep it as an Airbnb, but from past experience we’ve learned that there’s a more than better chance that any new owner will be raising the rates. So, we started over again and looked at other rentals in the area, but didn’t see anything that either interested us or fit our needs or budget.

Feeling very discouraged, we had a long discussion about where else we might go after Oxford. We looked over a map of England, checked out a few places, but either couldn’t imagine an eight-week stay in some or couldn’t find lodging that fit our budget or had the amenities we wanted (or we honestly didn’t like the location or the look of some of the rentals).

And then Edinburgh surprisingly came up. We had loved our short visit there in 2019, and only scratched the surface of all there was to see and do, but we had pushed a return visit down the list to “later.” We started looking at Airbnb rentals in the city and were surprised to find several in Old Town that not only had everything we were looking for but at prices that easily fit our budget. Pictures were poured over, reviews were read, prices and locations were compared, and last night we crossed our fingers and sent off another request.

We heard back in less than 10 minutes that we had been accepted! We’re going back to Edinburgh!

We have reserved a beautiful two-bedroom apartment just off the Royal Mile, about halfway between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Castle. We’re close to the train station, and know from our earlier visit how easy it is to get around the city from where we’ll be – it’s a superb location. The apartment has every amenity we require and then some (it even has a window seat overlooking the cobbled street below), and both the apartment and the host received five-star reviews. Maybe best of all is that we’ll be paying nearly $1500 -$1800 less than what a rental would have cost in Bath.

Edinburgh may not have been the destination we had originally planned, but we are surprised to be feeling even more excited about a return to Scotland than we were about Bath or Derbyshire. Our plans have changed, but somehow things turned out better than we expected.

Moving Into the Fast Lane

Packing again is going to happen sooner than originally planned!

BIG changes have been made and things are happening! We now have only 31 weeks and four days until we depart Kaua’i!

We had planned to leave in December of next year and fly to Japan, but will now leave our island home in early May when we fly to YaYu’s graduation. We’ll be in Pennsylvania for six days helping YaYu move and watching her graduate, but instead of returning to Kaua’i at the end of our visit we’ll instead be departing for a nearly three month stay in Strasbourg, France. After that we’ll head to the UK, staying eight weeks in Oxford followed by another eight weeks in Bath before flying to Tokyo for a 90-day stay and spending Christmas with family there.

Almost two weeks ago Brett and I sat down and crunched the numbers and realized it made little sense for us to return to Kaua’i, financially and otherwise, and that our savings at that point would be more than adequate for us to begin traveling again in May. By departing for Europe from the east coast we will save the cost of returning to Kaua’i and be able to put those savings toward our flight to France. And, instead of paying rent here as we watched our possessions continue to slowly dwindle we could instead be living in France and England. We spent some more time working up a budget and then pulled the trigger.

We have reserved and paid for a charming Airbnb rental in the Petit France neighborhood of Strasbourg. Careful thought was given to whether we should rent again from our former host, but we decided for the length of time there we wanted something a bit larger this visit. The apartment is in a wonderful location, perfect for walking the city and catching the tram, and has everything we look for in a rental except a washing machine. However, we used a laundromat when we were in Strasbourg before without a problem, and know we can do it again. The host gave a nearly 50% discount because of the length of our stay making the rental very affordable.

We are still working out our departure timeline, but for now plans are to move out of our apartment at the end of April, and stay at one of the beach cottages at Barking Sands for our final week on Kaua’i. We’ll hold a garage sale mid-April, and list the furniture and car then as well (we’ll rent a car as soon as it sells). A couple of boxes will be mailed to WenYu for storage but hopefully everything else will be gone before we depart.

Our downsizing efforts will speed up again after the first of the year, but for now we’re focusing on the girls’ visit at Christmas and pulling things together for that. We feel a real sense of excitement though that plans have been speeded up and that we’ve made our first commitment. We have dreamed of returning to Strasbourg ever since we left in 2018, and nearly three and a half years later that dream is finally going to come true, and sooner than we imagined.