Answering the question from readers, "Where should I travel?" Our top 13! Link to our world travel map...

The Treasury in Petra, Jordan after a very long, hot walk. Click here for one of two posts.  This sight made us gasp with our hearts pounding wildly, less from the walk, more from sheer joy!
Frequently, we receive email inquiries from our readers asking for suggestions for the best places to visit in the world based on what we've seen to date. 

That's a tough question to answer.  Its almost as complex as asking a person what they like to read, to eat and what they prefer for recreation.  Its all a matter of personal preference.

Zef, our houseman, held this monstrous insect Tom had fished out of the pool with the net.  Not only did living in Marloth Park include daily visits from big wildlife but also the smaller world of many insect such as this enormous rhino beetle.  For more details, please click here for one of our three months of posts.
Keeping in mind that our primary interests (although we've enjoyed many other aspects in the world which we'll also include here) revolve around observing wildlife, vegetation and naturally created scenery which limits more than half of the popular "places to see" in the world.

With our goal to visit every continent, choosing countries/regions within that continent we strive on making decisions befitting our personal interests.  To date, we visited 49 countries as shown in our map on Travelers Point.  Please click here to see our map.

A container freighter ahead of us in line to enter the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks as we entered the Panama Canal.  See here for one of the posts.
When reviewing our map its clear to see how we've yet to visit most of Asia (we'll be visiting a few Asian countries soon), South America (upcoming in 2017) and Antarctica, upcoming in 2017 or 2018 (cruises yet to be posted).

Sure, we've found many big cities interesting, romantic and exciting: Paris, London, Sydney, Vancouver, Barcelona, Dubai, Venice, Marrakesh, Cairo, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Reykjavik, Cork (Ireland) and on and on...too many to list here.

This female lion as all animals in the wild in the Masai Mara, Kenya, is constantly on the lookout for the next meal to feed her cubs.  It was a memorable, life changing experience we'll always treasure.  See here for more details.
Our readers continue to ask for our favorites and for many of our regular readers you may already be familiar with our preferences. For our less frequent visitors, here are a few suggestions that not only include remote areas of particular interest but also cities/areas we found especially exciting:

1. Marloth Park, South Africa:  Abundant wildlife, friendly people, plenty to see and do, reasonably priced
2. Panama Canal cruise:  Making a transit through the canal is quite an experience.  The cruises include many stops to other interesting countries.
3.  Masai Mara, Kenya:  Photo safari one of the top experiences in our lives; pricey.
4.  Petra, Jordan: Visit the Treasury, one of the most amazing man made structures in the world, breathtaking.  Getting there can be pricey.
5.  The Middle East cruise:  (May not be safe at this time).  Traveling through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal (loved this) and the Gulf of Aden proved to be our most adventurous cruise to date.
After we traveled through the Suez Canal, we entered the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden, requiring "pirate drills" and special forces onboard with the "packages" including armory to protect the ship and passengers.  Very exciting.  See the post here.
6.  Venice, Italy:  Amazing, must-see for those who don't mind "tourist" attractions with huge crowds, long queues, and bumping elbows. 
7.  Mykonos, Greece:  (Sardinia is reputed to be even more exquisite). Mykonos has gorgeous scenery, interesting shopping, great restaurants with many delightful hilly walks.  Expensive.
8. Placencia, Belize (a peninsula):  Our first stay outside the US with a bad start for during the first week in a less desirable house - moved to fabulous property - remote, had an exquisite stay; great people, reasonably priced.  Quiet life with a week or two of sites to see. There are many islands in Belize such as Ambergris Caye that tourists often choose over Placencia.  We prefer more remote locations.  Not recommended for those with precarious health issues when its a rough four hour drive or an infrequent flight on a small plane at a local airport to a hospital in Belize City (city is rough and best to avoid for extended periods). 
As our ship made its way to the port of Venice, our mouths were agape in surprise a the feast before our eyes.  Click here for one of two posts.
9.  Sydney, Australia:  One of the most beautiful cities in the world; expensive, good local transportation, fabulous shopping, hotels and restaurants, lots to see, far to travel from many parts of the world.
10.  New Zealand:  This country has so much to offer one could easily stay busy and in awe for many months touring both the North and South Islands, especially if you enjoy road trips.  For us, staying close to New Plymouth and the alpaca farm has totally fulfilled us, although we plan to do some touring in the near future.  Reasonably priced.

The Harbour Bridge.  Wow!  It was extraordinary.  We look forward to returning to Sydney in 2017 for 40 days to fill a gap in our schedule.  For the link to this post, please click here.
11.  Dubrovnik, Croatia:  The must-see walled city may not require a long stay but a few days to a week could be highly gratifying.  Pricey.
12.  The countryside in France and the UK:  We've visited many small villages but will someday return for a more comprehensive tour. Expensive.
13.  Kauai, Hawaii:  Extraordinary island offering the "naturalist" a wide array of sightseeing opportunities, scenery and unique wildlife.  Expensive.

The walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.  For more photos of this breathtaking historic city, please click here.
We could go on and on.  We've provided a few links in the caption of today's photos for our visits to these special places. If you'd like to see more photos, please search on the right side of our daily homepage and you'll find a 'SEARCH" box directly below the listed archive dates (for more past posts). 

If you'll type in the name of any of the above cities/countries/locations, you'll find a list of every post in which we've visited these areas.  If you have difficulty with this, please send an email and we'll be happy to assist in finding the appropriate posts containing many photos.

Not wanted to awaken her/him, I kept my distance although I'd have loved to see more of the rarely seen Hawaiian Monk Sea at the beach at the Napali Coast, Kauai.  Click here for more details.
Actually, it would take writing a comprehensive travel book to describe the details of these experiences and more.  Instead of writing a tedious time consuming book, we've chosen to share  our story each day. 

For now, our goal is to assist our inquiring readers on areas they may find suitable for their needs and desires. We hope today's story helps for those who are considering traveling if possessing some criteria similar to ours.

Have an interesting day whatever you choose to do!

Photo from one year ago today, February 12, 2015:

A final view of Hanalei Bay before we exited an open house in Kauai.  For photos of the house we toured, please click here.

An unusual event in the paddock!! Check out these photos! Correction from yesterday's insurance post...

Is that a smile on the face of the "stuck" alpaca? 
Correction from yesterday's post:  The bereavement coverage in our policy with Healthcare International does include coverage for both of us to return to the US (or your home country) in the event of the death of an immediate family member.  I had stated based on my incorrect assumption it would only include the actual relative of the deceased.  However, the policy provides for both of us to return to the US for the NZ $7502, US $5000, benefit.  Any excess beyond that amount would be our responsibility.  Thanks to the staff at Healthcare International for reading our post and informing us of this correction.

Now, on to yesterday afternoon's adventure in the paddock...Its practical to state that I spend several hours each day observing the alpacas.  With two patio chairs with foot rests on the veranda and the often warm sun its easy to become lost in watching the adorable antics of both the female adults and the adorable youngsters.

Growing so quickly its becoming more difficult each day to decipher the difference between the one year old cria and those born shortly before we arrived.  Those born since our arrival over three weeks ago are getting tall seeming to nurse less and graze more.

The larger alpaca was getting annoyed with the situation and was making lots of noise. The others, always concerned for one another, looked on with concern over the tricky situation.  The tan colored baby of the stuck mom approached wondering "What the heck?"
Males are kept in a separate paddock. We'll soon be posting our amazing video of the mating process with is orchestrated by Trish and Neil when they decide the time is right.  More on that later!

Late yesterday afternoon with the sliding doors wide open, I heard the sound of an alpaca cry.  Grabbing the camera on my way out the door I was shocked by the situation at hand.  I wish I'd taken a video.  However, I was more concerned they'd need help to become untangle and was preoccupied in watching if they'd be able to resolve the tricky situation.

Tom came outside when I called him and he too was shocked by what we were watching hoping they'd soon resolve the situation on their own.  It appeared if they'd both lay down, they could untangle. 

Finally, to our great relief they untangled.  Having taken two photos and knowing they were both safe we couldn't stop laughing over the peculiarity of the situation.  Apparently, those long necks can be a hazard!

The young bulls are always seem happy to see me. 
Once back inside and feeling relieved over the two alpacas seeming to be fine,  I downloaded the two photos and laughed over and over again, especially with what appears to be a smile on the face of the alpaca caught on the bottom of their tangled bodies.

I hope Trish and Neil don't think we're awful in finding humor in this situation.  We only laughed after we saw they were fine.  Having observed wildlife over many months in Africa, we often found wildlife getting into predicaments that elicit laughter from us humans, often reminding us of our own foibles.

Let's face it, all of God's creatures (including us) may find ourselves in tricky situations simply from living life.  We can only hope that somehow we can maneuver our way out of the situation with a positive result as in the case of the two adult alpacas managing to do so yesterday.

The lily pond in a stone basin.
We've stayed in most of this week.  Tom's been a bit under the weather with an intestinal thing with a fever since Sunday. He's improving each day without the necessity of a doctor visit. 

Traveling the world with good health doesn't make us exempt from occasional viruses or bacterial infections.  Its easy to pick something up when we out and about around people. 

We considered the possibility of a bacteria from something he ate at home.  However, we've both eaten exactly the same meals and I'm feeling fine.  We took special precautions during the past several days including sleeping in the separate bedrooms. 

These alpaca sculptures are also located at the "y" in the road, one road leading to our home and the other leading to Trish and Neil's home.
We hear that a number of couples sleep in separate rooms when sleeping together impedes the quality of their sleep.  That's not us.  We both tossed and turned all night sleeping in separate beds, hoping I wouldn't "catch" whatever it is he's had.  So far, so good.  We look forward to getting back to normal.

Today, we'll forgo our usual shopping day since Tom's not up to getting out yet and I have no interest in driving to the grocery store myself on the opposite side of the road.  I'm an awful driver as it is.  Plus, when we rented the car for three months, we didn't pay the extra fees to include me as a driver.  Tom's hardly eating and we have enough on hand for several more days.

Back at you tomorrow with more...

Have a fabulous day wherever you may be!

Photo from one year ago today, February 11, 2015:

One year ago today, we'd driven by this nesting site many times not seeing any chicks.  And yet, we returned once again to see this adorable chick safely under the shelter of hers/his parent.  This was the beginning of one of the most enjoyable wildlife observation experiences we had in our travels.  Click here for more photos.

What are the benefits of our international health insurance?

On a cloudy day, beachgoers still took advantage of local beaches.
We've written about international health insurance in past posts.  As we acquire more readers worldwide including an increased number of expats and baby boomers retiring and deciding to travel long term, we felt it was time to review this once again, especially in light of yesterday's annual premium payment.

We paid NZ $5855, US $3745 for the upcoming 12 month period.  This insurance doesn't cover us while in the US.  I'm not quite certain why not but with little time spent in the US during these past 40 months, with only a few months to be spent in the US upcoming in the summer of 2017, we aren't worried about it at this juncture.

We drove to Wairau stream to check out the scenery.
Tom will continue to be covered by the health insurance from his prior work until he turns 65 in December, 2017.  In the interim, we've both been covered by this annual expat policy with Healthcare International.

What happened to Medicare for me when I turned 65 almost three years ago?  Every US citizen is entitled to Plan A which covers hospitalization in part.  See here for details.

Why didn't we just go with Part A for me?  Simple answer: It doesn't provide coverage outside the US in most instances.  Plus, a monthly payment for Plan B is required at NZ $158, US $105.  See here for details. 

Most beaches in this area are rocky but this popular location is preferred by many surfers and sunbathers.
As a result of this monthly expense, useless in our case while traveling the world long term, we opted out of Part B by signing a waiver document explaining why we weren't willing to pay.  There are penalties for opting out which will result in a higher premium should we decide to activate it at some point.  There again, we aren't concerned about penalties at this point.

Plus, most Medicare recipients add a "supplemental policy" to cover some deductibles and ancillary costs, here again an unnecessary expense for us considering none of these would apply to our out-of-the US needs.  Had we included these, we'd have been paying as much "out of pocket" annually as we're currently paying for our annual policy with Healthcare International.

Surfing and kayaking are popular in both New Zealand and Australia.
These drastic measures would not make any sense for those living in the US or US territories where Medicare would pay.  Such action is only beneficial for those with very good health who don't visit doctors frequently, take a lot of medication, and often have medical tests and treatments, since none of these are covered by our current policy.

If we visit a doctor, regardless of the reason, we pay out of pocket as we do for my few prescriptions.  Such payments have proven to be approximately 25% of the cost for the same services in the US in most countries as we experienced in our 2015 medical exams and tests in Australia.

This is a first for us, spotting a tractor hauling a boat along the beach.
Our situation is unique and does not apply to most travelers nor to most Medicare recipients in the US.  Even those US citizens embarking on a one year trip outside the US are best to keep their existing insurance (including Medicare Part B and supplement) in place, adding emergency travel insurance as an adjunct.

Our policy with Healthcare International includes coverage for both of us for hospitalization with a NZ $3014, US $2000 deductible per hospital stay, emergency evacuation, and bereavement expenses for travel in the event of death of an immediate family member only (sibling, child, parent) covering up to NZ $7536, US $5000 in travel expenses. 

We were intrigued by the stone roof on this oceanfront home.
This benefit is only available for those who are the physical relation of the deceased family member.  In other words, if one of Tom's family members passes away, the benefit would cover his costs to return to the US, not mine and so on.

Our decision to choose this type of policy was wrought with considerable research and consideration over an extended period.  Each year we've researched other options but, to date, this plan makes the most sense for our needs and appears to be the most cost effective.

  Many homes in New Zealand have metal roofs helping maintain warmth in the cooler winter season reducing heating costs.  For the warmer sunny days, as we've experienced, it gets hot indoors requiring the opening of screen-less doors and windows.
Of course, when we soon file our taxes for 2015, we must provide "proof of insurance" to avoid paying penalties to the US government.  I have a copy in our tax prep file which we'll soon forward to our accountant along with other pertinent documents.

This can be confusing.  Finally, we feel we have a handle on it although it took time to decipher the various options.  If any of our readers have questions, most of the links we've provided here will assist you.  If you have questions we can answer please post a comment at the bottom of this post and we'll be happy to answer to the best of our ability and/or provide you with resources to aid in your decision.

Energy efficiency is exercised by most residents in New Zealand from what we've seen thus far. 
We realize this topic is dry and relatively boring especially for those who aren't living outside the US for the long term.  For those in other countries, we can only suggest you contact your home insurance, your government provided insurance and Healthcare International or another such company.  Most likely they'll be able to assist you based on benefits you may currently have available.

We're staying in today watching the political caucuses in New Hampshire, USA which is on TV during the day here based on the time difference, although its Wednesday here in lovely New Zealand.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 10, 2015:

One year ago, this albatross is sitting on an egg.  Both the male and female sit on the nest, the other heading out to sea for food.  For more details and map of our location while in Kauai, please click here.

Paying for health insurance from abroad...Signing documents online? A credit card compromised again!

View from our area.
I love technology.  Without it, our lives would be much more complicated.  As an example, our health insurance policy's annual single premium is due on March 1, 2016 and we're able to sign online and provide credit card information as securely as possible.  The ability to sign online has been available for approximately the past 10 years but many have never used it and are hesitant to do so.  Today's post may ease your mind.

Preferring to pay the insurance bill a bit early, this morning I worked on sending the payment.  A few days ago we destroyed the credit card that Healthcare International had on file for us when we received a notice that charges were made on the card in Texas, USA.
Country view.
We'd hardly purchased fuel and spent NZ $281, US $186 at a Walmart store in Houston, Texas.  Every few days, I check all of our credit cards online to ensure everything is accurate without any suspicious charges.

As it turned out, on a day I hadn't checked, I received an email from the credit card company inquiring as to suspicious charges on the card.  Their files indicate we're in New Zealand at this time and it was unlikely we'd flown to Houston overnight to shop at Walmart.

We keep "travel notifications" updated for each of the credit cards we use, requiring updating every 60 days.  To remind me to do so, I have it marked on my online calendar with a pop up reminder. When we first began traveling we were annoyed with having to log the travel notifications at the credit card company's online site for every country we'll be visiting over the next 60 days. 

View of downtown New Plymouth.
Now, with our third incident of fraud in the past 40 months, we understand the benefit and necessity of updating these notifications.  Also, updating the travel notification prevents a "decline" at the register when the card's system doesn't recognize the current location for which the charges are attempted.

In each case, a new card has been sent to us wherever we may be at the time.  The credit card company pays the fees to mail it.  Since we don't need the card quickly with other cards we can use in the interim, we don't incur any overnight shipping fees. 

Credit card companies may charge when a new card is shipped overnight internationally. Thus, we didn't request an overnight shipment when the fees can easily top NZ $151, US $100.  The new card will arrive here at the farm in NZ within three weeks.

Trees along the rocky shore in the town.
When a credit card is compromised, in some cases the credit card company will pick up the fraud when most theft systems charge $1 as a test to see if the card will work.  Once that works, the process of making additional illegal charges begins which may result in thousand of dollars in charges.

Its imperative for the customer to check their charges on a regular basis and report any suspicious charges immediately and report them promptly.  If the charges are made in your home country while you're residing in your home country, these charges are all the more difficult for the credit card company to catch.  You may be using the card while on a local weekend away.

For those outside their home country, this is all the more likely to occur when devices are set up at fuel station, restaurants, shops and other establishments where one uses a card. 

Lava rock along the shoreline.
Note:  You will not be charged for any of the unauthorized (illegal) charges providing that you notify the company in a timely manner.  Waiting months to do so could result in the customer's responsibility for the charges.

The new "computer chips" offer no protection in avoiding theft.  In each case we've experienced theft, we always had the card in our possession.  Often, it isn't the physical card that is compromised, only the number
The rocky beach in New Plymouth.
Now, on to our annual health insurance bill...Each year, when the annual premium is due,  Healthcare International (in the UK) has used the credit card on file to pay our bill. 

I'd contacted them by email asking for the last four digits on the card they had on file to pay our premium.  When the email arrived this morning with the information, I realized it was the "stolen" card which had been cancelled a few days ago.

Sugarloaf in downtown New Plymouth.
Its important to avoid sending a credit card number, social security number or any other pertinent ID information via email without special security measures in place.  Email isn't secure as much as one may assume. Scammers have equipment breezing through email worldwide attempting to "pick up" such information for illegal purposes. 

Luckily modern technology has provided for secure options but only when  certain the message you've received is valid from the source you requested.  This can be tricky.  If uncertain, contact the company on an approved phone number and provide the information in that manner.

Mount Taranaki after more snow on a cool day.
Our bill for the upcoming year including air ambulance, major medical and other benefits is NZ $5855, US $3745.  Luckily, this year, Healthcare International provided an app via Adobe ID to securely assist in entering a new credit card number and to be able to accept an online signature. 

Familiar with this app which we've used in the past when an online signature is required, I was comfortable using it again to send via a secure link the app easily provided to be sent by email to Healthcare International.

Yesterday, we posted a photo with eight baby alpacas.  This morning, we took this photo with nine babies, although there appears to be eight.  Can you find the ninth?
It seems as if I'm contradicting myself by sending this information by email.  However, Adobe ID is as secure as any other "secure" site but, let's face it, any website can be compromised and data stolen.  I completed the necessary information and forwarded it to Healthcare International via a "secure" email through their account with Adobe.

The reason I bring up credit card fraud and this insurance bill together is simple.  Paying this amount of money using a credit card is safe for the consumer, if any fraud is reported promptly.  We were not responsible for any portion of the illegal charges on our credit card, nor would we be for future such charges.  This gives us peace of mind.

Moment later a head plopped down on a playmate.
Having one's identity stolen is another an entirely different matter which we won't get into here today.

Tomorrow, we'll share the benefits of the policy along with any of the negative aspects of buying health insurance while traveling for extended periods when one doesn't have other health insurance or has limited coverage outside their home country, as is in our case.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2015:
The residents of Hawaiian are very proud of their love and preservation of wildlife and their land.  For more photos, please click here.

A simple life in the country...

Sunset at the alpaca farm.
The house has a metal roof and its a veritable hot box when on hot days.  We have no choice but to leave the sliding doors open.  The flies and sand flies are bad.  I wear repellent round the clock reapplying it three times a day. 

This alpaca, Amber Rose, who recently gave birth, often looks at me through the kitchen window while I'm preparing meals at times pressing her nose on the glass.
Last night, a dragonfly was flying around the bedroom making noise as it bumped into the walls keeping me awake most of the night.  With no screens on any of the doors or windows, we can't open any of the bedroom windows at night to cool off the hot room.  The fan moves the hot air around but doesn't seem to cool it down.  We've only used the comforter on a few occasions. 

The wifi is metered and we can't download as many of our favorite shows as we've often been able in other locations.  We're in a tough position when we know we won't have good enough wifi in Bali to download shows.  We'd hoped to download everything we'll need while we're here to later watch in Bali.  That may not happen.

Each sunny afternoon, the alpacas crowd to the side of the house to find shelter in the shade.
I love it here. Tom loves it here.  Adaptation.  Its a simple life in the country.

There's a lot to love; the alpacas; the many comforts in the house; the ever changing exquisite scenery surrounding us; the sound of the flowing nearby river; the kind and helpful owners, Trish and Neil; the New Zealand people; the ideal shopping fulfilling all of our needs from the health food store to the grass fed only meat market to the weekly farmers market with the best eggs in the South Pacific.

The number of alpacas in the shade from our house grows with the heat of the sun.
Yes, there is a lot to love.  Yesterday, I filled a bowl with a special grass mix for the alpacas and hand fed it to them as my feet dangled over the edge of the veranda.  I couldn't take photos while my hands were otherwise busy.  It didn't seem to matter at the time.  Sorry about that.  Sometimes the experience supersedes all else.

Hanging the laundry on the clothesline is a pleasant experience in itself as is each time I step outdoors in my bare feet to check to see if its dry. The feel of the soft neatly trimmed grass under my feet sends my senses reeling, reminding me of the yet unproven philosophy of "earthing" or "grounding." that may have some truth to it. (See here for detail

The grouping of cria started with these four.  They love sitting in this dirt, rolling around and getting dirty.
The rental car sits in the driveway, used only three times a week for a variety of local trips.  We don't want to leave more often.  Everything we could possibly want is right here within a few hours drive. 

In minutes, the group of cria grew to eight.
Yesterday, I walked alone when Tom didn't feel like joining me.  As I approached the cattle, my favorite pregnant female immediately spotted me heading to the fence.  She literally danced she was so happy to see me, lifting one leg at a time as she rocked in place, shaking her head back and forth, slobber flinging from her mouth in the process. 

My favorite cow separated from who may have been her last offspring.  We often find them close to one another sneaking affection through the fence.
She moaned in frustration as I walked away.  Had anyone seen this they would have laughed at this crazy women communicating with a cow. I've often wondered if I should have lived on a farm when I've always been drawn to barnyard animals, rolling dough and baking bread (in my old life when I could eat gluten).

Last year's young bulls.
Instead, for now, we live this simple life, outdoors a lot, cooking good meals, mingling with the life in the country, taking photos of precious moments with the ongoing joy of sharing them daily with all of YOU, as we've shown today.

This mom and son, Mont Blanc, are the pair that were separated by the fence when Mont Blanc had crawled underneath and escaped.  Later, Trish and Neil picked him up, placing him over the fence, not an easy task.  We often see them in close contact perhaps remembering they were once separated.  Although Mont Blanc, the only blue eyes cria in the now group of 12, loves playing with the other youngsters.
For those in the US, may you have a fun filled Super Bowl Sunday.  (We'll be watching it here).  And for our friends in New Zealand, enjoy the remainder of Waitanga weekend.  For details of this holiday, please click here.

Have a happy day in the country, city, desert, mountains or plains or, wherever you may be...

Photo from one year ago today, February 8, 2015:

My delicious lunch, a year ago, at the Kauia Westin Hotel with friends Elaine and Richard included a grass fed burger with cheese, grilled onions, bacon and a side salad.  For more photos and details, please click here.