Difficulties of travel for some seniors...Aging and endorphins...our bodies own miracle...Want to get high?...Could this be the answer?

A deer at Zoo Ave.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
Here's another sad loss of a bird, a Hoffman's Woodpecker, that hit the glass wall in the veranda.  This one never came back to life.
Regardless of how one may strive to maintain a modicum of good health as we age, there's only so much we can do.  A healthy diet, regular movement and exercise, sufficient sleep, regular small doses of sunlight, and a positive state of mind may seem to be the panacea for a long and healthy life.  But, it's so much more than that.

We're subject to heredity and the past ways in which we've lived our lives, which at times may not have been the most health inducing for the long haul, having an impact on how quickly we age.

Did we spend too much time in the sun resulting in creepy hanging skin and the potential for skin cancer?  Did we smoke or consume recreational drugs in our youth?  Did we drink alcohol in excess?  Were our lives filled with stress and worry impacting the quality of daily lives and an ability for good sleep? 

A deer lounging in the foliage.
Many of us abused their bodies with too much exercise, or as in many cases, not enough exercise, resulting in bad hips, knees, backs, and joints in general.   When we hear about many of our friends requiring hip and/or knee replacement surgeries, we wonder if there was something that may have prevented the necessity of these big surgeries. 

As yet, is reliable information available to inspire the young to prevent the need for such surgeries in their later years?  Many studies we've read seem to contradict one another. 

Thankfully, neither Tom nor I have any concerns over hip or knee surgeries in the imminent future.  The necessity of such could easily stop us "dead in our tracks" for an extended period, in continuing our world travels. 

An Iguana at Zoo Ave.  We've seen them running across roads at various locations but they run so quickly, it's not easy to get a photo while driving.
When we look back at our lives is there anything that we did "right" to avoid these surgeries?  There's nothing we can recall.  Is it merely a matter of chance?  I can't imagine this is so.

Simply due to the fact we've chosen this life of world travel doesn't make us exempt from age-related health issues.  We, too, like many of you, have signs and symptoms commensurate with aging that no matter how hard we try, we can't seem to escape.

We can eat all the low carb, healthy organic, free range and grass fed chemical-free foods we can stuff into our mouths and accomplish a daily goal of 10,000 active steps on the Fitbit and still, we find ourselves struggling to get enough uninterrupted sleep each night and notice subtle changes in our health as the years pass.

Close up of an Iguana face.
No, we don't spend time worrying about aging.  No, we don't frequently check the mirror looking for changes in the amount of wrinkles, skin changes and gray hair that comes with aging. 

However, it's impossible not to notice a new ache, a new pain or a symptom we may not have experienced in the past.  For us, without a doctor and also confused over the varying opinions of doctors and medical professionals worldwide based on fuzzy medical research and protocols, we often have no option but to try to figure out day-to-day issues on our own.

Of course, if we experienced a possibly life-threatening situation or serious injury, we'll head to the nearest hospital.  We're not foolhardy.

Check out the complexities of this unusual creature.
Oh my gosh, while we've had US news here in Costa Rica, we've been appalled over the commercials for drugs that hardly seem worth trying, with all the risks of side effects, unless a person has a life-threatening condition and all other options have been exhausted.  It's hard to believe, isn't it?

Traveling is good for aging.  The joy, the mental stimulation, and the varied experiences surely must be beneficial for one's health.  We've noticed this over and over again during the past five years of world travel (only nine days until the fifth anniversary of our travels).

The rush of endorphins continually wash over us time and again whether its a result of spotting a little bird alighting on the railing, a cultural experience or the sighting of a lion in the wild.   Endorphins are described as follows from this site:

(contracted from "endogenous morphine") are endogenous opioid neuropeptides and peptide hormones in humans and other animals. They are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. The term "endorphins" implies a pharmacological activity (analogous to the activity of the corticosteroid category of biochemicals) as opposed to a specific chemical formulation. It consists of two parts: endo- and -orphin; these are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine, intended to mean "a morphine-like substance originating from within the body".The class of endorphins includes three compounds – α-endorphinβ-endorphin, and γ-endorphin – which preferentially bind to μ-opioid receptors. The principal function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals; they may also produce a feeling of euphoria very similar to that produced by other opioids."

Turtles seem to enjoy hanging out together.  Hummm...kind of like people.
Gee...want to get high? Experience life's wonders and feel this exceptional sensation of euphoria and well-being produced by our own bodies.  This has got to be good for aging! 
Hardly a day passes where we don't have an opportunity to experience this indescribable rush.  Perhaps, in essence, this is our choice of "drug" that spurs us on to continue our travels.  Perhaps, this may be the "magic" required to extending our health and the quality of our lives, our joy, and our purpose.

May each day bring you an endorphin rush!


Photo from one year ago today, October 22, 2016:
On our last night in Bali, we shot this sunset photo from the cabana.  For more final photos, please click here.

Not wishing our lives away or time to fly...(No pun intended)....Easy date-to-date free app...

Handmade fences using tree branches. Very innovative!
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
This pair of Inca Doves returned for another visit.
Often, when we mention how long it will be until we leave a location to move on to another, both of us wonder if our readers perceive we're anxious to get going.  In some circumstances, we are, but certainly not in most.
A hazy day in the country.
In many countries, we continue to revel in our surroundings; the wildlife, the culture, the scenery and the people.  No doubt, the quality of the property in which we're living is also a big factor.
Junk yard.
Here in Atenas Costa Rica, we're rather content although a little disappointed the road is too steep for daily walks and the high cost of long-term rental cars.  As for the remainder, we've felt comfortable and quite "at home" in this exceptional property.

Our hosts, owners Bev and Sam have provided the utmost of details and amenities to create a highly pleasing environment.  Although we're here during the rainy season, we've managed to spend plenty of time in the pool (often as long as two hours) and sunning in the chaise lounges when the noontime sun stays out long enough for our 30-minute stint.  It's been grand.
Basilica Nuestra Senora de las Piedades church in Naranjo.
Thus, why do we often check as to how many days we have left until we depart?  Based on this simple app on my desktop, its but a few clicks to enter today's date and the date we'll be leaving.  Click here for the app which may be used on any device.

This app has been handy for us when booking future vacation homes, hotels, cruises, and flights allowing us to know exactly how many days, weeks or months it will be until our next move or adventure.
Outdoor pulpit in Naranjo used while the church is being renovated.
By clicking here, you'll be able to see how this app calculated from today's date until the date we leave Costa Rica on November 22, in 32 days.  This app may be handy for any user, even for those who don't travel but may be looking forward to a specific date.  It's easy to use.

To answer our own question above, "Why do we often check as to how many days we have left until we depart?" the answer is simple.  We often have many preparations necessary for the next leg of our journey requiring we pay attention to how many days, weeks or months are left until we depart.
Turtles are interesting creatures.
Also, I'll readily admit, it's fun to contemplate our next adventure, however much we're enjoying the moment.  You bet, we're excited about the fact that in 33 days, (after one night in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale Florida) we'll be boarding Celebrity Infinity for a 30-night cruise to South America. 
A turtle seeking sun on a raised divider in the pond.  Note the Koi fish making its way over this obstacle.
How could we not be excited?  It's all a part of the overall excitement as we travel the world...simply...what's next?  Once the cruise ends in Buenos Aires, we'll only have 31-nights in a hotel until we depart for Ushuaia Argentina to embark on the Antarctica cruise aboard Ponant's Le Soleil.  Here again, we're outrageously enthused about this upcoming expedition cruise.

It's tough not to continue to calculate upcoming dates.  We've even gone as far as calculating how many months until we return to the US to visit family which is in roughly 18 months (not sure as yet to our exact arrival date).

More fish in the pond.
Calculating these dates doesn't diminish the quality of our current experience.  If anything, for us, it enhances it, making us aware of striving to make each remaining day special and memorable.
Koi pond in a park in Naranjo.
Speaking of dates, one week from today we'll be flying to Nicaragua for our visa extensions and a two-night stay.  During this period we'll be taking plenty of photos to share in our posts over the remaining 25 days we'll be in Costa Rica. (See, I used the app again).
Church along the highway.
Whether one calculates future dates or, lives in the moment with nary a thought as to what's transpiring in the future, is entirely a matter of personal preference.  For "number crunchers" like us, it's one more element of our world travels we continue to incorporate into our daily lives.

Have a beautiful weekend whether you were anticipating it, or not!

Photo from one year ago today, October 21, 2016:
In Sumbersari, watching the buffaloes walk along the beach each evening never stopped giving us a thrill.  Where do you see such a thing?   For our favorite Bali photos as we wound down our stay, please click here.

Checking and rechecking...Errors are to be expected from governmental agencies...Waiving Part B Medicare...

New sprouts on a coffee bean plant.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
Although this Flame Tree appears to be sprouting bananas, these yellow pods are actually the flower prior to blooming.  Its a favorite spot for birds that stop for a visit including another variety of the popular Flycatcher.
Three weeks ago Tom contacted the Railroad Retirement Board (as opposed to Social Security or Medicare) as required for retired railway workers.  The intent was to inform them of his intent to waive Part B Medicare which would automatically kick in on his upcoming 65th birthday on December 23rd.

If he didn't do this, there would be a deduction from his pension on the first of every month in the amount of US $109 (CRC 62,113) which may vary based on certain circumstances.  Medicare doesn't provide us with any benefits outside of the US (with a few rare exceptions).

Nor do we purchase the additional "supplemental" insurance to cover that which Medicare doesn't cover.  Please keep in mind, this is a generalization.  Individual cases may vary.  Please contact Medicare via this link if you have questions.

Driving along a mountain road.
Many tourists are able to purchase "trip insurance" when they travel.  This type of insurance is not available to us on a annualized basis since we don't go on "trips" per se, but are continually moving from one location to another outside of the US.

We've spoken to other long-term travelers who've stated they have purchased trip-by-trip "trip insurance" in order to receive the benefits of the more comprehensive coverage than we have on our "major medical" annual policy.  But, this requires informing the insurance company that we are taking individual trips as opposed to living outside the US.  For us, this would be an outright fabrication.

The problem with doing this is, if they discover a traveler has been traveling non-stop they could refuse to pay a huge claim, leaving the traveler with a monstrous bill to pay out of pocket.  We chose not to "lie" to the insurance company or run this type of risk.

In Costa Rica, many homes are located beyond entrance gates.
Instead, we have less coverage that doesn't pay for doctor visits, prescriptions or vision care.  In most countries, we've found doctor visits usually run under US $100 (CRC 56,985) if not less.  This works for us. 

If we needed to visit an emergency room or stay in a hospital, have surgery or treatment, our policy covers 100% of the cost.  To date, thank God, we've never filed a claim although we're well aware it's entirely possible at some point in the future. 

Our policy provides no coverage while we're in the US which leaves us with only Medicare Part A which covers only a portion of a hospital or emergency visit.  We choose to take that risk when visiting family rather than pay thousands of dollars per year for coverage in the US we cannot use in other countries.  I hope this all makes sense to our readers. 

Arriving at the end of a paved road, we turned around and retraced our tracks.
In any case, we called and asked Railroad Retirement to send us the appropriate form to waive Part B.  This is a government agency.  They were unable to email us the single page form.  Go figure.  Instead, they stated the only way to receive the blank form was to receive it via snail mail.

So, three weeks ago, when our mailing service in Nevada received the snail mail from Railroad Retirement they scanned it and sent to us via our file in their system. We printed in on the villa's printer and Tom promptly signed it.  At that point, we used our portable scanner and sent it back to the mailing service via email. Within 24 hours the mail service had snail mailed the signed form to Railroad Retirement. Thus, the envelope would take one or two days to arrive from Nevada to California.

Yesterday, three weeks after the snail mail was sent, with our usual mistrust of any type of governmental agency and certain other types of businesses, we called to see if the waiver was processed.  Alas, not surprisingly, they had no record of it. 

With no shoulders on most roads, we've had to search for a spot like this when attempting to turn around.
A similar scenario occurred when Tom applied online to renew his Nevada driver's license.  All the documents we'd sent never showed in their email.  We'd forwarded them a copy of the email we'd sent with all the documents and still, they explained it was never seen and subsequently never processed.  Go figure.  Eventually, the second batch of documents resulted in Tom receiving the renewal.

Yesterday, we contacted our mailing service asking them to fax the document to Railroad Retirement, at an expense to us, since Railroad Retirement would allow a fax in this particular case as opposed to waiting for "another" snail mail.  Later in the day, the mailing service notified us to say the fax was sent and they received a confirmation stating it was received.

On Monday, we'll call Railroad Retirement again to confirm it's done.  One can't ever be sure without confirmation.  Over the past five years of world travel, I can't possibly describe all of the scenarios when errors have been made in handling our "business-related" transactions. 

This fast-growing tree on the coffee plantation shot up this tall in only a few years.  Variety unknown.
Antiquated systems and incompetency are often the cause of such extra work we experience in handling everything from afar.  When one dreams of traveling the world for years to come, it's always important to consider the handling of transactions of any type.

Whether we find PayPal is blocked in a particular country, have forms to be signed for financial matters, or are required to periodically change passwords. On certain accounts, they require we have a text number so they can send us a code. 

We don't have a cell phone contract with access to a US phone number that allows texts other than through Skype or Facebook Messenger for these purposes. Businesses don't use these mediums for communication. We often have to figure out a frustrating, time-consuming work-around.

Mountains are prevalent in most areas of Costa Rica.
In years to come, this may be easier but for now as we continue on our otherwise blissful journey, we remind ourselves we chose this lifestyle and with it comes a number of challenges. 

Once such a cumbersome task is re-done or completed, for a second time, we sit back and smile, grateful we figured out a solution and get back to swimming in the pool or searching for photo ops.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 20, 2016:

In Bali, the view changed dramatically as the tide rolled in.  For more photos, please click here.

Traipsing around the town...Why visit Atenas?

This morning when I perused through our photos to see what to post, I stumbled across this funny photo showing my hands and camera in the rearview mirror while taking the photo of this rug vendor walking along the street.  Vendors don't pester passersby, asking only once if interested.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
Cattle sheltered under the shade of a massive tree during a sunny morning in Atenas.
Walking through the town of Atenas is quite entertaining.  The endless array of shops lining the streets, many worn and tattered on the exterior but bustling with energetic business on the interior, creating a fascinating peek into the daily lives of "Ticos," the acceptable and unoffensive nickname for the locals.

Few tourists are to be found when walking through the town although it's reported there are about 1500 expats in Atenas of its population of about 5000.

Although an older comment, this quote from a contributor on TripAdvisor provides a good explanation about Atenas.  We can't imagine it's changed much over the past six years. (See quote below this photo).
A sign announcing a the Patron Saint Festivities from October 14 through 24. 

Re: things to do around Atenas
Atenas is a quiet town, authentic Costa Rica, and it could be used as a home base.

Many "well to do" Ticos who work in San Jose choose to live there and commute. Kind of like folks living in CT and commuting to New York in the USA.
No crime to speak of, lots of farms, some great locally grown coffee. The area produces 5 different varieties, only 3 of which are exported (they save the best for local consumption)
Personally, I really dig it. I used to live in a very busy tourist town here, when I left the coast Atenas is the town I moved to for a time, I was looking for a town that had zero tourism and found it, I then bounced over to Grecia, but now live in between the 2.
IMO an interesting choice but a good one. No tourist crowds, down to earth pricing compared to towns more tourism oriented. Not much in the way of local attractions, Poas mentioned by ex-beachers is probably one of the closer ones, the metal church in Grecia is something to see and not far away, also there is a great little central park full of green parrots in the town center of Atenas. 
If you are looking for an authentic Costa Rican experience then it is a good choice.
This is our kind of town, quiet, interesting, friendly and filled with a variety of treasures that easily keep us entertained and engaged (including many birds) during this extended 113-night stay. 

In almost every case, when we chose an extended stay over 90 days, we encounter visa issues.  We're inclined to avoid such extended stays when possible.  But, when we opt for a long stay, we do it for a reason, often to accommodate the next leg of our travels.

However, the time spent here has definitely been worth the hoopla of having to leave in nine days to fly to Nicaragua to get our passports stamped.  Besides, with our five-year anniversary on October 31st, we've usually done something special to celebrate...a mini vacation...a special night out, etc.  The two-night stay in Managua will fill the bill.
Don Juan Pharmacy where I purchased a bottle of contact lens solution for US $20, (CRC 11,401) usually priced at around US $7.95 (CRC 4,932).
We'll be back at the villa on the 30th, most likely staying in and celebrating here at the villa on our actual anniversary date on October 31st.  It will be easy to celebrate in this outstanding property which far exceeds any five-star hotel we've seen to date. 

Would other travelers be content in this small town?  Yes, in many ways.  Its central location makes it a good base for sightseeing and if one enjoys traveling on mountainous roads the scenery is exceptional as we've shared in many posts. 

Atenas is conveniently located to the airport.  There are seven hotels listed in Atenas, at this link with more in surrounding areas, some modest and unassuming and others more deluxe (none are five-star rated).  Most are well under US $75 (CRC 42,752) per night. 
We've heard parrots may be seen in the trees in the park.  We've visited several times to no avail.  We'll keep trying.
There are 39 restaurants listed in Atenas which may be found at this link.  These restaurants don't work for my way of eating but for most, they'll be ideal with fresh local ingredients and flavors commensurate with local tastes and customs.

Of course, for those interested in the privacy and convenience of a vacation/holiday villa, nothing can beat this exceptional home with three large bedrooms, each with an en-suite bath, plenty of storage space, ceiling fans and ultra comfortable beds and bedding.  We love the "screening room" with large flat screen TV, surround sound and comfortable seating.

The granite and stainless steel gourmet kitchen with a second "clean up" kitchen is over-the-top with every imaginable amenity and kitchen tool and gadget.   Well, I could go on and on but most of you have read our comments in past posts about how much we've loved this property and location.
Nothing is as pleasant as a blue sky during the rainy season.
The downsides are few in this area.  However, if dancing until dawn is your "thing" you may be better off staying in the "big city" of San Jose which has every type of nightlife one can imagine.

Although there are a number of clothing, souvenirs and "sports" shops in town in the area, if shopping is high on your list of priorities, a trip to San Jose would satisfy even the most enthusiastic shopper.  Atenas is definitely lacking in this area.

Also, for the longer stay, one must consider that its best to arrive in Costa Rica with every possible item you'll need during your stay.  Prescriptions cannot be mailed into the country, although non-narcotic items can be purchased at most of the several pharmacies without a prescription.  Keep in mind that brand names and many common doses for many items are impossible to purchase.
There are many tall trees at the central park.
Shipping supplies into the country will result in long delays due to customs with high tariffs on items that may not be worth shipping into the country with the added expense.  From what we've  been able to perceived to date, Costa Rica is very protective as to what enters their country for a few primary reasons.

One, they don't want any hazardous products entering their country possibly affecting the delicate ecological system.  Two, they prefer to sell locally grown and manufactured products offered by their own vendors.  Three, they are able to collect taxes on locally sold items.

As a result, expats, used to shopping on Amazon, for instance in their former lives, may become frustrated knowing they have to return to the US or their home country to load up on supplies. 
A water fountain at the park.
We particularly understand these restrictions when we realized I'd run out of my one of my regular prescriptions (I take three) while we were here when unable to purchase an alternative in any close proximity to the original dosage.  Thus, I am spreading what I have left, missing one pill every fourth day to no ill effects so far.  This plan will get me to Florida where my prescriptions will be waiting in our box of supplies at the hotel.

I could go on and on about Atenas and will add more information over our remaining days in Costa Rica until we depart on November 22nd. For those considering moving to Costa Rica, we'll discuss more on this topic in future posts.

Have a lovely day! 

Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2016:
In Bali, a large visitor came to call after high tide during the night.  Check out those eyes!  For more photos, please click here.

Celebrations in Costa Rica...Cultures National Day...

This reminded me of the "Tilt-A-Whirl" at Disneyland (in my youth).  Tom remembered it as a "Sit and Spin."
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
The hummingbird feeder has started leaking terribly bringing bees and flies.  We've been washing the tile on the veranda a few times a day.  Today, we tossed it but hope to find a new feeder next time we head to town.
On Monday, when we went to town we were thrilled to see evidence of "Cultures National Day" which is described as follows from this website:

"Cultures National Day was once “Dia de la Raza,” a day to commemorate the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and the subsequent spreading of Spanish culture in the Americas. However, since 1994, the holiday’s name has been “Dia de las Culturas,” or “Day of the Cultures.” This is to recognize the place of multiple, highly diverse cultures in Costa Rica’s history.

Spanish, other European, African, Amerindian, and Asian cultural influences all contribute to modern Costa Rica. And all of these cultural influences are on full display during Cultures National Day.

To avoid fast-moving cars on the street we walked down this narrow sidewalk next to the booths from the holiday festivities.
But despite the name change, the day still also honors Christopher Columbus. Columbus visited the area twice on his voyages to the New World, and he even named the coast of modern Costa Rica, well, “Costa Rica” (Rich Coast).
Car-type Merry-Go-Round for the little tykes.
There will be singing, dancing, eating, and various cultural celebrations throughout Costa Rica for days on end for Cultures National Day. But Limon Province, where Columbus once made landfall, is the centre of the celebration.

A carnival is held there during the week leading up to October 12th. You will see colorful costumes, hear marching bands, see teams of dancers dance down the streets, and much more. It is certainly a unique experience you will not soon forget."

These long corn type doughy things were being fried in hot oil.  It sure smelled good.
The celebration in Atenas is much smaller than in Limon Province.  Over the weekend we could hear the sounds of drums and fireworks which we hear many days each week, holiday or not.  The Ticos (citizens of Costa Rica) certainly like to celebrate.  We often hear music, drums, fireworks, and a variety of explosive sounds that leave a puff of smoke in the low lying clouds.
Does anyone know what these are? 
Here's a list of annual holidays in Costa Rica:

Public Holidays in Costa Rica
  • January 1: New Year Day
  • April 11: Juan Santa Maria Day
  • Good Thursday (Holy or Great Thursday, Thursday before Easter)
  • Good Friday (Holy or Great Friday, Friday before Easter)
  • May 1: Workers or Labor Day (May Day)
  • July 25: Guanacaste Day
  • August 2: Virgin of Los Angeles Day
  • August 15: Mother´s Day
  • September 15: Independence Day
  • October 12: Cultures National Day (Columbus Day)
  • December 25: Christmas Day
This vendor was frying pork skewers.
We were disappointed we hadn't made an effort to attend the festivities on their Independence Day on September 15th.  But with my continuing recovery and lack of a rental car, we decided to stay behind.  Now, as I continue to improve, we can anticipate me becoming more active in the future. 
A carnival was set up for the kids with a variety of rides.

Today, we're staying in hoping to use the pool. Yesterday, the pool guy told us to wait three hours before going in the water due to chemicals he'd used which wouldn't be until 1:30 pm.  By that time, the clouds had rolled in with thunder at a distance.  We opted to forgo the pool.
Cotton candy for sale at the food kiosk on the street.
In 10 days before we leave for Nicaragua, we plan to use all the frozen food in the freezer in the event of a power outage while we're away for two nights.  We'll leave a container on a shelf in the freezer filled with frozen water with a coin on top of the ice.

More rides on the ground of the church.
If the penny is on the bottom of the container when we return, we'll know the power had been out for some time and we'll dispose of all of the perishable items in the refrigerator.  Tom had heard about this logical method some time ago and it makes sense to us!
Have a blissful day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2016:
Handmade fishing boats at the shore, made of plastic tubing in front of our villa in Sumbersari Bali.  Click here for more details.