New unlocked phone ready to go...

The Motorola Razer Maxx that arrived on Wednesday is now activated, loaded with my contacts, my email, all my apps and of course, has a slot ready to receive the first SIM card we will soon install, along with adding a SIM card to Tom's unlocked SIM card-ready Motorola Razer.

As I had mentioned in the last post about our phones, the newer smart phones come with a slot only suitable for a micro SIM card as opposed to a standard SIM card which is much larger.  Many countries only offer standard size cards.  This was a concern until I found that a nifty device exists, the SIM card adapter.

Needing a case/protector to fit the new phone, that were priced at $25 each at the Verizon store, I researched my favorite cell phone supply site:  www.cellphoneshop.net.  There, I purchased the appropriate case for the phone and the SIM card adapter for a grand total of $9.97 including shipping.

If you shop there, use the coupon code: "freeship2 " (minus the quotes) for free shipping on orders over $20.  I only spent $6 for the two items happily paying the $3.97 shipping fee.  It would have been over $38 for the two items purchased elsewhere.  I've been shopping at that site for years, extremely pleased with their products, pricing, return policy (only returned an item once) and customer service.

Much to my delight, the 368 photos I had on my phone automatically loaded to my Dropbox cloud on both my new phone and now to my Windows 8 laptop.  On numerous occasions I've tried to move the photos on my old DroidX phone to my computer.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't move them over. 

Somewhat adept at this technology stuff, the frustration factor was intense.  At times, I literally spent an hour or more trying to find a solution, utilizing software, apps, cables, Bluetooth and sheer determination to no avail.

Yesterday, while setting up the new phone with most of my apps rolling over, Dropbox "suggested" we move over the smart phone photos.  "YES!"  I hollered at Dropbox. "YES!  Do it!!"

An hour later all the photos of those precious grand kids, Mother Nature's whimsical morsels, those adorable dogs we've so much treasured and the special foods lovingly prepared, were finally in the Dropbox folder on my computer and my new phone. 

As much as I love learning technology, at times I am totally oblivious of how things work.  It was a total surprise to me that my old Droid X phone, now de-activated actually still picks up a WiFi signal and can be used to go online.  Had I taken the time to think about this, it makes all the sense in the world.  Live and learn.

Now, I am challenged by how we can use this 3rd WiFi receiving device (my old phone) when we already have two unlocked smart phones ready to install SIM cards in any country in which we'll travel.  Once we leave the US, five weeks from now, we'll surely figure it out.  In any case, this 3rd device is coming with us.

I'll go back to shopping online (to be received at our mail service in Nevada, where we'll be over the holidays) to find the perfect SIM cards that will not only work with our specific smart phones in any foreign country but also here in the US for the few occasions that we are in Florida between cruise ship sailings. 

Keep in mind, our two contracts with Verizon have expired.  We are under no obligation to continue to be connected with any carrier.  Thus, beginning January 3, 2013, we will request to be disconnected from Verizon and begin utilizing SIM cards for both phone service and data.  Yes, we'll pay for the data we use via the cards and the calls we make.  Mainly, we'll be making calls using SKYPE, most often at no charge. 

The data, although expensive using a SIM card will be as much as 90% less than the cost of using data offered by a cell phone provider.  Thus, no need for a cell service.  When we are using the previously mentioned XCOM Global MiFi device, as needed in a few of the vacation home where wireless broadband is not available or working, the data on our phones will work from that connection.

In any case, the cost of the MiFi device, which may be needed for about four months a year on average, is roughly $400 a month, averaging annually at $100 a month.  In itself, this is less than we paid for our cell phones and Internet access in our home in the past.  (When using the device from XCOM Global, which provides data only, we'll only use the SIM cards for emergency phone calls when we aren't near our computers to use Skype).

Would the average traveler have to go to this length to figure out how to use their smart phones?  No, a one month vacation or less would not require this much use of technology.  They'd gingerly use international roaming at exorbitant rates, potentially racking up $100's in data charges if not careful. 

We've all heard the stories of youngsters playing games on their phones on cruise ships resulting in $1000's in charges that shocked the parents when they later received their final cruise bill payable before disembarking. 

That won't be us!  We've been warned.  We'll turn off roaming to prevent the cruise ship from charging us any more than we'll need.  On the cruises we've booked (eight so far) we'll bite the bullet going online for short periods each day to download our email, upload our photos and of course, post our blog. 

So, enough about phones.  On to other matters at hand such as having guests for dinner this weekend here in Scottsdale, Tom's two sisters and brother-in-law and again, the following weekend when friends from Minnesota arrive for the weekend. 

Whew!  Its about time we begin to relax!  Oh, then there's Tom's colonoscopy prep next Wednesday for his two tests next Thursday and taxes to prepare for the year's end and more technology to learn, and 2nd passports and visa's to process and the trip to Las Vegas for Christmas and Tom's 60th birthday party and on and on. 

Tom's medical prep before traveling...

Years ago, when our kitchen was being remodeled and we had no literally kitchen for six months, Tom began to suffer with a variety of severe intestinal symptoms.  He rapidly lost weight, running back and forth to the bathroom dozens of times each day and night.

One may assume that this was due to the fact we were eating fast food, processed food or pre-made food products while our kitchen was being remodeled.  It was not. 

During this time, around 2004 our dining room table became our food prep area with various George Foreman grills, an electric skillet, an electric griddle, a toaster oven, two microwave ovens, cutting boards, seasonings, plates and silverware, which we washed in the bath tub (we don't like paper plates). 

During this period we ate that which we perceived, at the time as "normal" meals; a protein, a vegetable or two, a starch and a salad.  It was winter.  On warmer days, above 30 degrees, we cooked on the outdoor grill.  These were the same type of meals most of us prepare when cooking at home.  Why was he getting so sick?

When the symptoms exacerbated over time, months after the kitchen was done, we made an appointment to go to the Mayo Clinic for a week while poor Tom experienced every gastrological test known to man, many gruesome, uncomfortable and embarrassing.  He didn't eat a morsel of food for five days.

Diagnosis:  irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, treatable (they said) by avoiding cruciferous vegetables, too much or too little fiber (which is it?) and medication to calm the digestive track taken three times a day.  Also, he was told he had Barrett's Esophagus which required the proton pump inhibitors, now being touted by some researchers as causing serious side effects.

Following this treatment was relatively easy with Tom's little interest in cruciferous vegetables, general aversion to fiber laden foods and desire to eat "white" bread, potatoes and doughnuts.  I must confess, in a desire to please him, I cooked and baked his favorite foods while he faithfully took the medication.  The symptoms continued relentlessly. 

Our lives revolved around pacing our activities in order to be close to a bathroom or, by his not eating at all.  No food.  No symptoms.  It was frustrating for him and for me, the official cook in the household, feeling responsible for feeding him foods that caused him severe illness.  It treatment wasn't so clear cut at the time since we were following recommendation made by the medical profession.  Could they possibly ill advise us?

After hours of researching online data, the advice was always the same; low fiber, medications, low stress, lots of water, all of which he followed meticulously. 

In 2008, four years since the onset of his symptoms, I stumbled across some information on Celiac disease.  Many of the symptoms suffered by patients with Celiac had symptoms similar to Tom.  What did we have to lose to try?  Much to my amazement, Tom agreed to go totally gluten free for a one month trial.

Filling our cupboards with gluten free mixes for desserts, coffee cake, doughnuts and pasta, we began the process of living a gluten free lifestyle.  I avoided many of these products since they were often filled with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars which I had "given up" many years ago.  Tom gained weight eating these high carb sugary foods.

Most of these treats were palatable and he didn't complain.  Over a period of about three weeks, his symptom improved about 75%.  We were satisfied with this result and continued along this path for a few years.  With few symptoms of his condition, he gradually incorporated gluten back into his diet. 

Surprisingly, his symptoms didn't revert to the state they'd been a few years back.  Apparently, without gluten for awhile, his intestinal tract healed to a degree and although he wasn't symptom free, it was manageable.  He was willing to suffer some problems in order to eat an occasional coffee cake and doughnut.

His weight ballooned to almost 240 pounds, all in the belly.  At barely six feet tall, he was rotund.  My guy, rotund.  During this period of time, the news was filled with stories on the dangers of visceral fat (fat surrounding the internal organs) causing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and of course, digestive disorders. 

Tom shrugged off the risks, relying upon the longevity in his family while refusing to try any type of diet including gluten free.

In August 2011, after years of severe full body pain (which I wrote about in a prior post), I decided to try an anti-inflammation diet when a specialist explained that I'd require a total spinal fusion at some point as my spine continued to deteriorate.  It was August 2011. 

Tom attended my doctor appointment with me, for the first time seeing the degree of damage to every disc in my spine on the multiple MRIs from C1 to L5 hearing the doctor extol the virtues of a low inflammation diet. 

However, he suggested going one further step to enhance the possibility of extraordinary results; low carb (keeps blood sugar under control thus reducing inflammation according to many researchers at Harvard) no wheat, no grains of any type (no rice), no starch (no corn, no beans), no sugar (no fruit), no chemicals, high quality grass fed meat, free range chickens, limit dairy to butter and hard cheeses, organic produce (when possible).

Miraculously, Tom agreed to follow along with me. He had read an article in the newspaper about the rapid increase in the incidence of Celiac disease over the past 60 years.  Here's the link to the article that influenced him in going along on this path with me.

We eat eggs and nitrate free bacon for breakfast, grass fed meat, organic vegetables and salad with homemade dressing for dinner every night.  We nibble on nuts and hard cheese and an occasional sweet treat made with Stevia sweetener. 

Now 18 months later, Tom has lost 44 pounds, has NO symptoms of IBS, has quit smoking, has stopped taking seven pills per day and had stunning blood test results (better than ever) a month before we left Minnesota, as I have done as well. 

I am pain free ('cept for that darned shoulder!).  Already slim, I didn't lose weight during this period.  Nature has a funny way of taking care of its own when we respect the body, feeding it nourishing clean food.

So, this is why we eat the way we do, which we've mentioned here before.  Yes, cruises will be hard, especially the "sweets" tables.  However, we would not be able to go on this adventure if we hadn't followed this way of eating.  Tom was too bulky to haul that luggage.  I was in too much pain to go anywhere, let alone around the world.

Upon the recommendation of our Minnesota physician, amazed at our results, Tom is having a final endoscopy and a colonoscopy next week after having seen a local gastroenterologist yesterday, here in Scottsdale.  He too, was amazed by his improvement.  He explained an important point.  One may not have Celiac disease (which Tom will be further tested for next week) and yet be sensitive to gluten. 

A few years ago, he had a DNA test for Celiac Disease which stated "he had a likelihood of Celiac disease" but was not conclusive. We'll apprise you of his result after the tests are completed next week.  The only conclusive test is a biopsy of the small intestine which he will have.

For those of you yet to have a colonoscopy, please follow along with us. (You can sign up to receive email when we do a new post by entering your email on the right side of our site.  You will not be further solicited). 

You may discover that this life saving test is not painful, difficult or embarrassing.  The only sacrifice is one day of a clear liquids-only diet and the drive to and from the facility.  IV medication makes this pain free leaving you with little or no memory of the test itself.  You are completely covered up during the procedure. 

I had put it off having this test myself, for almost 10 years, only to be pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy it was.  This will be Tom's third procedure, required more frequently due his past bowel issues.

Please understand, we are in no manner trying to prescribe, diagnose, or claim to have any medical knowledge or experience other than that of the average lay person.  We simply want to share our experience with you, as we will as we travel the world.

Next week, we'll post the results of Tom drinking the two little bottles of the prescribed,  SUPREP BOWEL PREP KIT, drinking one small bottle at 5 PM, the night before the procedure and then again at 5 AM, the morning of the procedure. 

Once these two tests are completed and, providing the result is good which we expect, Tom will have no further testing until we eventually return to the US.  Of course, if he has any new symptoms, we will do so wherever we may be.

His tests are next Thursday morning, December 6th.  We will begin a "blow by blow" description on Wednesday, his prep day, and he what eats and drinks and his reaction to the two little bottles.  Perhaps, not suitable for the squeamish.

Smart phones not so smart for world travel...

Many months ago, while researching smart phones for world travel I discovered that no-contract unlocked phones were the way to go.  What is an unlocked phone you may ask?

An unlocked phone is a phone that doesn't have its system locked to work only on a particular cell phone service's network.  Thus, no contract.  However, on its own, a mobile phone won't work.  It requires a method of receiving a signal from the towers and satellites all over the world.

That method, when one doesn't have a mobile phone company such as Verizon, AT &T or T-Mobile, providing the signal directly to the locked phone, requires that the phone be unlocked (and set free from any service provider.) Then, it requires that a SIM card, a subscriber identity module, be installed enabling the phone to grab onto local cell signals.

In addition, each country operates their own signal on a specific band, not unlike radio signals, requiring the phone to be no less than a quad-band with frequencies that it can access bands of 850 and 1900 MHz commonly used in North America and 900 and 1800 MHz used in other parts of the world. A quad band phone can work in all of these situations.

Our plan was to buy the Nokia Lumia 920 when it hit the market this November.  Patiently, we waited.  We were sorely disappointed, last week, once we began the laborious process of searching for an unlocked version, to discover that finding it reliably unlocked was impossible. 

The only option was to buy it locked from AT & T, who has a monopoly on this model without a contract for $449 and try to find a way to unlock it ourselves since AT & T refused to unlock it for any price.

Unlocking a phone can be easy when given the proper code.  Unfortunately, due to AT & T's pre-established criteria with Nokia, there was no readily available unlock code.  Many web sites, suspicious and otherwise, claimed that they had the code, offering to sell instructions to unlock it for prices ranging from $29.95 - $199.00.  Very risky. 

Also, trying to unlock it under these questionable circumstances could result in damage to the phone rendering it useless and unable to be returned.  Very risky.  We gave up on the Nokia Lumia 920.

After no less than five visits to phone stores in the past three weeks both in Scottsdale and in Henderson, we were almost at a point of giving up being prepared to pay the horrific charges to keep the two Android phones we  currently have for international roaming charges which would be upwards of $500 a month.

Again, this morning we decided to try one more time.  We found our way to a Verizon store, saw another phone we liked that was supposedly unlocked, only available for full price (without a contract) by purchase online from Verizon's global department.  (All along we were prepared to pay the "full price" for whatever unlocked phone we purchased.  The lower cost options are only available when one commits to a new 2 year contract with the carrier).

Returning home, we finally had an opportunity  spoke to a knowledgeable representative, who explained that the phone we in liked in the store, the LG Intuition, was CMDA, not GSM (GSM is Global System for Mobile, the international standard, required for use with SIM cards and global use). 

"Please," I asked, "tell me which smart phones you have today that are GSM and unlocked, suitable for world travel. We are ready to purchase right now."

With the sound of her fingers flying across her keyboard, I waited patiently, almost holding my breath.  Tom and I looked back and forth at one another, hopeful.

Moments later, she said, "Oh, you already have a GSM unlocked phone that works globally."

WHAT???? My phone was on speaker.  Tom and I looked at each other and gasped at the same time.  We already had such a phone!  She confirmed that Tom's 11 month old Motorola Droid Razer that  I had purchased for him last year for his birthday in December, was both CDMA and GSM, unlocked and ready for world travel.  My older Droid X was not compatible.

She proceeded to explain how to remove the Verizon SIM card and use the slot to install a micro SIM card for another country, without having a Verizon contract.  Buy one more of these, cancel our existing expired contracts before we leave the US and we're good to go.

Moments later, we had purchased the Motorola Droid Maxx with the 8 MP camera we wanted, also unlocked, GSM, and ready to use internationally!  In two days we'll have our new smart phone in hand, activated,  awaiting the installation of the SIM cards we are now going to find and purchase.

The day before we leave the US on January 2, 2013, we will terminate service to our phones and install our new SIM cards.  We won't have to worry about "roaming" charges on the cruise since we won't have a contract. 

Our smart phone technological issues are almost completely resolved. Now we begin the search for the most cost effective data and call worthy SIM card that will work seamlessly with our two phones.  Whew!

Why two smart phones when we are together 24/7?  Safety. 

If I leave Tom at home in Cajarc, France, while I walk to the health club down the road, tripping on a cobblestone street (possible) and spraining my ankle, I'll want to be able to call Tom to come walk me home. 

Another less important reason, we both are in the habit of "playing" with our phones. When we have WiFi available, we'll still want to play.  When WiFi is not available, we can read KINDLE or NOOK books on our phones while lounging in a lawn chair on the deck of the cruise ship neither of which require an Internet connection once the books are downloaded.

Oh, good grief!  How spoiled we are with our technology!  You may say, people traveled the world without technology for centuries.  But...were they able to upload a photo for you to see of a baby elephant walking behind its mother, holding its mother's tail with its trunk, in a matter of seconds!

Update on temporary bed...

When we first arrived in Scottsdale Arizona 20 days ago, the temperature was in the 80's.  We couldn't turn on the air conditioning fast enough, sweating profusely as we unloaded our car of the eight orange Antler suitcases, flat screen TV (this won't travel the world with us), and miscellaneous bags and boxes. 

In a matter of minutes the noisy air conditioning began to cool our condo as we eyeballed the inviting swimming pool outside our dining/living room floor length windows.  Ah, cool. Perhaps a swim was in order soon. 

Although winter hadn't officially arrived in Minnesota when we left on Halloween, the chill was in the air, the leaves had turned to varying shades of rust and yellow, wearing a warm coat was in order and firing up the furnace for the season was a must.

In only a matter of days, we turned off the AC finding ourselves comfortable during the day in the 80 degree weather and more comfortable at night under two blankets while in the low 60's.  How quickly we adapt.

Tom and I spent the last 10 years sleeping in a over-sized king Sleep Number bed divided into two sections, allowing for the mechanical raising and lowering of the head and foot by use of individual controls.  If one wanted to shake their legs, get in or out of bed during the night, toss and turn, the other wouldn't feel any motion. 

The drawback of this particular bed was the difficulty of "cuddling" with the crack between the mattresses in the way.  As we planned our future travels, it was inevitable that we'd notice the type of bed in each property, most of which were standard double or queen beds without all the controls, the comfort, the special bedding and of course, the crack. 

We wondered if we'd have trouble sleeping together in a small bed.  As we've heard from time to time, some couples don't sleep in the same bed, let alone the same bedroom.  With rampant sleep apnea, insomnia and snoring in the general population these days, it's understandable that "special" sleeping arrangements must take precedence over night-after-night close quarters.

Recently, we've both sleep fairly well; Tom surprisingly finding that he's catching up from years of poor sleep due to his work and me, falling into bed exhausted after an entire day of my little brain figuring out all this technology.   We don't  snore nor do either of us suffer with sleep apnea.

The adjustment was purely comfort related.  Can we, after all these years, sleep in close quarters in a comparatively tiny bed?  Much to our amazement, we can.
Much to our amazement, we are both sleeping better than we have in years albeit with my wild nightly dreams of traveling.

I realize now, why I didn't sleep well in the past, awakening first at midnight, later at 2:00 am and again at 4:00 am most nights, finally wide awake at 5:30 am, in time for Tom to get up for work.  I too, dragged myself out of bed, often tired but glad to be up, ending the battle to sleep.

Its different now.  For me, it wasn't the body that couldn't sleep.  It was the mind, never still, never willing to rest, often filled with useless drivel, meaningless to-do lists combined with worry over situations for which I had little or no control. 

I've always believed, right or wrong, that worry is only worthwhile if it motivates one to action that will ultimately solve the problem.  And yet, I worried, keeping me awake, night after night.

After the tumultuous end of life as we knew it in Minnesota, I made a conscious decision to let it all go.  Life is too short to waste a moment in a state of useless worry.  Nights are too long to spend tossing and turning, seeking the next morsel of concern to grab onto to further the fitful state of being.  Its over now. I'm free. Finally. I sleep.

Yes, I could worry about the wide array of scenarios that could go wrong as we travel the world for the next number of years, too many to list here. We all know what they are.  We've made every logical and sensible precaution possible. We continue to spend the bulk of each day in preparation.  This process will diminish soon, once we leave. 

The goal is clear.  We'll have the planning under control when we leave the US on January 3, 2013, allowing us the freedom to live in the moment, observing and relishing in our surroundings, enjoying the people we meet, their culture and the sheer beauty and wonder of nature.

We'll adapt to the weather, the time changes, the lack of air conditioning, the loss of our favorite TV shows, the poor Internet connection, the avoidance of ice in our drinks as necessary, the lack of availability of our favorite food, ingredients and beverages and, the not-so-comfy bed.

No matter where we may be or how primitive the environment, we'll always be able to cuddle at night, hug during the day and sleep worry free at night... provided no wild animal is banging at the door.

Windows 8 pluses and minuses...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be filled with amazing food, animated conversation and an abundance of love. 

After 18 days as owners of two new lightweight Acer Windows 8, 15.6, 64 bit laptops we've had adequate time to determine its flaws and merits as typical, not expert, PC users.  (Well, not quite the typical user, as far as time online is concerned in preparation for our upcoming travels).

Back in 1991, Tom and I each had our own over sized desktop computers when we both became obsessed with a online beta game called Netplay, one of the first of its kind at that time.  It took 8 hours to download the game via a phone modem.  Wow, times have changed!

Over the years, we've updated our computers every few years, intrigued by the latest software and technology, finding ourselves enjoying their use as a tool to enhance our lives, to learn, to entertain us, to shop, to read aloud to one another, maybe spending more time online than other users.

As we planned our travels, we knew that our two old workhorse Dell Inspiron 17.3", 7.8 pound laptops, had their day.  Once Microsoft started promoting Windows 8, we decided we had to make the laptops last until the new laptops were available. 

It was a long wait.  My case broke and was held together by a huge plastic clamp.  Tom's monitor's light dimmed beyond repair (believe me, I tried) leaving us both chugging away waiting out Windows 8 release date.  Alas, it arrived on the market a week before we left Minnesota. 

We decided to wait to purchase the two new laptops until we arrived in Scottsdale avoiding any concern of a possible hotel room thief along the way.  One day after we arrived, we headed to the local Costco store, credit card in hand, chomping at the bit to get back to our temporary home to begin the process of transferring the data.  Ugh!

Mistake #1:  In order to get a "good deal" of $1658 (including 9.5% Arizona sales tax) buying at Costco, we shortchanged ourselves in some ways.  Don't get me wrong, we love Costco, always have.  

However, buying a computer from Costco resulted in zero in-person technical service, all precipitated by the desire to save a few hundred dollars.  Add a new operating system of which we had zero experience with limited information online, we were in a quandary.

Desperate, a few days later, we attended a free one hour course at the local Microsoft store.  Had we not had a few days to "play around with it" the course would have been way over our heads.  Fortunately, by that point we knew exactly which questions to ask, coming out of the class feeling more at ease.

Mistake #2:  Not purchasing a new data transfer software program or paying $69-$99 to have a professional do the transfers.  The software we brought with us for this task was obsolete for Windows 8.  Yes, we had transferred most of our data to the free 2 G DropBox before we left Minnesota, which we are now transferring to Microsoft's own new cloud, SkyDrive with 25 G of free storage.

Fortunately, we had brought along the CDs for Microsoft Office and Outlook 2007, which miraculously, we were able to install. We didn't want to buy Office 2010 when Office 2013 is coming out in February.

Fortunately, we brought along a zip drive enabling us to transfer all of Outlook files which included all of our communication, rental agreements, receipts and instructions with the owners and managers of the many vacation homes we are renting all over the world.  (I had placed the actual leases in Dropbox).

If I were to say, we each spent about five days setting up our computers, it's no exaggeration.  Finding support online was difficult with little consistent Windows 8 information available.  This will change quickly.  We were a few weeks ahead of the availability of reliable online guidance. 

Somehow, we figured it all out while swiping our fingers across our "touch screens" trying to maneuver those pesky little tiles.  Somehow, all of our data, contacts, pictures and settings are in place.  Somehow, we've learned the zillions of nuances one will only find in Windows 8.

The biggest issue we discovered, using Adobe Flash player, supposedly pre-installed into Internet Explorer 10.  Not the case, with error messages on many websites that require Flash. 

After hours of looking for solutions; patches from Microsoft or new versions for Windows 8, I stumbled across what proved to be a workable download, when several downloads didn't solve the problem.  (Of course, I uninstalled the non-working version we had but even the uninstall feature had issues). Quickly, I repeated the exact same process that made it work on my laptop, onto Tom's laptop and it didn't work!  We had the exact same computers!

Days later, after downloading and re-installing several versions, I finally got Flash to work  enabling Tom to get into his historical documents in Ancestry.com, his favorite site.  At one point, I was so obsessed with finding a solution, I sat here in this not-so-comfy chair, palms sweating, until almost midnight, bound and determined to fix it. 

Lo and behold, a few days later, it stopped working!

The next day, I spent over an hour on the phone with Costco's technical support in a conference call with a rep from Acer, neither of whom could resolve the issue.

Our laptops are quietly humming along loaded with our stuff, access to our travel files, filled with new apps, mine with little blocks of tiles, categorized by topic, each a single click to what I want to do.  I'm learning to love it, now that the worst is almost over with (the Flash issue remains).

Would we recommend Windows 8?  Yes, tentatively, provided one has professional assistance in transferring data from the old computer, getting Adobe Flash Player working correctly which we have yet to do, attending online or in-person training, and a willingness to spend considerable time learning its unfamiliar commands and hand gestures so unlike former Windows operating systems.

We both have found that the learning and the resulting mental stimulation from acquiring and getting up to speed on the latest technology may ultimately prove to be instrumental in keeping our brains working and perhaps, in keeping us young.  That would be nice. 

We have lots to do today including going out to Thanksgiving dinner at The Wandering Horse Buffet at The Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale. 

After dinner perhaps another hour long walk to walk off the meal, as we did yesterday perusing past the 100's of art galleries in the art district in our neighborhood.  I told you "he'd walk!" 

Have a happy day!

P.S.  Since writing this post this morning, I have found a solution for Flash Player.  Actually Internet Explorer is supposed to be pre-installed with Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player.  In both of our computers, it was non-functioning.
1.  Download the patch at this Microsoft site:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2770041
2.  Open Internet Explorer on the DESKTOP, not the TILES START SCREEN. In the upper right hand corner is a little gear (settings), click on this and then click on Manage add-ons. 
3.  In the middle of the box that appears, click on Show and select ALL add-ons.  Scroll down the right inside of the box and find Shockwave Flash
4.  Double click on Shockwave until a box appears.  Check ALLOW ALL WEBSITES.  This should do it.

That fix worked on our Windows 8 computers.  We now both have working Adobe Flash Players  Hopefully, it will work for you.  If you have trouble, feel free to comment here or email me and I will gladly respond promptly.

I don't profess to be a Windows 8 expert but with the lack of "free" tech support that knew how to solve this problem, we had no choice than to figure it out on our own. 

Now have a happy Thanksgiving day!  With both of our computers in full function mode, we sure will!

Adaptation...

ad·ap·ta·tion

noun \ˌa-ˌdap-ˈtā-shən, -dəp-\

Definition of ADAPTATION
1   : the act or process of adapting : the state of being adapted
2   : adjustment to environmental conditions: as

a : adjustment of a sense organ to the intensity or quality of stimulation

b : modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment  

 
We're adapting.  Its not easy.  We knew it wouldn't be easy.  We loved our unique peninsula home, the breathtaking views, Mother Nature surrounding us, the ease of being together day after day, and the people in our lives. 
 
Yes, as most of us, we longed for more; more time, more money, more freedom.  The longing, in itself, became an elemental part of our existence, tucked away to draw upon when pensive or reflective, never quite certain what it was we wanted.
 
The familiarity of the enveloping environment created a cocoon from which we could so easily escape by simply stepping away.  We chose not to.  Instead we chose to stay entrenched in the soft folds of a life insulating us from the harsh wounds life often inflicts. 
 
It didn't protect us.  The sorrow, the disappointment and the unfulfilled expectations, still came our way.  We drew closer to one another as we muddled our way through, always grateful to have survived yet another rising of the tide, all the while anxious to return to our comforting routine.
 
Letting go of it all, saying goodbye, wasn't easy. Yes, we had this great future planned, full of wonder; travel the world together for years to come.  "Wouldn't that prospect make the leaving easier?" they asked.
 
In a perfect world, it would. But we're imperfect. If we fall and break our leg today does it hurt less when we know that next week our new car is being delivered? Life is lived in compartments; today is a tough day but tomorrow is easy.  Today we falter, weak and unsure, yet tomorrow we stand tall ready to face whatever is thrown our way. 

Its the nature of us humans.  We feel. We're inconsistent in the process of feeling.  That's what makes us wonderful.  That's what makes us adaptable; the desire to recover, the desire to heal and the ultimate desire to begin again.

And, we begin again, as the clock to the end of our lives begins to tick louder, we begin again, to savor every moment in a state of constant flux and challenge in unfamiliar surroundings, testing our strength, testing our will.

Yes, it was hard to leave "them" behind.  It was riddled with guilt and fear of losing their love. But they have their lives to experience, to learn, to grow.  They have their own raging seas and calming tides.  They have their own adaptation.

As the time draws near, we find peace.  In two unfamiliar homes in the past three weeks we've chosen to call wherever we may be, "home." That, ultimately, in our own way... is adaptation.

Why 2nd passports? Visit to Nevada...

Over the past many months of writing this blog, I have mentioned the need for 2nd passports.  One may ask, "Why isn't one passport sufficient?"

Usually, one passport is sufficient for most travelers.  If visas are needed for travel, one must send in their passport to the appropriate embassy along with other pertinent documents as required by the country into which one is seeking access.  Doing so, would leave us in a foreign country without a passport in our possession for a week, a dangerous situation.

Visas are not required by all countries, many are only required for stays of 30 days or more, many for as much as 90 days. It is imperative that we check the requirements at the embassy of the countries we'll be visiting, found easily online at a number of sites.

Rather than take the time and effort to apply for all the visas we will need as we need them and, based on our long stays in many countries, we have decided to use the services of VisaHQ, a company located on Embassy Row in Washington, DC.  They have the ability to quickly and easily process the paperwork, not only for our 2nd passports but also for our many upcoming visas.

Unfortunately, it is necessary to wait about 30 days before traveling to a specific country, since they usually are only good for a specific period.

Of course, there are additional fees for processing each visa, usually under $79 each.  Early on in our budgeting discussions we decided to include this expenses rather than taking the time and the effort at each of our locations to do the paperwork ourselves. Doing so would create stress, distracting us from the enjoyment of the experience at the time.

VisaHQ, along with other such websites, has the traveler complete a master form kept secure on their site.  When a visa is needed a single page is all that is required to complete online along with sending in the 2nd passport and any necessary documents which are quickly returned. 

Second passports are only good for two years.  We'll note the renewal date on our calendar upon receipt.  For this reason, we are waiting until we are down to the wire to ensure we have full use of the two years.

Once we apply and have experienced the process of our first application online with VisaHQ we will report back here with the details.  Of course, we already have our "first" passports, good for another nine years in our case. (US passports are valid for a of a total of 10 years).

This past Friday while here in Nevada, we had additional passport photos taken at a Walgreens pharmacy, who along with CVS are certified to take passport photos, making this process easier than in years past.  The cost for each pair of photos is $10.99. 

We each ordered two sets leaving us with a total of four passport photos plus a fifth we already had of an older photo. Generally, passport photos are valid for six months. (Yes, us old timers do change in appearance in six months, I suppose). 

The time here in Henderson, Nevada has been low key as we continue to prepare to leave the US, visiting family, playing with family kids and dogs, Monty and Owen. 

We dined in the past two nights.  On Saturday while at Whole Foods we purchased a huge chunk of bison sirloin steak, gluten free of course, that I cut into two nice sized pieces to marinate.  After all, we are trying "new things."

Nah, Tom took one bite and gagged.  It didn't help that we were watching a show on TV, Extreme Cheapskates, whereby the "star" of the episodes would go "dumpster diving" at restaurant dumpsters for dinner. 

That didn't bother me!  I busily chomped away on my big steak, noticing a "gamey" flavor but hungry enough to eat the entire thing.  I eyeballed Tom's plate considering attacking his steak also deciding not to "pig out."  Bison in the future?  Not so much.

Undoubtedly, we'll have plenty of opportunities to try new foods along the way as we travel the world.  Later.

Our new residency...state of Nevada

It feels different living away from Minnesota, not better, not worse.  Just different. No snow, no cold, predictably warm and sunny days and a mad excess of shopping and restaurants.

Yesterday afternoon, while driving the five hours to Las Vegas from Scottsdale for the weekend, we stopped for gas in the desert town of Kingsman, Arizona, a familiar stopping point for a travelers along their way to California or Nevada.

Getting low on gas with another hour plus to go, Tom pulled in to a busy gas station, right off the highway.  Lo and behold, they didn't accept credit cards, only cash a customer may have on hand or, from their cash machine conveniently positioned on the gas pump island, in order to collect a $2.75 "processing fee" from the machine for every transaction. 

By avoiding paying standard credit card fees by allowing only debit cards, the gas station was allowed to line their coffers with the excess revenues they were generating  from the cash machines!

What a rip off!  Customers were furious as they were sucked in by this scam grumbling as they begrudgingly complied.

Not my guy!  He whipped out of there so fast that his SUV's tires were squealing,  We proceeded a quarter mile down the road to pump gas at a station with no such policies.  As he was filling the tank he realized that the gas he was pumping was $.50 more per gallon!  Oh good grief! 

Everyone had warned us about getting ripped off outside the US! Ha!  It was a good reminder to be suspicious; not paranoid, to be mindful; not obsessive, wherever we may be. So we shall.

So today, situated in to our comfortable family member's home in Henderson for the weekend, located in an ideal area, we prepared ourselves for several tasks today:

1.  Go to MailLink in Las Vegas and pick up all of our accumulated forwarded mail from the past two weeks.
2.  Go to a CVS or Walgreen's pharmacy to have take additional passport photos necessary to apply for our second passports (will explain this soon) and also as required when applying for certain visas around the world.
3.  Apply for Nevada driver's licenses and voter's registration. (We've been warned that the wait is horrifying.  More on that in a moment.)
4.  Find a good restaurant for breakfast.
5.  Find our bank in order to deposit some checks that had arrived in the mail.
6.  Locate a Target  store to  purchase a new FitBit pedometer after the most recent device fell apart.  (I must get back to tracking those 10,000 daily steps, severely lacking over the past two weeks.)

OK.  The Nevada DMV, a pure nightmare, we heard.  We had talked to several residents warning us to be prepared for hours spent waiting in line.  Of course, we had a plan.  Showing up 15 minutes before they were to open at 8:00 am and getting in the growing line outside the building seemed like a reasonable solution. 

Upon arriving at 7:43, we cringed as we witnessed no less than 40 people in line while a light rain was falling on a chilly morning in the low 50's.  Unprepared, arriving without jackets or rain gear we decided to tough it out.  We were tempted to drive away and come back at a later time, anticipating that the line might lighten up later in the day. 

Let's stay, I coaxed Tom, he too in a lightweight long sleeved shirt.  In line we went. At 7:55 they started letting us inside. Much to our surprise, there were no less than 25 stations utilizing a sophisticated numbering system, reminiscent of a computerized female voice moving the cattle-like crowd in sci-fi movie we watched years ago. 

In no time at all, we were both seated in front of a DMV "officer" providing our copious documents to satisfy the state's requirements.  We were well armed.

An hour later, we were out the door with our Nevada residency in tact, former Minnesota residents (Tom, a lifelong fifth generation Minnesotan, that predates Minnesota statehood) and me, having enjoyed the frozen tundra and Minnesota nice (to be missed) for the past 40 years.  Thank you Minnesota.  Hello, Nevada.

And, soon, my friends...48 days...hello, world.

Big Itinerary change! Part 2...

Here is the fabulous condo we will be renting for 13 nights, after arriving by cruise ship (as listed in the last post on November 12, 2012) in Dubai on May 21, 2013. 

With only six months until our arrival date, we felt it was imperative to lock in a location, having noticed that many of the properties we've chosen thus far seem to get snapped up quickly as vacations are planned all over the world.

Prices are high in Dubai.  When we began looking at our favorite vacation rentals sites (before we booked the cruise to ensure it would be an affordable month), Vacation Home Rentals and Home Away, we became discouraged that maybe this cruise wasn't right for us at this time.

Many of the properties, in great locations close to the notorious Palm Island as shown on the map, were $300-$500 a night or more, way out of our budget.  As always, a little negotiating and perseverance prevailed.  We found this ideal property at the newer Elite Residence Tower, the 2nd tallest residential tower in the world at 91 stories.


Here is the link to the rental property. Notice the location of this property on the map in relation to Palm Jumiera, the world famous man made island represented with palm fronds of exclusive properties.

The owner writes, in describing the location:

"This location is in the middle of most of the tourist attractions of Dubai. Such as Palm Jumeira, Atlantis Hotel, JBR Walk, beach, Mall of Emirates, indoor ski resort, Wild Wadi, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Marina Mall, etc.  There are an array of restaurants serving multi-national cuisines such as Chinese, Italian, Indian, Persian, Lebenese, Japanese, Pakistani, Mexican, Continental, etc.

Read more at http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p3484936#rkgAyAl7uPtKmT9l.99 "

Need I say we are pleased with our "home body selves" for taking on this added adventure.  "What's happening here," some family members ask?  "Have you gone completely mad in your advancing age?"

No, not at all.  Each day while living in Scottsdale until the end of the year, we complete paperwork, taxes, digital equipment needs,  Nevada residency, new driver's licenses and our 2nd passports (will explain that soon), we stretch to challenge ourselves in little ways we never attempted in the past, such as:
  1. Attending a Windows 8 computer class.  Stubborn that we were, we always took more time to teach ourselves, rather than go out to a class.
  2. Going to a sport bar in the morning to watch the Vikings Game.  Only once in our years together, did we ever go to a bar to watch a game.
  3. Dining out and trying new foods (that comply with our way of eating, of course).
  4. Jess drinking beer when we've gone out to dinner.  Getting drunk after one beer I've hesitated to drink.  What the heck?  Live it up!  So what if Tom has to carry me out to the car after drinking one Michelob Ultra (low carb)!
  5. Walking, actually going for a structured walk.  All these years I asked Tom to go for a walk with me.  Never did he walk further down the road than to our friends Chip and Sue's home for happy hour or dinner, only four doors away.  Now we go for walks in our temporary neighborhood.  After all, when we're traveling, we won't have a car most of the time.  Walk, we shall!  (Tom can't believe he's walking.  I knew he eventually would!)
  6. Shopping together.  I can count on one hand how many times over the years that Tom has gone into a grocery store, let alone a department store.  Yep, we do both together now.  That's change.
Some of our family members ask, "Are you doing anything different than you did before?" (Which meant for us, staying home and enjoying every minute of our lives).  Yes, we are family!

Yes, we are sitting at our new computers in our temporary home, fast and furiously doing tons of preparation necessary to travel the world without a home for the next 5-10 years.  Its a daunting task. 

We spend about two hours each day doing research for upcoming trips, locations and cruises, one hour of paperwork, two more hours setting up and learning our new laptops (Windows 8), two hours in household tasks (laundry, cleaning, doing dishes, etc.), two hours out and about shopping and researching our digital equipment, one hour walking, two hours a day dining, and one hour of happy hour commiserating over the previous 13 hours, totaling 14 hours plus...

Yes, family, at night after dinner, pooped from the days activities, we do the dreaded, sit in a chair (definitely not comfy as our old chairs) and "veg out" snacking on sugar free candy, nuts and low carb protein bars and...the most awful...watching mindless drivel on TV, all the while with a smile on our faces, often looking at one another with a new found intrigue while excited, grateful and in love.

Belize;  get your lawn chairs ready. Egypt, we'll ride camels on the way to see your Great Pyramids and Dubai, we'll research your history.  Tuscany, we're ready to walk your open markets, living amongst your citizens for an entire summer.  Africa, we'll live with your animals in Marloth/Kruger Park, we'll go to see the Great Migration as it crosses the land to the Masai Mara, perhaps in a hot air balloon.

The south of France: we'll drive along your coast to Cannes, staying overnight in a fancy hotel and then, we'll live in a little stone house in Cajarc where there are few tourists.  The island of Madeira, Portugal; we'll live in a huge contemporary house overlooking your sea for the an entire summer and ride bicycles into your town filled with history.  Hey Europe, we'll spend five months roaming around without a plan until we're leave for our five scheduled months in Hawaii.

Chill out, family.  We're not bored for a second and don't think for a minute, that we're sitting here doing a thing.













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Big itinerary change! Part 1...

Without a doubt, an itinerary change was inevitable. When we began this process, we decided that any major changes would not be on our part unless an unforeseen health issue or misrepresentation of the situation occurred. 

If we found a better "deal" elsewhere after paying a deposit on a vacation home or cruise, we agreed that we would stand behind our original decision.  Good health providing, we decided that if we arrived at a vacation home finding it dirty or in ill repair or, not as represented, we would never force ourselves to stay for what could prove to be uncomfortable, dangerous in any manner or unbearable.

In the past, I was the person that would check out the hotel room to ensure it was to our liking before committing.  If it wasn't, I would gently and kindly request an alternative, rather than ask for a price adjustment. 

At times, this resulted in an upgrade.  This was never intended to be a case of whining to "see what one could get" but more a situation of exercising the privilege of getting that which one pays for.  Fairness. 

Over the past several years, finally maturing in my 60's, I became less picky, expending my energy on more important issues.  With Tom at my side, I could live in a tent.  Of course, the cotton inside the sleeping bag would be 600 pt. Egyptian cotton and the tea would be loose leaf Pouchong from Taiwan.

Our original plan had been to spend from May 4, 2013, after a cruise from Barcelona to Mallorca staying until June 4, 2013 in the lovely property, high on a hill overlooking the sea, the beautiful historic island of Mallorca, Spain (also spelled, Majorca). 

It was a good plan, to be followed by a Mediterranean cruise from June 5th to June 16th which would end in Venice, Italy, where we'd take a train to Florence, spending the remainder of the summer in a renovated 17th century farmhouse in Tuscany.  Ah, what a plan!

Shortly before we left Minnesota 12 days ago, we were informed that the property in Mallorca may be sold.  Rather than leave the owner, a dear friend and neighbor in Minnesota, in a tough position we graciously agreed to bow out and find other accommodations for this time period while leaving all of our other plans in place.

The new challenge, to fill this odd time period from May 4th to June 4th with something especially daring and exiting, rather than filling the spot with a
month in a residence hotel.  Compared to our planned two to three month stays in various locations, this to us, was a short period to fill.

And fill it, we did. This weekend we wrapped up our plans:

May 5, 2013 - May 21, 2013- Aboard this 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Dubai:

FastDeal10789
15 nights departing May 6, 2013 on
Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas

Cheapest Inside$959
Cheapest Oceanview$1,049
Cheapest Balcony$1,499
Cheapest Suite$2,649
$$$ Early booking bonus! Book now and receive a FREE $50 per cabin on board credit on select categories.
  
Royal Caribbean - Mariner of the Seas, departs 5/6/13, 15 nights
 Mon May 6 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Tue May 7 At Sea
Wed May 8 At Sea
Thu May 9 At Sea
Fri  May 10 Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt 7:00am
Sat  May 11 Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt 3:00pm
Sun May 12 Suez Canal, Egypt (Cruising)
Mon May 13 Luxor (Safaga), Egypt 7:00am 10:00pm Tue May 14 Petra (Aqaba), Jordan 9:00am 10:00pm Wed May 15 At Sea
Thu May 16 At Sea
Fri   May 17 At Sea
Sat  May 18 At Sea
Sun May 19 At Sea
Mon May 20 At Sea
Tue  May 21 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 6:00am

   
 
 
 
With taxes the total was $3900, averaging at $260 per day for both of us, higher than our preferred $200 per day including meals. Plus, another $900 total for our return flight to Barcelona on June 4, 2013, yet to be booked. 

We realized this month long trip was higher than our budget allowed for any one month. But, averaging our total daily budget over the extended period of 945 days booked thus far, we're still within our daily budget of under $200 per day including every known expense: health insurance, emergency evacuation, personal insurance,  XCom Global for MiFi Internet, incidentals, my lipstick, haircuts, booze aboard ship, tips, taxis, ferries, planes, car rentals, boat rides and on and on).

Giza and the Suez Canal become a dream come true only a short four months after we've experienced the Panama Canal on our cruise beginning on January 3, 2013, the date we first leave the US.  Tom loves the idea of seeing two of the largest waterways in the world, history buff that he is. 

Yes, we may ride a camel to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. And yes, photos will follow.

Please read this about Giza from Vacations to Go's website:

Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt
"Highlights in Cairo include the Ibn Tulun Mosque, which dates to the ninth century, and the Citadel, a medieval fortress. Many passengers choose to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World; the Sphinx is nearby. Tours of these sites are offered on foot, horseback or camel. The port city of Alexandria is set on a strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mareotis, and serves as the gateway to Cairo and Giza. In Alexandria, a tour of the harbor and Montaza Palace or lounging on the beach are favorite activities."

And this about the Suez Canal:

"The Suez Canal runs 100 miles between the sand dunes of the Sinai Peninsula and the Nile River delta. Cruise ships often dock toward the canal's north end at Port Said, a gateway to Cairo. From the port of Safaga at the south end, passengers are offered shore excursions to the ancient city of Luxor, where Tutankhamen was entombed."               

And this about Luxor:

"This small port city on the western shore of the Red Sea is a gateway to Luxor and all of the splendid Egyptian temples, tombs and ruins found there. After experiencing the sights on the east bank (including Karnak and the Luxor temples and Luxor Museum) cruise across the Nile to the west bank (where sights include the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Queen Hashepsut). Although most people head straight to the ancient architectural treasures, scuba diving and windsurfing are popular activities in Safaga itself. "               

As on our previously booked seven cruises (this being the eight cruise), we once again chose a Balcony Cabin with the assistance of our fabulous cruise professional, Joaquin Contreras from Vacations to Go, truly the king of cruise planning himself!  Thanks, Joaquin!

Here's the link to the actual cruise with more details. 

Next post, we'll share with you how we 've booked the remaining 13 nights in Dubai from May 21st to June 3rd, after which we'll fly back to Barcelona for the next cruise in our itinerary, the following day. 

There is never a moment that we don't marvel in our willingness to take the risk of selling everything we owned, leaving everyone we love behind to embark on this adventure, in this perfect time in the economy, in this particular time in our lives; with one another, full of love, full of joy, full of wonder and full of gratitude.