Twenty days…Leaving Boveglio…Future travel plans…

The archway in our yard that ventures out to the winding, hilly roads, kept locked for privacy.   these small villages in Tuscany it is difficult to determine where a house and yard begins and ends with most houses “stuck together.”

It’s hard to believe in less than three weeks we’ll be leaving Boveglio to drive to Venice to fly to Kenya the next day, the 3rd. 

We’re reminded that fall is near, by the pumpkins and gourds in our yard.

It will be the beginning of almost a year of living in Africa, ending with two and a half months in Madeira, Portugal, an island located off the northwestern coast of Africa.

A pepper plant growing in the lower garden. These are most likely too hot for our taste buds.
With an open space in time from August 1, 2014, until November 30, 2014, Tom has been busy searching as to how we’ll fill this gap in our travels. At this point, the biggest challenge we have in booking this gap period is the result of a few crucial factors:

1.  What are the most enjoyable and sensible means of us traveling back across the Atlantic Ocean toward Hawaii when we’ll be getting together with our adult kids and grandchildren at our upcoming rental house in Kona, Hawaii at Christmas time in 2014?
2.  With the added expense of airfare for 13 family members, how can we spend this period most economically to perhaps offset a portion of the cost?
3.  Do we want to stay in Europe until December 1st when our rental begins in Hawaii, as we end the upcoming one year stint from Portugal?
4.  Are there cruises available to use as a means of travel, which we prefer?

The doorway and patio of a house below us where we heard cheerful Italian chatter last night.

Tom has been spending considerable time at Vacations to Go and Cruise Critic in an effort to determine our best options. Once we pin down possible cruises, we’ll contact our representative, Joaquin at Vacations to Go to book our chosen cruises. 

How dry and brown the yard is becoming with a lack of regular rain.

The further we continue into our world travels, we’ve determined that we love cruising for several reasons:
1.  Cost-effective in many cases with housing and meals included.
2.  No enforced luggage restrictions.
3.  Ease of living:  no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry (although it does pile up)
4.  Meeting new people almost every day while meandering on the ship and during meals.
5.  Date night every night with the option of ordering included room service. (After eight cruises, we’ve yet to order room service).
6.  Opportunity to visit many countries in a short period of time with the numerous scheduled ports of call.
7.  Movies on board. 
8.  Exercise facilities on board.
9.  Often interesting classes on board.
10. Chefs on cruise ships make every effort to accommodate my restrictive diet. Although boring and bland at times, it’s much easier than trying to communicate my restrictions in a new restaurant with possible language barriers.

The herb garden in the yard, separate from our patio garden.

After extensive research these past days, we’ve finally come to the conclusion that we’ll wait until the 90-day ticker begins (until sail date) with discounted cruise fares for 2014. In reviewing the ticker for cruises in the next 90 days we’ve seen how beneficial it is to wait with discounts as high as 82%. 

Impatiens growing in an old wooden barrel in the yard.

Yes, by waiting we run the risk of a particular cruise being sold out. Willing to take this risk, we accept the reality that if our means of transportation by cruise is sold out, we can always fly to our next preferred location.  In a rare position for this flexibility, it makes sense for us to proceed in this manner.

A cozy corner of one of the covered garden areas.

With most of our first two and a half years traveling well planned in advance, we now feel experienced and confident enough, after almost a year to attempt last-minute planning. Doing so opens the opportunity for us to experience cruises normally priced beyond our budget, at suddenly lower pricing.

The morning sun filtered through the covered garden.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, Vacations to Go has a policy whereby they will honor price reductions on cruises up to 90 days before sailing. If one watches the pricing on their pre-booked cruises, one can request the reduction which becomes effective immediately which will be guaranteed through sailing. However, neither the cruise lines nor Vacations to Go will watch this for a customer.  One must do this on their own.

Few roses remain as summer winds down.  Often, I wanted to make a bouquet for the kitchen table, deciding against it, knowing it would attract bees indoors.

Learning the nuances of enhancing the quality of our travels is an ongoing process. Many have asked us why we booked so much in advance for the first two and a half years. The answer is simple. 

Last year, we left Minnesota to begin our travels on Halloween.  It seems so long ago.

As neophytes, if we weren’t able to find and book the next desired leg in our travels, we may have become frustrated questioning why we ever took this enormous life-changing challenge.  With bookings planned and deposits paid, we were committed which proved to bring us comfort, excitement, and peace of mind as we learned the ropes.

These variegated green and white leaves are vinca vine, always a favorite of mine when planted to hang over a rock wall.


This planted shoe could easily have been in this yard for over 100 years.

Now, it is becoming clear to us that we can patiently wait.  Unless, of course, some amazing opportunity presents itself that we cannot turn down. 

After all, the world is a big place.

A sad event impacts our future travels…Changing plans…Changing lives…

It’s Sunday morning at 11:00. We’re going out to dinner on Tuesday with Alan and Fiona for her birthday. I just spent two hours in the kitchen making Tom’s favorite low-carb, grain-free pizza, which we’ll bake at dinnertime, and a three-night portion of sauteed chicken breast tenders with mushrooms, onions, and garlic for me. We’ll enjoy these main dishes Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. I won’t have to cook for days. I don’t eat the pizza when it’s too fattening for me since I dropped a few more kilos.

But, of course, you don’t care to read about my morning in the kitchen, do you? What is happening with no post yesterday and some arbitrary change in plans?

On Friday afternoon, Minnesota-time, our dear brother-in-law, Gene, husband of Tom’s sister Colleen, sadly passed away after a long and challenging illness exacerbated by a brain injury that occurred years ago when he fell on ice and snow in Minnesota. We often hear of injuries seniors suffer from falling in the long winter months in Minnesota, which is certainly one reason we don’t want to visit Minnesota in the winter, especially with my unstable legs.

Multiple species in the garden.

When Colleen wrote to tell Tom the sad news, it was 11:30 pm here, and I was sound asleep. He didn’t want to awaken me, knowing this information could keep me awake all night, wondering what we’d do when we leave here on October 21st, less than three weeks away.

As it turned out, I awoke at 4:00 am, unable to go back to sleep, almost anticipating something had happened. At 5:30, Tom asked me if I was awake and told me the news. We were sad to hear about this, but it also significantly impacted our upcoming plans.

Colleen is Tom’s sister, whose home we planned to stay in for three months in Apache Junction, Arizona. With Gene’s passing, Colleen wanted to get out of Minnesota for the winter and spend time with her sisters in warm, sunny Arizona.

I ran out onto the road to take this giraffe photo.

She hadn’t been able to go to her home in Apache Junction due to Covid-19 and Gene’s poor health since 2019, when we were last there with them before we took off for India in January 2020. We could not prevent her from going to her property by staying in it for three months during the winter.

Lying there in bed at 5:30 am, discussing this, we considered a few options. We could rent a holiday home somewhere in the US. But, before deciding on Arizona, we’d extensively searched for holiday homes in the US states with warm winters. Since the onset of Covid-19 and losses incurred by holiday homeowners, prices for long-term rentals have gone through the roof.

In suitable locations, even without being overly picky, any properties we may have considered were three times the cost of our rent here in South Africa. Of course, after India, we’re not willing to stay long-term in a hotel. The handwriting was on the wall. We needed to stay in Marloth Park and fly to a non-bordering country in Africa to get our visas stamped.

At a decent hour, I contacted Louise, who we know is an early bird, to see when we could stop by to discuss our possible living arrangements if we did decide to stay another three months. We met up with her at 10:00 am.

When I walked back up the driveway toward the house, Tom distracted Broken Horn with pellets to ensure my safety. This vast animal could be startled and gore an unsuspecting human.

An important fact remained in our minds. Recently, we booked several cruises, a few of which are expensive compared to our average day-to-day expenses. We figured if we could live inexpensively for several months, we could stay within our budget for the year with the costs of these cruises.

But, if we had to pay enormous rent over the following months, we may have to reconsider what we’ve booked. Let’s face it. We’re not getting any younger. I am approaching 74, and Tom will be 69 sooner than later. When we return to South Africa by a cruise in December  2022, we will celebrate Tom’s 70th and, two months later, my 75th birthday during those first three months we are here.

We’ve decided to budget to the best of our ability to ensure we can visit new places we’ve longed to see throughout the world for whatever time we have left that we can do so. Traveling like this isn’t easy. It requires a lot of careful planning and physical energy on travel days and a lot of work necessary to pack and move all the time. Many seniors would find this simply too exhausting and too much work, which we understand. But for now, we still have the stamina to do it. For us, it’s not a chore. It’s an adventure every single time.

Lots of kudus this morning, including Bad Eye, whose torn eyelid looks much better.

It appears we can move our original flight to Arizona without penalty from Delta Airlines due to Covid-19 changes, and thus, we won’t incur any losses by changing our flights. Louise can let us stay in this same house until January 23, 2022, when we’ll leave for Florida, where we’ll stay with friends Karen and Rich before and after their February wedding.

We booked round-trip direct flights to Zambia on October 21st and returned on October 26th for our visa stamps. Louise is helping us book some events in Zambia, which we won’t wrap up for a few days when the tourist offices reopen on Monday.

We called Colleen, offering her our heartfelt sympathies, and told her she could now go to Arizona for the winter since we’ve made other plans and won’t tie up her one-bedroom property. She was so sweet and more than willing to let us stay. But we knew her going there would suit her during this grief and sorrow.

We’ll report with definitive plans for Zambia to stay in the next few days, one of the few countries we can fly to on a direct flight from Nelspruit. There was no way we were interested in booking an expensive trip with long flights going through Johannesburg. Nelspruit is a 75-minute drive from here, and the flight is less than two hours to Livingstone.

We’re good. We were not worried. Not stressed. It was the right thing to do.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2020:

One year ago, this photo was posted in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #194. In Bali, a dragonfly fluttered around the two koi ponds by either side of the front entryway. Much to my delight, it returned almost every day to the exact location. For more, please click here.

We understand that many seniors would find this simply too exhausting and too much work

, physical energy on travel days, and a lot of work necessary to pack and move

We’re not willing to stay long-term in a hotel after India

Changes of our future plans…Covid-19 rules the travel industry…

A helmeted guinea-fowl and her chick, looking for pellets at the edge of the veranda.

This morning we received email notifications from Celebrity Cruise Lines that two booked cruises in and around Japan in 2022 have been canceled. The first sailing and the third of these three cruises we’d booked in this area will be canceled shortly. Now, we are down to five booked cruises instead of eight, all due to Covid-19.

We had planned to fly from Florida to Singapore a few weeks after our friends Karen and Rich’s wedding on February 11th. With all three of these cruises canceled, we’ll need to find where we’ll go when we leave Florida. Tom is currently researching our options., considering other potential cruises to fill the gap.

A giraffe was taking a rest.

Here again, Covid-19 is the determining factor on where we’ll go and what we’ll do. With the Schengen visa, we can only stay in most European countries for 90 out of 180 days. Also, we’ve already spent a lot of time in Europe in our past travels. Our current interests don’t necessarily lead us in that direction.

For now, our inclination is to travel by sea as much as possible, so that is the path we are researching at this point. But, due to Covid-19, many countries have instituted many restrictions impacting ports of call during cruises. There’s no doubt in our mind that the Japan cruises were canceled due to fears of infection in and around a country of such a vast population.

A male duiker, photo taken during the summer when the vegetation was lush and green.

Are we worried if continuing our world travels makes sense at this time? Not, However, we must consider the risks each country presents whenever and wherever we travel, including our upcoming trip to the US, which has the worst Covid-19 statistics of any country in the world.

As of yesterday, here are the stats for the US from this site:

Total Cases: 42,479,780

New cases: 164,509

Total Deaths: 685,023

New Deaths: 2282

A dung beetle pushing his ball of dung on his search for a mate to join him.

Statistics show that 54.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated, the highest globally. Yet, they have the newest cases and deaths of any country globally, based on information from this site.

You may ask, why are we going back to the US right now? For several reasons. But our biggest motivator is attending our friend’s small wedding in February. Since we were going back for that, we decided to spend more time with Tom’s siblings in Arizona and meet up with my sister Julie who lives in Los Angeles, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A few months ago, a mom and baby bushbuck was still some green vegetation in the bush.

During this US visit, we won’t be visiting Minnesota. It will be winter there, and neither of us cares to tackle the cold, the ice, and the snow. Once we know more about upcoming cruises, we’ll plan another time to be in Minnesota and Nevada to visit mine and Tom’s family, which surely will be during fall, spring or summer.

For now, we continue to consider where in the world we long to visit and how and when it will be possible based on current travel restrictions due to the pandemic. We’ll have plenty of time while in Arizona to work on this further.

Enjoy the day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 16, 2020:

This photo is from the year-ago post while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day # 177. Sunset view from the third floor of Hans’ house (owner of the house we rented next door) in Diani Beach, Kenya, in 2013. We were thrilled to take photos of the progression of the sun’s setting on the horizon. For more photos, please click here.

The expat or the world traveler route?…Which is better for you and why?…

The red dot on this map indicates where the island of Madeira is located.

“There is a difference between being an expat and traveling slowly to see the world. Each path offers unique experiences and challenges. An expat’s life revolves around settling in one place and becoming part of the local community. On the other hand, slow travel is about taking time to explore each destination deeply.”

In an increasingly interconnected world, the concepts of “expat” and “world traveler” have become more prevalent, reflecting different ways people choose to live and explore. While both groups share a love for experiencing new cultures and environments, their lifestyles, motivations, and experiences differ significantly. Understanding these differences can help clarify the nuances of these two distinct paths.

Definitions and Basic Differences

Expat is short for expatriate, a term used to describe individuals who live outside their native country for an extended period, often for work or personal reasons. Expats typically settle in one country for months or years, integrating into the local community to varying degrees. Their stay is usually characterized by a semi-permanent or permanent relocation, influenced by employment, family, or retirement plans.

On the other hand, a world traveler moves from one place to another, often for shorter durations, driven by a desire to explore, experience, and enjoy diverse cultures and environments. World travelers may stay in one location for days, weeks, or months before moving on to the next destination. Their journey is often continuous, with no fixed home base, emphasizing exploration over settlement.

Motivation and Purpose

Expats often relocate due to job assignments, career advancement opportunities, or company transfers. They might also move for personal reasons, such as joining a spouse or family member, seeking better living conditions, or pursuing retirement in a more favorable environment. Their primary motivation is usually practical and long-term, focusing on stability and integration into the new country.

In contrast, world travelers are driven by curiosity, adventure, and a passion for discovering new places. Their motivation is more about experiencing diversity, learning about different cultures, and seeking personal growth through travel. The purpose of their journey is exploration and enjoyment rather than settling down or establishing roots.

Lifestyle and Daily Routine

Expats often lead lives similar to those they had in their home countries, though adapted to their new environment. They might rent or buy homes, enroll their children in local or international schools, and establish work, social activities, and community involvement routines. Over time, they may develop a deep understanding of and connection to their host country’s culture, language, and traditions.

For world travelers, the lifestyle is more transient and flexible. Depending on their preferences and budget, they might stay in hotels, hostels, short-term rentals, or even camp out. Their daily routine is less structured, often dictated by travel plans, sightseeing, and spontaneous adventures. They are constantly on the move, with no fixed abode, leading to a more fluid and unpredictable way of life.

Integration and Interaction with Local Culture

Expats have the opportunity to immerse themselves deeply in the local culture. Over time, they may learn the language, understand societal norms, and build lasting relationships with locals. They often become part of the community, participating in local events and contributing to their host country’s social and economic fabric.

While they may make meaningful connections and gain cultural insights during their short stays, world travelers generally do not have the same depth of integration. Their interactions with local cultures are more superficial and fleeting, often limited to tourist attractions, short-term acquaintances, and surface-level experiences. However, their exposure to various cultures can lead to a broad, albeit less deep, understanding of the world.

Financial Considerations

Expats often have stable income sources through employment, savings, or pensions, which support their long-term stay in a foreign country. Their financial planning includes considerations for housing, healthcare, education, and other long-term needs. The financial stability provided by employment or other steady income allows them to establish a more permanent lifestyle abroad.

World travelers may have more varied and uncertain income sources. Some work remotely, freelance, or take up short-term jobs to fund their travels, while others rely on savings or travel on a budget. Their financial strategy often focuses on cost-effective travel, accommodation, and daily expenses, allowing them to sustain their nomadic lifestyle.

Emotional and Social Impacts

Expats can experience a range of emotional and social challenges, including homesickness, culture shock, and the difficulty of integrating into a new society. However, the potential for building a new support network, forming deep friendships, and feeling a sense of belonging can be highly rewarding.

For world travelers, the constant movement can lead to feelings of isolation or disconnection, as they rarely stay in one place long enough to build strong relationships. The excitement of new experiences and the freedom of a nomadic lifestyle can be exhilarating, but the lack of a stable support network can also be emotionally taxing.

Conclusion

While both expats and world travelers share a love for exploring new places and cultures, their lifestyles, motivations, and experiences are markedly different. Expats seek stability, integration, and long-term living arrangements in foreign countries, often driven by career or personal reasons. On the other hand, world travelers prioritize exploration, adventure, and the thrill of constant movement, driven by curiosity and a desire to experience as much of the world as possible. Understanding these differences can help in appreciating the unique journeys of both groups, each enriching the global tapestry in their own distinct way.

As our long-term readers are well aware, from the beginning of our travels, we have chosen the world traveler lifestyle rather than becoming expats who choose to live in one location. Will this change in the future? It could depending upon the outcome of current medical concerns, which will be addressed over the next several months. We will keep you updated.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 8, 2014:

Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is a larger capacity ship with cabins for 3835 passengers than yesterday’s posted Celebrity Solstice at 2850. We prefer smaller ships, but it’s not always possible to find both the preferred size, itinerary, and dates. The ship’s size is near the bottom of our criteria list. For more photos, please click here.

New phones and plans….

Beautiful flowers with a busy bee in Madeira, Portugal.

The next few days will be hectic. At 11:00 am today, we’re returning to the T. Mobile store to set up the two new Google Pixel 8 Pro phones, both of which are included with our new 55+ plan with unlimited talk, text, and data in the US for $110 a month (24-month commitment) and special pricing on international service for the future.

We’d considered replacing the phones, both of which are now having problems after three years, but without a plan, those phones cost over $1000 each. We’re getting the two Google Pixel 8 Pro phones for free, which are included in the two-year contract for both of us. The two-year contract with the phones and unlimited data, text, and calling, while in the US, will cost a total of $2640 over the two years.

It’s a no-brainer for us, especially since we’ll be in the US for about 12 months. Why do we speculate we’ll be here so long? I won’t have the medical tests at the Cleveland Clinic until the end of August. At the latest, there may be a two-month lag from the test results until the surgery and a many months-long recovery period.

Plus, we don’t want to arrive in Marloth Park, South Africa, during the heat of the summer months. In June, winter begins, and it cools down considerably. That would be a perfect time for us to arrive. Of course, all of this depends on how well I’m recovering. If I recover much sooner, we may go to another country(s) while we wait for June. It’s all up in the air and will be so for quite some time.

No, getting phone plans doesn’t mean we’ll quit our world travel journey. We still have the Samsung phone, which we can use with online Global SIM cards wherever we may be at any given time. The T-Mobile plan won’t limit us in any manner. There’s no way a phone plan will restrict our future travels.

Yesterday, we visited Verizon and a T-Mobile store to see their plans. The T-Mobile plan was, without a doubt, the better option for both of us. When they didn’t have the two Google phones in stock, we made an appointment to return this morning at 11:00 am to start the plan.

To transfer our phone numbers from Google Fi, our current carrier, to T-Mobile, I had to acquire an account number and unique pin that we’ll give to T-Mobile this morning so they can make the transfer. It may take a few hours to complete the process. But, hopefully, by early afternoon, we’ll walk out the door with our two new phones and plan.

We are moving to another nearby hotel tomorrow to see which we’d prefer for the next three months. As mentioned, we tried to find a vacation/holiday home for rent in a good neighborhood, but nothing was even slightly affordable for such an extended period.

We’ll ask for a late checkout here and hopefully get situated in the new hotel by 2:00 pm. Since we’re staying three weeks, most likely, they’ll allow a one-hour early check-in.

Last night, we went to dinner with Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent and had a good time. It’s always enjoyable to hang out with our family members, and we hope to see them all as often as possible during the next three months. This is the longest period we’ll be in the US since we began traveling almost 12 years ago.

Without a doubt, we’re enjoying our time here, catching up with family and friends. The upcoming week is Memorial Day (next Monday), which is a long weekend. We don’t have any plans now, but we’ll see what comes up with our kids and grandkids.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 22, 2014:

Tom, standing outside the Pharmacia in Madeira, where I’d purchased a few OTC items. I listed all the items in Portuguese on my phone. Several patrons were in the store, a few of whom spoke a little English while I  fumbled with Portuguese and who welcomed us to Campanario. Wow, friendly! For more photos, please click here.

What’s preventing us from planning more world travels right now?…

A go-away bird standing on the veranda railing. There are multiple matches for go-away birds, including the grey go-away bird and the white-bellied go-away bird. The grey go-away bird (Corythaixoides concolor) is a turaco family member and native to southern Africa. It’s also known as the grey lourie, or kwêvoël. The grey go-away bird is gray with a black beak and a pink gape. It’s a social bird that lives in groups of up to 30 birds. The grey go-away bird is named for its alarm call, “Kuh-wê!”, which sounds like “Go Away!”. It’s thought to alert other species to the presence of predators or other dangers, such as hunters. The grey go-away bird’s diet is mainly fruit (such as wild figs and berries), flowers, buds, leaves, termites, and snails

When we first decided to come to Nevada when my Afib medication was running out, we thought we’d come to Nevada to get the two prescriptions filled and for me to see a US cardiologist to run another echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis I received from the cardiologist in Ecuador, revealing I have mitral valve and tricuspid valve regurgitation that needs surgery before too long.

Since this surgery would result in another open heart surgery, we took this diagnosis very seriously since I didn’t want to go through that again after my prior awful experience, requiring over a year to recover. We knew a second opinion and decision on insurance was vital for the future.

Now that I have applied for Medicare Part B (still waiting to hear if it has been processed) and a supplement, Part G has been approved, I had to decide where I’d like to have the echocardiogram and have a prognosis evaluated. After we arrived here, and after considerable thought and discussion, I decided to wait until we got to Arizona to go to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion.

Once I have the confirmation that my Part B is in place and I receive the Medicare card with an account number, I will contact the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and make the appointment for sometime in April or May before we then head to California to see my sister and then off to Minnesota to see our kids and grandkids.

Regardless of our results, we’ll still head to Marloth Park on June 15, 2024. If I need surgery, we’ll return to the US for the operation after we’re done in South Africa if I decide I am willing to have the surgery. I want to go to the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, the top valve repair facility in the world.

Fortunately, since we can live anywhere based on our homeless lifestyle that we so choose, most likely, we’ll rent a holiday home in Cleveland and stay long enough for the surgery and recover enough to continue in our world travels.

If the Mayo Clinic evaluation determines I don’t need surgery since I have no symptoms in Arizona and Minnesota, we’ll begin with future world travel plans. Of course, we’re both hoping for this case. There’s no way I want Tom to go through what he did caring for me in 2019. It was an awful 24-hour-a-day scenario for many months. With my chosen Medicare plan, a rehab facility is an option for the first three to four weeks, the worst part of recovery.

Also, Cleveland Clinic’s recovery facility provides lots of physical therapy, a must after such surgery, which wasn’t available in South Africa then.

That’s a lot on my mind, but for now, I’ve chosen not to worry and to enjoy each day; I’m grateful for feeling so well. Now that we’ve both recovered from the virus with the cough (not Covid), nothing can stop me now. My new workout shoes arrived yesterday and fit perfectly.

I look forward to working out daily to increase my strength and stamina.

Now that I’ve lost 24 pounds, with only three pounds away from my goal, and am working out again, after only doing so intermittently over the past 11-plus years, I am building up enough strength to walk in most environments. My only concern is walking in Marloth Park with uneven dirt roads. I heard about a woman there who has a fitness center in her home, which can be used for a small fee. If I could use that, I would be able to maintain my new level of fitness.

In Arizona and Minnesota, both locations where we’ll stay have fitness centers. If I have access to a bike or treadmill and some weights, that’s all I’ll need to maintain the progress I am now building. Before we began traveling, I had worked out most of my life since I was 16, staying slim, healthy, and fit. It is time to return to that progress, and I am not letting my age or health conditions be a deterrent.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 17, 2014:

Wow! They kept coming until 30 to 40 elephants had crossed. They continued in a steady stream. What a sight! For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Here it is…My Medicare Part B late enrollment, a supplement and possible drug plan…Important information for long term world travelers…

An adorable lion cub is resting with the pride. We took this photo while very close.

In 2012, when we began our travels, we decided we wouldn’t sign up for Part B Medicare when we turned 65. In 2013, I turned 65 (I am 5 years older than Tom). Qualified Individuals over 65 years old receive Medicare Part A as follows:

“*Generally, you’re eligible for Part A if you are 65 or older, meet the citizenship and residency requirements, and get disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for at least 25 months.”

What does Part A cover?

Part A (Hospital Insurance): Helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and home health care. Part B (Medical Insurance): Part A covers Inpatient surgeries, lab tests, and drugs related to the inpatient stay. Medicare Part A doesn’t cover doctors’ services even for Medicare-approved stays. There’s no cost for Part A for qualified individuals.

What does Part B cover, and what is the monthly premium deducted from Social Security, or in our case, Railroad Retirement?

Part B Medicare or other medical insurance may provide coverage for Medicare. Part B helps cover medically necessary services like doctors’ services and tests, outpatient care, home health services, durable medical equipment, and other medical services. Part B also covers some preventive services. Look at your Medicare card to find out if you have Part B. The government charges a monthly fee for Part B, which is now:

$174.70 in 2024 or higher, depending on your income. The amount can change each year. You’ll pay a monthly premium, even if you don’t get any Part B-covered services. “Higher income” is construed as follows:

If you file your taxes as “married, filing jointly,  and your MAGI, adjusted gross income exceeds $206,000, you’ll pay higher premiums for your Part B and Medicare prescription drug coverage. If you file your taxes using a different status and your MAG exceeds $103,000, you’ll pay higher premiums.

When we didn’t sign up for Part B Medicare since we were traveling outside the US and accepted the future penalty, and had no use for it, when Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside the US, the following penalty was assessed per year when I finally decided to send in my enrollment for Part B as follows on January 2, 2024:

“Medicare Part B has a 10% penalty on your monthly premium for each 12-month period you delay enrollment. This penalty is lifelong. In 2024, the penalty is based on a monthly premium of $174.70.”

As a result, after ten years without enrolling in Part B, my cost for Part B will be $349.40 monthly. Had I known in 2013, when I chose not` to sign up for Part B, that I’d have heart problems, I would have enrolled when I turned 65. It wasn’t until 2019 that my heart issues were discovered. At that point, we would be out of the US for years to come, and we decided to continue to wait until we returned to the US for extended periods.

Now that we’re spending more time in the US and with the discovery of future potential heart surgery, it was time for me to sign up. If I eventually need additional surgery after having tests in the US while we’re here, I will be covered.

Since Medicare Part A and Part B don’t cover everything, resulting in huge co-pays that can be life-changing and stressful, a “supplement” is necessary to cover the costs of potential co-pays, which could run into tens of thousands of dollars if not covered by Part A and Part B.

I looked online but became frustrated when I understood how supplements work. Every site I searched required me to fill out a form with my personal information to receive a call back to review the possibilities of a supplement. I started getting dozens of phone calls each day, and I didn’t want to return all those calls. However, in the process, I answered many of the calls and became more frustrated in the process.

I had run out of patience with agents whose primary goal was to sell me a plan that earned them the most commissions (the government pays).

During this period, I stumbled across a no-pressure, knowledgeable Medicare insurance agent, Janet Mueller, who gently walked me through the process, answering my seemingly endless stream of questions. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with her service and attention to detail. I’d highly recommend her services if you need help with a supplement and/or pharmacy plan. She can be reached at jmueller@teameip.com. Janet’s concern was only for those plans that would serve my needs with the best possible price and terms.

This post is getting long, so we will continue tomorrow with the plan Janet helped me decide is suitable for my circumstances. We’ll be back tomorrow with Part 2 regarding the supplement I chose and decisions regarding a prescription plan. See you then!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 12, 2014:

Hundreds of grasshoppers in our garden traveled from one tree to another over hours. We spent the better part of a day filming and watching them. For videos and the unique story, please click here.

New travel plans revealed….Leaving South Africa in 24 days, not returning for over a year…

Earl has been stopping by for the past several days.

We knew this time would come…that we’d be leaving Marloth Park for an extended period. We do this knowing we’ll be back in about 14 months after many adventures in between. It’s about time we get back out into the world! It’s been quite enjoyable spending the past few years, off and on, in Marloth Park, but the rest of the world awaits us.

When speaking with the immigration attorney, she emphatically stated we have to leave South Africa on or before April 30, or we will be considered “undesirables,” which would ban us from returning for five years. We wouldn’t qualify for another waiver after we’d already used that option after I had open heart surgery in 2019. We have no choice but to leave.

Baby nyala Natalie is so adorable. She’s growing up so fast.

The interpretation of the new dictates imposed by immigration for pending visa extension applications, like ours, is unclear, but we can’t take any chances. One never knows for certain what will happen when trying to leave the country.

Secondly, we have discovered we cannot apply for our new 10-year passports at the US Consulate in Pretoria, which we also planned to do while here. It was entirely doable before the pandemic, but now the phone at the US Consulate doesn’t get answered regardless of when we call and how long we let it ring. The website claims we can apply for an appointment online. This is impossible. The link doesn’t work. TIA.

Mom Nina is in the forefront with Natalie outside the little fence.

I called the US Embassy, and they refused to help, saying that a US passport applicant must go through the consulate. What a mess! We’d have to leave even if we could have stayed longer. Our 10-year passports expired in 2021, and now our 4-year passport expires in January 2024. The upcoming cruises we’ve booked require at least six months remaining until the passports expire to board the ships.

As a result of both of these scenarios, we knew we had no choice but to leave. Since it’s not easy getting US passports in foreign countries unless on a short-term emergency basis, which is not us, we also knew we needed to return to the US to renew the 10-year passports.

So the question became, where do we go in the US for three months? We’ll be spending time with family in Minnesota and Nevada in September after the completion of two of the cruises. Holiday homes are priced out of our budget in Minnesota and Nevada, and since we have three months to fill until the first cruise on August 1, we decided to step outside the box and try something entirely new.

Nina and Natalie usually visit together. From time to time, Natalie hangs out with her dad Norman.

A long time ago, we watched a documentary about The Villages in central Florida and were fascinated by all it offered seniors. Where could we go that would be fun socially, perhaps near other seniors? But, for us, this is merely a stop along the way to fill these three months and not a “look-see” for any potential plans for the future.

To stay in some arbitrary US location and try to meet people and have a social life right away it’s tough in the US and many other countries. It’s not as if strangers try to make new friends when they’re out and about. After living there all of our lives except the past 10-plus years, we know this. By leaving Marloth Park, we are leaving many wonderful friends behind.

Nina and Norman enjoying breakfast at our house.

We had a busy social life in the US, but it had taken years to build relationships, unlike when people were ultra-friendly and welcoming. We thought if we went to a retirement community with lots of activities, we might be able to enjoy a busy social life during those three months. The obvious answer was The Villages for the three-month stint.

We got to work researching at VRBO, our preferred holiday home site, and researched exclusively for The Villages, which was easy to do. When we started seeing very nice golf carts that were often included in the rental, we wondered…was it possible we could avoid the expense of a rental car? Every possible shopping and entertainment venue, restaurant, and more were within a short drive using the golf carts allowed on all streets within the community.

Ruffles has become quite a regular.

Yesterday, we signed up for a three-month rental of a three-bedroom, two-full-bath property with a golf cart that we’ll be moving into on April 30. We’ll be departing 90 days later to head to Scotland for the first of two upcoming cruises on August 1.As mentioned above, we’ll be back in the US in September to see family. Afterward, we’ll be off to South America for many months, including a cruise from Quito, Ecuador, to the Galapagos Islands.

We booked our flight from Nelspruit to Johannesburg to Atlanta to Orlando for April 29. The journey will take about 30 hours, with the long overnight flight of 16 hours and 50 minutes from Joburg to Atlanta, a flight we’ve become very familiar with. We no longer anticipate it with dread. We know what to expect…lots of movies, little sleep, and terrible food. We don’t like to eat in the middle of the night anyway. Oh well.

Tomorrow, we’ll share details of our posting objectives during the three months. This will be an entirely new perspective for our site that may be of particular interest to seniors, with many photos included.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 5, 2022:

Not a lot has to be said about a beautiful sunset. It speaks for itself. This is in front of our friends Karen and Rich’s Apollo Beach, Florida house. For more photos, please click here.

Where are we going in 2023?…Planning for the future…More of Tom’s great photos…

“The Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops) is the most widespread species of the genus Upupa. It is a distinctive cinnamon-colored bird with black and white wings, a tall erectile crest, a broad white band across a black tail, and a long narrow downcurved bill. Its call is a soft “oop-oop-oop.” It is native to Europe, Asia, and the northern half of Africa. It is migratory in the northern part of its range. It spends most of the time on the ground probing for grubs and insects. The clutch of seven to eight eggs is laid in an existing cavity. The eggs are incubated by the female and hatch asynchronously. Some ornithologists treat the African and Madagascar hoopoes as subspecies of the Eurasian hoopoe.”

We will leave Marloth Park in approximately eight months and may be gone for a year. We’ve decided we need to pick up the pace and visit those locations we’ve had on our minds for a long time. It’s been easy to settle into an easy routine in this blissful environment, this land of wonder, wildlife, and ever-expanding friendships.

Plus, the low cost of living for us in this country can’t be matched anywhere we’ve visited in the past ten years of world travel. (Yes, this is our tenth anniversary month which we’ll celebrate. We left Minnesota to travel the world on October 31, 2012).

Once again, Tom took some fantastic photos of this Eurasian hoopoe.

Of course, we’re considering what we’ll write about on that special day, four weeks from today. Instead of repeating places we’ve been in the past years, which we’ve mentioned repeatedly, we’ve decided to post a new itinerary and the most significant highlight of each of the ten years with photos, if available.

We are building the itinerary, something we haven’t done in a long time. So much has changed due to the pandemic, which has prevented us from booking venues beyond a few months in front of us, except for a few cruises, some of which have been canceled over the past two years.

Tom was excited to take photos of the woophoe.

At this point, engaged in research, we’ll avoid mentioning where we’ll be going until we are able to pin down some venues, pricing, and dates. By the end of this month, we’ll have an idea of what will work for us. As always, the cost of these preferred locations is a significant factor.

We lost a lot of money on bookings during the pandemic, and we don’t want to risk that happening again. Also, after paying entirely out-of-pocket for my heart surgery and subsequent surgeries in 2019, we’ve had to tighten our belts and be very selective about what we choose to book.

Several Big Daddies have been eating the leaves from this bright green tree in our garden.

Plus, we must renew our passports since most countries require a passport with at least six months left until it expires. We’ll have to start this process soon to be able to go on a few of our upcoming cruises in 2023. We’ll start that process soon. Since we began traveling in 2012, we’ve used up our ten-year passport, a two-year passport, and a four-year passport. We’ll explain why we had so many US passports in tomorrow’s post. Please check back for that information tomorrow.

It’s been a long time since we allowed ourselves to become engrossed in travel planning, other than going on those trips to obtain a new visa stamp for South Africa. As much as we’re enjoying our time in this country, we realize it’s time we can think about the future and fulfill some of our objectives to visit unique locations that have always been on our minds.

A female kudu was eating a potato we’d tossed into the garden. We had potatoes left from our recent friend’s visit. Many antelopes dig for roots and thus enjoy eating most root vegetables.

With the school holiday in full force right now with many holidaymakers in Marloth Park, we plan to stay put most of the week, except for a memorial service for our friend Bruce tomorrow at 11:00 am at Jabula, whom we visited a few weeks ago, before Connie, Jeff and Lindsey arrived, when sadly, Jeff passed away at our home. Bruce was suffering from COPD, a life-ending pulmonary disease.

It’s hard to digest that yet another dear friend has passed away in a mere ten days. We offer our love and prayers for the loved ones left behind in their time of great sorrow and sadness.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2021:

Multiple species in the garden. For more photos, please click here.

We’ve arrived in Botswana…A relatively easy travel day…

Chobe River from the air. Check out those green circles.

I am writing most of this post while on the Airlink flight from Nelspruit/Kruger/Mpumalanga Airport in South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia. The flight is full, with 37 passengers and three crew members. It’s an hour, 50-minute flight that hopefully is smooth and uneventful. Lunch and beverages, including wine and beer, will be served soon at no charge once the plane is airborne and leveled off.

Tom surprised me and had a beer, but I passed on the wine. It’s too early in the day, and besides, it has too much alcohol for me. While on this trip, I will have white wine spritzers with Sprite Zero since, most likely, they won’t have low-alcohol wine.

The Zambezi River from the plane…

The drive this morning from Marloth Park to the airport was uninterrupted. It took us slightly over an hour to arrive at the airport.
The anticipated protests won’t occur until next Wednesday while we are still away. We hope the protests will have ended by the time we return on Sunday, August 27th.

Last night. 11 of us had dinner together at Jabula, including new readers/friends Marylin and Gary and their friends Jolyn and Brian from Utah, Rita, Gerhard and Lee, Louise and Danie, and the two of us. We started the evening on the veranda but had to move indoors when the weather changed. Suddenly, it was windy, rainy, and cold.

Dawn and David were accommodating to ensure we were all seated in the bar area. The boys sat at one end of the table and the girls at the other. It’s funny how that always happens, and no one seems to mind. As expected, the laughter and animated conversations flowed with ease. The night sailed by. Before we knew it, it was time to go. We all had safari plans over the weekend and needed a good night’s rest.

The Chobe River in Botswana.

Once back at the house, we did a bit more packing and settled in the bedroom to stream a show before going to sleep. I dozed off a few times during the show while sitting straight up. Tom always waves his hand in front of my face when he sees me fall asleep when we are streaming a show.

Even if I am doing, I respond to his gesture and say, “I am awake,” even if I wasn’t. He knows I will have trouble sleeping later if I sleep during a show. So true. The night was fitful. We planned to leave the house at 8:30 am but didn’t set the alarm. We always awake early enough; we don’t need one.

As soon as we opened the bedroom door, we saw Norman in the garden waiting for us. My heart did a little flip flop, wondering if he’ll return after we do in eight days. He’s become such a part of our everyday life. It’s hard to imagine life in the bush without him. It was the same with Little, whom we haven’t seen since we moved into the current house on May 24 this year. I will always miss him.

Beautiful river views from the air.

Once we arrive in Livingstone in a little over an hour, as I write this now, our usual tour guide and driver, Chris, will greet us and drive us to the Botswana border. This is the fourth time we’ve made this trip for a visa stamp, and we have enjoyed ourselves each time. Most likely, this time will be equally enjoyable.

Today I am including a few photos I took from the air. South Africa is very unpopulated in many areas and is exquisitely beautiful.

The mountains, the bush, the plains, and the sea all offer incredible experiences we are considering, perhaps for some future travels. Who knows what the future holds?

Soon, our flight lands, and we will travel from Livingstone to the Botswana border. It should take about three or four hours until we arrive at the Chobe Safari Lodge and can settle into our room and begin our evening overlooking the Chobe River.

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We’ve arrived at the lovely Chobe Safari Lodge. Fifi, the staff member at the reception,  greeted us warmly and provided us with a riverfront view on the ground level, conveniently located to everything. As soon as I upload this post, we’ll head out with the camera for sundowners on the veranda overlooking the Chobe River. Hmm…nice.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back to share the details of getting through the border between Zambia and Botswana, an entirely new experience from those on our last visits to the country. Plus, we’ll share details of confusing money changes when we stay in two countries during this one week away.

We’ll walk up the hill tonight to the gourmet restaurant, remembering all too well the fantastic meals we had there in the past. Food photos will follow.

Thanks for coming along with us on this journey…this short one and all the journeys in the past. You all mean the world to us.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 20, 2021:

Frank eats his seeds at the old house from the veranda railing where no warthogs or bushbucks will bother him. I miss Frank, or any francolins for that matter. Maybe soon, we’ll get one. For more photos, please click here.