I Want to Retire and Travel. Should I Have Kids or Not?

Q&A with a Reader

Hi Guys,

I bought your guide about 5 years ago and enjoy your website.  I’m 46 years old and unmarried with no children, although I hope to settle down with someone like-minded in the next couple of years and prepare our plans to retire abroad (of course).

I know that the decision about whether or not to have kids is a very personal one that depends on many things which are unique to the people deciding.  The thing is, kids change everything when it comes to retirement, especially for someone middle-aged like me.

Wondering if you have come across any good articles or online forums where this subject is wrestled.

All the best,


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Hi David,

Thanks for taking the time to write and to ask a very good question.

We know of several people who travel with their children and have simply included the children into their traveling lifestyle. You might take a look at their websites for information and answers to your questions.

One family has 6 children now and the Mother home schools them. They have been traveling the world for years now.

Another family has one child, and I don’t know what they are thinking about education in the future. And Jeremy and Winnie have just had a child – and they frequently write about the impact of having a child on their lifestyle and their future plans.

You might also want to check out Travel with Kids – a site focused on world travel with children and Soul Travelers 3, a couple who raised their child while traveling the world. Their focus was on the child in just about every aspect, and the child is now tri-lingual, plays violin and sings and is currently publishing albums and performing in films.

All of these sites seem to see the vagabond life as a bonus, giving the children a world view and the opportunity to become multi-lingual, certainly an asset for them in their future lives and careers.

I hope you find this information to be useful. Good luck and do keep in touch!



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Exploring the ExPat Lifestyle in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende

Posted by Jonathan Chevreau

San Miguel 1

View of San Miguel from top of the Rosewood Hotel (Photo J. Chevreau)

Last week, my wife Ruth and I enjoyed a week’s vacation in San Miguel de Allende, which is located in central (and landlocked) Mexico. We’d been to Mexico several times over the years but never this particular community, which is not handy to a major airport.

It was also our first trip to Latin America in about five years, since we had been taking our February breaks in Florida in more recent years.

Ironically, San Miguel was prominently featured in the old magazine I published around the year 2000: The Wealthy Boomer. At the time, I remember being impressed by the fact the cost of living for semi-retired American and Canadian baby boomers was roughly half what it was in our home countries. This theme was also applied to various Asia locations in a Hub blog last year featuring the book Planet Boomer. See also my post, titled 5 Asian locations where retirement is more affordable than North America.

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Trading high taxes for crime?

Back during the days of the tax-and-spend Jean Chretien Liberals, I found the Mexican expatriate fantasy quite compelling, so much so that I listened to Spanish instructional tapes on my long commutes to the National Post’s bunker then located in Don Mills. But the fantasy of becoming a tax exile/early retiree faded once the Conservative Party achieved power and seemed to offer at least the hope of more reasonable levels of taxation (the Tax-free Savings Account being a major positive example.)

Meanwhile, the unremitting press over drug-cartel-related crime in Mexico reached a crescendo in the last few years so we stopped visiting for a spell. Even now, you don’t have to look far for for scary media coverage of Mexico.

In our previous trips to Mexico, we had briefly experienced two other famous Mexican expat communities: Puerto Vallarta (twice) and Lake Chapala/Ajijic. We were put off Puerto Vallarta by the aggressive timeshare sales people. Chapala was nice but in correspondence with one of the Wealthy Boomer readers who had actually moved there, I learned that the couple ultimately moved back to Canada, in part because of the treatment of animals.SanMiguel2

My fantasy two-bedroom condo in San Miguel (Photo J. Chevreau)

Still, San Miguel stuck in my mind and finally we decided to visit it late in February/early this March. It did not disappoint. Of course, my personal circumstances are much different now that I’m “findependent” and no longer a salaried journalist. In theory, I could do my work from anywhere, although Ruth is still tethered to a Toronto job.

Escaping high costs, high taxes

My original fantasy about Latin America was to escape what I perceived to be excessively high taxation in Canada. Alas, with new Liberal administrations in Ontario, Alberta and federally, it appears taxes are once again headed much higher here. We’ve already seen a retrenchment of the annual limits on TFSAs and as Jamie Golombek recounted last weekend in the Financial Post, it could get worse when the next federal budget comes down: see his ominous prediction of rising capital gains taxes in Why a capital-gains hike may be on the table in the March 22nd federal budget.

One Kindle book I read on the plane back makes a similar argument for Americans experiencing similarly high taxes on earned income and investment income: David Ellsworth’s Leaving Home, Going Home Mexico. There are dozens if not hundreds of similar books but Ellsworth believes in steering clear of the more expensive expat enclaves in favour of the “real” small-town Mexico.

You can live on government retirement sources alone

Personally, I doubt I’d go the small-town route. A week’s vacation is little more than a tease and a fantasy but the last day in San Miguel really made me think. On one stroll, we wandered into a two-bedroom condo on sale, located in a gated community not far from a collection of artist studios crafted from a former textile factory that wound up in 1991. If memory serves, the cost was about US$170,000, say $240,000 Cdn, with annual property taxes of around US$150 and condo fees of about US$1,400.

Were it not for my marriage, I might have been tempted to buy then and there and tear up the return air ticket. It’s quite true that you can live in some of these expat communities for as little as C$2,000 a month, which means a lot of American and Canadian almost-retired boomer couples can survive strictly on Social Security or its Canadian equivalent (CPP/OAS), even without massive investment portfolios. As regular Hub readers may know, we have run a lot of guest blogs from Billy and Akaisha Kaderli, of the RetireEarlyLIfestyle.com website. See for example, their own take on Must-see Places in Mexico.

Unlike Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel features none of those touristy beaches. San Miguel is landlocked  almost in the dead centre of Mexico, at an altitude of about 6,000 feet. It’s centuries old and nestled in a valley with hills on all sides. See the photo at the top of this blog, showing the panoramic  view from the top-floor terrace of the Rosewood Hotel.

You’ll do a lot of walking here, and on narrow cobble-stone streets. This place was not designed for the automobile, although there are plenty of them, despite a pretty decent and low-cost bus service and taxis. (No sign of Uber that we saw).


Typical cobblestone street in San Miguel, plus green taxi (Photo J. Chevreau)

Enclave for the creative class

When we later examined our credit-card bills for restaurant meals we found them to work out to roughly half of what their Toronto equivalents would have been. True, all these expats — estimated at about 14,000 American and Canadian expat retirees on a population of 140,000 — have driven up costs somewhat. San Miguel is hardly what you would call an undiscovered gem: it’s well discovered, especially by writers, artists and musicians. Prior to going I enjoyed reading a memoir by an American writer who got in and bought early: Tony Cohan’s On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel. Also check out John Scherber’s San Miguel de Allende: a Place in the Heart, as well as some of his detective novels set there.

As fate would have it, on our second-last evening, we ran into a former colleague when we all attended the premiere of a one-actor play, Mistakes Were Made. My former co-worker (Dean) from the Post travelled for a few years with his partner to identify the perfect ex-pat community to retire to.

But San Miguel had set the bar pretty high, they told us over drinks on our last night, and in the end they bought a place here. Actually, they’re still renting, waiting to move in this summer. They had sold their Toronto home before setting out on their global adventures.

Leading their list of motivations for repatriating were weather, the arts scene, and lower cost of living.  In a followup email, my friend elaborated:

“I’d add to the main motivation the interesting and friendly people in San Miguel, both Mexican and ex-pat.  Foreigners have been an important part of the town since the ’40s; they’ve created a lot of jobs for the locals.  Everyone rubs shoulders here, unlike resort towns and other ex-pat havens.”

Over the coming year, you can expect to see plenty more book reviews by me (and others: just ask!) about expat life in Latin America, the Far East and Europe. This is a major theme — you might call it “fruit” — of Financial Independence.

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10 Tips to Get to Early Retirement Faster

By Shawn Stevenson

Many people dream of early retirement. Being finished with the workforce years ahead of your peers produces an earned feeling of satisfaction. However, if you want to retire early you need to plan early and often as well. Here are ten early retirement preparation tips:

10 tips

Make a plan for early retirement

Every achievable goal begins with a well thought out plan. Draft a flowchart to plan early retirement. It’s not necessary for people who successfully retire early to make great amount of money, but being low on funds may call for creative thinking. The most important thing is to decide what you will need to successfully retire early.

When putting your plan together be sure to list all possible future expenses. Things like medical bills, home repairs, travel expenses, and home health care support or respite care, in your later years may be a few decades down the road. However, it’s important to understand what the future may have in store and plan for these expenses accordingly.

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Get professional advice

Take professional advice from a financial consultant. A decent professional consultant will review your situation and charge between $200 and $300 for putting together a general plan on how to achieve your targets. No matter how great of a financial planner you are, it’s always better to take professional advice.

Make a budget and follow it

After making a basic plan, and getting professional advice, the nest step is to make a budget. Create a budget which can be easily followed and stick to it firmly. Having a budget in hand will be a great help towards achieving the goal of early retirement. Make use of apps like You Need A Budget (YNAB), Mint, or Mvelopes to keep yourself in line and track your expenses.

Clear debts

At any level of income it is very important to avoid piling up debts. If you do have a few that were unavoidable, clearing off debts is crucially important to living an early retirement life. Not only Budget your finances to clear all your debts in the shortest time possible. Killing debt should include paying off credit cards, medical bills, student loans, car payments, and mortgages. These payments should be considered prerequisites in any budget.

If you need help coming up with a game plan there are free tools, like Zilchworks’ free calculators and sample budget sheets, that can help you visualize how fast you can pay off your debts by changing only a few variables at a time. The calculators can help you save thousands of dollars over the course of your loans and pay off debts sooner than you think. You may also want to look into debt consolidation and federal loan forgiveness programs offered by the federal government.

Start saving

Saving is an idea which should automatically come to mind when planning an early retirement. The earlier you start saving, the better retirement you’ll enjoy. Setting aside savings every month will secure resources for tough days as well.

Start investing

Aside from your budgeted regular expenses, emergency funds, debt repayments, and savings, be sure to start investing whatever is remaining. This will also be advantageous in taxation matters.

Develop additional income streams

If someone is planning for early retirement, they must have multiple sources of income. Investing in stocks, dividend paying investments, and property (for rental income) are all good options. You may also want to consider starting a small business earning money with a skill or hobby you’re passionate about. Speak early on with a boutique accountant to work out how to optimize your new small business for maximum earnings.

Keep spending in control

It is understandable that people are at different income levels at different levels in life. Usually in our youth our income is low, spending it at its peak, and savings is difficult. However, as we age and grow our income should be saved for retirement goals. To save for early retirement any spending on unnecessary items should be kept to the utmost minimum – no matter what our income level.

Downsize living

For comfortable and early retirement, life style may need to be downsized. The rule is simple, the more money is saved, the more comfortable early retirement will be. Cut down on things which are not needed in everyday life and put that money towards your financial goals. Moving into a smaller house can be considered as well, especially if frequent travelling is expected as a part of your early retirement life.

Keep enjoying the present day life

Although the early retirement is the main focus, living a beautiful life in the moment will make beautiful memories. Spend some quality time with your friends and family to make the most of every moment you have.

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Our Schengen Debacle – A Tale from One of Our Readers

We are usually very aware of visa issues. But because we were spending only a month in each European country that we were visiting, including a non-EU country, we assumed visas would not be an issue. We ended up spending a total of 96 days in France, Sweden and Norway. Under Schengen visa rules, for US citizens, we were actually only allowed 90 days every 6 months. Without realizing that we would be further overstaying our visa, we accepted a house sitting job in Portugal, also a Schengen country. Just before leaving Norway we realized our mistake.

Having committed to our Portugal job, we decided to make our best effort to get there. Leaving Norway, the immigration officer noticed that we had overstayed by six days. The officer photocopied our passports and said it would be in our records, but because it was only 6 days it was probably not going to affect us. Little comfort, considering we were headed to Portugal for a month that very day. Luckily we were transiting though England, a non-Schengen country so no alarm bells went off there.

All of our books lead to adventure. Don’t miss out on yours!

Arriving in Lisbon that night was very stressful, knowing that it was a possibility that we would not be allowed in. Much to our relief the immigration officer there seemed oblivious. He stamped our passports and we were in.

But we knew that a month later when we were leaving Portugal, having now overstayed by 36 days, we might be in for a nasty surprise. Based on what I had read online, being caught overstaying has a number of possible consequences, all depending on the officer’s mood. Anything is possible from a slap on the wrist to a 1200 Euro per person fine to being banned from Schengen countries for a few years.  We had also been told that immigration officers tend to be more lenient to US overstayers and that Germany, not Portugal was the real stickler for Schengen rules.

We held our breath and hoped for the best. Exiting Portugal ended up being a breeze. We just waltzed out.  Phew!

Related Story

Visas, Ai Yai Yai, The Schengen Visa

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Magic Classroom Bringing Education to Rural Villages

Guest post by Victoria Sanchez of Miracles in Action.

In Guatemala 40% of children do not make it through 1st grade. They start school at age 7 often times not speaking Spanish (they speak an indigenous language of their mother) and do not have the preparation of kindergarten.  After failing the first year most children drop out or fail again.magic1b



Photos Above: Blankets, hats, backpacks, and toys were distributed on a previous visit to our schools, who now have Magic Classrooms.

Retired American, Fred Zambroski saw this problem and took action by forming the non-profit charity Let’s Be Ready. They hire unemployed teachers and provide them with early education training for 4-6 year olds, and established 25 preschool programs in rural villages. Since 2010 Miracles in Action has sponsored 5 Let’s Be Ready preschool programs, with some of the teachers being graduates of our scholarship program.

All of our books lead to adventure. Don’t miss out on yours!


Classroom Facilitators in Training having fun using their radios and tablets.

In our remotest villages there are no teachers to hire for a Let’s Be Ready preschool. Seeing this problem, Fred developed the Magic Classroom program, where he hires 16-24 year olds and trains them to become preschool classroom facilitators. Pre-recorded music, lessons, and learning activities are played via a computer tablet, magically transforming the classroom into a fun filled place to learn and grow. In February 2015, Miracles in Action supported the first magic classroom programs in our schools located in the Cuchumatanes mountains of Huehuetenango at 9-10,000 feet elevation.


Cuchumatanes mountain range – easy to see why there are few teachers available for an LBR preschool. Magic Classroom works well here.

Thank you Fred Zambroski, and Project Manager Michael Estill for developing this innovative solution to bringing education to the remotest, poverty-stricken villages in Guatemala.


(Left) Fred Zambroski, Founder of Let’s Be Ready with Michael Estill (Right) Project Manager

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Q&A from a Reader

Hello Billy and Akaisha,

My husband and I are both 56 years old, and have been planning that we’d spend our retirement in a similar way to you.

We figured that by the time we were 60 we would be able to afford to do it quite comfortably, but yesterday my husband came home with the news that he’s about to be laid off, and we immediately began to wonder whether we could afford to retire now.

We have a daughter getting married in July, and have already committed financially to that, so we’re already a bit behind! I guess we’re just very nervous, and a bit panicked at the moment about the idea of “giving it all up.” We have homes in California (we still have a mortgage on), and Scotland (we’re from Scotland), which our oldest daughter rents from us, and of course we have some investments, but I think more than anything it’s the decision to jump!!

Reduce your cost of living. Pay less for medical care. Find better weather. Create a healthier way of life.

We haven’t looked in depth about how to begin or where to go. I do have your book, and it’s certainly helped, but you are seasoned travelers now, you make it look easy! We also own a cat and a dog which may not help when it comes to traveling?

I guess I’m just looking for advice on where to begin? A simple question which could help us to change our lives.

Sincerely, Janice

Hi Janice,

Wow! a lot going on for you and your husband. Thank you for taking the time to write and for sharing your story with us.

Probably the first thing to do is to take a deeeep breath and relax so that your minds can clear. When things are swirling around inside your head it’s harder to see what’s available or where to go first.

Do you know your Average Cost per Day or your Average yearly spending? These are good places to start from the point of view that this will tell you what amount you need to cover for your annual expenses from your investments and — if the number is “too high” — where to start to cut back or replace with another option.

I guess the next place to go would be to look at your housing costs. (Remember, the highest financial output in any household is housing, transportation, taxes and food.) Do you want to keep two homes? Do you want to rent out the one in California while you travel? You might need to have a manager to run your property in case something comes up that needs to be repaired or replaced. If you can afford to live in your California home and keep up the mortgage, you might consider joining a house sitting service and have a house and pet sitter stay in your place while you travel and/or utilize another house sit for the lodging expenses when you yourselves travel to another location. In this way you could keep your pets and know they are being cared for while you are gone and you won’t have kennel expenses.

Or you could choose to rent a room out in your home with the understanding that this renter would watch over your pets and keep the house together while you are gone.

Or you could downsize… Or move to an Active Adult Community where the lifestyle fees cover most everything you might need – Not your utilities and internet of course, but you would have entertainment, a social life, and the cost of maintaining a home in one of these places is far more affordable than owning a brick and mortar home and having to take care of all the maintenance yourself and pay property taxes. Insurance is more affordable as well.

Take a look at our Housing Alternative page which could give you some ideas.  There are walkable cities and places where you could go car-free, for instance, cutting back on the 2nd highest expense in a household. Or you might pare down to owning only one car — unless you travel as a lifestyle, then you wouldn’t need a car at all. Let me know if you would like some ideas about being car free.

Have you considered what sort of lifestyle you might like in retirement? You mentioned a traveling lifestyle — would that be “full time” or coming and going, having an apartment or smaller home to return to?

We know of people who rent a studio apartment type of home base from which they travel half of the year. We also know of people who have a manufactured home or park model where the housing costs are very affordable, and it is from there that they travel. If you are traveling as a lifestyle, you might consider a combination of house sitting and renting an apartment or living out of a nice apart hotel.

It is our experience in many foreign countries that public transport is very available and there isn’t the need for a car. If you live out in the country, perhaps a motor bike might suffice, or call a taxi – which again is very affordable in countries such as Thailand, Mexico, and Guatemala.

I would imagine that if you start here in the places I have suggested, that there would be another set of questions that could come up and we could go from there. Also, if you clarified these places in your retirement plan, you would get a handle on where you might want to go from there.

Please feel free to write again if you have other questions.

Life can shake us up sometimes and it can be unsettling. However, you have succeeded in your life up to this point, have faith that you can manage this change as well.

Wishing you all the best for a wonderful future.


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2016 Key Tax Changes

By John Ohe, CFA and IRS Enrolled Agent. John is a partner at Hola Expat (www.holaexpat.com), which specializes in preparing tax returns for U.S. expats.

John Ohe 1With the New Year underway, we’d like to take this opportunity to review the important tax changes impacting US expats living around the world.

3 Extra Days to File Tax Return

Normally, US tax returns are due on April 15th – before penalties and interest begin to accrue. However, the deadline this year is April 18th, because Emancipation Day happens to fall on a Saturday. Without change, US expats have until June 15th to file their tax returns. Please note that interest charges begin accruing on April 18th (when taxes are owed).

IRS Can Revoke Passports

A new law signed on December 4, 2015 provides the IRS with the ability to revoke a passport when one has a tax debt exceeding $50K. US expats often do not know that they have an outstanding tax debt (e.g., cashed out of retirement accounts prior to leaving the states). Furthermore, penalties and interest charges accrue rapidly, and can quickly exceed the original tax bill.

You can retire in this economy – You do have options – Click here to learn how!

Increase in the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

The foreign earned income exclusion, widely used by US expats to minimize taxable income, has been increased to $100,800 for 2015. Standard deduction and exemption amounts work in conjunction apply on top of the foreign earned income exclusion. Bottom line: one can have income exceeding $100K, and not owe taxes to the IRS.

Obamacare Penalties Increase

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was created to bring affordable health coverage to all US persons. The law requires everyone to obtain adequate health insurance coverage, or pay a penalty via the tax return. Obamacare penalties are increasing this year to the greater of $695 per adult and $347 per child, or 2.5% of household income.

Tax Rate Table for 2016

The table below details the marginal tax rates applicable for this year. The rates are based on taxable income (before deductions, exemptions, and exclusions).

Tax rates 2016

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Think you have a Food Allergy? Here is how You Can Know For Sure

By Josh Moran. Josh has been suffering from different allergic reactions for a long time without relief. It’s only after he used ELISA testing that he knew exactly what was causing his allergic reaction. Visit his blog to learn more of what he knows about allergies.

Many people out there suffer from food allergies. You might start wheezing after eating some types of food or get teary and itchy eyes after dusting the house. Perhaps you are the type that knows the seasons have changed with sniffles and sneezes.

Allergy blood testing can be one of the best ways that can help determine what triggers your allergy symptoms and this way your doctor will know what type of treatment is best suited for you.

Reduce your cost of living. Pay less for medical care. Find better weather. Create a healthier way of life.

How the Testing Works

Allergy blood test detects the amount of specific antibodies in your blood. When your body comes into contact with an allergy trigger, which is also referred to as allergen, the body automatically produces antibodies against it.

The antibodies cause the cells to produce certain chemicals. These chemicals are the ones that bring about allergy symptoms.

Allergy blood test in most cases screens for at least 10 of common allergy triggers. These allergy triggers include dust, weeds, grass, pet dander and molds. The test is also very helpful in detecting food allergies.

Types of Allergy Blood Tests

Allergy blood tests are commonly referred to as immunoassay tests and they include;

  1. ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay)
  2. RAST ( Radio allargo sorbent test)

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay is the most commonly used allergy blood test and has almost fazed RAST out. This test is used to measure the specific allergen in the blood.

The RAST test also looks for specific allergen-related antibodies in your blood to help identify the allergy triggers.

Why Allergy Blood Tests?

In most cases, skin allergy test is used to determine whether or not you are suffering from allergies. Below are some of the instances when allergy blood tests can be ordered instead of the skin allergy test:

  • If you have an unstable heart condition.
  • When you are on medication that might affect the test and cannot be stopped for some time. Some antidepressants, antihistamine and steroids are some of the drugs that can affect some tests.
  • If you are suffering from severe skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
  • If you are so scared of the numerous needle scratches that are required in skin testing then this is an option
  • If in the past you have had a severe case of reaction after skin testing or you suffer from anaphylaxis which is a life threatening skin reaction.
  • To determine how well the allergy treatment is working.
  • The test can also help determine whether you have outgrown the allergy.

Allergy blood test results

When an allergy blood test comes out positive, it shows that allergy specific antibodies were detected. In this case, it means that you are suffering from an allergy. The blood test will reveal exactly what you are allergic to.

It is also important to note that, the test can reveal that you are allergic to something when you are not allergic to it at that particular moment.

All allergy blood test should only be interpreted by an allergy specialist.

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Visas, Ai yai yai! The Schengen Visa

By Randy and Lori Grant. See their blog at Freetirement

Schengen photo

By far, the hardest part of traveling abroad is the visa process. This determines how long you can stay in country, when you have to leave and when you can return. It is a major headache that most people, especially Americans, take for granted.

As a U.S. citizen, getting into most countries does not require a visa. More than likely you will get a visa on arrival when you go through passport control. We have only traveled to a few countries that we had to have a visa prior to entering the country (i.e., China).

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Most countries will grant us a tourist visa when we enter the country. This can be for 30 days (Thailand) or 90 days (Japan, Croatia, Malaysia). India even grants a 10 year multiple entry tourist visa for only $100!

Countries are pretty easy to figure out; however, it gets complicated when you involve the EU (European Union). This is the most convoluted system we have ever seen. If you don’t believe me, just watch this clip explaining it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O37yJBFRrfg

Are you scratching your head in confusion now? Me too. But, we think we finally figured out this system and how it will affect us during our future travels in Europe.

The two things you need to understand when visiting Europe for more than 90 days is the difference between the EU and Schengen Zone. Many countries belong to the EU, but not the Schengen Zone. A person can travel in the EU for up to 90 days in a 180 day time frame. After that 90 days you have to leave. Let’s use Germany and Croatia as examples.

Germany is part of the EU and Schengen Zone. We can stay there for up to 90 days as a tourist. Once we leave, we are not allowed back in for another 90 days. So, we have to leave the Schengen Zone. Croatia is part of the EU, but not part of the Schengen Zone. Croatia will allow me to stay 90 days, but once we leave, we are not allowed back there for another 90 days. So essentially we could go back and forth for the rest of our lives as long as we hit those precise timelines.

Some countries like Malaysia are not so strict. You get 90 days upon entry and you can leave for one day at the end of that period and return the following day and get another 90 days. Thailand is the same, but they have a 30 day policy. In Thailand, they do have a visa extension that you can pay for in country and get an additional 30 days, but that is it. You will have to leave after the 60 days.

Since most of us travel as temporary tourists, this problem will not arise often, but it is always wise to check out the visa requirements of every country you visit. The last thing you want to happen is to be turned away at immigration before you even get started on your dream vacation.

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Memo to family: Do not hyphenate me.

Garret Mathews is retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. He penned more than 6,500 columns in a career that began in 1972. Mathews lives in Carmel, Ind., and happily babysits his new grandson four days a week.

Garet Mathews

Memo to family:

Do not hyphenate me.

 I’m talking tombstone here.

You have permission to take advantage of the early-bird special and buy the slab of rock.

You do not have permission to carve in the year of my birth and leave the rest blank.

There’s enough pressure in my life. I don’t want to take a stroll in the graveyard and see “Mathews” on the stone and beneath it, “1949-.”

I’d feel like a loose end.

The guy at the monument company waits with chisel in hand to complete the job.

And waits. And waits.

Does he pound in “2043,” or “2048,” or, hopefully, “2063?”

The poor fellow can’t collect full payment on the job until I breathe my last.

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The only polite thing would be to go to his office every December and apologize for being alive.

“Look,” I’ll tell him. “I know I’m being a pain for continuing to enjoy good health. Maybe this will be the year my bile duct explodes and you can finish the inscription.”

Understand this, family members. Thinking ahead is one thing. Foreshadowing my demise is quite another.

Hyphenate your own selves. Leave me out of it.

I have nothing against inscriptions provided they don’t suggest the end game. I submit the following for your approval:

“Here lies our beloved father and husband. He liked children, dogs and the way Angelina Jolie looked in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.”


“Now you can turn the thermostat up.”


“Here lies the mortal remains of Mathews. He was born in 1949 and we have absolutely no idea when he is going to die.”


“Give these bare bones a place to rest.

“Never mind that he lacked a crest.

“About one thing he was a holy terror.

“He hated to make a grammatical error.”


“The typist buried here lived simply.

“There’s little he would have amended.

“So, in death, we grant one last wish.

“That his tombstone not be open-ended.”

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