15 Benefits of Hiking – Get on the Path to Longevity Today!

Guest post by Mitch Stevens from Southwest Discoveries

Are you finding it difficult to get motivated about exercise? Does sweating at the gym seem less than appealing? Then hiking is your solution! What are the benefits of hiking?People who hike on a regular basis enjoy better overall health, markedly less stress and are more energetic in general. All you need to do is start with one of these 15 tips today and reap the rewards!

Benefit One – Improve Your Overall Health and Be Fit!

Zion Narrows

If you maintain a regular hiking program you’ll not only feel great when you hit the trail but you’ll enjoy optimum fitness. The better your condition, the more you’ll enjoy the hiking experience. No matter whether you’ve considered dabbling in the world of hiking, or if you’re an avid hiker who frequently takes a step back to appreciate the world around you, you can appreciate the health benefits of hiking.

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Tip One: Start slowly

Remember to start slowly! This is especially important if you are just getting back into shape. If you are hiking to get in shape, start out with a couple of 10 minute walks in the day and add a few minutes every few days. Plan on going on a more strenuous walk once every weekend. If you are in good shape already, start walking more throughout your day and plan day hikes in your area.

To kick-start your hiking program, carve out at least 30 minutes three to four days per week for hiking. You can increase your frequency later on but just 150 minutes of hiking per week will reap the benefits of hiking exercise. A recent study by the American Heart Association determined that low impact exercises such as hiking can lower your health risks as much as running:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp

Invest in a sturdy pair of hiking boots and do your research first. Scout out the best places to hike and exercise. Whether you reside in Boulder, Colorado or New York City, there are trails, parks and recreation areas to suit all needs and preferences. Gradually work up to trails with hills or uneven terrain. Then you can gradually start walking farther with heavier loads.

Benefit Two: Decrease Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease!

Zion Waterfall

New studies show that walking or hiking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut a person’s risk of stroke in half. Walking conditions the heart and is an excellent way to get outdoors and may help you live longer. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, including hiking at your personal fitness level, is safe for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Consistent aerobic exercise, hiking included, helps increase your HDL levels, the good cholesterol, and lowers your triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels; the harmful components. Thus, your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure is reduced. Take a hike to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy.

Tip Two – Use poles

The physical benefits of hiking are increased by utilizing trekking. The benefits of hiking poles are that not only do they reduce wear and tear on your joints, but digging into the ground and propelling yourself forward pushes your upper body muscles to work harder and gives you’re a better cardio workout. Thus, you’ll lose more weight and you will reap substantial health benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease.

Poles also reduce the risk of falling, whether hiking up or downhill. It is a good idea to adjust your poles length so that your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle when hiking uphill or on fairly flat land. When you take a step, plant the pole in the opposite hand behind your trailing foot. With this method you’ll be pushing off each time you plant a pole.



On downhill stretches of any duration, lengthen the poles somewhat and plant the poles out in front of you. For an effective technique when hiking downhill, I utilize the “banister technique.” This method greatly reduces stress on your knees and joints when descending. Enjoy this brief narrated video!

Benefit Three – Be Happy!

Hikers are happier. A walk through a stunning landscape not only calms your nerves but improves your spirits and can help people with severe depression. Being in the majesty of nature, free from the pressures of our everyday lives and technology works wonders for stress relief.

For example, on a late afternoon jaunt at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, one can admire the view. Recent rains green up the springtime desert and afford crystal clear views of the Rincons, Santa Catalina, Santa Rita, Baboquivari and Tucson mountain ranges that surround the area. Saguaro National Park offers just one of many great hikes in Tucson, which serves up some of the best hiking in the world!

As you gaze at towering saguaros, lush green desert and the beautiful sky island mountain ranges in the distance, you will understand what hiking is all about and why it is good for the soul!

Turn up your speakers and enjoy this music video called Sacred Place in the Wilderness. It highlights the magnificent National Parks and wild lands of the West!


Tip three: Hike with a friend or with a group

While hiking alone is a spiritually renewing and enjoyable experience, trekking can be as social as you like. Moreover, hiking with a friend or a group offers the same soothing feeling and is an excellent opportunity to socialize and exchange ideas with others.

Hiking with a group can feel more like entertainment than exercise and is a great excuse to meet new people. Most every city and town has hiking Meetup groups. These are very active social hiking groups full of diverse people who enjoy hiking with others. Some of the advantages of groups are camaraderie, safety and having a lot of fun out on the trails!

Benefit Four – Prevent Diabetes!

Chiricahua Mountains

Hiking benefits include reducing your blood sugar levels. This helps you reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Hiking works your muscles, which transfers glucose from your bloodstream for energy. But if you already have diabetes, it is crucial that you talk to your doctor first! Your practitioner may need to adjust your diabetes medications.

Tip Four: Bump it up

Hiking trails offer uneven terrain which will work muscles while improving balance and stability. You can even head off trail for some of your hike as your body becomes more conditioned to rough terrain. This will increase your health benefits exponentially.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of mortality in the United States. “Walking is one of the best types of ‘medicine’ we have to help prevent diabetes, or reduce its severity and potential complications—such as heart attack and stroke—if you already have it,” says Joann Manson, MD, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Women who did at least 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, slashed their risk of diabetes by 30%, found the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study.

Benefit Five – Increase Your Energy Level!

Sundance Canyon - Arizona

Aerobic activities, such as hiking, provide oxygen and fuel to your muscles, and other body tissues. This extra fuel helps strengthen your muscles and lungs and increases your alertness, and energy and endurance levels too!

Tip five: Head for the hills

Hiking uphill will intensify your heart rate, burn extra calories and increase your oxygen levels. According to Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Club, “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.” Miller says a 5% to 10% incline equals a 30% to 40% increase in calorie burn.


Find a park or an area with hills or mountains and your hiking workout will be even more effective! If you combine elevation gain with stepping up your pace, you’ll gain further benefits. Hike at a pace where you can still carry on a conversation to avoid over doing it. Take frequent and short breaks if necessary.

Benefit Six – Lose Weight!

Colorado River - Grand Canyon

One of the many hiking health benefits includes weight management. It is one of the best methods to burn calories and lose unwanted pounds! By maintaining a consistent and enjoyable hiking program, you will keep your weight under control.

In fact, numerous studies have proved that hiking can burn more than 370 calories per hour. It is best to start slowly and work up your hiking duration to approximately forty five minutes daily at a pace of 2.5 miles an hour.

Tip Six – Hike with weight in your pack

According to some studies, a 10- to 15-pound day pack will boost your calorie burn by 10% to 15% while strengthening your lower back muscles. Especially when training for a strenuous hike, work up to it by training with extra weight in your pack. Start off with ten pounds, and then slowly increase the weight in your pack incrementally on a weekly or bi-monthly basis until you reach about thirty to forty pounds.

This is especially effective if you’re training for a big hike such as backpacking in the Grand Canyon. For more hiking pointers, see Getting Ready for Desert Hiking:


Benefit Seven – Increase Your Bone Density!

Dragoon Mountains

Strong bones are essential to your overall health. Hiking regularly will decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis and arthritis. If you have arthritis, studies have shown that 150 minutes of hiking per week will maintain flexibility in your joints and decrease joint stiffness.

Tip Seven – Get into a groove

On the days you can’t hike, you can power-walk on just about any terrain while carrying various degrees of weight in a backpack. This will keep your hiking skills and fitness level on track while you maintain a regular exercise program. Like hiking, this is an easy, safe and inexpensive way to achieve great physical fitness.

Other activities to consider when you can’t hit the trail are treadmill walking, elliptical training, cycling, dancing, Pilates, martial arts – the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Benefit Eight – Lower Your Cancer Risk!

Archangel Falls - Zion

Like any regular exercise, hiking benefits include lowering your cancer risk. Hiking helps prevent and fight certain cancers such as breast and colon cancer. Hiking will decrease your chance of developing lung and other forms of cancer. Overall, hiking can help manage some of your other cancer risk factors.


Tip Eight – Increase your endurance

It is best to hike at a steady rate, especially when going uphill. It’s important not to push yourself and take frequent, short breaks. Because hiking is an endurance sport, sustain a pace that you can maintain. If you push yourself too hard, you will become fatigued.

On steep ascents, stop for a 30 second breather when you require it. Brief stops can provide a surprising degree of physical recovery. Break up a big day mentally into a series of shorter hikes, identifying where you’ll take rest breaks, to make the total distance feel more manageable. You don’t have to follow a rigid schedule, but having some idea of when you want to reach key spots along the way will prevent a much later finish than hoped for.

Take a ten-minute break every hour and elevate your legs over your heart. This will help alleviate fatigue in your legs and pump toxins out of your body. Manage your rest time wisely; you can only push your pace so much.

Benefit Nine – Relief from Back Pain!

Salome Canyon

Sitting at a computer or desk too long can cause back pain. People who walk commonly report significant decreases in back pain. Hiking puts much less stress on your body than running or aerobics and helps build core body strength.

Tip Nine – Core training

Core fitness workouts are important for strength, endurance, balance, and stability. It is critical to feeling strong throughout a long hike or run. A strong core helps your body carry a pack—even a light hydration or day pack—conserving energy in the large muscles of your legs to forestall fatigue, and avoid back pain or muscular injuries.

Core training doesn’t require a huge daily time commitment to achieve noticeable results. Three to five days a week, try exercises such as planks and slow bicycle crunches. These are great for strengthening. If you work out in a gym, you can incorporate these exercises into your resistance workout. Fifteen minutes of core work at a time is sufficient.

Benefit Ten – Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D!

The Watchman - Zion

Where to get vitamin D? Get more vitamin D by taking a hike of course! Vitamin D is a critical nutrient needed to keep your muscles and bones strong and to promote overall good health. Although some vitamin D is available in foods, one of the best sources is the sun. So get out there and take a hike for better health!

Tip Ten –Best time for sun exposure

Ten to fifteen minutes of sunshine three times weekly is enough to produce your body’s requirement of Vitamin D. The sun needs to shine on the skin of your face, arms, back, or legs (without sunscreen).

Because exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer, use caution. Consider your location when deciding your best time for sun exposure. It is best to avoid the direct sunlight between the hours of 11am to 2pm.

Benefit Eleven – Hiking is good for your brain!

Paria Canyon

According to a study published in Proceedings, an online medical journal of the National Academy of Sciences, hiking outdoors is great for the brain. In the experiment, a group of middle-aged people were asked to take three 40 minute walks a week for a year. At the end of the 12 month period, MRI scans verified that their hippocampus grew an average of 2 percent. Typically, as people age, their hippocampus becomes smaller, leading to memory loss.

But preventing such shrinkage could improve a person’s memory for years! Moreover, there have been many other recent reports regarding how being in the outdoors reaps huge benefits. Other conditions alleviated include stress, depression, anger and aggressiveness. In fact, our mental health in general is significantly improved by being in a natural environment.

An Iraq veteran who suffers from PTSD and related symptoms like agoraphobia, severe depression and anxiety, attested to the many mental health benefits of hiking. “I find the getting away from everything for just a short while, very beneficial but it goes hand and hand with treatment. I am also introduced to the outside in a somewhat controlled environment. The quietness in which to meditate and do a little soul searching for the guy I used to be. “

So what are we waiting for?

Tip Eleven – Resistance exercises

The type of exercise program that will benefit your brain is identical to the one that will benefit the rest of your body. Ideally, you’d want to strive for a comprehensive routine that includes high-intensity interval exercise, strength training, core work, and regular intermittent movement to avoid the hazards associated with prolonged sitting.

Postpone muscle fatigue during your hike with resistance exercise, lifting weights or doing body-weight exercises such as squats, push-ups, dips, and pull-ups strengthens muscles. These exercises provide you power for ascending with a pack on. Do resistance exercises two or three times a week for an hour, developing a routine that targets all of the major muscles.

In the gym, do at least two exercises focused on the legs. Leg lifts and hamstring pulls are excellent ways to increase strength. Your sets should be long enough to temporarily cause you to breathe hard. Body-weight exercises can be done in succession without a break in between. For example, 20 squats and 20 lunges back to back are effective.

Benefit Twelve – Expand Your Mind, Visit New Places!

Nankoweap – Grand Canyon

Hiking is a great excuse for visiting new places which is great for creating excitement, avoiding boredom and opening new synopsis’ in the brain. Instead of planning an ordinary vacation, take part in a grand adventure tour! American adventure trips can encompass snow-capped mountains, spectacular canyons, fascinating deserts and verdant forests.

From the gorgeous ocean scenery at Arcadia National Park, to the forests of the Smoky Mountains, the grandeur of Rocky Mountain National Park and a spectacular Grand Canyon hike, there is something for everyone in our wilderness lands. A walking tour in our National Parks and wilderness areas offer thousands of trails across millions of acres of public land. Striking vistas will delight nature lovers.

Tip Twelve – Go light

Keep your pack as light as possible. Carrying a heavy pack takes a toll on the body and discourages you from hiking far. Going ultralight allows you to greatly expand your options on the trail. Carrying a light day pack will enable you to see more, walk more and you’ll have energy to explore more if you wish. How can you lighten your load? Compare your usual gear selection with the items on this packing checklist.

Checklist for Hiking Trips


Benefit Thirteen – Tones Your Muscles!

Chiricahua Mountains

Since hiking can include steep inclines, it is perfect for putting your body to the test and for toning your muscles. With brisk movements and a steady pace, you can get a full body workout. Remember to stretch before and after a vigorous hike, so that your hamstrings, glutes and quads are toned. The dynamic stretching of yoga can be very beneficial for hikers.

Tip Thirteen – Yoga

Daily stretching or yoga will provide your muscles greater range of motion and more strength. Yoga loosens you and allows you to engage the full range of motion in your muscles. This alleviates the tightness associates with carrying a pack on an all day trek.

An example of a great yoga position is the inverted pigeon. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet flat on the ground and put your right ankle over your left knee. Slide your right arm through the space made by your legs and clasp hands beneath your left thigh. Gently move your knee straight in towards your chest. Hold this pose for five seconds.

Other good yoga moves are the various tree poses and lunges. Research these online for instructions and examples. You may even want to join a yoga class for more motivation and ideas!

Benefit Fourteen – Hiking Slows Aging!

West Clear Creek – by Michael Madsen

Hiking and trekking are not only fun, they help slow the aging process. In addition to bringing clarity to the mind and vibrancy to the soul, hiking will help reduce your mortality risk.

Research indicates that what was once accepted as a foregone conclusion that aging will diminish your physical and mental capabilities is not true. An article in the American Journal of Public Heath conducted a study regarding mortality risk and moderate exercise such as hiking. They tested two groups of middle aged men, one active and one sedentary, during a 23 year time period. Their conclusion, the inactive group lost 41 percent of their aerobic ability while the exercisers lost only 13%.

The take away here is that aging doesn’t decrease our ability to be healthy and active. But leading a sedentary lifestyle will accelerate the aging process. Yet another excuse to hit the trails!

Tip Fourteen – Step carefully and take small steps

While hiking prolonged steep downhill stretches, a great technique is to make your own little switchbacks in the trail. In other words, walking in a straight path downhill can exert a lot of pressure on your knees and other joints. To less that impact, zigzag slightly down the trail. You can create your own tiny switchbacks in the trail, assuming that you land your feet at an angle to the fall line rather than stepping straight down. It will take a little practice to get the hang of this but you’ll reap significant reward once you grasp this technique.

Moreover, choose your steps carefully. Don’t commit your weight onto small rocks, which tend to be unstable and may move, taking you with it. Only apply weight to stable, comparably flat rocks when hiking downhill. Not only will this reduce the risk of a fall, but the flat rocks will act as natural breaks for your body. This will lessen muscle strain and soreness at the end of the day when hiking in Grand Canyon for instance.

While a long stride will work well on a flat trail, when ascending or descending a much more effective strategy is to take shorter steps. If you bend your knees at shallow angle as opposed to taking big steps up or down, your joints and large muscles will thank you at the end of the day! You’ll work less hard by taking more steps, shortening your stride and lessening the impact on your knees.

Moreover, another benefit to this method when hiking downhill is that you’ll be less likely to slip and fall. When you strike each foot more directly below your center of gravity, rather an ahead of you, you’ll be more stable. In fact, most falls occur when hiking downhill. This is because when we hike uphill, we land with each foot almost directly below our body which is a balance position. But when descending, we tend to land with our feet that is out in front of our body. This can cause your body to become off-balanced.

Benefit Fifteen- Develop Healthy Lifetime Habits!

Vescey’s Paradise – Grand Canyon

Another compelling reason to hike is a markedly improved quality of life. Each time you hike, breathe the outside air, exert and challenge yourself but stay within your capabilities, you will come away feeling better than you did. Your body and mind will feel healthier and your stress level will drop off. Because of this great feeling, you’ll want to hike again. The sport may even become addictive!

As you notice improvements in your mind and body, you may adopt other healthy habits such as eating healthful foods or practicing meditation.

Tip Fifteen – Drink plenty of water and dress for hiking

Hydrate often which helps prevent muscle soreness and the effects of the hot sun and high elevations. For example, when hiking the Grand Canyon, make it a habit to drink every 15 to 20 minutes. For strenuous hikes, mix an electrolyte such as Emergen C (http://www.emergenc.com/) in a liter of water.

Drink this quite liberally, especially in the afternoon. By doing this, it’ll insure that you will not develop muscle cramps during your hike. By implementing this strategy and staying hydrated, you’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel!

Invest in lightweight hiking clothes. A wide brim hat and long sleeve shirt and long pants is highly recommended See What to Wear While Hiking http://southwestdiscoveries.com/what-to-wear-while-hiking-in-the-desert-and-mountains/

Wrapping it All Up

snow in the desert!

We talked about how hiking is one of the best forms of exercise and spiritual renewal a person can have. We’ve also shown how a steady hiking program will not only get you in awesome shape but it can provide many ways to stay healthy and avoid illness. The physical health benefits of hiking are enormous!

So get started on your hiking plan today and kick start your journey to longevity!

Here’s to your health

Happy Trails!

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Repositioning Cruises

Guest post by Randy and Lori Grant.

Part of traveling is learning or finding out new ways to do it. We are always open to shortcuts or finding savvy ways to travel.

When we planned our first year in retirement we knew we would spend a year in Thailand, but after that first year we started looking at several options. Lori had a milestone birthday coming up in October 2015. She wanted to get back to Italy and several other places to celebrate it so we decided once we left Thailand we would fly  to Europe and then take a repositioning cruise from Italy back to the U.S.

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We learned about repositioning cruises several years ago while doing travel research on what to bring on a cruise on the internet. It was very intriguing and we thought one day we might be able to use it as a transportation option instead of flying.


As we told people about our plans, we were often asked, “What is a repositioning cruise?’

Everyone is familiar with basic cruises, but a repositioning cruise is when a cruise ship moves from one area of operation to another. For example, cruise ships spend the summer months sailing in the Mediterranean region and then in the fall they cruise across the Atlantic Ocean to winter in the Caribbean. In the spring, they simply reverse direction and on it goes.


Since these trips are usually one-way and during the less-busy off season, you can get some really good deals on these two week cruises.

Most stop in several amazing ports in Europe or the Caribbean for a week prior to the transatlantic crossing, which is usually another week at sea. There are plenty of activities and lectures during your week at sea. Don’t forget to bring a few books or your e-reader.


Depending on what cruise line and accommodations you choose will determine your price. Since we were celebrating Lori’s birthday, we decided to upgrade to a balcony stateroom and we chose Celebrity Cruise Line because the trip we wanted was called the 16 Day Three Continent Cruise (Europe, Africa, North America). Total expenses which included balcony stateroom, taxes, tips, trip insurance for two people cost $3500  Now this is a lot of money compared to what you can usually get these cruises for, but we splurged this time and probably won’t do it again. If we decided to get an inside   cabin we would have cut that cost by a third. If we would have gone with Norwegian Cruise Line and took an inside cabin, we would have cut the cost in half.

Prior to our sailing, I checked the Norwegian transatlantic crossing which was 14 days and the price for an inside cabin was $480 per person. This was before taxes, gratuities, etc. Even with those, the price would have been less than $1000 per person. That includes all your meals, entertainment and lodging for two weeks. You are not going to get an airfare much cheaper than that. And another big bonus, no jet lag!


These types of cruises are all over the world and transit many places. You can go to almost any cruise web site (Vacations to Go, Cruise.com, Cruisedirect.com) and find these types of cruises. Remember, the price is low because it is one-way and it is usually during the off season. As teachers we would never have been able to take these cruises, but if you have the flexibility, it may be well worth it for you to look into this type of cruise.

Good luck and happy cruising!


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Medical Care and Infrastructure in Guatemala

Q&A with a Reader

We continue to search for the right place in Mexico that has moderate temps, low humidity and culture.  Although I want to be around some expats, I do not want to spend all of my time with them.  I want to experience the culture.

How is the infrastructure and medical care in Guatemala?  These are two criteria my husband uses to pick cities to visit.

We have now both retired so will finally have more time to explore and find our heaven.  Thanks for your wonderful writing.  I love reading your newsletter.



Hi Lisa,

The infrastructure is fairly good here, about the same as Mexico. The roads are in decent condition, although there are some places where they need repair. Water, electricity, and Wifi are all pretty stable and available, especially in Antigua and Panajachel. The only reasons you might go to Guatemala City is to arrive at the airport, or if you need special medical care. They have some of the best doctors in the world there and we have received care in Guate City for 2 separate incidents (see articles below.)


Medical care for normal, regular, everyday things is available in Panajachel, conditions of more specialty one would go to Antigua, and as I mentioned, you can get anything you need in Guate City.


Some links are for you below.

Antigua and Panajachel/Lake Atitlan are certainly worth the visit. There are other locations you might enjoy, like Flores, Tikal, Livingston and Xela, which we cover in our Guatemala Guide. Here is a link to our Guatemala Page.

All the best, and stay in touch.


Pricing of a Medical Emergency in Guatemala – details about my de-gloving finger accident

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Am I Doomed to Being the 5th Wheel in My Early Retirement?

Q&A with a Reader

Hi there Billy and Akaisha,

I have a question about retiring early.  I’ve reached FI and want to retire early.  There are so many more things I want to do with my life.

I was hoping to find a fella who wants to RE also.  Someone who is on the same wavelength as me.  However I don’t know anyone who wants to RE.  They are all scrabbling around for the biggest mortgage and the fanciest car and they are the most miserably unhappy people in the world.  When I dare to suggest that there are other options in life they inform me that what I am talking about is impossible!

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I know plenty of fellows who could retire early.  They have enough.  They have enough for three lifetimes but still they refuse to leave the golden trough even though the work stress is visibly taking a major toll on their health every single day.

5th wheel 6

So I figure I have to set out on my own for the next part of the journey which is so unbelievably scary.

My question is:  are there single fellas out there in the ER world?  I have visions of it being populated entirely by couples such as yourself and I’ll forever be doomed to being the fifth wheel which is not a very appealing future.

You two are very lucky that you have each other and that you both want the same things.

Thank you so much for your website.  It has been so very helpful over the years.



5th wheel 4

Hi Pamela,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for your kind comments about our website. We appreciate that!

Yes! There are single men out in the Early Retirement, Financially Independent world! They are traveling and living fulfilling lives and some of them are looking for a like-minded travel companion. Some of the men complain that the women they know don’t like to travel or don’t want to leave the kids for too long a time, or need their comfort at a level that is not adventurous enough for them or too expensive for them to handle.

We like to mention that to find a traveler, one needs to get out there and travel! You won’t find them at the country clubs or working in banks or holding down big mortgages. These travelers have already come to the conclusion themselves that they want something else for their lives and are “out there” on the road, doing volunteer work, and having adventures in foreign countries.

5th wheel 5

While I completely understand that it is frightening to take this step on your own, my advice would be to fashion your life filled with things that interest you, go to places that make your heart sing, and if volunteer work appeals, then join these organizations and meet fellow volunteers. If you are doing activities that you love, chances are, this is the place where you will find a like-minded person to accompany you through life.

I would also suggest joining forums (expat forums or forums on topics that hold your interest) and meet people that way.

It’s a big world, Pamela.

The fact that you have your own means of financial support and don’t “need a man” to supplement your financial life makes you very attractive as a companion.

5th wheel 2

YOU are an asset.

A man doesn’t have to worry about paying for everything but rather has an equal partner who can contribute in many ways to the relationship. Your entertainment and travel options have just doubled. The fact that you can contribute to housing costs and daily living costs has just upped your value as a potential partner in life. You and a potential mate can live in better housing conditions, travel with more ease, dine in locations of your choice rather than set by your budget, and you have broader entertainment options.

I mean… I hate to sound so unrefined in my above description, but seriously, Pamela. Consider yourself to be valuable. You have the freedom to be on your own as well as being able to contribute to a relationship. AND if someone doesn’t treat you well, you have the freedom and choice to move on. You are not “stuck” due to the fear of financial pain.

5th wheel 3

Congratulations on your financial independence!

Billy and I wish you the very best moving forward into the life of your own choosing.

Do keep in touch,

Akaisha and Billy

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Quick Comparison: Chapala, Mexico to Panajachel, Guatemala

Q&A with a Reader 

You know Chapala well (I have your guide to that).  And you know Panajachel well.  You live there.  So which one is better.  Which one do you like best?



Hi Mark,

Thanks for taking the time to write, and thank you for your interest in our books.

In answer to your question, which place, Chapala, Mexico or Panajachel, Guatemala do we like best, our answers are this: It’s hard to choose, and it depends.


Chapala (and the surrounding area) has an extensive network of Expats with lots of activities and lots of members. There are tennis courts and volleyball courts, dozens and dozens of restaurants to choose from, a couple of theaters for those interested in acting, they have a movie theater, and there are several towns dotted around the lake each of which has a different flavor. Medical care is available, and if you have something specific or special, then there is access to Guadalajara for specialty doctors. There is an American Legion, bridge clubs, animal rescue… all sorts of things in which to become involved.

Weather is good. Crime, for the most part is low also, although there are the home invasions on occasion. Generally, the drug traffic doesn’t affect Chapala and definitely not the Expat population.


It is a well-established location for retirement offering fresh food, entertainment, medical options, and ease of travel. Public transport is abundant and affordable. You can live there without a car easily. We have for years.

Chapala is also a good place to travel from to get to other places in Mexico. It’s 3 hours to the beach, a few hours to the Mexican Highlands, and with Guadalajara international airport, you can fly to the States to visit family or fly to other locations around the world.


Panajachel is more quirky. The town is filled with local Maya in their colorful garb, lots of bold murals and unique storefronts and the town is much smaller than Chapala. Fresh food is abundant, there is a good selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars with live music for entertainment. The town is completely walkable and there is mass transport (tuk-tuks) available to get to anywhere you want to go.

The natural beauty is stunning and weather is good. Lake Atitlan is the largest lake in Central America and is surrounded by 3 volcanoes which gives great contrast. Many people say that the lake is the main reason they live there, that and the variety that the local population offers. There are lots and lots of volunteer opportunities.


One can spend the day going to another town across the lake, spend the night, or go for lunch and come back the same day. Each of these dozen towns offer something different and they are a nice break from the Panajachel routine.

The number of Expats is smaller here in the Lake Atitlan area, but Pana is an hour and a half from the Colonial city of Antigua which has more expats. Antigua is a bit more upscale and picturesque in its own right. There are wine bars, cafes, and restaurants to choose from.

Medical care is available in Panajachel, more is available in Antigua, and you can find anything you need in the capitol city of Guatemala City.


All this being said, the winding mountainous roads of Guatemala makes Lake Atitlan a little more of a challenge to get to, so the amount of tourists (there are plenty of backpackers) are less. We get groups from time to time who come in from Antigua. While Panajachel is growing up, she is surely taking her time.

Both places are good choices to live for an extended amount of time. One can get 180 days on a tourist visa upon arrival in Mexico and 90 days upon arrival in Guatemala. The 90 day visa is good for a 4 country block – Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. So to do a visa run in Guatemala, one needs to do it more often and to go out of this 4 country block. One can live in the Lake Chapala area and get by speaking English. There is more Spanish spoken at Lake Atitlan and in Antigua.


If you like an off-beat, small town feel with exotic locals and amazing natural beauty, Panajachel might appeal more to you. If you would like a longer time between visa runs, an already established pathway for the newcomer and a huge country to explore, then perhaps Chapala, Mexico would attract you more.

Personally, we enjoy them both for what each offers, and have not yet chosen to settle down in either one just yet.

Hope this answers your question!

All the best,


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Single Black Female

Q&A with a Reader

Where are the best places for single black females to retire overseas?


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

Hi Yevette,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We appreciate it.

My first response to you would be to say, “Choose a place you love.”

I can recommend places to live because of weather, cost of living, the access to cultural or volunteer opportunities, the size of city or town, or ease of travel to the States in order to visit family or ease of retirement visas.

But what really matters most is what you want in a retirement location. If I recommend an island or beach town and you dislike the heat, then that recommendation doesn’t work for you. If I suggest a city because of the art, museums, international restaurants, concerts and Expat communities available, and you hate traffic and would really rather hike, bike, kayak and hang out in the mountains or nature, then that suggestion wouldn’t hit the spot.


I would say, get clear on what matters to you in terms of city size, the need for medical facilities, the cost of living you can afford, activities that you are attracted to, and whether or not learning a foreign language is an issue for you. Take a look at our piece, How to Choose a Retirement Location. Also, take a look at our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Destination Choices.

Choose a place that makes your heart sing. Go for what’s important to you and which place(s) provide those things for you.

I would start there. And with that in mind, I would recommend also taking a look at our Relocation Page where you will find all sorts of forums to join for free, cost of living sites, ways to meet up with new people and even websites which can help you choose a location for living by putting in your list of “requirements.”

The fact that you mentioned living overseas as a possible relocation spot tells me you are adventurous. If you, as a single female, have your own means of financial support, that is a huge asset and you have lots more freedom, and more options.


Certainly I could recommend Chapala, Mexico as a place which offers an active Expat community, has decent weather all year round, is well situated for ease of travel to other locations within Mexico, and has a reasonable cost of living.

Chiang Mai, Thailand is farther away and has hotter, more humid weather, but they, too, offer an active Expat Community, good cost of living and ease of travel to the whole Pacific Rim.

Antigua, Guatemala or Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala are also good places for culture and natural beauty, cost of living is good, and an active Expat Community.

Dominican Republic has a good cost of living, hot weather, fresh foods, beautiful beaches and affordable property. Getting a second passport there is fairly easy.


Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica are all possibilities. Some people really like Belize, mostly because English is spoken there, but in our opinion there are better, easier and more affordable options.

Seriously, pick a place that makes your heart sing, a place you can afford financially without strain and that offers you enough of what you want in your life that you feel supported. If you are happy, that is what people will see and you will make friends easily.

Please feel free to write any time. I hope the information that I have provided here is useful to you.

Wishing you all the best,


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Can I Find Good Internet Connections Overseas?

Q&A with a Reader

Love your blogs and am hoping to do traveling in South and Central America this next year.

One thing I am concerned about:  What is the internet like in various countries?  I absolutely must have fast internet.  How can I know before I go somewhere what the internet would be like?  Suggestions?



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

Hi Laura,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for your kind words about our website.

Billy and I are very internet dependent also. Due to our website maintenance, answering questions from our readers, skype phone calls home to family and friends, watching the financial markets, getting our news, writing articles and sending them to the media and so on, we must have a solid internet connection available to us.

It is our first priority when we rent a hotel room. “Do you have Wifi?” then we connect with our phones. If it is not a good connection, then we move on to the next hotel, or move to another floor or whatever it takes to find the connection we require.

In years past, internet was a novelty and was sketchy to find. These days, with “everyone” on their iphones and other digital devices, most hotels offer wifi included in the price of a hotel room. This wifi will be listed when you look online under amenities for a hotel when you book. Some countries are more wifi friendly than others — but most coffee shops and restaurants will have wifi available also, and we have seen parks and plazas marked as free wifi zones.

If you go off the grid and stay in a hill tribe or native village, you probably won’t find a wifi connection. However, in our experience, from Asian countries to Central America, wifi is available “everywhere.” Friends who have traveled to South America tell us it’s the same there with the abundant availability of internet connection.

As I said, in years past it was an issue, but it’s unlikely that you will find it to be much of a challenge these days.

Congratulations on your upcoming trips! Have a great time and stay in touch!

Best to you,


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My Wife Wants to Retire Now, but Needs Her Employer Sponsored Health Care

Hi Bill and Akaisha,

I am 66 and my partner will be 63 in December.  I am retired and have Medicare and a good supplement.  Jamie gets insurance through her work which is our dilemma.  She wants to retire but will need to cover herself for 2 years.  How did you guys deal with this problem?  Any suggestions?  We travel outside the US regularly but her insurance issues have held us back.



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

Hi Irv,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We appreciate it.

We understand your wife’s hesitation in giving up her work-provided health care. Getting sick or needing medical attention in the US is very expensive. This is not as cumbersome a problem receiving medical care overseas where it is far more affordable out of pocket.

I suppose it depends on how much travel out of the States that you intend to do in the next couple of years before she qualifies for Medicare… or how badly your wife would like to retire. You could choose to Go Naked – and receive your health care overseas (including your preventative exams), which has been a viable plan for many. But if you intend to live in the US and spend most of your time in the States, that could be nerve wracking for you.

I imagine it would also affect your decision if your wife has pre-existing conditions – where even travel insurance would exclude coverage for these areas of health.

Do you plan to live in the States? Move overseas? Is your wife reasonably healthy?

When we first retired and for years afterwards, Billy and I took out a high deductible US based health insurance plan. Eventually, we dropped that plan since we were spending most of our time overseas and paid for medical care out of pocket. The money we would have spent for premiums, we just saved and created our own HSA and self-insured.

This plan worked for us, but it may not work for you for various reasons, as everyone is different.

If you would like to know more about Medical Tourism or other Health Insurance Options, then click on the previous links. You might find the information provided to be helpful.

I hope you find the above information to be useful. Good luck to you and feel free to write any time.



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Dental Care in Guatemala

Guest post by Lori Shea, Owner, Guatemala Medical Travel.  Lori first arrived in Rio Dulce, Guatemala aboard a sailboat in 2005 and had a home and business there for two years. For more information on Cancer therapies visit her website.

In recent years, Guatemala has become known as a first-class destination for those seeking high-quality, affordable dental care. In North America and Europe, families are concerned with the high cost of dental procedures. Thanks to instantly accessible internet resources, they can save thousands of dollars by taking advantage of medical and dental options in Central America.

Joy and Don were facing some routine dental procedures that would have been terribly expensive back home in Indiana. They began searching the internet for a more economical solution for their treatment plan, without sacrificing high-quality materials and personal care. They consulted with medical agents in several countries before determining that Guatemala was their best choice. Together with the kids and their grandpa, they flew to Guatemala, knowing that they had dental appointments and all the surrounding details set up for them in advance.

Dental CareHaving an indulgent spa-dental vacation, without the children, was Lilah’s preference of a treatment plan. She was able to enjoy massages and shopping in between root canals and lab work delivery. Within seven days, the pain was gone, her smile was glowing and her suitcase was stuffed with textiles and souvenirs for her family and friends. The entire budget was still $3,000 less than what her hometown dentist had estimated.

On the other side of the world, John is a civil engineer who has been working with the U.S. government in Afghanistan for 15 years. John had wanted dental implants for a few years, but the cost was out of reach, plus he would need several other costly dental treatments to maintain his long term dental health. When it took him 10 days to get to Dubai for an “emergency” dental infection, John knew he needed to get all of his dental work done both quickly and economically. Excellent service, sensible prices and the opportunity to recover in an attractive tourist destination like Guatemala was exactly what he was looking for.

Closer to home, Sam was on his sailboat in Río Dulce, enjoying the care free life of a live-aboard cruiser. That is, until the debilitating pain of a dental infection sent him running for the best dentist he could find. Through his medical agent, Sam got a bus ticket, hotel room and dental appointment at an ultra-modern downtown clinic within 24 hours, paying ¼ of what he would in the United States.

Other dental patients are already traveling in Guatemala, marveling at the architectural monuments, enchanting cultural events, natural wonders and the genuine kindness of the local residents.

Denise was enjoying a relaxing holiday at Lake Atitlán when she discovered that she could get new custom made dentures perfectly fitted for her here in Guatemala. The old ones were worn out and uncomfortable, so it was a pleasant surprise to buy high quality new dentures in La Antigua Guatemala at a price she could afford.

Visitors to Guatemala can now return home with more than snapshots and T-shirts. Show off a dazzling new smile you can be proud of. For the emergency care you need, or an entire prosthodontic reconstruction, Guatemala offers dental professionals with the skills and experience to make it happen within both your budget and your itinerary.

Other articles by this author:

Orthopedic Care in Guatemala 

Buying Medical Care vs. Buying Medical Insurance

Cancer Treatment in Guatemala

Stem Cell Therapy – The Future

To watch an insightful and instructive video on Guatemala Medical Travel with interviews of both Doctors and Patients, Click Here 

Interview with Lori Shea, Owner, Guatemala Medical Travel

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Health, Travel Tips and Insight | Leave a comment

Travel Excites the Soul

Steve and Lynn Miller built a software company and retired 10 years later at 50 years old. They travel extensively and chronicle those travels on their blog. Steve also develops mobile apps in his spare time.

Photo 1a

Something strange happens when we travel.

We experience sights, sounds, and smells that are unfamiliar.

Splashes of color excite the psyche.

Travel1We encounter all types of landscapes. Desert juxtaposed with lakes reminds us of how our lives are so diverse and often contradicting.


Height brings reflection and reminds us how small we are.


A slow river that crescendos into a cascading waterfall reminds us of how we feel when we return. What was calm is now a bit frenzied.


Travel excites the soul.

Other posts by this author

Retired But Got the Blues? How Can That Be?

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