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:

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.”

Other posts by this author

Want to Know Sports Lingo? An Insider’s View

The Early Years

Did You Really Say “Far Out, Man?”

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What Is “Slow Travel?”

Hi Billy and Akaisha,

You used the term below this week and yet you did not give an explanation of what it was. What exactly is “slow travel”????

We know a man who does some “slow travel” and he lives on $12k a year and seems to be able to manage that fairly well. It’s definitely doable and not impossible.


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

Hi Neal!

“Slow travel” just means that a person doesn’t spend 2-3 days in one place, then spends money on transport to go to another place and spend 5 days and then goes to another place and spends 3 days and then goes to another…

When a person travels slow, perhaps spending months in one location, they are able to get deals on lodging (discount for longer stays) and are able to find where the locals eat (spending less on food) and can find the markets for fresh food instead of eating out all the time. Slow travel is cheaper all the way around than going quickly from place to place.

Housing and Transportation are two major costs in anyone’s budget, and if you can pare those expenses down, then you can live more inexpensively and on a limited budget. This style of travel becomes a lifestyle, not a vacation mindset.

Hope this helps!



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Secure Online Transactions When Traveling

Q&A with a Reader

Hi Billy and Akaisha!

I corresponded with you a few times in 2008-2009, and decided to take the plunge and “retire” (without a pension or gold watch) at 48 years old in 2009.  I’m glad I did!  Fortunately, my portfolio is bigger now than it was when I retired thanks to the stock market.

Since then, I have not been traveling a lot or having too much adventure, but I am thinking about going to teach English in Thailand for 6 months.  I have never been to Asia, and have never traveled for more than 2 weeks at one time.

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I have a question about how you conduct secure online financial transactions when you are away from a home, secure internet connection.

I would like to be able to move money around between accounts, for example, without fear of my information being stolen over public Wifi.

I’m wondering how you accomplish this; any advice would be greatly appreciated!

All the best to you!


Hi Kevin,

Congratulations on making the leap to early retirement.

As far as Wifi security goes, we use the normal precautions such as an anti-virus program, a firewall and so on, plus common sense. That said, we check our accounts regularly for any issues. So far we have never had a problem. Sometimes we use a VPN but that is a different issue.

Also we only access our accounts from our computers, not from public computers. We have no financial account information stored on our phones.

I hope this helps and good luck with teaching English. Something tells me this will change your life.



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I am forced to think about retirement as I have been laid off my job

Q&A with a Reader

We’re looking for some advice on how it’s possible to retire at 55, with
3 children in college (Sophomore getting second degree, and 2 Freshman), and one a sophomore in high school.  Two boys and two girls.

We’re looking at retiring, but we’re not as interested in traveling as
much since our children range from 15 to 24 years of age.

I find the complexity and uncertainty of figuring retirement out
daunting with College costs, medical insurance cost, possible wedding
cost, etc.  But now I’m forced to evaluate it because I’ve been laid
off at 55.  Any advice on how to figure this out?  I use Quicken and
everything is in there.  I was going to try to use Quicken to work on it.

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My wife is currently working part time and trying to get it up to full
time to get some insurance benefits.

We have a significant savings built up, but need some direction. Can you


Hi Rob,

Thanks for taking the time to write with your questions. We appreciate it.

We are sorry about your being laid off your job. Another way to look at this is that it is a terrific opportunity. This situation didn’t just happen to you, it happened to your whole family unit. Consequently, it’s a strong moment for Team Family.

Get your children involved – it’s a wonderful chance to teach them about money, and planning for their future. It may be too late for the ones already in college to apply for scholarships, but maybe not. Working part time while going to college is also very common and is done by many students. For the one still in high school, you could have him/her work towards achieving a scholarship and have them realize that they will need to pay for some of their own college expenses. This is not a hardship, it’s Life.

The same goes for the wedding expenses – Get them involved. Say you can budget “X” for the wedding (or towards the down payment of their home) and if they want something more, it will need to come from them. Be reasonable about that amount and don’t place too much stress on yourself over it.

The point is, while it might be disappointing for them in terms of what they had expected, it does teach that life is full of change, and that they are better off in their futures by developing self-reliance to achieve their dreams.

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Let your children know how important it is for them to give you their support of working together and that it will make the Family stronger in the long run.

In terms of health care, have you looked into Obamacare plans? With a single income now, you might qualify for subsidies. I don’t believe the eligibility for plans have anything to do with your net worth, but rather your managed gross income. You might be able to qualify for a policy next year, since you probably made too much money this year to be eligible.

If you have all of your figures in Quicken, you should be able to figure out your average cost per day and your annual yearly spending. The categories of highest spending in any household is housing, transportation, taxes and food. If you make changes in any of those categories you will be able to “find” extra money.

I would suggest that you find both the figures for your cost per day and your annual spending. These figures are ones that you have the power to manage.

At some point you might consider downsizing your home, or moving to an area where cost of living is cheaper. While that might seem drastic to you right at the moment, there are many options open to you. Take a look at our Relocation Page for ideas.

If moving or downsizing your home doesn’t appeal, could you rent out a room to a student or a vacationer to your town? AirBnB is one way people have used rooms in their homes or casitas or the like to make a bit of extra money. If your town is close to a hospital, a sporting arena, or has tourist attractions, sign up for AirBnB and get some extra cash flowing into your home.

While I understand that most families in the U.S. have several cars, you might consider other modes of transportation that are cheaper, doing carpooling or paring down the number of cars you are financing and utilizing. Perhaps your older children can pay for their own car insurance and gas. The cost of car ownership might surprise you. Take a look at our Transport Page for more information.

If you have been tracking your expenses in the food category, you can reduce your total costs by eating out less, and taking advantage of rolling grocery sales using these times to stock up on food in your freezer. Have a cooking day once a week or twice a month where you make lasagna, cooked roasts, blanched vegetables, tuna noodle casserole, etc. and then portion out meals to put in the freezer. That way delicious food is always available and the temptation to go out or call for carry out is lessened.

While you have been laid off your job, you still have talents and abilities. How can you utilize them to your benefit? You might try putting together some kind of courses based on your talents and interests and sell them on Udemy. Len Smith has done this and makes quite a bit of money in this fashion.

Do you want to look for part time or full time work? Take a look at our Retirement Jobs Page.

You could write a blog about your experiences, your hopes and fears, what you face getting your family involved and tell your journey. Add videos. Monetize your blog.

These are only a few ideas and once you get in the mindset of finding solutions, utilizing your options, managing your cost per day, then your vistas will open up. You have lots of opportunities.

Taking action is very energizing, and I hope that some of these suggestions are useful to you. This could be an opening for you to create a satisfying transition to retirement.

Feel free to write and let us know how you are doing, or if you have further questions.

We wish you the very best during this time, and hope that you make the most of it.

Best regards,

Akaisha and Billy

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Following My Passion

Hi Billy & Akaisha

Wow. I’ve been following you guys for almost 10 years now!!! Very crazy. I started researching about early retirement when I was 23 and found your site and read your book. You inspired me to quit my job as a scientist when I was 27 and pursue my real passion, music. It’s always inspiring to hear from you guys.

I started in the spare bedroom or my apartment and now I run a full blown music school with 200 students which has provided me the financial freedom to not work as much as I used to. My goal is to be completely free of “work” by 2017. I’m building my business to run without me so that by the time I’m 35, I can start enjoying the world more.

Retire on $22,000 yr. Travel the World. FREE Report Click here

Thanks to you guys, I try and live very simply anyway. Even with high housing costs just outside the Boston area, I can comfortably live off of ~$2200/month with no debts. I try to save as much as possible. My fiancé and I would like to eventually move to VT where the cost of living is cheaper, the scenery is much better, the lifestyle is much slower and less stressful and we can participate in one of our favorite activities, hiking, whenever we want.

Thank you again for the inspiration. I haven’t written in some time, but it’s always nice to see your Newsletters in my inbox.


Hi Lauren!

What a joy to hear from you after all this time! And of course we are so inspired by what you have chosen to do with your life and the success that you have found. We congratulate you on your creativity and determination to live a fulfilling life in the style that suits you.

We are thrilled with the accomplishment of your music school. How satisfying that must be for you. And that you and your fiance have been able to pare your lifestyle down to affordable amounts and still have the gratification of life, music, nature and each other.

We are quite impressed and wish you and your fiancé all the best in the future.

Thank you for your kind words about our website and thank you for keeping in touch. It’s always great to hear from you!

Wishing you both every good thing,

Akaisha and Billy

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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.

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

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: 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 ( 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

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.

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

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,, 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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