Is Falling in Love Inevitable?

Guest post by Linda DeBlanco. Linda got tired of the grunt and grind of money earning and packed it all up to travel the world. She shows how you can too, in her book, Get Packing: If not now, when? To find out more about Linda or to purchase her book, visit her website.

get packing2Other than getting through a working life affording only one or two week vacations for decades, I hadn’t really traveled in most of my entire lifetime.  Although I used my passport a fair amount and saw lots of places and hotels, I came to realize that vacations don’t count.

When I was 49 I got a small pile of extra sales commission money.  Rather than buy more dinnerware and/or shoes, I got a wild idea to take a year off from the grunt and grind of money earning and did some serious exploring outside of the USA.  What an eye opener!  But duty called and I didn’t know any other way, so the grunt and grind continued after that glorious year of escape and adventure.  Fifteen years later, at the age when people normally retire, I did the “normal” thing and waved goodbye to my cubicle.  With plenty of time and very little money I did more exploring of the planet and came to a conclusion.

Travel should be a REQUIRED activity for everybody before they get too old to heft a backpack!

Open up to new possibilities abroad.

How can we really understand what it means to live on planet earth if we don’t get some tasty glimpses of a much broader view of it than we do in a typical lifetime as working stiffs?

Realizing how fearful so many of my friends were about leaving home (the USA) for exotic lands, I decided I had no choice but to shout to the world how important it is to seize every opportunity to get out there and travel WHILE WE STILL CAN!

get packingOne wonderful spring day, while sitting by Lake Atitlan in the beautiful highlands of Guatemala, I realized I’d better pen a book to offer encouragement to anybody and everybody who might miss out on seeing the world while there’s still time.  I just felt it was my duty.  I always was pretty hooked on “duty.”  But more on some good reading material a bit later.

First I must admit that it’s not really fair to say this epiphany happened on a spring day because at Lake Atitlan it’s ALWAYS a spring day – even when it’s raining.  In truth this moment of epiphany was in January and was the dead of winter in many places, including the California Sequoias where my car had gotten snowed in.  The poor old Buick sat in front of my daughter’s cabin on a road that is NEVER plowed.  I was only with her for a short visit when she informed me on December 15th that I could get my car out from where it sat in the spring!!!  I’m not a cold weather, rustic living person.  So all I could think was ESCAPE!  I could get myself and a couple of suitcases past the wall of snow created by my daughter’s four wheel drive truck.  But the car was pretty much stuck for the next several months and how does one function in California without a car?  I had no choice but to head south for the winter, which is how I ended up at Lake Atitlan in the first place.

And it’s only fair to report that Lake Atitlan is where I’ve finally decided to spend the rest of my days!!!  It took a few years but by now I am truly in love with Lake Atitlan and I don’t believe in falling in love at first sight.

So, about falling in love.  While we wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying on a few styles, I wasn’t about to settle on a final “living” place without even more exploration.  While falling in love and settling down at some point in life may become a necessity since we aren’t getting any younger.  But wouldn’t you just hate to do that in the wrong place?   To solve that problem it’s my suggestion that we get packing.  Get out of our comfort zone and go see the world and find that place that we can fall in love with.  And, further, that we do this exploration as soon as possible.  Because if not now, when will we get around to that very important global exploration so we can make that extremely important decision on where to live out our golden years.

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Grape Vendor

grapes on the streetIn Vietnam there are many vendors selling all sorts of food. Sometimes they will cook you a waffle on a grill or they will sell you fresh coconuts with the cold juice inside the nut. You will see vendors sitting on the sidewalk cooking snails and duck eggs over hot coals.

This vendor was selling the most beautiful grapes ever. Look at them, aren’t they magnificent?

We wanted to take a photo of the vendor with her wares, but she did not like this idea so I had to settle for a quick shot of the grapes only. But by looking at the result of this photo, I’d say it was enough.

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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French Baguettes

french baguettesFrance and Vietnam have had a relationship since the 17th century when missionaries first arrived. While the relationship has been at times complex and difficult, one of the best things France has left behind is the influence of their cuisine.

Here you see some very delicious fresh baguettes made in the French style, and you see them everywhere here in Vietnam. In Asia the use of wheat flour is not very common and neither are sandwiches, but in Vietnam we see both.

The other day we had a pate sandwich with some Gouda cheese on a fresh baguette. All that was missing was a bottle of wine!

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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How Would You Structure My Portfolio?

Dear Billy and Akaisha,

Heartfelt thanks to you for your inspiration and helpful guidance for those of us who are not sure if we’ll be able to retire.  I’m writing to ask for your help and expertise about my situation regarding possible retirement.

Briefly, I’ve been a low wage earner most of my life and was late getting into investing.  However, the last twenty three years I’ve made every effort to put together enough for some kind of retirement.  I’m 73 at present and hope that at 75 I’ll be able to begin the last phase of my life in retirement. At this point I have almost $300,000 in investments.  By the age of 75 I’m pretty sure I’ll have that amount and, perhaps, a little more.

 My question for you is, how would you structure that money that it would last 25 years ?  I will have 17,000 a year from S.S. and a miniscule pension.  I live a fairly frugal life, I’m fluent in Spanish (Peace Corp-Colombia 65-67) and plan to spend a few months in Latin America every year of so.  I have some ideas of how I would structure my portfolio, but I would really like your input.

Thank you, again, for all that you have shared.  I enjoy all your stories and the other information you include on your site.

Best wishes and good luck,


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

Hi John,

Thanks for your interest in our site.

Although I cannot give out specific investment advice, I can talk in generalities.

Your 300K divided by the 25 years you want it to last will give you 12K per year. This amount, plus your 17K from SS will equal 29K per year or $2400 per month. You can easily live on that in Mexico or other parts of Latin America as well as Asia. These numbers are using the 300K with it not being invested. If you invest the money your returns could be better either by stretching the money out longer or leaving it intact. With your investment, you just have to average 4% of your 300K to make 12K a year, and then you will be leaving your original investment intact. Some combination of bonds and stocks funds should be able to produce that 4%.

I hope this helps.




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Specialty Papers

Specialty PapersWalking around Saigon, Vietnam, Billy and I see many of these simple displays of colorful papers. The rolls are slim and for the longest time, we never saw anyone purchase these papers. We wondered what they were for?

So Billy took a photo and when we went back to the Compass Parkview, we showed the front desk and asked the concierge what in the world these things were used for!

To our surprise, we were told that one chooses the colored paper they like, and then this paper is placed over the back of your cell phone, on a motorbike part, or you can give your computer a colorful facelift.

Once we found out how this paper was used, we started noticing people stopping by and having their digital gadgets cosmetically renovated. Today we saw a man applying this type of contact paper (sticky on one side) to a motorbike helmet.

Carefully and painstakingly, the man removed the paper from its backing and attached it to the round helmet. I am thinking “How is he going to avoid the wrinkles when he puts a flat paper on a round object?”


To stretch, shrink and form the paper to an odd shape, the vendor takes out his cigarette lighter and heats the paper. Ever-so-quickly, he then pushes the paper into the form and it makes for a tight seamless, wrinkle-free fit.

Depending on the vendor, there were papers of every color and design. So simple! So affordable! A new stylish look is at your fingertips!

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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Flower Man

flower manBet you don’t see THIS every day!

Billy and I were out walking again the other day and low and behold, we see this moving flower show on a bicycle! Finally, when the angle was right we could see that the flower show was being man-propelled and we were able to catch a photo of him.

When was the last time you saw so many flowers in one place?


You never know what to expect here in Saigon, Vietnam.

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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Evening Barbeque

Evening BarbequeThe food in Vietnam is wondrous.

The other night we went to Ben Thanh night barbeque and ordered up greens, elephant ear fish, mussels and shrimp.

The shrimp were very fresh and were displayed around a fresh coconut with the heads turned out. Paraffin wax was placed around the coconut and set on fire, blazing the shrimp. When the wax died out, our waiter came by, and one-by-one removed the shrimp, peeled it and then placed it inside the coconut with its fresh coconut water. More paraffin was placed around the coconut and lit on fire so that the heat would cook the shrimp in the coconut juice. When the fire died out, the shrimp were done and ready to eat.


For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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Living with a Roommate Could Just Save Your Life

Guest post by Karen Venable, Founder, Roommates4Boomers

To read an interview with Karen, click here.


Chances are, if you’re a Boomer and you’re living alone, you like it that way. You love your independence and your ability to totally control your life. Why would you want to give that up?

Benefits of having a roommate

There is in fact a darn good reason for giving up your solitary lifestyle: Living with a roommate could very well save your life.  I don’t mean just the difference between life and death in an emergency situation – a sudden illness or injury – I’m talking about literally living longer, and healthier, and happier than you are likely to do if you live alone.

Consider this statistically proven fact shared by Suzanne Braun Levine in her keynote address last July at Women At Woodstock: Men who live with a wife or female partner live longer than men who do not. Women who have girlfriends live longer than those who don’t. In other words, having females close to you to share your life or your home may literally add years to your life.  (Suzanne is the original editor of Ms. Magazine and author of several books including You Gotta Have Girlfriends).


So why is this so? Consider how you eat, for one thing. How many of you have felt concern for a mother or an aunt who lives alone and almost never cooks any longer? It’s pretty common to hear these women say that they don’t care about cooking anymore – or it’s too much work – or (perhaps unspoken) it’s just too depressing to prepare a meal and then sit down to eat it alone. Packaged instant meals or even junk food may become their main sustenance, and if you’re honest with yourself, you may see yourself traveling that path in the future as well.  Many women in shared living situations have reported that they cook far more often than before they moved in together.  One may love to cook, and now is motivated when the cooking is for two. Or one may feel she can handle cooking when she knows someone else is going to clean up after. Or one may hate cooking, roommate or not, and reap the benefits of living with someone who loves to create in the kitchen. These women literally eat more nutritious food than they did when living alone.

Cuddle hormone

When women spend time together, they produce more of the hormone oxytocin – sometimes called the cuddle hormone. Says Dr. Paul Zak, author of The Moral Molecule, “There’s a very clear mapping from positive social relationships back to health.” More oxytocin, he says, means less cardiovascular stress and an improved immune system.  Women, and the hormones they cause you to produce when they are with you, are literally physically good for you.

Positive considerations

Of course, taking on a roommate does mean giving up some autonomy. Your kitchen will not be exclusively your own, nor will your common living areas.  But what if you and your roommate moved together into a larger home than either of you could afford on your own?  Many Boomer women have actually pooled their money and bought a new home together, with enough square footage for each of them to have her own private suite, or at least a private bedroom and bathroom.  A larger home too will mean larger areas for hanging out, entertaining, cooking, and eating, and possibly a bigger lot as well. With an expanded home and grounds, roommates have often found that contrary to feeling hemmed in or crowded by their shared living arrangement, in fact they feel less constricted than before.

This larger space can foster a renewed interest in entertaining, too.  Suddenly a garden party is possible, or a dinner for six, or a birthday celebration. There’s room for it. And, with the enthusiasm and shared responsibility of a housemate, planning and hosting social gatherings is just plain more fun than it was before.

Solutions to challenges

The downsides too have so many workable solutions. If tastes in television are disparate, roommates can record their shows and exercise their “viewing times” separately – or they might have enough space to have televisions in two separate rooms. If they have something of a Felix and Oscar situation with regard to clutter and cleanliness, they might be able to hire a housekeeper to come in once or even twice a week to do some light cleaning and straightening up. If family visits are a problem – with noise or grandchildren perhaps impinging on the other’s peace and quiet, they can agree on alternate locations for get-togethers with their families, or they can set certain dates and times when one roommate can entertain the little ones while the other finds another activity outside the home.

Health and as we age

And the obvious life-saving and health-preserving benefits are not to be ignored. Someone will be there with you if you become suddenly ill, or you injure yourself, or you could just use some TLC when you come down with the flu. You won’t have to hope that you are able to make a phone call if it’s serious and you need immediate help. And, let’s be honest, as we get older we do become somewhat more forgetful, which can cause some danger long before we approach anything like dementia. If you leave the burner on in the kitchen, a roommate will likely see it and turn it off. Or if you put something down in a now-forgotten location (can we say reading glasses?), she may know the answer to that frequently asked question, “Where did I put my…?”

We Boomers have always forged our own paths – it’s what we do – and now that we’re entering our second adulthood, millions of us are defining our own self-arranged communal living situations, rather than depending on family or moving into retirement communities.  More power to us.

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Having Healthcare Needs Met Outside the U.S.

Q: What do you do about healthcare needs while traveling outside the US?

A: We have been traveling the world for over 2 decades now and have had very good care in Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam and Guatemala. If you are traveling off the grid, you might need to travel to a larger city to receive this care as smaller towns may not have the choices you would find in a more populated area.

We pay out of pocket for care in foreign countries as, in our experience, it has been affordable.

As we age, the health conditions might be more serious or acute and I understand the fear over having adequate health care when traveling. However, Billy had acute care in Guatemala City, Guatemala (we had to travel there after seeing local doctors in Panajachel) and in a separate incident I had emergency care for a de-gloving incident involving the ring finger on my right hand. I received good emergency care in Antigua and then did follow up and surgery in Guatemala City.

In some respects the care we have received outside the US has been superior, more user-friendly and more affordable than that which we would get in the States. At this point, since we are “going naked” when we travel to the US we take out traveler’s insurance through World Nomads to cover our time being there.

Again, I want to say that I respect the fear that surrounds this issue, especially as we age. But on the other hand, must it come down to a choice between holding this fear and an adventure to a foreign country that would enrich our lives?

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Crossing the Street in Saigon, Vietnam

Just walk right into traffic!

Just walk right into traffic!

Did you ever think crossing the street could be an adventure?

In Vietnam it is!

The traffic is so continuous in Saigon that in many locations, if you want to cross the street, you must walk right into the moving cars and motorbikes.

No kidding!

If you want, you can put your arm up high and make a slight chopping motion which notifies vehicles that you are entering the fray and crossing the street. You must not, for any reason, make any sudden moves because this is all an orchestrated chaos. Everyone times their speed and movements according to everyone else. Jerking or dashing would ruin the flow and cause danger to others.

One must also be careful of the city buses and never cross in front of them as they don’t play the “crossing the street game” and you could end up injured or worse. Most cars abide by these unwritten rules, but you must be on alert in case someone doesn’t modify their speed or direction.

For the most part, it is safe to cross the street even with all the bedlam!

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here.

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