Is 61 Too Old to Be a Gypsy?

Still traveling after all these years

Still traveling after all these years


I appreciate the time you spent emailing me back. I do have one important question now that you both are about my age……..60. Are you still traveling and exploring as you did 20 years ago or are you going to slow up on your travels/adventures?

The reason I ask is that one of the CD’s I ordered from you years ago gave me the impression that you felt older people in their 60’s might be hesitant to make major changes in their lives. Since I have been desperately wanting to leave the work force and travel extensively in addition to living in foreign countries, I’m hoping that at my age, 61, it’s not too late to really appreciate the alternative lifestyle of being a “vagabond/gypsy” so to speak. I have moved 35 times in my life and I enjoy living out of a suitcase and being on the road, so would this make it easier for me?

Using public transport

Using public transport

I just don’t want to be too old to begin my exciting new life. Maybe you have a link to some folks my age that are just beginning too and they might want to meet up with me. If so, let me know. Thank you.

I wish I had started way back but I hope it’s not too late…….:-(


Hi Penny,

We are now in our early 60’s and we are still vagabonding around with our backpacks. Some people our age — not so much. We certainly think it’s a personal approach. That being said, we still hop into the back of pickup trucks for transport and take tiny boats across the lakes or in between islands. We take bumpy rides in tiny tuk-tuks and absolutely still use public transport.

Having adventures is FUN!

Having adventures is FUN!

We are not slowing down too much, but we have noticed that we prefer more comfort to our travels now. For instance, better quality rooms with firmer beds and no red-eye air flights if we can help it. And… we take taxis more often now instead of traipsing with our luggage long distances.

We have added house sitting to our lodging/travel options which certainly brings with it more comfort and more room.

I think as far as we go, we are just a little more conscious in terms of what may threaten our health concerns, but nothing so much as to prevent us from traveling. Personally, I think the thing that ages people the most is “stiffening of the perspective.” As humans we get used to a routine, to a certain amount of comfort and then anything else seems a hardship — when it really isn’t.

You sound like an adventurous woman with a flexible attitude so I don’t think you will have nearly the trouble as someone else who has not traveled. You will find your comfort level and just travel from that position. There are plenty of international hostels and hotel rooms you could afford on your own. You will most definitely meet other travelers on the road and that will open your world up.

I still carry my own gear

I still carry my own gear

I would suggest checking out both of these sites that we have on our website: Our Traveling Singles Page and our Travel Sites Page. There is lots of information available to you here.

I am really excited for you. You will know when you want to stop, but for now, take advantage of your bold spirit and see as much of the world as you can. It’s truly worth it.

Thank you for taking the time to write and for your interest in our books.

Best regards,

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Is Chapala, Mexico the Place for You?

Native in front of mural, Ajijic, Mexico

Native in front of mural, Ajijic, Mexico

Hello Billy and Akaisha ~

I purchased your online Adventurer’s Guide to Chapala Living a few months ago and it has become my ‘bible’ for my visit to Lake Chapala from Sept. 19th to 30th. I will be spending the first and last weekends with friends in Ajijic, and the week between by myself in Chapala.  The trip is being made to convince me – or not – that this is THE place for me to live on a permanent basis. I am very optimistic and enthusiastic that Chapala will become my new home in 2014.

While my version of your Guide is a few years old, I’m assuming not much will have changed in the past three years.  I’ve spent considerable time on Google doing additional research and there’s been lots of email going to and from with friends answering my many questions.  I will also visit with a friend of a friend who lives in Chapala.  I plan to live in Chapala and be amongst the Mexican people where I will also learn to speak Spanish.

Thinking/planning on moving to Chapala and the idea of moving my favourite – and basic – pieces of furniture and household effect as I will want to live in an unfurnished apartment.  That’s the one aspect I have not been able to find much information about.  All units seem to be furnished. Question: is that a realistic expectation?  That I’ll be able to rent a 1 or 2 bedroom  ground floor ‘apartment’ – unfurnished except for the appliances.  I do not need/want a full house or a parking stall; access to the outdoors, as with a patio,would be ideal.

Any additional advice you can offer regarding unfurnished accommodation is appreciated.


Chapala Plaza, central Chapala

Chapala Plaza, central Chapala

Hi Gail,

Thanks for taking the time to write. We are happy that our book on Chapala has been of use to you!

Re: furnished and unfurnished apartments — I would suggest taking your time to look around for a place to rent. You may find that after you locate, you might want to re-locate. It sort of comes with the territory. Reason I say this, is that nothing replaces actually spending time in a location to find out the subtleties. — or not so subtle. You might like the apartment or casita, but perhaps there will be a neighboring dog that is annoying, or it might be “too far” to your favorite new haunts or to the bus line. Your shower may not give enough water or there could be an annoying leak or the kitchen just doesn’t have enough counter space. It’s possible there could be someone in the complex who is grumpy or vexing and there is no way to know of these things until one actually lives in a location for a while. (We once rented a beautiful place – spacious, sunny, all new appliances and fit our every need — except one of the neighbors had a yelping uncontrolled dog and she fed 15 feral cats… which made living there very uncomfortable!)

Life is an adventure, follow your dreams. 

Also, if you find a location that you like, I believe you can make arrangements to have the landlord put furniture put into storage. But again, I would wait until you know for sure that this is the location you would like to live in before you ship your heavy items here.  If you don’t and if you choose to ship them prematurely, then you will box yourself in to a situation that could be stressful.

Beautiful Lake Chapala

Beautiful Lake Chapala

There is also the chance that you might prefer a town other than Chapala. There are towns like San Antonio, Riberas, Mirasol, La Floresta, etc. all between Chapala and Ajijic — and they are worth looking into. You might even choose a place farther away like Jocotepec — and again, the only way you will know what you like is to stay for a length of time and feel it out.

If you are concerned one way or the other you could always house sit in various places to get a feel for the neighborhoods, or rent a casita from someone who has a larger home.

I don’t know your style of living, but I would still recommend taking your time before investing too much money and making a huge commitment. It is far cheaper to put your favored items in storage in Canada until you are sure that you need them, than to incur emotional stress by having them here and then not be able to get up and go if you find the place to be unsuitable.

I hope you find this information useful to you, and we wish you every good thing in your move to Chapala.

Congratulations on your retirement and feel free to write anytime.

Best regards,


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Power-Purpose-Direction with Yoga

Guest post by Mokshadharma Saraswati who belongs to the International Yoga Fellowship Movement and is a follower of Paramahamsa Niranjanananda of Bihar School of Yoga India. She currently teaches Hatha/Raja yoga in the Satyananda style in Chiang Khong, Thailand.

Yoga has been around since the time before Christ. Nothing lasts that long unless it works!

Thai Dancers Pose

Thai Dancers Pose

When I first started to do yoga I was much closer to 40 than 35. Back in those days yoga was still considered to be some “Hippy” phenomenon only practiced by alternative lifestyle folk. Thankfully , yoga has come a very long way since then. These days it is a highly respected Health and Wellness modality practiced by millions of people around the world. These people not only want to be fit and healthy, they want a recipe to relieve the stress and strain of maintaining a lifestyle while keeping all the different components of their lives in balance and harmony.

Yoga is not a religion, it is based on science. Think anatomy, biology, physiology, philosophy, and psychology. The word yoga means to “UNITE “so it is still considered a spiritual practice in the sense that it is a universal prayer for the wellbeing of all mankind.

I am not here to bore the pants off you by talking about science and philosophy. I am here to clarify for you why yoga works.

Reverse Plank Pose

Reverse Plank Pose

I admit I am a bit biased because I have been practicing for 26 years and I know what it has done for me personally. I have been teaching for 20 years and even though I am 65, I still teach yoga 3 or 4 days a week – sometimes 2 classes a day. I hope that encourages you to believe age is no barrier and there is a style of yoga to suit all ages, levels of fitness and personality type.

The health and wellness industry is huge all around the world. There is a plethora of attractive options for people to choose from. So what makes yoga special and unique?

Yoga is about getting out of your head and into your body

Imagine an apple! There is the outer skin and the inner layers that go right through to the inner core of the fruit. We have an outer skin also, and the benefits of the practices go deep into the inner layers through to the core of our being.

Yoga works on the physical body, creates equilibrium in the mind, stabilizes the emotions, expands breath and energy and soothes the heart and soul. It is much more than just a set of exercises. Yoga gives tangible benefits to the whole body by helping to maintain the balance and harmony we seek.

Double Waist Twist

Double Waist Twist

Yoga postures work on muscles, joints and ligaments, and they gently massage internal organs. They have beneficial effects on the systems of the body, like the immune system, nervous system, and digestive system. We become physically stronger, more supple and flexible, and we are able to enjoy more freedom of movement and stability. We feel energized and relaxed all at the same time. Tightness, stiffness and tensions are all eased away.

The good news is yoga stimulates all the “Happy hormones” and our moods and memory functions improve. We feel motivated, inspired, stimulated and creative. Yoga also strengthens the nervous system and the glands in the body that keep us on an even keel so they work more efficiently. Those happy hormones lift our spirits and negativity, depression and anxiety are replaced by optimism, renewed confidence and belief in one’s self and life in general. On days when the “Dark Goddess” leaves us feeling downhearted, we have the discipline and control to “tell the blues so long!” Just like the lyrics of that lovely old song from years ago.

Dr. Detphoom, Mokshadharma, Dr. Churrawan

Dr. Detphoom, Mokshadharma, Dr. Churrawan

For most yogis the philosophy of yoga is our belief system. The teachings originate from the ancient Vedic scriptures and the Tantric texts translated into English with all the mythology and the rituals removed. Yogis respect all cultures, traditions and religions so no one’s beliefs will be undermined, overridden, disregarded or disrespected. That is just NOT what we do. Yoga has probably done as much if not more than the UN to bring people from diverse cultures, traditions and religions into the spirit of co-operation and fellowship!

Enjoying Yoga at age 85

Enjoying Yoga at age 85

Classes consist of:

Postures for strength and flexibility

Breathing techniques teach how to expand breath and energy.

Meditation helps us learn how to settle into stillness. Our ability to focus and concentrate improves.

Relaxation – because everyone needs to learn how to relax fully and deeply. It is everyone’s favorite part of class time.

View of Mekong River from Yoga space

View of Mekong River from Yoga space

Helpful Information

Teachers must be trained and accredited.

Yoga is totally NON-Competitive.

You do not need to buy expensive clothes or equipment.

Most teachers offer discounts for students and pensioners.

You do not need to be vegetarian to do yoga.

General classes include men and women. Often there are “ladies only classes” and “Men only classes.”

Please advise your teacher if you have any chronic illness, physical impairment, or injury – back, neck, shoulder pain or any other physical restrictions.

If you are “over 40” and having a baby, book into pre-natal yoga classes. You will be happy you did.

Other posts by this Author

My Life as an Expat in Chiang Khong, Thailand

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Aging: Not All Fun and Games

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

LaverneMy funk began when I sidled into my chiropractor’s office, bent out of shape, wracked with pain and convinced that even my eyelids were attached to my back.

The chiropractor instructed me to lie on my back, and pull my knees up as close to my chest as possible.

“You have wonderful flexibility,” he commented.

“I do?” I questioned, knowing he was nuts. “Why do you say that?”

“You’re can bring your knees right up to your chest.”

“That isn’t difficult for me,” I laughed.” My chest has been touching my knees for several years now; even when I stand.”

Then I visited my lawyer to revise my Will.

“I haven’t seen you in awhile,” he said. “You still going with that guy….what’s his name…….Bob?”

“No. We broke up,” I answered.

He cocked his head. “Oh? That’s good to know. You’re very marketable, you know.”

What a strange way to express a compliment, I thought.

Then he added, “You do still drive at night, don’t you? I know a number of men I’m certain would be interested in you, but none of them drive after dark.”

Not sure you can retire? Get answers here

My future passed before me; walking through malls, holding hands. Candle lit lunches in the Food Court. Racing to our respective cars before sunset.

My next rude awakening came when I sat in the Social Security office knowing I didn’t belong there because only old people collect social security. But my failing memory was a dead give away that I, indeed, did belong there.

“What year were you married?” asked my interrogator.

“I think……. maybe…… 1958?

“When were you divorced?” she probed.

“Physically, or emotionally?”

She rolled her eyes. “The year.”

“I don’t really remember. Some time in the early ‘80’s.

She was losing patience. “What’s your ex-husband’s date of birth?”

I stared at her blankly. “February 11, 1934, 35 or 36……….I think.”

She searched her computer for answers I didn’t have.

“Okay,” she said. “I found his birth date.”

“Really? What’s the year?”

“I’m not permitted to disclose that information,” she glowered.

She printed out the bits and pieces I’d given her along with the data she’d culled from her secret files and instructed me to read and sign it.

“Uh-oh,” I observed. “It says my ex was born in 1935. Will you get in trouble for revealing that to me?”

How about prescription drugs? My medicine cabinet is a junkie’s fantasy. On my last visit to the drug store I received a personal handshake from my pharmacist thanking me for single handedly paying his weekly salary.

Reduce your spending footprint. Increase your lifestyle and financial longevity.

Not long ago I had floor to ceiling mirrors installed on the wall next to my bed, to make the room look larger. Talk about dumb. Each morning as I roll out of bed the first thing I see is me. Let me assure you, that no matter how well rested I am, my linen creased face, electronically charged hair, and unsupported body could easily qualify me as Martha Stewart’s most challenging antique refinishing project.

When I was married my husband looked at me one morning, with deep furrowed brows.

“Who are you?” he asked. “You’re not the woman I went to bed with last night.”
“Make fun of me if you like,” I said, as I headed towards my makeup kit. “In fifteen minutes I will be beautiful. But you, on the other hand, will be stuck looking as you do now, for the remainder of the day.”

Today it takes bifocals and a high powered magnifying mirror to do what I use to zip through in fifteen minutes. Then I step out into the daylight and discover that my failing eyes have caused me to look like a cross between a hooker and a clown.

Growing older is not what I thought it would be. I knew it might involve glasses, white hair, false teeth and wrinkles, but I wasn’t prepared to lose an inch and a half in height and have my skirts and slacks drag on the floor.

I know I’m being sullen, and I imagine this feeling will eventually pass. But it won’t happen soon. My first Social Security check just arrived and it’s too damn small for me to be social or feel secure.

Other posts by this author:

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

Help! I’m Drowning in Minutiae

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STRESS: the one thing you WANT to leave behind when traveling

Guest post by Elise Fee. Elise is a Life Expansion Coach who works with individuals who have a high standard of excellence and who are searching for grander possibilities in their lives. Is it your SITUATION that needs to change, or is it YOU? For more information about your possibilities, contact Elise here.

Your vacation: fun or stress?

You’ve been anticipating this vacation for months; you leave town in just a few days, so why are you frazzled and stressed? What happened to all the excitement and joy you had when you first planned your trip? Unfortunately this is an all-too-common and unnecessary experience for many travelers.

Elise Fee

Elise Fee

In our zeal to create the perfect vacation, we set our expectations high. Most of us expect, at a minimum, that the ideal flight will be available at the lowest price, the booking process will go smoothly and flawlessly, we’ll pack calmly and thoroughly, we’ll leave early and relax before our flight, the hotels and restaurants will be superb, the weather exquisite and picturesque (not too hot, not too cold, no rain), we’ll stay within our travel budget…. You get the idea.

And you know what happens next – something doesn’t go according to our expectations and then the stress creeps in. Then if something else doesn’t measure up, the stress heightens. I’m sure you’ve wondered HOW some people travel enjoyably, easily, and even maintain a sense of humor.

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

Good news

I’ll tell you how.

They expect that some things will go wrong. They anticipate challenges and surprises. They roll with schedule changes, restaurants closing early, and other unpredictable nuances. In other words, they let go of their need for their vacation to look a certain way and they open up to the serendipity of new experiences.

The good news is that this is an inside job – it’s all about altering your way of looking at things, adjusting your mindset and shifting your perspective. And it can be done anywhere (even sitting on the floor of an overcrowded, noisy airport – in fact, ESPECIALLY there!) Even better is that you can find relief from your travel stress even when you’re first learning how to do this.

Gorgeous Sicilian Coastline

Gorgeous Sicilian Coastline

If there were any downside to this (how bad could it be when I’m sharing with you how to enjoy your vacation?!), it’s that it takes practice to really master this way of thinking and to live this way on a consistent basis. So be gentle with yourself (just as if you were learning a new language); practice frequently; and enjoy the process.

One final bit of good news:  as you may have already surmised, this skill can be used in any area of your life to reduce stress.

Technique 1

Let go of your need for things to LOOK a certain way. Instead, focus on how you want to FEEL, rather than the specifics of how the experience must SHOW UP. For example, get excited about feeling relaxed and pampered, rather than dreaming about a quiet beach and a margarita. Then if you arrive to find the beach is crowded and the drinks are watery, you can still satisfy your desire for relaxation and pampering by getting a massage. The result is you’ll end up happy, even when things don’t go as planned.

Rotating scarves and tops

Rotating scarves and tops

Technique 2

Accept things as they are. Stop resisting reality and you’ll stop stressing. For example, sure you wanted to get out on the 9 a.m. flight you booked, but it’s been cancelled and there is nothing you can do about it. Take a moment to breathe and then calmly look for alternatives. When you immediately let go of Plan A and are able to open up to Plan B (or C), you are moving with the flow of life; you are dealing with reality (instead of fighting it); and you will feel much better as a result. Begin to take pride in your flexibility.

Real-life example

Here’s an example from my own travel experiences:  Abigail and I were traveling to Sicily to visit a friend for 8 days. We couldn’t be more excited! When we arrived, our bags didn’t. Not one of them. It turned out they were in Milan, and because it was the start of a weekend, no one expected the bags to arrive in Sicily for at least 4 days (yes, that would be a full HALF of our trip without all the necessities we had so carefully packed!).

Abigail and I unwittingly modeled the two ways of handling this unexpected news. I was quite calm and actually laughed at the situation, not worrying because I knew we’d have fun anyway. Abigail, on the other hand, was bereft. She couldn’t stop thinking about all the items she had in her luggage…that she HAD to have. She was beside herself with frustration and irritation.

Outstanding treats of Sicily

Outstanding treats of Sicily

How this played out

Our friend met us at the airport and we took a languid bus ride up the coast to where she lived in a picturesque village above the sea. We stopped at her place to freshen up before heading out to explore, and she generously shared her clothes and toiletries with us. What we couldn’t borrow from her, we picked up at the local stores. We were never without anything that we needed.

As Abigail began to shift her attitude about the situation, we found great fun in visiting our friend’s closet each morning, picking out what each of us would wear, what new scarf we would try, who would wear the sexy leather jacket this time, and so on. This became a big part of our Sicilian experience, and it no longer mattered that we were rotating clothes or that we had on the same shoes in all our pictures. Once we embraced reality and moved on to Plan B, our vacation was fun and exciting, just like we’d hoped it would be.

A funny footnote to this story is that when our luggage finally arrived on the 6th day (of our 8 day vacation), we still kept up the routine of sharing clothes. It had become an enjoyable and integral part of our visit. And today, it’s a key part of the happy memories of our trip.

For your next trip, take a bit of advice and don’t pack the stress. Stay open to whatever twists and turns your vacation brings you. And always remember to pack your sense of humor – after all, life is nothing if not an adventure.

Now that you know how to enjoy a stress-free vacation, where will you go next?

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My Life as an Expat in Chiang Khong

Guest post by Dianne Nobbs, a certified yoga instructor and recognized Swami. Follow her on Facebook at Mokshadharma Saraswati.

Even 10 or 12 years ago if anyone had suggested I would leave my country of Australia, my home, family, friends and go and live somewhere far, far away from everything familiar to me, I would have laughed and told them they were “barking mad.”

Yet here I am, a 64 year old foreign grandmother, living here in Chiangkhong, Chiangrai province northern Thailand. Where I come from, people like me are called “grey nomads,” although in my case it’s silver. Why Chiangkhong? Why Chiangrai?

Why not? It’s absolutely beautiful here in the north.

Silver Nomad, Dianne

Being an “Aussie” from down under, we have this beach culture and I do so love the beach. But then I grew up in the mountains and the mountains here are just as majestic and magnificent. There is something about the lushness of the countryside, the vivid green of the rice fields, the fields of corn, cassava, ginger, the great stands of teak and rubber trees that is pleasing to the eye. The abundance of tropical fruit and market fresh vegetables makes cooking and eating a pleasure. Even dieting is not too hard.

The weather suits me, as I loathe the cold. Yes, it rains a lot in the monsoon season, but the rain is warm. And even in the coolest cool season here in the north, I do not feel that bone shattering, chilling cold I often experienced in my own country in various places where I’ve lived.

 So really, what’s not to love?

The people are friendly the culture is different, interesting and quite fascinating, really, when you delve into it. The lifestyle is “laid back” compared to the 35 years of the “dash and crash” working life I had before I retired. Living here is very affordable for retirees. I am quite stunned when I go home and see the high cost of living even a “no frills” life in my country. And I am not a “no frills” kind of old girl.

Compare international retirement destinations, click here

The truth is, my husband and I wanted an adventure and new experiences. “Viva la difference!” and it is all here in Thailand, not there in Australia – at least not for us right now at this time of our life.

Sunrise over the Mekong River

It has not all been “latte’s and lazy living.” There have been unexpected challenges. We got a big shock when we found out we were not entitled to our old age pensions because Australia and Thailand do not have a reciprocal social security agreement.

I am not of pensionable age yet, but my husband is 66 and already a year over the age qualification. And he is still not eligible even though he worked 40 years and paid 50 cents on the dollar tax. That was a hefty blow to our daily economic situation. Any Aussies reading this and travelling in Thailand right now – beware if you have even a tiny dream that you would like to retire here and escape the cold of the southern states. Or if you want to live anywhere else in the world, check out the pension situation first. Or consider perhaps living overseas for part of the year.

Over the last 7 years we have tiptoed through the minefield of Thai laws, language, and cultural differences, with issues of etiquette and behavior so very different to our own. Yet we are still here. Give or take the odd day when we want to throw up our hands in horror and declare it is all too bloody hard and complicated… Then something nice or wonderful happens and all the doubts, disappointments and frustrations dissipate like the morning mists which hang over the hills of Laos.

Exotic water buffalo in Thailand

I wake up in the morning and I can see the Mekong River gliding past my house. I never get tired of the spectacular views up, down and around the river. I am greeted by my 3 little dogs and my husband chases them all out the door for a morning walk, I can have a quiet breakfast and then settle down to prepare my Cheeky-Monkey Yoga classes for the day. I feel comfortable and very much at home. It would be a great wrench to leave despite the things that make me “want to spit tacks.” Thank you Eartha Kitt for those words!

Naturally, there are a number of things I miss from home; my children, grandchildren my Mother and all my family. Yet it has still been a great experience and I am glad I am not missing out on any of it. I teach a little yoga to travelers and local alike and a little English, too. I am stumbling along trying to learn some more Thai language. I have a small group of lovely Thai friends, a nice little bunch of yoga students who keep me young, busy and active because they are all heaps younger than me.

I get around town on my 3 wheel tricycle. My husband and I go off together on the motor cycle with a saleng on the side (a “combo,” the English call them). It has bright yellow cushions because yellow is the favorite color of our King, we love our Thai King. From a western perspective, it probably all looks very quaint and odd, but to us it is very ordinary and every day. We have “Ziggy 2,” our Toyota truck which we take for long trips.

Dianne teaches yoga here

Anyone of you who love Thai food or like to bliss out and have regular Thai massages, pedicures, manicures, hang out at the salon and then take a nap in the afternoon – this is the place. Imagine the shopping! I could have shoes to match every item I have in my wardrobe. Well, except I do not have a wardrobe. Instead, I have a long bamboo pole that stretches right across the bedroom, and I have coconuts for door stoppers. Ours is not exactly material for “House & Home” magazine, but it all works for me.

Whoever you are, and wherever you are, if you have a little dream about retiring to somewhere other than your own country – for whatever reasons – then nourish and nurture that dream. At least be brave enough get out a map, check out the possibilities and explore your options. Please do all your homework, tick all the boxes, and read all the serious stuff as well as the fun stuff. Warning! Especially the fine print. Pack the boxes with only what you need and bless everything. Then take a big breath in, a big breath out and take the plunge……………..

“You will never, never know if you never, never go”

Glimpse of Laos from lodge in Chiang Khong

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Challenging My Legacy

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004.  Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

Today, I left the house without making my bed. This may not sound like a big deal, but for me it was the ultimate act of rebellion and bravery. My mother warned me years ago that such abhorrent behavior could result in consequences of epic proportion; like what if unexpected company shows up and thinks I’m a slob?  Or, suppose the Bed Patrol knocks on my door demanding a bed check, and news of my reprehensible housekeeping ends up as headlines?

In the twenty years I lived at home I can’t recall ever seeing my parent’s bed unmade. I’m convinced they slept on the floor.

Dishes never touched the bottom of our sink. My mother carried them from the table directly to the faucet, washed, dried and put them away instantly. On rare occasion a dish might find itself drying on the dish rack overnight, but that was only if someone other than my mother put it there and, trust me, they heard about it in the morning.

I grew up knowing that the beautiful Lenox dishes in our china cabinet were only for company; people we hardly knew and saw just a few times a year. These acquaintances also enjoyed sterling silverware, fine linen table clothes and cut crystal goblets. Libby jelly glasses, chipped Melmac dishes and mismatched silverware were what my mother used daily for those she loved and cared about.

 Not sure you can retire? Get answers here

Two decorative towels hung on our bathroom towel rack at all times. We were forbidden to use them and instructed to use the faded, frayed ones that doubled as dust rags. The pretty ones were, once again, for company. I suspect that if I used them, I would have choked on the accumulated dust from so many years of hanging there, unused.

Don’t get me wrong, my mother was a sensational home maker. She was always cleaning something. My friends had colorful porcelain ginger jars, and attractive flower arrangements artistically placed on their bathroom counters. Our bathroom sink was adorned with a can of Ajax cleanser and a sponge because my mother saw fit to wash the sink several times throughout each day.

In our basement was a huge professional steam iron like one you might see in the back room of your local cleaners. It sat atop the pool table that came with the house because the last owners didn’t know how to get it out. My mother would smooth the legs of my father’s work pants as she placed them on the lower half of the large flat iron. She then pulled the upper half of the iron down, applied body pressure, and watched the steam escape. But that didn’t happen until she first dipped the pants into heavy liquid starch. When they emerged from the iron they resembled two slabs of drywall, able to stand, unassisted. I have no idea why my father bought this monstrosity for my mother, but years later I decided it was nearly as romantic as the toaster my ex husband brought me for our 10th anniversary.

We had a weekly cleaning woman. Every Wednesday before Lulu came, my mother thoroughly cleaned the house so Lulu wouldn’t think she was a slob.

Lulu was loyal, and conscientious, but she didn’t have too much going on upstairs. One day she complained that she didn’t like Daylight Savings Time because it made her tired. We explained that her body would adjust in a few days. Then she added, “The part I hate most is getting up at 2:00 AM to set my clock ahead or back, like the newsman says I should.”

The day is nearly over and neither surprise company nor the Bed Patrol have rung my doorbell. It appears that my willingness to gamble has paid off. And to think that rather than take such a chance my poor mother slept on the floor.

Other posts by this author:

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

Help! I’m Drowning in Minutiae

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Relocating: How Do I Choose the Clothes and Accessories to Bring?

Hello Akaisha,

I am now a few months from taking the leap of faith and retiring while I still have energy and a dream. I saw my mother wither away after my dad died…she never traveled again!

I think I will be ok moving to Mexico as my home base and going from there. Although I am not quite ready to be a world traveler like you and Billy, I do know that that I am a traveler at heart and need to move to a place where I can afford to live and travel. I do need to make some decisions about clothes and accessories (shoes are my biggest vice).

How did you choose, what did you choose or did you do a clean sweep and got rid of everything? What do regret not keeping?

Would love your advice.

Ours is a casual lifestyle. Here we are in China!

Your friend,


Hi Elizabeth!

Thanks for writing and Congratulations on your upcoming new lifestyle!

I must admit that our transition to being “homeless” and traveling on a more-or-less constant basis wasn’t as smooth as one would think. Initially we sold about 95% of our stuff — and because in 1991 this idea of financial independence and early retirement was all new and I had no clue as to what it might turn out to be — I saved a good deal of my working clothes, shoes, bags, scarves and accessories.

Looking back, I should have sold or donated that stuff and if I found myself needing to work again, just spend $1,000 to get the basics and start over.

Boating in Laos. No high heels here!

What happened was that styles changed, my body shape changed, and things like high heels — for me — were not the kind of shoes I could navigate in on cobblestone streets and broken sidewalks. I had gorgeous snakeskin and eel skin bags and matching shoes — which, since I kept them — simply dried out without the joy of my wearing them to death.

My gallivanting lifestyle simply didn’t require this upscale sort of dressing anymore. It took me a very long time to let go — I hate to admit it — because I loved these classic items and always thought “someday…” For me, it was a fantasy that never made it into reality.

Don’t be surprised if in your new life, nothing will work quite the same way as it does in your native city or town. I can’t tell you how many times I wore my LOUD NEON and bright floral California clothing that looked SO FINE in California or Hawaii, but was simply out of place or made me a target in a colonial city in Mexico or South America.

Bare footin’ in Phuket, Thailand

Or, wearing gorgeous pastel yellows and corals in NYC which thrives on blacks, grays and leather. I wore cutsie cork colored open toed shoes in rainy climates which the mud totally destroyed or beautiful jeweled sandals while walking on the shore to the next beachfront restaurant while the waves lapped over my feet and the sand ground in between my toes… silly stuff!

Another difference in my lifestyle — but perhaps not your new one — is that we, by choice, don’t own a car. That means we go from the front door of our apartment or hotel room and walk to the Plaza to get a taxi or grab a bus or — depending on which country — jump in the back of a small pickup truck or hail down a tuk-tuk. Comfortable shoes are a must in these situations. Often I will join dinner parties where the women there have gorgeous, delicate, high end shoes on – but they have come from their front door, to their car, to the front door of the theater, fundraising event or restaurant.

They have a different mode of living and it’s all good — it’s just that I would hate to have to own a car to support my choice in footwear.

Walking down the gravel trail to the airplane, Laos.

Scarves and faux jewelry can be purchased in your new location. Those items are affordable and will “update” anything basic that you choose to carry with you from your previous lifestyle.

My strongest suggestion would be to choose bags and shoes that are the most comfortable, the ones that will go with the most outfits you own and then pick one or two things that you just “must have and can’t live without.” Remember that practical is paramount and keep whimsical shoes for special occasions.

Of course, all of these choices are up to you and the important thing is to be happy.

I know I’ve told you this before, but I am very lustful of your Zebra striped high heels and if you choose to leave them behind, please mail them to me. I promise you can borrow them anytime, but you might have to come to Cambodia or Nicaragua to get them! 😉

Every good thing to you, Elizabeth, and thanks for keeping in touch.


Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

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Spectacular Surprise Sixtieth

Canadian-born Jody Hanson often quips that she never, ever, ever wants to see snow again and that the only acceptable ice is in her vodka and tonic. Consequently, she made an active choice and has lived most of her adult life overseas: Nigeria, China, New Zealand, Australia, Morocco, Chile and Argentina. In 2010 she carved out a niche as a freelance writer and editor and now follows the summers.

Mirror image?

When I showed the Nurse – as we call her – the email from Scott she immediately squealed, “You have to go.”

Scott is my kindred spirit from Sydney. We are uncannily alike in so many ways that it is scary; think of a mirror reflection of me. Interestingly enough, we arrived at the same space from diametrically opposed directions. Fortunately, we do have our differences as otherwise our “sameness” might be illegal.

No arguments please

A man of few words, Scott does things simply because he can. Or doesn’t, even though he could, depending on the situation. He wrote that he had organized a surprise for my birthday. Peter — whom he knows from his Sandhurst days — owns the River Lodge on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls and I was to go there. And he ended his message with “Transport has been arranged for 11:00. No arguments please.”

What to wear, what to wear? I travel with a carry-on and have this idiosyncratic “rule” that if you don’t wear every item of clothing at least once you didn’t get it right. Yes, yes I know I’m becoming increasingly eccentric and/or neurotic, but you have to give me a break as I had just turned 60 that morning. So I proceeded to cobble together a Carmen-inspired outfit to go with the necklace I bought myself as a 60th present in Cape Town.

Jody and Scott at the Lodge, photo by Monique James

The driver appeared, the passport was stamped and another driver waited for me on the Zambian side. He carried on after the sign to the River Lodge and then turned left down a buffalo trail that had grass growing between the tire tracks. A helicopter ride perhaps? Scott owns a Bell and he knows I enjoy flying.

The Zambezi appeared before us. As I stepped out of the van Peter greeted me and said we would go to the lodge by boat. I clamoured onto the waiting jetty – graceful in such situations has never been my forte – and noticed a man with his back to me. He slowly turned around and there stood my 60th birthday present: Scott.

The presents keep coming

We meandered back to the lodge, getting close to some hippos in the river and watching four elephants – two standing and two laying – under a tree. Very African safari stuff. Peter said the animals in the area know the sound of his outboard motor and aren’t scared, which is why he can get so close.

As I walked towards the lodge, a blond woman came towards me with her arms held out and said “And I’m Monique James.” Surprise number two as I’d introduced Scott and Monique to each other years ago. And I got to meet Sarah, a delightful woman Scott has known forever, who had come along. 

Lunch was served in the gazebo. I will leave it to your imagination to droll about how good it was. Peter whacked the cork off the third bottle of champagne with the bottom of a wine glass. It cracked the glass perfectly so that it broke cleanly with the cork still embedded. The force of the bubbles kept anything from going back into the bottle. Scott sniffed and said it really should have been properly executed with a sword. I asked Peter if he had practiced on bottles of Baby Duck before moving on to Verve. He shot me a look that answered the question.

A birthday cake – complete with candles — appeared. I kept blowing and they kept relighting. Scott had brought them with him to make me puff for my wish.

Victoria Falls from the air – photo by Monique James

A rocky start

After lunch we piled into the lodge van and headed to the helicopter field for a 30-minute flight over Victoria Falls. The first attempt had to be aborted as it started to rain. Walking away Scott and I looked at each other as the pilot’s rocking-landing had been so bad even I noticed.

On the second go we flew over the falls — breathtaking panoramic view — and then followed a gorge. I was a touch twitchy as we were close to the rocks. Even the slightest ding in a propeller and it would have been a fast drop into the white water below. Scott critiqued the ride and said it was the “weightlessness” drops that had worried him.

Lounging perfection moves into delightful dinner

High tea was waiting when we returned to the lodge. Monique decided to nap, Sarah had a pedicure and Scott wanted to fish so I went to the dock with him. After one cast a boat arrived so there wasn’t even enough time for a one-that-got-away story to develop.

We moved to the lounge in Scott’s stilted tree-house that overlooked the Zambezi. It was literally on top of the water, but the pet hippo who hangs around the lodge didn’t make an appearance. It was a delightful time. The four years since I’d left Sydney had slid away the moment I saw Scott on the boat and we had picked up where we left off. I draw on his strength and energy. He thinks I have some sort of spark embedded.

In the evening, Trudy from the lodge joined us for dinner in the gazebo. We regaled each other with stories and opinions not often found at a dinner party. She was a touch wide-eyed and confessed that her assumptions had been challenged. On the walk back to the lodge to escape the mosquitoes I stage-whispered to Scott that it was a good thing we hadn’t included accounts of our truly outrageous antics as it might have hospitalized her.

A border goodbye

At 21:15 Peter arrived to whisk me away to the border. I was on a day-pass and had to cross before it closed at 22:00. Scott knows he is a central person in my life, and I wanted to remind him of that as we walked towards the van. He came back with “It will have to wait until the next unexpected catch-up. And no, I won’t be giving you any notice for that one either.”

My surprise sixtieth can only be described as spectacular. And, frankly, Scott is the only person on the planet I know who would do it simply because he could: flights, accommodation, meals, a helicopter trip and a birthday cake with trick candles.


My only regret is that I returned Scott’s sweater just before the van pulled away. He laughed and said, “Now that you’re going to be in Cambodia it is easier to see you as I’m in and out of Asia regularly. The plan was to collect the jumper for your 61st.”

That constitutes cruel and unusual punishment!

Other articles by this Author:

The Lighter Side of the Black Market

Santiago Cooks

Galapagos on the Cheap

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