Teaching Abroad, could it be your ticket to permanent life of travel?

Guest post by Suzanne O’Rourke from Itchy Nomads

I have to admit, I had a huge advantage in life, spending much of my youth growing up in foreign countries.  I had no hand in making this happen.  I just have to be grateful that my parents took the leap. I did seize the opportunity for personal growth that led to an awareness of different ways to live. The possibilities are endless if only we allow ourselves to be open to things that are different and unfamiliar.

Having grown up in both the International School System and the American School system in Asia I had wanted to try my hand at teaching in this foreign school system as an adult. My experience in these schools had been fantastic.  Learning was challenging, immersive and invigorating.  It was also academically strenuous, setting a standard for lifelong learning for which I will forever be grateful.

Recently we had the joy of reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, Caz and Alan Mussell in Oro Valley, Arizona.  We had met during a year in which John and I lived and taught at Colegio Americano in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

We had long admired this couple because they are a shining example of two Itchy Nomads that set off on individual paths, not knowing the outcome or really the destination, and met and built a life teaching in more than 8 countries between them.  During their tenure they raised two children to become happy and very interesting adults while nurturing and changing the lives of endless children and their families in a ripple effect globally that is immeasurable.

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

While we enjoyed a delicious meal of Thai Curry and brown rice Alan said, “Our lifestyle is the best kept secret there is.”  He was speaking about a career built around teaching in the International Schools.

What did he mean by “the Best Kept Secret?” Well we want to share it with you.  Do with it what you will but John and I have experienced it first hand and numerous friends of ours continue to live it. Those who have lived this lifestyle but have gone on to do other things, look back and comment that their years of Teaching Abroad were some of their happiest and most vibrant years of their lives.

That is the Secret; go teach in a foreign country. 

You can teach English as Second Language or you can teach other subjects in one of the many International Schools.  The benefits are monetary, experiential and emotional.

We will let them share their experience directly through this interview.

We are proud to introduce you to Caz and Alan Mussel.  Alan is originally from Oregon in the U.S. and Caz is from North Eastern England.

01Alan-&-studentSUZANNE:  Did either of you think when you started this career that it would last so long and take you to so many countries? 

ALAN: Not really.  I just found that I liked teaching.

CAZ:  My family still wonders where the “travel bug” came from.  From the age of about 15 I wanted to travel the world but I realized that I would have to work overseas to be able to do that.  In those days it seemed that for women, there were two occupations which would allow me to fulfill my dreams. Those occupations were Nursing and Teaching.  I hated the sight of blood and my Uncle, whom I admired, was a Teacher so it was easy for me to choose.

SUZANNE:  What drew you to teaching abroad and were your expectations realistic? 

ALAN:  My Peace Corps experience was so important in those formative years that I re-enrolled for another term in Kenya, with similar positive results.

CAZ: I went overseas to teach with an open mind, no expectations and with excitement to what I may experience.

SUZANNE:  What did you both teach? 

ALAN: I was first trained as a teacher under the US Peace Corps program and was sent to the Ivory Coast to teach science and mathematics in French. I have also taught Music on the side at different times. I had two years of college French, but the Peace Corp tested me for language competency and put me through an intensive French language program before I left.

CAZ:  I taught Math and Sciences at the Middle School and High School Level. I also taught Computer Studies in the Computer Labs.

SUZANNE:  What countries have you taught in and for how long?

Allen-North-PakistanALAN: I have taught in Ivory Coast (2 years), Kenya (10 years), Turkey (2 years), California (1 year), Oregon (5 years), Pakistan (3 years), Philippines (3 years) and Mexico (2 years).

CAZ:  Jamaica (2 years), Kenya (8 1/2 years), Pakistan (3 years), The Philippines (3 years) and Mexico (5 years).

SUZANNE: Did you have a favorite country? 

ALAN: I found something of value in each country I taught.

CAZ: No. I did not realize that I would stay away from England that long.  But I loved moving to a new country, starting a new job.  I was always eager to meet new people, explore the country and the culture. I enjoyed every country in which I taught because there were so many different things to experience. The most interesting was Pakistan because their culture was totally different with little of the western world influence. Also, the Pakistani students were special.

SUZANNE:  Was it hard to get these teaching jobs?  What credentials or skills did you have or need?

ALAN: I was first trained by the Peace Corps, got my credential, and then earned my Masters in Education.

CAZ:  One needed a teaching certificate and degree plus 2 years teaching experience.  Not difficult to find a job if you were prepared to go anywhere. 

SUZANNE:  Just a comment here from my experience, I only had an Emergency Credential which I got by substitute teaching in California.  To earn this I had to first have a College Degree, and pass a State Test called the CBEST. This was adequate to get me a Teaching position with the understanding that I would continue on with my credential process. Others we have met have only a TOEFL or ESL Certification for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

SUZANNE: Did you need to know a foreign language?

Cathie-Vidal-teaching-in-PuALAN:  I needed French in the Ivory Coast and was trained to speak Swahili for Kenya, which I used subsequently. In Mexico, I taught myself Spanish… I love languages and have found them invaluable in understanding the culture wherever I am. I learned bits of Turkish and Urdu also.

CAZ: The local schools in which I taught in Jamaica and Kenya, the language of instruction was English. In the International schools the classes were all in English except the language classes.

Suzanne:  When I taught in Mexico, I team taught with a Mexican teacher. We taught 3rd and 4th grades. Half the day I taught the 3rd graders Geography, World History, Science and English Language in English. Meanwhile my Mexican counterpart taught Math, Spanish, Mexican History and Cultural Studies in Spanish.  In the afternoon we flipped the grades and I taught subjects in English to the 4th graders.  I learned a lot of Spanish that year, but it was not a requirement of my employment. It was more of a benefit to me.

SUZANNE: What Skills were most in demand? 

ALAN: Desire to communicate with students and their families.

SUZANNE:  Math, Sciences, Foreign Language like French, and Computer Skills.  John taught Computer Graphics and Physics in Summer School while I taught High School Earth Science.

SUZANNE:  What challenges did you have to overcome to make this lifestyle work?

ALAN:  It seemed to come naturally. There were illnesses, but no more than would have been expected in the US.

CAZ:  I had to adjust to being away from family. I had to discover the cultural differences especially those which may have been offensive to the local people. New people generally are euphoric when they first arrive but then a slump can occur after about 3 months when they realize the differences between their old and new life. Some find it hard to adjust. At each school one has to adjust to the way it is run while coping with unpacking, adapting to new environment and having no friends for support at first.

SUZANNE:  Using your 20×20 vision, was raising your children in this manner a positive experience for you and them? 

ALAN: They considered their years abroad immensely valuable.

Suzanne-with-her-masked-kidSUZANNE:  The International and American Schools I attended had some wonderful travel programs and foreign exchange opportunities that were amazing.  With my 20 x 20 vision, growing up in these schools provided an intimacy with the expat community, my local instructors and the school as a whole that I’ve never experienced in domestic schools. It spoiled me for less involved community lifestyle.

SUZANNE:  What did you like most about the lifestyle?

ALAN: Immersion in a foreign culture.

CAZ:  Just experiencing another way of life, new food, new places, dress and having one’s life enriched by all of this. Being in a certain part of the world allows you to visit other countries nearby.

SUZANNE: How did you find the teaching jobs in each country, and did you have your pick, or was it difficult to get the ones you wanted?

ALAN: After the Peace Corps years, I attended some of the many hiring conferences, but because of my fields, found no difficulty in getting jobs.

CAZ: The first 2 jobs, Kenya and Jamaica were found in the “Times Educational Supplement” which advertises jobs overseas. I chose to apply for these jobs.

Later the positions in the “International Schools” were found through attending Recruiting Fairs which are held all over the World. Attendees interview with many schools of their choice and then choose the one they want from the offers they are given. One did not always get the school which was top of their list. I found these jobs through International Schools Services (ISS) and Quality Schools International organizations.

SUZANNE:  Was it a benefit that they could hire both of you as a couple? 

ALAN: Definitely.

 CAZ: It is a definite advantage to be a teaching couple. The school is getting 2 for the price of 1 nearly as they would have to pay fares, provide accommodation, medical etc. for families whether one or both are teaching.  Some schools like Pakistan, Karachi American School will only hire teaching couples. For Alan and me, we had a little disadvantage as we both taught High School Math’s. In those days it was the male who was offered AP and IB classes.

SUZANNE: What was the hardest part of this lifestyle?

ALAN:  Nothing.

CAZ: I never felt there was any hardship. The Schools always had a support system in place to help if one needed it.

SUZANNE: Can you please tell us about the Benefits you typically received and the type of employment packages you could expect to be offered? 

ALAN: Usually accommodation, sometimes a vehicle, often a paid round-trip yearly to home, tax-free income, and medical.

Suzanne: Typically a housing allowance, summers off with the ability to travel extensively, round trip airfare back home at least every other year. A real bonus is the ability to earn about $97,000 US tax free per person and often a low cost of living depending on the country you are in. If you re-sign for another year there is a typically a sign in bonus. If you have children they usually get the benefit of this free private school education. Round trip airfare is included as long as you stay for the length of your contract.

SUZANNE:  What resources would you recommend someone tap into if they are interested teaching abroad?

CAZ:  I would recommend going to the Recruiting Conferences in the States or Abroad as then you can interview with many schools at one time. Also you can meet people from these schools.

ALAN: Check out the job fairs, ISS catalogue, etc. and see what schools require of their teachers.

SUZANNE: If you know anyone that has taught at an International School and you have the credentials to teach, ask for an introduction and letter of referral.  Administrators love to hire people who are referred by others with whom they have worked before.

SUZANNE:  Many of our readers may think that a career like this is for those just getting started, but my experience has been that this is not the case.  What are your thoughts about who should consider teaching abroad?  Is it just for young teachers, or veteran teachers or can it include being a 2nd act for semi-retired individuals or even retirees? 

ALAN: Many schools prefer younger married candidates as the health risks would be less, but we met teachers abroad of all ages, often with families.

CAZ: Most schools want you to have 2 years teaching experience but after that age does not matter.  Some schools will end your contracts when you reach the age of 64. Two that I know of are the International Schools in Tokyo and Jakarta.

SUZANNE: THANK YOU SO MUCH Caz and Alan for sharing your insights and expertise about this career direction. I can only wonder how many lives you have both influenced through the years and how those students have gone on to make a positive difference in their countries and global community. You should be congratulated for the countless contributions you’ve made to your students’ lives.

 In Summary:

The schools can vary widely in their facilities and amenities.  Alan taught in a rural Peace Corp school that was rustic and dangerous, and he loved it.  In contrast some schools are like elaborate country clubs with swimming pools, beautiful libraries, sports fields and amazing programs. The Alumni associations of the better schools offer Reunions around the world so graduates can stay connected.

Also, if you get hired in-country you will typically earn the Local Wage, as was the case when we were hired in Puerto Vallarta.  Make sure you get hired outside of the country you plan to teach in.  The benefits difference is very significant.

Itchy Nomads, if this lifestyle is of interest, look for a job fair and go get information and possibly do some interviews.  Teaching English as a Second Language can be an easier path to getting a job, but does not typically have the financial benefits that teaching in an International School offers.  

For more information on teaching abroad and jobs in retirement, see our Retirement Jobs page.

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Heart Song, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hey Billy & Akaisha – Are You Retired or Not?

Wide expanse of beach, Santa Cruz, Califoria

Wide expanse of beach, Santa Cruz, Califoria

Hey guys,

Enjoy your newsletter and you’ve both been an inspiration for a few years now as my wife and I plan our early retirement. My concern as the years have passed is that it has become clear that in some ways you aren’t retired now as you must be receiving a good amount of income from your books and web-site (I could be wrong, but it does appear that way). I applaud you for this and think its great that its worked out for you.

What I think would be fair to the rest of us is that you mention this and without giving out details you would rather remain personal at least give some sort of estimate as to how much of your income is now from what I would call your “retirement business”.

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

I think for the rest of us who will be trying this with no other income but what we have invested, that it would help as we access our own situation. I do understand that this was not your original intention and that you started out with just your investments, but since that isn’t the situation now, it would be helpful to the rest of us.

Billy with hill tribe kids, Thailand

Billy with hill tribe kids, Thailand

If I am way off base with this, I apologize as I am simply assuming based on your success post retirement that it’s fueled a good income and I could be totally off base. If I am, then that information would actually be even more helpful and encouraging. Either way, I think the information would be helpful.

Thanks so much,

Darin G.

Hi Darin,

Thank you for taking the time to write.

We want you to know that we appreciate your question and we address this issue in a piece we recently posted on our website: Is it Work or Is it Passion?

The most important thing is to be able to live off one’s investments which we did for 15 years before we wrote any books. In planning for your own retirement, you must be able to live from the income that your investments generate, and if something else comes up after your retirement years, then it is simply “extra cash.” As we mention in our article, once you are retired, opportunities come up and you can take advantage of them as you like – or not. If you do an exchange with a neighbor or join the Peace Corps and receive a modest payment for your volunteer work, are you no longer “retired”? Will you feel inclined to move yourself from the ranks of being retired to the semi-retired column and then back again when circumstances change?

Akaisha riding in a Jak Ka Ran, Vietnam

Akaisha riding in a Jak Ka Ran, Vietnam

This is one of the reasons we prefer the term of Financial Independence. One either is or they aren’t.

If we no longer pursued our website and the writing of books (which is a passion) it would not affect our ability to be Financially Independent. We do the website and books as our volunteer time because we are passionate about educating people on financial independence, world travel and medical tourism. We aren’t caught up in whether or not someone puts a label of “semi-retired” on us or whether or not someone feels we have “tarnished” the label of being fully retired.

Billy and I are productive people and we didn’t want to sit around “doing nothing” all day. If we weren’t writing for our blog, we would be doing something else that is productive (like building tennis courts or teaching massage or anything else of our choosing).

I hope this explanation puts your questions to rest and that it answers this matter for you personally. When you retire, – or become Financially Independent – what you do with your time is up to you. If an opportunity fell into your lap or if you want to do an exchange with a neighbor or friend I certainly hope that you would not allow someone else’s tendency to label you “only” semi-retired keep you from living a satisfying life of your choosing.

Thank you so much for writing and we wish you and yours the very best on your road to financial freedom. Please feel free to write any time.

Best,

Akaisha

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Q & A From our Readers, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Early Years

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. 

When I recall my early years in the newspaper business at the Bluefield, West Virginia, Daily Telegraph, I think of pounding out stories on an ancient Royal typewriter that could have been used as a hand weight at a World War II boot camp.

And mailroom guys growing marijuana in the dirt between the cracks of the wood floor on the third floor.

C.W., their boss, was cool with it and even helped with the harvest.

“Makes ‘em work better,” he told me.

And never completely trusting the contents of the pizza on my desk because pieces of the Depression-era ceiling were always falling down. One night, a staffer thought he was biting into an anchovy and ended up needing dental work.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

I worked with a narc, a woman who went to jail for Social Security fraud, a guy who went to jail for assault, assorted alcoholics, assorted drug users and a desk man who tried to burn the newspaper building down.

The attempted mass homicide didn’t amount to much. The gothic structure had lived through 80 years of storms, pigeons, angry readers and poor reporters. It could survive a quart of lighter fluid and a boat-load of matches.

But what I remember the most are the nicknames that were given out like lollipops at the bank.

The big three were “slick,” “ace” and “stud.”

As in:

“Gimme six grafs on that bus wreck, slick, so we can make deadline and go drink beer at King Tut’s Drive-In before Stu tries to set the place on fire again.”

And:

“Hang up on your girlfriend, stud. Need that headline on the Sewage Board meeting some time today. We ain’t a monthly.”

And:

“Better not be going up to the mailroom, ace. The cops are up there handing out indictments.”

And:

“I know there’s no chair, slick. Company policy. There’s three for every five employees. Either come in early or learn to squat.”

And:

“Wouldn’t park out front if I was you, ace. Get a little wind and bricks start flying off the roof. Usually land where your hood ornament is.”

Sadly, you don’t hear those wonderful nouns around the newspaper office any more.

We have this ridiculous, politically correct notion that folks should be called by their real names.

Can’t call somebody “slick” because it means “pile of bile” to natives of Qatar.

Can’t call somebody “ace” because it reminds the news editor he isn’t one.

Newsrooms are alleged to be too sophisticated to dabble in such verbiage these days. We have carpet now. And coffee makers. And ceilings that can be counted on to stand their ground.

I take this opportunity to break from the mold.

MEMO:

To: Those who address me in the future:

From: The ex-columnist in cubicle 12

Let it be known that henceforth I will no longer answer to Garret. Or GM. Or “Whatsit.” Or “Hey, you.”

I want my appellation to touch on the rich history of the newspaper business.

I also want it to reflect my strength, power, well-being and, yes, virility.

My greeting of choice is “stud.”

As in:

“Hey, stud, the company car is stuck in a ditch. Wanna lift it out for us?

And:

“Hey, stud, our new hire was parking his car and got hit with a brick. Can we borrow some of your scar tissue?”

And:

“Hey, stud, there’s a gas leak at King Tut’s. Can you suck up the fumes until the HAZ-MAT crews get here? And hurry. There are three slicks and two aces in there.”

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Why Your House Is a Terrible Investment

Jim Collins writes about his passion for travel and the investing strategies that support it.  His Blog is best known for describing the importance of accumulating F-you Money and the Stock Series posts on investing for it.

My pal James Altucher calls home ownership a part of The American Religion, so I know I’m treading dangerous ground here. But before you get out the tar and feathers, let’s do a little thought experiment together.

House3Imagine over a cup or coffee or a glass of wine we get to talking about investments. Then maybe one of us, let’s say you, says:

“Hey I’ve got an idea. We’re always talking about good investments. What if we came up with the worst possible investment we can construct? What might that look like?”

Well, let’s see now (pulling out our lined yellow pad), let’s make a list. To be really terrible:

  • It should be not just an initial, but if we do it right, a relentlessly ongoing drain on the cash reserves of the owner.
  • It should be illiquid. We’ll make it something that takes weeks, no – wait – even better, months of time and effort to buy or sell.
  • It should be expensive to buy and sell. We’ll add very high transaction costs. Let’s say 5% commissions on the deal, coming and going.

Compare international retirement destinations, click here

  • It should be complex to buy or sell. That way we can ladle on lots of extra fees and reports and documents we can charge for.
  • It should generate low returns. Certainly no more than the inflation rate. Maybe a bit less.
  • It should be leveraged! Oh, oh this one is great! This is how we’ll get people to swallow those low returns. If the price goes up a little bit, leverage will magnify this and people will convince themselves it’s actually a good investment! Nah, don’t worry about it. Most will never even consider that leverage is also very high risk and could just as easily wipe them out.
  • It should be mortgaged! Another beauty of leverage. We can charge interest on the loans. Yep, and with just a little more effort we should easily be able to persuade people who buy this thing to borrow money against it more than once.
  • It should be unproductive. While we’re talking about interest, let’s be sure this investment we are creating never pays any. No dividends either, of course.
  • It should be immobile. If we can fix it to one geographical spot we can be sure at any given time only a tiny group of potential buyers for it will exist. Sometimes and in some places, none at all.
  • It should be subject to the fortunes of one country, one state, one city, one town…No! One neighborhood! Imagine if our investment could somehow tie its owner to the fate of one narrow location. The risk could be enormous! A plant closes. A street gang moves in. A government goes crazy with taxes. An environmental disaster happens nearby. We could have an investment that not only crushes it’s owner’s net worth, but does so even as they are losing their job and income.
  • It should be something that locks its owner in one geographical area. That’ll limit their options and keep ’em docile for their employers!
  • It should be expensive. Ideally we’ll make it so expensive that it will represent a disproportionate percentage of a person’s net worth. Nothing like squeezing out diversification to increase risk.
  • It should be expensive to own, too. Let’s make sure this investment requires an endless parade of repairs and maintenance without which it will crumble into dust.
  • It should be fragile and easily damaged by weather, fire, vandalism and the like. Now we can add-on expensive insurance to cover these risks.  Making sure, of course, that the bad things that are most likely to happen aren’t actually covered. Don’t worry, we’ll bury that in the fine print or maybe just charge extra for it.
  • It should be heavily taxed, too. Let’s get the Feds in on this. If it should go up in value, we’ll go ahead and tax that gain. If it goes down in value should we offer a balancing tax deduction on the loss like with other investments? Nah.
  • It should be taxed even more! Let’s not forget our state and local governments. Why wait till this investment is sold? Unlike other investments, let’s tax it each and every year. Oh, and let’s raise those taxes anytime it goes up in value. Lower them when it goes down? Don’t be silly.
  • It should be something you can never really own. Since we are going to give the government the power to tax this investment every year, “owning” it will be just like sharecropping. We’ll let them work it, maintain it, pay all the cost associated with it and, as long as they pay their annual rent (oops, I mean taxes) we’ll let ’em stay in it. Unless we decide we want it.
  • For that, we’ll make it subject to eminent domain. You know, in case we decide that instead of getting our rent (damn! I mean taxes) we’d rather just take it away from them.

House 1Here are two more offered by readers…

  • Mr. Risky Start-up: It should increase stress, lead to more divorces, but then be impossible to divide.
  • DMDave: You only need one motivated (read: desperate) seller to set the price for the whole neighborhood. Imagine your so-called “investment” suddenly get scuttled when your neighbor decided to sell his particle-board mansion at 20% below assessment.

Boy howdy! That’s quite a list! Any investment that ugly would make my skin crawl. In fact, I’m not sure you could rightly call anything with those characteristics an investment at all.

Then, too, the challenge would be to get anybody to buy this turkey. But we can. In fact, I bet we can get them not only to buy but to believe doing so is the fulfillment of a dream, indeed a national birthright.

House2A few weeks back I was at an awards banquet and sitting at our table was a woman I know. She began talking about how she was encouraging her young son to buy a house. You know. Stop throwing away money on rent and start building equity.

I suggested that, since her son was single, living alone and without children maybe he didn’t actually need a house. That if he didn’t need one, maybe he should consider some alternatives instead. Or at least run the numbers first.

This didn’t sit well and it was a short conversation. It ended when she said, “Well, he’d be better off buying a house than a clapped-out Camaro!”

Well, yeah. Maybe so. If this is the only alternative.

Other posts by this Author

Esperando un Camino – Waiting for a Road

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hell: Not on the Map, But I Was There

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.

LaverneI have no idea how I injured my back, but the results landed me flat out in knife-twisting agony for nearly three weeks. I’ve had back problems before but nothing compared to this torture – not even back in 1985 when the medics came, hoisted me off of my bedroom floor and carried me to the ER, where the doctor instructed me to sit up and when I said I couldn’t he said, with great annoyance, “Of course you can; you just don’t want the pain.” 

The man was brilliant.

So here I was, writhing in agony, hurting too much to read, write, watch TV, or eat;  unable to do anything but look up at the ceiling, moan, and wipe an occasional tear from my cheek. Experimenting with new positions took on a whole new meaning.

My doctor promised relief.

“I haf a proceedchure,” assured Dr. Mengele. “You vill be my last patient Vendesday  (so no one vill hear your screams).

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

My friend, Joanne, drove and then listened to my cries and labored breathing as Dr. Mengele  pummeled and kneaded. And when it was over, with sweat pouring down my face, I threatened, “You’d better be able to show me a baby.” 

I was given a prescription for a muscle relaxant. Instructions on the bottle warned not to drink alcohol, because it might intensify the effect of the drug. I thought, “…….and the bad part of  that would be…………….????”

About a week into this ordeal, in a drug induced state, and still on my back, I began to discover little activities that held my interest. I examined my hands with the curiosity and wonder of an infant who’s just discovered his feet. I noticed that the lifeline on my right hand is longer than that on my left and wondered if that meant it would live longer. I spent an entire day pushing my cuticles back so far, they currently reside under each first knuckle. I counted the age spots on my hands and arms which took me through days nine, ten and eleven. I watched the cobwebs on my ceiling fan circle around and around and, incredibly, never drop off. I braided my chin hairs.

I discovered that I can’t drink water lying on my back, and no matter how careful I am, it’s impossible to peel a hard boiled egg on my chest without having the shells slide off onto the sheets. In addition, I came to understand why nobody has ever approved the manufacturing of a Chest Top Computer.

My pain was more severe than usual one morning, when I discovered I’d been sleeping on a Kentucky Fried chicken wing my daughter had loving attempted to feed me the evening before.

My cousin Phyllis prescribed her own home remedy. “Buy a car like mine, with heated seats,” she suggested. “When I had back pain problems I spent the better part of most days driving in my car. I only came home to eat,” she continued.

 I liked her idea a lot, but my HMO wouldn’t approve it.

The only plus to being out of commission was a weight loss of seven pounds, but I gained it all back  the first day I was able to make the trek down the hall to my refrigerator.

I’m presently up and around. I still have pain but it’s really bizarre how everything is relative. What I’m now experiencing is an incessant nagging, aching, stiffness that infringes on the quality of my every waking moment. But hey, compared to what I had before, it’s Nirvana.   

Other posts by this author:

Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Health, Humor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Esperando un Camino – Waiting for a Road

Jim Collins writes about his passion for travel and the investing strategies that support it.  His Blog is best known for describing the importance of accumulating F-you Money and the Stock Series posts on investing for it.

In my office there is a bronze sculpture we acquired in Madrid, Spain some 25 years ago.  It is about a foot tall and depicts a young woman.  She is barefoot and has long flowing hair.  Dressed in a peasant blouse and long skirt, she stands with her hands on her hips looking down.  At her feet is an open bag with a bedroll and a book sticking up out of it.  There is a small satchel leaning against it.  The title is “Esperando un Camino.”  The artist is Joseph Bofill.

I don’t know where she’s going but I’ve always wanted to come along.

Indeed, I’ve had the good fortune to see a fair bit of the planet:  Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Wales, England, Germany, Greece, Crete, Puerto Rico, Tahiti, Venezuela, Curacao, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Paris, India, Kashmir, Goa, Nepal, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Eleuthera, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Barbados, Antigua, Martinique, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala and most states across the USA.  Pretty much in that order although I’ve visited some more than once.  And I may have forgotten one or two.

I’ve traveled to and around those places by plane, train, bus, subway, taxi, hired car, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, hitch-hiking, foot, horse, donkey and elephant.  Not only traveled by elephant, but herded rhinoceros by elephant back in Nepal.  I love saying that!

Many people, of course, don’t care much for traveling.  It is a highly personal choice.  However, I can’t help but think part of the problem is the way the Travel Industry approaches the whole business.  Mainly:  avoid the locals and their culture whilst cramming as much into as little time as possible so people can check off their list and say “Yep, I’ve been there, done that!”

But that doesn’t appeal or your experiences have been disappointing, maybe the way we do it might be of interest.

Let go of the American Expectation Syndrome. Open up to new possibilities abroad.

Travel slowly

For our honeymoon we spent three weeks in Scotland.  The most common comment was, “Three weeks in Scotland?  What can you do for three weeks in Scotland?”

Followed closely by, “I’ve been to Europe and saw it all during my two week tour.”  Ah, OK.

Rushing from place to place ticking off sights means you’ll spend most of your time in transit. Not fun, and a three hour layover in the Frankfurt airport doesn’t mean you’ve been to Germany.

Relax.  Find a local cafe and waste an afternoon over a cup of coffee.  Watch the locals drift by.  Maybe even talk to a few.

A bench in Jackson Square, maybe mine.

A bench in Jackson Square, maybe mine.

Avoid the sights   

Maybe not all of them, but choose just a few that really appeal to you.  Learn to be comfortable leaving some stones unturned.  Be sure that what you see you take the time to see well. 

Linger in cafes and parks.    Absorb the feel of the place.  Breathe it in.  Last year in New Orleans I found an isolated bench in Jackson Square.  I sat for an hour with my eyes closed and just listened.  Quiet your mind and let it it flow.

The locals might not be as scary as you think

The locals might not be as scary as you think

Talk to the locals   

Lots of travelers complain that the people in such and such a place are unfriendly.  Well, if you are flying past in a rush to your next sight you are not, candidly, a very attractive opportunity for them.

In Quito we stumbled on a little chocolate shop.  Because we were leisurely poking around Ruth, the owner, took the time to chat.  Before long she was insisting that we stay to try her special hot chocolate.

By the time we left we had met several of her friends, were guests in her home and her husband, a naturalist on the Galapagos, had invited us for a “behind the scenes” visit.

Of course, we didn’t see every church and museum in town.

Settle in

Settle in

Settle in

If you can, spend some time.  Even if you’ve only a week, pick a spot and focus on what’s there.

A few years back we took an apartment in Quito for the summer.  By the time we left we knew all the local shop owners.  One day we went to the little shop where we bought our eggs and milk.  It was closed.  On the walk back to the apartment we ran into the owner.  We exchanged pleasantries and asked when he would reopen.  He insisted on walking the two blocks back to his shop, opening it and selling us what we needed before closing again and going on his way.

We’ll remember that long after we’ve forgotten the museums.

Kilimanjaro Crater

Kilimanjaro Crater

Leave your camera at home  

Too many people waste their time trying to record the trip rather than living it.  Indeed, I’m convinced many see everything they see only thru the lens.  Give it a rest.  If you follow the advice above you’ll meet locals.  They’ll have cameras and they’ll send you the pictures they took to remember your visit.  As for scenery, use Google.  You’ll find better shots of the Taj Mahal or Kilimanjaro there than you are likely to take yourself.  

Taj Mahal Been here, didn't take the pic

Taj Mahal Been here, didn’t take the pic

Do it now

Sad to say, the world is becoming a more crowded place.  Back in the early 1970s I visited Arches National Park in Utah.  Simply stunning and I had the entire place all to myself all day.  Find the undiscovered and go now.

Do it while you are young

There is no question that travel involves some discomfort.  Sitting in cramped airline seats for hours on end.  Bouncing over rutted roads in antique local buses.  “Delhi Belly.”  Or…

As I feel the years build the time is coming where the hassle will outweigh the joy.  But, thankfully, not yet.  If you are going to do it, now is the time.

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Yoga for the New Year

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.

Mokshadharma

Mokshadharma

If you have a desire to be more flexible and have more mobility and freedom of movement then our short yoga class might be just what you need to get started.

I thought I would begin with the ANTI-RHEUMATIC GROUP OF POSTURES. This group is concerned with loosening up the joints of the body. Excellent for those of you with rheumatism, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems and any other ailments where vigorous exercise is not advised. They are particularly useful for eliminating energy blockages in the joints and the outer extremities of the body. The long term benefits of doing the whole series of postures are as follows. They free up the joints, restore metabolism, promote free flow of energy in the body, stimulate circulation and promote muscle relaxation.

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As with any worthwhile exercise program Patience, Persistence and Practice are the keys to a successful outcome.

We are going to start working on FEET, TOES, ANKLES, LEGS AND KNEES. There are also 2/3 more challenging postures for those of you with more strength and flexibility and no specific health issues.

You will need 2 blankets and a pillow. Fold one blanket lengthways and place the pillow and second blanket nearby. Sit comfortably with your legs stretched out in front of you legs flat on the floor. If this is difficult tuck the pillow under your knees.

The base position

Your back needs to be straight and tall, neck long, head erect. Place your hands beside your body near your buttocks palms down. Your feet need to be active ( heels down toes facing up).

Foot bending

Breathe in and breathe out and stretch your feet forward pointing your toes towards the floor. Feel the stretch along the top of the feet. Now stretch your feet back towards you. Feel the stretch in the toes, feet, ankle and calf muscle. Repeat the sequence 15-20 times slowly and methodically and then rest when complete.

Stretch your toes

Keep your feet active. Tense and tighten the toes as you breathe in, hold the tension, then release on the outbreath. Repeat this sequence 15-20 times slowly and methodically and then rest when complete.

Rotating your feet 

Spread your feet a little apart. Keep the feet active heels on the floor. Start with the right foot first. Start to rotate the foot clockwise slowly and methodically. Do 15-20 rotations then rotate the foot anti-clockwise. Work with the breath breathe in as you start the rotation, breathe out as the foot goes down and around and back to the start. Repeat then on the left foot. Rest when complete.

Rotating the ankles

If you have a pillow tucked under your knees remove it now. Still in the base position. Bend your right leg and draw the knee up towards your chest. Lay the leg across your left leg just above the knee leave enough room to rotate your ankle easily. Place your right hand on your right knee. Hold your toes with the left hand. Begin to slowly and methodically rotate the ankle clockwise working with the breath. Do 15-20 rotations then rotate the ankle in the anti-clockwise direction. Release the right leg down to the floor and work now with the left leg repeating the sequence. Rest when complete.

Rolling the legs in and out

Still in the base position roll you legs inwards so your knees connect and the toes of your right foot sit on the toes of the left foot briefly. Now roll your legs out so both feet are turned out opening up your inner thighs. Slowly and methodically repeat this exercise 15-20 times. Now do it all again with the toes of the left foot sitting briefly on the toes of the right foot. Focus and concentrate to ensure the knees roll together and connect. Work with the breath. Rolling the legs in breathe in, rolling legs out breathe out. Use the outbreath to help you stretch and flatten those legs out releasing them down.

Congratulations you have done the first 6 postures in the series. More to come but for now lie down and draw your legs up onto your chest. Wrap your hands around your knees and rock yourself gently from side to side massaging the base of your spine at the sacrum and releasing tension from your buttocks and back after sitting for so long. Remember not to lift your head off the floor use your pillow to support your neck. Release your legs down and wrap yourself up in your second blanket to keep warm. Close your eyes and relax completely until you are ready to get up and get on with your day.

Other articles by this author

Slaying the Dragon of Male Menopause

Power-Purpose-Direction with Yoga

My Life as an Expat in Chiang Khong

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Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

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.

LaverneI received a photo attachment in an e-mail that showed a senior couple, in their late seventies, standing on a public street. He wore a leather motorcycle jacket, jeans and a billed cap. We only saw her back, but that was more than enough. She had white curly hair, wore a faded jean jacket with a biker insignia on it, and Daisy Duke shorts that exposed her entire derriere – entire.  Two vertical rows of decorative cut out designs treated us to even more of the same. It wasn’t enough that every inch of her flabby, overweight body was covered with heavy duty cellulite, but this half naked Senior Biker Chick, with bare rump, and bare legs, wore black orthotic shoes.

Careful examination revealed that this was not a touched up photo; shadows and the way bodies were postured indicated that it was, indeed, authentic.

My instant reaction was to laugh out loud, and feel a degree of revulsion. Viewing her body was not the way I’d have preferred to start my day. How dare she walk around like that in public. Didn’t she own a full length mirror? Didn’t her husband have eyes and a mouth?

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

I forwarded the photo to 83 of my most intimate e-mail buddies so they, too, could spend the day with that image burned in their heads. Reactions came back rapidly.  “Eeeeeuuuw!” “Oh my God!” and  “Please kill me if I ever become so senile that I believe I’m still a babe,” were some of the kinder responses.

I recalled seeing something similar while on a cruise. There was a group of five overweight senior women, leaning against the ship’s railing, sipping fancy pastel colored drinks, and laughing. They were French, and they each wore skimpy bikinis. None of them draped towels around their midriffs to hide flabby rolls and upper thigh cellulite. And since they weren’t accompanied by Seeing Eye Dogs I felt safe in assuming they could each see.

I shook my head and puzzled at how these women could allow themselves to be seen that way. Had they no pride? Didn’t they feel even remotely embarrassed?

On the contrary. It was obvious that these women were perfectly comfortable in their bodies, had no concern about what others might think, and no interest in concealing who they were. Their indifference and confidence were almost sexy.

I viewed them from a nearby deck chair where I reclined in a manner that prevented my thighs from resting on the chair and, thereby, spreading to their full width. I wore one of my four black, one piece, industrial strength bathing suits and had a beach towel available for immediate coverage should I decide to unbend my knees and allow my thighs to relax.

After a few moments of inappropriate staring I realized that I dearly envied these women. I tried to imagine what it might be like to be comfortable in my own skin; to live in a country that accepted midriff bulge, cellulite and upper arm wings as proud Rites of Passage into feminine maturity;  as rewards for doing those heroic things that men have never been able to accomplish:  bear children, retain water, and clean clumps of food from the kitchen sink drain.

I dream of a society that is able to close its mind and eyes to the ravages of age and abolish current unwritten dress codes for older and overweight women. I want my grandchildren to live in a country that embraces a woman’s right to walk without straining to hold in her stomach, to not have to cross her legs in ladylike fashion if her thighs struggle against such attempts, and to expose her naked arms without having to explain, apologize or purchase Flight Insurance.

In other words, I want the same freedom and rights as men have.

Other posts by this author:

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

 

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An Easy Way to Improve Gut Health

Guest post by Christine Bradley, M.D. Finding balance of the body, mind and spirit allowed me to lose over 70 pounds, regain my health, vitality and find joy in my life once again while enjoying an active life of weekly yoga, pilates, running, cardio kick-boxing,  zumba and meditation. I have extensive knowledge in medicine, holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Contact me at Find Your Balance Find Your Bliss

photoDid you know that 80% of your immune system is in your intestinal lining where you absorb your food and nutrients?

Most of us walk around with an unhealthy level of bad bacteria in our gut due to poor food choices, pollution, chemical toxicity, medications, and stress. This imbalance is called dysbiosis.  What that basically means, is that the bad bacteria out-number the good ones, impairing our nutrient absorption and nutritional status and our ability to fight off disease causing organisms.  This can affect our health, our energy levels, our weight, our mood, and our immune system in a negative way.  What is the solution? Heal your gut by increasing the good bacteria that nourishes and supports your gut and your overall health.

Lately, I have been exploring ways to make natural probiotics in the form of fermented vegetables.    My 8 year old son loves to be my helper in the kitchen.   We visit the local market and buy fresh cabbages, cucumbers, carrots, garlic, beets and onions.   During the process, my son and I chop, grate and crush our vegetables.  We have a blast together!  The best part, is giving my son a big cup to smash the vegetables to get all the juices out to make the brine.  He really loves that part!  We make a great team and create food that keeps us healthy.

Not sure you can retire? Get answers here

Here is my simple recipe to introduce fermented veggies and re-establish healthy gut micro-flora back into your life. It is so simple to make and so health giving. Give it a try

Fermented Veggies gut health

    3 cabbages

    1 cucumber

    1 Onion

    2 garlic cloves

    1 beet grated

    Pinch of sea salt

Directions:  Chop cabbage, cucumbers, onion and garlic into chunks.  Grate carrots and beet.  Mash it all together to break the cell walls down and release the juices.  Add sea salt to release more of the juice, then stuff in glass jars until air tight.  Make sure the veggies are under liquid in the jars.  Leave on top of the counter for 7-10 days depending how sour you like your veggies. Check every few days that they are still under liquid and release the pressure.  Once they are ready, eat a tablespoon with each meal and keep refrigerated. Enjoy!

Other articles by this author:

6 Tips for Avoiding Seasonal Depression

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6 Tips for Avoiding Seasonal Depression

Guest post by Christine Bradley, M.D. Finding balance of the body, mind and spirit allowed me to lose over 70 pounds, regain my health, vitality and find joy in my life once again while enjoying an active life of weekly yoga, pilates, running, cardio kick-boxing,  zumba and meditation. I have extensive knowledge in medicine, holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Contact me at Find Your Balance Find Your Bliss

photoFall is a wonderful time of year. The leaves are changing, apples are in season, and we get to break out the pea coats and scarves! However, with this fantastic season comes the not so fantastic and very dramatic weather change. In the Pacific Northwest where I live, that means shorter days, a lot less sunshine, and days upon days of rainy weather!

The clocks rolled back this weekend, so instead of throwing in the towel and hibernating for winter, I will be using these simple tricks to beat the cold weather blues and start looking on the bright side. They could help you do the same!

Invest in good lighting

A big part of what makes the changing seasons so hard is losing that precious hour of light at the end of the day. It’s really hard to leave work in the dark and it makes finding the motivation to get anything done at home impossible. This is where good lighting comes in to save the day! Bright and inviting lights in the common areas of your home like the kitchen or living room can help you forget the weather and give you the energy you need to make dinner and catch up with your family or friends instead of ordering take-out and parking it on the couch. You might even be interested in purchasing a UV lamp, which mimics the effect of sunlight and encourages the production of vitamin D.

Life is an adventure! Follow your dreams!

Stay on top of your schedule

When it’s dark and cold outside, the only thing that I ever want to do is curl up on the couch with a good book and a bowl of soup. It’s really hard to find the motivation to go to the gym or even get together with friends! Not to mention the shorter days make it extra hard to get out of bed in the morning for work! I find that putting myself on a fairly strict schedule without any time for moping around or feeling down keeps me upbeat and focused during the winter months.

Get outside as much as possible

Even if it just means a 10-minute walk on your lunch break, taking advantage of sunlight is really important. Instead of hanging around inside, layer up and head out for a brisk walk. Who knows, you may even feel motivated to go for a sloshy run in the rain!

Hit the gym

If it turns out that a run in the rain isn’t really your thing (I’m right there with you!) then take your workout to the gym instead. This will keep you on track and make sure you get moving regularly. Exercising prompts the body to produce natural endorphins. No matter what the weather is like, you can’t help but feel happy after a hard workout at the gym!

Increase your daily dose of vitamin D

Regular vitamin D intake is an essential part of staying healthy. In the summer months, we usually get a large dose from the sun, and the need to take supplements is greatly minimized. In the winter months (and possibly year round in rainier parts of the world, ahem… here) it’s a good idea to increase your daily dosage of vitamin D. Your body needs it to property absorb other nutrients like calcium and it helps you stay focused and happy.  I recommend taking at least 1000 IU a day. It sounds like a lot, but don’t be alarmed! You can buy it in 1000 IU capsules so you only need to take one a day – your body will thank you!

Take note of the little things

Just this week I was feeling pretty down about getting out of bed at 6am knowing that I was up a good hour and a half before the sun. However, when I was driving across one of the many bridges in Portland I noticed the sun rising behind Mount Hood casting vibrant hues of pink and purple over the city skyline. It was breathtaking, and it made me wonder how many sunrises like this I missed during the summer months when I wasn’t up at dawn. It’s so important to recognize these moments and appreciate the beauty that fall and winter bring. If you try to do this every day – maybe it’s a rainbow in between rain clouds or a field of freshly fallen snow –I promise you’ll kick those winter blues to the curb in no time!

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