Any Dirt on Being an American Traveler?

Hi Billy and Akaisha,

I just love your stories.

My wife and I are working towards financial freedom now and you guys are one magnificent motivation to figure that out.  Once in a while your stories trigger me to write and ask a question.

Reading your recent story about Belize and travels through Guatemala, I could not help wondering if you guys have any harrowing stories about trouble the locals may make when they encounter to Americans that don’t speak the language well and seem to be ‘adventuring’ through their country.  Have you felt any prejudice against Americans increase over the last 5 years?  Do you have any interesting stories to tell about ‘near misses’ that you can share?  Seems your stories are always very positive.  Any dirt to share?

Again, thanks for being an inspiration to those of us still stuck on the gerbil wheel!

Dave

Educate yourself, stretch your dollars, travel, find your perfect retirement spot, have fun! Click here!

Hi Dave,

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my reply, and thank you for your kind words about us being a motivation for you. That makes us feel very happy!

As far as having any “dirt” to share, or having harrowing experiences with locals and bad attitudes towards Americans, mostly all we have to report is positive.

We make sure that we are under the radar in how we dress and our approach to the locals is always friendly, conversational, and respectful.

I would recommend that you read our response to one Reader who asked how to Identify Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, as I go into more detail there about fear, taking precautionary action, and violence.

That being said, in the countries where we have visited it is our experience that there is not the blatant and shame-inducing hatred of Americans that is portrayed by the media so often. We as Americans are not hated. In fact, it seems everywhere we go the locals of any country are proud to be from that country and we find that to be healthy. We are proud to be from the U.S.A. and we show that by our smiles, our humor and by treating the local population with equality and esteem.

On occasion we will see people from other nations who are loud, disrespectful, dirty, condescending or dismissive, and those people, of course, come to find that they have issues in foreign countries. Anyone – American or not – who acts in this manner will find that they will encounter trouble. It only makes sense.

Learn about housing on the road, RVing, long-term stays, global house exchange, vacation rentals, apart-hotels and hostels. Click here.

I would say that we are very proud to be Americans but we advance through our travels primarily as human beings. We neither cower nor bang on drums in some proselytizing manner about our beliefs.

If you would like to travel, take the leap. Don’t be afraid to answer that you are from the States, and return any exchange with the humanity that you are.

We wish you all good things, and again, thank you for taking the time to write.

Akaisha

Posted in About us, Q & A From our Readers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Psychedelic Spiritual Experience?

Just saw the movie Blossoms of Fire and it made me wonder why I didn’t know about or visit the town of Juchitan when I was in Oaxaca so many years ago. I too was in search of the magic mushrooms of Huautla and basically walked up the mountain. It took about 3 days ( I think- who can remember) although I do remember staying at some indigenous people’s house and they fed us roasted crickets (apparently this was a delicacy) they were honored to have us stay on the floor of their home.

The psychedelic is integral to the indigenous experience

When we got up to Huautla we did meet with Julia she was not too nice or friendly but we did see a newspaper clipping of John Lennon on her wall and also heard that Bob Dylan was there at some point. We had mushrooms but on our own, no ceremony. I think we decided not to take walk back down and instead took a bus to some town, maybe Pueblo.

Want to retire? Not sure you can? Your Retirement Dream IS Possible! For more information, click here

We had heard that gringos were getting busted so that is why we walked up the mountain but I guess we were too stoned to care so we took the bus down. Anyhow we did get busted by the Federales when we got off the bus.

If you were down there then I probably knew you.

Anyhow I enjoyed reading about your adventure.

What’s it like living there now?

Take good care,
A fellow traveler

Hi Esther,

Thanks for taking the time to write and to tell us of your experience so many years ago! You remembered quite a bit of it and the detail is priceless.

When we visited Huautla, it did not have any ‘hippie” type of feel, and people were very secretive and almost protective of Julieta. There were stories of how Maria Sabina had “betrayed” the indigenous for sharing the psychedelic culture they valued. She was “chased” out of town and into the hills, and her son had been killed as a sort of vendetta or as retribution for this betrayal.

The town was quiet, and there were no groups of “seekers” for the spiritual experience. One could not purchase anything on the street or from anyone other than through Julieta, who would guide you through the spiritual journey. I’m sure the natives could have gotten anything they wanted and they were quite respectful of the mushroom, the encounter with God, and of what their culture teaches.

It was quite the experience, albeit, very different than yours. But that is what traveling is all about – the expansion of one’s horizons and perspectives.

Thanks again for taking the time to write.

All the best,
Akaisha

Posted in About us, Indigenous Life, Q & A From our Readers, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Starfish One by One Empowers Young Women

Enjoy this guest blog post by Diane Dreyfus, M.S.Arch, who came to Guatemala after years of working on Wall Street as a trader and floor manager. She writes about her involvement with the Native Maya on her blog, Dragoness’ Utterances

 Starfish One by One is dedicated to serving as a catalyst for the education of rural Mayan girls in Guatemala, enhancing the educational opportunities as well as the spiritual and emotional well-being of children and their families, one by one. Parents, mentors, and other organizations are our partners in creating support groups for our scholarship students. These children will become the agents of change for their families and their communities.

First hand observation

Travis Ning, the Executive Director of Starfish One by One, invited me to attend a monthly meeting held at their office here at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, early one Sunday morning.

These meetings offer teenage participants a chance to share experiences and how they are doing in the intense and expansive educational program. The fifteen young women attending this morning have been recipients of Starfish’s scholarships since 2008. They were selected due to their inability to continue in secondary school. Now, almost through high school, they have a cherished history of exerting positive peer pressure on each other. They certainly need this kind of solid support system because they are often the most educated people in their families and, when they graduate, they will have more schooling than most females in their pueblos.

Empowering one young woman at a time

Sadly, completing high school is the exception in Guatemala, and, most indigenous girls do not go further than 7th grade.

Educational challenges

Mr. Ning says, “By the time girls are 12, their schooling is considered a ‘double burden’— they clean houses, cook and watch the younger children. Their further schooling deprives the family of an additional helper or income generator and besides that, sending a girl on to high school is a luxury that few can afford.” ($250 of the $1,000/per student cost of the Starfish One by One program goes toward covering direct school costs – books, fees, transportation and, when necessary, uniforms.)

Starfish One by One’s program directors and mentors tackle the four primary obstacles to girls’ education in Guatemala:

Poverty – endemic in the Highlands and especially among indigenous people.

Structural problems – such as distant and/or mediocre schools.

Family issues – at the very least, the parent’s lack of education and sometimes alcoholism and abuse.

Social constraints– conditions that tend to disfavor Mayans and females.

Peer support is power potential

The program offsets these negative impacts through:

Scholarships that lift the quotidian burdens of higher education and, to a lesser degree, help to mitigate the negative structural effects.

Four parent meetings a year encourage them to be aware of their daughter’s current status and to celebrate and support her progress.

Regular weekly meetings/mentoring sessions are intended to bolster self esteem and to build confidence in the face of unfavorable norms.

Direction and friendship with Starfish workers build possibilities

Besides these gentle, strategic interventions, Starfish One by One seeks “spaces of collaboration” and additional ways to create conditions for academic success. For example, they may present Save the Children’s financial planning training (that includes starting a bank account in grade school) or use Wing’s reproductive education module or abstract from an environmental group’s program promoting stewardship.

These are additional “gifts” that the program provides on the way to empowering the girls.

“In the beginning,” recalled Mr. Ning, “many of the girls wanted to be doctors or lawyers. So we brought in different kinds of professionals to talk about their work. There was one doctor, who was very honest. He said that studying medicine was the hardest thing he had ever done; that he wanted to quit many times. After that, only a few raised their hands when we asked who wanted to be a doctor.”

“We are doing one thing — girl’s empowerment — and given our model, we cannot expand beyond 300. We want to do a lot for a few instead of doing a little for a lot. ‘The Girl Effect’ is the best way to tackle the otherwise daunting list of problems in Guatemala like malnutrition, environmental degradation, or economic exclusion” Mr. Ning concluded.

If you want to mentor, volunteer or help children on a national or international level, click here for more information.

Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Health, Heart Song, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retirement Costs for Singles

B&A,

Recently someplace in one of your newsletters there was mention of a retirement destination, a kind of gentle paradise, without cell phones & the internet, snuggled in a lovely valley in South America. Can you tell me the name of the place?

And as an aside, I always enjoy your newsletters, but I could wish that more writers about retirement would consider single retirees more. This goes for financial publications as well.

Thanks,

Paul

Are you a single traveler? Click here for travel housing information and travel clubs.

Hi Paul,
Thank you for taking the time to write. We love to hear from our Readers.

I believe you are talking about Vilcabamba in Ecuador. (Take a look at our Ecuador Hotel and Travel information here. )

It’s hard to know how much has changed since we were last there in late 2005, but I’m sure internet and cell phone usage has found its way there in that little valley by now. Still, it’s worth seeing, as it’s a throw back in time. The hippies of the 1960’s and 70’s moved there, settled in with the natives and now their children are the young adults of the area.

You will find restaurants playing Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix and other such music in the little town and of course the hippie jewelry shops. The valley is gorgeous and peaceful. At the time we were there, real estate was booming because North Americans couldn’t believe the land prices and the vistas that came with them.

Your suggestion that we (and other financial/retirement sites) write more for the single traveler and retiree is a good one. We try to give the prices we pay for anything on our trips, food, travel, hotels and such – and in some regards, those prices wouldn’t be any different if one was single or traveling as a couple. The price of dinner, bus tickets, a spa membership or entrance to a museum would be the same no matter what. The difference is that the price of the apartment or hotel would only be covered by one person instead of divided by two.

Housing is one of the biggest expenses anywhere you might live or travel. That being said, you might take a look at our Housing Options Page which offers you different ways to solve the housing cost in retirement. Our Travel Housing Options Page also lists ways to find decent and affordable housing, hotels, apart-hotels, and rentals too.

Our Traveling Singles Page offers travel agencies, small tour group options, hostels and travel clubs for singles and those who want to travel in a small group.

So there really is a lot out there for you to take advantage of.

Hope these links help, and do feel free to write any time, Paul.

All the best,
Akaisha

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Q & A From our Readers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Investment Style and Active Adult Community

Billy, I saw your article regarding retirement and investing, pertaining to the 4% rule. I was wondering, you say its fairly simple to do your own investing for yourself, is the book a simple enough approach for the average guy to understand and apply without much risk?? I am not very interested in giving my broker 1% every quarter for the rest of my life. Please advise.

Thank you,

Chris  P.S. Where can I get a small house like yours in an adult community?

Hi Chris,

I understand about you not wanting to give your broker 1% per quarter when you can and should be doing this yourself. I address this in our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, and how we set up our portfolio back in the early 90’s when we retired.

Times have changed and so have we. We are now twenty years older and after going through the last/lost decade of returns, we are taking a more pro-active approach to our investments. Of course our plan is not for everyone and you need to define your risk tolerance. Your age and net worth should be part of this analysis.

You can do this yourself and your first step should be to read as much as you can. I am NOT talking about day trading, but educate yourself with any number of investment tools and how they interact. Besides our books, which by the way in The Possible Dream, 20 Years Later, we update our investment approach, I would suggest you take a look at Sy Harding’s interview. Write to him and tell him I sent you and he will send you a free copy of his newsletter. I respect his work. Sy keeps thing about as simple as you can get.

Active Adult Communities can be found all over the United States.

On our Housing Page you will find links to income tax friendly states, A Resource Page for Active Adult Community Living, Top Retirement Places and more.

It would help if you knew what you were looking for in terms of climate, size of town, and what is most important to you (entertainment options, what your cost of living preference would be, do you want to live in a university town, a country town, a larger city?). This narrows your search.

You can also Google Active Adult Communities and request information from most of the sites that come up and they will send it to your home. Or research their site online.

It starts with knowing what you want, what is most important to you, what your financial outlay can be, whether or not you want to own the land or lease it, and those sorts of things. Go from there.

I hope this information is useful to you. Feel free to write any time.

Best regards,

Billy

Posted in All Things Financial, Q & A From our Readers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Reader’s Commentary on Health Care in the U.S.

Hi guys,

I’ve been meaning to write to you since I read your piece on medical care in Guatemala.  Interestingly, I never considered Guatemala as a place to visit or spend a few months in until I read your piece.

My elderly mother, 87, has a fair number of medical conditions to deal with.  Last July she started having chest pains and a rapid heartbeat followed by a very slow heartbeat.  I called the EMT and they took her to the ER.  They released her and two days later the pains returned and this time she was admitted into the hospital.  After a few tests the cardiologists determined she needed a pacemaker and some meds to keep the heart from racing.

Okay, not so terrible.

Going to the hospital can be a traumatic event

She was there for nine days in what I thought was a normal room with nothing to indicate any special level of care. In fact, my mother and I found her care to be quite sub-standard and at times abusive.

To learn about health insurance options, private, national and international, click here.

I actually had a huge fight with a PA on the floor when she refused to attend to my mother when the alarm connected to her heart sounded for ten minutes.  I begged her to look at what was happening and she told me the nurse would do that.  The nurse wasn’t there and my mother’s heart was racing to over 160 bpm.  I screamed for help and the PA (Physician’s Assistant)told me she would call the guards to have me thrown out of the hospital.

Needless to say I wasn’t going to take that nonsense.

I called the CEO’s office of the hospital.  They promised me someone would come down to talk to me and although that never happened, they did switch PAs and the care was a bit better.

My mother has dysphagia, a swallow disorder and despite the signs above her bed warning that she needed all liquids to be thickened, she and I had to fight to get the thickening agent at her bedside.  They grudging gave her one or two little packets a day and when I asked for more they told me there was none available on the floor.  I suggested they call the dietary department to ask for more, but that was met with glaring and hostile remarks.

Pills, pills, pills

I’m telling you this story because when we got the bill from the hospital stating she owes a deductible of $350, the bill was itemized.  Apparently she was supposedly in an intensive care unit (I never saw any indication of that) and the cost of the room alone was $9,000 a day.  The total cost of the nine day stay was $170,000 and from what I’ve been told the cost of the insertion (a separate bill from the doctor’s office) was around $30,000, for a total of approximately $200,000.00.

I can tell you this is not an isolated incident.

For access to a health library, or to learn about nutrition, prevention and wellness click here.

 I’ve been caring for my two elderly and very sick parents for seven years now and my father was hospitalized many times when he was alive and my mother has been in hospital every year for the past few years, sometimes twice a year.  I suspect their medical bills easily topped a million, maybe more.

I can honestly say for the most part the care in all of those hospitals ranged from decent to substandard to downright abusive and neglectful.  The actual medical care was pretty good in all of those hospitalizations although sometimes I had to laugh when they suggested certain treatments.

Once a cardio guy called me to say he wanted to put a pacemaker into my father.  I asked him why he would consider doing that to a man in the end stages of Alzheimer’s.  He hung up on me and told my father’s doctor I was hostile and refused the pacemaker.

Once a psychiatrist called me from the hospital to say he had spoken to my father and he was hostile, uncooperative, and obviously had psychological problems.  I asked him if he knew my father was in end stages of Alzheimer’s and perhaps that was the problem.  He wasn’t pleased with my question and again reported to dad’s primary care doctor I was also hostile and uncooperative.

To find international dentists, clinics or Johns Hopkins affiliates, click here.

So, when I read your article about Guatemala and your experiences with the medical care system it led me to another path I might consider.  Mom is relatively stable now (after another horrible medical problem caused by hospital staff that almost killed her two weeks ago) and she wants to get out of here ASAP. Our finances are not so good, but I think we could easily afford to live comfortably in Guatemala to hang out, veg out and think about our next moves.

Health care delivery affects us all

It’s become impossible for me to think clearly here.  I’m stressed out and upset all the time.  I think we’ll try to get our lives here wrapped up as much as possible and head for Antigua so I can perfect my Spanish and hang out a little while.

Thank you for your great articles.  Believe me, I blocked them all out because of wanting to go elsewhere until I read the medical care piece.

Warm regards,

Ellen

NYC

Want to know about bio-nutrition, Naturopathic Doctors, sports medicine, preventative care or leading edge medical approaches? Click here.

Hi Ellen,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We always appreciate hearing from our Readers.Your first-hand stories about caring for your aging parents sound uncomfortably similar to some of the experiences we had of hospital stays and doctor care in the States, either for ourselves, siblings or for our own parents who have since passed on.

It is my firm belief that someone in the States who is receiving serious medical care needs a health care advocate to navigate them through the system. This was the position I found myself in more often than not. I would be sure my loved one received adequate attention in their hospital stay, I monitored the pharmaceuticals they were being administered, I accompanied them in their follow up appointments with the doctors, took notes, asked questions, picked up their prescriptions and waded through the massive paperwork from insurance and hospital offices that followed.

In our experience, the questions we asked doctors about the medications loved ones were receiving or the procedures that were recommended to them were not always received openly but were sometimes taken as an attack on their job performance. This was not our intention and I understand that doctors are often not questioned. However, neither Billy nor I are blind followers and we want to know what is going on around us and we deserve an explanation for care that we are paying for. We research side effects of medications and consider alternative approaches to health conditions. We have found that US doctors normally don’t look kindly on this involvement.

Patients unite for better care!

We have spent a good deal of time out of the U.S. and have therefore received medical attention in various places around the globe. These occurrences have afforded us a different perspective on receiving the “care” part of the health care equation. We are grateful for that perspective as it has solidified options for us. Instead of feeling that we have no choice but to pay exorbitant prices and deal with annoying attitudes, we know that we can receive quality care given by human beings to other human beings in a compassionate environment.

You mentioned moving to Guatemala. That would be an enormous change for you and your mother if neither of you have traveled before. However, that being said, there are numerous places in Latin America where one could live comfortably, regroup, get involved in the local expat and indigenous activities and allow yourself to enjoy your life without the intense focus of becoming bankrupt over receiving reasonably good health care. Guatemala has been advertising Medical Tourism options but of course, Mexico has good quality care also. We have friends who rave about Argentina, Chile and Columbia.

You may want to take a look at our Medical Tourism Page and see what appeals to you. There are some excellent companies listed there.

Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you and of course we wish you and your family the very best.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

Akaisha

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Health, Q & A From our Readers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected” Laws

As Angela has demonstrated, there are lots of reasons to house sit if you would like to add travel to your retirement lifestyle. Take advantage of what she knows by reading her points below.

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

Save $$$$

I’m not a cheap traveler. I like my luxuries too much and I don’t mind admitting it.

When I tell friends “Yes, I’ve camped,” it’s out of ear shot of my daughter. She always pipes up with, “Camp! A four poster bed, carpet and hot shower!”

Well, it WAS a tent, I assure you. I’m no prima donna – I’ve lived in many challenging places around the world, made do and survived, but I these days I want five star accommodations on a budget.

House sitting provides exactly that with no nasty bills on check out!

Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground info here.

No overcrowded holiday resorts

The kinds of resorts I want to stay in are painfully expensive. I don’t want crowds either. I’ve raised my children and don’t wish to holiday with the children of other people. No, I’m not a grumpy old woman, just a mature woman with a hearing level that’s very sensitive. I love a good party but like to go out to find it, not have it thrust upon me, especially when I’m trying to read a book or sleep.

House sitting gives me the choice to go out to find entertainment or to stay at home and enjoy my peace and quiet.

A house sit job in France

No Going “Home” to the Children

Do your children want you to come home to their houses? As much as we love them and they us, couple of days or even a weekend is great but longer… I think not. We get house sits near them and it’s great. We get to stay as long as we like and we don’t have to share anything we don’t want to; beds, bathrooms, kitchens, remote controls… What’s really good is, with the home owners’ permission, we can entertain them all, even look after the grandchildren, but we get to send them home when it’s time.

House sitting ticks all these boxes – we get to see our children and still maintain our privacy and quiet.

Sharing wonderful pets

We love animals and choose house sits where precious pets need us. What better way to spend time than giving TLC to pets who are missing their beloved humans and giving peace of mind to their absent owners? No need to go to the boring gym either. Three walks a day with a four legged companion is much more entertaining. It’s doggy soup for the soul. If you visit my website you can see some of the lovely pets I’ve shared my time and joy with.

House sitting brings animal joy into my life and I love that.

Pets add to the feeling of being at home

Making new friends

Home owners start out as “Clients” and invariably become friends. This is a really great way to connect with like-minded people. The world of house sitting is a growing community and embraces everyone who “moves in.” I speak both as a sitter and home owner who engages sitters from all corners of the world. I’ve made wonderful life-long friends through house sitting. When you’re a more mature nomad, making friends is sometimes more difficult.

House sitting opens both hearts and minds and making new friends isn’t optional.

Rewarding new “Career”

I’m a frustrated Professional. “Professional what?” you ask. Well, I’m professional at everything I do. I may be 60-something but I feel 21. My brain’s not caught up with my body yet! Like most people, I need to feel excited, motivated, useful, and still be able to contribute. Like most, I have the need and desire to use this amazing amount of knowledge, experience and skill I have doing something worthwhile.

House and pet sitting is my new career! I love it! In fact I love it so much, I’d do it for free – which of course is what I do – and, yes, I’m excellent at it. I approach each new sit as a professional would. My home owners deserve nothing less.

House sitting gives me “job satisfaction.”

Amazing choice of properties and locations

Wherever or whenever you want/need to go, you’ll find house sitting opportunities available. Any and every kind of accommodation is offered and any and every length of stay, from two or three days to a year or more. Just browse the listings.

All different sorts of houses and in many countries

House sitting provides the most amazing travel opportunities, all year round.

Deluxe Self-Catering

Imagine your home in a suitcase unpacked at the other end! Better still imagine your home is waiting for you at the other end. You can still cook, or not, do laundry, or not, barbeque, or not, have your own bedroom if you want. Freedom to do exactly what you want to do, freedom to go to a restaurant, because you want to and not because you have to.

House sitting is self-catering at its very best.

Explore local lifestyles

They say the best way to learn a language is to live in the country. The same applies to learning about a different town, city, country, or culture. The best way is to live in it. You don’t find “real” in the confines of a resort complex.

House sitting offers you the opportunity to become a “local.”

Save $$$$

Back to number one. No hotel bills, apartment or villa rentals, very often no expensive car rental. No overpriced restaurant food and the list goes on. My husband and I are retirees on a fixed income and house sitting is the only way we can travel as often and as far as we do.

Last year we traveled for seven and a half months across three oceans and on four continents all from the money we saved on accommodation, eating out, car rentals and more.

House sitting allows us to indulge in our passion for travel and we’ll keep on doing it until we have to hang up our House sitters hats.

Related Articles:

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Traveling? Find Someone to Look after Your Home and Pets Cost-Free

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

Packing Tips

Hi Akaisha and Billy,

As always, I enjoy your regular reports. We just returned from a trip to the Philippines, Thailand & Japan – not spending nearly enough time in any place. It was a great experience, but due (primarily) to the travel time and travel cost to and from the USA, we still think Mexico/Ajijic is our favorite retirement option.

Having just dragged a large suitcase and heavy backpack (each) through three countries. I would be interested to see how much you carry with you as you travel from one country to the next. I assume you’ve found ways to minimize what you carry. Any packing tips for our future travels would be appreciated.

Thanks, George

 Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground info here

Hi George,

Always great to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Yes, the travel time and expense to get to Asia from the U.S. is a deterrent, especially if one only stays a couple of months. That is one of the reasons when we go to the other side of the globe, we like to stay a year or more. This amortizes the cost of the plane fare over a longer period and we don’t have to worry about dealing with jet lag twice in such a short time.

Plus, once over to the Pacific Rim, there are so many fascinating countries to visit all within reasonable flying time. It’s easy to spend a year having so many options.

That being said, you are correct to say that Mexico/Ajijic offers a lot and is so much closer to the States. We love the Lake Chapala area also.

Now in regards to what we pack and how we limit what we carry, in our first book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement, we listed every item that we carry, and divided it into categories such as clothing, digital office, kitchen, first aid, and such. You can check out Chapter 22 for a more detailed list.

On trips of a year or more, we generally each carry a Kelty backpack, a day pack and a rollie. For shorter trips, we forego the rollie.

Obviously, having to pack for different climates (mountains, rain, snow, mist along with hot, humid, beach areas) adds to one’s weight to carry. We try to only do one sort of climate at a time. Otherwise, you are carrying heavy weight pants, sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, etc. to the beach and beach gear, shorts, and such with you to the mountains.

Color coordination and layering helps. Bring clothes that work together so that you are not carrying so many options. Plan on doing some laundry when you are traveling, instead of bringing all different outfits. Women can carry scarves and lightweight jewelry to change the look of an outfit they have previously worn.

Watch the number of shoes you decide to take. Shoes are incredibly heavy, so always wear your bulkiest pair on the plane. Try to bring only one other pair if you are able.

Jeans are favored by a lot of people, but they, too, are heavy and in cold, damp weather they take a long time to dry. Better to utilize some of the newer, lighter materials for travel clothing.

Hope this short list of tips helps and thanks for keeping in touch.

All the best,
Akaisha

Posted in About us, Q & A From our Readers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Traveling? Find Someone to Look after Your Home and Pets Cost-Free

Guest post by Rachel Martin of TrustedHousesitters.com 

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

An old conundrum

Planning a vacation or a longer trip away can throw up a few dilemmas.  Leaving your home empty could be a security issue and if you have pets, who will care for them?  Traditionally, homeowners would either leave their home empty putting their cats and dogs in kennels/catteries or pay for expensive house sitting services. However, today there is a more ideal solution. You can find a trusted house sitter – free of charge – who is willing to care for your home and pets while you are away, no matter if you leave for short or long periods of time.


Win-win solution

TrustedHousesitters.com offers hundreds of experienced house sitters who are happy to house sit in your area, with no charge to you.  It’s a win-win solution. The homeowner gets peace of mind knowing home and pets are cared for, and the house sitter gets a free retreat and the chance to love pets as if they were their own.

As a home and pet owner, there are stressful pet concerns and housing costs that you can’t ignore even if you leave on vacation.

House sitting is a win for the home owner and a win for the sitter

Pet stress

According to British Veterinary Surgeon Katie Blackburn, taking pets out of their home environment can be traumatic for both owners and pets, and it is well-documented that pets prefer to remain in their natural environment rather than in kennels. Cats in particular can get highly stressed when out of their natural environment, especially when put in close proximity to other cats. Having a house sitter will ensure that you’ll return to calm and contented pets.

Even if you do take pets to kennels, this can be a costly venture and can expose them to unwanted illnesses such as kennel cough. Sometimes finding an ideal kenneling facility locally can be a challenge.

Home security

Whether you live in Mexico, Costa Rica, the USA or anywhere else in the world, leaving your home empty can expose it to burglars. Having a house sitter is a great deterrent, and if your pets are staying at home, this can prove to be an impediment to thieves too.

Depending on where you live, insurance coverage can be void if you leave your home empty for 30 days or more.

For travel guides, tips, photos, packing lists, travel insurance and more click here

Home maintenance

Who will look after your plants and garden? Both indoor and outdoor plants are at risk of withering away if left without water for anything more than a few days. If you have a lawn that needs attention, it doesn’t take long before the grass grows and provides a natural advertisement to potential burglars that your home is empty.

Having a house sitter is also a perfect solution for keeping your second home in good condition. If your cottage or vacation home is left unattended for long periods of time, do you really want to spend your vacation time cleaning the house and maintaining your garden when you really just want to relax?

If you have a pet or love pets, this option is for you

Why impose on family or friends?

It used to be that you could ask a neighbor, a friend, or a family member to look after your home when you go away. But sometimes this can be an imposition, especially if you want to be gone for longer than a week or two. Having a person committed to caring for your home and pets enables you to come home to a spotless house, a happy pet and, more often than not, dinner waiting for you so you don’t have to cook after a long journey!

With a trusted house sitter, home maintenance issues – anything  from burst pipes to the air conditioner breaking down – can be dealt with efficiently so you can return to a fully functioning home with no surprise maintenance problems. This can make your entrance home from vacation a seamless event.

Choose your sitter or become one

Having to pay traditional style house sitting agencies can cost anything from $50-100 per day to look after your home and pets. Trustedhousesitters not only offers sitters that don’t charge, but you get to choose your sitter too.

Profiles of many experienced house sitters, including veterinary staff, retired police, magistrates, animal rescue centre workers, medics, retired FBI special agents and air force personnel as well as retired professionals keen to look after homes and pets to save on the cost of vacation accommodation are all available on site.

Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground info here

Hundreds of retirees who are happy to house sit long term may be looking for a cost effective way to enjoy their vacation time while you are looking for a dependable and experienced house sitter while you enjoy your own travels.

Homeowners can securely advertise and search for house sitters, read reviews from other house sitting assignments and relevant pet sitting experience. They can also view references, photos, video profiles and police check information to help give peace of mind.

House sitting provides a great solution for anyone needing to find an ideal sitter when they go away – they are also a fantastic resource for finding a wonderful and ideal retreat worldwide – the chance to visit a region or country that you may not have considered going to before.

We love the opportunity to care for people’s pets, as if they were our own.  It offers us a chance to live somewhere different, be part of a community and live like a local rather than the usual uninspiring hotel room.  It’s an added bonus to us to have pets to love, as we no longer have our own and the emotional attachment we develop gives us so much joy.  When we leave an assignment we always ensure there are fresh flowers in every room and Val prepares a wonderful meal for the owner’s return. – Ed and Val, seasoned sitters

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

Lodging and Local Happenings in Panajachel

Hi Akaisha and Bill

Enjoyed reading about your very pleasant-sounding stay on Lake Atitlan.

Would be interested to know about your living situation. Are you renting an apartment for this long stay? Is that easy to do there? Would you mind revealing how much you pay per month, and also if finding somewhere to live for a few months that has an internet connection is difficult. Thanks for any information on all this.

I’d love to hear how the expat community (and you?) are involved in local happenings!

My husband and I will be starting our world travels, open end, as of January 2013. (Exciting and a little scary too…………..)

Thanks for your help.

Stay well

Regina

Like to travel? Get our boots-on-the-ground experience here.

Hi Regina,

Thanks for taking the time to write. We appreciate it.

Lodging is easy to find here at Lake Atitlan. We are living in Panajachel and hotels, homes, and apartments are all available. It depends on what style of living you would prefer.

Other towns around the lake (each with their own distinct personality) also offer lodging of various sorts and you can find this information posted – usually at restaurants, cafe’s, and certain sundry stores. Or just ask around. Everyone is interested in renting out a unit to someone.

Pana offers natural beauty and social engagement

Apartments can run from $250USD a month to $800 a month + and homes are a bit higher – from $350 to $1,000 month +. Some include furniture, some don’t, but most will require you to pay for utilities and internet. Several hotels will allow you to live full time or for months on end and can provide you with an affordable monthly rate. Depending on the hotel, it can run $200 to $500++ per month. Some hotels will give you access to cooking facilities. These hotels and other accommodation are available all around the lake.

The positive about living out of a hotel room is that most will supply wifi connection, Cable TV, maid service and of course your linens. Some apartments and homes will require you to provide your own linens and your own cable connection and wifi. Dongles (a thumb-drive satellite internet connection) are available here and that will cost you about $100 a month, or you can visit an internet cafe.

Many places (hotels included) have lovely views of gardens, the volcanoes or the lake.

Gardens and pool are offered at this hotel

I can’t imagine being bored here at Lakeside. “Local happenings” include live jazz, salsa, and Latin music, indigenous cultural events, parades and markets among other things. Some expats start their own businesses producing honey, locally made coffee, or they open a cafe, a restaurant, a small specialty grocery store or an import/export business selling the high quality Maya weavings or beadwork.

Opportunities for volunteer work runs the gamut and is incredibly interesting. There are those who are working with the Maya midwives around the lake and are teaching the young midwives a combination of Maya healing techniques along with Western medicine nursing approaches. Teaching English as a second language, or helping to install solar coffee bean driersfor the indigenous, teaching locals about sanitation practices, or helping to install purified water systems or solar light bulbs to villages are all projects that are useful and satisfying.

Cross the lake for a different perspective

If volunteer work is appealing to you, this is an area of interest and a location where you can make your own mark because the need is great here. One young couple has a small organic farm from which they sell their vegetables and teach classes on sustainability.

Turning Trash into Beauty explains a volunteer training program to teach literacy and financial management to mothers in Guatemala City. While this one particular project is based in Antigua, the idea could be utilized anywhere there is a town or city garbage dump.

All of the above are only examples and there are dozens more.

I hope you find the information which I have offered you here to be of interest. Good luck, and do keep in touch.

Best,
Akaisha

Pana will offer you peace and projects

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Housing, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Q & A From our Readers, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment