Are You a Cruiser?

Years ago when Billy and I were working 80 hours a week at our restaurant, we would treat ourselves to cruising holidays through the Caribbean. We loved these vacations away from work and worry.

Cruising

Cruising is an exotic way to travel

These days one can go on cruise ships that will take you all over the world from Antarctica, South Africa, The Mediterranean, South America, Alaska or the Canadian Fjords. It doesn’t matter which season it is or what the weather is like at home, it’s always a good time to go cruising.

Because cruise ships offer so many activities to passengers, trips via ship work well for family reunions, weddings, or any sort of large gathering for celebration. Having assorted choices available of learning salsa dancing, seeing a Vegas-style performance, taking a culinary class, lying by the pool or spending the day being pampered at the spa, fill the various needs of family and friends, taking the burden off the host of the event.

Cruising

Activities for every age and interest

There are lots of reasons to go cruising. For one thing, all inclusive packages save you money. Once the ticket is purchased, you have your room, your meals and snacks, on board activities and entertainment all paid for. You don’t have several different hotels to call to confirm reservations, and you don’t have to drive to restaurants or fight traffic.

Some cruising companies offer Family Holiday packages where children under 18 cruise free. That’s a huge savings. And if your teenager wants his own spending money for his vacation on the ship, you can purchase a prepaid teen card which acts like a credit card but without any devastating monetary surprises.

The fact that you only have to unpack once and yet be able to see several exotic locations is another benefit to taking a cruise. You get yourself comfortable in your cabin or stateroom and leave the transportation to the captain and crew. Every morning could be a new destination, but you don’t have repack, load your car up and unpack again.

Cruising

Host an event or take a vacation on a cruise ship

Some cruise lines offer theme style cruises where you can meet people who share your same interests. They might be an educational cruise, one on finances and investing, wine and food, photography or architecture and history. Finding those of like mind and sharing these adventures together can be the basis for new friendships developing.

Cruising has come a long way from where only the super rich could enjoy the experience. Now, cruise lines are geared to attract all age brackets, financial levels and individual interests.  

What sort of cruise might you like to take?

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Spending My Retirement Helping Others

Akaisha,

Where is the least expensive place I can retire and live like a king and help the people and children of that area? I have retired and am looking to maybe do like you all did for a while. Travel around for low dollars and live well with people.

Gabe

  Volunteer. Change a life!

Hi Gabe,

Congratulations on your retirement! Wow! Good for you!

There are literally dozens and dozens and dozens of places you could go and “live like a king” while helping other people.

Akaisha with hill tribe children, Thailand

I think it would help if you clarified certain things like:

* Would this place be a temporary stop over or are you looking for a permanent location? It’s hard to make a permanent decision when you won’t really know a place until you live there for a time, going through all your seasons. Or maybe you would like to live in various places until you find the one that grabs your heart.

* Weather. That’s pretty important for the long run. If you like hot and humid, Asia, the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or even Belize) or the Philippines would be excellent choices. If you like cooler or more temperate weather, Mexico, Ecuador, and certain places in Central America would be good choices.

Billy built new tennis courts in Chapala, Mexico

* Do you want to do a project on your own with your own funding? Or would you rather join an organization which already has things set up? We just recently met a woman who has an organization that has been going to Haiti for decades. (talk about need! Take a look here: Colorado Haiti Project)

We lived in Chapala, Mexico for years, and did our own projects – Billy worked with the city to build tennis and volleyball courts (Tennis Court Construction, Light, Tennis, Action! Tennis and Volleyball Courts) and I taught English as a second language to kids, built a handmade note card business where I utilized local labor and taught them how to do this, and I also taught massage for free to anyone who wanted to learn.

Akaisha teaching Thai massage to locals in Mexico

There is need everywhere, Gabe. You won’t find a shortage, believe me.

Here in Guatemala we have seen volunteer groups set up clean water sources for the Maya villages in the mountains. Others are putting together solar coffee bean driers made out of painted soda pop cans, and another group is bringing in a method of solar light to homes using plastic liter soda bottles (See Liter of Light Programs)

You could check with your local contacts (Church groups, charity groups, University volunteer programs) or check our Volunteer Page for ideas and how to contact organizations that are already doing these things. Of course, you could always do a Google Search on the topics that most interest you like bring clean water or mentor in Central America or Expat Volunteer Groups– anything like this.

Billy sharing computer photos with hill tribe family, Thailand

Would you want to utilize the products of local labor and export them? Would you like to teach locals a new trade or skill so they would be more employable? Would you like to build schools or medical clinics?

Once you get started the opportunities expand exponentially. Then you just choose what interests you most. Cost of living in these locations is far lower than in the States and you may also find that over time, you will “need” less as well.

Indigenous woman selling silk weavings, Laos

Please, if you have any questions or want to know more, write and let me know. In some cases I could give you an email introduction, let you know about available medical care, tell you about climate of an area, or help you in some other way to get connected.

With your talents and experience, Gabe, you will be in great demand just about anywhere. And I know that you apply yourself so you will turn this into another great opportunity for everyone.

Keep in touch,
Akaisha

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Affordable Beach Places to Stay in Mexico

Billy,

What is the affordable top three places to stay near the beach in Mexico?

Thanks,

Phil

Hi Phil,

Thanks for writing.

Your question about the most affordable places to stay near the beach in Mexico is a little more complex than you might think on the surface.

First, it depends on the sort of beach experience you prefer. If you enjoy resort style living with para-sailing and jet skiing opportunities and drinking, dining and dancing in the evenings that is one sort of beach. If you like undeveloped beaches with not much more than the beach itself, body surfing, some palapa restaurants for great seafood and maybe hire a local for a boating excursion, that’s another style.

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In either case, what you pay for lodging has a lot to do with what you will spend for your time there at any beach. If you have a middle-to-top-of-the-line room, and eat where the tourists eat, those two categories will affect your budget substantially.

We tend towards simple, undeveloped style beaches and we like to stay in clean rooms with a view if possible, without resort style activities, the crowds and noise. We eat where the locals eat not in tourist locations.

So, with all of that in mind, I would say our favorite locations tend to be on the Mexican Pacific Coast . We especially enjoy Caleta de Campos with its wide expanse of beach and delicious seafood. San Juan de Lima is also very beautiful, but the town is pretty undeveloped. Zihuatanenjo has a LOT more going on and while it is more touristy, you can find quieter sections of town, restaurants in any category, and plenty to keep you from getting bored.

Another one of our favorites is Zicatela Beach, part of Puerto Escondido. But please note that this beach is going through dramatic changes leaning towards the cutesy touristy towns/expensive offerings. You can still find reasonably priced lodging and lots of food options. The waves are terrific for body surfing.

La Manzanilla, Melaque and Tenacatita on the Coasta Allegre are some nice beaches also. They have gotten developed somewhat, bringing higher costs, but you can still find some quieter places in that area.

It has been too long since we have visited Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan for me to give you any current information, but we enjoyed both those beaches immensely. We stayed in the older, colonial section of town in Mazatlan which was close to the beach, and we paid $5 a night for our hotel. Today, that same room with Wifi access runs about $12 a night when you stay multiple nights.

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We just spent some time in Tulum, in the Yucatan Peninsula. The beach there is the classic Caribbean style beach with turquoise water and talcum powder white sand. There is still very affordable lodging available and some good eateries in town. The restaurants on the beach are more expensive but still delicious if you are deciding to spend the day at water’s edge.

I hope this helps you a little bit. Mexico is a huge country and worth exploring. We have lived there off and on since 1993 and we are still discovering locations we enjoy.

We wish you all the best,

Akaisha

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First Hand Account – Feb. 6th Earthquake in Cebu, Philippines

A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

On Monday afternoon, February 6, 2012 at 11:49 AM, there was an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 centered about 100 kilometers from Cebu City. This is a city of about a million people located near the center of the country of the Philippines on the island of Cebu and it is where I am currently living.

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The earthquake was closer to several other smaller population centers where it caused more destruction. With no active faults nearby, damage was minimal in Cebu City itself, which is not normally prone to earthquakes. This is about as bad as it gets – which is to say, not really that bad.

Geography protects Cebu

There are other nearby islands and larger islands further off which enclose Cebu island. This and the fact that Cebu Island is long and narrow reduces the probability of dangerous tsunamis here.  This current earthquake happened off the other side of this mountainous land mass.

Travis earthquake

Tsunami destruction FOR EXAMPLE ONLY NOT OF CEBU

Safety measures taken

People were predictably and justifiably frightened after the earthquake, and most big buildings were wisely evacuated as a precaution. Around noon one could see many employees milling around the streets, especially in front of big buildings.  Most malls were not allowing more people in as a precaution.  There were a couple of milder aftershocks.

About an hour after the earthquake, things were returning to normal, and employees were reentering the big buildings.  Almost everyone understood the magnitude of the earthquake and where it was located.

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There was a tsunami watch issued right after the quake as a precaution, but it was canceled by 2:00p.m. The alert said no evacuation of coastal areas was needed, just keep an eye out.

Delayed panic, false rumors

The strange part happened next.

Just after 2:00 p.m., over 2 hours AFTER the earthquake, panic gripped the entire city.

People were receiving text messages of a tsunami having overtaken parts of Cebu City. If you understand Filipino culture, you know that text messaging is almost the major method of communication here, almost on a par with talking face to face. False rumors started spreading.  Others claimed to have seen the tsunami and started running inland. People all over the city began running away from the ocean, many of them barefoot having lost their sandals or taken them off so they could run faster.

Travis earthquake

Panicked people FOR EXAMPLE ONLY NOT OF CEBU

Trying to gain perspective

My hotel is located about 2 kilometers from the ocean.  I noticed people screaming and running in the alley where my hotel is, about 50 meters off a major road.  I went out to see the commotion. People said a tsunami was on its way!

So I went and turned on my TV. Nothing.

I looked on the internet. Nothing.

I went to the roof of my four story building, and there was no water approaching. This panic, with the timing so long after the quake – which was not a major quake and centered on the other side of the island – made absolutely no sense to me. So I just stayed put and figured this was a false alarm.

Naturally, I also felt pretty safe being so far inland.

Terror prevents seeing the truth

But the truth didn’t seem to matter.

People all over the city literally ran for the hills.  This was happening a full 2.5 hours after the earthquake.  If there were a tsunami, it would have hit minutes after the quake.  I got text messages that certain parts of town were underwater (including parts I knew would not be underwater even in a real tsunami because they were too high and too far inland).

I received texts that EMall and ACT University, located about 1 kilometer from the ocean, were flooded. Later, we talked with the guards who said people were pleading to enter these buildings so they could go to the upper floors.  The guards sent someone to the roof of the 10 story building to look out with a periscope before allowing people in.  However, they saw nothing but calm seas.

Travis earthquake 4

People can fear the unreal FOR EXAMPLE ONLY NOT OF CEBU

Residual fear and looting

Cars were abandoned on the streets as some motorists fled. Markets more than a kilometer inland were left abandoned and goods were stolen in their owner’s absence. Whole work groups of professionals fled buildings and were running for their lives from an imaginary tsunami.

I have to admit, this is one of the most bizarre incidents I have ever encountered.  Even by late afternoon, many people who had fled numerous kilometers inland on foot, refused to believe that there was not a tsunami and were scared to return.

And yet, there was no tsunami. There was no surge, no somewhat big wave…

Just nothing.

It was all a fantasy and rumors fed by false text messages and false beliefs.

Making the best of a bad situation

I took the opportunity to work out at the running track downtown, an area that many thought was underwater. Usually it is crowded, but I got to work out with almost no other people there, because they were scared off by a tsunami that never happened.

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There were articles about this panic in the paper on Tuesday, the day following the quake. I read that the panic ultimately caused more damage to daily life than the earthquake itself. Authorities were seeking some individuals for prosecution for spreading false rumors.  Other officials want to revamp a sort of Emergency Broadcast System of some type.

While life here in the Philippines may be confusing sometimes, at least it isn’t boring…

T.

Travis earthquake 5

The big wave that never happened

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Our Readers Worry About Medical Insurance

Dear Akaisha and Billy,

We are looking at retiring in a few years and believe we will be comfortable with our savings.  However, the one area that has me worried is medical insurance.  What information can you give us in that area.

Thank you!

Have a Great Day!
Dave and Coleen

Hi Dave and Colleen,

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

Health care is a big issue for many retiree hopefuls. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and with the administration of health care in such flux in our nation right now it’s hard to know what the future might bring.

We have written on this topic fairly extensively, both in The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and also in Your Retirement Dream IS Possible. We take a different tack in that we promote Medical Tourism as an affordable and viable option.

You can take a look at our Health Page on our blog for some insight into this topic. Also our Preferred Links Pages have 4 Medical Pages one of them being Medical Tourism that will link you to hospitals, clinics, dental clinics, translators and businesses who will take you door to door if you want their help.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

We fully realize that this idea would not appeal to many people, especially with growing families and a full work and school schedule, but for retirees who do not want to carry a policy that costs them thousands of dollars a month this is a workable option. Billy and I have seen and used good medical care in Mexico, Guatemala and in Thailand and feel comfortable with this approach.

More and more businesses and countries are setting themselves up to take advantage of the health delivery crisis in the States by offering affordable services.Regardless of what you choose to do, it is good to be aware of this alternative.

Hope you find this information useful. Feel free to write any time.
Best to you both,
Akaisha

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Meet Two Mexican Road Warriors

We often get mail from our readers expressing concerns and curiosity about driving in Mexico and what it’s like to own a car here. Doubts about safety are often first on their list.

While we have moved into being Car Free, Lynne Metcalf and her physician husband, Bernie, are true roadsters, and have a completely different travel style than Billy and I do.

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Meet two road warriors

Originally from Arizona, Lynne and Bernie have lived in Chapala for three years. They began visiting the area when their business partners and friends moved here eight years ago and decided they liked it so much, they would make the move themselves. But they weren’t strangers to Mexico. They knew Puerto Penasco (otherwise known as Rocky Point, a popular vacation destination of U.S. visitors) years ago when it was just a stretch of beach and nothing more.

Crossing the Mexican border twice this year alone, they log thousands of miles on the roads of Mexico in their Toyota Highlander visiting well-known archeological sites as well as small villages to get the real flavor of Mexico.

Mexican Road Warriors

The Metcalf’s 35 ft. 5th wheel with garage to hold motorbikes

Freedom is paramount

“No tours for us” Bernie says emphatically. They like the freedom, privacy and spontaneity that having their own vehicles allow them. Aside for one time when they had a flat driving through Mexico, they have never had vehicle trouble while on the road.

Mexican Road Warriors

Lynne on her motorcycle, riding through northern Arizona

“Six men came out of nowhere in the mountains and helped us with our flat. I was pulling a small trailer at the time and my little car jack couldn’t lift up the car far enough for me to change the tire. After assessing the situation, the men went back into the woods, and returned with a railroad tie that had a slanted broken place on the end. Although my Spanish is limited, they instructed me to drive my car over that slanted edge and we used it as a fulcrum and got my tire changed. Incredible experience. Mexicans are very creative thinkers.”

Angels on the road

“The Green Angels are everywhere on the roads of Mexico. We have never had to utilize their services, but we see them all the time,” says Lynne.

Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism provides roadside and tourist help through a fleet of trucks known as the Green Angels which passes by a location on a major highway at least twice a day. They aid drivers in need, offering repair, tow truck service and medical assistance throughout their patrol area. These utility trucks carry spare gasoline, diesel fuel, and miscellaneous car parts. While service is free, you will need to pay for parts and a tip is always appreciated.

Stress

But isn’t having your own vehicle stressful? What about finding gas stations, reading road signs in Spanish and very importantly, how do you keep your ‘stuff ‘ safe overnight?

Mexican Road Warriors

Bernie with his bike on one of his many motorcycle trips

My inexperience with cars and using this style of travel didn’t faze Lynne and Bernie in the slightest.

“Gas stations are everywhere, and since the government owns them, prices are the same at each station. There’s no need to go scouting around for the best deal.” Bernie says matter-of-factly. “Years ago we memorized the universal shape of signs to know what they mean.”

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“And we always travel with a Spanish-English dictionary. If we don’t know a word we look it up on the spot,” adds Lynne.

Advice from the masters

The Metcalfs seek out hotels that offer parking, and they always bring their valuables inside nightly. If they stop for a meal along the way, they choose a public place with lots of traffic in which to park, such as in front of a Cathedral or Plaza, they lock their vehicle doors, and cover their belongings to keep them out of sight.

They make it sound so easy, don’t they?

When I asked for advice to others who are considering bringing a car to Mexico, both the Metcalfs stressed not to purchase a new luxury car. “If you don’t bump, scratch and dent the car, someone else will,” Lynne maintains. “Sometimes there will be trees overhanging the roads, or a sign that is lopsided and while your eyes may be on the road, you car can take the beating.”

We discussed the current unfavorable view of Mexico in the news North of the Border. Right now, people seem very afraid to visit Mexico due to the prominence of reporting of the drug gangs. I asked if they could offer any other safety tips.

Mexican Road Warriors

Lynne in Acapulco

“So much of this is common sense, “ Bernie states. “You must know where you are, and what you are doing. You don’t put your fat wallet in your back pocket with money hanging out, you don’t open it up and flash cash.”

“No glitzy jewelry, no walking the street in the wee morning hours wearing skimpy clothing, half-crocked” says Lynne.

“You simply do not put yourself in a bad situation. Smart people don’t even get there! Take advantage of the obvious clues,” Bernie warns.

Princesses won’t survive

In ending our enlightening conversation, I asked each of them if they had any closing thoughts they would like to share.

“I have found it helpful to have a wash-and-wear attitude living in Mexico,” Lynne advises. “Princesses don’t belong here.”

“Another good thing about having your own vehicle in Mexico is that you can take your pet along on your travels. We’re looking forward to bringing our dog, Gypsy, with us soon,” Bernie stated with a wide smile.

Metcalf Road Tips

1. Keep your papers current and bring them with you when you travel.Although Lynne and Bernie have only been stopped once and asked for papers, they advise that you bring all travel documents, including those for your car with you. Have duplicates made and place them elsewhere in your luggage.

Mexican Road Warriors

Bernie with Guanajuato, Mexico in the background

2. Use the Cuota Roads whenever possible. These roads have less traffic and are in better condition than the free roads. Smaller roads will tend to have speed bumps (called topes here) so continuously, that the joy of travel can be affected.

3. Don’t drive at night. The conditions of the roads are hard to see in the dark, but most importantly, you can come upon cows, donkeys, horses or other animals and won’t have the time to stop, thereby endangering your lives. This fact is something to take seriously.

4. Invest in a Guia Roji.  This map guide of roads in Mexico is available on Amazon or in any large store here in Mexico. This will give you an idea of the way roads are laid out in this sizeable country.

5. Consider using the “Auto Hotels” in Mexico. These are hotels spaced along the highways and your time there can be purchased by the hour. The Metcalfs recommend these hotels for their affordable 150-200 Peso nightly price, the fact that they are very clean, and most importantly, they offer an inside garage where your souvenirs and personal belongings will be safe from theft.

Thanks Lynne and Bernie for taking your personal time to share your travel style and road wisdom with our Readers!

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Move to Mexico? $2k a Month?

Dear Billy & Akaisha,

My wife and I have become enamored with the idea of moving to Progresso, MX when we are retired (5 more years for me). We are very much homebodies, that like to eat the local cuisine when we travel. Mexico has always been one of our favorite places.

Naturally we would rent first to ensure this is where we would like to relocate to. Our preference would be to live on the beach as opposed to living in Merida or another large city, nightlife is not a factor. We really enjoy each other’s company and don’t need to be entertained..

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I have been reading extensively about Mexico for the past few years, so I’m comfortable with the healthcare, shopping and home buying aspects of this move. My wife does have a hard time believing the statements about living well for $2,000.00 a month though.

We would appreciate very much any input from you regarding Progreso.

Thanks and happy travels,
Trevor and Carrie

 

Hi Trevor and Carrie,

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

Billy and I visited Progresso earlier this year.  There is an Expat Community there but we didn’t stay long enough to really check it out thoroughly.

The area of Progresso where we wandered around is was fairly touristy with prices reflecting that focus. We could easily have gotten items (lunch, a beer, a massage, souvenirs) at half the price at other locations in Mexico. But just like any place, once you get to know the ins and outs of your location, you find the best places to buy your staples.

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Unless you have your heart set on Progresso, you might try researching other beach locations like Tulum (where you can purchase a brand new condo for $25k USD) or Caleta de Campos, Puerto Escondido or even Zihuatanejo.

Your idea of renting first to be sure you like a location is excellent. There is nothing like living in a town to determine whether or not you would want to be there full time. And once you get into the swing of things, your options open up. Not making a permanent choice for the location of your retirement home right off the bat is a good thing. Take your time.

RE: living on $2,000 a month – of course that is entirely up to you. It is absolutely possible however, the more you try to import an encumbered life from North of the Border to Mexico, the more money you will spend to maintain it.

Remember the categories of highest spending are housing, Transportation, Taxes and Food. If your $2,000 a month budget is eaten up by your house obligations, your car maintenance, insurance and fuel and your desire for eating in only Gringo locations, you will not have any money left over for travel, entertainment, gifts or anything else.

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And of course, those choices are entirely up to you. If you are keeping your Cost Per Day average current, you will know in what categories you must cut back, if you want to keep that goal of $2k a month.

Stay flexible and open minded and you will find that you can manage that amount per month easily without feeling any hardship.

I hope this information helps you and please do feel free to write any time with your questions.

Best,
Akaisha

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The Benefits of Fear

No one enjoys being afraid. But I bet you have never considered that you can capitalize on this uncomfortable feeling.

benefits of fear

You can reap benefits from this uncomfortable emotion

Wake up!

Some emotions can be disquieting, jarring us from an absent minded focus on our lives – anger, fear and grief are such emotions – but none of these feelings are a waste of time. Not if you know how to utilize them to your benefit.

Fear wakes us up and tells us to reorder our priorities. Without fear, perhaps we would remain snug in a situation, not paying attention to an area of our lives that is getting away from us.

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Another choice

The common reactions to fear are fight, flight or freeze. You can get angry that your portfolio has diminished in these turbulent markets and blame the government, your broker, or your spouse. Maybe you pretend that your expenses are not out of control, nothing uncomfortable is happening and everything will work out for the best one way or another. Or you might want to avoid looking at your 401k statements and your credit cards when they come in, because you feel immobilized and you don’t know what to do.

But there is another choice. You could pay attention to what is going on in your life, the choices you have made financially and personally, and make a change.

Gift of fear 2

Fear offers us gifts if we are willing to look

The gifts of fear

Fear is here to help you take notice that something isn’t working.

It is a lifesaving gift.

If you have found yourself afraid of your financial future, try a couple of these suggestions to get yourself moving.

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Look at your expenses

Where could you cut down or trade off in your financial outlay? Could you bicycle to the store on occasion instead of driving your car? Could you pack a lunch a few days a week instead of going out each day? Pare down on your cable channels?  Stop a subscription? Spend less for a gift? Buy a gourmet coffee treat once or twice less a month?

Gifts of fear 3

Prioritizing and rearranging are powerful tools

Take a look at where your money goes and see where you can save. Add up the savings amounts then go back and look through your list again.

What can you rearrange?

Do you have an extra room in your home?

Could you consider a student or a roommate as a source of extra income and to share expenses? If your home is located near Mayo Clinic or a famous hospital, it could be a godsend to someone whose loved one is hospitalized or receiving weeks of care. Does your home town have tourist attractions nearby? Tourists often want to be close to natural features or cultural events at a better cost than vacation lodging and this could be a rewarding way to meet new people.

Gift of fear 4

Your home could be a source of income

With a little thought and preparation, your spare room could offer you more than a storage location.

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Car options

What you pay for your vehicle maintenance, repair and fuel is in the top 4 categories of any household expense.

Gift of fear 5

Carpool or share-a-ride

Perhaps you could carpool a few days a week, share car expenses with a neighbor or friend or join a carshare group in your town. This idea has been catching on for years now and offers you ways to save considerably in this area of your financial outlay.

Take a moment

Before chucking any of these ideas out of hand, consider your possibilities. Feeling stuck is a side effect of fear and you don’t have to give in to it.

Fear is asking you to reorder your priorities and if you want to move forward with your life, even a tiny step is better than none at all.

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Single Traveler Lodging Question

Hello Billy and Akaisha,

I’ve had a brief look through your guide so far and one thing that caught my eye was that you appear to have both couchsurfed and stayed in hostel dorms.

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I’ve been essentially travelling for three years now myself and have stayed in private rooms in hostels, but never shared sleeping space. However, a while back I found myself sharing an apartment with a young female American backpacker. And then, on a recent trip to Eastern Europe with a friend, we found ourselves sharing a sleeper on a Ukrainian train with a couple of locals.

Both experiences were positive. So now I’m thinking maybe I should occasionally try sleeping in a dorm, or couchsurfing. Saving money would be handy, but the social aspect I think would be the big thing, particularly as I’m single and usually travel alone.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Regards,

Mike

Hi Mike,

While Billy and I travel together and have each other’s company to share, we often see singles sharing sleeping quarters in one fashion or another. Billy and I have done the same when circumstances call for it — when rooms are filled up in hotels, or like you say, sleeper cars on trains that hold 4 people. In Europe and in Mexico we utilized pensions which gave us private rooms, but was a social situation in the kitchens.

Fellow travelers provide a wealth of information and single travelers seem to be used to that exchange and actually rely on it.

We have a Travel Housing Options Page which you might find useful.

Not every shared housing or sleeping arrangement works out to be noise-free or compatible but I suppose that is part of the traveler’s story. We have good friends who swear by Couch Surfing even if they don’t sleep over but rather meet someone for a cup of coffee or lunch. It’s an easy way to make a quick connection with a local to get insight and tips on a new location.

These types of social networks offer a lot for the single traveler. Take a look at our Single Traveler page for some ideas. The good news is that the number of these traveling networks seem to be expanding.

Hope this helps, Mike. Enjoy your travels!
Best,
Akaisha

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Turning Trash into Beauty

Creamos means “Let’s create” and “We believe” in Spanish

One of the many benefits of being financially independent is being able to choose what to do with your time. Billy and I love living with the locals all over the globe, and opportunities for volunteer projects are obvious and diverse.

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While living at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, we heard about a particularly successful endeavor and wanted to share it with our readers.

Emily Coffin is the coordinator of Creamos, a labor of love in Guatemala City.

Creamos

A mother studies with her child close by

Out of the dump

Twenty-five women, who used to make a living scavenging in the municipal garbage dump, have been able to start their lives over again and escape the poverty of their past. They do this by turning trash into treasure. Recycled materials such as chip bags, pop tops and old magazines are donated by local schools and businesses or collected by the women themselves. These assorted pieces of tossed scrap are turned into wearable art, and finished off with shop-bought beads and clasps, then sold at events, in participating stores and Creamos’ own shop, which is staffed by members of the project.

Working at the garbage dump took mothers away from their families from sunrise to sunset and endangered their lives by breathing the toxic fumes rising from the piles of garbage. Today through Creamos, these women make up to 3 times the amount they would have made by working in the city garbage dump, they have flexible working hours and it’s safe. The extra income greatly supplements their lives.

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Guatemalan women working at Creamos

The mothers, who all live close to the project, study for two hours a day and then create their jewelry at home. This schedule provides flexibility in caring for their children.

Not only that, but the women also receive free day care for their children, access to a medical clinic, two meals a day and classes on nutrition and financial planning.

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Changing their financial lives

There are fraudulent lending schemes in Guatemala and due to illiteracy, many people fall prey to signing deceitful contracts, placing them in severe debt. This ruins their chances to save money and plan for their future. Creamos set up an internal saving plan, which allows members to deposit any amount from their paycheck and draw upon it when needed.

“It’s been really exciting to see. One woman was even able to save up enough money to pay off her debts and open up a real bank account,” says Coffin.

This small crafts workshop has quickly become an independent business, which recently started exporting goods to the U.S.

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Trash to treasure

In order for the women to participate in Creamos, there are requirements. The jewelry business is an application of both the math they are taught and the literacy they are learning in the classroom. Every jewelry creator must calculate the price of their bangle, earring and necklace based on established formulas. The members receive training in entrepreneurship, sales and personal finance. They also broaden their abilities to work together by conducting peer reviews of their work and they manage quality control of the products they sell.

“Almost all of these women are survivors of domestic violence and aren’t used to voicing their opinions, so it’s great to see them feeling confident enough to say what they think,” states Coffin.

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If it ever crossed your mind that you could be bored in retirement, the idea of volunteering or mentoring would easily erase any concerns you might have. Your talents and expertise are welcome in hundreds of locations worldwide.

Teach. Learn. Give.

Inspired? Take a look at our Volunteer Page to find locations and organizations where you can give of your expertise.

Emily Coffin is the coordinator of Creamos. Meet the mothers at Creamos by clicking here

Take a look at some Creamos jewelry here

Posted in Heart Song, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments