Confessions of a World Traveler

On occasion we meet people who say “I could never live the life you live; Traveling all the time, not having a permanent home, missing out on families and holiday celebrations…” Sometimes it’s hard to read their faces and I have tired of justifying our lifestyle.

One perfect way to live?

I believe that every manner of living has tradeoffs. There is no one perfect way to live that doesn’t challenge you in one way or another. Having children is rewarding but it’s not paradise-on-earth. While pursuing the career of your choice brings great fulfillment, there are other sides to life too. Building community is both grounding and gratifying and so is meeting ourselves in continuously new situations where we must think on our feet.

Billy and I happen to enjoy vagabonding around the world, getting involved with the local populations, seeing the world first hand from various different perspectives. In turn, our own personal views have widened and brightened. This is not to say that there aren’t times where we must “buck up” and meet the imperfections of Life. It would be naïve to think that it would be any other way.

Confessions

Hill Tribe woman in Changdao, Thailand

I should never have been a world traveler

For being a world traveler, I have particularly unhelpful personal failings. For instance, I get motion sickness on buses, trains, planes, boats or in cars. Believe it or not, I can become seasick while bodysurfing if the waves are too forceful!

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But because my desire to see the world is greater than my need to give in to this annoying physical dilemma, I take my Dramamine or modify my behavior when required. I don’t allow the illness to rule my life entirely.

On top of this – and this is acutely embarrassing – I am directionally challenged. I get my rights and lefts mixed up continuously and could get lost in a paper bag. It is not until I become somewhat familiar with a location that I can navigate a town by myself. After too many turns, I am hopelessly discombobulated and must surrender to my situation. This has been a long standing life-condition, yet I still manage to get the groceries at local indigenous markets and to find my way home.

Confessions

Hopping into a songthew in Chiangkhong, Thailand

It’s hard to have everything at once

I was speaking with a friend the other morning about how completely satisfying my life is on the one hand, yet I have these “holes” on the other. I told her my life is like a chunk of Swiss Cheese; Sweet, solid, and satisfying but not without its spaces.

I’m ok with that.

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The holes give my life character and contrast and these are the places where I seek out family and friendships to fill in those hollows. My loved ones have the homes, the festivities based on calendar events like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Many of them have pets, children, grandchildren and gardens. And I love all of it.

When I visit, I dive in doing household projects like painting bathrooms, shaping plants, and cooking meals for a dozen people. On these occasions my hosts love my enthusiasm and I love being able to contribute and join in with abandon.

Confessions

Indigenous people in Cuenca, Ecuador

Always an adaptation

I like my life.

A lot.

I wouldn’t say that even with my Swiss cheese approach that I am profoundly missing or craving anything that I don’t have. It’s been an exchange of one thing for another, and I have adapted to my decisions.

I would imagine that the choices you have made for your own life expression have suited you as well. There’s a trick to finding just the right balance to living the life you love.

Decisions to have “this” rather than “that” can cause a melancholy – but only if we let it. The distinctions of our life expression as compared to someone else’s are what make sharing exciting and friendships bloom.

It would be boring if we were all the same, and I thank the heavens that we are not.

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More on the #1 Biggest Retirement Fear

 

As I mentioned in a previous post: Health care issues are the #1 biggest fear retirees have according to an AARP study recently released.

Looking for options

But how many people look to their options? It’s easy (and unproductive) to sit back and worry: Do I have enough money? What if I get sick? What about Long Term Care Insurance? Maybe I should just work another 10 years just to be sure. But are we ever sure? What kind of guarantees has Life offered you?

Something new

While some reject unfamiliar possibilities out-of-hand because it doesn’t fit their “health care model” or is something new, others are stretching their comfort zones and finding solutions. Which will you be?

For more information on Retirement Issues, click here

Examples

I just got a notice today from a famous wellness clinic and hospital located in the Baja California called Sanoviv. This highly esteemed medical institute is offering 20% off their assessment and treatment programs including cardio health and neurological repair. Have you received such money-saving notices from your doctor’s office or the clinics you now visit?

Some people believe that if they receive a diagnosis of arthritis that this is a progressive disease and there is nothing they can do but delay the inevitable. What if that isn’t true? What if you knew that there are people getting permanent relief from arthritic symptoms wouldn’t you want to find out more?

If you suffer from back, knee, hip, ankle or any joint pain, the Prolotherapy Institute offers an alternative to surgery. You could be one of the people this treatment helps. Why not inform yourself about it today?

Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, ALS and Stroke are all being successfully treated with Adult Stem Cells. Returning Hope is an organization that brings patients together with doctors who provide safe and effective stem cell therapy in Asia. You can receive a free consultation or find out answers to your questions.

Information such as this and more is available on our Medical Alternatives Page. Search out your options now.

 

More on number one fear

The broad horizons of your future

 For related articles, click here

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The Number One Retirement Fear

Health care issues are the #1 biggest fear retirees have according to an AARP study recently released.

Can you afford to retire?

The cost of care and the ability to stay healthy through retirement seems to offer the biggest challenge for most potential retirees. Experts claim one will need an extra $200-$300,000 to pay just for health care. That is not only a scary thought, but those amounts could delay or prevent many people from retiring.

You have options

What if there was another option?

It would be wonderful to go to the corner clinic and get what you need at affordable prices. Or to visit a medical facility and actually have a a full hour of appointment time with the doctor to yourself. Or even to be able to have the financial means to pay for a hip replacement, a full physical with X-rays and blood work, or a colonoscopy, eye glasses and dental care straight out-of-pocket.

What if you could do that today?

You can.

You are not alone

Tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians are already looking to Medical Tourism as an alternative to the high costs or excessive wait times in their native countries and are looking to places such as Thailand, India, Singapore, Costa Rica, Mexico or even Eastern Europe for solutions. Boomers more than any other age group are seeking medical care overseas to address health needs such as orthopedic procedures, cancer care and alternative treatments for chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes and age related conditions.

Currently there are seven million Americans and Canadians living abroad already taking advantage of foreign health care services and that number of expats is expected to double in the next 10 years.

 To look into private, national and international insurance options, click here

Safety?

What if there were affiliates to Johns Hopkins Hospitals overseas? Would that make you feel more comfortable? What if there were high standards of accreditation for hospitals and clinics? It might surprise to know that this is the case right now.

If this is the first time you have ever heard of Medical Tourism or if you have doubts that it might be an answer for you, take a look at our Medical Tourism Page and familiarize yourself with all the choices available.

Having an alternative to taking care of your health care needs could facilitate your retirement. And it could help you sleep better at night.

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Our Health – A Private Matter

Health issues and how we choose to take care of them is often a private matter.

The inconvenience of ill health and a magic pill

It would be safe to say that as long as our health continues and we have no problems, we go about our merry way, living our lives without the inconvenience of ill health to interrupt our treasured routines. But when a health issue makes its presence known, it also seems to bring along with it, fear, anxiety, and sometimes confusion.

It would be easy to just take a magic pill and have the illness or discomfort go away, but sometimes things get more complicated than that.

I’m not giving up my red wine!

Billy and I at Retire Early Lifestyle have an extensive Preferred Links Pages and one of the most interesting page is on Alternative Health Care.  Now before you chuck the idea out of hand and think that you must drink odd concoctions or give up your steak and red wine, take a look at our page. It just might surprise you.

For instance, if you have been experiencing knee, hip or back pain and have been contemplating surgery, you might want consider what prolotherapy has to offer. Or if you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, read about how one medical doctor reversed her husband’s disease and stabilized his condition. How wonderful is that?

There are links to radio shows, burial at sea sites, and sites to help people who suffer from trauma of all sorts.

Take a look at our Alternative Health Care page – it might just offer an answer to some current questions you hold. You won’t regret the time you invest. It just might change your life.

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Eight Days a Week

Calendar free?

One of the benefits of being financially independent and away from the work-for-paycheck world is that we are not so “calendar dependent” as we were when we had our careers.

Well, for the most part, anyway.

We still need to know the date for renewing our visas, the date for paying the rent or any other recurring bills, the days and times we play tennis, and of course, the dates our plane leaves one country for another. Somehow, between the two of us, we manage to be responsible and show up on time for any commitment made and are current with any financial obligations.

Since we live in foreign countries most of our time, we miss receiving all the free calendars that businesses send out at the end of the year, and we often print out a calendar from the internet, or make our own with little squares on a blank piece of paper.

This is where my story begins, actually.

For tools and calculators to analyze your monetary situation in all areas of living, click here

Getting ready for long term travel

We are getting ready for another months-long road trip and right before we leave, oftentimes, life will become hectic. In this case, I feel more at ease writing things down in my little handmade calendar so that I can concentrate on other things like packing, getting our supplies and equipment together, playing last minute tennis games, and meeting with friends before we leave.

So the other day I sat down to make a 6 week calendar for myself with big boxes to write all my last minute plans inside.

In the States, the beginning of the week starts with Sunday. I don’t know why that particular tradition is so, but that is how I grew up and it is how I look at a calendar. But we have lived in foreign countries for so many years now and here in Mexico, the week begins with Monday and the week ends with Saturday and Sunday.

Can you see where I am going with this?

Whoops!

So I proceed to make my daily log on a blank piece of paper ticking off the days of the week, and putting in the months as they cross one into the other. It seemed a rather brainless endeavor – how complicated could it be?

Eight Days a Week

Watch for cultural surprises

I put the dates in the corners of the blank areas I made, finished my calendar and put it away. Believe me, I have done this many times without error and never gave it a second thought.

Do you want one, Honey?

Today, Billy asked if I would like to have a calendar printed out for when we travel and I said sure, but I already have one here that I made for myself, see?

In my earlier mindless haste, I had the traditional Sunday at the beginning of the week, but also paid homage to the Mexican custom of putting Sunday at the end of the week. Except that I hadn’t realized this until I checked it this morning! Can you imagine the havoc that would have played with my careful planning?

Simplify your life, save money, learn something new, choose a walk-able city, be car free. To learn more, click here

Cultural differences make their appearance!

Billy and I often joke that our Spanish has gotten so skilled that now our English is horrible. Shifting from one culture to another often brings an unexpected surprise, as my 8-day-a-week calendar proved to me so clearly today!

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Creating Happiness 100 Times Over Again

Recently I read an article about happiness and how we can increase its presence in our lives.

Preventing Adaptation is the Key to Happiness

The premise of the piece was that frequent, small pleasures increase our happiness level far more than one big pleasure. We adapt to a big pleasure until it becomes routine for us, so the new car we were so excited about when we purchased it, becomes mundane over time. The new flooring, and the exquisite bedroom set we just had to have all becomes ordinary as time passes.

Research proved that it is the first bite of chocolate, the first glimpse of the sea, and the first minute of massage were the happiest moments and if we could somehow increase the frequency of having more “first moments” we would become happier overall.

Creating Happiness

The Door to Happiness

A Hundred One Dollar Bills

This reminded me of a gift I gave my Mother decades ago. She and I shared the same wacky sense of humor and we felt safe with each other in trying new things together. What could go wrong? What could go badly? We knew that we’d figure it out or laugh our way through.

As a gift one year, I gave my mother a hundred dollars. Now mind you, a check written for a hundred bucks doesn’t sound all that exciting, but that isn’t what I did. Instead, I went to the bank, and got 100 one dollar bills. Then I proceeded to roll them up like tootsie rolls, and wrapped a ribbon around each bill.

Then I sent my Mother on a treasure hunt.

In Between the Frozen Peas and the Potted Plants

When I gave my Mom an envelope, she looked at it blandly, a half smile on her face. Opening it, she didn’t receive anything but her first clue.

Mystery and intrigue swept across her face as she read “Go to the North Pole.”

Energized with curiosity, she leapt to the freezer and opened the door. Under the frozen bag of peas was a dollar bill wrapped in ribbon and her next clue.

Indoors, outdoors, in between her flower pots, under pillows, between the pages of magazines, and in her sewing basket were all the separate $1 bills and another clue.

She became like a child again on this treasure hunt, and the frequent small pleasures she received each time a clue and a dollar was discovered never dissipated. Each new occurrence was brand new, and so was her sense of pleasure.

Creating Happiness

Unmistakable Happiness

Increase Happiness in Your Own Life

I have never forgotten that day. Both of us were like kids laughing ourselves silly over the discovery of each one dollar bill.  Who would have known that a single dollar would give so much joy? And a hundred of them created happiness a hundred times over.

How often have we heard that “it’s the little things that matter?”

How can you capitalize on the bursts of delight in your daily life?

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My Sister Is a Potted Plant

It was a major personal breakthrough.

I’m the oldest of three girls born of the same parents and raised in the same Middle-of-America town. An adventurer by nature, I enjoy new ideas, different flavors, and meeting novel people. If there is an opportunity to learn, move forward with my life (and shed an old skin), or try out a different restaurant, I’m game.

For me, routine is fine so long as it isn’t a rut, and my idea of being steadfast is modeled after an ice skater; Moving, leaping, running and twirling but in complete control of her center of gravity. I like stability in motion.

My youngest sister on the other hand, is a potted plant.

We're not all the same

We’re not all the same

Nine years separate our ages and at times throughout our lives together we have been at odds in our perspectives. Each of us still gets confused about how the other functions in – and views – the same world.

While growing up I preferred huge, unfettered vistas full of opportunity and possibilities. My sister devoured all the rule books and would assert percentages of what would happen, what was allowed by law, and she would believe unquestioningly whatever was written by someone with letters behind their name – exactly the sort I was inclined to challenge.

Having a pile of work thrown on my desk for me to figure out was an exciting project, but it was painfully fearful for my sister to try something without clear direction. “C” wanted to know exactly what was expected of her and when it should be completed. “What was the protocol?”  she’d wonder. “Where were the prescriptions for accepted action?” “Who should she ask if she had a question?”

I love an unscheduled calendar with large blocks of free time to spend as I choose. “C” enjoys having anniversaries, vacations and holidays all planned – preferably for next year or even five years out if she can.

We tiptoed around each other a bit on my latest visit back to the States, and there were times where we were taken aback in our own personal disorder caused by the other’s responses to situations. That was when I had my simple yet penetrating insight about the differences in our personalities.

She’s a potted plant and I’m a dancer.

I'm a little quirky

I’m a little quirky

Seeking security and an ordered life, my sister thrives in an environment where she knows the boundaries, someplace where she tends to a small area that she can call her own. Not liking change, she doesn’t aspire to outgrow anything; her clothes, her relationships, her home, her job. “C” prefers knowing how much her paycheck will be, when dinner is to be ready, how much she is expected to spend for any occasion and – if she ever encountered a serious illness – what the chances the doctor would give her for survival.

Trustworthy, predictable, preferring safety over the untried, she is rock-steady and a foundation upon which her loved ones depend. Her husband continuously claims that she is the perfect wife. Hard to argue with that.

I am reliable too, but am hardwired differently. My need for motion combines with the mundane in quirky expressions. Scheduled personal phone dates are consistently kept even though they span broad time zones across the globe. Monthly bills are paid by automatic digital deductions that I set up while I am visiting Guatemala, Myanmar or The Philippine Islands. Connections with family happen with my handwritten letters, email, Skype and month-long visits when I’m in town.

Find your Light and let it SHINE

Find your Light and let it SHINE

When I walk through vast canyons, stunning gardens, or witness mighty ocean waves pound the shore, it is my loved ones I’m thinking about. After all, there is no distance from the heart’s point of view.

“C’s” rule book is filled with precise delineations, a place where she can point to assure herself that she has not blundered. Whether it’s a social matter she’s concerned about or an issue of finance, she knows what governs behavior, and what the accepted course is for medicine, marriage or the way to communicate with your Maker. God is in the details, to be sure. Her perfection is in the known, the prescribed, and the customary. She is blissfully happy with her life and I am afloat in happiness for her.

However, I would choke to death in her life; it’s just not for me. No matter how much I want us to comprehend each other’s point of view, the only things that connect us are our love, the blood that runs through our veins and our history together.

Well, … those are pretty strong bonds.

I remember the exact moment when she became a person I never knew. And since I enjoy dancing so much, I know that she will provide me with decades of opportunities not to step on her toes.

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Society’s Backbone

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My Grandmother was a laundress. Call her a washerwoman if you like. I say she was the backbone of our family.

For decades Clara took in people’s grimy clothes, sheets and towels. They were washed, ironed, folded, then placed in bags to return to their proper owners. My Grandmother was famous for her work, and neighbors and customers were in amazement that even her discarded house rags were snow white and stain free. No one knew how she did it, and Clara wouldn’t share her secret.

Often overlooked for her contributions to the family’s construction business, it was laundry money that made payroll when the company could not. It was laundry money that kept the family fed during the long months of winter when house-building was halted. Her burden was heavy, and Clara was not fed much gratitude. No doubt, without her efforts, the nascent construction business would have collapsed.

Signs advertising for business are everywhere

On days that went especially well, she would squirrel away a few dollars for herself.  I never knew what Grandma did with that money, but I suspect she bought her grandchildren presents.

My mind goes to her often these days as I walk along the tiny sois (alleys) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, taking our laundry to a laundress. Fees here run from 20 to 35 baht (50-85 cents US) per kilo. As I walk to my particular washwoman’s house, the paved soi narrows, twists, and finally turns into a dirt walking path. I pass three or four other households offering the same service on this soi.

Tiny sois are the backroads in Chiang Mai

Some of these women smile at me when I say hello, others turn their heads and pretend they don’t see me. Washing is done by hand or by machine, but no one has a dryer. Children and dogs are everywhere and so is the laundry. It hangs on fences, tree limbs, and rope lines. Some lucky families have a metal support. Those are the wealthier ones.

Each time I come to her home, Pot and I are glad to see each other. I give  money  to have my laundry cleaned, ironed and folded, and with this payment she feeds her family.

Pot’s business is open every day rain or shine. Passing over puddles on some days, I kick little stones down the dried path on others. My small gift to her is that I never ask for same day service, and for this she is grateful. We always have smiles for each other as Pot takes my soiled clothing, weighs it, and then gives me both a price and a cardboard number. “Pope-ken-mai, Poo-nee” I say as I leave. (“See you to-morrow…”)

Pot is always busy working

No one seems to help Pot with the business, either. Her husband appears hopelessly lost when I come calling one afternoon, number  in hand… The children sit in front of the TV and call out so she knows I am there.

Neither fatigue nor distress show on her face. She gets to be at home with her children, and is proud of her productive role in the family unit.

Women of varying ages raise their children through small businesses everywhere in this city. One particularly lighthearted woman runs an internet shop down the street from my laundress. With three children including a brand new baby, Ticky runs the shop downstairs, while her family’s private rooms are upstairs. Practicing and learning English with customers or through online chat rooms, she also translates love letters from her Thai girlfriends to their (farang) boy-friends via email. On occasion, she will ask me to interpret something for her, and in this way I get to learn the English versions of unique Thai phrases.

Ticky Cafe is open daily

Ticky is young, beautiful, meticulous about her appearance, warm, loyal, industrious — and single. I originally found her because a friend told me she was open for business on Sundays when other internet shops often close. There is no day off when you are supporting your children.

Another woman we know runs a restaurant. Everyone thinks they can do this and do it well, but we have seen those folks come and go. They get fatigued, bored, don’t manage their money, or their restaurant gets dirty and customer attention drops off. Ong has been there for years. Her prices are a bit higher than other places, but she puts fresh flowers on the tables, repaints her restaurant when needed, and makes consistently delicious foods. Ong, too, is single, and her son lives with his father in a town hundreds of miles away. She sends her boy packages via the bus because it is reliable and cheaper than the mail, and Ong sees him maybe twice a year.

Although her smile and laugh will light up the room, I see tedium and loneliness cross her brow on occasion. Something tells me there is more to her story than she wants us to know.

This seamstress sets up here every day

Women worldwide quietly and with little glamour, support their families and raise their children. This has been going on for centuries. It’s what we women do. There are countless stories like these, and perhaps you know similar examples in your own experience.

Filling my life with outrage or getting churned up from perceived hardships or inequities doesn’t help anyone. However, there is no glass ceiling on respect, and it doesn’t cost me a dime to gratefully acknowledge a service being given to me.

Perhaps the next time you are in line at the grocery store, or dropping off your dry cleaning you could consider a different tack. Instead of having a cell phone glued to your ear, or impatiently ignoring the clerk tallying up your items, take an esteemed look at the person in front of you. Make eye contact. Call her by name. Ask how her day is going.

She could be the backbone of her family, and the generous gift of recognition that you give to her could be just the payment she needs.

To read more about life in Thailand, click here.

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Women’s Work

Visit our website at Retire Early Lifestyle for more information on travel, early retirement and lifestyle.

Women’s Work is a section on our blog where I honor the solid and often unsung contributions of women to the fabric of society.

I realize that some may be miffed at that title or question why I would use it, as if separating certain kinds of work by that name is being derogatory to my gender.

On the contrary, I would submit that women contribute a quality and a depth to the mix that is worth celebrating.There are certain things that women do that men don’t or cannot; giving birth, for instance. From my perspective, I honor the differences.

In observing indigenous peoples around the world it is obvious that the workload is divided; men do this, women do that. Curiously, those divisions are not always the same.

It is my hope that in this section, my tales will cause some  advantageous reflection.

Bottom line? I have great respect for our humanity; our frailties, our creativity and our profound courage and determination in surviving challenges in this world of ours.

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We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

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Those of us who live in the U.S. oftentimes forget how wealthy we truly are. That might sound trite, but consider how valuable having running water is to your life. You don’t have to carry it up from the stream every day which happens to be half-a-mile away.

When you want to cook, brush your teeth or take a shower, you simply turn on the tap. Not so for the Lisu Villages just outside Mae Hong Son, Thailand.

We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

Dirt roads link homes together in this Lisu village

Having affordable electricity is also something we in the States take for granted. For these villagers, that fact is life changing.

We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

Laundry day in the village

This is the village’s source of running water. Whether it’s for washing clothes or for making soup, residents delight in simply turning on the faucet.

We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

Preparing to weave strips for her roof with collected leaves from her village

This woman is in her  50′s, and told us that she has 10 children. Here, she is preparing to make another row of dried leaf shingle for the roof tops of the village houses. Some shingles are brought to town and sold to the city dwellers of Mae Hong Son.

We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

Young woman weaving leaves together to sell in town

At 20, this daughter’s own baby is in a carriage behind her as she weaves the split bamboo thread through each leaf. Rows of completed leaf shingles are piled up to the right.

We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

Stacking up rows of woven leaves

After weaving, she meticulously stacks the leaf shingles in rows. If you look closely in this photo, you can see inside the split bamboo house with its dirt flooring and more bamboo interior walls.

I remember the first time I saw dirt floors in indigenous homes, I was startled. Growing up with the phrase “dirt poor” I had no idea there was truth to the saying.

We Are Wealthy Beyond Belief

The finished product

Roofing is changed yearly, so the industriousness of the women in the village is not only a necessary and practical skill, but these woven rows of leaves that are sold in town bring in extra income to the household.

To read the full story on this village, click here

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