Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa

Sunday, March 15, 2015

ALL GREAT ADVENTURES FIRST START WITH A MESS!

As my May 1st fly-way date fast approaches, so does the time I have left to de-clutter, decide what I want to have the movers put in storage on April 11th and what will be sold at my 'estate sale' on April 18th.

I'm looking at this as a great opportunity to purge myself of stuff and things that I really don't need to fill my life or my next home.  Everything from clothes that don't fit; to pieces of pottery that I wonder why I bought; or that really weird painting that I never really liked but still hung on my wall, it's time to sell, donate or dump!

As you can see by the photos, right now I am living in a total mess.
                             

 
Thank God for good friends-with-cars!  Yesterday morning Sandy took me, my boy's antique highchair and my set of red & green holiday china to FedEx to be shipped to their new home in southern CA.  In the afternoon, Mary Libby provided transportation to Lowes and Home Depot where I purchased a large supply of bubble wrap, tape, and tall wardrobe boxes.  I was so lucky to have a friend who just relocated and offered me as many of her moving boxes, of all sizes, that I wanted.

As to the 'stuff' - I have pretty much separated what goes and what stays.  Going through my basement storage unit was a hoot.  There were bags and boxes of things I hadn't seen or even remembered I owned since they were stored there when I moved to Chicago 2 1/2 years ago!  

Of course, I'm always amazed that my collection, or fabric stash is always so much larger than what I think it is.  I took the time to go through every single piece, 'rolling' instead of folding the most-loved pieces back into their storage boxes.  I actually winnowed 3 full sacks to give to my favorite charity, Envision, but I still have 8 boxes of fabric and at least 2 more of patterns and notions.

The good news is that my apartment has been rented!  The very first couple that walked through (when it still looked lovely and neat) took it on the spot.  Not that renting it was my responsibility as my lease is up April 30th, but it was nice to hear from the landlord that they fell in love with it because of how I had it decorated.  I made sure they told the new renters know that many of the 'lovely things' they like would be for sale on the 18th!

So today - more packing.  A quick trip to Andersonville to get my glasses adjusted and look for a good pair of sneakers.  Europe is known for it's cobblestoned streets and though I love my super lightweight Sketchers, I learned while walking the lumpy, bumpy streets of Ajijic, MX that they weren't sturdy enough support my ankles, plus I could feel every lump & rough stone through the soles.  So something a little more like a hiking or trekking shoe instead of a city sneaker is on my list to find today.  

Next week I'm off to SoCal to be grandma to the most perfect/beautiful granddaughter in the whole, wide world while her mommy and daddy travel for their jobs.  A little southern California sun and surf, giggles, trips to the park and bedtime stories will be a nice break from 'the mess' that is my life right now.

Until next time......

Monday, February 9, 2015

I DID IT!!

I purchased the first leg, the ignagural flight, the scariest part of the RTW trip on Friday!  It's now a REAL thing - money spent, non-refundable ticket - ARGH!

I had originally hoped that fly from Chicago to Iceland to Athens, but being flexible is one of the mainstays of this trip and when the cost of air tickets started to rise for Spring travel and I found it was cheaper to fly direct and enjoying a layover in Iceland, I chose cheap.

So first stop - ATHENS, GREECE


Second Stop -  ROME, ITALY


Third Stop - BARCELONA, SPAIN

Fourth Stop - MADRID, SPAIN


This will take me from May 1st to May 30th.  I will fill in all the blanks of what I did, where I went, who I met, what I ate, and lots of photos as the days progress. But just wanted to let you know - I DID IT!  

Until next time.....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MEDICAL/DENTRAL TOURISM

Hola!

I just returned from 10 days in beautiful Ajijic, Mexico.  The sun was shinning, the temps were in the mid-70's and the streets were filled with Canadians and Americans enjoying the weather and getting medical and dental procedures done.


                                            Ajijic Centro

This little village, located along the shores of Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco is where I called home from 2004-2006.  Of course it has changed in the past 9 years - the 'gringo population' has exploded - there are many more houses, stores, restaurants, traffic and even a WalMart.

If you were to Google 'the most perfect weather year-round' you would get a town in South Africa and Ajijic, MX.  At 5000 ft, surrounded by mountains and situated on the largest inland lake in Mexico, Ajijic's average temperature is 72º. The sun shines almost daily, even during the rainy season.  The houses have no furnaces, and only a few have fireplaces, as it never really gets cold enough to need heat in the evenings.  You can live in a beautiful home, eat out almost every meal, enjoy the services of a gardener and a maid and still have money left over from one average monthly Social Security check.  Full-coverage auto and medical insurance are a tiny-fraction of what we pay in the States.  Which brings me to the reason of my return visit.

Beautiful succulent wreath on a blue wall

I will preface my visit to my dentist here in Chicago by saying "I just love to chew on those little unpopped kernels of popcorn that are always at the bottom of the bowl."  Therefore I should not have been surprised when I managed to chip a crown doing just that.  My dentist here said that the crown would need to be replaced and she thought I had a least one other that also needed to be repaired. When she quoted me the price of $995 per crown, I spouted a few expletives and said I would need to think about before making an appointment.

I came home and called a couple of other dentists in the area that friends recommended and got quotes of $1200 to $1400 per crown.  That's when I decided to call my dear friends, Ernie and Rich, who still reside in Ajijic, to see if their dentist was still practicing and what she would me a quote for crowns.

 The next day I had a lovely email from Dr. Rosio saying that she would love to see me.  Her price for one crown was  $3800 Mexican Pesos - or $260 USD.  I said I would get back to her and set an appointment time as  soon as I could make my flight reservations!

I flew Volaris, the new 'base price' Mexican airline flying from the US to many Mexican destinations.  Big planes, very comfortable leather seats, much better than our 'base price Spirit Air.'   I got a round trip flight from Chicago for $350.



My friends Rich and Ernie graciously allowed me to stay in their beautiful casita for the price of one big dinner and drinks at their favorite restaurant.

Here is a photo I took overlooking their beautiful home and courtyard and the 3 of us enjoying a great seafood dinner in Chapala!      
                                                                 

I used Uber to O'Hare for $14.95 (They had a great promo going!)  I had Samuel, (who I learned had lived only 3 blocks of my apartment in Chicago when he was living in the States) as my taxi driver to and from the airport. ($34 each way).  For the 10 days I was there I spent $153.06 on meals (including the 'boys night out') and a couple of small gifts.   For 3 new crowns ($777.65), a cleaning ($20.45) and night guard ($122.78), delicious food and drink (and lots of good tequila!) and visiting with dear friends, I paid in total a little bit more than what one dentist in Chicago wanted for ONE CROWN!  If you've been adding, you will see that my 10 days in Mexico, including dental treatment cost me approximately $1449.02.

You are saying I paid so little because I got to stay for free. That may be true, but I can assure you that you can find lovely rooms in several charming B&B's in Ajijic and Chapala for between $30-$40 a night.  You can also stay at Casa Flores, one of the most upscale and luxurious hotels in Mexico and pay a whole heck of a lot more and easily find any accommodation in-between.


The doctors in Mexico are highly skilled and trained -  many in the US;  they speak fluent English; their office equipment and labs are to the standards, and in some cases even higher, than those you will find in the States.

What I found most appealing, besides the hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars you save, is the time, care and 'bedside manner' in which these doctors excel.  Dr. Rosio stated that she would not allow me to leave her chair until she was completely satisfied that everything was perfect and I was completely happy.

               
                       Sunrise over Lake Chapala
 
       Palm with hanging orchids

I will admit that things move a little slower south-of-the-border than they do here.  I met with Dr. Rosio on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.  She gave me the news that I actually needed 3 new crowns and took the first impressions.

I returned at 7:30 a.m. on Monday when she removed my old crowns and put on the temporaries.  From Tuesday through Thursday I relaxed and visited with friends and wandered around the village.  On Friday at 11:00 she replaced 2 of the crowns and then announced after trying, that she was very unhappy with the 3rd crown and planned to drive to the lab in Guadalajara herself to make sure they made another one exactly as she wanted!  I returned on Saturday at 2:30 and had the 3rd crown installed,  my teeth cleaned and my night guard fitted. I flew home on Sunday morning - back to snow and ice and 30º - yuck!

So is this something you should consider?  YES!  Especially if you live on a budget like I do and still want the best medical or dental care you can get.  While there I heard the story of the Department Chair of the University of Minnesota Hospital who had to undergo unplanned surgery in Mexico.  He had previously had a heart attack but now he needed emergency bowel surgery.  He was so impressed with the fact that the hospital in Guadalajara took him into surgery on a gurney, but when he arrived at the surgical theater, he was moved to a conveyor belt and the 'contaminated' gurney stayed outside.  His whole body was then  air-cleaned and all outside germs were removed before he placed on the surgical bed. They also had a heart surgeon on stand bye 'just-in-case.' The surgery was a success and he stated loudly, for anyone who was interested in listening, that not even in his own hospital would he have received the care, let alone have access to the the technology that was in place for a 'super clean' surgical theater.'  A pretty good recommendation, I would say.

Options - I love options.  And this is just another one I offer up for your consideration the next time you are thinking of paying all that money to your dentist! And Mexico isn't the only country offering great medical care - it's just the closest.  I can highly recommend having babies in Belgium and being treated for Dengue Fever on St. Kitts!

Until next time.....









  

Monday, January 5, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


2015 is going to be a monumental year for many of us.  For me, it means packing up or selling off everything I own, putting what I'm keeping in storage, purchasing the first flight for my RTW trip, packing my bag and stepping off into the unknown.

I was recently asked 'At your age, why can't you be like a normal person?'  I was informed that 'normal people' stay put, live in the same home year after year, have a close circle of friends, enjoy local activities, cook, clean, babysit their grandchildren, read books and grow old, happy comfortably.... and quietly.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that life.  If my husband were still alive, my life would be much more 'normal.'  But life didn't give me that option.   Because he is no longer part of my life, after 30 years of 'normal' I got to make the choice of what kind of life I wanted to live.

I made the decision to 'not be normal.'  I had been so lucky.  Between my business and my husband's work, I got to live and travel to many places around the world, which only whetted my appetite to see more, do more, and enjoy life to the fullest.

I admit  it - I get bored easily.  Maybe that's why in the past 14 years I have lived in Penland, NC, Ajijic, MX, Wilmington, NC, St. Kitts, Eastern Caribbean, a 30' Winnebago and Chicago, IL.  And I wouldn't have traded a single day (even though there were some really rough days) for the experiences I had, the people I met and the sites I've seen.

I love living in Chicago!  I love all the wonderful things living in a big city offers - from great public transportation to outstanding theater and music, to festivals and concerts, a beautiful lakefront, an overwhelming selection of wonderful restaurants, unparalleled shopping and a diversity of cultures and interesting people.  I have a great circle of friends here now.  I belong to several really wonderful organizations.  I have access to 2 major airports that can put me on the doorsteps of my children within a few hours.  So why, you ask, are you leaving?

Because there are so many places I still have to see! Places that are different and foreign and unique.  I want to learn from the people who live there, hopefully, understand a little better their way of life and share mine with them.

So things are getting really down-to-the-wire and I'm beginning to lay out my specific itinerary. Did you know that an American is only allowed to spend a total of 3 months traveling in Europe? That really is putting a damper on where and how long I had planned to stay in certain countries and making me reconsider my departure date due to a couple of 'locked-in' dates I have already set in Spain and Denmark.

And then I found the elephant refuge....but that will have to wait until my next posting.

Until then.....


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sharing my 'Adventurous Life'

Last night I had the great pleasure and honor of speaking for the Modern Professionals group of International Women Associates.  The title of my speech was 'My Adventurous Life - From Broadway to the Boardroom to Backpacking Around-the-World.'

It was so fun to share my adventures with a really great group of women, and to encourage them to 'think outside the box' and not limit themselves to 'an ordinary life' when there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored.


                      

I shared several of my favorite travel quotes and brought along my big wall map of the world with all the places I plan to visit 'starred.'  I also brought my fabulous little Briggs & Riley 19" carry-on suitcase and packing cubes from eBags.com for Show & Tell.

The Q&A that followed was a great way for me to answer questions and also to learn more about these wonderful women, all who have either lived in or are from countries other than the United States.  I even got some great pointers, like why I really must visit Albania, to a contact for selling off all my 'stuff' before I leave!  

Afterwards, a small group went to the bar at Morton's Steakhouse for a late evening snack.  HINT - the Morton's Bar Menu has the most fabulous line-up of 'bites' for the most fabulous prices in all of Chicago!  Steak Sliders for $7 and a REALLY good Dirty Martini for $8.  It was a perfect way to end the day.

Thanks to all to attended and are now following this blog. (I hope!)

Until next time.....







Tuesday, November 11, 2014

CHOOSING MY TRAVEL LUGGAGE

This is a photo of Janice Waugh.  I have been an avid reader of Janice's blog SoloTraverler  for as long as I have been considering my RTW trip.  I like her blog, especially since we have matching hair color and she seems to be a down-to-earth person when talking about long-term travel.



Janice is a big proponent of traveling light - she even offers her packing list of what to put in those front and back-backpacks.  But I just couldn't see myself loaded down like this.  So I went searching on the millions of other travel blogs for what these writers/travelers use for luggage on their RTW trips.  

Weight was the #1 factor when choosing their luggage.  The lighter the better, and that means not only the weight of the luggage, but the weight of the stuff you are going to stuff into that luggage.  

I took into consideration all the pros and cons of a backpack verses a suitcase.  I  noticed that the majority of long-term travelers who blog are just a wee bit younger (20-30 years) than me, with strong backs and legs.   They all seem to prefer backpacks.  Very LARGE backpacks.  




Another  consideration I needed to keep in mind, was that foreign airlines have different size requirements for their carry-ons than US airlines do.  US airlines use 22" for a standard carry-on.  But I will be flying Ryan Air and Easy Jet to get around Europe. These cost-savings airlines have horribly strict luggage weight and measurement standards. (Think Spirit Airlines)  If you don't meet their standards, you can easily pay more to bring your luggage on your flight than you do for your flight!  A very LARGE backpack can incur a very large fee.  Their standard carry-on is 19".  

I knew I wanted luggage that I would never have to check - that would never be further away from me than in the overhead bin of the aircraft.  It would have to be lightweight, even when packed, for me to easily put it up and pull it out of said overhead bins, and meet the measurement requirements for ALL foreign airlines I might be flying.  

FYI, luggage shopping is not nearly as much fun as shopping for clothes - but there are sure a whole lot of choices out there nowadays!  I had narrowed my search down to  either a 19" Eagle Creek or a 19" Briggs & Riley wheeled carry-on.  Both have life-time warranties, so even if the airlines were to destroy the bag or it got chewed by an orangutan in the jungle, they will repair or replace it at no charge.   But in the end, Briggs & Riley won for two very important reasons.  

First, it's outstanding design element.  It's the only suitcase company that puts it's pull-out handle-bars on the outsidof it's bags, not in the inside.  

Think about that for a minute.  If you open any other suitcase with wheels and a pull-out handle, those bars for the handle run right down the middle of your bag, on the inside, where they are covered nicely with the cloth lining, but take up a lot of space (2 1/2 - 3" each) and make packing difficult -  because the bottom of your bag is has two 'ribs' you have to pack around.   

The second reason I chose this perfectly wonderful little suitcase is - it was FREE! I was in SoCa in late September doing a little luggage shopping while babysitting my granddaughter and my oldest happened to be with me one day in their local REI-type store.  I showed him the B&R bag I liked and he got a big grin on his face and said "don't buy it here, just come on back to the house!"  When we got back he ran upstairs and came back down with exactly the bag I was looking at - AND a matching backpack!! 

 In his line of work he gets lots of logo 'freebies.'   He had just gotten these from one of his customers in northern Washington state.   I certainly don't care one bit that each piece has the customer's logo colorfully embroidered on them.  As a matter of fact I liked the idea that with the logo they would stand-out in a crowd of luggage.  

Here are some photos of my 19" carry-on.  I realize that European cobblestone streets and hiking up stairs aren't great for wheeled-suitcases (which is why so many travelers use backpacks).  But this one is so lightweight, with both top and side handles, as well as it's pull-out bar, that I should be able to maneuver most any situation.


And here's a couple of photos of my B&R backpack.  It's very comfortable to wear, has lots pockets and places for everything you might need. With both of these well-constructed and light-weight pieces,  I will have plenty of room to pack my clothes, toiletries, gadgets and all other necessities that  I will need for my RTW trip.  In case you are interested, both my suitcase and backpack are gray.  They won't show dirt and with their colorful logos, they will be easily identifiable.




So what's next - WHAT TO PACK - Which mean planning an itineray!




Until then remember - 
                    "Life is either a daring adventure - or nothing!"  Helen Keller






Monday, September 22, 2014

"Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"
 Auntie Mame

I've been thinking about this for a long time and have finally realized that NOW IS THE TIME!  While I am still healthy and can actual 'do', I am going on a round-the-world trip!  I plan to revisit places I have seen before that I was to see again.   Add to that all the places I want to visit that I haven't seen before - all before it's too late.

Right now I have set March 1, 2015 as my departure date - but there are several things that will determine the actual date - like selling my stuff, sub-letting my apartment, putting my affairs in order.....but I have my fingers crossed that this will be The Day.

I plan to keep my family and friends updated as to where I am, what and how I'm doing and post lots of photos of the wonderful (and maybe not-so-wonderful) places I see via this blog and on my Face Book page - Re's Home on the Roam Goes Global.  

You're invited to come along and share the adventure of my lifetime!

ReAnn