Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012


It's Christmas time in Chicago.  Twinkling lights, cookies baking, families gathering, snow falling, noses red , toes cold, children smiling, Santa coming....

It will be such a very different Christmas for me this year.   For the very first time in my 66 years I will be spending it alone.  My first grandchild is scheduled to arrive on January 3rd and I didn't want to over stay my welcome by flying to CA a week early.  And though an invitation was extended from #2 to fly to Raleigh, with losing my job just 2 weeks ago, the price of a flight just wasn't in the budget.  

So here I sit, warm and cozy in my beautiful apartment with Christmas carols softly playing in the background.  What are my plans for Christmas you might ask?   I'll be babysitting my cousin's 3 cats - feeding and petting while they are gone for the next 8 days.  My wonderful sons gifted me my 'most wanted' gift - a iPad.  They said to open and use it immediately instead of putting it under the tree and opening it on Christmas morning and I did and have enjoyed taking several free workshops at the Apple store learning how to use this great techie toy.  Yesterday I did my end-of-year file clean-out - shredding un-needed receipts and moving those required into a file for this year's taxes.  I finished sewing a cute jacket and pulled a few other pieces of fabric out of my stash to contemplate what they may become in the New Year.  I'm reading a couple of books I got from the library by people who have walked the Camino de Santiago and downloaded a couple onto the iPad so I won't have to haul real books with me to CA.  

Several friends have invited me out for holiday lunches and dinners and I've enjoyed a few holiday celebrations with the new groups I've joined.  On New Year's Day I've been invited to join a walking group in the Loop where we will walk from State Street to the top of Michigan Avenue and back; then enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Macy's Chicago flagship store (which to those of us who have lived here, will always be and still wish it were Marshall Fields).  We'll conclude with lunch in the The Walnut Room, where carolers will sing and their massive tree will dominate the scene on this, the last day the decorations will be still up and shinning.  



I will come home and take down my tree, put the ornaments away for another year and start packing my suitcase for my flight. It all sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Sounds as if I've been busy - and I have. But it's almost like I am forcing myself.  I know there are many, many, many people who spend every holiday alone.  I even know some who prefer it that way.  But I'm not one of those.  I'm lost with no one to cook a big meal for, no one to bake cookies for, no one to watch the original Die Hard movie with on Christmas Eve (a Scott-family tradition), no one to talk to except via a phone or Face-Time.  It will just be so lonely and sad and even now, typing this, I feel tears gathering and think 'how stupid are you being?'  Grow up!  You're a big girl and this is dumb!

But I'm a people person.  I love being with and around people, especially 'my people' and this year I won't be and that makes me sad.  I think about and wonder how many Christmas's I'll have left - I know - maudlin and stupid - but I learned the hard way 13 years ago that nothing is permanent or lasts forever so to miss spending even one holiday without those I love it really difficult.

So before I get to the point where I can't type and my keyboard gets ruined from getting wet, I'll just say this - enjoy your families.  Enjoy the time you have together - even if it's only for one day and even if some of them you don't even like - try for just one day of peace and love and togetherness.  Take a moment to remember those who are no longer with us and say a prayer for the parents of the children lost at Sandy Hook.  Count your blessing and then turn and give those you love the most a great big Merry Christmas hug!

Until next year......

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Here we go....again!

Hello Everyone -

Bet you thought I had given up writing this blog!  Nope - just took a break while getting settled into my new Chicago home.

Over Thanksgiving (see family above) my youngest mentioned that my Facebook posts were getting much too long and I should go back to blogging instead.  I agreed with him, so here we are, approximately 9 months after my last post.  I will try and catch you up with what's happened since last we met....


I now live in the big city of Chicago! and I am so happy compared to living on the beach in Wilmington, NC that I almost can't express it in words.   How can I possible say that, you might ask?  You left sea and sun and warmth for noise and crowds and soon-to-be-snow-covered streets?  Well, since you asked....I chose Wilmington to settle in because it was in the area where we as a family had spent so much time while the boys were growing up.  We vacationed on Holden Beach, a barrier island just south of Wilmington, for weeks each summer for many, many years.  I have wonderful memories of all of our friends and family visiting us there.  When John passed, it was where he asked that his ashes be scattered.  We spent many wonderful hours dining and shopping and sightseeing in Wilmington, we even discussed retiring there, so you would think this would be a perfect place for me to settle down.  

It is a perfect place - if what you want from life is peace and quiet, a few restaurants, a tiny bit of theater, hardly any shopping and everyone you meet is 'coupled-up'.  Not a hot-bed of activity for singles.  Not a hot-bed of any activity, really.  I made a few good and lasting friendships while there but I was always looking for a way to get-out-of town.  That should have been a hint.  First it was the Peace Corps that took me away, then it was living in my wonderful Minnie Winnie RV that took me across the country and back - several times,  and lastly it was a renter that drove me crazy and necessitated my just 'geting away!' for awhile to rethink my life.  That's when I took the top off the Jeep and drove to the opposite coast - and back.  By the time I returned, I knew it was time to put Wilmington in my rear-view mirror for the last time.



I have now lived in my huge, 1920's apartment for 9 months.  I'm almost used to having upstairs neighbors with little children who run and jump and bang at all hours.  I'm almost used to having downstairs neighbors who when home play their music loud enough to make my floor vibrate.  I'm almost used to having a fire house/ambulance center around the corner which sends out it's vehicles, sirens blasting at all hours all day and all night.

I am used to living in the diverse, colorful, fabulous, interesting neighborhood of Rogers Park. I am used to shopping at wonderful, little neighborhood markets instead of huge grocery stores for most of my food. I am used to the necessity of walking anywhere I have to go (I sold my car) and I have become extremely adept at riding all the forms of pubic transportation that Chicago provides it's residents.

I am enjoying my membership in such diverse new groups as Friendship Force International, The Haute Couture Club of Chicago, The Windy City Walkers and The Chicago Digital Photography Group.  I even found a nice little part-time job working 2-3 days a week as a reservation specialist for a small hospitality company.  I have met more people and made more friends in 9 months than my entire 5 years in Wilmington.

So what's next?  A couple of HUGE family events will be taking center stage in the New Year.  Son #1 and his wonderful, beautiful finance will be presenting me with my first grandchild in early January.  They live in the San Diego area so I really won't mind going out there for a few weeks to help out in any way I can at that time of year.  Then in May they will celebrate their wedding in Cabo San Lucas.  It will be my first time back in Mexico after living there several years ago and I'm looking forward to a return visit.

Once all the festivities are over, I will begin focusing on my plans to walk the Camino de Santiago.  If you've heard about or seen the movie The Way staring Martin Sheen, then you know a little bit about the walk of St. James.  I first learned about it reading Sherry Ott's travel blog  - http://www.ottsworld.com/.  I became enthralled and engrossed with the idea and possibility of my actually doing this walk, this pilgrimage.  The walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port  in France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain is just a wee bit under 500 miles long.  The average time it takes to walk is 4-6 weeks and yes, most do walk it alone.


Once this thought took a firm grip, I immediately started searching the web for all the information I could find and the first and most information-filled site I found was this one http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/ in case you want to read a bit about it.   I then joined the huge, on-line forum with 1000's of past, present and future walkers who so graciously and willingly share their insights, thoughts and helpful suggestions with each other and anyone who might pose a question.  I've just ordered my first books from the library and Amazon and will spend the upcoming winter months learning all I can about this exciting adventure.

So you are asking Are you nuts? You're 66 years old, you have a bad foot,  a bum knee, not in the best of shape, and you think you can just take off to France, traipse over the Pyrenees mountains and across the vast northern plains of Spain to some cathedral on the other side?  And to answer your question, the same one both boys asked at Thanksgiving, is you bet I do!  And if that makes me nuts, then so be it.

Why are you doing this?  I found while driving cross-country in the Jeep, when listening to music or books-on-tape was impossible with the top off,  that I  came to truly enjoy the solitude, the quietude, the peacefulness of only the sound of the wind whistling past.  My mind was set free to roam from thought to thought.  It was the very first time I had ever taken to really reflect on my life so far; what if anything I have accomplished that has meaning, besides the birth of two wonderful sons; and what did I still want to do, can I do, with the time I have left?  Reading the many voices who have written about their experience walking The Camino made me even more sure that this is something I have to do while I still can.

So for those who enjoy reading long, rambling posting which will in turn allow you to 'travel along with me' wherever the road may lead....welcome...or as the case may be....welcome back. I only plan to post sporadically for a while, focusing on the highlights, maybe even a few low lights of my daily life,  but I will keep you up-to-date on my preparations as I get ready for this next great adventure.

Until next time.....