House Sitting ~ 5 reasons why it might just be the perfect retirement option

I know.  Technically speaking, house sitting is a job.  And if you are anything at all like my  husband – JOB is a four letter word.  He’s retired and he’s loving every minute of it.  Thank you very much.

No job.  No money.  No problem.

Yep, that’s his current philosophy.  And it’s been working out for him so far.  Of course, his other half is still bringing home the bacon, as they say.  And right now, his bacon is organic, peppered, and fresh from the farmers market.  But someday very soon all of that is going to change because this old girl is going to retire too, and then the cash flow is going to become a cash trickle.

And that’s why I see some kind of work in my retirement future.  And, truth be told, I’m really okay with that.  I’m not sure what I’d become if I didn’t have something going on to keep me busy most of the time.  Something that challenges both brain and body.  If I can get paid (in cash or in kind) for said work and if it’s interesting and on my terms.  Well, count me in.

That’s why house sitting makes perfect sense as a retirement option for traveling gypsy wannabe’s like hubs and I.

It would give us the ability to pack up our backpacks, grab our rollies, and travel the world – one house sitting job at a time.   And do it on a limited retirement budget.  And maybe we’d have enough money left over for some really good bacon every now and then.

I’ve been pondering this idea for a while now.  I  signed up on the Trusted Housesitter site as both “looking for a house sitter” and “looking for house sitting opportunities” back in August.  We were down to the wire on finding a sitter for our cat, Mr. Ricky.  I received several interesting offers, but found a wonderful sitter close to home.   Now, each morning I get the most enticing email from Andy Peck of Trusted HouseSitters with a list of the latest house sitting opportunities.  And yes, every morning I open this email and thoroughly read each house sitting offer – and I dream…

Here are a couple from this morning’s post ~

smoodle Pet sitter needed for my Schmoodle for three and a half weeks in Underwood, Australia

I am looking for a dog lover to mind Kobe my beautiful boy Schmoodle. I would prefer someone who loves dogs as he is my baby and someone that doesn’t have a problem with him sleeping on the end of the bed. He is a non-shedding dog.

All I ask is that you leave my house as you found it. Must love animals. My main priorty is for you to look after Kobe and throw his ball for him when he wants to play. Would prefer someone that does housesitting as their way of living.  I have a three bedroom house at Underwood close to shops and transport.

HouseSitFrance Pet sitter needed for lovely springer spaniel, fluffy cat and chickens in Fontaine-Chalendray, France

We are a family looking for someone to feed and walk Rollo once a day, and feed minky the cat. Both are really easy going. Rollo cannot be tired out and the walks are lovely here! He is patient though and will wait for his walk if you need a lie in or its raining! The chickens will also need feeding and watering, and of course you can collect and eat their lovely eggs.  wifi. lovely walks and bike rides direct from house, local swimming lake 10 mins. 1 hour to the sea. 40 minutes cognac.1 hr 20 La Rochelle. bikes and kayaks an be borrowed. huge woodland garden.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it?

So, if you are like us, and have been looking for ways to travel more in your retirement, and not break the bank to do it, you might want to look into house sitting.

I found this list on the Trusted HouseSitters website and I couldn’t agree more.

5 Reasons House Sitting Makes the Perfect Retirement

1.  You save money on accommodations.  The most obvious benefit of house sitting is the money you will same on hotel stays or holiday rentals.  For those on a fixed retirement income this can be a huge advantage.  

2.  Travel for longer –  As you no longer have to pay for somewhere to stay, you can spend more time exploring a new location and really get a feel for an area that you might have had to rush through otherwise.

3.  Discover new areas –  By being flexible with where you house sit, you can discover fantastic locations that you wouldn’t have though about visiting otherwise.

4.  Meet new people – Many house sitters say that they have made lifelong friends on their assignments as friends.  Walking the dog in a local park is a great way to meet people and make new friends.

5.  Live like a local –  House sitting allows you to really experience an area in a way that you might not when staying in a hotel.   Shopping in the corner market or the weekly farmer’s markets, using local transportation, meeting your neighbors at local gatherings.  All enrich your live like a local experience.

And, just in case you were wondering – I have chicken sitting experience from a home exchange we did last year.  Dog, cat, chickens, French countryside – I think I can handle that.

Let the house sitting adventures begin!

Nancy

The Mother of All Garage Sales ~

 It looks like everybody’s downsizing and simplifying these days.

This Spring, eager to keep up our downsizing efforts, hubs and I participated in our community garage sale.  We rolled up our sleeves and jumped in with wild dreams of passing along gently loved goods to loving new homes and, in return, gleefully holding a big pile of cash at the end of the day.

We pulled out long forgotten treasures from deep, dark and dusty corners.  Polished each item to a shiny perfection.  Carefully researched, priced and tagged every precious piece.  And had more than one hearty laugh.  Hubs pulled out a big box of instant food items that he’d been saving for 30-odd years.  Even in the event of a nuclear holocaust, I’m pretty sure I would not have eaten this stuff, but he was just as sure it was “still good” and somebody would be thrilled to have it.  It wasn’t.  They weren’t.  This digging, sorting, and reminiscing process took weeks.  Treasures were piled everywhere.  Finally, the big day arrived.  When the garage door rolled up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, we were armed and ready to make our millions.

Crickets!

To put it mildly, our garage sale efforts were not handsomely rewarded.  So much great stuff.  So little money at the end of the day.  “Will you take a Dollar for that?”  was the question I heard most.  “Um, No!” became my battle cry.  I got more than a little testy.  It was a very long day.  And one that will not be repeated anytime soon.

Which leads me to why it is still so very good to be Oprah.  Yes, Oprah recently had a garage sale.  And, as you can see in the video, Oprah’s garage sale experience was world’s away from the Les and Nancy experience.  Of course it was!

By the end of her garage sale day, Oprah had netted over $600,000.  Which she donated to charity.  Pretty much like us.  We did keep the $350 we made in cash and then hubs (bless his heart) took four carloads of priceless possessions to the Goodwill.  Our donation.

On another note, it’s good to hear that we’re not the only ones downsizing and simplifying our lives.  Way to go Oprah.

Cheers!

Nancy

What About Retiring in Uruguay?

The party’s over!  

I’ve been traveling and playing all summer, but now it is time to get back in the saddle and back to my “other” job…exploring the options throughout South and Central America to see where a couple of vagabond retirees might comfortably hang their hats for a few months or a few years.

What’s up next?  How about Uruguay ~
Colonia del Sacramento Photos
This photo of Colonia del Sacramento is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I didn’t know very much about this tiny country (South America’s second smallest), but  one of my friends who is much more well-travelled than I, visited a while back and fell in love with the beautiful old world town of Colonia.  So, with her enthusiastic encouragement and a few gorgeous photos she sent for enticement, I decided to take a closer look.

This post is only a quick peak into what Uruguay has to offer, but it’s definitely enough to spark my interest for more in-depth study which, hopefully, will include a visit when we embark on our South American Tour.

Located in Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Argentina and Brazil, this pint sized country has been popping up on “best places to retire” lists for a few years now.   Slightly smaller than the state of Washington, with a population of less than 3,500,000 people, Uruguay is famous for it’s beautiful beaches that run the entire length of the coast.  The Costa de Oro (Golden Coast) is a 30 mile stretch of golden sands where many expats from Canada, Europe and the U.S. settle comfortably into a laid back beach lifestyle.

Like many of it’s neighbors, Uruguay has had a somewhat turbulent past.  At various times it has been part of Spain, Portugal, and Brazil.  It still has a decidedly European flavor.  These days, it is enjoying a stable (if left-leaning) democracy.  The current president, Jose Murica, is a very interesting guy.  He has been called the poorest president in the world because he donates 90% of his earnings to charity and lives on a modest income from his small farm.  Under his presidency, however, the economy has flourished and unemployment is at an all time low.  Uruguay has a good infrastructure, great roads, warm and friendly citizens.  There are just enough expats  who have blazed the trail and smoothed over some of the rough spots.  It’s safe (and I understand that wherever you travel these days that safe is a relative term).  No place is totally safe, but according to a US News/MONEY and Retirement report on Uruguay “The rule of law prevails here and the country enjoys the lowest level of corruptions in Latin America.”  And Uruguay will soon completely legalize marijuana.  I’m not sure what that means to me, but I thought it was interesting.

While the cost of living is definitely not as cheap as some other South American countries like Ecuador, several articles reported that a retired couple could live in many areas for less than $3,000 a month.  Far less in some cases.
Montevideo Photos
This photo of Montevideo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The capital, Montevideo, is a large, sophisticated and bustling city filled with old world charm, shady parks, tree lined streets, sidewalk cafes and artisan markets.  On the other hand, Punta del Este is a high end seaside resort with first class accommodations and casinos.  It is where the elite of Brazil and Argentina come to play.  And then there’s Colonia del Sacramento – my friend’s favorite.  Located just 28 miles by boat from Buenos Aires, this beautifully restored colonial settlement attracts lots of tourists and for a good reason – sycamore shaded cobblestone streets, lovely shops, art galleries, outstanding restaurants and parrilladas (steakhouses).  A recent check showed a two year old, 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with 1,183 square feet of living space and a water view in a great location on the market for $180,000.  Cheap?  Maybe, but that’s still more than I’m hoping to pay if/when we decide to settle down.   The Costa de Oro, anchored by the towns of Atlántida and La Foresta, may offer some of the best real estate options with houses still selling in the low $100,000’s.

Everyone in Uruguay is entitled to quality medical care through the national health care system.  This includes foreign residents.  In the public system, the free clinics can be slow and crowded, but every town has clinic access and they do a good job.  There is also a private health care system that is efficient, well-equipped and inexpensive.  This insurance runs from $50 to $150 a month.  Some caution here though, as it appears that when you reach 65 or 70, you may not be eligible for the private insurance.  More investigation is definitely required on this one.

What’s the weather like?  Well, it depends on who you talk to.  Basically, it has four mild seasons.  The average high in summer is about 82 degrees with lows in the mid 60’s.   A high temperature in winter is more like 60 degrees.  Frost is rare and it never snows.  But it rains.  The annual rainfall which occurs throughout the year (no rainy season) is 41 inches.   It can be humid and windy too.

I usually start my research by ordering the specific country reports from International Living.  Then I spend some time online with Kathleen Pedicord and Escape Artist.  These sites are mostly set up to encourage people to retire abroad.   They can provide a good overview, but the the view is definitely through rose colored glasses.  After I have the basics, its time to start digging for the pros and cons.  I look for personal blogs by folks who are living there.  It doesn’t take long to see that one person’s paradise is definitely another person’s “what the hell was I thinking when I moved here?”   That’s why connecting with people who already have their flip-flops on the ground and the lay of the land is essential.  You want to hear the good, the bad and the Yikes!  Sometimes a place is great for a vacation at the perfect time of year, but hang around for six months and it can be another story entirely.

So far my limited research puts Uruguay squarely on the “maybe” side of the retirement map.   It sounds like a warm, relaxed and hospitable atmosphere with beautiful cities, beaches and countryside.  There are good services (internet, electric, telephone etc.) and a stable economy.  You can drink the water.  Health care is good and residency is easy.  They don’t tax your out-of-country income.  The cost of living is reasonable but not cheap.  But, on the other hand, it is a 9 hour overnight flight from Miami and you seldom find a bargain airfare.  This makes visiting family back home a challenge and you might have few visitors.  Also, although the weather is considered mild, if it’s really humid, that won’t work for hubs and I.  We like it cool and dry.  Sun is good too.  I think Portland averages less than 40″ of rainfall and I’m looking for less, not more.

Want more?  Here are a few good links to check out.

Expat Exchange – 10 Tips For Living in Uruguay

Huffington Post –  How Much Does It Cost to Live in Uruguay?

Future Expats – What to Bring to Uruguay.  Note: Apparently it’s dried cranberries.

and finally, a great blog from a guy who’s been there, done that Wally in Uruguay  

What do you think?  Have you been to Uruguay?  Would you live there?  Did you live there?  We’d love to hear from you.

Hasta luego,

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

House Sitting ~ Mr. Ricky Needs a Friendly Companion

House sitting.  Last year it popped up on my radar as one more possibility for our living la vida cheapo in retirement while still traveling and having grand adventures retirement plan.  I was intrigued but it wasn’t the right time and so the idea got filed in the way-back part of my brain.  I had pretty much forgotten about it.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

I need a house sitter/kitty companion when we are in Spain.  I have to admit the deadline kind of crept up on me.  It seemed so far in the future…and now, oops, it’s right in my face.  I’ve only got a few weeks to work this out.  I’ve put out distress calls for help but it’s not that easy.  People have busy lives and they don’t involve your cat.  No matter how cute he is. IMG_3901

Mr. Ricky is hubs best buddy, but apparently it is my job to find the perfect companion while we are gone.  It’s been one dead end after another.  Crunch time and I am out of brilliant ideas.

Or not…

Trusted House Sitters popped into my brain and NOW the timing could be just right.  Originally, I was thinking it would be cool to be a house sitter and travel on the cheap, but I hadn’t thought about how I would be helping others by providing a constant, mature, honest, reliable presence in their home while they are away.  I see it from both sides now.  And it looks like a win:win.

Time to jump in and give it a go.

Yesterday I signed us up on Trusted House Sitters as sitters and as homeowners who need a sitter.  It cost me $89 for a year for the dual membership.  I filled out profiles, uploaded photos and still have to do a police check (recommended but not required) and provide references.   Then I spent way too much time cruising the site looking at how others (lots of retired couples) set up their profiles and marketed their skills and experience.  You can even add your own video!  It was very easy to get started.

Then, just to test the site, I sent off an email inquiry looking for a sitter to a couple in British Columbia who have been house sitting for several years.  Reading their profile and references, they looked like folks we could be friends with.  Within a couple of hours I had a message back from Jan and John.  They love Portland and had just finished a “kitty sit” here, BUT unfortunately they are leaving in early September for a 5 week house/kitty sitting gig in Burgundy and then a few weeks sit in Malta.   Not too shabby!

My profile went live this morning and hit the email listing for new sitting opportunities available.  Within minutes I heard from Nicole and Sebastian, a cute couple from Germany and Denmark who are currently traveling the world, working in IT, house/dog sitting in Washington, D.C. and looking for house sits on the west coast.  Cool!  A while later up popped a message from Natalia and Antwan who work for Norwegian Cruises and travel in their off time.  They are on a ship coming into Seattle in September and looking to travel on the west coast.  It’s been less than 24 hours and I’m not sure how all this even works, but I am very excited by the possibilities.

I’m hopeful we will find a match and leave Mr. Ricky in good hands.  Then, when we get back from our adventures in Spain, I’m going to spend a lot more time on Trusted House Sitters looking for opportunities where we can test drive being house sitters ourselves.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

See you on the road!

Nancy

 

 

 

Collect Experiences Not Things ~

cars Why is it we seem to put such a high value on the things we have or hope to acquire?  It’s the American way and most of the people my age learned the lesson well.  We aspired.  We worked.  We purchased.  And we upgraded our purchases in one long cycle of acquisition.  How else did you mark success?  You knew by the place you lived, the cars you drove, how many pair of shoes in your closet and where you vacationed.  Bonus points if you actually owned a vacation home.  Remember the mantra of the 1980’s?  “He who dies with the most toys wins”.  It makes you feel a little bit nauseous to think like that now doesn’t it?

A few very smart people didn’t go down that road, but many of us did.  Even if we were driving a Toyota, we still wanted the Beemer.  We might have even gone into hock for the beemer, but what the heck.  We knew our jobs were secure and we’d get a raise and … well, we deserved it.   Keeping up with the Jones (definitely NOT the Kardashians!) has kept the American economy humming for a very long time.

Little did we know what a house of cards we’d been building with our hard-earned dollars.

Until it all collapsed.

Nothing like the cold slap of reality to make someone see the light!   Many of us lost a lot of things we had always taken foregranted – jobs, cars, homes, dignity and perhaps even our sense of entitlement.

But we gained something and we’ve learned a lot.  Especially the generation about to retire and the generation just starting out.  We’ve been given a whole new perspective on what’s really important and it isn’t stuff.  I talk to so many 20 and 30-somethings these days who are more interested in the experience than the stuff.  They refuse to jump on the outdated bandwagon of work, work, work so you can buy, buy and then pay, pay.

It’s the same with lots of soon-to-be retirees.  We’re figuring out how to live on less and with less.  We’re carting truckloads of our oh so important stuff to the Goodwill.  As hubby says:  “If it doesn’t fit in the backpack and rollie, do we really need it?”  Heck no!  But we’re also doing some soul searching about what truly is important.

And, guess what.  Not the stuff.  It is the experiences and the memories and the friendships and the kindness of strangers we meet that enrich us.  It’s continuing to learn and grow and be vital.  It’s seeing the world through softer eyes.  It’s about blooming wherever you plant yourself.  It’s about laughing til you almost pee your pants.

My niece Melissa knows this at 32.  She’s into her third week of a six month solo backpacking adventure in South America and she already has shared some amazing stories.   My daughter and her family know this.  They just packed up and moved to Colorado so they could enjoy a more balanced pace of life in a smaller town where family values and neighborly relationships trump the big house and fancy car every time. And my son and his sweetie know this too.  At 28 they began planning and saving so they could build their own tiny house on wheels and become apprentice farmers.  They began building two weeks ago. tinybuild2

And hubs and I are finally learning it as well.   If it hadn’t been for the bad economy, we might have missed this opportunity.   Life as we knew it changed with one phone call.  It has taken me a while to say this (and especially to believe it) – Best phone call we ever got.

It changed our way of thinking and now we’re putting the wheels in motion to completely change our life.

One experience at a time.

See you on the road.

Nancy

 

 

 

http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/13-07/collect-experiences-not-things.html

http://www.lamag.com/citythink/wellbeing/2013/07/16/proof-positive

Moving into Retirement ~ Have I got a deal for you!

Everything must go!

Everything must go!

We’re at it again.  Moving stuff out of our current life to make space for our new life ahead.  For the past month, we have been up to our shoulders in boxes, bags, piles and more piles.  Like olden day explorers we’ve been searching through dusty corners, under stairs and deep into the dark cavernous storage room to dig out long forgotten treasures (and a LOT of what were we thinking trash).  Hubs’ everything must go mindset had faded slightly since his initial eBay ferver of last year, but he quickly sprang back into action.  This man loves to sell things.  Price is no object.  You want it for $5.00?  Sold!   Apparently none of our long-held treasures are going to add much “fluff” to our thin retirement nest egg.

Note to self – Get over it and move on because now that the actual Leap Date is set, everything really does have to go.

We started with participation in our community garage sale.  In my humble opinion, the garage sale should be the second to last stop on the downsizing trail, just ahead of taking it to the Goodwill.  I found the entire process irritating and slightly demeaning.  I also found myself taking things off the table and putting them back in the house.  I developed a somewhat Jeckyl and Hyde personality as the very long day wore on.  I would give things to kids, but when someone wanted to pay $3 for a perfectly good item worth $50 that I was selling for $10, I found myself saying NO!  Because I would rather give it to Goodwill.   There was absolutely no logic to my madness but these people were irritating me and somehow offending my “stuff”.  Go figure.  Hubs thought I had lost my mind.   Garage Sale Day could not end quickly enough for me.  When we celebrated later with a frosty beverage and counted our fistful of dollars, I shouted a hearty “NEVER MAKE ME DO THIS AGAIN!”

Next up was Craigslist.  You have to find the right venue for what you have to sell.  I had tables, chairs, 88 champagne flutes, wine glasses and plates left over from the Flourish event days.  I made several young couples who were planning summer weddings very happy.  That made me very happy.  Win/Win.  I like you Craig – and your List worked perfectly.  Although if anybody needs a 3 section electric buffet chaffing dish with domed lids used only once, please call me. BugsBunnyS&P

But Craigslist doesn’t work for everything.  Try selling your Bugs Bunny as Carmen Miranda salt and pepper shakers on Craigslist and … Hear the crickets chirping?  Nothing.  Nada.  Nobody cared.

On to eBay.  Hubs is the King of eBay so I’m turning Bugs, the Pillsbury Doughboy and all the others over to him for disposal.   Oops, I mean sale.  A little research on ebay showed the Bugs/Carmen S&P might bring as much as $60.00!   Fred Flintstone riding Dino was around $35.00 and the Mary Englebreit Cherries a whopping $25.00.  Whoo Hooo!

Nobody’s getting rich here.  That’s for sure.  But we are really clearing and cleaning.  Big time.  We’re sending our treasures out into the world to make other folks happy for a while.  And maybe that was the point I’ve been missing all along.  It’s not really “mine”.  I’ve just been borrowing it anyway.  Let someone else find pleasure in it.  That’s where the richness truly is.

I love this story!  It is indeed a very small world and we are all connected in more ways than we can imagine.   Here’s hoping some of our recently departed stuff has many more interesting journeys ahead.  Just like us.

Cheers!

Nancy

It Still Takes a Village ~ a really cool option for aging in place

This week I had another NPR Driveway Moment.  If you listen to public radio, a driveway moment is when a conversation on your car radio is so interesting that you actually continue to sit in the car in the garage or the driveway until it’s over because it’s just too good to miss.  I love a good driveway moment.

With my 65th birthday looming on the very near horizon and my recent proclaiming of my Leap Day to retirement, it’s safe to say that the whole process of living out whatever years I have left in this particular go-around has been on my mind.  In the short term, it’s about staying fit and healthy, downsizing, scraping together all our pennies and coaxing them to miraculously multiply and looking at ways we can spend the next few years traveling and exploring other countries and cultures.  All good stuff, but there’s also the longer view.  What happens when we can’t, or no longer want to be retired gypsies.   At some point, we’ll have to settle down, settle in and settle for a much quieter existence.  Oh, NO! Not the HOME!

Actually, I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to afford assisted living.  At least in the U.S.

And that’s how I came to this particular driveway moment.  The show was about the Village movement for elders that has been quietly springing up in towns and cities across the United States, Canada and is slowly spreading to other parts of the world.  The idea for the first village came from the brilliant minds of a group of folks in Boston’s Beacon Hill area who were facing retirement and wanted to explore creative and affordable options that would allow them to age in place – literally living in their own neighborhoods and homes.  In 2002 they founded Beacon Hill Village and it has become a model for other villages.  These “villages” are springing up everywhere.  There is one in the planning stages in Northeast Portland.  Another in Ashland, Oregon. In fact, there are more tha 70 village networks in the U.S.  From Maryland to Michigan elders are banding together and creating exciting alternatives to assisted living facilities.

The village concept begins with the simple idea of bringing services to the people rather than people to the services.  Each non-profit village is independently created and functions with a board, a small staff and many volunteers.  Instead of paying thousands per month, you pay between $200 – $1000 a year to become a member.   The village system offers transportation to doctor appointments and the grocery store, yard work, home repair, and other services (usually for a discounted fee, but sometimes at no charge by a volunteer).  There are social and educational offerings, as well as fitness classes – all with transportation provided.  Each village is unique to its residents.  I smiled at the comment made by a women from the Village to Village Network.  “Most people think if you’ve seen one village you’ve seen them all, but the truth is – If you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen ONE village.”  They are created by the people, for the people.

I absolutely love this idea.  A little help when it’s needed.  The social contact that keeps our minds lively and our spirits and bodies healthy.  Dignity still firmly intact.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it seems like a perfectly wonderful idea that grandma and grandpa create their own village to grow old in.

We’re not ready to become Village People yet, (sorry I had to fit that in someplace)  but it gives me peace of mind to know that when the time gets closer, we have options.  Maybe even options that won’t break the bank.  More research is definitely in order.

If you have experience with this type of elder village or other unique ways seniors are finding to age gracefully and less expensively, please share them.  This is important information!  Aging minds want to know.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Setting a Date ~ making retirement real

I started this blog just over a year ago to share our journey from being two cogs in the corporate wheel to two happy retirees roaming the world with just our backpacks and rolling suitcases.  Since then, I’ve been exploring ways to have travel adventures on the cheap.  I’ve learned about home exchange, house sitting, VRBO and other very interesting options.  I’ve been looking at the pros and cons of living in other countries where we can stretch our small nest egg and still enjoy a high quality lifestyle.   So many options!

But, here’s the deal.  I’ve been looking, reading, talking, sharing, thinking, researching, learning and not actually DOING anything.  I’m still stuck making the wheels of commerce turn and afraid to let go of the paycheck.  I am definitely handcuffed to the security (or illusion of it) and I’ve been hanging on for dear life.  I have horrible visions of hubs and I lining up for the free meal at the end of the month.  At this rate I’ll be 90 when I finally fall over sideways – still at my desk.   I’m wearing FEAR like a big sparkly diamond ankle chain.

So, last week I made a decision.  It’s time to set a date, make it real and make it happen.

It’s time to make the leap…and FLY!  And, it terrifies me.  calendar

And it THRILLS me too.  August 31, 2015 – I’m calling it LEAP DAY.  Now I know I have exactly 782 days left to wrap up this life and get ready for our next act.  Wow, that sounds like a lot, but I know it isn’t.  There is much to be done.  I’m definitely up for the challenge.

Hubs?  He’s already there just waiting for me to catch up.

Tally ho!

Nancy

 

 

Retiring to Ecuador ~ Meet these boots on the ground experts!

In early April I very enthusiastically posted here about my initial look at Ecuador as a great option for living la vida cheapo in retirement.  Apparently, we are definitely running with the herd in looking at South America.  It feels a bit like being in line at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving waiting for the doors to open at Best Buy.  (I am proud to say that I have never actually been there/done that and plan to keep it that way)   There is a mass migration about to take place.   I’m not sure that is a good thing entirely, but that’s what it’s come down to for a lot of us who need to figure out how to s-t-r-e-t-c-h every last penny and feed our adventurous spirits at the same time.

We baby boomers are casting off the chains, kissing our loved ones goodbye and heading out into the great unknown in droves.  I’m in love with the idea of becoming citizens of the world.  Trying to figure out exactly what that means is a very interesting adventure in itself.  I’ve looked briefly at Panama, Uruguay, Chile, Nicaragua and even the other side of the Big Pond in the rural (cheaper) parts of Europe, Spain and Portugal.  More on these options later.

My recent Ecuador post garnered lots of comments and some great questions, including a few I hadn’t even thought of.  Obviously, I had some more digging to do – this time in the form of some very cool blogs by folks who have already planted their flip-flops on terra firma in Ecuador.   For me, nothing is better than information right from the source.

Want to know the name of the tea that cures altitude sickness?  Is the medical care really that cheap and good?  What’s the scoop on health insurance?  Do I need a car?  How do I meet other expats?  What’s the deal with petty crime?  Are all the gringos going to drive up the prices?  What’s for dinner?  Can two people really live a good life on $2,000 a month or less?  Really?  Reading through the blogs below, I found answers to all of these questions and so much more.  Their own unique stories – in their own words.  I love the very different viewpoints!

Gringos Abroad – Brian and Dena Haines are a Canadian family of three who moved to Cuenca, Ecuador in 2009.  Their blog is full of solid information about life in Cuenca and the joys and pitfalls of living the expat life.  Check out Brian’s recent post – everything you ever wanted to know about cable and internet services.  Good stuff!

 

Rich and Nancy visited Ecuador in 2008.   All it took was a one day visit to Cuenca and they were hooked.  They went back to Oregon, sold the ranch and most of their belongings, and a year later, were living in their new home in Ecuador.  They share a wealth of valuable information gleaned from three years in their new home and 20/20 hindsight.

At Travel Past 50 Tom and Kristen began their life as world travelers when they sold their

Buen Camino.

Buen Camino.

house, cars, most of their belongings, and closed their business.  They gifted their kids with the dog and hit the road.  They lived in Quito, Ecuador for quite a while and now have truly become citizens of the world.  I connected with Tom when I read a couple of very thought provoking past posts on his not always good experiences in Quito.   Tom has been kind enough to connect via email as well and I value the information he has willingly shared including his packing advice for the Camino de Santiago.  Needless to say, these guys are great role models for hubs and I.

 

Cynthia Goes To Ecuador ~  I love this friendly, chatty blog by Cynthia, who  as a “slightly older” single woman packed up and moved herself to Cotacachi, Ecuador.  By all accounts, she is settling in very nicely.   I really enjoy reading her posts –  making the big decision to go it alone, the details of down-sizing and packing for her 3,000 mile move, finding her first tiny apartment, connecting with the local community and her recent post sharing some very important and relevant information on aging and health care as a single expat.  Don’t be afraid, but be prepared.

I have no idea if Ecuador will be our final destination, but I do know that it is on the list for a long visit.   And, after connecting with so many warm, wise and helpful expats already living there, I’m pretty sure we’ll have a some new friends to raise a glass with when we get there.

See you on the road,

Nancy

8 Great Senior Discounts

Last week in a post about retirement options in Ecuador, I commented on the many great discounts that seniors (both expat and nationals) enjoy.  My favorite was definitely the law that states seniors never have to wait in line.  While I think most of us would be risking bodily harm if we were to walk to the head of the line at the movies or the grocery store, I thought a listing of some of the best discounts that seniors can enjoy right here at home in the good old USA was definitely in order.

Who wouldn't want to save a pile of these?

Who wouldn’t want to save a pile of these?

For some strange reason, the term “senior” seems to be a moving target based on age alone.  Let’s start with 50 (which seems very young to me, but whatever) At 50 you can officially join AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons.  For only $16 a year, an AARP membership is a great resource for discounts.

Ask and you just might receive.  It sounds crazy, but not every senior discount is advertised so next time you are booking a trip, making a purchase or eating out (especially at a chain restaurant) – ask “what is your senior discount?”   I’m getting bolder in my old age and I figure you won’t know the policy (or get the discount) if you don’t ask.

I did a little research and here are eight great ways to save money with a senior discount.

St Helens

Mt. St Helens in July ~ strangely beautiful and worth a visit

1.  National Parks ~ There are more than 2,000 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands in this country, and if you are age 62 or better, for a one-time $10 fee ($20 if you apply online) you can visit every one of them.   Hubs got his a few years ago and has already used it on his annual “hiking with the boys” adventures and at Mt Saint Helens when we visited last year.  In some cases there may also be additional discounts for motels, cabins, camping, boating and more within the parks.

2.  Planes, trains and automobiles ~  Airlines do offer senior discounts.  It’s best to call SWA plane and ask if you aren’t sure, but here’s what I found:  Alaska offers travelers 65 and older a 10% discount, American says it offers various discounts (best to call), Southwest offers a variety of discounts and United offers a discount to seniors 65 and older who call before booking. In my research, you have to be pro-active in seeking and asking for airline discounts.  These days they are giving nothing away.

When you’ve got the time, riding the rails can be a great way to travel.  Amtrak offers a 15% discount for travelers 62 and older.  This is generally off their lowest available fare but not always.  If you are interested in train travel in Canada and you are over 60, you can also enjoy a 10% discount on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.   Some limitations do apply – you will not get a senior discount on the Acela Express train for example.

Renting a car?  Check out these discounts – Alamo has discounts up to 25% off for AARP members, Budget Rent-A-Car offers a 10% discount for seniors 55+  and with an AARP membership you get a 15% discount.  Hertz gives AARP members a 25% discount.  National Car Rental offers a 30% discount to AARP.  Obviously if you are renting a car on your next vacation, it pays to be an AARP member and to shop around.

3.  Hotels ~  Many of the major hotel chains are catering to us older folks with reduced rates.  Here are a few good options:  Marriott offers senior discounts of 15% at more than 3,600 hotels worldwide.  You have to be 62 or older.  Best Western offers guests 55 and older and AARP members a 10% discount.  Hampton Inn & Suites offers a 10% discount but you have to book 72 hours in advance.  Hyatt Hotels generously offers seniors 62 and older a 25-50% discount.

4.  Phone Service ~  AT&T and Verizon both offer customers over 65 a senior cell phone plan.  Looks like it’s a basic 200 anytime minutes for $29.99 – a data plan would be extra.

5.  Movie Theaters ~  Pretty much everyone knows and uses the senior discounts on movie tickets.   AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark/Century Theaters offer discounts of 30-35% on tickets and refreshments.  At Regal, AARP members pay just $5.50 for a soft drink and popcorn.

6.  Restaurants ~  With all of the amazing food options we have here in Portland, we don’t eat at chain restaurants like we used to, but many of them offer senior discounts and you don’t have to eat dinner at 4:30 any more to claim them.  You simply get smaller portions (which I love) for less money.  It is sort of the kid’s meal in reverse, but as long as they don’t offer me a booster seat and a coloring book, I am OK with it.

7.  Shopping ~ Wednesday is grocery shopping day at our house and hubs is the shopper.  Why Wednesday?  Because that’s the day our favorite local grocery store, New Seasons, offers their 10% senior discount.  It adds up!  Most grocery stores offer a senior discount one day mid-week.  Many retailers do the same thing.  Ross, Kohl’s, Stein Mart and Banana Republic all offer senior discounts.  I’m waiting for Macys and Nordstrom.  Even Goodwill has a senior day.

8.  But wait…there’s more ~  Look for senior discounts at your gym, the zoo, many museums, chain hair salons like Great Clips and Super Cuts, most pharmacies and even Sea World.

So I guess there is an upside to being over 50.  Fifty sounds quite young to me these days and sixty does too.  But, hey, if somebody wants to give me a discount for making it this far, why on earth would I not take it?  Seriously though, the first time I was offered a senior discount at the movies I said “No Thank You”.  Once I got over admitting my age in public, it’s been easy.  Call me a senior, call me an honored citizen, call me grandma – but please, call me when you want to give me 25% Off.

Now it’s your turn.  What are your favorite senior discounts?  What did I miss in my list above?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Happy saving!

Nancy