≡ Menu

Your Escape Blueprint

Survived and Revived

After spending three hurricane seasons in the Caribbean Islands it had to happen! We had our first brush, in fact two brushes with a hurricane this year.

We were in our last few days of a housesit on the tiny island of Bequia (St Vincent and the Grenadines) when tropical storm Matthew passed over. We had been watching it closely and had moved everything possible indoors well before it was due–high winds and outdoor chairs are not good combinations—the golden rule is to batten down as tightly as you can.

The storm hit, although the predicted high winds did not. Matthew dropped 8 inches of rain on us overnight, turning the hillside behind into a mass of waterfalls all pouring into a custom built culvert behind the property.  The sheer volume of rushing water on a typically dry island was a sight and sound seldom seen and one we hope not to see again.

Four days later we arrived at Merritt Island, Florida to visit a friend……. just as an evacuation warning was issued. Yep! Our friend Matthew after hitting Haiti on October 4th 2016, with wind speeds of 130 to 156 mph was on its way. Matthew (a category 4 hurricane) left 1000 dead and 17500 homeless and was bearing down on us once again.

The 15 minutes we spent at a large gas station before said friend arrived to collect us was an eye opener. A steady stream of vehicles pulled in gassed up, then the occupants dashed into the store returning clutching cases of water–and in some instances even more cases of beer—before dashing back and charging off. One concerned citizen, no doubt puzzled over the sight of two strangers just standing there with a couple of suitcases, stopped to inquire if we were OK and “did we know there was a hurricane coming”? After reassuring her that everything was fine she reluctantly left us to our own devices.

hurricane_matthew_cumulative_wind_history

Our friend Don arrived shortly afterwards and reassured us that it wasn’t as bad as everyone was making out. With the current predicted wind speeds of 50 to 60 mph he was planning on hunkering down and riding it out. Which is why instead of joining the 16 mile long traffic jam leading off the barrier islands we stayed in and enjoyed a deep fried turkey dinner. Wednesday the 5th October 2016 we spent visiting the Kennedy Space Center while (what seemed to be) the rest of the neighbourhood were ‘battening down the hatches’. The sounds of saws and hammers prevailed as windows were boarded up and sandbags stockpiled in efforts to minimize damage and flooding.

It was only when the predicted wind speeds met the 100 mile per hour mark that Don decided that maybe he should go after all. Hurricane Matthew was now predicted to make landfall at our location sometime late on Thursday or early Friday. Our flight out of Orlando was at 1.15pm on Thursday the 6th October and we were worried……… would it make it out in time? Which is why I made an early morning phone call on Wednesday, the airlines were co-operating and were making every effort to get people out before Matthew struck, so I was able to get us on an earlier 7.40 am flight.

As the flight was now within 24 hours I went online to check in, to find that although I was checked in we had no seats allocated……..uh oh! This is where the option to buy a premium seat upgrade was priceless. I coughed up the extra $100 plus and secured actual seat assignments, yay!  We hate paying extra fees for upgrades and for checking bags, but in this case it was worth every penny.

Having secured our friends place as much as possible we headed out at 5 am Thursday morning. Us on the way to the airport and he to a friend’s place further inland to sit out Hurricane Matthew.

Upon check-in the attendant predicted that our original flight at 1.15pm would have been cancelled. After all, airlines are not keen to leave an expensive piece of equipment in the path of a hurricane, planes were going out but few were coming in. Our flight had a ‘standby’ list of almost 30 people. Frantic would be passenger’s appealing for a seat were turned away with a ‘good luck’. Had we not upgraded to premium seating guess who else would have been on that standby list? Sometimes it is worth the extra!

The tension in the boarding area was palpable, everyone quiet and subdued, anxiously waiting for boarding.  We have never been so happy to squash ourselves in and fasten our seat belts as we were that day. Taxiing down the runway, the joy and relief of having made it thus far caused grins from ear to ear. Once airborne, we gave each other a high five and thanked our lucky stars, we were on our way home, leaving Matthew far behind.

Despite our close brush with Matthew we are going back to the Caribbean in 2017. In fact we already have 4 months booked in early summer and fall.

Having survived Matthew we headed home for Thanksgiving with family and friends. Got our checkups done, re-provisioned and more importantly recharged our batteries.

After 4 ½ years of travel we were beginning to feel a little jaded and yes we confess, even a little bored. Why? Well for the last couple of years we have been doing mostly repeat sits, meaning we were getting way too comfortable, with no new challenges. As every traveller knows the solution to that is to go somewhere new, so we have!

We arrived in Quito, Ecuador on the 2nd November and despite the high altitude, immediately felt revived! New continent, new country, new language, new people, new customs and two new housesits high in the Andes.

We will be bringing you our insights and impressions of this fascinating country in the next few weeks, so stay posted.

caribbean-sunrise

0 comments

Lets talk about sex – Do I have your attention?

Living in the Caribbean is a lot like being back in high school – sexual energy abounds. At times the tension in the hormone charged atmosphere is so palpable it feels as if it could be cut with a knife!

Wine Down

Newcomers to the islands may not immediately recognize the source of the pervading energy. However, once your ear is attuned to the local twist on the English language, the sexual innuendos and overtones are apparent in everyday conversation.

But as we all know it is impossible to ‘play pool with a piece of string’!

To back up all the talk, the Caribbean is home to a veritable cornucopia of libido enhancing magic potions. These love elixirs are for keeping the guys “big and powerful”, or as they say in Jamaica “to keep your back strong”.

The libido enhancing sex tonics include Mama Juana, Damiana (Ram goat dash), Horny Goat weed and Bois Bande infused rums. Even sex powered foods like Soursop, Cloves, Nutmeg and Cacao are popular for their purported libido enhancing properties– chocolate anyone?

The latest libido enhancing elixir we have come across (pun not intended?) is “Sea Moss”.

Sea Moss, also known as Irish moss, is a type of seaweed that grows naturally in the southern Caribbean and is cultivated throughout the islands.

Stories abound about the power of this slimy ocean vegetable – it is known for being a romance enhancer, it off sets the effect of drinking alcohol, and is widely it is known for its health benefits and its ability to restore one’s vim and vigor.

We are currently housesitting in Grenada on a property right on the sea, with Sea Moss being cultivated steps away from our front door. When I found Sea Moss on the beach during the morning dog walk I just had to bring it home and try it.

What possibly could go wrong?

The Grenadians boil the Sea Moss and then make it into a tonic.

I boiled the fresh Sea Moss with water, Cloves, Cinnamon and Cardamom for about 15 to 20 minutes- then blended it (after removing the spices). When the resulting liquid is cooled it turns into Sea Moss Jell-O.

To make the final drink I add brown sugar and organic Grenadian Caoco powder in a tall glass.

To this, I add almost half a glass of hot water to dissolve the sugar / cacao mixture. Add to this 2 or 3 heaping spoons of Sea Moss Jell-O and mix into the hot Cocoa mixture until dissolved. Then top up the glass with milk.

The result is a warm, spicy, hot chocolate with just a hint of the Sea.

Bet you are wondering if the stuff really works – Nudge nudge wink wink , know whatahmean – say no more!

Sorry no kissing and telling.

Here is an interesting video about Grenadian Sea Moss Cultivation – the video is oh so Caribbean – Lovin’ it.

0 comments

Our Story

Today Michael and I travel full time, doing what we love!

Strangely, enough we travel in style while spending about 50% of what we used to spend back home in cold grey Vancouver BC. However, it wasn’t always that way.

Just 5 years ago we were well and truly stuck….. stuck in the treadmill of consumerism and filling our lives full of ‘stuff’. After all, if we had enough ‘stuff’ we would be happy right?

We now know how wrong we were, ‘stuff’ is not what makes our souls sing. It’s the joy of exploring new places, meeting new people, doing new things and trying new foods that makes us happy.

Michael & Yvonne

To fully understand what happened to change our perspective so radically, we need to go back a few years………………..

Michael and I met while backpacking around the world, over twenty years ago. Fate threw us together in a rather dramatic fashion at Lake Taupo New Zealand. It started with a simple invite to visit a local pub then being pounced upon enroute by six Maori teenagers in search of some trouble and a little easy cash. The outcome was a bloody nose (Michael) bruises and scratches (Yvonne) and an evening spent giving statements and riding around in a police cruiser trying to identify the culprits.

Our first ‘date’ ended up back at the hostel with a midnight shot of brandy to calm our nerves and a visit from a ‘stress’ councilor who advised that we should carry on talking it out. We are still ‘talking it out’ and Michael still jokes that he knows how to show a girl a good time.

The outcome, apart from a few bruises was that we spent the next eight months traveling together through New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sumatra and Nepal.

Spending all day together, every day, meant we got to know each other very well. It also made us realize that we really enjoyed traveling together. This is why it was a teary farewell at Delhi airport as I returned to the UK and Michael carried on with his travels through India and Turkey, before coming to visit and meet the family in the UK.

After a year of travel, we had both spent our travel budgets and neither of us had a job. We wanted to be together, but what to do and where to do it?

The answer came shortly after Michael returned to Canada; he was offered a temporary position at the refinery that had paid him to travel (thanks to the severance package after being laid off the previous year).

I joined him in Canada and we knuckled down to make a life together and replenish our coffers. The first few months were tough, I couldn’t work as I was on a visitor’s visa and money was tight. We persevered, Michael branched out as a consulting engineer and I took up an old hobby and started making fancy wedding cakes.

cake2

 

 

Four years later, we bought a house in the suburbs of Vancouver and tried to figure out how we could get rid of that mortgage as soon as possible. Although neither of us considers ourselves spenders, we ended up with two cars, two phones and a four-bedroom house full of stuff.

We had a good network of friends, went out for dinner occasionally and usually managed to squeeze in at least one vacation overseas per year. But, we were restless. We were not happy, we were just going through the motions and everyday was the same as the last. Even weekends evaporated in the heat of ‘things we had to do’.

We were stuck in ‘the hamster wheel’ we worked hard, yet too much of our income was going on bills and everyday necessities. We weren’t broke and we were managing to save but what were we saving for? Were we like millions of others, saving until we reached 65 so that we could carry on paying for all the stuff until we kicked the bucket?

P1150354

Our wakeup call was when a dear friend passed away from ALS, she went from a bubbly fireball to a unrecognizable skeleton in just a few months. Watching our friends deal with this reminder of mortality made us examine our lives, our dreams and our goals. If this was either of us, would we have regrets, was there something we would rather be doing?

The answer was a resounding YES! We still wanted to travel, we wanted to explore the world and we didn’t want to retire in the burbs of Vancouver and live on two minute noodles because of puny pensions.

The challenge was to figure out a way to travel, without raiding our savings. But, we wanted to travel in style, we weren’t willing to be broke backpackers again.

We knew we could live far cheaper in many parts of the world and initially thought we would spend a few months in Mexico or Asia and then go from there. We had already done the math and knew that we could get a reasonable monthly income if we rented out our home in the burbs. However less than $2,000 wasn’t going to go far.

Then I discovered housesitting!

If we could get enough housesitting assignments we could dramatically reduce our travel expenses, after all flights and accommodation costs are the biggest culprits. Within days we had booked our first housesit and then went into overdrive to get ready for this new phase of our lives.

Emptying a four-bedroom home is not an easy task, especially when you add in all the other tasks we needed to do, such as eliminating mail. Going paperless takes a lot of time, as did switching banking accounts, bill payments and dealing with the taxman to online. We actually work a book on the subject called “Selling Up to Travel

I will be honest there were times when I wondered what the hell we had done. Where we mad to sell or give away all our possessions, to let someone else live in our home, to give up our professions and become nomads? We know that, that is what some of our family and friends thought.

Four years later, we know that we were not mad, far from it. We now live life on our own terms, doing what we want, when we want.

We have visited over 40 countries, made friends all over the world and expanded our culinary skills. No longer tied to a desk for 40 plus hours a week, we have used the time freedom to branch out into new ventures we blog, write travel articles and even published our own books. We have a stronger, deeper more meaningful relationship and plan to be nomadic retirees for a long, long time.

To follow our adventures simply sign up for our newsletters and we look forward to helping you explore this beautiful world too.

0001-51842114

 

 

 

 

0 comments

“Follow your Bliss” Joseph Campbell used to say – but I never really understood what he meant until now. I guess “You have to live to know it”.

Today Yvonne and I travel the globe full time – often in luxury –  for less than it used to cost us to stay at home and work for a living.

In 2011 we felt overworked, stressed and were often not very happy.

We knew we wanted to travel the world, but didn’t know how to escape. Neither of us were fortunate enough to be born with a silver spoon in hand and our budget wasn’t going to get us very far (or afford many creature comforts).

When Yvonne discovered Housesitting, we  knew we had found a way. Perhaps we could pull it off after all? We soon realized that we now had a plan that would allow us to retire early and travel full time in a financially sustainable manner (without having to eat 2 minutes noodles and live in Backpacker Hostels).

P1220784

What I didn’t know when we crafted our Escape Blueprint, was how much this journey would change our lives.

I worked as a mechanical engineer  for almost 20 years. A lot of time and effort went into building this “Identity” of being an “Engineer”. First there was five years of university training, followed by 20 years of equally hard work. Giving up this identity proved very difficult to do.

Yvonne and I experienced many of the trappings of success and yes, I often did feel trapped. Despite the success, I did not always find my work particularly satisfying.

I felt restless and anxious.

Something was missing.

I felt as if I was meant to do something different. However for many years I simply bottled up my discontent, until the cork popped! I had to do something different.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

For me the journey to the “day” I discovered why I was born was long and twisty, in fact the journey may never end. Everybody’s path is different. However I believe the journey is often an inward one, at least it was for me.

The process of finding “my purpose”, first involved discovering and acknowledging my natural talents and abilities. Those talents and abilities that come naturally. The ones where time stands still because of the shear enjoyment of using them.

It would appear to me that the key living to a fulfilling life, is to find a way of enriching the lives of others by using our natural talents. Or in other words finding the most appropriate venue in which to apply them. Think of it this way…….. even if you are driving the correct vehicle you may be driving down the wrong road.

I think the reason Yvonne and I find housesitting so rewarding is that it allows us to share our natural abilities with our housesitting clients – a venue that suits us to a ‘T’.

Both Yvonne and I have the same love of travel and experiencing new cultures. We both love animals. We both love being of service.  I can use my problem solving skills and Yvonne her coordination and hospitality talents.

Wet Kisses

For the past four years Yvonne I have been on a fantastic adventure. We have house sat in Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean. We have met many wonderful people, wonderful pets and lived in fantastic locations.

I feel blessed that I’m able to share my abilities with others. This arrangement gives homeowners peace of mind while they’re away and allows Yvonne and I to travel the world in a fashion we would otherwise not be able to afford. It allows us to “Follow our Bliss”.

These days we fill our time doing the things we truly enjoy. We are not working long hours to maintain an expensive materialistic lifestyle. Our time and agenda is our own.

We were able to mobilize and break free of the trappings of success, in spite of our fear of the unknown and the “need” to acquire more and more stuff. We were able to step out of the mold, live sustainably and make a positive difference in others lives by doing what we love.

“People are not really afraid of dying; they’re afraid of not ever having lived, not ever having deeply considered their life’s higher purpose, and not ever having stepped into that purpose and at least tried to make a difference in this world.”  ~Joe Jaworski

0001-51842114

4 comments

Even though we travel full time, we don’t consider our life as a full time vacation, we do actually do some work. Which is why we decided to splurge on a recent break between house sits. We were already in Barbados and wanted to get off island and explore, therefore I went to one of my favorite ‘dreaming’ sites, Vacations to Go. This site lists cruise lines and itineraries worldwide, including relocation cruises, last minute deals and is a perfect place to find out what is available. A short search bought up a number of options all departing from Barbados. Cheapest on the list was a 7 night Caribbean cruise with ‘Carnival’ the price was tempting but the cruise lines reputation had us debating whether this would be for us. The second ‘really’ tempting option was with the Star Clipper line, it was well out of our budget but the whole concept of actually sailing not just cruising on a five masted clipper had us intrigued. Further investigation revealed this was the vessel we ‘oohed’ over when we saw it in dry dock in Martinique last year.

Royal Clipper in Dry Dock


We mulled it over, ran the numbers and mulled it over some more, before phoning Vacations to Go to get the full picture. Like many cruise lines port fees and taxes are an additional charge, however because it was a late booking the line was making the deal even sweeter by giving two nights accommodation and breakfast at the Accra Beach hotel in Barbados and a cabin credit of US$175 per person. We ran the numbers again and could not resist as the credit would pretty much eliminate all those nasty charges that add up on traditional cruise lines, like bar bill, excursions and gratuities. We splurged and booked a week on the Royal Clipper, departing Barbados, January 23, 2016. The countdown was on……… this was going to be fun.

Boarding started at 4pm and our hostess kindly delivered us to the terminal around 4.30pm. We strolled into the terminal, found the Star Clipper pennant, checked in and handed over our bags. We were then free to stroll across the dock and pose for a few photographs before mounting the gangway. After being personally welcomed on board by the Captain, handed a towel for refreshing ourselves and a glass of rum punch, we were shown to our tiny but well equipped cabin. Then, too excited to do anything else, we went exploring, the Royal Clipper is a beauty!

The sundeck hosts three small pools, loungers and a small bar, the lower deck holds more loungers and seating plus the larger covered Tropical Bar, the entrance to the indoor Piano Bar and the Atrium, the Clippers main dining area. After figuring out the basic layout of the ship and meeting some equally delighted fellow passengers, we returned to our cabin to get ready for dinner. With only 200 passengers on board there are no strict seating times and no formal table assignments. The maître d sits guests as they arrive at tables ranging from 2 to 8, so you can choose to eat alone, arrive with friends or make new friends each evening.

The service, the food and our dinner companions were all wonderful, as was the very reasonably priced wine list. Primarily the Royal Clipper is a sailing vessel, unless weather dictates otherwise we sail. “Sail away” was at 10pm. Imagine sailing out of Barbados under a full moon, champagne in hand and this music stirring your souls………. The atmosphere on deck was electric, as each sail unfurled a gentle cheer rose from the crowd. With grins fit to split our faces, we stood arm in arm, necks craned as the gentle breeze filled the sails and set us on our journey.

Royal Clipper-7

The first full day on the Royal Clipper is the Captains choice, giving him the freedom to take advantage of wind, weather and whim. He took us to Chatham Bay on Union Island for a day of snorkeling (loads of fish, plus puffers, lobsters and two species of moray eels), sunbathing and our first attempt at stand up paddle boarding. It is of course harder than it looks, we both did actually manage to stand up, yet sadly not long enough for photographic evidence. We finished off the day with one of those elusive green flash sunsets, before meeting two very fun guys at dinner. Just another ASDIP day (Another Sunny Day in Paradise).

Day 2 on the Royal Clipper started with a splash! We were tucking into breakfast when we saw a fat sleek body leap next to the porthole! Yep! Dolphins! We dashed up on deck and watched entranced as a pod of 8 or 10 played in front of the bow. Very few of our fellow passengers knew they were there, with no crowds lining the rails we were delighted to be able to catch them on film.

The Royal Clipper has a handy little mini deck on either side of the forward deck overlooking the prow and waterline. It was the perfect viewing point from which to marvel at their agility and playfulness.

After our Dolphin fix, we took advantage of our day in Grenada and met our new housesitting clients. They treated us to lunch on Grand Anse Beach and then took us ‘home’ to meet our newest charge Spare and to check out our home for 6 weeks beginning this April. Our hosts then returned us to quayside and we headed back onboard for a little chilling in preparation for dancing to a visiting Steel Band. Day 3 of cruising took us to The Tobago Cays, home of stunning reefs, sea in every shade of blue, turtles and famous as one of the filming locations for Pirates of the Caribbean. It took no stretch of the imagination to envisage Jack Sparrow rowing himself ashore. We had a lazy beach day, unlike the kitchen staff that set up everything for a complete BBQ lunch on a tiny little beach, including cold drinks, burgers, chicken, ribs and tasty treats for dessert. We could get used to this…………………………… Royal Clipper-77


Tonight was party night, we jumped right into the ‘name that song’ contest complete with Karaoke and dancing (not easy when the deck is tilting first this way……. and then the other……. we were having so much fun the flying fish were jumping on board to join us. St Vincent and Bequia were our ports of call on Day 4. We passed on exploring St Vincent’s trails and gardens and spent the morning chilling on deck. Michael took this opportunity to climb the traditional rope ladder up to the crow’s nest on the main mast for a birds eye view and a unique photo opportunity. In the afternoon, we visited friends in Bequia and caught the last tender back to the Clipper at dusk. We had a fun night with new friends at the Piano Bar before heading down to dinner in search of a table for 8. Look carefully at the photo and note the ceiling…. That is the bottom of the largest pool on the upper deck, it’s kind of creepy to look up and see people in there. Royal Clipper-38

Day 5 was spent at the oh so chic French island of Martinique. We docked at Fort de France, where we got a true comparison of how small the Clipper is compared to traditional Cruise ships. (Disney’s Wonder is our neighbor in this photo). We went for a leisurely stroll around town before heading back for a sail up the coast and a beach afternoon.

Royal Clipper-83


Tonight is also the traditional ‘Captains Dinner’, steak and lobster were on the menu and guess who was invited to join the Captain at his table? Yes us! We met the Captain and fellow honored guests for champagne and canapes in the Piano Bar, before being escorted down to a very special table. Captain Maruisz is a charming gentleman and planted a few ideas for our next Clipper Cruise (Asia perhaps). The time has flown by and today Day 6 is our last full day on the Royal Clipper, what better way to end a fantastic week than sailing under the Pitons in St Lucia?

Royal Clipper-109

We were up with first light to catch a glimpse of this dramatic island as we sailed in. With the Clipper anchored just outside of Marigot Bay, we took the first tender in and hiked up the hill to visit housesitting clients and now friends, before heading back to enjoy the sail to Soufriere. We spent the afternoon relaxing and chatting with new acquaintances and waiting for our departure, as we would be sailing past the Pitons. Once the last passengers were back on board, the Captain decided that this was a great opportunity for the photographers onboard. The demand was high, two tenders bristling with passengers and cameras pulled away. Both tenders shadowed us as one by one, the sails unfurled. We sailed slowly and majestically towards the Pitons on a mirrored sea with the setting sun tinting the sails in gold, peach and pink.

Royal Clipper-137
I kept one camera behind and snapped images of the onboard action, sails unfurling, some of the crew getting on and off the bowsprit to wave at the tenders and the tenders against the Pitons. Michael snapped away from his tender, capturing the steady increase in sail and the stunning backdrop. The results are the highlights of this collection of our favorite shots Flickr Gallery of the Royal Clipper.

Royal Clipper-159

It is our final evening and there is a subdued but frantic atmosphere at dinner–Subdued because none of us want this to be over and frantic because it is the last night to snap those pictures and find out how to stay connected with new friends. Despite early departures for some, we stay up late, chatting, reminiscing and promising that we will be back. We will join the ranks of those who have sailed on the Clippers 2, 4 or even 16 times. Day 7, we are back, dockside in Barbados and it’s time to leave. We are among the last to disembark, we descend the stairs with heavy hearts, yet happy that we chose to ‘splurge’ on this particular cruise. The experience is like no other, it is not just the sailing, the small amount of passengers and a small crew makes it intimate, friendly and unique. We are forever spoiled, the ‘cattle boat’ style of cruising most lines offer will be difficult to go back to, if we ever do. ….. then with great pomp and dignity the sails were unfurled one by one. The champagne flowed and cameras clicked. Michael took photos from the tender and Yvonne from onboard, giving us a unique perspective on what has to be every photographers dream……….. a 5 masted clipper in full sail under the Pitons. This perfect day ended with drinks and dinner with new friends and the vow to sail with the Clipper line again.

0001-51842114

0 comments

As nomadic wanderers, we have spent a few Christmases away from home, the food and traditions vary, yet there are common factors in every culture.

We spent Christmas 2015 in Barbados. Although far from family and friends, we did not experience the cold hotel style of a typical Christmas vacation. We were fortunate to experience firsthand how some of the local Bajans celebrate the holidays.

Tropical SnowmanTo get into the Christmas spirit, we participated in what is now an annual tradition and attended ‘Carols at the Abbey’. St Nicholas Abbey hosts a special fundraiser each year. The police band provides the music and in between the crowds Carol singing efforts, local artists step in to sing their favorites. Traditional nibbles such as mince pies and sausage rolls are on hand as is a bar with all proceeds going to the hospital. Guests can also bring a wrapped gift for one of the islands less fortunate children. It was a fun few hours and we were able to support two very good causes.

Like elsewhere in the world the shopping frenzy builds. The peak is on Christmas Eve, roads were clogged, supermarkets packed and (rumor has it) the police had to be called in to calm down some shoppers fighting over decorated slab cakes. With no demands on our time, any big meals to cook or mountains of presents to buy, we spent the day at the beach and avoided the chaos!

 

DSC_0130Although relative strangers to Barbados we already had invitations for Christmas Eve and for Christmas Day. Our neighbors had invited us to join them for their family’s traditional formal dinner featuring roast suckling pig. Intrigued we gladly accepted and were warmly invited in. The long table immaculately clad in antique linens, fine china, sparkling crystal and candelabras was a feast in itself. Dominating the further end of the room was a ‘Bajan’ Christmas tree. Although imported pines are available here, this family had made its own. Every year they ride around the property picking out choice branches from the local casuarina trees, they are then tied together to create a Xmas tree. The finished product may not always resemble a pine tree in shape but the delicate frond like branches make a great backdrop for the fun part ……… adding myriads of colored lights, baubles and garlands.

Like all good celebrations, people gathered in the kitchen. As the pork was being carved, the crackling was disappearing as fast as it was ready. Once our hostess was ready we sat down to pumpkin fritters, aubergine pie, potato soufflé, pepper pot, melt in the mouth pork and mushroom gravy. Wow, it was a treat for the taste buds as was the moist ‘fruit cake’ served after.

We were deeply touched and a little embarrassed, to be included in the families gift giving, as we had no gifts to give in return, just our heartfelt thanks. We wandered home full of great food and gratitude for an evening of such Christmas cheer and tradition.

Christmas Day dawned with two invitations, the first was a visit to a friend’s home for a few nibbles and some Christmas cheer. We arrived to find a home full of immediate family, in laws, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends, all greeting us with welcoming hugs and handshakes. Little did we know that we were going to be treated to yet another feast. The star of this show was the traditional ham and the pepper pot (our hostess has a reputation to uphold for her great pepper pot) and it was worthy of its reputation, meats slow cooked for days with cassareep and spices. Everyone helped themselves and then balanced loaded plates on knees or wherever they could find a handy spot. In the midst of this, others popped in to drop off gifts and share quick hugs before heading out again. Although reluctant to leave these friendly Bajans we dragged ourselves away as we had one more meal to attend.

After heading home for a quick nap, we were off once again to another part of the island and another friends gathering. This was an adult only dinner, with guests from all corners of the globe including some Swedes escaping their cold winters. Once again, we all congregated in the kitchen before sitting down to our hosts specialty of roasted chicken, macaroni pie and corn pie, accompanied with roasted squash, veggies and gravy. The conversation flowed as readily as the wine, crackers were pulled, silly jokes shared and yes those embarrassing paper hats donned.

We have celebrated Christmas in Canada, England, Belize, the Philippines and now Barbados. This year will stand out as the one where we were welcomed in as (relative) strangers yet left as friends. All of our host’s hospitality, generosity and the acceptance shown by their family and friends bring home the true spirit of Christmas.

Thank you Barbados

0001-51842114

0 comments

The Truth About Blogging!

As you drool over the photos of faraway places, or relax and dream over picturesque descriptions. Do you wish you were there, leading the same life as your favorite blogger? The reality, as so eloquently pointed out by Wandering Earl recently can often be far from the truth. It seems that not all bloggers, are actually living the lifestyle they write so avidly about. Some of them rarely leave home, spend hours slaving away on their computers to make a few bucks, and never even visit the places they write about.

Although we are not really a travel blog– more about lifestyle choices—we wanted to share the truth about our lifestyle. All of it…………….. the good, the bad and the ugly.

Don’t worry, you won’t be gasping in horror of tales of spending 18 hours a day in crummy hostels, slaving on our computers to make a few bucks. Or living on toast and two minute noodles so we can afford our next airfare.

The reality is that the stories here are true; we do live a dream lifestyle, often in luxury villas in exotic destinations. We also did quit the rat race at 44 and 53. We were able to do that not because we are millionaires, inherited money or won the lottery but because we worked hard for years. We also spent our money wisely—instead of buying big fancy houses and toys—we lived within our means and bought and paid for our house in record time.

19640910314_ab6387a5f0_b

You see although we have a blog and have spent hours on it, it costs us more to run than we make on it. True, we only have a small following and could make a little more if we put ads on it and spent more time promoting it. The truth is that a lucrative and successful blog takes years of hard work, before it takes off, if it ever does. It’s a bit like being a professional football player, you have to have talent, lots of hard work and a whole lot of luck.

When we set out to become roving retirees our monthly income came from having full time tenants in our home in BC. and the majority still does. We started our blog primarily to inspire other would be retirees and allow family and friends to keep track of what is going on in our lives.

Six months into our travels, we realized that–due to factors beyond our control– our forecasted cash flow was short. To keep traveling in the style we preferred we needed to do something, not only to earn a little extra but also to keep our brains active. Instead of finding jobs, or trying to promote our blog, we decided to work on what we wanted to work on and turned our hobbies into cash. Yvonne started travel writing and Michael started selling some of his photography.

Yvonne’s first articles were for International Living and we developed good relationships with the editors. This in due course led to the co-production of ‘The Ultimate Housesitters Guide’. Still in its first year the Guide, although maybe not a bestseller, is a success, as the extra income has filled the shortfall. With these two sources of income, we can say we are ‘retired’, because we only work when we want to, not because we have to, which to us, is the definition of retirement.

Even with this extra income, it is not all a bed of roses; we do live on a budget. Even on a budget, we have visited over 30 countries and lived in Tuscan farmhouses, Spanish casitas, French vineyards and Caribbean villas. We have also lived in student housing in Grenada, vacation rentals, the occasional grotty hotel and yes even the folks basement suite.

We live and live well on around CAD $2000 per month. Our budget stretches to include the occasional fun thing like scuba diving or catamaran sailing trips, or going out to the impromptu jamming session at a local bar. However, we don’t have unlimited funds and we do carefully consider what we spend. Which means that we don’t do all the fun things that we could do, such as visiting all the tourist attractions in Barbados and we can only dream of a future trip to the Galapagos islands.

What this does mean, is that we won’t tell stories of places we haven’t been to, or of things we haven’t done. What you do find here is the truth and the truth is that we have made more money from publishing our first kindle books than we have made from our blog. What this means is that if we have been quiet for a little while, it’s because we have been busy working away on a new book project.

This is also the first year we have done repeat housesits, which is why there have been no new country stories either, we are hanging out in St Vincent and the Grenadines again. Don’t despair we will keep on with our blog, but as with all bloggers the truth is it can get pretty boring slaving over a keyboard. However, we get a real kick when we hear from readers who have been inspired by our tales and adventures. So keep those comments coming, otherwise we will be out at the beach.

0001-50939992

 

Check out our first Kindle eBook to find out how we managed to ‘Retire in 5 Years or Less

 

 

0001-51842114

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Big – Live Large

2 comments