Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The third weekend was the charm. On the first one, we arrived at our current house sit in Colorado and spent time with the owners and their dog. On the second one, it was raining and cold. And, the fourth one is when we are leaving again. So, it was all or nothing on that third weekend. The weather predictions for the Estes Park region were alright, we packed Zesty the camper, loaded up Oscar the dog, and headed north on Saturday morning. From the moment we left the house, the scenery opened up and entertained.

As in many national parks, dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Rocky Mountain NP, so it was eminent that we gave Oscar – who is used to a lot of exercise – a decent walk, before hitting the scenic road. In the town of Estes Park, we planned to walk him around the lake on leash. Before we arrived at the water’s edge, we stumbled upon a dog park. Even better! Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – September 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, almond milk for Mark and organic 2% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

Once again, we did not succeed to stay below $1000 in September. Our biggest expense category was - you guessed it -  Zesty the Westy. We were actually not doing too shabby, when Mark noticed a new top hatch come up for sale on eBay. He won the bid and bought the manual hatch (as a spare for our camper van) for $255. This a very reasonable price, knowing that an electric replacement (not our preference and that's why we worry ours, at 13 years old, might break any time) costs around US$1000 and needs to be shipped in from Europe. Now, the question is: where will we store this massive spare part without tripping over it?

Zesty at our current house sit in Colorado. The top hatch is that massive contraption, in the middle of the roof, above the side window and in front of the AC unit


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IWSG Writing Update October 2017 – One Book Review; No Book Progress

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing. A different question is posed each month, as a writing prompt for IWSG members. Answering it is optional. For October, the question is “Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the accomplished co-hosts are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to.

As a non-fiction writer, my answer to this month’s IWSG question is easy: all the time, and on purpose. 🙂 Unfortunately, none of this has happened recently, since writing my memoir has temporarily come to a halt. Let alone writing articles. In September, just like in August, my help was needed with our business. Because of this, I have reached the “danger point” of two months of inactivity, after which it is easy to think “Why bother anymore? I have enough other projects going on.” Continue reading

Completed House Sits: Santa Fe, New Mexico – August 18th to September 16th, 2017

As of this month, Mark and I have been house sitting full-time for two years. It all started with a wonderful dog named Zyla in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and the positive experiences of this new lifestyle continued ever-after, bringing us to our current sit in the mountains of Colorado. More about that later, as I have been trying to catch up on all the adventures we had in Santa Fe, New Mexico, finishing that period with a summary of our one-month house sit there.

Our adobe-style home for one month

A few weeks ago, I mentioned briefly how stressful our life as house and pet sitters can be. Besides not knowing where we will lay our heads to rest in the future, keeping a constant eye on new listings, communicating with home owners, arranging Skype interviews, and patiently waiting for the verdict, sometimes unexpected developments occur. Like when we left Northern California mid-August to undertake yet another long road trip of 1200 miles from Sebastopol, CA to Santa Fe, New Mexico for our next house sit. We had planned three days for this, to avoid repeating the craziness of driving Zesty back from Arkansas in July, having a restricted amount of time while needing to work along the way. Three days should do it, we figured: two long ones and then, on Friday, a shorter trip and catching up on work stuff before departure.

Our new neighborhood

On the morning of day two, however, the result of prior miscommunications had us awake with a start: the home owners expected us to arrive in Santa Fe that very day, at 5pm, instead of the following one. Continue reading

Weekend Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Taos and Surroundings

Throughout our one-month house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mark and I were extremely busy. During the week with work and over the weekends with excursions. There is so much to do and see in the Santa Fe area (we barely even set foot in the town itself), that four weekends do not suffice. That being said, we did our best, and hope to return. While our previous weekends of explorations are doable as day trips, our last weekend required a longer drive. Still, people do visit Taos on a day excursion from Santa Fe. We decided to take the long way there and not rush. The focus was more on driving than on hiking this time.

We planned to take the “high road” to Taos. This is a scenic drive of about 2.5 hours, without stopping. It brought us through some amazing New Mexico scenery and a few spiritual places.

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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque

During the weekends, Mark and I always face a dilemma: do we take it slow and enjoy our precious time off relaxing, or do we take advantage of being in an incredible area and go sightseeing? Usually, we opt for a combination if the weather cooperates. So, this particular Sunday morning, we took our time getting up, making breakfast, packing lunch and storing the bed and the table in our camper. Then, around 10:30am or so, we backed out of our free campsite in the woods near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and drove the 20 minutes to the base of the Sandia Mountains. We anticipated a big hike and – once the wheels were rolling – were antsy to get started.

The plan: take the tramway to Sandia Crest and hike down for 10 miles. Usually, we don’t like spending money on things like ski lifts or trams when we can get to places on foot, so this proved a special, yet pricey occasion. It was Labor Day weekend, the weather was beautiful, and, apparently, we were not the only ones having a tram ride in mind. Our late start soon bit us in the butt. The line to buy tickets was immense and doubts about our grand plan almost made us abandon it. But, what was the alternative? Strolling around hot and busy Albuquerque? We had both looked forward to this hike in nature, so we hoped for the best. After an hour of waiting (luckily mostly in the shade), it was our turn to join 48 other visitors in the tram car.

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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque

So little time and so many excursions to blog about! Since Mark and I were only in Santa Fe, New Mexico for one month, we had to fully utilize our weekends to explore the area. We did this by leaving the house mid-morning on Saturday and returning late afternoon on Sunday. All the sites we visited can be done as day trips from Santa Fe, since our driving time was usually between one and one and a half hours each way. Going for the whole weekend allowed us to relax some, do less driving and spend the nights in nature – quiet and peaceful. We always find free camping spots to sleep in Zesty, our Westfalia (Westy) camper van.

Albuquerque is located at a lower elevation than Santa Fe. This means that it is usually quite a bit warmer, something we did not account for. My plan, before setting out, was to visit all four areas of Petroglyph National Monument and do most of the hikes, about 7 miles in total. It seemed feasible. We had all day. There are over 24,000 images pecked in stone. We would not have to search hard to see some.

Too many carvings to count!

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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Los Alamos

The evening Mark and I arrived at our current house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the owner pointed at a blotch on the mountain side to the northwest. As a cluster of lights started to come on in the distance, he said, with importance in his voice, “That is the infamous site of Los Alamos.” The generation growing up in the 60s might raise an eyebrow of recognition right now – my parents did, all the way in Belgium, when I told them about it – but I gave him a blank stare. Mark nodded his head. The man looked at me and poked, “You know, where they built the atomic bombs that ended the war.” I knew about that world and history-altering event, of course, but still had never heard of Los Alamos. We had to check out what the fuss was all about.

The day after Mark and I did our hot hikes in Bandelier National Monument, we woke up to a beautiful morning and had our Sunday breakfast in the camper. I was feeling better, but we decided on taking it easy that day. The downhill drive to Los Alamos town was short and the parking lot in front of the visitor center empty.

Where are all the other tourists?

A few sites are scattered around the heart of the sleepy town. We walked by all of them, reading the historic signs and the brochure we picked up at the visitor center. We were surprised by the time range of the historic artifacts (from the ancestral pueblo site of the 1200s to the statue of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves, erected in 2011) in this small area and by the lack of visitors. Continue reading

Creating a Lifestyle Catered to You – Guest Post on Retirement Reflections

It was an honor to be featured on my blogging friend Donna’s website “Retirement Reflections” this weekend, as a guest in her Sunday Guest Post Series. She is an amazing woman, who just walked a big chunk of the Camino Trail in Spain with her husband and has many interesting, insightful and inspirational ideas incorporated in her blog posts. I love her adventurous, positive and caring personality and I encourage you to browse her website, if you haven’t already. Here is the beginning of the post about Mark and my past and present – how we got to our current lifestyle of house and pet sitting…

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me over to participate in your Sunday Series. It is a pleasure, and an honor, to be called one of your favorites. My ego is bursting!

A retirement lifestyle?

Lifestyle
At 42-years-old, I am not retired, although many people might think differently based on the lifestyle I have been living since 2003. It’s either that, or they think I am on a perpetual vacation, or that I am rich, or all of the above! Living an alternative lifestyle throughout adulthood causes these assumptions. Unfortunately, the reality is “none of the above.” Although I have the flexibility to sleep in and form my own schedule, that’s where the comparisons stop. I still need to make money and sacrifices to survive, and I own nothing, not even a retirement account. My husband, Mark, and I like the minimalistic approach and don’t require much to be happy and free. All our belongings fit in our red Toyota Prius and, other than our business, The Wirie, we have no burdens or responsibilities. We don’t have a home, children or pets (yet) and go wherever we find an attractive long-term house and pet sit. To us, creating memories and going on adventures is more important than collecting material goods or financial wealth.

Blogs to inspire and share?

In 2007, Mark and I embarked on an impromptu cruising adventure with our two big rescue dogs, Kali and Darwin. After a failed attempt two years prior in Northern California, because the dogs hated sailing on a monohull (which lays on its side when moving in certain directions), we searched and found a 35-foot catamaran (more stability and less seasickness for me) in Annapolis, Maryland, and named her Irie, which is a reggae term meaning “It’s all good!” I started my first blog, It’s Irie, to document all our adventures and share tips while cruising the Caribbean and the South Pacific. We ran a business from the middle of nowhere (tricky!)…  Continue reading here.

(If you’d like to leave a reaction, please do so on Donna’s site.)

Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Bandelier National Monument

New Mexico state has so many natural and cultural treasures, that when the weekend approaches, Mark and I are filled with excitement and the promise of wonderful excursions. We pack our camper van up and only have to drive an hour or two to reach enough sites to fill days. Of course, we only have two of those a week, and, after a tiring work week, immediately getting on the road Friday night is not the way we like to approach our time off. Instead, we have a glass of wine and a snack, make an ever-pleasing vegetarian pizza, and put a few things in the camper before picking up the mail or in between watering the plants.

On Saturday, we have a not-to-early start and depart to our destination, in this case, Bandelier National Monument, NW of Santa Fe. Continue reading

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