Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Month: July 2017

Welcome, Westy! – The New Development

The past weeks I have been insinuating a new development in our lives. It is time to reveal what we have been up to! Let me introduce our newest “family member”, Zesty. He is a 2005 Sprinter Airstream Westfalia camper, endearingly called a Westy. Ingeniously built in Germany and known as a Westfalia James Cook in Europe, only 250 of these campers were imported into the US. Airstream did those honors and “Americanized” them by adding an air conditioner and a generator, and swapping the cassette toilet for one with a holding tank. The Mercedes engine was re-branded as a Dodge for the American market. Confusing? The main thing is that Mark and I now own one of these unique, compact and decked-out camper vans! Indirectly, this plan has been brewing for a couple of years.

Second night, in Oklahoma

“I think our next adventure should be in a camper again.” I share with Mark something that has been on my mind for a while. It is March 2015 and we are anchored in beautiful Huahine, French Polynesia. Continue reading

Completed House Sits: Oakland, CA – June 20th to July 13th, 2017

With all the commotion and craziness of the last two weeks, I haven’t had time yet to report on our three-week house sit with Stella and Tucker in Oakland, California. Compared to our first sit in the city of Oakland last February, this one was very enjoyable and repeatable! The area and the house are desirable, the dogs fun and the owners friendly, helpful, communicative and appreciative. The only thing these two sits had in common (other than being in the same city) was – surprisingly – the size and layout of the smallish home, with the difference that this one was well-organized, clean, airy, bright and cozy.

But, enough about the comparisons. Continue reading

Amtrak Antics – From Appealing Idea to Ridiculous Reality

About two months ago, something in Arkansas required our attention, in the form of a visit. We were in Massachusetts at the time sticking to an extremely busy schedule with a month-long stay in Belgium and a three-week house sit in Oakland after that. The trip to Harrison, AR would have to wait until our house sit was finished, but the planning occurred right then and there.

The distance from Oakland to Harrison is 2000 miles (3000 km), not something we wanted to drive twice with limited time, despite the good fuel economy of our Prius. Flights to the middle of Arkansas were expensive and still required other transportation to get to the airport and to Harrison. A one-way rental was also quite pricey and meant extra costs for fuel and accommodation. And, unsurprisingly, nobody needed an RV relocation to Arkansas.

“Why don’t we take the train?” Mark suggested and a plan was born. We booked two legs on Amtrak, leaving from Jack London Square in Oakland at 9am on Friday, July 14th and arriving in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 11:30pm on Sunday, July 16th. The first leg – on the Coast Starlight – would bring us to Los Angeles in 12 hours, where we had a one-hour layover. The second leg – on the Texas Eagle – would take us the rest of the way in about 50 hours. We reserved coach seats for $350 in total. We would not have a shower, a bed and a warm meal for three days. Mark and I love train rides, so we faced an exciting adventure; an epic train journey.

Our train for 50 hours – well, part of it

Day 1:

“We have a problem!” Mark utters, as he barges into the bathroom, where I’m just pulling up my pants. Our friend Eric would give us a ride to the metro in a few minutes. From there, we would continue to the train station, well in time for our 9am departure.

“What do you mean?” I ask. Continue reading

Trip down Memory Lane

“Hi, I’m Mark and these two are Kali, the white one, and Darwin, the gray one.” I looked up from petting the wagging fur balls that had run up to me on my way out to the camper. It is so funny how Americans always introduce themselves immediately, as if names are the most important thing during a conversation. Europeans could talk for hours before exchanging names, as I had realized more than once during my backpacking years. My eyes met those of a tall and skinny short-haired man in the doorway. “Hello. I’m Liesbet. My boyfriend Karl and I are staying with Nick for a week to visit San Francisco. Our camper is parked in front of the house.” “Camper? Why are you living in a camper?” I told him exactly why and shared my lifetime travel goals with the excitement I always feel when elaborating on my passion. Before I realized it, an hour had passed. I excused myself, ran towards our home on wheels, grabbed the CD of my favorite Belgian band dEUS and rushed back to Nick’s place. “Where have you been?” Karl asked. “Talking to a neighbor, the one with the fluffy dogs,” I answered, handing the disc over to Nick, who is an amateur disc jockey, interested in all kinds of music.

The weeks had flown by and my relationship with Mark intensified. He would leave the door to his apartment open while at work, so Karl and I could walk his dogs, together with our dog Caesar. And, I could snuggle with Kali and Darwin as much as I wanted. Today, I am not leaving, however. I am here to stay, to move in. To cuddle Kali and Darwin forever. What will Mark say about all this?

This is an excerpt of the memoir I am working on. Mark and I met in an area of Oakland called Rockridge, in November 2004. He loved living there and I enjoyed it as much, when I tossed my existing life with Karl and Caesar through the camper windows and decided to stay – unbeknownst to Mark. Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – June 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 being rich. Or even without owning/earning a lot of money. That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is car, 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, oat 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. 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! Every six months, we have to fly or drive to the East Coast for cancer check-ups. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

June was not the most usual month for us either, what with being in Belgium until June 19th, having a quick stop-over in Reykjavik, Iceland and a long journey back to the West Coast of the US, where we picked up this current three-week house sit the evening we arrived. You will not find any expenses from our remaining days in Belgium in this overview, because my wonderful parents took care of all the grocery shopping, fuel and train rides, and, because I sold enough of my belongings (my African drum - sad to see it go - being the biggest provider) to pay for our other, modest, expenses. The cost of our vacation in Budapest is included, but, the hotel was "paid" with miles.  The flights were part of last month's report. Our biggest expense category for June 2017 was no doubt travel, followed by a hefty grocery bill when we arrived in Oakland, California.

Continue reading

IWSG Writing Update July 2017 – Picking up the Pace

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 June, that question is “What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the inspiring and accomplished co-hosts are Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to. Don’t be shy.

It is July already (hurrah for summer!) and after a hectic two months of visiting friends and family (and dealing with heaps of important things and complications) in Massachusetts and Belgium, Mark and I are kind of settled in Oakland, California for a three-week house and pet sit. It has been an enjoyable and productive two weeks so far and soon, we are on the road again. Or better, the tracks… We are jumping on a train for 60 hours, first from Oakland to LA, then onward to Little Rock, Arkansas. We are on a little mission, which I will reveal in a few weeks. I hope for one thing on that train ride (well, actually a few things): that I am able to get a lot of writing done (and that we manage to sleep OK in our seats, eat relatively healthy and don’t smell too badly without a shower).

My black shadow Stella, loves to lay on my lap when I work – not too distracting…

I promised myself to pick up my pace/pen/keyboard again once we started this period of relative calm, and I have. Continue reading

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