Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Month: December 2017

Christmas Time is upon Us Once More

When I grew up in Belgium, New Year’s Day was more important than Christmas. Yes, we had a live Christmas tree with colorful balls and twinkling lights in the living room, but the presents underneath would be distributed on the first day of the new year. On Christmas Eve, my brother and I would have a quiet dinner at home with my parents. Sometimes, my dear oma would join us. My dad retrieved the “gourmet set” from the cellar and my mom picked up trays of bite-sized, raw meat and vegetables (and not to forget, pancake dough) at the butcher. For hours, we would each cook our own dinner in tiny pans and on top of the “communal” electric grill plate in the middle of the table. This food experience was called “gourmetten”. We all loved it and finished the meal off with mini-crepes. Then, we would play board games until bedtime. Continue reading

Things to See and Do in San Diego, California

When Mark and I started our current three-month house sit in San Diego, we knew we couldn’t go on weekend trips with our camper van like other times. Frida and Elvis, the two Italian Greyhounds we are taking care of, are relatively old – 12 and 10 years respectively – and home buddies; their owner prefers them to remain nearby. In a city like San Diego, that is not a problem at all! There is so much to do and see in this area that we could spend many weekends exploring and discovering. Here is a selection of what we visited over the last six weeks.

San Diego skyline with moored boats

San Diego Safari Park

We contemplated a visit to the safari park in Escondido, about 20 minutes north of the city, for my birthday (November 28), when our friend Amy (who recently graduated as a zoologist) gave us four free tickets that expired within a week. So, one Saturday, Mark and I set out to the park earlier than planned and had a fantastic time. Not as fascinating as the real thing in Africa, of course, but not a bad alternative! We were especially intrigued about the relationship between cheetahs and dogs. Every young cheetah is paired up with a dog and they become buddies for life.

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Monthly Expenses – November 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 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.

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 retain citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

No matter how hard we try every month, since we took possession of our camper van Zesty in July, we can't stay under $1000 anymore. Maybe we should shoot for $1200 from now on, which appears to be more feasible. We really tried hard in October, using some tricks like selling our camping gear and using that money to buy parts for Zesty (it's like a trade, right?), postponing Amazon shopping until December, and only putting $25 of diesel in the van, keeping its use to a minimum. Luckily, we can walk to the grocery store from our current house in San Diego.

What blew the budget in November was our grocery category. Apart from stocking up our catamaran Irie in the past to sail to remote areas, we have never spent this much ($600) for one month of food. The main issues? We bought 10 pounds of "deluxe mixed nuts" (without peanuts) for $75 to last a while, and we continued the subscription of the home owner to receive a box of farm-fresh organic vegetables at our doorstep every week, which set us back $125. Mark being on the East Coast using his parents' car and taking care of himself didn't help the budget either. For December, we have cancelled the Wednesday veggie box (while tasty and good quality produce, the amount was skimpy for $25 a box) and we certainly don't need more of those super-healthy nuts!

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IWSG Writing Update December 2017 – Finished First Draft

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 December, the question is “As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to.

My answer to the question

I am a woman of few regrets, living my alternative life quite deliberately, so this is a tough question. On hindsight, we probably would all do things slightly different, because we are wiser now. But, I don’t want to feel bad about the decisions I make. Those are sometimes hard enough. When it comes to my writing focus in 2017, of course I hoped to work on my memoir more. I do write all day, every day – emails, diaries, blogs, comments, chapters, articles, notes, business documents, translations, reviews – but I wish I could have removed myself from social media and all the “unimportant” scribbles, to make more room for writing in my book. Continue reading

From Maupiti to San Diego and Other Reunions

It was November 2014. Mark and I were anchored in the remote, but beautiful atoll Maupiti in the South Pacific. Bora Bora’s sister island stole our heart and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there aboard Irie, in the lagoon waters, and on shore.

Mark and Liesbet on top of Maupiti

One day, a booming voice startled us.

“Hello! Are you American?” A man on a panga had seen our American flag and investigated. Continue reading

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