Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

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IWSG Writing Update January 2018 – New Intentions

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 January, the question is “What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to.

My answer to the question

I haven’t taken any steps, made any resolutions or put any writing goals in place yet. As a matter of fact, I have barely been able to think about the end of 2017 and new beginnings in 2018. I am way behind with my blogs, emails and any other writing, but as January unfolds, I hope to get going again. If circumstances allow.

Work in progress

The IWSG question of this month “forces” me to think about what I want to achieve, realistically, in the new year. Ideally, I write every morning in my memoir – the second draft that is – and save all other work, tasks and chores for the afternoons. In the past, this has been tough, so I assume I will need to readjust my focus. Sternly. I do hope to finish my memoir and, if at all possible, publish it in 2018. It is now or never!

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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

House Sitting Behind the Scenes – The Selection Process

House and pet sitting as a lifestyle might sound like a relatively new concept to you and me, but, within these circles, everyone is on the look-out for an appealing sit, and some people have been doing it for over a decade. Since we started this lifestyle two years ago, the demand for house sits (or the supply of house sitters) has grown substantially. Competition is fierce, and securing an attractive sit is not an easy feat. There are days that dealing with potential house sits is my main activity; another reason why we prefer long-term commitments. Not only does that fit our work schedules better, provide immersion into a specific area and give us a welcome respite from being on the road, it also offers me a little break from digging through listings and submitting application letters.

In February, I wrote a post about how we end up with certain sits. I figured it was time for another example of how our future takes shape “behind the scenes”. The basics are always the same. Mark and I are members of a few house sitting sites, where our profile is available. We explain who we are, what we prioritize, our experiences and our strengths. There are a few personal photos attached as well. Home owners sometimes find a perfect match in us by reading this profile, and send us an email to inquire about our availability and thoughts. More often, however, I click on the most promising house sit listings that arrive in my inbox, read the descriptions, check out the photos, and, when they fit our preferences (location, type of animals, duration, timing), I create a personal letter and hit the send button. If the interest is mutual, we communicate over email and set up a time for a Skype interview, ideally with video. When all that goes well, and the home owner chooses us – usually after talking to a few candidates – we confirm the sit, and have a plan. It is not uncommon that home owners, especially in desirable locations, receive between 40-100 applications. Yeah…

Hanging out in the yard with “our” current Italian Greyhounds Frida and Elvis

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The Best Thing about Blogging – New Friendships

In 2007, my husband Mark and I bought a 35ft catamaran in Annapolis, Maryland, called it Irie, and sailed into the sunset. We had no idea how long the adventure would last or where we’d end up. Our first destination was the Bahamas and we planned to live this cruising lifestyle until “we ran out of money”, or “it wasn’t fun anymore”. To document our journey and experiences, and as an alternative to writing group emails, which I had done my whole (traveling) life, I started my first blog. I called the website It’s Irie. Comments were rare; the availability of internet defined when I posted and whether I could upload photos. The blog continued as long as our sailing trip; eight years.

Irie blog

When we sold Irie in Tahiti, French Polynesia, and moved to the US for the time being, I wanted to start a new blog. It took me forever to find a suitable name, that was still available as a domain name and that would be fitting and timeless. Roaming About was born in October 2015, the same time we started a new, boat-less, lifestyle of house and pet sitting. I entered an era where blogging had become more popular and serious. My sailing friend Lisa of One Ocean at a Time suggested a few of her favorite blogs to me. “When you read these blogs and leave a comment, their wonderful authors will return the favor,” she wrote in an email. That’s how my social interactions with fellow bloggers began. Continue reading

Southern Utah’s National Parks – 12-Day Adventure between House Sits

Between our month-long house sit in Rollinsville, Colorado and the next, three-month one in San Diego, California, Mark and I faced a gap of two weeks. Initially, we were on the look-out for a short pet sit, but pretty soon, we realized this would be the perfect opportunity to really test the van life. Longer than one weekend, and for fun, instead of as a means of transportation to get from point A to B. It was an attractive plan for many reasons, including these four: we have always wanted to visit some of Utah’s incredible National Parks, they happened to be en route, we could use a break from our computers (when not?), and, coincidentally, our business partner appeared to have a scheduled vacation within the exact dates we’d be on the road. Now, if that wasn’t the ideal time to relax The Wirie work a bit ourselves!

A window to Delicate Arch

Arches National Park

Not much planning and anticipation went into this camping trip. I checked the map, saw Canyonlands, thought “I guess we stop there,” then noticed a green spot called “Arches” along the way and yelled: “Oh yeah, that’s the famous one in Utah, not Canyonlands. We have to go there!” Now, I don’t know whether you have ever looked at Southern Utah on a map… it is one national park after the next! How exciting! All we had to do was pick and choose, be happy about not doing it all, and not feel rushed! Oh, did I mention that the two biggies, Bryce Canyon and Zion are here as well?

Our selection of Utah National Parks

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Monthly Expenses – October 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. The utility category has disappeared, since we replaced our Skype phone service with Google Voice - the one-time fee for this was paid with our Skype reimbursement and there are no more monthly contributions.

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.

Zesty the Westy continues to be our biggest expense: over $500 last month, mainly for fuel - we went on a long road trip visiting some national parks in Utah - and a high-altitude fuel pump so we could run our heater above 5000ft in Colorado and Utah. Not being cold anymore is worth something. We also spent $40 on accommodation - something we rarely do. Technically, I could record this amount under "travel". Usually, we overnight for free, but in Zion National Park we made an exception and paid for two nights of basic camping in the midst of the park's natural beauty.

All in all, October was not too crazy, considering we went on a two-week "vacation", exploring one of the most amazing states in this country, and Mark hopped on a plane to the East Coast. Next month, we are aiming to spend $1000 or less!

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