Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Birthday Weekend Abroad

When you live together 24/7 in a small space, it’s incredibly difficult to surprise your spouse. How do you sneak out and make your way to a nondescript store without your absence being noticed? What do you answer when asked “Where have you been?” Or, how do you order a gift online without an address? When we were house sitting, there was an opportunity to intercept the mailman and hide the package, but now that we travel full-time in Zesty again, I was at a loss about what to get or do for Mark’s birthday on March 1st. Believe it or not, but it was stressing me out. It’s one of the few events we celebrate, so it has to be done in style, despite my husband saying he didn’t care.

Ever since we’ve owned our Mercedes Sprinter Westfalia camper van, Mark has wanted to change the Dodge grill with the Mercedes one. These two engines are exactly the same, but for some reason, the van was “branded” as a Dodge when imported from Germany in 2005. The little Dodge emblem on the hood was immediately replaced, only costing a few dollars. But the grill replacement was vetoed by me. $70 for something cosmetic? That money would be better spent elsewhere on the van. After 1.5 years in our possession, Zesty was still driving around as a half Dodge/half Mercedes. Mark was getting antsy. He found the Mercedes grill on sale, and I said: ”Great! That’ll be your birthday gift.” I have to agree, our van looks much better now.

Installing the new Mercedes grill

Yet, a car part doesn’t constitute a good birthday gift. Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – February 2019

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting, and adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 Since July 2018, Mark and I have been combining van life in our Zesty and house and pet sitting, which we did full-time before that. The best of both worlds! 

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. Because of our income level, Mark and I are eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts. 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.

The last days of February, we boondocked (free camping) just north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ

In February, our van was our home as we traveled and camped in California and Arizona. We finally replaced the grill, something Mark wanted to do from the moment we bought Zesty 1.5 years ago, but I vetoed, seeing it as an unnecessary expense. When he found a good price, I caved. We were actually on track for the cheapest month in a long time - less than $700 - despite the extra costs for taxes, propane, clothes, and a dump station (we rarely pay for this, but couldn't find a free one in the Borrego Springs, CA area, where we stayed for ten days). Then, we filed the form for my naturalization (citizenship) application on February 28th: $725. Just like that, our monthly expense more than doubled on the last day of the month!

Continue reading

IWSG Writing Update March 2019 – My Road to Publication Step 2: Submitting to Agents

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) engages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement, or anything really, about their writing.

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they’re up to.

My book progress

Last month, I decided to share my personal road to publication, starting with the non-fiction book proposal. You can read that post here. Such a proposal is needed to pitch a memoir to an agent or publisher. I’m pursuing the traditional publishing route first, since one can “always self-publish later.” Continue reading

Completed House Sits – San Diego, CA (December 7th to December 28th, 2018)

Last winter, Mark and I did a 3.5-month house sit in San Diego, California with Italian Greyhounds Elvis and Frida. During that time, we met up frequently with our friend Amy, as she was a graduating zoologist/environmentalist. “You guys are so awesome with dogs,” she said. “If I ever need someone to take care of Skylos, I’ll get in touch.”

In the summer, Amy secured a six-month position in Peru. Her best friend Cara moved in with her cat Casper to keep an eye on the place and care for the dog as well. At some point during our summer travels in Zesty, Cara and Amy inquired whether we could come to Ocean Beach (a funky neighborhood in San Diego) in December to take over Cara’s “duties” as she visited with friends and family over the holidays. She’d be gone for a long weekend early in the month and a week over Christmas later. The timing was perfect. We happily obliged, as long as we could stay the full three weeks. Continue reading

Wordless Wednesday – The Madonna Inn

Three months ago, Mark and I visited the Madonna Inn, which is a vintage hotel in San Luis Obispo (SLO), CA. Built and ran by the legendary businessman Alex Madonna, it has kept its fascinating late-fifties decor. Ready to travel back in time?

The history of this unique establishment can be found here.

This is my contribution for Wordless Wednesday.

Have you ever visited or stayed in a place like the Madonna Inn?

Monthly Expenses – January 2019

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting, and adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 Since July 2018, Mark and I have been combining van life in our Zesty and house and pet sitting, which we did full-time before that. The best of both worlds! In January we camped, house sat, and stayed with family..

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.

January was unique in terms of our two-week visit to the East Coast, where we stayed with my parents-in-law. Most of this month's expenses are related to our time there. We bought (almost) all the groceries, threw a party for the 83rd birthday of Mark's mom (all-you-can-eat pizza fest), and treated a nephew and his girlfriend to dinner.

Continue reading

IWSG Writing Update February 2019 – My Road to Publication Step 1: The Book Proposal

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) engages 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 February, the question is: “Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they’re up to.

My answer to the question (Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?)

None. Writing is all I do, every day. My memoir, articles, blog posts, notes, comments, emails, diaries. When I don’t write, I edit or translate, which could be called writing as well. During the weekend, I aim to go for walks/hikes or relax, during which times I always talk or think about… writing.

My book progress

I want to thank you all again for your input last month, in regards to the title, subtitle, summaries, and tweets for my Work in Progress (WIP), a travel memoir about my thirties, navigating the ups and downs of love, adventure, and the unknown aboard a 35ft sailboat in the tropics. For now, I have settled on the title Plunge – Riding the Waves of a Life Less Ordinary. We will see what happens with that one. As you know, I have tons of alternatives. 😊

The last two months, I have been working diligently on creating a book proposal for my non-fiction manuscript. Continue reading

The Desperate House Sitter

July 2018, Newburyport, Massachusetts

“When I come back in six months, it will be winter again,” Mark says, as we pack up in order to take the Amtrak train back from Boston to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“I’m not coming with you next time,” I reply, “I hate being here in the cold.”

“I don’t blame you,“ Mark responds. “We will make sure to get a house sit by then, so you can stay out west.”

November 2018, Ojai, California

“We really need to find a house sit for January soon. You have to book your plane tickets before they get too pricey,” I say to Mark. We’ve been keeping an eye on sits in Southern California and Arizona on Mind My House and House Sitters America, the two websites we are members of. Nothing decent showed up.

“As long as we don’t know where you and I will be the second week of January, I can’t book any flights,” he says. I know. We need to do something soon, or risk a decision about his departure city. For days I research alternatives. I could boondock in Zesty, but Mark doesn’t like the idea of me being alone in the middle of nowhere without services. Not having unlimited electricity and internet would make it impossible to accept translation projects and work on my book.

We consider a pay campground for twelve days or so. Incredible how expensive those are. I might as well fly back with Mark. It’s cheaper and I’m guaranteed hot showers, WiFi, and electricity. How about staying with friends? Not really an option for that long; we wouldn’t feel good about it. House sitting makes most sense. We reach out everywhere: bulletin boards in Ojai, Facebook groups and personal pages, friends… We even post an ad on Craig’s List. The two reactions we receive from that are “You guys are freeloaders, not wanting to pay for utilities,” and “You won’t find anything in Arizona, it’s the high season.” Continue reading

Wordless Wednesday – Ice Skating in Winter

In Newburyport, Massachusetts

In San Diego, California

Spot the seven differences. 🙂

This post is my contribution for this week’s Wordless Wednesday.

I have not touched ice skates since I was a teenager. How about you? Do you ice skate these days? Indoors or outdoors? Only in winter or all year long?

Expense Report 2018

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" is my motto. 🙂 Our first yearly expense report (2016) can be found here and the report of 2017 here. In 2018, Mark and I house and pet sat for seven months, lived and traveled in our camper van Zesty for four months, and visited our families back east for one month. What follows is the break-down of how we spent our money in 2018.

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.

Continue reading

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