Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

California Desert Escape

What do you do when you feel like you’re overstaying your welcome at a friend’s house in San Diego (and you have a husband antsy to return to nature and could use a little break from memoir work yourself)? You pack up, jump in your camper van, and head into the California desert for a couple of days. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is huge. You opt for the Borrego Springs area as an initiation to this region since you don’t have much time.

Zesty on desert roads

You boondock in solitude and under a million stars.

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Monthly Expenses – December 2018

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 December we house sat the entire month in Southern California.

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 later this month.

Sunset on a bike ride to Mission Bay, Sn Diego, CA

In December, the last month of the year - the most expensive month for most people - Mark and I finally did it again: we stayed well under $1000. It was actually bound to be the cheapest month of the year for us, until... our web hosting fees were due.

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IWSG Writing Update January 2019 – Titles, Summaries, and Your Help

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 Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they’re up to.

Happy New Year to all of you! May 2019 bring you good health, a generous portion of happiness, and fun adventures on the road, by rail, on the water, in the sky, and with your writing endeavors.

Some of you have been following my book writing process for a couple of years. Yes, that’s how long I have been reporting on this sailing memoir. I actually started even before that. While life, our business, and other projects got in the way during these years, I am now determined and motivated to get this long-term task checked off my mental list. Yes, after being relatively vague and sharing the occasional excerpt, it is time to take action; time for practicalities. And, with that, I could use your help.

Book Progress

As I started going through my memoir again last month, eager to incorporate the suggestions of my beta readers, I stopped cold after a few chapters. It wasn’t because I couldn’t handle it or grew demotivated. On the contrary. I can’t wait to continue this process. But… I came to the realization that, instead of finishing this round of editing and then writing a non-fiction book proposal and then waiting for news from a potential agent, I might as well get the book proposal over with first and receive rejections while I complete the edits. Think about the time saved with that approach! Continue reading

2018 at a Glance – Our Roaming Highlights

When I started following my travel passion over two decades ago, my friends were curious about how I could pull it off financially. The answer: all my allowances (as a teenager and college kid) and later my wages were saved up in order to explore the world. As I (unintentionally) became a full-time nomad in 2003, peers and strangers were still apprehensive; some of them even a bit jealous.

Then, as I kept documenting my lifestyle, first through email reports in Dutch, then in Dutch and English, and eventually via my blogs It’s Irie and Roaming About, comprehension set in. I’ve always written about the good and the bad of this lifestyle and offer a glimpse into our monthly expenses. More people “get it” now, and their “I wish I could do what you’re doing” has turned into “It’s awesome how you are living, but I couldn’t do it.” There’s the family, the routines, the job satisfaction, the comfort of home, the different priorities. I get it too.

Whether you are an armchair traveler or a fellow nomad, I hope you are still interested in the content and photos on Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary and that you continue to follow along as Mark and I set out towards new horizons in the new year. Thank you so much for being here, for reading, commenting or offering us mental support and comfort to keep living the life less ordinary. Without further ado: here are the highlights of our last year in the United States and beyond. I’ve added links to previous posts where applicable. My 2017 overview post can be found here.

January 2018

The year didn’t start too well with my mother-in-law requiring a second brain surgery and her hard road to recovery. Mark and I flew back to Massachusetts from California to help out, after finding a replacement house sitter for those two weeks. Six months later, she was back to her old self. Amazing at 82!

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The Yeasty Beasty Experience

Today, I would like to introduce you to an incredible couple, who we are happy to call close friends. Some of our best friends are the ones we met when living on the road or on the water; there’s nothing like hanging out with kindred spirits, or visiting them again during our travels.

Mark and I met Tom in Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas, in 2008. He was sailing his sturdy little Ellida and would meet up with his girlfriend further down the Caribbean island chain. In St. Martin, we caught up with him and Karmen, who is a chiropractor and aspiring photographer. Her traits came in handy, as Mark was suffering from a bad back one year and he and I had a romantic plan the next year.  Continue reading

Completed House Sits – Ojai, CA (November 18th to December 7th, 2018)

Every house sit Mark and I complete constitutes a chapter in our book of life. They are all different and compelling, whether it is because of the location, the house, the owners, the pets, or all of the above.

I just loved this crisp mountain view every day

Mark and I committed to our most recent sit in Ojai while we were traveling for a few months in our camper and didn’t plan on house sitting too much anymore. The home owner had contacted us in February, asking whether we’d be interested in a three-week sit in the fall. I had been vague – sure, we’d be interested (we had heard nice things about Ojai and being in Southern California that time of year is not a bad choice), but it was way too early to commit. She checked in with us every couple of months and in August, we bit the bullet and decided to be there, after confirming our 11ft high camper could park in the driveway.

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Monthly Expenses – November 2018

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 lived and traveled full-time in our camper van Zesty, which has affected our expenditure, compared to our previous house and pet sitting lifestyle. This last month was a combination of van life and house sitting.

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.

November was an interesting month. Half of it was spent in Zesty, as we drove south in California and spent a week in Monterey, working, and the last couple of weeks, we were settled at a house sit in Ojai. We REALLY tried hard to spend less money, but with my birthday and our Christmas shopping, the gift category went up. We kept ourselves from buying more alcohol, except for that one cheap bottle of white wine, and postponed filling up our diesel tank again until December. 

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IWSG Writing Update December 2018 – Monterey Moments

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 December, the question is: “What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are  J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they’re up to.

Answer to the question (“What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?”)

Probably the same items you find in other writers’ writing space – a laptop, a mouse, a glass of water (or cup of tea), a strong light, and a desk – with the major difference that everything but the laptop and the mouse changes whenever we move houses to take care of people’s animals.

My trusted computer goes everywhere with me

Book Progress

What was I thinking when Mark and I moved into our camper van Zesty indefinitely, at the end of July? That I’d be able to combine daily errands, sightseeing, driving, hiking, and translation jobs with writing/editing my memoir? Ha! And, it’s not that I didn’t know better, after running our own business from a sailboat in the middle of nowhere and from a couple of campers for years. Combining work, life and leisure on the road (or the water) is tough, leading to the insane and the impossible! Yes, Mark and I are good at making a challenging lifestyle just a tad more challenging.

Enough about my wishful thinking, my naivety despite experience, and my conviction that “it might work out this time.” It didn’t. I can’t concentrate hours on end to work on my book when: 1) my laptop’s battery only lasts three hours, 2) we have limited data on our cell phone acting as a hotspot; the same cell phone Mark uses for navigation when he goes on bike rides, 3) two people occupy the same 10 square feet and one stowable table simultaneously, 4) a paid job pops up each time I attempt to pick up that memoir again, and 5) we stay in all these amazing places full of discovery and adventure.

So, Mark and I are house sitting again for the time being. Continue reading

Meeting Friends New and Old…

From the heat to the cold…

One of the reasons Mark and I moved into our camper van Zesty in July, was to experience the freedom we so desire. Being free to go and stay where we wanted, for as long as we pleased. And, being free to adjust our route to incorporate visiting people dear to us, whether we hadn’t seen them in years, in months, or ever!

And so, one of the highlights of our travels this past summer and fall has been meeting up with friends old and new. What a blast it was! While Mark and I enjoy our “us-time”, socializing with people we connect with, have things in common with, or share interesting conversations with cannot be matched.

John and Andre in Rollinsville, Colorado

We house sat for this amazing couple and their dog Oscar, in the fall of 2017. As we headed north from Santa Fe, where our latest RV adventure in Zesty started, we made it a point to stop by and say hello. They welcomed us with open arms, John took us white water kayaking, we hiked together, and we shared a couple of nice dinners.

Then (2017):

Hike with John, Andre and Oscar, before the house sit

Now:

Rachel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Mark and I met Rachel in the South Pacific. She and a friend were sailing the area on SV Namaste, just like we did on our 35’ catamaran Irie. We spent many enjoyable nights together on either boat in French Polynesia, shared adventurous hikes and celebrated two Christmases and New Years together. We visited her in Port Coquitlam, near Vancouver, where she and her sister Nina’s family invited us to stay in the house for as long as we wanted. Rachel also took us to Whistler. We ended up staying four days, since we all got along so well.

Then (2014 – 2015):

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Our Oregon Trail

When Mark and I crossed the border into Oregon mid-October, we were welcomed with blue skies and friendly smiles. A tad different from the Olympic Peninsula. An Indian summer had arrived and the outdoors was calling. Before heading into nature again, Mark and I stopped in Portland. We met up with a dear friend we had last seen in Luperon, Dominican Republic, ten years ago. It was another reunion that will make it into a separate blog. As a matter of fact, we reconnected with three sets of friends in this state. I ought to dedicate my next post to all the beautiful friendships we experienced while on the road these last four months.

Portland

The biggest, most vibrant city in Oregon is not its capital. That honor belongs to Salem, which we would visit with friends later on. In Portland, we succumbed to urban camping. We had read about a 24-hour parking lot in the funky Alberta neighborhood, NE of the city center, where one could “settle” for $1.50 a day. This small piece of land, the size of a parking spot, became our home for a couple of days.

Our home base for a couple of days

We explored the popular bar and restaurant scene of Alberta on foot.

We rode our bikes across the Willamette River into the city center to soak up the vibe along the waterfront park (with its many homeless people), downtown and in Washington park.

And then, we had three days left, before we would meet good friends in Monmouth, near Salem. The city life (and its noise) wasn’t very accommodating to our wallets and ears, so east we headed in our camper van, towards the town of Hood River.

The Columbia River Delta

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