Monday, November 16, 2015

More Semi - Less Retirement

Each new long trip that we do seems to further our understanding of how to be away for long periods enjoyably and within the energy resources we have. That in turn, at least on my part, just makes me want to travel more.

Simultaneously I find that my attitudes toward what I want to do and don't want to do in this last phase of life changes. Prior to going on this trip I was pretty good with doing some work while I was in country. Coming back this time I find that actually doing the work (helping clients) is easy but there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for getting out there and selling - which of course is necessary if you want to have work.

Another data point is that the work that I have been doing has been very profitable so we actually ended up with a surplus compared to our budget.

So I was curious as to what it would look like if I cut out work but expanded the travel - basically reduce income and increase expenses.  We had our advisers run the numbers and (not a big surprise) it doesn't work. So it appears that if I want the extra travel I need to keep the semi-working side going.

I'm conveniently skipping the part where one of my advisers and Wife looked at me sarcastically and said, "Oh so you are going to have to work 20 hours a week for 50% of the time and get to travel out of the country twice a year for 6 weeks at a time - you poor thing you!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On The Seveth Day Wife Said, "Let There Be Waffles"

And there were waffles. And they were good.

Actually Wife said, "How about pancakes for breakfast?"

This type of carb loaded treat being almost unheard of on the Eldership, I doubled down and asked if we could have waffles instead as I much prefer them to pancakes. To my surprise she agreed.

Some background - you may remember that we here on the Eldership de-I are rather severely understaffed. Even though ElderFleet Command authorizes a crew in the hundreds for the de-I, there are only Wife and I. So we make do as we travel through elder space by swapping off roles (except for the red-shirted enlisted person on an away mission - can't afford casualties).  Most of the time I am in charge of the mess hall so to have Wife want to take on that role was a surprise.

But she was a credit to her ElderFleet Academy training. Running out for an away mission to get milk which we almost never have in the house, using a 'from scratch' recipe in the joy of cooking that requires whipping egg whites and folding them into the batter.

We had one scare in that as we were off and running on this adventure there was suddenly a thought, "Do we actually still own a waffle iron?"  Joyfully there deep in the cargo bay was an almost brand spanking new one we'd bought when our old died (gad a decade or so ago?) and has sat their faithfully awaiting the day when like a Communist Chinese cadre of old who was on the wrong side of the Cultural Revolution it would get back on the right side of the power structure.

We waffles were pretty darn good considering we hadn't tried anything like this in a decade. Definitely there was some tweaking of the use of iron required but that will come with more practice.

Friday, November 6, 2015

When Did Enjoying Life Become Evil?

On our way back from Europe, as I've mentioned, we stopped in Chicago to acclimate and spent the night at a hotel by the airport. This was a very business person's oriented hotel. They filled the restaurant next to the lobby, they were waiting for shuttle's and rides, and at the reception/check-out desk. What a grim, grim lot they were men and women. All staring at their devices -thumbs and fingers a working. Nothing showing up on a device prompted a smile. No smiles when talking to serving people or the folks at the desk, or the shuttle driver. Just grim looks saying, "I'm a worker. I'm serious. I don't have time for frivolity". Even if you tried to engage someone who was not on their device in conversation you'd only get the tersest of replies. I don't think even in my most type A days that I didn't try to enjoy myself during my work days.

But it has become a badge of honor at least among those older than the millennials that work should be grim and it should be all the time. Certain companies like Amazon have turned this into their driving culture. Work IS important. If people don't work we don't eat, we don't have clean water, we don't have roads, we don't on and on and on. Existence is built on work. But does that mean we have to take this totally artificial attitude that work must be grim and that we must sacrifice everything to it? If we lived in a subsistence economy, we'd have no choice but work all the time. But we are fortunate to live in a time and place when that is not the case. Shouldn't we honor the gift given to us by having some gratitude and joy about where we're at?

Gratitude and joy are important emotions. Without them people become fanatics. We rue all the fanatics around us who are ready to kill. Maybe we should be ruing all the fanatics around us who won't let us appreciate the blessings we have received.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review of Travel Report

As traveling is an integral part of the semi-retired life landscape, I like to summarize the overall observations and feelings that come out of each trip.

To summarize this was a 6 week trip with a significant 'stay' component - stay meaning we stayed at one place and used it as a base rather than traveling around a lot. 'Stay' in our lexicon also implies that we are renting houses or apartments and not using hotels. For the six week period we had only 5 hotel nights, we had 8 nights at our daughter's, and the rest was either homes or apartments. We made a conscious decision to limit the amount of driving that we did. This of necessity limited the number places that we could visit. Our trip started in Vienna Austria, went for two weeks based out of Graz Austria, went for slightly over a week based out of the Euginia Hills near Padua Italy, a couple of days in Ljubljana Slovenia and just over a week in Amsterdam Netherlands.

Here are the observations and conclusions:
  • Travel really agrees with us - I in particular felt that I came out of the trip more mentally acute and active than I have been for quite some time. I think this was a function not just of traveling but also some of the decisions we made to put some limits on what we do.
  • It is that act of travel that is the desired outcome - I don't have a 'bucket list' of things I want to see or do. What I like is the whole process of planning, then going, then dealing with all the challenges that come from the type of travel we do. Yes the challenges can be frustrating but they are never impossible and when overcome lead to a sense of accomplishment. I think this is what is feeding the mental acuity aspect.
  • I think our lifestyle is healthier when we travel - We may eat a bit more but we walk tons more! I suspect our daily exercise level when we travel is on average at least two to three times more than what we do at home. At home we have schedule exercise in. When we travel just about every day we go some where and end up walking and walking and walking.
  • If we're going to stay somewhere (3 weeks or more) I want to be somewhere I can communicate - I have no problem dropping into areas where we don't know the language (keep in mind we're strictly in first world countries) and figuring things out. That's part of the challenge. But if I'm going to be somewhere for a while, I want shopping and understanding the systems to not be that much a challenge so I if you don't speak the language. So that means for our longer 'stay' type of trips and English or French speaking country.
  • Driving in Europe was much less dangerous than here in the US - Navigating is a challenge because of signage differences or non-existence but the GPS has really helped us with that. But by and large people follow speed limits, stay on the right unless they are going faster than other vehicles and don't go weaving in and out of traffic.
  • We have to keep acknowledging our age and declining capabilities - Even though certain children who will not be identified snarkily said that our 'slowing down' brought us back to where normal people are, we really on a number of fronts tried consciously to do things in a manner that did not beat us up so much.
  • Paying attention to the quality of sleep area pays off - In making our arrangements I wanted to avoid some of the problems of the trip before this where sleeping was not as good as we would have hoped because rooms and mattresses. This time by being aware of the issues we were much happier in that regard and the result was we didn't come back exhausted.
  • The type of travel we do is probably not something any of our peers are going to do - We've always dreamed of being able to share our love travel and the places we've been with friends but I've come to the conclusion that the way we do things is a product of decades of experience. There are so many things that we take for granted now like going to a grocery store in a country where you don't know the language or driving around and navigating as just some of the little challenges of travel. If you've done it in three languages, what's problem doing it in a fourth. For someone who has never done it, that's a much bigger deal. We've also fine tuned how to get the best value for the money we've spent and know what we want and what we're willing to spend for it. That has come from lots of experience. So the net is I suspect it will just be Wife and I doing our traveling.
  • Finally we recognize time is running out - We are in our upper 60's and fortunately still have mobility and acuity. The odds are some time in the next 10 years that's going to change and we aren't going to be able to do what we're doing now. So anticipate more blog posts from places around the world!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Transitioning Back Home

We've been back to the Towers for a grand total of 27 hours and it already feels as if we are back in the groove. Wife and I have been working hard on to make these transitions as seamless as possible. It is much more difficult for Wife as she has accounting/financial work that takes more time to do.  We are helped tremendously by having some high quality help in the form of a neighbor who is our handyman and watches the house while we're gone and a gardener who comes by and takes care of the yard. So when we got back the house and yard were in pristine condition.

Most important is our transition back to our current time zone. We implemented the changes to the East-West trans-Atlantic system of stopping at the US hub we've been working on the last few trips. So this time when we got to the hotel in Chicago, we took an hour long nap, then we ate dinner, and we stayed up until around 9:30 local time. We didn't wake up too much before the time to get up for our flight to Albuquerque.  That second 3 hour flight is so much easier on the body with the break. I took a pretty long nap after we got to the house. There's not tons of stuff to do when we arrive to unpack as we travel pretty darn light.  We both went to bed around 10:30.

Today feels pretty good. I took another 40 minute nap and I am starting with appointments tomorrow. My business picked up right where I left off with a new client commitment yesterday when I got back and another one hopefully on Thursday. Wife and I made our standard lunch salad (a concoction of around 9 to 10 fresh vegetables, 3 pickled vegetables, a meat, fresh grated cheese and a home-made vinaigrette) which is a process we have down to a science and remarked on how lovely it is to be working again in a kitchen that is clearly designed for cooking. We've been working in the Tower at our desks most of the day.

I like very much the fact that we can run around the world immersing ourselves in other cultures and come back and be at home in a matter of days.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - Heading Home And The Usual Sticker Shock

Our lovely time in Europe is over. It was sad goodbyes with the family this morning as we Ubered out to the airport. Absolutely no problems. Thank you all my hard won airline privileges which allowed us to:
  • Skip the long line checking into the airport
  • Skip the long line going through security in the airport
  • Stay at the airport lounge and save around $30 on food a drink
  • Skip the long lines at US Immigration (this time due to Global Entry not airline privileges).
Once again we opted to skip an upgrade back home and had a 3 seat row in Economy Plus to ourselves - more than enough room if one is not sleeping. Plus United has changed their policy and now has free wine and beer in Economy - even less economic incentive to pay the up charge for Business Class.

We're again staying overnight in Chicago to acclimate body clock wise before heading on to Albuquerque in the morning. And once again the sticker shock of eating in a US restaurant hit us straight between the eyes. Our European readers have complained about how much I was writing over the many weeks about what eating out cost on our trip. Let me give this example to show why it that was so fixed in my mind.

When looking at this example keep in mind this is an airport hotel so it has a somewhat captive audience and the prices are somewhat inflated by say 15 to 20%.  We had two hamburgers, a drink each before dinner and and drink each after dinner.  The total bill before tip was $75 - $28 before taxes for the food and the balance for the drinks. With a full 20% tip the bill was close to $90. This was more than any meal we had on our entire trip with the exception of one splurge meal with our kids - more than any meal we had and we ate some great meals with plenty to drink - for a couple of burgers and a couple of drinks.

That's why I write about the incredible value (quality compared to price) that exists now when you travel in Europe (if you are willing to get away from the major tourist central areas).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - International Grandchild-Grandparent Celebration

It was Friday afternoon when the horrifying recognition came upon Wife and I that our daughter #3 and her husband 3A had their bags packed, were leaving their flat and had none of their children with them!

There is only one thing when life deals you lemons...make a meringue crusted lemon tart...or maybe a nice lemon curd...salted preserved North African lemons are also a savory option.  Never mind. Went on a culinary tangent.

No when we realized that we were giving the kids a child free weekend away we invoked the traditional International Grandchild-Grandparent Holiday. We were going to call it a party but granddaughter 3.1 told us that parties are only for birthdays however calling it a celebration was acceptable.

So we:
  • Bought crowns to prepare and wear
  • Blew up and played with many balloons
  • Bought and played with Noise makers
  • Bought and played with many stickers
  • Made and ate lots of popcorn
  • Bought and ate cupcakes
  • Bought and ate pizza
  • Watched lots of television (ungodly amounts of Peppa Pig!)
Generally speaking we all had a good time together.

A note briefly on the attachment of grandchild 3.2 to her grandma. She has been coming back from daycare and immediately running into the house crying 'GAMA, GRAMA!  We've joking called 3.2 Wife's groupie. Now she knows what it's like to be a rock star.