Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gringo's Go Stateside.....Deep In The Heart Of Texas

It's a beige but pristine world with perfectly manicured lawns and clean streets where pedestrians have the right of way.  Cars here actually stop at the crosswalks to let us by when we're out walking Jack, the dog we're taking care of. Shopping malls line the roadways offering more choices of most everything than any one human really should need. Restaurant food portions are HUGE and despite sharing a meal we still have plenty left over.  Drinks are refilled swiftly and the servers even offer free drinks to go, something we had long forgotten about.

We are temporarily back in the real world of Texas after having lived in Panama for five years. Gone are the $25 mammograms, $2 shoes and sloth-like customer service we've come to know.  Stores in Panama are notorious for bagging up purchases securely with hundreds of staples to ensure that nothing can be slipped inside.  The city of Austin has actually banned the use of plastic bags in all stores and after ringing in our groceries the cashier just left them sitting there and began waiting on the next customer. Fortunately we only had a few things on that trip and began bringing reusable bags after that.  But them we came to find out that other towns did still bag groceries to confuse matters even more.

Caleb, With Clyde, Cobey And Christy
Clyde's Three Kiddo's

My One And Only Daughter Desiree With Grandson Vash
and Sabrina, Desi's Partner

Since we left Panama we still haven't adjusted to the fact that we are HOMELESS! But we are feeling like we're at home doing a house sit in Round Rock, Texas. As I write this there is a cute, little, furry black guy named Jack climbing up my leg trying to get a bite of the bagel that's on the table.  Jack seems to eat his dog food only after exhausting all possibilities of getting to some people food. But Clyde's not willing to part with his breakfast so Jack will eventually have to settle for his own food.

Jack Chillin On The Couch

And Still.....


Round Rock, Texas is right outside of Austin, the famous music capital of the world. For three weeks we are taking car of Jack, a small mixed breed dog in a lovely, large house with a pool. Our days consist of walking Jack early in the morning before the Texas heat sets in.  After that we're free to hit the gym as we hooked up with a cheap membership at Planet Fitness for the duration on our stay. Then we might come back for a dip in the pool or head out for some browsing in the many stores nearby.

One of the reasons for taking this sit is to visit our kids and Clyde's daughter and husband live about fifteen minutes away. Like her father she loves to cook and has treated us to a few great meals at their lovely home. And the nice part about having a home base here is that the kids can come to us for visits, of course with previous permission from the home owners before they left.

Clyde And Christy

We constantly have to remind each other, as we tell tales to those we meet of our home and lives in Panama, since it's all now a thing of the past. No longer do we have a house, a car, dogs or much of anything else as we have chosen to live a minimalist, nomadic lifestyle in order to travel.  As we've cleared out the clutter of stuff from our lives we're free to fill our lives and minds with new experiences.  The world is our home now and our residence is wherever we are at the moment.

Jack Taking A Break At "The Doggie Depot" Dog Park

Jack Loves To Bark At The Bigger Dogs On The Other Side Of The Fence

Jack (on the right) Made A Friend Who's Name Is Also Jack

Jack and Jack Playing At The Dog Park

Chillin' At The Dog Park

House sitting brings a certain amount of anonymity it seems as we move directly into someone else's life. Typically a neighbor or friend of the home owner might know who we are and why we're there, but other than that we become pretty much invisible. Yet while we blend into the scenery we are able to enjoy someone else's home and animals just like our own.

And with every passing trip through an airport we realize just how much of a burden our load of two small suitcases and a backpack really is.  So we continually re-evaluate our stash and throw out more stuff along the way.  Recently we decided to invest in two packable, goose down jackets of high quality that compress into a pocket of the coat. For me this will replace a leather jacket I've been carrying along and for Clyde it will replace a puffy jacket he'd been hanging onto.

While it's still temping to buy more stuff along the way we can only do so IF it's used to replace an existing item. Because when you really think about it we can ALWAYS get more stuff but we can NEVER get another day, once we are at the end of our life's journey. 

And for our upcoming to trip to Thailand where toilets are rustic to say the least, I did pick up a little something for my backpack. We all know that men have it rather easy when it comes to relieving themselves in less than sanitary restrooms, or along the roadside. And with many of the bathrooms in Asia offering a, "squat only" option for both sexes that brings more difficulty for me.  Although I'm certainly able to squat it's not so easy to point and squirt in the proper direction while wearing pants.  When I have had to cop a squat out in the woods I've usually managed to sprinkle some on my pants, shoes, leg or some unwanted place.

The Freshette Brand
The Clear Tube Slips Inside For Easy Storage And All Fits Into A Small Storage Bag

Women no longer have to take life sitting down and can now learn to pee like a dude when nature calls out in the wild. Commonly known as a female directional device there are several brand names out there.  Some include:  The She Wee, You Go Girl, Pee Po, Clean Go and Freshette just to name a few. So now when bathroom conditions are less than sanitary or I'm forced to cop a squat along the way there is an alternative to not sprinkle when I tinkle and stand like a man.....along the gringo trail.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hasta Luego Panama......On To More Adventures

After five years of living the dream of early retirement in Panama, it's time to say, "Hasta Luego,".....or see you later. We have enjoyed our time here, made some good friends and leave knowing that we can always come back since after all, we are permanent residents. Panama has been good to us!  We've learned to speak Spanish, mas or menos, learned about living in a foreign culture where everything is different, and so much more. Panama has really opened our eyes to a world outside of the US that we never knew existed.  But now it's time to move on to explore more of this big world in which we live.  Thank you Panama for changing us and helping us grow and move out of our comfort zone. Now it's time to expand our gringo trail to other countries and see what we discover.

For most of my life the idea of throwing a few things into a bag and travelling the world sounded wonderfully exciting.  But although I had the interest, I never had the money, courage or a partner crazy enough to do it with. Now I have a crazy partner with more than enough courage for the both us but we still lack the necessary funding.  But where there's a will there's a way so we just had to find that way and perhaps we have?

It was about a year ago when we splurged on a month long trek through Europe that included a 12-night Mediterranean cruise, plus a side trip to Paris.  We visited Barcelona, Spain; Naples, Florence, Venice, Piza, and Rome, Italy; Istanbul and Ephesus, Turkey; Athens and Mykonos, Greece; and Toulon, France. We even opted for an overnight layover in Zurich, Switzerland for an added bonus on our way back to Panama.

We returned to Panama as two changed souls that longed for more adventures anywhere in the universe. But how could we do more world travel on Clyde's small pension?  A friend suggested house sitting and the rest was history. With many websites out there that serve to match up potential house and pet sitters with homeowners, we quickly set up profiles on several sites. Literally within two weeks we were offered our first sit in Ajijic, Mexico. The next month we did a sit in Costa Rica and after that Ecuador.  We were hooked and decided it was time to sell ALL and do this fulltime.

In the past year we've given away or sold much of everything.  We sold the house to a couple from the states looking to relocate here; sold our car to our friend Louise who first told us about house sitting, and donated our clothes and shoes to needy locals. Literally we are leaving here with only TWO CARRY-ON SIZED suitcases EACH. One will be checked in and the other will stay as carry-on.

So where in the world are these two crazy gringo's headed now?  When we leave here on Friday we'll head to Austin, TX for a three week house sit.  There will take care of a small dog, a large house with a pool and they are even letting us use their car. Clyde's daughter and her husband live just 15 minutes from our sit.  My daughter and Clyde's youngest son live in San Antonio while Clyde's oldest son lives in Corpus Christi.

Next we'll fly into Newark, New Jersey not far from where I spent my childhood to visit my sister.  For a few weeks I'll get to visit with some old friends, chill out at my sisters backyard pool and enjoy her company.

Then it's onto JFK Airport in Queens, New York for a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Because it's such a long, expensive trip we wanted to spend the maximum amount of time in Thailand.  We are allowed to stay there for 30-days as tourists and our house sit is not until the later two weeks of the month.  But the home owners will allow us to stop by, drop off our luggage, take a backpack and tour Thailand before returning to their condo for our sit with their cat.

This brings us into late August when we'll fly to Venice, Italy for yet another house and pet sit.  For the next three months we'll truly be living like locals in a tiny, Italian village.  Our temporary home will be the former bell ringers house right next to the church with a cemetery in the rear.  The town of Giavera del Montello is located just 25 minutes from Venice.  As the home owner comes home on occasional weekends our plan is to take weekend trips to Rome, Verona and other parts of Italy during our stay.


From Italy we'll transition to life in the UK and house sit our way around. This Christmas will find us in Storrington village in West Sussex, England through the New Year. 

I guess you can say we'll be ringing in the New Year with a bang, or a "banger" (a sausage since we'll be in the UK)  as we can be truly thankful for a year spent wandering around the globe.  So many places to see on a shoestring, making new furry and human friends along the way as we travel the world one house sit at a time........along the gringo trail.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Gettin Down And Dirty In Bocas Del Toro.......

Experienced four-wheelers after renting one on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, we thought we were ready for this, but we had no idea what was ahead. With a group rate we finagled the price down to a reasonable rate and we met the other two couples at the Flying Pirate. After some instruction on how to use the quads the real one-legged Pirate owner showed us a map.  With some 15 kilometers of trails we knew we were in for a long ride that would offer stops at a natural pool, the blue lagoon, a monkey trail and a hike to a lonely beach. We saddled up with six quads lined up and headed out for another adventure.  Clyde drove and I hung onto him for dear life (literally) as we made our way over sand, deep mud puddles, river beds, tree trunks and more.  Thankfully we had our other new friends to follow along with trail markers, although not nearly enough.  The trails were narrow, covered with brush, tree limbs and fallen trunks. The whole day was a series of, "oh crap," moments and wondering if  and when we'd turn the quad over, crash into a tree, sink it in the ocean or kill ourselves.
First check out this little video of the trails.
Look Closely As The Trails Were Much Rougher That They Appear
Quads Ready To Go And Still Clean

Flying Pirates Bocas Del Toro

The Box On The Back Of The Quad Had A Detailed Map
And Was Great To Hold Our Supplies And Lunch

Looks Smooth So Far

The Blue Lagoon

Cool, Clear, Salty Water With A Gentle Currant....Great For Floating

Our first stop was called, "The Piscina" a natural swimming pool of crystal clear water. Surrounded by tropical jungle it was a lovely setting to enjoy our picnic lunch and cool off from our ride.  Back on the trail the next stop was my favorite, the gorgeous setting of The Blue Lagoon. A series of coves, hidden corners, rock formations and fallen trees gave this place its ambiance.  The gentle current  moved us around, the water was clear, blue and cool and the waves of the Caribbean broke over  rocks in the distance.  What a peaceful way to while away the hours!

Back to reality we still had more exploring to do so back on the quads we went. We followed the trails as far as we could before taking the next part by foot. Our attempt was to hike to Christians beach which some said was the loveliest beach on the trail.  The trail seemed to begin with a muddy bog, through thigh high water, up into the jungle to walk over hard stones of barnacles. Next we made our way through grass as tall as me (no exaggeration either) where the bugs feasted on our bodies before we came out the other side. Eventually we did manage to find the beach and stopped for a while to enjoy the view.  But since it was getting late (around 3pm) we did need to make our way back along the trails with more things to see.  The final trail was called, "the monkey trail," and while we always enjoy seeing monkeys in the wild Clyde was tired, hurting and just wanted to get back.  We drove through a series of jungle heavily covered in tall, green ferns that hung over the trail making it hard to maneuver.  Clyde and I did get stuck in a ditch having to get off the quad and literally lift the back up and out of the hole. Eventually we did make our way out of the jungle trails and back onto the sand covered road.

This Is The Trail?

Take The Photo Fast So I Can Get Out Of Here!

Tiny Crabs Everywhere

At Least We Didn't Have To Go Up There

We Found Christians Beach

A Mural At Flying Pirates Bar, Grill And Quad Rental

You Know I'm Drunk When I'm Willing To Put A Parrot On My Head

Too Many Free Beers After A Long Hard Day Of Fun

The group of us all made it back alive with merely a few burns from the hot motor being doused with cool water, stings from tropical bugs, scrapes and other bruises. Covered in mud, sweaty, filthy with achy muscles we ended our day back at Flying Pirates for a well needed shower, some free beers and bought burgers for dinner. Although other companies rent quads in Bocas we thought Flying Pirates really had their act together.  They picked us up from town and took us to their other location to pick up the four wheelers. There was adequate training given on the vehicles and a long explanation of the trails and what to expect, or so we thought. Once again we were pushed way beyond our comfort zone as we got down and dirty mud boggin and four wheeling through Bocas del Toro, Panama......along the gringo trail.