2017 Travel Challenge

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Budget travel is our passion! A passion born of necessity! Our travel addiction coupled with our limited incomes creates this need. As many of you know, we try to escape the winters in Pennsylvania. This is our third annual escape! With each subsequent year, we have extended our time away from the US. We continually sharpen our travel hacking skills.

Home – January 2016

This winter we are traveling for almost eight weeks.  The challenge —  live on $40 a day/person! That will include all transportation costs (airfare and rental car), lodging, food and entertainment!  A tall order to be sure!

We are on Day 21! With airfare factored in, we have spent a daily average of $16.16 each! Two factors that have helped keep our costs so low so far are housesitting and cheap airline tickets! You all know my “hobby” is searching for hot deals with the airlines! Last year, we started playing the credit card points game.  We each signed up for a Bank of America Travel Rewards card that awarded 20,000 frequent flyer miles after we spent $2,000 in the first 3 months. No problem! We charge our gas, groceries, some household bills and anything else we need. We carefully put aside the cash as we charge and then pay off the balance when the bill arrives. We also earned an additional 1.5 points for each dollar charged. I found tickets on Norwegian Air for $363.80 round trip from NYC to Malaga, Spain.  Then we cashed in the points!

Final price for our international flights:

  •  Mitch $111.39
  • Cheryl $60.83

When we landed in Malaga, we had a free room for two nights courtesy of some old points I had earned on my Citibank card.  That card is now retired! Those two nights were at the Hotel Zen in Torremolinos, Spain. It is a short distance from the airport and they offer a complimentary shuttle. There is a nice little restaurant/bar on site. What a welcome sight after our transatlantic flight. A pizza with a few beers and we were ready to tuck in to our room for some seriously needed zzzzz’s.

We paid $33 for our third night’s lodging at the Hostal Sol y Miel in Benalmadena. Clean and located in a more Spanish neighborhood as opposed to the beach which is very touristy. Since then we have been house sitting. Needless to say, this saves a lot of $$! Free lodging in exchange for caring for the dogs and watering the plants!

I will post occasional updates on the budget. At the end of the trip, I will let you know how it all turns out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Day in the Life of a Housesitter

We are just two days away from finishing a fantastic housesit in St Croix, USVI!  This has been a six week stint and we have relished every day of it!  The weather has been perfect – warm breezes and temps in the upper 80s.  As with Florida weather, there is often a brief period of rain each day but before you know it, the sun is shining and there may be a beautiful rainbow to enjoy!

 

Several friends and family members wonder what we do all day…..aren’t you bored?!  The answer is a resounding no!  You may even think that we would be getting on each other’s nerves by now.  Not really.  We do enjoy each other’s company and since we have different sleep patterns, we each have a portion of the day for “me” time.  My time is in the morning as I can’t seem to ever sleep past 8 am. Mitch, on the other hand, is a night owl after so many years of musician hours!  So, he will be up and prowling around for several hours after I konk out.
But anyway, back to the daily life here…..There are the usual household chores to do – cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping for food. Then there are plenty of plants to tend to and the pool to clean.  Now that the Christmas winds have kicked up, cleaning the pool has become a bit more time-consuming.

Food shopping in St Croix can encompass the better part of the day.  Everything here is imported.  And other than booze and cigarettes, it is quite expensive.  I think the mainland prices are catching up, but we shop at Aldi’s when we are home, so these prices leave us in sticker shock!  It is time-consuming to review all the store ads and drive from place to place to get the deals!

What else do we do?  Being away from the work world (for the most part) has afforded me the time to pay more attention to my health.  I have been walking 4-5 miles almost daily.  Mitch joins me more and more often.  We have to keep our health together so we can continue traveling. It is quite hilly here. And there’s nothing like hill workouts to get a good sweat going!

Home Sweet Home

The driveway alone is killer. We both had shin splints for several days from the walk down the driveway.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you it must be a 65 degree angle at the least.  Following the walk, a dip in the pool is an absolute must to recover!  We had hoped to do more swimming on this trip, but the pool isn’t that long and the water is a bit to cool for me.  The walking has been working out fine. One of our walks is rather flat.

Cheney Bay

This is the 5 mile one. Only problem is that the turnaround point is a beach bar, so Mitch has been successful (on more than one occasion) into talking me into a cold beer break before the return!  Seems a little counterproductive, but who can resist this view?

Cheney Bay Beach Bar

Then it’s time for blogging.  This has turned into a longer learning curve that I realized it would be.  Picking the right name was a long process.  And we needed two names.  One for this blog and one for our housesitting site. Next step, web hosting.  Reading other blogs for inspiration, watching youtube tutorials, pitching ideas to each other…..editing, photo runs, more editing, #*#@*%!.. We have to discipline ourselves to block out the Caribbean, the pool and the beverages so we can be somewhat productive on this goal every day.

We have both been able to work on this trip.  Not nearly as many hours as we put in at home, but more than enough to keep us going.  It’s nice not having to dip into our savings to cover food and entertainment.  And the bills back home don’t disappear, so we have that to think about as well.  Mitch has made some new contacts for gigs down here. He is gigging at least three times a week.

Cafe Fresco

Meanwhile, I have been covering some shifts at Cafe Fresco. Fresco is owned by our friends Damon and Yonka Maynard – transplants from nearby Maryland. Delicious food made with the freshest of ingredients and generous portions! Check them out if you get to St Croix! http://www.cafefrescousvi.com

One last thing about how I spend my days – planning the next voyage or two.  I have spent many hours searching the cheapest airfare for our trip to Ecuador which will be in April.  There was also time spent figuring out the cheapest way for us to get from home to JFK at the end of January when we leave for our next housesit in Spain.  Yes, it would be easier to leave from Baltimore or DC, but the airfare out of  JFK was $300 less/person.  That extra $300 each will allow us more money when we are actually in Spain. The most cost-effective way from home to JFK would be to use Megabus from Harrisburg, but the schedules didn’t coincide. Looks like we will be taking Amtrak from Harrisburg to NYC.  Then the Long Island Railroad from midtown Manhattan to the airport in Queens.  The flip side of that (when we return in March) is we take the LIRR back to Manhattan and then the Megabus from NYC to Philly where we will catch another one to get us back to Harrisburg.  Many logistical hoops to jump through?  Yes, but this cuts our travel expenses to roughly $60 each and we avoid paying airport parking fees, tolls and gas.  Parking alone would be over $450.  Oh, I failed to mention that I scored us a free hotel room right by the airport on the night of our return.  Thank you AAAdvantage Award points!!

Hey Diella, would you bring me another Presidente, please?

 

Fairly mundane, right? Since we have been here so often, we haven’t been doing much of the touristy stuff. Sunday is almost alway beach day with our friends Damon and Yonka and their kids. A great way to recharge before the start of another work week for all of us!

We had a great time doing those touristy things when our friend Chris came to visit from Pennsylvania!  It’s always fun to show someone new the amazing things that St Croix has to offer!

Sailing to Buck Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doors of Tangier

By now you have probably seen a poster or two of the doors of various cities….London, Boston, Paris…perhaps even Tangier! I didn’t realize until I was reviewing my photos yesterday that I had taken an abundance of pictures of doorways when we visited Tangier last February!  It’s no wonder!  They are so beautiful and intriguing!  I wonder, what lies behind them?  Mystery, lush interior courtyards, a robed woman preparing dinner in a tangine on an open flame, or maybe some litttle boy playing video games! Let your imagination lead you!

 

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Jimi Hendrix lived behind this door in the 70s!
Jimi Hendrix lived behind this door in the 70s!

 

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Laundry Day in Southern Spain

It sounds simple enough! We’ve only been traveling for about three days, but when you only carry a backpack for a six week trip, it doesn’t take long before the idea of fresh clean clothes is quite attractive for several reasons! Especially when the outfit you are wearing is the same one you put on and have worn for the past two days since you left home! (OK, Mitch, I get the hint! Stop holding your nose!)

I find myself with a washer readily available at our housesit, so let’s get this done! Instructions left by the homeowners – three small scoops of detergent and one small scoop of “anti-cal” to combat the hard water. Got it! I gather up an armload of dirties and head out the kitchen door to go down to the gym/laundry room to get this chore going.

About halfway down the steep staircase of 18 narrow steps, I feel my feet go out from under me as my middle back hits the hard concrete…tripped up on some dangling dirties! Coupled with some prolonged moaning and bellowing, I do a quick mental inventory of my conditon. OK. Just some scrapes – no breaks! Onward to laundry!

I load the clothes and detergent and then I see this!!!IMG_1239

What??? I need a home ec class for this! Youtube and Google Translate to the rescue! Some of the settings are pretty obvious, others not so much.

Algodon – cotton.

Algodao – cotton in Portuguese!! What – it’s in two languages??

Sineteticos – synthetics.

Delicado/Seda – delicate/silk.

Lana/La – wool (never did figure what La is or how to get that little ~ above the a on my keyboard.)

Antialergias – Hypoallergenic (I’m guessing).

Sport – duh.

Plumas/Penas – feathers (What? No, more Portuguese).

Camisas/Blusas – shirts/blouses.

Ropa oscura/Ropa escura – dark clothes.

Rapido – quick!

Ignoring most of the other buttons, I choose Algondon. (By the way, “Prelav” is like a pre-wash or extended wash, I think.) Then I see the numbers illuminate!! Are you kidding, 2 hours and 45 minutes to do a load of laundry? Guess I will skip my hiking plans for today!IMG_1238

Turns out that these front-loading European washing machines don’t have agitators, so they are gentler on your clothes. But the wash cycle takes forever. And the water temperatures?? US average for a load in hot water is 120°F. Well, here it is 60°C which is 140°F and if you want to get those babies really clean you can up to 90°C (194°F)!!! Dang! Now that’s some clean clothes! I feel dirty again! I never did figure out the other controls – but I realize the little clock symbol is a timer. I guess it would be convenient to load them the night before and have it start while you are still sleeping. Especially if it is going to take almost 3 hours to get the load done! We learned later from the homeowners that many of the locals do their wash at night since electricity rates are lower during off peak times.

So, the washing is done. How about the drying? It is a very common practice here to hang your clothes out to dry. Fortunately, I do that at home too. Saves on the electric bill, makes your clothes smell fresher and bleaches those whites in the sun! But, it has been since I was a child that I saw an umbrella or rotating clothesline!  It is a battle of woman and the wind!  Those sheets were wrapping themselves around me like a mummy!

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Gotta say, once you figure it out and make some adjustments to your schedule, I like it this way! And my clothes have never seemed so clean! Now watch out – I am going hiking!