31 January, 2012

Good-Bye January...

I can’t begin to tell you how HAPPY I am that January is on its way out.

I’ve mentioned before that it gives me great satisfaction when I’m able to turn the calendar to a new month and saying good-bye to this month brings me great satisfaction.

There is something to be said for new beginnings and saying “so long” to sucky months like January. I’ve never been a fan of January because it’s endlessly long, cold and dark and there isn’t anything to look forward to, except long, cold, dark days.

Here’s to you February…

27 January, 2012

Faces Of Cuenca: Look What $20 Buys You At The Market

Following up from yesterday's post - here's some more "food for thought" (pardon the pun), as to why we are planning to relocate to Ecuador

Faces Of Cuenca: Look What $20 Buys You At The Market: Sharon and I have been in Cuenca almost 8 months. There are times we really miss the car but I have been shopping 3-4 times a week and I alw...

26 January, 2012

Cost of Living in Ecuador

In an earlier post, I told you that one of the reasons we’ve decided to relocate to Ecuador was to reduce our overall cost of living.  By relocating somewhere where the cost of living is significantly cheaper, we are hopeful that our funds will go further, allowing us the ability to slow down and actually enjoy life.
Recently, Ecuador was voted the #1 Retirement Haven in the World by International Living Magazine for like the umpteenth (I think it’s a word) year in a row.  Now rest assured, we haven’t foolishly based our decision on an article from a company that also wants to sell me “relocation kits and seminars”.  Honestly, I’ve taken what I’ve read from them with a grain of salt.
It wasn’t until I started reading many blogs from expats living in Ecuador which all allude to the same thing – it’s cheap and it’s spectacular.
For example, a couple (ages 56 and 53) live in the mountain village of Cotacatchi, where they don’t have to worry about stretching their retirement dollars.  Their total monthly expenses are just $580 and that amount includes a maid service, pet expenses and rent on a new 1,200 square foot apartment.

Here’s their detailed monthly budget:
Housecleaning (maid twice a week):
Dog food:
Now, we plan on living beach front, so our housing expenses would higher if we planned on renting, but we plan on buying, so we can subtract the cost of rent from the overall expenses, but will need to add in insurance, internet and telephone.  So, even if our living expenses were $900 a month – we’d be laughing all the way to the bank.   Our basic monthly expenses now are at least 4 times that amount.  It makes me ill just thinking about the money we are wasting.
It’s not just for retirees either.  I’ve found numerous blogs from expats with young families that have chosen to move to Ecuador for a simpler, cheaper life – where family takes priority over both parents needing to work 50 hours each just to make ends meet.
So, there you have it – Ecuador is the place to go.   It’s the place where I’m going.  Let me know if you want to join me.  I hear the rent on a beach chair will cost you 25 cents a day and beer is cheap at only 75 cents per bottle, so depending on how much you drink, you could live fairly cheaply by camping out on my beach, but act soon because those prices won’t last for long…

25 January, 2012

Losing Sleep and Counting Sheep…

Until recently, I’ve never had a problem with going to sleep and staying asleep. I’ve grown accustomed to and am rather fond of getting a solid 8 hours a night. Sure, I’ve had the odd night of restlessness now and then, but nothing like I’ve been experiencing recently.

I go to bed exhausted, barely able to hold an after-dinner conversation, but then find myself tossing, turning and fidgeting. I’m sensitive to every sound in my vicinity – including the barking dogs down the road, which until recently I didn’t know existed.

Once I’m finally able to fall asleep, I typically sleep soundly for what I think is a few hours, although I’m not exactly sure on time, because I refuse to look at the clock.

Once awake, the cycle starts over again – tossing, turning, fidgeting, and contemplating the demise of the barking dogs down the road.

I’ve tried counting sheep, but have realized that I have attention deficit disorder - I can’t for the life of me make it past 4 and then I have to start over. I’ve tried to pretend I’m lying of a beach in the sun, listening to the waves roll in. I’ve tried to recite Shakespeare - Hamlet’s speech “To be or not to be”. Don’t judge – I had to learn it for theatre arts class and it has stuck with me ever since. Regardless of what I’ve tried, I’ve failed. Eventually sleep does come – typically 10 minutes before the alarm goes off.

I’ve no doubt been subconsciously been thinking about “things”, but it’s unusual for me. I’m not a worrier. I’m usually able to leave those “things” behind when I head to bed. I can’t put my finger on the root of the problem and it’s frustrating me…

I don’t even like sheep….I think I’m allergic – in addition to having A-D-D.

24 January, 2012

The Tax Man Cometh...

Finally, with the holiday season well behind me, I’ve finally been able to start catching up on my jewelry stuff. This past weekend was spent photographing, writing descriptions for and posting the finished pieces to both my website and Etsy.

I swear the maintenance side of this jewelry business could be a full-time job (if I had the time to do it properly). I don’t understand how I let myself fall so far behind over the holiday season, but sadly…it happened. Actually, it happens every year…

The worst part about it…I haven’t updated my business accounting program since tax season last year and guess what’s just around the corner? Ummm….tax season!

How the hell, does this keep happening to me and why do it let it? Meh. (insert shoulder shrug here). Anyhow, whining about it isn’t making it go away, so off I go to toil my misery away.

I leave you with a few photos of some recent pieces.

18 January, 2012

Random Thoughts - Staying Positive...

It’s a pay week. Pay weeks are what makes working for “the man” all worthwhile.

Our weather here has been very unusual. One day it is unbearably cold, windy and snowing and then the next morning, it becomes unseasonably warm, with tons of rain and then by the end of the same day, we are back to sub-arctic temperatures, flash freezing and snow. The mood swings of Mother Nature are killing my sinuses.  It's January, I guess I shouldn't complain...shouldn't and won't are two different things.

I received a terrifying call from my sister-in-law yesterday telling me that my father-in-law was in the hospital with a suspected blood clot in his lungs. She went on to tell me that they suspected it was a blood clot because he had recently flown. All I could think of is “great, now I’m going to be blamed for killing their father because it was my idea to take them to Hawaii”. The requisite tests were completed, but nothing could be found and by the end of day yesterday, the hospital sent him home. Obviously I’m thankful for the outcome, but I will not be taking him on any trips where airplanes are involved anytime soon.

I’m not sure what was more disturbing – receiving the call from my sister-in-law in the first place or that the hospital sent him home and we still don’t know what caused his problems in the first place.

Speaking of airplanes, it’s only 1 month and 27 days until we leave for the Philippines. Normally we save for these large trips over a 2-3 year period, but this one was fast-tracked to less than a year. To say it’s killed me financially would be an understatement. As I type this, I’m still eating ramen noodles for lunch and will likely be until the day I leave.

I’m not sure if I told you, but for the next 3 ½ months, I’ll be staying at work until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Why? As you know, Thy Boy has been riding with me to school every day, as I work within a block of the college. It saves him a ton of money, which in turn saves me a ton of money. Well, this semester he has two late night classes and therein lays the reason for my being here until 8:00. He knows better than to complain about it seeing how I’m stuck is the land of misery with him. My mantra on these days: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

“Constant repetition carries conviction.” – Robert Collier

15 January, 2012

So What’cha Going Do to Earn a Living?

I know that will be the first question to be asked by our friends and families when we finally tell them about our escape plan.
My response will be “Good question.  You’ll be the first to know once we figure it out.”
That’s where we’re at - at this point in time, we don’t really know how we’ll earn an income.  The initial goal is to sustain ourselves with the initial proceeds from the sale of our house and all of our stuff.  Provided we are careful with our money, we should be able to live quite comfortably for a few years without having to work.   Obviously, we still would like the ability to travel, so becoming permanent beach bums isn’t really an option.
We have longer term ideas of perhaps opening a B&B, hostel, beach bar, scuba shop or the like.  We also have shorter term goals of selling some of J's photograph on stock photography sites or perhaps I'll become a professional blogger (ha, like I’ll earn a living from that).  I also plan on continuing to create and sell my jewelry. 
Once in Ecuador, we’ll have the time to figure out what we want to do and if there is a specific niche that needs to be filled, we’ll look into filling it.  Really, the possibilities are endless.

13 January, 2012

Sorry For Stating the Obvious…

BUT, thank goodness it’s Friday.

The only thing that would make this day better is if it was 5:00 or better yet, if I had stayed home.

It is snowing here today. I know I shouldn’t complain because we’ve been fortunate to experience a drier than usual winter, but today my commute took over two hours when usually it only takes me one. To top it off, I also had to stop and get gas for my car (you know how much I love to do that too)…in the blowing, freezing cold snow storm.

It’s winter, which is misery to those like me. On the other hand, it’s a veritable winter wonderland for those crazy, freak of nature types that LOVE the snow, who by the way – I have “unfriended” from Facebook. I can’t possibly be friends with THOSE types of people any longer.
Now that I’ve properly ranted…I hope everyone has a great Friday and a fantastic weekend.

12 January, 2012

The “How To” Plan - Before We Go...

I wish I could tell you that I have it all figured out and that our relocate plan is 100% foolproof, but let’s be honest…I don’t really have it all sorted out just yet.  
Here are some highlights to date:
1.       Become Debt Free.  Our main plan of action is still to pay off the mortgage, credit line and any other debts we might have within the next 3-5 years.  When the time comes to sell here, the equity we have in our current house will easily pay for our house or condo in Ecuador.  Believe me, we don’t have an extravagant house now, but housing costs in Ecuador are substantially less than houses in North America, which will give us a nice nest egg left over.
2.       Downsizing.  Slowly we will begin to purge everything non-essential from our lives.  Apart from our laptops and iPods and some personal meaningful items, we don’t plan on taking much with us, but the thought of narrowing it down to only a few boxes is overwhelming me already.   I’m not attached to a lot of things, but the thought of the work involved in getting rid of it all is freaking me out.   The discussion has already begun as to what can go now and what needs to stay until the end.  I can also tell you that the “eBay and yard sale” piles have also formed.  If you’re looking for something in particular, let me know – I probably have it.
3.       Save, Save and Save Some More.  This one is obvious, but we will be watching our money more closely than usual and choosing our expenditures even more wisely.   The plan is to save the money we make from selling off our household items in a separate account and slowly convert the money from Canadian to USD, as USD is the currency of Ecuador.  This money will then cover our set-up costs in Ecuador or as I like to call it - the “buy new stuff in Ecuador” fund.
4.        Learn to Speak Spanish.  This is probably the biggest obstacle we will need to overcome.  I can speak a little Spanish, but unless I only need to ask for directions to the bathroom or order a beverage and cheeseburger, I’m pretty much screwed.  I’m looking into the Rosetta Stone program and would appreciate any insight or personal recommendations you guys might have on this one.  (Krystn don’t make any plans for 2017, since I might need to take you up on your offer to become my personal translator and relocate to Ecuador with me.) 
The details are particularly fuzzy on what we plan on doing once we get there, so I’ll leave that for another day.

10 January, 2012

What Were We Thinking?

In yesterday’s post, I said I would try to explain our decision about our plan to relocate to Ecuador in 2017.  Putting our thoughts on paper is harder than I thought it would be, so please excuse me if it doesn’t make sense to you, but in the paradise that is my mind…it makes sense to me.
Let me first say – regardless of how much I complain about the long, cold, Canadian winters, we love our country and Canada will always be our home.  That said, I’ve got enough love in my heart to go round, so enough with the mushy stuff.  Here we go…
Lack of Time
I know I’m not the only one out there and that the majority of us are in the same boat.  We all lack time and lack of time is has been one of the biggest deciding factors to relocate - we just don’t have time and can’t seem of find the time for anything – no time for each other, no time for our son, no time for chores, no time for hobbies, no time for friends and no time for family.  Simply put, there is no time to enjoy life.  
Pace of Life
We’re looking for a slower pace.  I don’t know about all of you, but in my opinion, technology has not improved us as a society.  Technology may make your life easier in certain aspects, but complicates it in others.  We no sooner complete one task, when we are faced with another task, which is most likely needed sooner than the previous task.  No matter how fast we do something – it’s never fast enough.   
I’m not lazy, but I don’t want to do more in a shorter period of time - I want to do less.   I want to be less connected and feel less obliged to respond to instant messages, text messages, e-mails, phone calls, voice mails.   I can guarantee you that I won’t go without technology.  I just won’t be a slave to it any longer.
Quality of Life – Short Term
J and I both make decent money, but because of the cost of living and personal income taxes being what they are here in Canada, it’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the month.  We know we are fortunate to have what we have and travel like we do, but we work extremely hard and sacrifice a great deal of time and energy to get to that point.  
We don’t want more stuff in life, but instead want more from life.  Ecuador will give us this ability.
Quality of Life – Long Term
Although, J and I aren’t close to retirement age, we worry about the ability to retire comfortably or quite frankly, the ability to retire at all.  By moving to a country where the cost of living is significantly less than where we are now, we know we will be able to live comfortably in our golden years and actually enjoy the life we’ve worked for.
I’ll expand on this topic in greater detail in another post, because a lot of research and fact finding missions went into the realization that we would be financially better off in another country.
There is no secret that I dislike winter.  I dislike the cold, I dislike the wet and I dislike the dampness. 
I’m sure I’ll miss the changing seasons, but by moving to Ecuador, we can still experience the seasons if we feel the need to by travelling to the different regions the country has to offer.  By living in Coastal Ecuador, we will have the benefit of experiencing Summer like weather year round, but the Southern Mountain Region will allow for Spring like weather and Northern Mountain Region will give us the feeling of Fall/Winter.  Of course, there is also the Amazon Region which will give us hot as hell temperatures, big friggin snakes, creepy crawlies and probably some form of typhoid or dengue fever.   Ecuador has something for everyone – whether you want it or not.
Other Stuff
Scuba Diving - The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and the close proximity to world-class giving is super exciting to us.  J and I dove in The Galapagos Islands in 2003 and have always said we would love to go back.  I guess now, we’ll get our chance.
Surfing – Coastal Ecuador is fast becoming a world-class surfing destination.  Although J and I don’t surf, we are fascinated by the athletic skill level of surfers and are envious of their carefree beach lifestyle.  When in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, we spent hours, upon hours at the beach with the surfers – J photographing and me, just watching and enjoying their company.  Time well wasted in my opinion.
So, there they are…some of the deciding factors we looked at when making our decision to relocate.   We are well aware that there are just as many, if not more negatives that go along with the positives that I listed.   Perhaps, I’ll cover those in a later post – along with explaining how we plan on making this happen.   I figure if I put my thoughts in writing, maybe they won’t sound as insane as they do in my mind.
Since you are the only people we are sharing these early stages of our adventure with (for the time being), please let me know if you have any specific questions you’d like to have answers to.  I’m happy to share…and will give you an answer to almost any question.

09 January, 2012

Courage or Insantity? I'm Not Sure Yet...

You might remember me telling you about my 7-10 year plan.  You know the one - when I pay off my mortgage and debts, be totally irresponsible and quit my day job and then run away…far, far away to somewhere warm.
Well, I know this might sound absolutely ridiculous, but the planning has begun.   Put the date on your calendar – 2017.  By end of year 2017, J and I plan to be living in…. (insert drum roll)…Ecuador.  Exact location to be determined, but I can tell you that it will be somewhere on the coast of Ecuador.

There you have it.  There’s no turning back now that it’s on paper.  You, my Blogger friends, are the first to know our little secret.  We don’t plan on telling other friends or family members anytime soon because let’s face it - 5 years is a long way off and there is no sense in stressing them out long before we have to.
Obviously, we plan on taking a few research trips before we make the actual commitment of purchasing a house or condo there.   Hopefully, the first one will be in either November of this year or January of next year.
Over the next couple of days, I’m going to try and collect my thoughts and hope to share with you the reasoning behind our decision and over the next 5 years, I plan on sharing our journey with you.  I hope you stick around and enjoy the adventure…
I’ve already done a lot of research and soul searching (sounds lame, I know), but the time has come to stop dreaming about it and actually begin to put the plan into action.  You’re probably thinking that I’ve totally lost it and perhaps I have, but that’s how I roll…
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” - Walt Disney

05 January, 2012

Warning: The Following May Be Disturbing to Some Readers...And Hilarious To Others...

I’m trying to get back into the swing of blogging on a more frequent basis.  The Internet Nazis have Blogger, Facebook and all other remotely entertaining websites blocked from my mouse clicks and view – including The Weather Network I might add.  Not that The Weather Network is entertaining, but I do consider it a bit of a necessity and regardless of my needs, it’s a blocked site too.  So, as I have ideas (not often), I’m taking the time out of my busy schedule trying not to dislike my co-workers to prepare posts, with a view to posting them at a later time or date.
Anyhow, as I was sitting in my office (waiting for the clock to strike 5:00), I remembered a story I needed to share with you.  It involves The Boy’s new(ish) cat.  The cat’s actual name is Apollo (not our choice) – we prefer to call him Cat, Cringer, The Doctor or Bob .  Actually, we call him anything that comes to mind at the moment.  Now don’t worry, he doesn’t come to any of them, so we aren’t really confusing him any more than he already is.  He’s not the smartest cat I’ve seen – he tends to run into walls, falls off things easily and paws at the air for no apparent reason.   Nonetheless, he entertains us.
So imagine my dismay when we are in holidays in route to the airport in Hawaii and we receive a text from The Boy, which goes as follows:
The Boy:   It’s a good thing you guys are coming home today.
Me:        Why?  Do you miss us?
The Boy:  Ummm no.  Not really.  Well, yes. I guess.  Anyhow, there is something seriously wrong with my cat.  I think we are going to have to take him to the vet.
Me:  Okay.  What’s wrong?  Did he eat something he shouldn’t have?
The Boy:  I don’t think so.  He’s just acting really weird and he’s hasn’t moved in like 20 minutes.  He just lying under my desk stiff legged.
Me:  Is he breathing?
The Boy:  Yeah.  I checked.
Me:  Well, I can’t do anything from here.  Just keep an eye on him and if you think something is seriously wrong, you’ll have to take him to the vet yourself.
The Boy:  Okay.  I’ll watch him.
All I can think to myself is that the cat likely got into something he shouldn’t have or The Boy fed him too many Cheerios.
As we are nearing our exit on the highway, I receive another text from The Boy which goes:
The Boy:  I think I figured out what’s wrong with my cat.  About an hour ago he was under my desk playing and all of a sudden I heard him howl really loud and then he bounced across the room, hit the wall and immediately went stiff legged and started twitching.  Turns out – he must have electrocuted himself because my lamp cord under the desk has been entirely chewed through.
Well, it was at this point – we missed our exit to the airport because I was in fits of laughter and couldn’t tell J where he needed to go.  We actually missed the next two exits because I was still laughing so hard with the imagery of cat, bouncing across the wall like a ping pong ball.
Now before you call PETA on me, let me say…other than his unquenchable thirst for the next 3 days and his impulsive licking of his shoulder, the cat is fine.  The lamp on the other hand was a total write off.


04 January, 2012

Happy Belated New Year - Random Thoughts...

So, I had originally prepared this post on January 2nd; however due to unforeseen circumstances, couldn't get around to posting it until today...better late than never.
It’s January 2nd and I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I’m miserable.  I can honestly say, I’m the grumpiest I’ve been all year.
For many, today is still a holiday, but for me, it’s the beginning of the first 5 day work-week I’ve had in awhile.  That’s obviously the root of some of my misery. 
A great Christmas and New Year’s was had by everyone in our household.  At least, everyone appeared to have been having a good time, but then again – some days, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s sugar induced bliss.  
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions for this upcoming year.  I don’t have the greatest of self-control when it comes to things I want to do and things I want to eat, so I refuse to set myself up for eventual failure.  Instead, I plan on “trying” new things…like “trying” to eat cooked vegetables at least one a week, “trying” not to dislike my co-workers on a daily basis, “trying” to spend less and save more and “trying” to get back to an exercise routine.    It’s not considered a failure as long as you’ve tried (at least that’s my rationale).
What started out as a casual visit to my in-laws yesterday; almost turned into an argument of epic proportions.  You see, my MIL is a little high strung and worries about things she shouldn’t and things can’t control – to the point of making everyone around her crazy.   Normally I can manage her high-strung-ed-ness, but yesterday was not one of those days.  She was meddling where she didn’t belong and I had to say something.  Long story short – when I received a kick from J under the table, I knew it was time to leave before any further damage was done.  On the upside, I’m still in her good books from taking her to Hawaii, so I figure I probably have a couple of more “get out of jail free cards” left.   Rest assured, at this pace, it won’t take long to use them up.
It’s a blizzard here today and there you have it… the remaining piece of my misery puzzle is now in place…

Update:   Thanks to the lovely blizzard we had on Monday, on the way home on  the most miserable day of 2012, my car and I ended up going into the ditch and wound up in a farmer's field.  I obviously had to get towed out and then subsequent car repairs, ensued yesterday - which included mud removal from the undercarriage of my car, tire repairs, alignment, etc.  On the upside, I'm okay, but I am now $460 poorer.  The way I see it, the remainder of 2012 can only get better...

Does anyone know the protocol surrounding “Happy New Year” wishes?   I personally feel  that by the end of the week, we should be moving on, unless of course you celebrate Chinese New Year…
 Anyhow…Happy Belated New Year…