1. What did you end up needing that you hadn’t brought along?
We always had everything with us. If we didn’t have it with us, we didn’t have it. So we would buy what we needed along the way (see reference to strike prices for items below), such as new shoes, underpants and such. See our answer to question 2 for things we have bought and abandoned or sold.
2. What items did you abandon along the way?
Mostly suitcases as we replaced old ones with new ones that roll. Also three or four computers in the last 20 years that have died on us. Clothes have been bought, as well as bikes, skis, ski boots, cars (in Europe, South America and North America), ski and bike racks for the cars and then sold or abandoned when we left that continent. In France, during a particularly crappy ski season, we scanned all of our photos, digitizing them and left the hard copies in the trash. We also digitized all of our CDs and cassette tapes and trashed the originals. All of our papers were digitized that year and the originals trashed (except our birth certificates, marriage certificate and old passports and such as that). When we left Europe in 2002 after 6 years there, we donated tons of clothes that we wouldn’t ever use (Dimitri’s tux, Audre's long dresses, our business suits, etc.). That’s when we lightened our load considerably.
3. In some countries, electronics, including small appliances, are very expensive. ex. In Ecuador, a replacement camera for the one I left in a cab was exorbitant. Also, all the small kitchen appliances were costly. Anything imported had significant purchase prices for items we assume can be purchased anywhere for $29 or $39. How do you cope?
In South America (where we were for 2.5 years) we bought a Black and Decker food processor for about $50 and loved it. See answer to question 5 for camera and cell phone costs. If things are too expensive (i.e. over our strike price for the particular item), however, we just don’t buy them.
In Europe (where we lived for 6 years) we had our US appliances with transformers. When we left Europe we left the appliances there. In Asia….don’t remember what we did. In Australia, we bought stuff and left it because the plugs were so unique. In New Zealand…don’t remember but the plugs were unique there too.
4. We have what seems like truck loads of supplements. Do you take medicines and vitamins with you, or just substitute when you arrive?
We don’t take medicines routinely these days. Audre used to take a calcium supplement until the spring of 2012 when the reports were published of studies showing calcium supplements increase your risk of heart attacks. It was generally cheaper abroad (anyway for the 15 years we weren’t in the US so we didn’t have the option of schlepping them so we just shopped around for the cheapest).
When Dimitri wanted to use a fungicide for his toe fungus, it was much cheaper abroad (and no more or less effective than what he once bought in the US).
5. Our friend in Ecuador uses ATMs for everything, including paying her rent. She doesn’t even have a local bank account. How have you handled the international payments in countries that don’t use credit cards or automatic payments the way the US does?
Since 1995 (when the first ATM appeared in Jakarta) we’ve tried to only use ATMs (with pretty good success, except in China in 1995 and Tahiti in 2006, as two examples we can think of) and pay in cash when we can’t use a credit card. There were hidden charges and now a more transparent 3% foreign transaction fee (as well as the currency conversion “costs”) when we used credit cards, as well as ATMs. As for the 3% foreign transaction fee, we have been able to eliminate that. We have a mutual fund account with Fidelity. Sometime since 2005, they advertised that they were offering a Smart Cash account to mutual fund account holders that would have no foreign transaction fees or ATM fees associated with it. We got that and it has lived up to the promises. So now all we need is money in our US account….. We understand that Capitol One bank doesn’t charge that 3% foreign transaction fee.
As for the hidden charges in connection with using American Express, Visa and Mastercard as well as Citibank foreign ATMs, we have been recipients of the distributions from class action suits. We have already received about $8000 from the American Express class action settlement and about $6000 from the Visa, Mastercard and Citibank class action settlement.
For years we’ve needed to pay our French health insurer by money transfer (they started taking credit card in 2010, we think). First we did it through Citibank and then through the Fidelity Smart Cash bank, paying whatever fees ($40 we think) and conversion rate that the bank required.
6. Been robbed or mugged anywhere?
6. Been robbed or mugged anywhere?
In Jakarta, my backpack was slit open and my wallet taken. Same thing in Calcutta. (I’ve stopped wearing a backpack with my wallet in it.)
Read about falling for a scam in Bolivia by clicking here:
http://travelingloveaffair.blogspot.com/2008/07/2008-roadtrip-scam-and-robbery-in.htmlWe replaced the Pentax camera with a Canon SD1100 camera for US$250 with tripod, extra 10 gig memory and case in La Paz (the same price as it would have been at the time in the US) and the cell phone with a US$42 one in La Paz as well.
7. What do you do about health insurance?
For about the last 12 years, we have been members of the Association of Americans Residing Overseas (AARO). With membership comes the opportunity to buy health insurance in their group. We chose catastrophic (hospitalization only) and it has been very good. It doesn’t cover us in our home country for more than 30 days, however. (Travel insurance is no good for us because it has a limit for how long you can be covered—like 12 months). Now that we are spending more time in the USA, we are loving our Medicare coverage. During our 2014 après ski season travel to South Korea, we chose not to buy any insurance to cover us abroad. That means we would be self insuring if something happens to either of us before we can beat it back to the USA.
8. What do you do about snail mail?
Most of our mail is received through e-mail. There are certain things that must be sent by snail mail. About 12 years ago we found www.usabox.com. It has been excellent. It is the only address we maintain. (Even after our purchase of a condo in Vail, we decided we would keep our usabox address at about $19 a month) When snail mail arrives at usabox, the envelope is scanned and posted on our personal page. Typically it is possible to discern junk mail from the envelope. If so, we tell usabox to discard that item. Once a month, usabox sends us whatever we want sent to wherever we tell them to send it. In the last 12 years, only one mail packet failed to get to us.
9. Hotel laundry charges can bankrupt you, what do you do about laundry?
There is typically a laundry in the town that will do laundry in a day. In Monterey, CA, however, the price was $15 for our weekly laundry of 14 underpants and socks. Traveling in the USA, there are usually laundry rooms in the hotels where we stay so we can do our weekly laundry ourselves.