Saturday, June 13, 2009


I've set aside making any changes for now. It isn't practical to add losing weight to all the other must do things right now.

That doesn't mean I'm going crazy and eating everything in sight. My focus is just not on weight loss/healthy issues.

Having said that I have enjoyed a few quiet days, mostly at home this week. It is wonderful to have my niece and husband at Mum's. I have been able to pop in and out when I choose to rather than drag myself over and help out when I was already tired.

This is going to be more of a travel Blog for the next few weeks.

The Story so far

In April 2008 we received an email from Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship inviting me to join the 2009 Catch The Wave Alaska Cruise with full Conference-at-Sea. An Alaskan cruise was on our wish list but for me the Conference had greater appeal. We had just begun working, over 30 hours between us, at the local SuperMarket so I thought I could save enough for another trip to USA. TACF is my favourite Church after my home church in Pauanui, New Zealand and I had seen the gleam of excitement and desire in TWJ's eyes when he saw that the next Catch The Wave was to be Alaska.

I booked the cruise without telling TWJ and the adventure began. I kept it a secret from him until our daughter's birthday in February this year. For 10 months almost everyone but TWJ knew what we were working towards. I hoped to produce a fait accompli ... cruise and airfares paid for but I wasn't that well disciplined. I expected him to be cross but he coped very well with the surprise even though this was the week that our dollar crashed against the USD and it looked as though we would be struggling hard to save enough money. We would need several thousand NZD extra. I wasn't sure how we would do it but being the optimist I am I was determined to do all I could to make this work.

We have had so much fun on the internet working out an itinerary and now we have the most important bookings made. Our daughter has paid for our airfares and we are repaying her slowly but surely.

We've had several challenges.

1. The exchange rate meant we needed a lot more New Zealand dollars.
2. Finding travel Insurance we were prepared to pay for. The premium increases horrendously for over 70's. We finally found one that we are satisfied with and paid it a month ago.
3. Cost of flights has varied wildly and getting the timing right for a good fare was important. Our daughter helped by paying initially.
4. Swine Flu scares and panic. We have decided to ignore the panic and take sensible precautions like building or immune system with extra vitamins and omega 3. I'm not as fit and healthy as I planned but I'll get by.
5. After telling TWJ why we were working so hard he studied the cruise plan and told me it ended in Whittier, near Anchorage. As we worked out a plan to holiday in Alaska for a few days and return to Vancouver or Seattle we found Alaska to be more expensive than our budget would allow. The TACF team gave us a couple of options to think about. The best one financially was to return to Vancouver on the ship for another US$100 each. We had a bargain. 14 days cruising for about US$1100.
6. We are second string care givers to my 94 year old mother. Jay, the first string carer, had a trip to Turkey, her partner's homeland, planned. Initially this was to be in April but the dates kept changing until we are away at the same time. A niece and her husband have stepped in and are living with Mum while Jay is away.
7. We wanted to self-drive from San Francisco to Vancouver and back again. This was a huge challenge considering our budget. One way hire fees involve large return costs it was going to be cheaper to hire the car for the whole month and pay parking fees during the cruise. Finally we found a hotel in Vancouver offering free parking for up to 14 days. The hotel's night rate is more than we would wish but the overall package is better.
8.When we began looking up the cost of a rental car we found quotes in excess of US$1000. Again outside our budget and we wondered if we should be using Amtrak but then we would miss some of the places we wanted to visit. Finally we booked a car from Hertz for half that rate.
9. We just didn't seem to be able to save enough and had our eye on some family money which we had loaned out temporarily. Murphy's Law came into play and the date of repayment has been deferred to later this year so no help to us right now.
10. We have cobbled together enough cash by making sure our tax refunds and my Accident Compensation claims are paid and reducing mortgage payments to the minimum while we are away.
11. From the beginning I have tried not to worry about my mother's health. She becomes more frail weekly, depends more and more on medication to keep her heart stable but has had no really serious incidents for 18 months. This is something I have to face. I could stay nearby for the next five weeks and Mum will be well or not. I have discussed with those who need to know that in the event of anything serious happening or her death we are unlikely to change our plans and come home. That is not going to be easy and the final decision will be made as needs be.

So in a very large nut-shell that is how we got to this day. It's 4 am Saturday and I can't sleep. I have some papers sitting in front of me which will hopefully yield another $100 in tax refunds. TWJ is 90% packed. I have clothes strewn all over the spare bed trying to make up my mind what to leave behind. I'm hoping the rain will stop for at least today so that I can get my washing dry and some other chores around the house completed.

I am so excited I seem to running around in circles. I discovered I love travelling in USA. It is such a huge country with amazing things to do and see. In comparison New Zealand is like comparing Buckingham Palace with a dolls house. Many similar things in each country but the scale is so different. We have found Americans to be very friendly and 'normal,' not at all like the impression left by TV. We feel safe, as safe as anywhere in new Zealand and we don't have to struggle with a foreign language although there are many differences in meaning. The scale of size and population make America very exciting for us and for me there is an acceptance of Christianity and God that makes me feel more at home than in my own country. My dream is to one day live in the U.S. for a period. TWJ was surprised to find he managed driving on the 'wrong' side of the road less stressful than he anticipated. We bought a Tom Tom GPS navigator on our last trip and it has proved to be a wonderfully helpful tool. So much better listening to directions in a sexy voice than wifey screaming ... 'don't you dare change lanes.' We won't go into all that now. It was fun but definitely challenging when I was the map-reader and navigator, especially when I consistently confused right and left turns so that we were often trying to find ways to turn around, back-track or just find our way out. We even had to carry a compass on that first trip otherwise we would travel mega miles in the wrong direction.

We have an optimistic budget of NZ$200 per day. We can easily tour in New Zealand on that but USA is another story. Food and petrol will be cheaper but accommodation dearer. We are travelling at peak season, schools and Universities are all on holiday. The other two times we were in USA it was late winter into spring depending on how far south we were, and definitely out of season with many tourist attractions closed until Memorial Day in May.

I had never been outside New Zealand until February 2005. I missed out on the great O.E. Very few people were going overseas when I was young and when they did it was a sea voyage of several weeks. I never expected to travel overseas, partly because you need a lot of money just to get on a plane. Our first trip was organised quickly after we sold some property with a good profit. I thought then it would be our one and only. We have sacrificed many things to travel but I don't regret the shabby furniture, old cars, aches and pains that go with our jobs and much more. I'm so glad that we have the health and energy to travel when many younger than us are living restricted lives. My motto is that you only live once and there are few second chances. Opportunities are there so make the most of them, they never come round in the same way again. Never give up a dream, even the one's you daren't admit to yourself, because somewhere, somehow the opportunity to live that dream might just come along.


kate said...

oh you have so much to look forward to margieanne, what a lovely break this will be for you and hubby to be away from working and from the routine of looking after your mum :) live it up whilst you are there and absorb it all like a sponge!!! xox

jennifer said...

Margie Ann, it sounds like you have had your hands full getting ready to visit the USA! I pray that your visit to our country is completely lovely and accomplished with ease. Praying that you have traveling grace!