As some of you may have seen on the news, this last Sunday an EF4 tornado swept through Washington, Illinois only a 15 minute drive from our home. Hundreds of houses were severely damaged or destroyed, but miraculously only 1 person was killed. None of our family’s homes sustained any damage or injuries, but we do have friends and coworkers whose lives have been significantly disrupted from the storm.
Dan was teaching an Open Water scuba class at the health center in Washington when the sirens went off. Everyone was quickly directed to the locker room areas where the building was the best fortified for emergencies. As the tornado passed, the power in the building went out and Dan could hear the roaring, screeching sound of the monster storm rushing by. A huge crash resounded through the building, which he later discovered was from a cement block wall being knocked over in the addition that was being built on the center.
Dan didn’t realize how extensive the damage really was until later when he tried to drive home. Everywhere he went, there were downed power lines, trees, and homes with roofs blown off. Eventually, he came to the worst hit area where the homes had been completely demolished, almost as if a bomb had gone off. Where there were once whole neighborhoods, all the remains is a giant trash heap that people somehow have to sift through to try and salvage whatever they can. It took him almost 3 hours to navigate through the traffic and wreckage to get home. The pictures above were taken during that time.
I don’t know if there is anything that can humble a person more quickly than to come face to face with the awesome forces of nature. Tornadoes are no respecters of persons. In an instant they have the power to sweep away everything you own, without a thought. Our lives are fragile and each moment is a gift.
*If you would like to help this community, please consider donating to the Salvation Army or the Red Cross disaster relief funds.
No plans to revisit the maternity ward anytime soon!
With the recent public concern over the new healthcare law coming into effect, it’s no wonder that Dan and I have fielded many questions about what our plans will be for healthcare and health insurance while we are cruising. Spend any time on forums for cruisers and you will find the same questions. It is a legitimate concern considering we will no longer have insurance available to us through our employers, private insurance (up until this point) has been known to be extremely expensive in the United States, and that expense certainly would put a big kink in a limited cruising budget.
Luckily, there are some factors that help mitigate the need for expensive health insurance for us. First (and biggest in our opinion) is the fact that we do not intend to use the healthcare system in the United States almost at all once we start cruising, as we will no longer be located here. Anyone who has traveled abroad extensively will tell you that healthcare costs outside of the United States are significantly lower than here at home. Regardless of the reasons why that is true, it means that having insurance isn’t really a huge necessity like it is here. In fact, most international health insurance providers charge significantly discounted rates for plans that include everywhere in the world other than the U.S. With almost $75,000 in our own personal emergency funds, self insurance while abroad makes the most sense to us.
We are (currently) young and healthy with very little risk that any major health costs will be popping up over the next 5-10 years. However, we do plan to carry Divers Alert Network (DAN) coverage for all three of us. Their particular plan will cover our #1 greatest risk factor: scuba diving. We’ve already had a good experience working with DAN during my Rescue Victim episode and the coverage is highly rated. Basically, DAN covers any diving-related injury fully including recompression chamber visits and even repatriation to the United States from anywhere in the world if necessary. Not only that but it also covers up to $10,000 for any other non-diving medical expenses, plus even coverage for loss or damage of our equipment (like if our dive camera got flooded or we accidentally drop our gear into the abyss). I’d say that’s a pretty good deal for only $600/year.
There is one little catch in this plan that you may have noticed. What about the healthcare mandate starting in 2014? Well to be honest…we don’t really know. We haven’t gotten any satisfactory answers about what our legal status actually will be once we start traveling permanently; resident/non-resident – its somewhat unclear. Fortunately, we do know that according to all of the income charts (and assuming we don’t get filthy rich from writing this blog) our yearly taxable income should put us firmly below poverty level in the United States. Great news, right? In this case it is, because that means that even if we are required to get health insurance it will be free. We would become part of the <insert random percentage here> of people who receive assistance from the Federal Government. Isn’t that something…
Nothing beats a Panama City Beach sunset with a campfire on the beach.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been able to cross off a pretty big item off of our To-Do List. I am now certified as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor! This was a big goal of mine, personally. Ever since I became a certified diver a few years ago I wanted to become an instructor someday. Scuba diving is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever done… and now I have the skills and credentials to enable others to enjoy the sport while making a little money as well.
After becoming CPR and First Aid instructors (a prerequisite for becoming a scuba instructor through PADI), Kyle and I went to Emerald Coast Scuba in Destin, FL for our PADI IDC (instructor development course). We met some great people there including the Course Director Anna and her Staff Instructors Chris, Kelly, Ray, and Stewart. I admit I was quite nervous going into the IDC and especially IE (instructor examination) but the staff made the entire experience very enjoyable and rewarding.
Kyle and I with our certificates at Vortex Springs
Being a PADI Instructor as well as a CPR/First Aid instructor will allow Michele and I to have a source of supplemental income that is still super fun at the same time. Our plan at the moment is to hopefully team up with dive shops along the way, especially during the offseason for cruising (i.e. hurricane season), and help with their overflow students and trips. This isn’t income that we are counting on, but diversifying our income stream is an important part of attaining the financial freedom that we are seeking… if we have a bad rental month/season/year and the stock market tanks at the same time, we will still have other options for replenishing the kitty.
If you are in the vicinity and would like to become a certified diver or are already certified and would like to take your skills to the next level, send me an email! I plan on keeping my classes either private or semi-private (two groups max) so you will get the attention new and continuing education divers need and deserve.
Right before the open water portion of our exams started, when everyone was the most stressed, we were entertained by a man we dubbed “the crazy Russian guy” that was over-excited about Kelly’s remote control drone. I’ve attached the video that the Russian guy made about the UAV… its pretty hilarious. (Note: Kelly is not, in fact, a member of the KGB…at least as far as I know.)