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Posted on Jan 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Start Your Engines

Toy cars on the coffee table

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles. What more could a little boy want?

The new year has begun and we are hitting the ground running. We’ve made some huge progress towards our cruising goals in only a few days and the realization has finally sunk in. Things just got serious, folks. All of a sudden Dan and I have become somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done in a relatively short time.

Let’s back up a bit. A few weeks ago, we were working on our financial plans trying to figure out what exactly still needed to be done before we could attain our preferred amount of savings (i.e. $10,000 kitty; $3,000 per house rental reserves; and $40-50,000 in total boat purchase/refit allowance.) Our goal was to purchase at least 1 more rental house so our total could be 5 houses producing around $1,500 a month in total profit. To do that, we would either need to buy a 5th house out of our current boat savings (boo!) or sell our owner occupied house for enough to pay for 2 house down payments (yay!) 

We decided to talk to the realtor who sold our last house as well as showing our house to a coworker of Dan’s who said she might be interested. The realtor quoted us a very healthy number that would far outweigh the cost of purchasing 2 additional houses, but it turns out that listing it wasn’t even necessary. Dan’s coworker loved our house so much that she made an offer one day after seeing it and our tentative scheduled closing date is February 3rd! Talk about a quick sale from thinking about selling to sold in a week! The only downside is now we have to get another house purchased ASAP or we might be out on the street in a month. Packing and house shopping is on the menu for sure!

In addition to working out our housing issues we also decided now would be a good time to start actively searching for our boat. We want to have plenty of time to find the best boat for us for the right price. I’ll go into more detail on that search in another post coming soon, but the important thing is there has been a major shift in mindset occurring in our plans. We are no longer looking at boats as prototypes or theoretical options, now every boat we look at has the potential to be the one. Serious scrutiny of each boat and the options available takes a lot of time and effort to get right, but it’s crucial that we make good choices in the beginning to allow ourselves to stay on track for cruising this year.

That’s right, I said it: WE’RE CRUISING THIS YEAR! Happy 2014!

 

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Posted on Nov 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Horizon Healthcare

Luckily, we aren't planning a revisit of this trip anytime soon!

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…

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Posted on Aug 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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Posted on Aug 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Look It Up

Don't know what kind of moth this is? We didn't either so we looked it up!

Don’t know what kind of moth this is? We didn’t either until we looked it up!

Dan and I like to be thoroughly well prepared for big changes and new possibilities in life. When we have a problem, we search Google and figure out how to fix it. When I was pregnant with Carter, I spent hours researching online exactly what to expect and prepare for multiple different outcomes to the point that my doctors were always surprised that I knew exactly what they were talking about and had almost no questions at any of my appointments. Dan visited countless websites and forums along with talking to other landlords before we were confident that we could make well informed decisions about buying rental properties. What can I say? We like to be educated.

Recently, we realized that we had been somewhat slacking in the cruising education division. Sure, we read a lot of other people’s blogs and had spent a lot of time reading cruisersforum and other boating sites when we were first making up our plans, but we hadn’t done a lot of in depth training because we were so focused on the financials of making sure we could get going. That mindset has been able to shift over the last few weeks… We have now reached the point where our rental reserves (six months of expenses per house) and the initial cruising kitty (10k to start, but it will be replenished each month from our various income sources while cruising… think of it as working cash) are established. Now we move into the boat savings stage. It is exhilarating to know that every dollar saved will be building towards a new home. That might not seem like a big deal, but for us it has been a major eye opener. Now we need to make sure that we are ready when the money is!

To start things out right we purchased the full pack of NauticEd* Captain’s courses and have both been working through them together. These courses cover a huge range of topics from diesel engine maintenance and proper sail trim to safety at sea and storm tactics. We have been very impressed with the quality of instruction and depth of information provided from these courses and both of us feel a lot more confident that we will be able to sail our boat safely when the time comes. They even have nice PDF graphs and quick reference guides to laminate and keep on your boat with you as well as practical exercises that we’ll be able to work on together once we get our real boat.

Another course that we are planning to take is the Mahina Expedition seminar that is given at Strictly Sail every year. This seminar is highly rated and addresses a lot of the logistical issues of living on a sailboat. Provisioning, safety, clearing in and out of countries, and having pets on-board are just a few of the topics covered in the all day seminar. The Blue Water Boats list that we’ve been referencing in many of our posts is also created by the Mahina team. These people have a lot of experience under their belts and we’re hoping to take some of that and put it to use on our own journey.

Two other big areas of focus for our studies will be first aid skills and Dan’s SCUBA instructor course. We feel that Dan getting his instructor certification could be a major benefit to us in the future and could potentially give us some additional income throughout the year. The first aid classes we are a little less sure about where to start. Dan is currently EFR/CPR certified as part of his rescue diver certification last year and plans to get his EFR instructor certification at the same time he finishes the PADI instructor certification, which would make it easy for me to get EFR certified as well (which we plan to do.) However as anyone who has taken EFR or the Red Cross first aid class will know, these classes are designed to stabilize a patient until an ambulance or other trained medical staff can reach the patient which usually only takes a short time in comparison to the days it could take if someone was seriously injured at sea. We are currently trying to find other options that would give us a more thorough training, but are having a hard time finding something reasonably priced that we could both be trained in. The most promising so far has been the Wilderness First Response program but that is about $800/person and requires a week of hands-on training so we aren’t sure if we want to jump into that without more … research.

Do you know of any other classes we should consider taking in the next year of preparation? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or shoot us an email from the Contact Us page.

*Use our coupon code followthehorizon at NauticEd to get $15 off any classes! (Full disclosure: we get a very small credit to our NauticEd account when you use this code)

We’ve also done some major updates to our To-Do List page! Click on over to check it out.

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Posted on Jul 22, 2013 | 0 comments

A New Car with a Side of Friendship

Small but mighty!

Small but mighty!

Over the last few months, several times Dan and I have brought up selling our GMC Jimmy and buying a vehicle with better gas mileage. Though we had only owned the Jimmy for a little over a year, we’ve had multiple repairs that we’ve had to make in addition to only getting around 15 mpg on average. We figured out that even though we only are planning to own our cars for one more year or so, there was still significant savings to be made so we starting searching for a reliable car with good gas mileage. We got a little help from the financial blogger Mr. Money Mustache who has a list that we used of the top rated small cars for reliability.

We quickly found that we really liked the look, efficiency, and pricing of the Scion xD and xA hatchbacks. These cars are stylish and fun while getting great gas mileage and having plenty of interior room for the three of us. (Note: they are still pretty small cars so anything more than 2 adults and 2 small kids is going to feel cramped.) We found an xD on craigslist only about 45 minutes from us and decided to check it out.

As Dan went on the test drive (we had Carter with us so I stayed behind) I started talking to the couple that currently owned the car, Kyle and Becky. The conversation sounded something like this:

“So, why are you selling your car?”

“Well, we’re pretty much selling all of our stuff because we are moving to Belize.”

“Really? Are you going there to do anything specific?”

(apprehensive pause) “We’re planning to be self-sustaining farmers and work at an orphanage there.”

How cool is that! Just in the course of a few minutes I got to hear about how this couple about our age are getting ready to head out on their own epic journey and follow their hearts off of the well worn path. Even though I could tell Becky was obviously nervous about telling us their plan (as I understand completely) I’m so glad she broke the ice. We were able to share some of our experiences in trying to plan for the unknown and made new friends. Most of all it was so encouraging to meet other people who share in common with us their belief that we are not prepared for our current life to continue on without change. Their journey will be very different from ours, but it comes from the same desire to live more extraordinary lives while we have the opportunity.

We were happy to be able to help fund their goal in some small way by buying their car (which we love by the way) and if you would be interested in buying their house in Lincoln, Illinois here is the listing. We wish the best of luck to Kyle and Becky and hope that they see their dreams come to fruition very soon. Maybe if we make our way over to Belize in the next few years we will meet up with them again.

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