travel


Let me begin by saying I’m probably one of the most patriotic people you will ever meet. My father served in WWII and his father in WWI. I served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam war. I also consider every first responder and all civilians who gave assistance on 9-11 to be true heroes. Additionally, I was and still am heart-sick for our country and everyone who suffered the loss of a loved one in the cowardly attack on innocent life. I didn’t, however, participate in the cultural and media-created grief-fest over the last month.

As a typical young man growing up in this country, I took my share of blows. As a skinny 7th grader, I was punched by the biggest 9th grader in school when I accidentally stepped on his foot. Pretty sure I broke some ribs but I never told anyone about it. Later on as a high school senior, I took out the catcher while scoring the winning run that gave my baseball team the league championship. Guess which one I choose to celebrate? What has happened to our culture when we create a spectacle to remember taking a horrible cheap shot from a bunch of lunatic fanatics? And why have we spent so much time building a monument to, lets face it, our biggest defense failure?

I can predict some of the answers. One would be we are doing this to honor the victims. Yes, I’m sure that’s part of it. But we won’t forget those people. They were the murder victims of heartless criminals. What I believe we should have done was build a new set of buildings twice as high on that site. What has happened to our can-do spirit in this country? We cry and moan over every mishap and wallow in collective grief. Remember when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident? For days the media brought us images of people around the world gathered in mass laying down flowers and crying. I felt bad for her and her family, but to be honest, I had never met her. I certainly didn’t break down or have a desire to gather with my neighbors to grieve. We all suffer the loss of loved ones. It’s the most difficult and emotional aspect of life. But if something happens to me on the highway, I sure don’t want my family to gather at the place of my demise and build a roadside memorial to visit each year.

When 9-11 occurred, I was so proud of our nation’s great resilience and defiance despite suffering such a horrifying attack. Now I feel we have been shown to be a nation of weak and powerless wimps, wallowing in a collective sea of pity and self indulgence. I truly honor those who lost their lives on 9-11, but seriously worry our culture has lost much of its grit and spirit.

North to Alaska 

 

Last week my wife Trisha and I, along with my mother Marty, sister Sharon , and good friends Madelynn and Juan, had the good fortune to explore the great state of Alaska. It was our third visit, and for those of you who have traveled to this scenic wonder, you already know its indescribable beauty. Fortunately for us, the weather proved to be just cold enough at the glaciers to meet expectations, offered a few brief showers in some locations, and provided the most glorious days even the locals and our ship’s crew described as the best weather they had ever seen. 

 If you’ve never been to Alaska, do yourself a favor and make plans to see one of the most spectacular places on earth. Here are just a few of the hundreds of photos we took on our plane, train, and ship travel adventure:

  

 

As we grow older, to be blessed with grandchildren is truly a joy. My wife Trisha and I are fortunate to have several of these wonderful young people in our lives. Ever since our oldest granddaughter Lucy was old enough to travel with us we take her on one trip each year to somewhere exciting. This year was no exception.

We first planned to go to New York, but the upcoming 9/11 anniversary had packed the hotels and those kinds of crowds didn’t seem too inviting. Having recently visited Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a place we have always enjoyed, we decided it would be perfect for this year’s adventure. After the plans were made, we got a couple of last-minute calls from Lucy’s mom. She told us her friends were advising her not to allow her daughter to go to Mexico. The second call came after Lucy’s friends began to scare her about the trip. Long story short, we assured mother and daughter and went through with our plans. It was a great trip and we had a ball.

Better yet, it was an opportunity to share a good life lesson. Are there places in this world especially dangerous to visit? Yes. In fact, there are several not too far from my home. The point is: life itself is a risk. My own aunt and uncle were murdered in their own bedroom. Several years ago I would never have imagined traveling through China meeting people and making friends with whom I would continue to communicate. Are there places in Mexico I would not visit right now? Absolutely. At this point, Cabo was much less a risk than our ride home from the airport. Lucy loved the scenery, boating, para-sailing, swimming, dancing for the guys at Senior Frogs, and shopping.

Growing older does not automatically give you more wisdom. It should, however, give you perspective. I personally drive more slowly and cautiously than before. On the other hand, I also try things I never would have done when I was younger. I admit to enjoying the adrenaline. Trisha is the same way and we both have our “list” of exciting things to try. Up till now, I haven’t added skydiving to my list, but I know it’s on hers. Maybe we’re just getting a bit crazy in our old age, but this is our life, not a dress rehearsal. Bottom line: you want to do something in this life, you better get to it. 

  

 

As I listen to our current President and other politicians talk about anything related to retired folks, I can’t believe my ears. They can’t “afford” to pay for our benefits. Pay us. Are you kidding? That’s our money buddy. We spent our lifetime paying into those accounts, we paid our taxes and are now being taxed again. You spent our money and you talk about not being able to “pay” us. O. K., I’m trying to breathe slowly.

Perhaps I have found an answer. 

On a recent travel adventure that included Panama, I was very impressed with this extraordinary country. I also noted that our cruise ship contained many Canadians and Europeans. Many of them were not only vacationing, but scouting Panama as a retirement location.

The AARP magazine Modern Maturity recently rated Boquete, Panama as the fourth best retirement destination in the world, and International Living rates the country of Panama as the number one retirement location. The Expatriate Telegraph, a British publication, suggests Europeans look beyond Spain, France, and Portugal as retirement possibilities and consider Panama as a “warm, adventurous, and inexpensive place to retire.”

Here are some of the benefits of retiring (full or part-time) to Panama:

– Lower crime rates than other retirement locations

– A stable government and growing economy (they deal in cash not credit)

– The U.S. dollar is legal tender

– Residents pay no tax on foreign earned income

–  Foreigners can buy and own property with the same rights as Panamanian citizens

– Panama has a retiree incentive program considered one of the best in the world

– Tourism investments have several tax exemptions

– Property tax exemptions on all new construction

– English is widely spoken (our guide spoke eloquent English)

– U. S. businesses abound

– Excellent U. S. standard health care facilities with English-speaking doctors

– A reliable communications system featuring fiber optics and includes internet

And that is not the whole story. Here are some other incentives for retirees:

– Import tax exemption for household goods

– Tax exemption to import a new car every two years

– 25% discount on utility bills

– 25% discount on airline tickets and 30% on other transportation

– 15% discount on loans made in your name

– 1% reduction on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

– 20% discount on doctor’s bills, 15% on hospital services if insurance doesn’t cover it

– 15% off dental and eye exams

– 10% discount on medicines

– 20% discount on professional and technical services

– 50% discount on entrance to movie theaters, cultural and sporting events

– 50% discount at hotels during Monday to Thursday, 30% on weekends

– The cost of utilities is much lower than the U. S. at 10-12 cents per kilowatt-hour

– Trash collection service is around $7 per month

– Direct TV in English is $50 per month

– Maid service and gardeners can be hired for 88 cents per hour

– Beer is 30 cents per can

– Coffee in a local shop or restaurants is about 30 cents per cup

Beyond all these advantages, Panama is a spectacularly beautiful and diverse country. It’s a fishing and boating paradise, has tropical rainforests, is a major transportation hub, and has many scenic resorts.

It’s nice to know we seniors are welcome somewhere in this world.

Until next time, John    www.TheBestofOurLives.com

As a senior citizen, I pride myself on staying up with current affairs. However, when I travel, I seem to lose all curiosity concerning day-to-day news events. Having just returned from a long trip, I’m still trying to catch up. Haven’t heard much about that Bin Laden fellow lately. How’s our high-priced economic recovery working? Have there been any scandals involving politicians? Are our political parties working together on our behalf? I’m sure the world is still cruising along peacefully without my concerns and input.

The fact is, when traveling, it’s still necessary for most of us to be in touch with loved ones. Now that most of us have cell phones, or even new smart phones, there is a simple and inexpensive way to stay in touch. For a very small charge, most providers will add international coverage to your text messaging. This is really a good deal. You will still have the ability to make a voice call if you have an emergency, but you can send a generous number of text messages for a small fee. Mine was $10 for the entire month. Since you will be charged for each person you put on your message list, I recommend you designate one person back home to be your contact and ask them to forward your messages. By doing this, only one message will be counted against your allotment. Pictures will add an extra charge, so be selective in sending them in your texts. Of course, you can also get phone cards and/or special calling plans (I’ve tried them all), but this way has worked the best for me and was the most economical.

Fellows, if you are headed for tropical climates, I’ve got some very good advice for you. Since luggage space and weight are very important due to today’s airline charges, most sporting goods stores now carry a variety of  cargo pants that weigh next to nothing and are very versatile. Some of them even have zippers just above the knee and can turn into cargo shorts with a quick zip. Additionally, the new light-weight micro-fiber shirts can not be beaten for travel. They are as comfortable as wearing nothing at all, and can be found in a variety of colors and styles. One more find is the latest light-weight linen pants. Not only are they very light and comfortable, they have draw strings instead of belts. You can cruise through airport security with ease and don’t have to get unbuckled. While I don’t have a reputation for being a “clothes horse,” my wardrobe now has several of these items and our latest travel adventure was a breeze. I even bought a couple of the new light-weight linen sports coats that have become popular. My luggage weighed almost nothing and I had everything I needed.

Cruisers

For those of you going on a cruise, you probably already know that during your trip most cruise lines offer you the opportunity to make an advance deposit on a future cruise. This is a good deal and here’s why: The fee is small, usually $100. Should you decide to book another cruise, your deposit will allow you to make a reservation without sending an advance deposit which is typically one-half the cost of your entire cruise. In addition, you will typically get back at least the same amount of your deposit in ship-board credits which is like getting free money. Not only that, but your deposit can be returned to you at any time you decide you want it back. It’s a good deal.

A Few Pictures

Here are just of few of hundreds of pictures from our latest travel adventure. This was my mother’s first cruise and we were accompanied by good friends Lyn and Herb. In addition to the cruise itself, we had several tours, boat rides, train rides, zip lining, para-sailing, hiking, and lots of fun.

It’s me with my girls, Mom and Trisha; Trisha with our favorite entertainer and friend Maurizio; Herb and I entertaining on the ship; Mom, me, Herb and Lyn sailing around Aruba; Trisha and me preparing to zip line Costa Rica; our whole gang having a dinner aboard ship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                            

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