Monday, December 15, 2014

We have a departure date!!

[EDIT: We had to change the departure date to July 14... Stephanie (Ben's sister and my one-and-only sister-in-law) is turning the big 3-0 next year and we just learned that we've been invited to a big family gathering in Bat Cave, NC at the River View Cabins  (owned by Ben's parents) in celebration! That'll be happening the weekend of the 12th, and we will come back Monday, and leave for Guayaquil on Tuesday the 14th. We haven't bought our plane tickets yet, but we will soon!

We also decided to hit up Puerto Lopez on the way back to Guayaquil. If Mom and Noah are indeed with us, we can escort them back by bus towards the end of their stay and before they leave we can all do the Isla de la Plata excursion and whale watching, with quite a bit less baggage :-))]


This is kinda huge news.

We leave in less than 7 months!

We haven't made it super public, or purchased any flights yet, but we are 99% sure we'll be leaving for Ecuador on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. We will be flying first class on American Airlines from Orlando via Miami to Guayaquil, spending the night, getting up on Wednesday and taking a bus to Puerto Lopez to whale watch and explore Isla de la Plata on July 8. We will spend the night in Puerto Lopez and return to Guayaquil the next day to sightsee a bit and head to Cuenca by bus on July 10!

We have some more exciting adventures planned between now and then, such as renting out our furnished house, figuring out what to do with our stuff, selling off a bunch of stuff, etc. etc.!!

My mom and her husband Noah want to come visit us and are toying with the idea of coming along for our move.

I've already started my packing list for the trip! We are going to attempt to take one large rolling duffle bag each, plus a carry-on. It is going to be a challenge, but I think we can do it! It will help that first class luggage allowance is 70 lbs per piece, as opposed to 50.

We just got back from a 7-day Western Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Glory. I'm still in recovery, LOL. No, it was fun, but I am pooped. Back to my regular teaching schedule tomorrow. And here are pics from the trip.

Here's my favorite photo from our vacation:
This guy was heavier than he looks!! I almost fell over picking him up!
They like being scratched under the chin.

That's all for now... got a couple transcripts to work on!


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Bathtub of Time

So it's been over a month since I've updated our blog! What's been going on?

  • I started a new side business called ProofreadAnywhere -- a project that'd been swimming around in my head for years! It's a training program where I teach people how to proofread transcripts just like me. It has become a huge undertaking for me and consequently... 
  • Spanish has been on the back burner... kinda. I've gone from 3-4 hours of intense study to 1-2 hours a day... if that. Some days I don't do any Spanish. But, I am finding that what I'm learning seems to be sticking better with the slower progress, so maybe it's true what they say: Slow and Steady Wins the Race! 
  • We've postponed our "leave date" to July. Ben's "graduation" event hasn't even been scheduled yet, but they want to do it in late June, most likely. I've had a lot of mixed feelings about it. Firstly, Ben finishes his program in, like, February. Why they are waiting until LATE JUNE for this event is beyond-freaking-me. When I get something in my head that I want to do, I want to go DO it, y'know?! And this event is the ONLY thing we're hangin' around for. Ben will be done with the program in February and then... what. We sit and twiddle our thumbs until his event and then we go? 

Life is an adventure. Every day is an adventure, and the adventure, if you're not living it already, starts now. No need to wait until LATE FREAKING JUNE to start your adventure. While I had my mixed negative feelings about Ben's event being so late in the year as opposed to, um, right around his program end-date (honestly, it's the wishy-washiness of it all that has annoyed me the most, but I won't get into it!!) I failed to realize the many positives of the situation:
  • More time to learn Spanish... especially since it's kinda been on the back burner as of late.
  • More time to plan and make sure we have ALL our ducks in a row.
  • More time to snag good deals on clothes for a less-than-sweltering climate
  • More time with family and friends here
  • More time to teach my fitness classes (currently earning me $700-$1000 per month, that I will lose when we hit the road)
See the pattern here? MORE TIME! Of course, we don't know how much time we have, but in this equation I'm making some assumptions :-) 

We'll also have more time to take adventures here at home -- just yesterday Ben and I ventured into Little Vietnam here in Orlando and had the MOST DELICIOUS tofu banh mi sandwiches from this teeny-tiny, almost-couldn't-find-it shop ... for $3.50! They were so good, I considered never leaving Orlando...ever. And then we snagged a $5 matinee of the new film Interstellar. And we're planning a day trip right here in town as soon as we both have a weekday off. We'd like to get on the new light rail here in town and and ride it to Winter Park, and spend the whole day going to museums and hanging out. Maybe do a picnic!

Adventures don't have to be a date on the calendar. Every day can be a little adventurous. Even if it's something as simple as trying a new restaurant, or speaking Spanish to a stranger. If you're used to the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, perhaps your adventure is found in solitude, and a day at home in your PJ's is in order. Have FUN, set aside some time for yourself every day and relax, soak it all in. Do you realize 2015 is just around the corner? Time is flying by faster than the above-mentioned light rail, seriously. 

I'm making a "now, here" resolution (not a "new year" resolution). It's to just stop worrying about things that really do not matter. That I have cellulite on my size-4 frame DOES NOT MATTER. If I don't get my five veggies in one day, it doesn't matter. How much money I make does not matter. That's a big one. Do I have enough money? Yes. Done. That's all I need to know. We've been taught to wait, wait, wait, and save, save, save for the future, save for the future and as I mentioned at length in this post  this can be a big mistake, 'cause we aren't guaranteed ANY of it. 

We've been taught we can have it all, but aren't taught that when you have it all, it can really weigh you down.

Ben and I discussed this recently. We can gather "stuff" and have this house and our cars and tons of cash everywhere (LOL, right) but it's all weight holding us back from going, and doing. In one way or another, it limits us. We think having all this stuff will make us better, but it doesn't. Either we spend our money on stuff so we have no money to go anywhere, or we have so much money and stuff we are buried under it and can't go anywhere. Or, a third possibility, we work so hard to earn all this money to buy all this stuff, and we're so busy we don't realize we're losing time.

TIME!!! Ah, TIME! My now, here resolution is to REVEL in it. I want to bathe in time: the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the years, the decades... I want to soak in it, not miss a second of it, because the bathtub of time is draining... the longer we wait to go out and do whatever it is we want to do, the lower and lower the waterline gets. And I don't know about you, but when I'm taking a bath and the waterline is too low, I get COLD. And before too long, it's time to get out of the tub. I'm wrinkly and cold, and all I want to do is get in my bed and do nothing. Don't let the bathtub of time drain on you! ENJOY it while it is still warm and full. Then, when it's time to get out of the tub, you'll be ready.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Going Abroad 7 Miles Away: A Tale of Survival and Triumph

I get the Sedano's Supermarket ad in the mail every Tuesday. They have some great deals. 4 lbs of yellow onions for $0.99. Bananas, $0.39/lb. Avocados, 2 for $1. I drive by a Sedano's every Tuesday night on the way home from teaching.

I was out of bananas. If you know me... I LOVE bananas. I sometimes eat 5 or more in a day. I feel similarly about potatoes. They sustain me throughout workouts and keep me trim!

So I stopped at Sedano's. I was nervous. I was the only native English speaker in sight. It was like walking into a foreign country. A portal to the unknown, if you will. I headed to the produce section, and I was that weirdo lingering by people who were having a conversation near the bananas. That was me. I wanted to hear them speak... unfortunately, it was too fast but I could pick out a few words. Hey... I've only been learning for five weeks!!

Picked up my bananas and onions and headed down towards the frozen foods section in search of frozen peaches. On the way, I passed two employees talking in an aisle. As I squeezed by, I said, "Con permiso." ... and one of them responded something! In Spanish! I only understood "Señora". I didn't care. I'm a Señora!!

So I found raspberries. And only raspberries. But I wanted peaches, too, so I went back and found one of the employees I'd passed, and I said, "Dónde está la fruta... frozen?" He understood me! But he didn't know where the frozen fruit was. So he directed me to his compadre, Delgado. I said, again, "Dónde está la fruta... frozen?... Fruta... peaches... amarilla?" (yellow!) And he understood me! He took me right to the frozen fruit section... which, it was so tiny, no wonder I missed it.

In case you're wondering, they didn't have peaches. Only mango, blackberries, and raspberries.

Onward to the checkout! I got to the cashier and I said, "Buenas tardes!" To which I was corrected that it's actually "noches" ... it was already after 7. So "Buenas noches" I said. Then, I said "Estoy tratando de aprender Español!"(I am trying to learn Spanish!) And I can't repeat the sentence to you, I understood her to say, "Are you taking a class?" I replied, "No, aprendo en mi casa." (I learn at my house). She nodded. A few seconds later, I added, jokingly, "...y en el supermercado!" and she LAUGHED :) Not a chuckle, a full-on laugh. So I not only was understood by la cajera, I also made her laugh :)

So there you have it, five weeks of learning Spanish and I made it through a grocery store.  It can only get better from here :) My goal by the time we depart for Ecuador is to understand and be understood. If I can get to the fruit by saying "fruta amarilla" ... cool. But if I've gotten this far in five weeks, I'm hopeful things will continue to progress swimmingly from here!


Not much other news... today I didn't have very much time at all to work on Spanish... SO much work came in and I just try to stay on top of it all, and when I get done, then I work on Spanish, so it doesn't pile up. Well, I never got done today. As soon as I thought I was done, there was more in my inbox. I was very frustrating today... there were tears. In fact, I STILL have about 60 pages that came in about an hour ago that I started to read until I said y'know what, I've had it. This can wait. Plugged in my headphones and worked on some Spanish audio exercises online. And now I'm blogging.

We have been cleaning out the house lately. Challenging ourselves with getting rid of stuff we haven't touch and don't need or use. It is addicting. We're planning a garage sale soon, too, so hopefully make some money off of this unwanted stuff. I've been selling some DVDs and even my old iPhone online, so that's helping, too.

But really the only thing I want to do all day every day is español... I want to:

  • watch Spanish TV
  • listen to Spanish music (really enjoying the tunes from Camila, Reik, and Jesse & Joy)
  • translate some song lyrics to learn the words and train my ears
  • work through DuoLingo (free, top-rated language tool online)
  • work through CatSpanish
  • work through StudySpanish topics and quizzes (reinforcement)
  • write out sentences using new vocabulary
  • create flashcards and practice sheets
  • listen to the Camino de éxito audio exercises
  • read Spanish magazines
  • talk to my Colombian mailman, Mauricio (he is awesome!!!)
  • take live Spanish classes for $3 on 
SO MANY things to do to help me learn Spanish quicker ... but I have to work. UGH. Can you believe that?! ;-) Seriously, I am trying to be happy that I even have work, but it's hard when I want to do something else so much more. Today I literally worked from 8:00am to 7:00pm... made a ton of money but was so exhausted by the time I was done. Tomorrow I've got a pretty open schedule till about 4:00pm when I have to go teach again. I like my work, I do... but when you REALLY want to do something/accomplish something it's kind of all consuming... can't even sleep at night because I'm running through all the words I learned in my head. Who knew I'd EVER want to learn another language? I sure didn't... but I've rekindled that excitement I had when I was learning German and I'm loving it. Soaking it up like a sponge.

Hasta luego!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Qué pasa? Phones, luggage, and Spanish vs. German


I got a new smartphone. It's a $100 model from Posh Mobile, a brand new company (NOT a provider) of unlocked phones. It's Android. I have to say I'm very impressed with it. The battery does go down markedly faster than iPhone 5S when in use, but iPhone 5S costs like 6x more brand new. Soooo... yeah. It also has the same amount of storage as my iPhone, but only cost $17 more to get it that way, by way of a microSD card. I paid an extra $100 for my iPhone to have 32gb. Anytime I reach a snag, I just tell myself, "It's a $100 smartphone, Pyle" and if I keep that in mind, I'm pretty impressed with the value for the money.

Why did I get a new phone? Well, and I didn't blog about this before, but I'd been fighting with AT&T for the right to unlock my 5S to be able to use it in Ecuador. I got denied three times. They WILL unlock it, IF I cancel my contract and pay a $245 early termination fee. LAME. It's my phone!! I don't want to cancel my plan, just put it on hold while I'm gone, and use it someplace else! GEEZ!! So I thought, screw that, I'll SELL my 5S while it's still worth something, buy a phone that'll do what I need it to (let's be honest, I only *need* access to email, calls, and text), and then get a local SIM card when we get there. Other folks in EC have shared that they purchase 300mb of data from Claro (provider) and it lasts them six weeks... for $12! Way better than trying to get some $50/month plan.

The Ecuador Expats group on Facebook has been absolutely invaluable to us as we prepare to take this trip [of a lifetime!!!]. Any question we've had along the way so far has been cheerfully answered and many wise voices have chimed in to help us with even the smallest decisions. Today was no different. We'd been discussing luggage a lot between the two of us here at home, and so I thought I'd post and get some feedback from the group. LOTS of feedback, I got. Within minutes. Super responsive, helpful people. I got many new ideas, suggestions for solid duffle bags with and without wheels, packing tips, and much more.

We can get duffle bags on wheels weighing in at 7 lbs each for about $50 a piece... we can get solid non-wheeled duffle bags weighing in at just 3 lbs each for $30 a piece, including a shoulder strap. Now we just need to "weigh" our options. Plenty of folks took ONLY duffle bags, and some people even took THREE duffle bags for their person, and were able to manage. Note some of these folks were in their sixties. There are carts at the airport, and we have options of how we get from the airport to Cuenca, too... the most attractive option with all those bags is a private van, honestly... then we're in charge and you get portal to portal service. No need to get off at a bus station, get your bags out, put your bags in, and then take them out again once we're finally at our place. Ha. Sometimes it pays to go for convenience, even if you spend more.

Still having some fun learnin' Español! I am constantly drawing parallels between English, German, and Spanish (which is my THIRD language, never thought I'd learn a third!) and I've pinpointed a few things that make German harder than Spanish:
- many German plurals aren't as simple as adding -s or -es to the end
- German pronouns change after prepositions -- in 3 ways, depending on the case!!
- prepositions for "at" and "on" change based on the verb

That's all I got so far... but these three things alone (ESPECIALLY prepositions) have made learning Spanish delightfully easy so far. I'm two weeks in and can speak full sentences... learning vocab will probably be the hardest but I've got a couple tools under my belt for making that easier. I've started labeling items in the house with their Spanish names and every time I see the name, I say it, and try to say the word in a sentence. So far, I've only said things like "The sponge is next to the window," and "I need more soap for the bathroom". But hey, I just labeled everything last night :))

Okay, that's it for now...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why Ecuador/Cuenca?


Because you want to. Because you've always loved to travel and the idea of actually moving to and living in a new country is inspiring, exhilarating, and represents an optimistic approach to life and the future. Because it reverberates in your head, resonates in your heart, and itches in your feet. Because it's a one-of-a-kind siren song and if you're lucky enough in this life to hear it, you have no choice. You simply must answer its call. Because it's your destiny to do it and you will. 

This is a quote from the first pages of David Morrill and Deke Castleman's book Expats in Ecuador: Life in Cuenca.

I couldn't have put it into better words myself!! Then today, something popped up on my Timehop app (an app that takes you back in time with photos and other miscellaneous social media tidbits you've posted) from three years ago and I am glad I saw it... it rings very true today! I said:

Sometimes in life when we’ve grown up, we have to realize that we don’t need anyone to sign a permission slip anymore before we get to do something awesome. Sign your OWN name on the dotted line and go live your dream!

Do you ever feel that way, that you can't do something because so-and-so doesn't approve? We never have a specific point in life where we realize we don't need to ask for permission from Mom and Dad or get anyone else's approval, or even have a certain grade point average in order to do what we want to do with our lives. There was no day that came when it was made clear we could literally do whatever we wanted with our short, fleeting lives.

It's today! If you don't know it already, it's today! It was yesterday, too, but if you didn't know it, now you know -- it's today. And that's what we realized when we decided to go do this thing... we realized we had the flexibility to literally pick up and leave (with some careful effort and planning of course!!) I've built a very stable business working from home that earns more than enough to support us here at home already -- why not take it abroad? Ben is working (VERY hard, might I add) to start an online business of his own and the work he needs to do for that can also be done anywhere in the world. We both just need access to the internet. Why does it have to be here in Orlando? We've wanted for a long time to be able to travel different places and see different things in the world, and not spend all our free time at home watching Netflix marathons every weekend. 

We want to be better people.

We want to learn a new language, learn to appreciate another culture, learn to see the world through a different set of eyes and with a fresh, more grateful heart. We want our souls to flourish on the novelty, ache for familiarity, flutter with excitement, and soar with gratitude. 

We know, without doubt, that there is no way we will return home, after a year abroad, unchanged. We know, without doubt, we will be glad we did it. We know, without doubt, that if we listen to naysayers and negativity from within or from others, and decide to stay home out of fear, that we will sorely regret it. Plus, living in Florida, speaking Spanish is truly invaluable. Being able to connect with non-natives is invaluable and personally I'm VERY excited to be able to master it. Yo quiero aprendar Español! 

Life is short! Life is meant to be lived. Life is not supposed to be spent on the couch in front of the TV (not all of it, at least). Life is not measured in monetary successes (who cares how much money you make? What do you do with it?), but in the fullness of your heart and how you spend your TIME.  Ben decided several months back he didn't want to spend the healthiest, most vital years of his life chained to a desk at a job he hates merely to make other people happy, to fulfill the status quo, or because "that's what people do". WHY WAIT until you're older to enjoy life? Why sacrifice years and years of your life to misery in hopes that when you're older THEN you'll be able to enjoy life? Because that's the safest thing to do? I don't think it's that safe at all. We have no guarantees in life. AT. ALL. Not even the next breath. I've realized that waiting until after we've put in 30 or 40 years of work to enjoy what life has to offer would, for us, be pretty foolish. If we have the desire and the means to take hold of life NOW, why wait? Especially when you don't know how much time you have. Imagine if we were to continue on, day in and day out, week after week for 10, 15 years doing the same thing, wishing we were doing something else, or being someplace else, longing for new experiences and perspectives, but waiting until the "world" gave us permission to do so (retirement, etc.)... and then something happens, and we've got weeks left to live. How much regret and sorrow would you have if the reality hit that you'd spent, quite literally (remember, you're dying now), your entire life waiting to do all the things you wanted in the LAST 10-15 years of your life... and then it happens that you don't even HAVE those last years.

Nope. Nuh-uh. Not gonna risk that.

So, I realized we had nothing truly holding us back from going on this adventure, other than fear of the unknown and silly ideas that you should wait to enjoy life, I immediately felt like I'd arrived where I was supposed to be. I don't feel "stuck" anymore. I like what I do, my jobs and whatnot, but there is more to life than work :) Why not go discover what else is out there? Also, I've stopped wishing I was someone else, somewhere else. If you're on social media, you know how it can be: other people's plans, lives, etc unfolding before your eyes, and you're on the couch, in your pajamas, wishing you could do the same thing. Don't tell me you haven't been there (IF you regularly connect in social media outlets, you will know what I'm talking about :)). Ben and I are adventurous spirits. That "stuck" feeling I had was itchy feet, the "go out and do something" feeling. A smoldering fire in need of rekindling. Now that we've been actively kindling the fire, life feels new and exciting and not ho-hum, boring, regular old by-the-book drudgery anymore. 

Are you kindling your fire? Have you been waiting to enjoy life later, when it's safer/when you have paid your dues/done your time/saved your money/made sacrifices? Why are these things important? Who taught you that? And more importantly, why should you listen?

Hasta luego,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Flights + Learning Spanish... Day 3!


So, super cool update re: getting to Ecuador. I was on Kayak looking at prices, trying to decide based on baggage allowances whether it'd be worth an extra $250 a person to take an extra 50 lbs each with us... when I saw an ad for the American Airlines AAdvantage MasterCard. 30,000 bonus miles if you spend $1000 in the first three months (NOT. HARD.) I had talked previously with my very savvy father-in-law, Ken, about these types of deals and they come highly recommended from him. So... I applied, and was accepted automatically. Yay! So I look up the awards chart for the card, and it turns out that each one-way flight to Ecuador on off-peak season (which is 10 months of the year) is 15,000 miles ... which means we will be flying to Ecuador FREE. WHOO-HOO! It will get us to Quito. We have one short 55-minute flight to Cuenca after that... the next day, probably. 

Organizing which visas to get and where... I like to PLAN ... I know we have time, but the sooner I get this stuff planned out, the sooner I can relax :-) Honestly, the thing I'm most anxious about is cleaning out the garage and the guest bedroom closet. There is SO MUCH STUFF in there. If we're going to rent out this place, fully furnished or not, we're gonna have to purge. It'll feel good, I keep telling myself. It'll feel good. What I'm thinking is if we do the garage first, we'll have someplace to put all the crap from the closet. Right? RIGHT?!

Well, it is day 3 of my Spanish learning journey. I've noticed that Spanish is SO much easier than German and in Florida, Spanish is very useful... it really opens the doors to a whole new world here. I'm already speaking full sentences. Complicated sentences? No. But sentences nonetheless. :-) 

Today I said the following (and I'm very proud of it!): 

  • "I want more cats."
  • "It is my big lizard."
  • "It is a big cat."
  • "Do you want to eat pasta for dinner?"
And a bunch of other really useful things. I'm using Cat Spanish and Duolingo (sorry if you already knew that), both of which approach things in slightly different ways but they're both interesting and I'm learning quite a bit from both.

Escribo más luego!!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's time to go do something!

In 2012, on a plane coming home from a one-week trip to Jamaica, I saw an episode of House Hunters International on HGTV. It took place in Cuenca, Ecuador. This was the first time I'd ever heard of Cuenca. And I never forgot it (okay, I forgot the name a few times, but I never forgot what I'd seen). The show followed a young-ish Canadian couple and their daughter looking for a place to stay in their new home country. I was impressed by the beauty of the city, the friendly nature of the people there, the low cost, but high standard of living, the emphasis on health, and so many things. Cuenca first became popular in 2009 when the magazine International Living named it the number one spot to retire in the world.


Fast forward two-and-a-half years after I saw that video. I now have a completely remote job as a professional legal proofreader. All I need is the internet, e-mail, and my iPad and I can make a solid salary ... anywhere in the world. My husband, Ben (whom I now want to call Ben-HA-meen ;-)) had been working a solid job at some universities doing financial aid. He has in recent months decided that he doesn't want to work for someone else's dreams (literally, he is helping students achieve their dreams, which is a good thing, but not forever, when you have dreams of your own).  For a while, the idea that we could pick up and leave, go somewhere, do something crazy, and not be "normal" adults that work every day, stay home on the weekends, and watch Netflix to kill time, seemed out of our reach. But it also seemed sad. Now and then I'd think about it, we don't have or want to have children, so... what? We are just going to sit here and get old and THEN go do something? Um, no. And I never thought Ben, with his background, would ever quit the corporate rat race. Until....

...Ben decided he wanted to work on starting his own software company and enrolled in a hands-on entrepreneur development program called The Foundation. It's six months long, cost almost $5000 and Ben. is. SO. into it. I've never seen him THIS EXCITED or THIS MOTIVATED to do anything. Ever. It's awesome. I know I don't have what it takes to do what he is doing, but I know that he does have what it takes and he isn't giving up.

We'd already been discussing Ben taking a leave of absence from his job for a period of three months for him to focus on his new business. We started talking one evening (okay, it was two days ago) and the subject of Cuenca came up... the low cost of living...the high standard of living... the friendly people... the cooler climate... you hate your job.... I make more than enough to support us here, so definitely there... we could rent out our house... Mom is cool with it and said she'd take the cats... WHY DON'T WE GO!? Ben said initially to "sell him" on it, because he had his doubts, but it really didn't take long to do that... like an hour. Not even kidding.

So we're going to Ecuador in six months. We have set our "leave time" for April... our next vacation will be at least a year long ;-) The first two weeks will be actual vacation, looking for a place to live, etc. and once we are settled into our own pad, I can begin working again as usual. We'll be looking for someplace furnished, as we don't intend to stay forever.

What's happening in the next six months??

Well, first of all, I'm going to learn Spanish. I started yesterday, in the McDonald's by my house. I was having issues with verb conjugation and asked one of the employees for help. Well, he didn't speak English. I eventually figured it out but sitting there, I thought to myself, Self, you never would've spoken to him if you weren't trying to expand your soul by learning his language. There, in the McDonald's, I felt immersed, because I was.

I am actually ENJOYING learning Spanish. A shocker, if you know me! I have already learned German, so I think it makes it easier... plus, I am really motivated. I want to be able to communicate with people when we're in Ecuador. I've been using Duolingo and Cat Spanish, both free or low-cost programs on iPhone and iPad. They're fun and I can't believe all the words and phrases I've learned so far!! Me llamo Caitlin, soy extranjera, y me gusta!! (I'm called Caitlin, I'm a foreigner, and I like it!)

We're going to sell a bunch of stuff... clean out the garage, get rid of stuff we don't even know we have, stuff we don't use, donate, donate, donate... we'll eventually sell Ben's car, and knock down the insurance on mine and find someplace to keep it while we're away. We're still deciding whether we want the house to just sit here, rent it out to someone for a year (cheaper rent, just take care of the place) or pay a service to host our place on AirBnB... there are a lot of rentals here in Orlando so we're not sure exactly what the best option is. Right now, we're leaning toward a long-term house sitter type deal. They get a furnished place, everything they need, for a good sum less than what they'd pay in a comparable place... we just want the mortgage covered with enough on top to cover any additional expenses like our insurance and property taxes. Otherwise, we'd have to pay for cleaning services for short-term rentals, etc. and what if it doesn't sell every day and we don't make enough to cover the mortgage, etc... which it probably won't. Seems like a less-hassle option to choose someone to live there full-time. I'm sure we can find someone!

Oh and... we know it won't be easy :) We've both lived abroad before, experienced culture shock before, been homesick before and gotten through it before. Heck, when I lived in Germany, once I'd finally arrived in my little apartment, the first thing I did was break down into tears. It took me a few days to leave the apartment. But this is normal. Culture shock is real. The main reason we WANT to do this is to get uncomfortable, pop our American bubbles and enjoy more of the world. Get to know more people. Learn a new language. All of it. Having been through the process before, we know there is nothing we can't handle.