Starting a packing list… and some other progress, too!

Jason and I just got back from our last major trip before we leave on the adventure. We spent a week sailing in the British Virgin Islands. It was amazing – I wish I was still there. But life must go on and in order to get through this last month of work and on to the adventure, we had to come home.

I’m very proud to report we’ve made some real progress on the action items from a few posts back. Well, I’m making progress and Jason participates when prompted 😛

1. I started a packing list!!! I ordered a few things online that will come with me if they fit and have identified a few other things that need to be replaced if possible. Can I travel for 6 months with only the underwear I own now? Probably. Do I want to try? Not really. I also need a pair of really good walking/light hiking shoes – I’m thinking Merrells.

2. I THINK we have the health insurance situation figured out. Using our 2017 earning expectation (read: LOW) we qualify for a nice subsidy through Covered California. We’re getting a very basic plan that allows us to use our doctor when we’re home, but the cost sharing is significant. We also have a robust travel medical policy picked out through GeoBlue so we can take care of smaller things that come up while traveling and if something serious comes up, we can travel home for treatment without blowing through our savings.

3. Speaking of savings, the Japanese Encephalitis is so expensive, it’s probably out of reach for many travels, especially young people. Sure, the chance of picking up this mosquito-born disease is tiny, but the consequences are severe – many people get brain damage, slip into a coma, or die :/

3b. We went to the travel medicine clinic and are both being vaccinated for Hep A (this is our 2nd dose, so now lifetime immunity,) Typhoid (we were at the tail end of the effectiveness from our last dose, so now we have another 5 years,) Jason finished his Hep B series (yes, the childhood vaccine,) and we both did a TB test. The doctor said that it’s good to do a test before you because if you come back with it, they will know how long you’d had it, or at least that it was certainly from the trip. He also prescribed some antibiotics and super strength hydrocortisone cream we can bring with us “just in case.”

4. I’ve decided I’m straightening my hair again. Sure, this doesn’t seem like a big deal to those that don’t know, but it’s very costly and permanent, which means when I decide to stop, I have to wait for the straightened hair to grow out and cut it off before my hair is all one texture again. However, this means no hair dryers or hair irons are traveling with me and I’ll still have presentable hair.

5. We have a confirmed place for Kitty to stay! Those of you that know me well know that this is a BIG DEAL.

6. I’m giving notice at work on Tuesday and my last day will be Wednesday, December 28th. On the 29th, I fly home to spend New Years with my family in Vermont.

What’s left to do?

1. Actually buy the health and travel medical insurance.
2. Check ups for Kitty & Boba and update their shots as needed.
3. Rent a storage space, hire movers, and organize/pack the apartment. Sell, giveaway, and donate a bunch of stuff. Ugh this is going to be a huge project.
4. Give notice on our apartment.
5. Finish up my Invisalign and see if my orthodontist will do permanent retainers, at least for the trip.
6. Visas for China & Russia

More updates to come 🙂

Covered California – Holy crap, some of these plans suck…

As I’ve mentioned before, many of the systems we take for granted are not set up for what Jason and I are about to do. Insurance is the epitome of this – not only health insurance, but that is what I was working on tonight.

We have an appointment with an agent in a couple weeks, but last week, I thought I’d look into Covered California, our state ACA exchange. If you have a normal American life, you will have no problem applying. However, it did not want to accept that I simply do not know how much money Jason and I will make next year. Eventually I just put Jason’s salary in for a month since he will be working in January and I won’t.

Well, that was clearly the wrong choice. The system told me I needed to use Medi-Cal. This doesn’t really work for Jason and I as we love our doctors and also really shouldn’t be using the state’s resources like that – we know we should be paying for our healthcare. It was impossible to “upgrade” to the exchange and of course this happened to be the night before Veteran’s Day (on which they are closed) and then I went to Phoenix for the weekend. Yesterday was busy so I finally was able to call them during business hours today.

It took about an hour on the phone and several long holds, but the lovely woman on the phone adjusted our anticipated income up to reach eligibility for the exchange. At the end of the year you pay back any subsidies owed if you make over the expected income, so this is not use trying to get away with anything. But anyway, tonight was the first time I really got a look at our options.

Let me just tell you, if you’re on a tight budget, your options suck. Our doctors’ office only takes Blue Shield of CA, so I immediately filtered down to those options. Maybe the other plans are better (Kaiser, HealthNet, ect) but how you can ask anyone to pay $400 a month (it can go down to $90 a month based on your subsidy) for a plan that requires you to pay 100% of most costs up to $6,800? I feel like we all complain about the health insurance offered through employers – but I have never seen anything like this before! It gets better if you can afford their silver plan for $500 a month (lower with a subsidy) where you pay 15% of most costs up to $2350.

Obviously both of these are better than nothing and on a personal note, I do believe healthcare is a basic human right. I am not confident things will get better in this regard for the next 4 years, but as Obama said himself, I’d like to see them try.

If anyone is interested in this, let me know and we can talk more about how this all works out in the end. Our priority is to have some coverage in addition to our travel medical in case we get something serious while we’re away (cancer, ect) and of course avoiding the tax penalty. While I thought we’d just go for the least expensive option, the value seems to be at the silver level for Blue Shield. Not sure what we’ll do, or if we’ll buy off the exchange at all.

A 3-months-out update…

We’ve been making some progress over the last couple of months. Let’s revisit that list from August…

1. Selling, giving away, donating, or tossing out most of our stuff.
— This is in progress. I think we are going to keep more of our furniture than we had initially expected to, but does anyone want 2 black glass Ikea tables or 2 bookcases? I’m also a little terrified to sort through my clothes, but it has to be done.

2. Forwarding our mail to one of our parents’ homes or a mail service.
— I think we have a decision on this – waiting on Jason to confirm with a friend that we can use his address.

3. We still need to find a temporary home for our cat. Boba will be staying at Jason’s parents’ house.
— That same (very generous) friend has offered to take our cat while we are away! This is done!

4. Health insurance – both for travel and also a US policy, since we won’t have our employer-sponsored plans after we quit our jobs.
— I kind of had a fail at trying to sign up for Covered California. Who knew that if you didn’t know how much money you were going to make in a year, they’d force you into MediCal. We have an appointment with an insurance agent to discuss in a couple weeks. We need health and travel insurance, plus I want to see if we can’t consolidate renter’s and car insurance under one company/agent.

5. Packing – what to bring and what not to bring. Jason and I are planning to travel with carry-on size suitcases and backpacks.
— We’re still several weeks out from dealing with this. Maybe the first week in January.

6. Deciding where we are going first, buying our one-way plane tickets, choosing where to stay when when we get to our first destination. As of August 7th, it looks like this will be Taipei, Taiwan, but it is totally subject to change. (Done 8/27!)
— This is done! We leave for Taiwan on February 4th! (This is still technically subject to change, since we used airline miles to book the flight and it’s changeable/refundable until 60 days before.)

7. Break the lease (30 days notice) and give notice to both of our employers.
— If we wind up keeping February 4th as our date, I’d give notice when I get back from the BVIs. It’s absolutely terrifying, both giving up a stable job and the fact that in my role, I manage a lot of chaos that will wind up on someone else’s plate.

Lake Como – This is it, my favorite place on earth!

Everyone can only have one favorite anything. Or at least, all time favorite. I can have my favorite place for food, favorite place to sail, and a favorite place to meet people, but I can only have one all-time favorite place ever. That place is Lake Como, Italy.

Located about an hour north of Milan, just south of the Alps, and on the board of Switzerland, Lake Como is a vacation destination for every from families visiting Europe to celebrities looking for (another) vacation home. As Jason will tell you, I am not often captured by natural beauty, but for the 3 days we spent there last month, I was constantly surprised by just how breathtaking it can be. Pair that with easily-accessible rental boats that zip up and down the lake and the food you’ll find in Italy and it ticks all my boxes. I don’t usually like to travel in the heat, but in the summer, you can also swim, both from the shoreline and your little rental boat.

It is my hope that the next time we’re in Europe and need a break from busy traveling day, we’ll find ourselves here again. Perhaps we’ll have a group of friends that want to rent a house together, and we can tie our rental boat up to the private dock for the week…

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Tuscany Farm Stay

I want to talk a little bit about different types of accommodations because we managed to stay at 3 this past trip to Italy. (I’m writing from the plane as we fly from Milan to Newark, where we connect on the way to San Francisco.)

I’ll talk about hotel (boring – I know) and vacation rentals (like Airbnb) but we did something new to us this trip that I want to describe first because it was just so cool. Jason, his parents, and I, stayed at what they call an “agriturismo” in Tuscany near Montepulciano – a working farm.

We made this decision to try to get a sense of what “real life” is like in this area of Italy. Make no mistake – it is absolutely designed around guests; it’s not like staying in someone’s home. But along with our basic room (very comfortable other than the beds really needed to be replaced) we also got to enjoy the vineyard and olive grove, the farm’s animals, and some of the best food we had on the entire trip.




Stefano and his brother cook breakfast and dinner at La Pietriccia everyday. The breakfasts are simple, but the croissants that come out of the oven as you are walking into the dining room blow you away.


The dinners are casual but multi-course affairs with most of the food coming right from the farm (they have an extensive garden and make their own wine, sausage, dairy, etc) and the rest coming from neighbors with whom they trade. While they focus on one options per course (starter, pasta, meat, veggie, potato, and dessert) they will accommodate needs like vegetarian and gluten free and even preferences like mine – I don’t tomatoes!

In addition to the accommodations and meals, staying at an agriturismo like La Pietriccia puts you a great spot for seeing small tours and touring and tasting at local wineries, which is what we did for our 3 days there. If we wanted to see Tuscany again, I might look for a slightly more updated agristurismo (again – the beds…) but even if I found one, I think I’d return to La Piertriccia for at least one more dinner as they offer an option of just visiting for a meal .