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Being There for Mom This Mother’s Day – in Sickness and in Health

With aging parents, we often think about the physical ailments that come with getting older. It could be vision loss, arthritis, trouble walking or a new heart condition. We can easily forget the emotional and mental health challenges that our parents may face.

According to the American Psychological Association, one in four adults ages 65 and older experiences a mental health problem such as anxiety or, more commonly, depression. However, older adults are far more likely to discuss physical symptoms than talk about emotions. There is generational stigma at play and the perception that feelings commonly associated with mental illness are just a part of getting older. 

If you’re anything like me, your mom is the strongest person you know, and you may never suspect she might be struggling. She may be the one that never misses a birthday or anniversary, makes the perfect cookies, relays the best advice when you have no words and always has a smile on her face. But remember she is human – just like you – and has emotional needs, just like her physical ones.

This Mother’s Day, take the time to check in on your mom, no matter where she is. You can help her avoid future issues or get treatment early if you suspect a problem. So where do you start?

  1. Visit With Her Regularly: Whether it be in-person, on the phone or video chat, let your mom know you are there. Encourage other family members and friends to do the same. This is the first step to help her avoid loneliness, boredom and even isolation. Also, aim to stay connected with your mom’s closest peers. They can be your lifeline should they suspect an issue and vice versa.
  2. Track big life changes: As people get older, they may experience difficult life changes – losing a partner, moving out of a home, undergoing surgery or experiencing new physical limitations. Pay special attention to your mom during these times as they could trigger an issue. 
  3. Look for the physical signs: Stress and mental health can impact your physical health as well. Even if your mom seems fine, physical signs that she may be experiencing a mental illness could include difficulty sleeping, a poor appetite or an inability to concentrate.
  4. Talk about the tough stuff: It can sometimes be difficult to talk about the new emotions and health concerns that arise with growing older. No matter how awkward or even invasive it may feel, carve out time to address potential issues with your mom. You may learn something new. And if you don’t, the door will be open should your mom ever need to talk in the future.
  5. Be a health advocate: Living a healthy lifestyle has a direct impact on your mental health and well-being. Encourage your mom to schedule regular check-ups, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. Join your mom for stress-relieving activities like yoga and spending time outdoors. Mental well-being isn’t just beneficial in the short term – according to the Global Council on Brain Health, adults age 50 and older who have mental well-being tend to report better brain health including memory and thinking skills.
  6. Ask for help: Encourage your mom to schedule an appointment with her physician to be evaluated if you suspect a problem. Some health plans, including some Medicare Advantage plans, also cover telebehavioral health services – where your mom could meet with a behavioral or mental health specialist for conditions including grief and loss, depression, anxiety or relationship issues without leaving the comfort of her own home. You can also contact your health plan and ask for help. Many plans offer behavioral health resources and have referral resources at your fingertips.

We all want to be there for our parents, just like they have always been for us. Part of “being there” is acknowledging that the life changes they are experiencing can be challenging and letting them know you have their back. 

Catherine Field, based in Federal Way, is Market Medicare President at Humana.

Blood Supply to Local Trauma Centers in Seattle Running on Fumes

Bloodworks Northwest issuing urgent appeal for donors after inventories dipped sharply

Bloodworks Northwest at Less Than 1 Day Supply of O Blood Types.

SEATTLE, Wash. (APRIL 25, 2019) – Running out of gas is inconvenient but running out of blood is deadly. Bloodworks Northwest is at less than a single day supply of O Positive and O Negative because those specific types are required most for emergencies in trauma centers across the Pacific Northwest.

“Making things worse, there is a nationwide shortage on group O, the universal blood type, which effects our ability to receive assistance from other parts of the country,” says Brian Danforth, Bloodworks Northwest Senior Customer Engagement and Business Development Executive. “Compounding the problem is the fact that Easter weekend donations were down as well.”

Bloodworks has fun perks for people who donate a pint by April 30 to help end the shortage. Donors who give before the end of the month will be entered to win travel prizes like $500 Alaska Airlines vouchers, $100 REI and gas gift cards. The campaign is called Bold for Blood & Adventure. So far, response has been encouraging, but Bloodworks is concerned that the upcoming Memorial Day weekend will impact their ability to provide urgently-needed blood for emergencies at a time when the trauma units around our region typically experience high patient usage.

 “We’re urging folks to make an appointment as soon as possible to pump up the community, if you will, and help restore our inventories to normal levels,” says Danforth. “A strong blood supply is critical to healthcare in our community.”

Donors can find locations of donor centers and drives or make appointments online at, by calling 800-398-7888, or by texting ‘bloodapp’ to ‘91985’ to download the Bloodworks App.

Blood donation takes about an hour and each donation can help up to three people in the Pacific Northwest. The actual donation time is only about 10 minutes. Most people in good health are eligible to donate blood every 56 days. Volunteer donors are the only source of blood.

Bloodworks Donor Centers:

Please check for latest hours and locations.

About Bloodworks Northwest

Bloodworks (formerly Puget Sound Blood Center) is backed by 75 years of Northwest history and 250,000 donors. It is local, nonprofit, independent, volunteer-supported and community-based. A recognized leader in transfusion medicine, Bloodworks serves patients in more than 100 hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska — partnering closely with local hospitals to deliver the highest level of patient care. Comprehensive services include blood components, complex cross-matching, specialized lab services for organ transplants, care for patients with blood disorders, and collection of cord blood stem cells for cancer treatment. Bloodworks Research Institute performs leading-edge research in blood biology, transfusion medicine, blood storage and treatment of blood disorders. Patients with traumatic injuries, undergoing surgeries or organ transplantation, or receiving treatment for cancer and blood disorders all depend on our services, expertise, laboratories and research. For more information, visit

Crossing the Border, Guatemala Style

Crossing The Guatemala Border

Crossing the Guatemalan border from Mexico was chaotic, scrambled and the perfect transition to my new Spanish-only world.

The driver picked me up at 7:30 AM and 3 hours later dropped me off at the Mexican side of the border. One of the passengers spent 5 minutes screaming in Spanish at the driver. You’re an idiot! This is so stupid! No YOU Shut up!

Hmmm. This can’t be good. Are we supposed to walk through? Is this guy mad because he knows something or because he’s an idiot? The best solution? Just start walking.

The border itself is just a small road with a few buildings. On the side of the road, some folks are burning trash, others are selling food, and dozens of make-shift stalls with everything from kitchen-ware to crocs to woolen ponchos.

I hustled past, hand my passport over to the official. Stamped. Climb onto another van, this time on the Guatemala side.

Three hours later, I’m dropped off at a gas station where little boys are wrestling in between trying to sell shoe shines. No, my sneakers don’t need a shine, thank you. The angry guy gets some french fries and feeds them to stray dogs. I’m ushered to a late model Chrysler and told that “this guy” was going to drive me the rest of the way.


I had understood every word of Spanish that the tour operator who sold me the $27 ticket to Xela had said to me. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask if I was going to be riding in some sketchy car for part of the trip. And I’m quite certain he hadn’t described the trip this way: We will drive you to the border, you will find your way through, and hopefully get into the right van on the other side. Don’t worry there will lots of them and no one will speak English. Then we’ll drop you off in some gas station and my cousin will drive you in his dad’s car the rest of the way. Sound good? Great, 350 pesos please.

It was a great introduction into what I would later learn of life in Guatemala. Figuring things out in Spanish (a very good thing) and the laid back way things are run (my first day at the school, I showed up as scheduled at 8 AM, only to wait 20 minutes for someone else to show up) and the immense amount of trust you end up placing in those around you (from living with a family you just met, to hoping that the ice really was made from boiled water).

You have to be cautious too. You can get robbed. You can get hit by a car. You can get swindled. (Oh and that car bit—so serious, the drivers here will mow you over, if you walk in the street). But if you can’t take a few chances, trust a few strangers, then truly you’ll never get over the border.

Making the Time and Money Connection – Minimalist Lifestyle

Saving Money To Travel The World

If you think commenting on my blog precludes you from being quoted later, guess again:

“i have everything a guy could want:

  • Badass Jaguar, Viper, Corvette (68), and lastly my prized shelby cobra
  • A 7000sqft house, filled to the gills with cool shit like plasma TV’s, etc etc.
  • King Air (it’s a plane guys, a plane)
  • An awesome Wife”

OK, beyond the fact that he lists his wife on a list of possessions, and she’s the last item on the list, I can completely understand where this guy is coming from.

From an early age we are taught that acquiring wealth is a sign of success. This cultural mindset often becomes apparent during travel. A westerner traveling to a country without modern luxuries might think, “Wow how do they live like that? They don’t have anything.” They might even wrongly assume that they are simple people, and admire them for their spirit, for the way “they smile despite everything…” Typically that “everything” is the fact that they don’t have significant wealth. We describe these qualities to them as a matter of condescension. “I could never live like that”. If you travel enough, you’ll find that these stereotypes are not always true. They are hustling like the rest of us. They are not simple and child-like, they just have different priorities. Of course poverty is a world wide issue, but is everyone without wealth, poor? Could it be they have something we don’t?

The person with the most stuff wins

My own path on the consumerism tread mill involved a beautiful house with an in-ground pool. My reasons for wanting a big house revolved around an over-compensation for growing up in an apartment and a sudden fit of nesting instincts. I genuinely thought that filling the house with art, books, modern furnishings and ‘stuff’ would bring me contentment. It did and it didn’t. The idea was wonderful, it felt great to think about. The reality of it was that I was never home to enjoy it.

At the time, I was working 60 hours weeks and commuting 2 hours a day. Besides the time I was at work, I was physically and mentally wiped out after work. I could switch jobs, find something less stressful, true. I eventually did change jobs, but not before I did some math that changed the way I thought about money and what I give up to get it.

What is your time worth?

We all trade our time (and knowledge, expertise and skills) for a salary. We assume we have to give at least 40 hours a week to a job, so we don’t count this time as ours. We give it away freely, without a second thought. But that time is ours, it’s a limited resource, and once it’s gone, there is no replacing it. I can’t beg, borrow or steal more time. It is, in fact, my life.

The Math

Say it costs me $100,000 a year to maintain this lifestyle. (*not my actual salary, just to demonstrate)

That’s $32 an hour at 60 hours a week.

If I lower my cost of living to $20,000 a year, I would only have to work 12 hours a week.

I was working 48 hours a week just to live in a big house, with lots of stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against working hard or owning a house. But the idea that I was giving over 9 hours per weekday just to have an increased standard of living shocked me. Sure the house was nice, of course I loved swimming in the pool, but for that much of my time, I wanted more value.

From there I started breaking out the cost of everything by time.

Cable $100 or 3 hours a month
Car payment $375 or 11 hours a month
Name brand suit $400 or 12 hours
Fancy dinner $120 or 4 hours
And so on…

Lifestyle Redesign Phase I

This process hasn’t been overnight. For me to stop trading my time for things, I had to face the facts. We had to stop buying so much stuff! The End. (My husband had to talk me out of buying a book on “how to save money” and it took me a second to realize the irony). Inherently I already knew how to do it–reduce, reuse and refrain. Easy to say, harder to stick to…

Over the course of the last year we saved 50% our income. The next step? What to do with this financial freedom.

What’s your time worth?

Trip To O’ahu Hawaii From Seattle Washington

O’ahu is known as the “gathering island” because all the native Hawaiian tribes used to gather there… but it’s the gathering island now because it’s the center for United States Pacific Command. Not to mention, Waikiki is one of the world famous tourist meccas for overworked vacationers from the mainland. But hey, who cares? This place is beautiful. If you want to go for a drive around the island, I’ve highlighted the best places above.

You could also visit Pearl Harbor if you decided to take a vacation there. That is the place that the Japanese attacked which brought the whole world into conflict in 1941 or whatever.

Above all, I like the fact that the North West Shore of this little island has some of the best surf in the world between November and May. It’s an amazing place which has been dubbed by many surfers as the 7 Mile Miracle.

You can get a flight to O’ahu from Seattle for around $600 and often times less.

Extended history:
As always, I love studying the great explorers that meet their end in exotic places. As in the my page about Cebu, on O’ahu another famous explorer died in the waters of O’ahu. Captain Cook met his end when his group got a little too comfortable with the Hawaiian people back in 1779. It’s rumored that King Kamehameha was part of the crew that dispatched him. King Kamehameha later became the unifying force of all the native peoples of the Hawaiian islands. If you’re driving around O’ahu, you’ll spend most of your time on the Kamehameha highway so be respectful white boy.

1,500 Square kilometers (600 Square Miles.) If you wake up early you could quite easily drive all the way around the island.

Highest Point
Ka’ala- 12,000 meters (4,000 feet) Check for the big white dome if you head way out west side north of Waianae.

About 1 million people live there. But who knows if they’re counting tent city on the west side.

Special notes to know before you travel:
The west side is without question the sketchiest to travel around alone
It’s the USA – Things are inexpensive and large
Be very respectful in Hawaii and you’ll be fine. Anything else and you’ll learn quickly

Fun Stuff:
Poke is, without question the best food in the world. Get the best of it here.

Turning Someday into Right Now

Making A Change In Your Life Tips
Tips to help you make a change in your life

There’s a couple people in my life that have been saying they are going to make a major life change for years now. I know that feeling. I kept waiting for the right time, the right plan, the right amount of money to get me out the door.

Guess what? It never came. It doesn’t ever come. I still had to jump, kicking and screaming, not fully prepared and frankly more than a little scared.

And for those people in my life, waiting? It’s not going to come for them either. Unless you get hit by a truck, you’re not likely to stop what you’re doing and focus instead on what you want to be doing. We procrastinate. We weigh options. We wait. The reality is we get comfortable in our lives and many times don’t have the burning desire it take the leap and make it happen right now.

I’m a seasoned traveler who has pushed the limits and took the risk to travel the world. I hope the tips below help you. Adjust according to your situation and what you would like to make happen in your life.

It’s completely psychological, but you can get past it:

  • Start telling people what you’re going to do.
    Have conviction, believe it and make other people believe it.
  • Pick a date under 6 months.
    Anything more than that and it becomes the “far off future”.
  • Make a financial commitment.
    Put a big hunk of change down on your plan. Buy the plane ticket to Europe, put a deposit on a language school in Central America, pay the deposit on the volunteer program in Thailand.
  • Don’t worry about all the details.
    Most of them don’t matter. I had spreadsheets of stuff I wanted to get done before I left traveling the world and only half of it got finished.
  • Drop your other commitments now.
    Yes you’re not leaving the country until 6 months til now, but don’t wait until the last minute to excuse yourself from those time sappers now. (Your job is an exception).
  • Make a list of 5 major things you need to get done before you go.
    That’s your to do list. This will force you to make decisions about what’s really important and what you have to spend your time on.
  • Start living your new life now.
    If you’re traveling for a year, then you don’t need to buy new work clothes, do you? Start making decisions in your life like you’re already in the new life you want.
  • Keep your energy up and keep yourself inspired.
    Read travel blogs. Watch movies based in your future destination. Find songs that make you excited about your trip. Look for books about people who have done similar things.
  • Act as if you already know 100% that this will work out.
    Having second thoughts? Feel a little panicky? What if you knew for sure you’d be happy, that this would all be fine? Those of us on the other side know that, and this stress you’re feeling is totally normal and not a predictor of the quality of your decision. Do whatever it takes to convince yourself of this, and the rest will catch up.


By Chris
Let’s see, where I am up to:

  1. Done. This is all we talk about with friends and family (probably annoying them)
  2. Date picked, but it’s 9 months away (quit job is 6 months away)

And 4, 7 & 9 – Good to know!

By Keith
In 1966, I planned to emigrate to Australia when my parents passed on. Guess what? 43 years on, and my father is still with us!

However, looking back, I’m glad I stayed here, because I like travelling, and almost everywhere is much more accessible.

By Mitch
Life change is never easy, most of it is never planned. It is like jumping with your eyes closed and just see what happens.

I always wanted to travel around the world but it never happened till a major life event. Now that I have tried it, I never regretted nor looked back.

By Gillian
This is an excellent expansion of the list you gave me as advice a number of months ago. I think I have completed all 9 and now am just waiting for June to arrive.

As you know, I was a nervous wreck when we first decided but you were right and telling people was the tipping point for us. Now, our upcoming year of travel is a quiet reality.

Our whole life is focused on this goal and nothing is purchased or done unless it will fit in our backpack or directly influence our travels.

Thanks again for your inspiration and support!!

By Gene
Major life change is never easy, but it can be very gratifying. The idea of starting now is an important one. Do something. Anything. That will let you understand your long-term reward for the change. Happy traveling.

By Melissa
Great tips! I’m in the middle of making a major life shift myself and I’ve done all of the above (except for “Make a list of 5 major things you need to get done before you go” – haven’t done that yet). I’ve found that the biggest impetus is telling others what you plan on doing, but also telling them you are planning on doing it on a certain or by a certain day. That makes it real to you and to the people you told it too…and I hate to embarrass myself by saying I’m going to do something and then not following through. I’d rather follow through and fail than be someone too scared to take a chance. Great post!

I also live in Seattle.

By Jenn
Keep up the words of encouragement and reminders to your readers that life is simply too short – this post is great.

I am on the verge of self-employment and was forced there by a lay-off from my regular gig. A lot of what you list here reflects how I have had to react in order to prepare for such a significant change of lifestyle. And yes, I know that it will all work out 100%!

By Nomadic Matt
Tomorrow never comes and now is never a right time. You are right. You just have to jump. Life always finds its way to work out for the best.

By Bert and Patty
Such great advice….we have been planning for 2 1/2 years now and have 6 months to go before we leave on our 9 month adventure—maybe longer if the opportunity arises and then we are moving to scotland… are right, just do it now….good to read your post because it confirms that we are on the right track….maybe we will cross paths at some point.

By Daniel
I remember going through these steps before my move to Korea, and I’m sure I’ll go through it again for my next move. I think telling people you’re going to do something makes the decision feels real. It also makes you accountable: you don’t want to be a liar now, do you?
Great advice and list.

By Serena
1,2,3,4,6,8,9 all check! My friend is doing travelling in September for a year with her boyfriend and two friends and the more she talked about it the more I wanted to do it to which she replied ‘what don’t you?!’. So I am. Not for a year though, just for 3 weeks around South East Asia without the other half…I’m hoping that after 9 years of severe clinical depression it will help me at least find the path to my own happiness. I’m so excited I think my family are getting sick of hearing about it already! S xx

By Scott
Your posts are a wealth of information and they’re helping me stay motivated. I love #4 – it’s so easy to get caught up in “planning” and trying to take care of too many things before leaving. It’s great to know that you didn’t cross everything off the list either 😉
Scott´s last blog ..Why go solo? My ComLuv Profile

By Anthony
Excellent post. I’m writing that list down ASAP. Keep it up!

Traveling the World: Getting Started

Are you ready to travel the World?

Today’s how-to post has kindly been provided by Craig Martin of the Indie Travel Podcast. He’s been on the road full time since 2006, and if that wasn’t enough cred, his book Travelling Europe comes out this fall.
You’ve been sitting at your desk reading this blog for far too long. Haven’t you? It’s time to get out of the cubicle and into the world; but where to start? Let me show you the way.

Many people balk at the idea of planning long-term travel. It just seems far too expensive, far too difficult, far too much like … work. Budgets are hard, the time until you travel seems too rushed — or too far away — and that’s before you try to fit all those dream locations into your itinerary. Although all of this can feel true at times, planning is also a chance to explore your destination before you arrive, meet some great people and take the stress out of your upcoming trip.


Your first and biggest constraint is probably money. I know it’s mine! The good news is that, despite what the travel media has taught you, travel isn’t as expensive as you think it is. Taking a vacation is often expensive because we love to pamper ourselves with nice hotels and nice meals at well-known restaurants. The flights are expensive too and there’s all that time off work.

But imagine if the flight costs were spread out over six months. They wouldn’t seem too bad then. And the cost of one night in a hotel could give you ten nights’ accommodation in a hostel or some nice gifts for hosts you meet through programs like Couch surfing or Hospitality Club.

Finding the money

Our biggest financial hurdle isn’t finding enough; it’s simply organising it all. Start early by simplifying your finances and your lifestyle now. This will help you feel more in control and allow you to funnel more money into your savings account. Kill off subscriptions and memberships where you can: you won’t need them overseas! Sell things in your house that you don’t use; it’ll take the pressure off getting rid of them in your final weeks. Unless you have fine wine aging in the cellar, there’s nothing you’ll want to come back to.

Pay off debt and move down to one credit card (preferably one that allows you to build frequent flyer points without charging high fees). Try to get down to one current account with the same financial provider — one with good internet banking and international support. If you have paid off all your debt, look for an internet savings account with easy access and good interest rates. If not, forget saving and throw every cent at that debt instead. That’s three accounts, no financial baggage, and everything’s dealt with. Simple.

The cash trap

One trap often catches travelers during their planning stage: buying travel gear. There’s so much non-essential stuff out there that people buy by the truckload. It’s especially difficult not to splash out when the bank account numbers start going black and then start to rise. Don’t confuse buying things with preparing. I’m certainly not opposed to getting the right tool for the job: I’ve got a pack of specialist travel gear that I’ve picked up along the way – it’s a 45 liter pack. You can save lots of money by concentrating on what you’ll use day to day. Forget things you might need or will probably want. Keep that money in the bank and buy yourself a nice bottle of wine. In a Spanish cafe. Watching the sunset.

Planning your travel timeframe

Maybe now you’re entrenched at work, reading about my (Christine’s) travel and dreaming of a cubicle-escape plan. Maybe you’ve lost hope of ever leaving. It isn’t too late to break free. When my wife and I decided to set off on a two- to five-year trip through Europe we gave ourselves two years to get ready; and that time took the pressure off our finances and a lot of stress out of planning.

If there’s one thing that travel has taught me, it’s to respect the words of Bob Marley: “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be all right.” Planning your preparations — including your budgeting — within a reasonable timeframe is key.

Depending on how complicated your situation is and the scope of your travel plans it might take some time to get ready. Don’t stress – just keep the end in sight.

Social Research

One thing’s for sure, it’s never too early to start your social research on world cultures. Subscribe to a few travel blogs like Travel Blog, Nomadic Matt or Ottsworld. Begin listening to some travel podcasts; try the Amateur Traveler, Everything, Everywhere or my own Indie Travel Podcast.

Join online travel networking sites like Matador, the Thorn Tree or, for a touch of real life, Couch surfing or Hospitality Club. The last two give you the opportunity to offer your couch or spare bed to an incoming traveler for a few nights. It gives you the chance to meet people from all around the world, either in a local bar, your home or theirs.


Long-term travelers need money, so consider what kind of work can keep you going. Nothing with long contracts; something that pays reasonably; something you might enjoy. Consider doing some training as a bartender or ESL teacher, or spend a day picking fruit to see if it’s your thing. You’ll be experiencing all sorts of new things on the road, but that’s no reason not to start now.

You might want to consider learning a language — or at least making a start. Try to find a language exchange group that meets in a local cafe rather than splashing out on a school course. It gives you the chance to meet some other travel-minded people and share ideas and dreams too. Some areas offer free or heavily subsidised adult education courses, so you might have luck there.

Final thoughts

No matter where you are, you can live an traveling lifestyle. You can travel full-time, or at least for an extended period. I’m sitting in Perth, Australia right now, approaching the end of year three since I left home. I’ve visited over thirty countries, played host and been looked after, been stuck somewhere earning and been through seven countries in as many days. It’s not as hard as it looks, so get planning and get on the road.

The Truth About Skype

Provided by Wikipedia

Someone asked me recently if Earth Class Mail was living up to expectations after using them for a month. Honestly the service has been flawless and I am still as thrilled as when I posted the review. However, not everyone can live up to ECM standards.

Skype, on the other hand, has been nothing but heartache. For some, it’s a god send. It’s free to call computers, cheap to call home and is available in most internet cafes abroad. But if you’re serious about your phone communication, just know not everything about Skype works as advertised.

A quick search for “skype sucks” bring up over 4.6 million results. Apparently I’m not the only one.

Call Quality

This has been a hit or miss. Sometimes I sound like I’m in a wind tunnel, other times it’s perfectly clear. If you’ve ever spent some time in an internet cafe overseas, you’re likely to hear this conversation as someone tries to call home from their computer. “Hello! Hi Dad, I’m in Spain. Spain. I AM IN SPAAAINNN. Yes, ha ha. I miss you too. I SAID I MISS Y-O-U TOO. What?”

Doing Business

If you are using Skype to call a business contact, there are times when you need to be able to call a conference number, especially if you’re like my husband who attends company meetings via dial-in. It doesn’t work. If it’s an 800 number forget about it. If it’s a local number, then MAYBE it will work.

The Headset

We bought a $125 headset and it makes a big improvement in the sound quality, especially for those on the other end. Without it, calls are impossible. I don’t begrudge having to use one, but if you’re thinking Skype will be cheaper than a cell phone, you should factor this cost in. (By the way, my cheapo $20 headset is useless, so there are levels of quality in the headset game).

Lack of Local Numbers

If you want someone to be able to call you from a regular phone, you must buy a phone number. This is a great service and what initially attracted us to Skype. However, once we got to pick our number (after having already paid) there were limits on what countries you use. We live in Spain. Could we get a Spanish number? Nope. It was the UK for us, and while there were numbers in many other European countries, Spain just wasn’t available.

Random Errors

Sometimes my husband can’t dial a number. He presses the keys and they register each number twice. Other times it doesn’t register at all. Imagine having an important call and sweating over trying to get the number in? Why does it do this? No idea. It’s possible this would never happen to you. But when you’re staring down a 2 PM deadline and you can’t call your client, then suddenly the cheap fees just aren’t worth it.

Your best bet

If you’re living somewhere for an extended period of time or traveling around a single continent (like Europe), buying a prepaid cell phone is still cheaper, easier and more practical. Even when I’m traveling to different countries the reception is still better than Skype. If you want to call home on your computer, you can still use the free service, but if you need quality, reliable service, I’m afraid Skype has a long way to go.

What has your experience been like?

How to Travel the World Carefree and Still Get Your Mail

These days, everyone seems to know about getting online while abroad, using skype or MSN IM to chat with people back home and managing your money through online checking accounts. When it came time for us to fly overseas, there was one thing still hanging over our heads. How were we going to get our snail mail as we ran around Europe?

Well, ask and the internet shall provide.

There is a new service called Earth Class Mail. It’s brilliant and perfect for travelers. You forward your mail to them at any one of their locations in multiple US states. They scan it in. You log into your account online and look at your mail. Junk mail? Press the shred button and they take care of it. Important? They will open and scan the pages in so you can read it.

Urgent? They will send your mail to you directly (you pay shipping fees).

Yesterday we received our first piece of mail. I got an email from Earth Class Mail:

In the email they have a scanned imaged of the envelope and a link to my admin account. From there, I can decide what I want to do with the mail: Scan (they open and scan all pages), Ship (they send it to wherever I want), Recycle (they put it in the recycling bin, unopened), Shred (they will shred it), or archive/transfer.

I press a button, and I’m done. How easy is that?

As with all things, there is a cost, but I find the prices well worth not having to worry about missing important mail. There are three plans, but the basic starts at just $9.95/month. That includes 35 pieces of mail, 50 pages scanned and no cost for shredding or recycling. If you go over your mail quota, it’s just 30 cents extra per piece. Those prices will probably go up so check their website.

It’s super easy to set up too, and you can pick from PO Box or Street Address. Right now, I “live” in Seattle, WA according to the US Postal Office. So my first piece of mail went from Texas, to my old Boston address, to Seattle, over the internet to me in Madrid. I heart the internet.

How do you get your mail when you’re overseas?

*Author’s note: This is an independent review of this service. I didn’t receive any compensation for saying such nice stuff about them, although if they’re reading, I do appreciate a good bottle of wine.

Getting Drunk on Dublin

I’m nearing the end of my time in Europe – for now. So it’s not without a bit of sadness, that I find myself saying goodbye to Europe, via my trip to Ireland. Is this the last cafe? The last pint? The last time a cab driver will refuse to give me a ride, because I’m only a mile from my destination? Or has Dublin put me under a spell?

The city reminds me of a mixture of Seattle and Boston. Seattle for the weather, that alternates between sputtering rain and tentative clear skies. Boston because of it’s strong Irish ties, and coming here, I feel like I am seeing people I know at every turn. Is that someone I went to high school with? She looks just like my old coworker… and so on. Until they open their mouths. Instead of Boston accent they have that thick Irish brogue, that when done well is lilting and intoxicating, or otherwise it can be gravelly or mumbley or even worse whiny. If someone has the right accent, I could fall in love – instantly. Other European accents don’t seem to have the same effect. I can attribute all kinds of good qualities to someone based on their brogue, and when my cab driver spoke, I thought he loved me too.

Clearly, you can see reason behind the name of this post. I am punch-drunk and just plain drunk. I went to the James Joyce center and watched all three videos. I read the author’s entire timeline. I bought an annotated copy of Ulysses. Yes, I thought, now, this week, was a good time to start reading what is considered the best but most difficult novel of the 20th century. Just a bit of light reading really. 250,000 words from a vocabulary of 30,000. Cake.

I watched football. Not in an ironic, look at me I’m much better than this kind of way– no I was at the edge of my seat, silently cheering on the Irish. Then I had a little conversation with myself. Christine, why do you care if the Ireland wins? Good question. Maybe it’s the Guinness.

So I’m working out some things with Dublin. I don’t want to leave Europe. I don’t want to stay either. So I’m having a final affair. Dublin is getting all my repressed affections, and I can’t help but wonder if my new attitude is rubbing off on the locals. People are starting conversations with me on the street. I’m sharing a pint with a group celebrating a birthday.

I spend an hour talking to a medical student who has 300K in student loans and smokes like a fiend. My overall impression of Dublin? Weee! But I might not be the most reliable source.

(Note to my husband: any mentions of “love” or “affair” are purely fictional in nature and don’t mean for a second that I seriously thought of leaving you for the cab driver. That would be absurd. No one does that.)

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