Monthly Archives: October 2014

How do we afford this trip?

Well, saving for travel comes at the expense of certain other areas of our lives.

1.  My car


The ceiling is kinda falling down. George at the garage tacked it up for us.

Many readers are no doubt familiar with my good old Saturn, 20 years old and going strong.  When I bought it as a 22-year-old college graduate starting my first job, I was not envisioning that I would still be driving it around 20 years later with three kids in tow.  It  has many interesting “features” but it JUST KEEPS RUNNING.  And it seems like throwing money away to get rid of it — it’s not like anyone is going to pay us a lot of money for it.  (Note: if in fact you WOULD like to pay us a lot of money for it, please ignore this paragraph and see below for unique and valuable features.  Personal checks accepted.)

That duct tape has lasted for YEARS!

That duct tape has lasted for YEARS!

Of all the things that are broken, the best on is the gas door.  It no longer pops open when you pull the little lever.  Instead, you have to punch the car next to the door.  Every time I fill up I get to feel like Fonzie.

So much going on here. First, you can see the antique crank window. Also, that the upholstery fabric has long since peeled away. Finally, the side mirror that is attached with Gorilla Glue (through no fault of the car).

Next best is the passenger seat.  The lever that controls the back angle was stuck, so Bob attempted to “fix” it, resulting in it breaking off entirely.  Therefore anyone in the passenger seat who doesn’t hold themselves strictly upright gets thrown backwards and finds themselves looking at the peeling upholstery on the ceiling.  Our friends Wendy and Chris are teaching their son Sam to drive, and we’ve been trying to convince them that this car would be perfect.  As passenger, you can stare serenely at the ceiling, blissfully unaware of what is going on outside.  Very low stress!

Now that it’s 20 years old, my coworkers have been urging me to go for the antique plates.

2.  Our technology

Youre jealous, admit it.

We’re practically hobos.

Here are our cell phones.  That’s my cool flip phone on the left.  Hello, 1997!  Bob broke his flip phone, so I got him a fancy new $10 phone for his birthday last year.  As you can see, he has now broken that one too.  (This despite the fact that it survived lying in the middle of our road for approximately 12 hours one day.  It fell out of Bob’s pocket one night when he was pushing the Saturn, whose battery had died, into the driveway — see #1.)

At the moment he can only call phone numbers that are entirely composed of 8’s, 9’s, and 0’s.  (If you have a number like this, let us know — we’d love to chat!)  Texts are right out.  So we may need to fork out another $10 in the near future.

Our phone plans are $150 every two years.  You don’t see kids’ cell phones here because they don’t have any.

It says "Digital channel strength is low"

It says “Digital channel strength is low”

Our one TV is this cool 19-incher, that I got for free as an award at work.  Bonus is that it fits right inside our little cabinet.  No, we don’t have cable.  We used to have this cool service called Aereo that cost $8 a month.  It had a giant antenna that would suck in all the channels that were broadcast over the airwaves in Boston, and then stream them to us.  The Man took it down, though.  So now we must rely on netflix.

Our other technology devices have all been free, thanks to workplace gifts.  In addition to the TV shown above, we have acquired two iPods, an iPod touch, and a Kindle Fire this way.  At the moment the iPod touch is non-functional.  I put a passcode on it due to overuse by a certain child, and this same certain child appears to have made too many attempt to guess it, resulting in this situation:

We bequeath this iPod to our great-grandchildren.

We bequeath this iPod to our grandchildren.  It should be good as new in approximately 44 years.


3.  We don’t exactly overheat our house.



IMG_46854.  We’re not terribly concerned about the state of our furniture.  This is the work of our late cat, Fang.  We figure he will always live on in our memories as long as we still have a souvenir of him.

We find it’s best to be late adopters of new conveniences and technologies — because once you have one, something that you were previously perfectly happy without suddenly seems to become a necessity (I’m looking at you, Amazon Prime).  Though when I do eventually get a new car, it’s totally going to have some of those newfangled “anti-lock brakes” I keep hearing about.



Talk about adventure!  This weekend was the most adventurous weekend of the year, our Anniversarymoon trip!  One of us has no idea where we’re going and the other one it’s tough to say.  Maybe yes, maybe no.  We can’t say because don’t want to let the other one in on our thinking.(!)

This year, I can finally announce to the greater populace, our trip was to New Durham/Wolfeboro.  Instead of dropping money on a B&B, with its superficially attractive heat and hot water, I clandestinely arranged for the construction of our outdoor shower (plumbing only, the enclosure will come in the spring) and also a nice rustic sign that the girls and I worked on.  It is not exactly 100-percent legal so I won’t linger on that.

All quiet on deck

All quiet on deck

We stayed on Chalk Pond and even grilled our own dinner Friday night (after dropping our kids off with our wonderful friends on Bagdad Road – I won’t mention their names because we don’t want them to be flooded with similar requests).

Dark clouds over the bike path




The weather almost cooperated completely.  It was not too cold and it only rained for 20 minutes.  That those 20 minutes coincided exactly with the time we were most exposed on the Wolfeboro Recreational Bike Trail did not dampen our spirits nearly as much as it dampened the rest of us.  Happily, two things worked in our favor: Jen was able to find an acceptable –pretty nice, even – dry pair of pants in the consignment store by the lake; and we were spared the hail stones that other people in Wolfeboro told us about as we were walking around downtown after the

Stylish, dry pants (second-hand)

Stylish, dry pants (second-hand)

storm.  On the trail, we only got rain, thunder and lots of backspackle (the Sniglet version, thankfully, and not the Urban Dictionary’s).

Small glasses, multiple samples

Small glasses, multiple samples

Then there was a minimalist microbrewery experience and a nice warm pizza restaurant.  We got a nice fire going back at the place and it wasn’t too bad.


Snowmobile Rt. 22 signpost

Sunday was dedicated to wandering the snow- mobile trails in the hills of the lower Lakes Region.  We found Merrymeeting Lake and a bunch of interesting trails leading in intriguing directions.  For those cold riders in our readership, we stick pretty much to NH Rt. 22, which looks to be in good shape for the winter; but the spur we took to Merrymeeting did require three yards of blatant trespassing (though Jen reasoned that the trespassing signs were most likely intended for snowmobilers).   Plus, we have a topographical map, which is what the man we found peeing in the woods suggested we bring along for our journey.  Maybe for Christmas one of us will get a compass.

Surprise, scofflawing, brewpubs, thrift – these are all major elements for a romantic Anniversarymoon weekend.   And adventure.  Adventure is fun.

On top of Chocorua

IMG_4736Just so that people don’t think we’re saving all the excitement for our big trip south, we ventured the other direction on Columbus Day to tackle Mount Chocorua.   The parents in this family stress physical fitness as a key to getting the most out of our escapades abroad, so the girls are often being asked to test their mettle.  Once they saw Chocorua’s rocky top, they were giddy with glee at the thought of climbing all over it.  Mettle was evident in abundance.

There was the matter of the four miles or so of rather vertical travel to make it to the rocks on the summit, and there were many tempting boulders along the Piper Trail that beckoned the girls to expend energy on the way up.   The hike challenged us all, and people were astonished to see Lanie when she arrived at the top.  There weren’t too many people Nadia’s age there, either.  We were very proud of them.

At the wind-swept summit

At the wind-swept summit

The rock scrambling seemed to provide adequate payoff for those of us who weren’t concerned about being blown into the abyss.  For the rest of us, the fall colors and deep blue sky that smiled down for most of the ascent were worth the trip.  At the top we encountered dark clouds and gusty winds.  These, along with the general altitude and the general and tendency for girls to run in three directions at once, made that part of the journey a little too adventurous for more mature tastes.











We worked our way down, thighs burning, and set a course for pizza on the way home.  By the time we got to the van we had about nine miles under our belts, and, hopefully, some pictures that are worth sharing.


Who me, worry?

Last week Jen went to a talk at the high school on anxiety.  It was probably meant for parents who wanted to help their kids face school-related stresses and social pressures.  Jen, I think, went so she could help me.

For the past few months whenever she has brought up the prospect of a long-term trip to some other part of the world, she got silence and a petrified stare in return.  I may not be as intrepid as I like people to believe.  The thought of a trip like the one she was proposing brought up images of risks and headaches, confusion and hassles.

Some people are like that.  We are happy where we are and we make do with what we have.  We get adventure through reading.  We don’t readily embrace change.

To my credit, I think, I eventually explained my fears to Jen, and then I told her I definitely want to go on this trip.  This is because of how all of our other adventures have turned out.  Was I looking forward to driving across the country in our van, through the South, in summer?  Not particularly.  Did I relish the responsibility of guiding a rental car from Rome to Venice and 30 places in between?  Not at all.  The list of things she proposed and I panicked over goes on and on: buying a house, having kids, sugar-free month, vacations of all kinds.  Basically, every interesting thing we’ve ever done since getting married has terrified me.

They’ve all turned out tremendously well.  We shouldn’t let fear rule our lives, especially when someone like Jen is doing the planning.

Also, once I learned that we wouldn’t be driving the length of Mexico, I started to breathe a little better.   It might be that we don’t have to drive at all.   This is helpful.  The man who rented us our car in Rome seemed to think we’d be pleased that the car had only 17 kilometers on the odometer.   Anyone who has seen the Getaway Van knows how scratch- and dent-prone we are.  It was a triumphant Bob who walked away from the still-pristine white Audi on the top floor of the Venice parking garage (there’s only the one in the whole city).  I was still smiling hours later.  Look at the picture at the top of the blog.  It’s the rest of my family and a triumphant Bob.

Another thing helping me breathe more easily is that this isn’t our parent’s Central America.  Costa Rica is a widely-accepted tourist’s paradise, and the countries around it seem to be trying to jump on the bandwagon.   We have several guidebooks and they all present seventeen incredible sites on every two-page spread.  Jen has some work in the planning department, sure.  I can come along for the ride – and not have to drive.

And now I have some advice from the anxiety talk.  Jen told me all about it.  I am to treat my worries as if they are an external entity keeping me from enjoying the planning of the trip.  I say, “Hey, worry, get away so I can think about walking around and taking the bus in Central America.”

And the worry says, “As long as there’s no driving.”

Do we have to buy the worry a plane ticket?

Who, what, where, when, & how

Map courtesy of Creative Commons / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

We’re starting to put together the broad outlines of the trip.  At a minimum, we’ve committed to dates as well as start and end points — plane tickets have been purchased!  Plans are as follows:

February 9: My leave of absence from work begins
February 11: We fly from Boston to Managua, Nicaragua
April 29: We fly from Belize City, Belize to Boston
May 4: Back to work and school!

Our starting point was set when I read about La Mariposa Spanish School, set in the hills above Managua.  We knew we wanted to start our trip with some Spanish immersion, and this place sounds incredible.  We’ll have one-on-one Spanish instruction in the mornings, three homemade meals a day, afternoon excursions, and evening activities — all while staying in rustic accommodations in a nature reserve in the rainforest.  There is great emphasis on sustainability and supporting the local community, so the food (including coffee!) is grown on site or locally sourced, everything is recycled, workers are paid a living wage, and profits go back into the community.  (Also, for Nadia: they have horses.  I’m sure she’ll pick up some Spanish from the stable workers.)  One weekends there are more extended hikes and excursions.  And all this for under $2000 a week for the five of us.

I got this card in the mail from my friend Sony the very day my leave of absence was approved.  Maybe I should ask Sony for some lottery numbers.

I got this card in the mail from my friend Sony the very day my leave of absence was approved. Maybe I should ask Sony for some lottery numbers.

After these initial two weeks, nothing is set in stone (except that we have to make our way to Belize at some point).  We’re planning on spending some additional time exploring Nicaragua, then heading south into Costa Rica.  I think for the most part we won’t have set plans, but will decide as we go.  (For those who know me well, I know this sounds hard to believe.  But even my planning skills have been defeated by the amazing wealth of things to do in this area.)

If time permits, we’ll continue south into Panama.  We’d love to take a boat ride on the Panama Canal, among other things.

Lastly, when we get to the point where we have about two weeks left on our trip, we’ll fly to Belize.  (Overland travel isn’t appealing because of the distances and unsafe areas involved.)  We didn’t originally plan on Belize, because it doesn’t border the other places we’re going, but the more we’ve heard about it the better it sounds.  It’s the home of the second-largest barrier reef in the world, so there’s amazing snorkeling.  (Nadia’s greatest wish in the past was to go to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, until she found out that there are poisonous snakes there.  (According to Lanie, there are also poisonous seashells.)  If you should happen to be discussing Central America with Nadia, ix-nay on the akes-snay, if you get my meaning.)  There are also world-famous caves and Mayan ruins.  For the most part these things aren’t found in many other parts of Central America, so off to Belize we go.

Thanks to those who’ve already given us suggestions.  Now that you know more precisely where we’re headed, we’d always love to hear more!

Zoe’s thoughts on the trip

IMG_4674I’m really excited about our newest and biggest trip. What my Mom said about the zip lining, I’ve been saying we should do that for years.

For weeks, I’ve been finding Central American travel books on her dresser with titles like Exploring Panama! and Costa Rica! The Best Things to See and Do. In response to questioning, she said that she just thought that they would be fun to read. There were at least four different books.

Something was up. But with all my activities (I’m probably the biggest contributor to Mom’s “whirlwind of activities”;  I do two sports, three bands, one choral group, and piano lessons plus homework and instrument practice), Mom’s sudden interest in reading lots of Central American books was at the back of my mind. Even when I was suspicious, I would never have imagined eleven weeks! About not wanting to go on trips, that’s never going to happen.

Nadia and I will be doing blog posts as part of our homeschooling. My previous blog posts have contained excessive use of the word awesome, but I hope to make better posts this trip. THE BROOKSES BETTER TAKE GOOD CARE OF LACEY (my chicken)!