Well, we still have a few posts on Spain, but 2022 is here, so it must be time for our final thoughts on 2021.
In a nutshell, 2021 sucked almost as much as 2020. First, there was the hassle of buying a house in New Orleans, which was nowhere in our plans prior to covid. Buying a house in a market where properties sell in one day and above asking price is not fun. Especially when you get a call from your realtor (who very shortly after the call was our ex-realtor) saying he exposed you to covid (pre-vaccine) and you have to quarantine for ten days. Thankfully, our masks did their job and we did not get covid. And, we ultimately found a better realtor (who did not expose us to covid) and a great place in an amazing neighborhood (within stumbling distance of the best soccer bar in the city) and got it for less than the listing price. No doubt, because the place needed lots and lots of work. Which meant renovations. Lots and lots of renovations. We started looking for a contractor in March. Renovations didn’t start until October. October! You know, right after Hurricane Ida when supplies were even more unavailable than they had been prior to the hurricane. And those renovations are still on-going and won’t be completely done until at least February (when some windows ordered in October are supposed to finally arrive). We never want to go through renovations again. Ever. (Says the couple who is already planning to renovate their master bathroom once we recover mentally and financially from this round of renovations.)
Then, there were the high hopes we all experienced once the vaccines rolled out that covid would come to an end. Things seemed almost back to normal for a brief period of time. But then those high hopes were crushed by the delta wave. And crushed even further by the omicron wave. And, the inability to plan anything. And the year ended with us once again masking whenever we were in public and avoiding people. Ugh.
But, life isn’t all bad. Our friends and family stayed relatively healthy, we haven’t had so much as a cold in nearly two years (guess those masks work, huh?) we got to see quite a few of our friends and family when covid wasn’t surging, we got to take a few amazing trips when covid wasn’t surging, and I’m listening to the sound of the ocean in Gulf Shores, Alabama as I write this. (Never in a million years did I think we would spend time in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Never. And, certainly not New Year’s Eve. And, truth be told, I don’t think we will ever be back to Gulf Shores.)
So…let’s move on to the questions we answer at the end of every year.
Do we regret retiring, selling everything, and traveling the world? Well, now that we’ve bought a house, this question really isn’t relevant anymore is it? I’m going to have to think of a better question for next year. Anyway, we don’t regret retiring and we are thrilled that we got a few years of serious travel in before covid. But, boy oh boy, it sure would have been nice to have a house instead of going through the process of buying and renovating one. And, boy oh boy, it sure would be nice to have furniture.
Did we manage to stay on budget this year? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Wait. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! We bought and started to renovate a house this year. Our 2021 budget was completely and entirely annihilated. Thankfully, we had a contingency in our overall retirement budget for a large purchase someday down the road because we thought someday we might someday buy a home. Of course, we thought that home would be in Bangkok or Spain or Portugal or Colombia, not New Orleans. And, we thought it would be a low maintenance condo instead of a high maintenance house in a hurricane-prone city. And, we thought we would buy when we were too old to travel non-stop. Oh well. Plans are made to be broken, right?
Where did our money go this year? Duh, to the house. And, the car we had to buy because you can’t evacuate from hurricanes if you don’t have a car. But, if we cut those major purchases out, an absolutely shocking 28% of the budget this year went to food and beverages. An absolutely shocking percentage of that — more than twice what we spent on groceries — went to restaurants. We might have gone a little wild after we were fully vaccinated . . . . Well, omicron has put a stop to that now, hasn’t it? Over 26% of our budget went to health care, mostly all of which was our insurance premiums. I say this every year, but don’t get me started on the insane cost of health insurance in the U.S. It is just wrong and evil. And, we had fun new expenses, like flood insurance and renovation insurance (did you know your home insurance doesn’t cover you while the house is under renovations????) and property tax. Oh, and don’t forget the school zone speeding tickets. You know, the school zones that aren’t event marked but, never fear, the cameras are up and functioning. Getting school zone speeding tickets is just a fact of life in New Orleans unless you never drive over 20 mph.
What did we miss the most this year? Normalcy. We miss normalcy. We just want to know what life will look like going forward and be able to make a plan and stick to it. And, if this is the new normal, we don’t want to hear about it. The “new normal” simply can’t mean that people having heart attacks can’t get admitted to hospitals because the hospitals are full of unvaccinated covid patients.
What is on tap for 2022? Well, that depends a lot on covid. We have a trip to Mexico planned this winter to celebrate a wedding. Fingers crossed that goes forward. We are hoping omicron has burned itself out in time to really celebrate Mardi Gras in our first year as residents of New Orleans. Robert is hoping to get shoulder surgery right after Mardi Gras. I’m bound and determined to celebrate my birthday somewhere fun for the first time in four years. We have friends from the U.K. that are hoping to visit us in June. Robert is bound and determined to finally see whale sharks. And, we are really hoping to be somewhere other than New Orleans for the entire month of August. Because August in New Orleans is not pleasant at all.
And, now, onto our final thoughts for 2021 (most of which involve the learning experience that is living in New Orleans).
You know how New Orleans is called the Big Easy? Well, one of the first things you learn living here is that New Orleans is neither big nor easy. (Yep, I completely stole that from someone else.) The city is shockingly small — if one didn’t value their life, one could bike nearly everywhere.
And the city sure isn’t easy. The sewer and water board is an absolute pain — we’ve had two incorrect bills since March and they will not fix them even though the bills they sent are (1) clearly and demonstrable wrong (they read the meter incorrectly and did math wrong); and (2) internally inconsistent. The roads are a mess — car destroying potholes everywhere and construction projects that tear up the roads and then just go dormant. And so many of the roads flood when it rains. Then there is the fact that we pay for trash pick-up twice a week and, since Hurricane Ida, get it once a week (if we are lucky). We pay for recycling once a week and haven’t gotten a single recycling pick-up since Hurricane Ida. And, don’t get me started on the fact that New Orleans doesn’t recycle glass at all. How messed up is that in a city that drinks as hard as New Orleans? We have to pay a private company $25 a month to pick up our glass. Most people just throw their glass in the garbage. All that said, we can’t think of anywhere else in the U.S. we would rather live.
We often hear that New Orleans is the northernmost Caribbean city (even though it isn’t on the Caribbean). There is some serious truth to that. Where else do you have to dodge chickens on the street and where else do bars have their own resident rooster?
Who knew there were so many anoles (kind of like geckos) in New Orleans? They were all over our patio in our rental and I’m hoping we can entice them to live by our house once we do some landscaping. Cute as buttons and eating up mosquitoes. (Although there are still too many mosquitoes and they are vicious.)
Who knew there were so many cats in New Orleans? We see stray cats almost every day. Skittish, but not underfed. I’m guessing they help keep the rat population down. There is one that occasionally comes up on our porch and looks in our window. Robert says “no pets” every single time.
People are so friendly in New Orleans. Nearly every single time we walk by someone sitting on their porch or working in their yard, pleasantries are exchanged. I even got called “love” once.
Landlords are not required to provide heat in New Orleans. Which is weird, because it gets cold enough that heat is most definitely required. We had it when we rented, but plenty of people don’t.
I swear every single train in the country passes through New Orleans. And, they all blow their horns. They seem to really love blowing their horns in the middle of the night. We eventually got more or less used to the sound, but the first few nights in our apartment were rough and there was more than one night that train horns woke us up. Thankfully, we can’t hear them from our house.
We really need to work on our hurricane preparedness. When we evacuated for Ida, we remembered to pack our undies. However, we left cash and valuables in the house. And food in the fridge. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
After trying brisket all over Texas, we have come to the conclusion that the brisket at Buc-ee’s (a gas station chain) is best. How sad is that? Buc-ee’s also has the best beef jerky. And, clean bathrooms. But, nobody in Buc-ee’s wears masks.
If you are coughing on a plane, perhaps let your seatmates know you don’t have covid. And, if you are sneezing on a plane, perhaps don’t pull your mask down before you sneeze. And, if you are coughing uncontrollably at a restaurant, you should have stayed home. I sure hoped covid would teach Americans to stay home when they were sick, but clearly that didn’t and won’t happen. Ugh.
Fingers crossed that 2022 is better and more normal.