Welcome to our blog. We are Robert and Lisa. Back in 2015, we decided to take a year off from the “real” world and travel. We managed much of SE Asia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, much of Central America, and Colombia in that year. We loved traveling so much that in 2018 we sold everything, retired, and became full-time nomads (well, at least until covid hit).
So, who are we?
Lisa has a degree in biology and another in law and spent over 20 years working as a patent litigator. She is a voracious reader of young adult dystopian fiction and watches far too much bad tv. She loves pretty much anything to do with zombies, and doesn’t think there is anything weird about setting an alarm at 6 am on a weekend to stumble to a pub to watch her beloved Chelsea boys.
Robert has had many professions, including a chef, a salesman, an IT guy and, most recently, a stay at home dog dad. He knows just enough Italian to get by, and his Spanish is rapidly improving. He loves nothing more than a day spent sailing or scuba diving, and rues the day he introduced Lisa to football (i.e., soccer).
We met at a party in 1988, briefly dated, broke up but stayed friends, and finally started dating again in 2004. After learning we had planned a trip to Asia, Lisa’s dad took Robert aside and mentioned that rumor was that Lisa was a very difficult traveler. Setting aside the fact that Lisa thinks perhaps the people she traveled with previously just might have been the problem (☺), we quickly learned that we are the perfect travelers together. There is nothing quite like eating pho on a tiny little stool on the side of a busy Hanoi street (and learning there is nothing wrong with throwing those dreaded onions into the gutter), browsing a Christmas market in Europe (yum…prosciutto), seeing our first wild kangaroo in Australia (complete with a joey in her pouch), checking out every Irish pub we can find (bonus points if they are playing a Chelsea or Man City football match), eating street food at every opportunity (just be smart about it), or accidentally getting between a mama water buffalo and her baby in Thailand (ok, that was dumb, but it did get the adrenaline flowing). Once we knew we could travel well together, marriage was in the cards and, ever since, we have traveled every opportunity we could get.
What is a PigFish?
The short answer is that it is a word we coined and use to describe our 2015 trip around the world. The longer answer involves an impromptu trip to Belize a few years ago to look at a restaurant that was for sale, a brainstorming session designed to come up with a name for said restaurant, and one of us throwing out the idea of PigFish. It is a horrible name for a restaurant, but we think it is a great name for our adventure. In any event, the name has stuck and we think of our round the world adventures as PigFish.
Why did we retire so early??
Well, why not? It isn’t like either one of us enjoyed our jobs (OK, Robert didn’t hate being a stay at home dog dad). Lisa was completely stressed out and spent every Sunday afternoon dreading the fact that she had to go to the office the next morning. Plus, traveling the way we like to travel (no cruises!) will only get more difficult the older we get. We want to be physically able to do anything we decide we want to do. And, we want to be mentally young enough to embrace the challenge of hearing (and hopefully learning at least a few words of) a foreign language every day, eating different foods, making friends with random strangers and, most likely, being completely out of our element more often than not. And, we learned in 2015 that we are much healthier when we travel – we eat better, we exercise more, and we sleep more soundly. In light of all that, early retirement was the right answer for us.
How do we travel and decide where to visit?
These days, we prefer to travel slowly. We don’t typically make long-term plans (unless it is to meet up with friends somewhere)– rather, we like to leave open the option of staying longer in places we like, and leaving places we don’t particularly care for sooner.
Back in 2015 and on the theory that we could likely see at least 12 countries in 12 months, we sat down and tried to independently come up with a list of our top 12 countries. Not surprisingly, our lists didn’t match. Lisa came up with Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Romania, Croatia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Argentina and Uruguay. Robert came up with Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Croatia, China, South Africa, Kenya, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and Ecuador. So far, we’ve made it everywhere on those lists except Romania, Croatia, Ireland, Argentina, Uruguay, and Kenya (although in China we only saw Hong Kong and Macau so I’m not sure that counts).
Do we check or carry on?
In 2015, we traveled with a small backpack and a personal bag each. No checked luggage for us. But, after about two months, we started checking our bags. We realized there were little things we wanted that aren’t allowed in carry-on luggage. A knife to cut fruit. A full size bottle of contact lens solution. A full size bottle of sunscreen.
In 2018, we decided to use a small back-pack as a carry-on and a roller bag to check. Robert missed kitchen equipment, so he now has a cutting board, a knife, a salt grinder, a pepper grinder, chip clips, and a mocha pot in his bag. Lisa missed having a few sweaters (can we talk about that thing they call “summer” in Scotland and how it is feels colder than a winter day in Chicago?).
What do we miss while traveling?
Our friends: We had some amazing friends in Chicago and we miss them every day.
Our own bed: There is nothing quite like coming home after vacation and crawling into your own bed.
Being regulars: Back when we lived in Chicago, we had our favorite bar to watch soccer (AJ Hudsons), our favorite brunch place (The Bristol), our favorite Sunday afternoon watering hole (The Red Door) and our favorite place to watch The Walking Dead (Bar Bar Black Sheep). Those places felt like second homes to us and we considered the staff at many to be friends. Jen at AJH knew that for a 6 am match Lisa wanted a Diet Coke and a soda water, both with limes. Rob at Red Door knew that Robert would try whatever concoction Rob had mixed up to try out for the bar menu. Fabio indulged our love of discussing Italy and rock and roll music and whether Carl had to die (Walking Dead fans will know what we are talking about and the answer is “yes, he did”). We miss these places immensely.
Clean bathrooms: These are getting easier and easier to find and Lisa still hasn’t used a squat toilet, but we do sometimes miss clean bathrooms. Lisa really misses the kind with the plastic wrap around the seat that can be changed before every use….
You know what we don’t miss? U.S. politics and Fox News.
How did we manage to retire early?
Well, we are not going to lie. Lisa had a very good paying job for over 20 years. But, the most important thing is that we have always lived well below our means. Neither of us has particularly expensive tastes in clothes or hobbies. We only had one car and it was 14 years old when we sold it. We both paid off our college loans as quickly as possible and refused to go into debt for anything other than a home. And, in all honesty, not having kids helped a great deal – we didn’t have to save for college tuition, pay the fees for summer camps, or the like.
We also saved for years. Initially, we set up separate accounts at an on-line bank for each of the trips we wanted to take in the future – we had accounts with names like Antarctica and Africa and India – and had small amounts of money transferred into those accounts every paycheck. Eventually, we consolidated everything into a PigFish account. It added up over the years.
What about health care?
Number 1: keeping our fingers crossed we don’t get sick. But we learned in 2015 that our perspective of what health care costs is significantly skewed by US prices. In much of the world (the U.S. being the obvious exception), basic health care is actually quite affordable.
Number 2: preventative medicine. We are the opposite of anti-vaxxers. We got all the immunizations we could think of before departing. Both of us had all the normal childhood vaccines. We’ve also been vaccinated against hepatitis, tetanus, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, the flu, shingles, and typhoid. We even got a rabies vaccine (yes, rabies – it isn’t just a vaccine for dogs anymore – although it just gives you an extra day or two to get to a functioning hospital for more shots if you get bit).
Number 3: spending a small fortune on insurance. We are extremely fortunate that Lisa was able to continue to stay on her employer’s health insurance plan even after she retired. We pay outrageous premiums and have an outrageous deductible and an outrageous maximum out of pocket, but if something horrible happens and we have to return to the States we will be able to get healthcare without bankrupting ourselves (fingers crossed….). And we bought travel insurance (medical, emergency evacuation and, wait for it, repatriation of our remains) through World Nomads. We sure do wish the U.S. had a single payer health care system….
. . .
We hope you enjoy our little blog. If there is anything else you want to know, give us a shout and we will do our best to respond. And if you happen to be traveling in the same part of the world we are, we would love to see you (well, once covid is over).