Bringing My Dog with Me; Travels with Sadie

Guest post by Vivian Harvey. Vivian has lived in Mexico for 15 years and has traveled extensively through this country as well as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. She now spends four months each winter in Panajachel, Guatemala and travels with her dog, Sadie. You can find out about her educational travel seminars by going to her website.

VivianHarvyPhotoSix years ago my son and his family gave me a long-haired miniature blonde dachshund, Sadie, and she is by far the best gift I’ve ever received. Sadie and I now go just about everywhere together. As soon as the suitcases come out, Sadie hops in, never wanting to be left behind. On our four-month annual trek to Guatemala each winter, a number of people ask me about the in and outs of travel with a dog; here’s what I’ve learned.

Each country’s requirement is different — Sadie has been to Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala, and for each of these I read the guidelines as listed on the countries’ web sites for “animal importation.” None of these countries require a quarantine period of time, but each has specific requirements, with Guatemala’s being the most detailed (and expensive).

Each airline has different requirements

We generally fly on United Airlines to Guatemala, but for flights within the United States, different airlines have different requirements as to cost, size of dog, and advance notice.   As soon as I make my own flight reservation I contact the airlines directly to make the reservation for Sadie. Getting through a large airport is sometimes a challenge, and the dog carrier on wheels I have is worth its weight in gold. United won’t allow any other carry on bag (though I do have my purse and computer with me) which I consider unfair since I have to pay for the dog. Sadie weighs about 13 pounds, and most airlines seem to have a weight limit of about 18 pounds to travel in the cabin with me. On the advice of my vet I give Sadie a mild sedative, and she sleeps most of the trip and doesn’t require a “relief stop” as long as the connecting flights work out to be relatively brief.

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Getting back into the United States has even more requirements — For Mexico and Guatemala, Sadie had to be checked by a local vet in country and papers filled out as to her health, not a big deal, but essential paperwork to show at Customs in the United States.

These have to be timed to be done fairly close to the departure time.


Be sure the place you’re visiting is dog friendly

I stay in Panajachel each winter, and the hotel and restaurants are quite dog friendly. This is not true of other places in Guatemala, and if I go to Antigua or Guatemala City, I get a dog sitter for Sadie for the day or overnight. Before my first winter in Panajachel, I asked the management of the Hotel Regis if I could bring a small dog, and it took a while to get the permission, but now Sadie is a member of the family there, and she enjoys the warmth and hospitality of Guatemala as much as I do.

Keep the food consistent

I have found the type of food that Sadie eats at home to be available in Guatemala for about what I pay at home, though it’s a bit of a task to get it. This was a concern the first year I went to Guatemala and I worried a bit about locating a good vet, both in case of illness and to be sure the “going home paperwork” was all in order. It turned out that this was not a problem, good vets in Antigua and Panajachel.


The overall cost is not insignificant

With the additional vet costs and “official paper work” (both in the US and in Guatemala) of about $300, the flight costs (total of $250 round trip on United Airlines), and occasional dog sitters (about $150), this not something which I’d suggest for a short vacation. But for a lengthy stay of four months and for the companionship of my dog, taking Sadie with me is well worth the price. She is also a great conversation starter, both with local people and with other tourists, and I suspect that more people in Panajachel know Sadie’s name than know mine.

Other articles by this author

Health Information for Independent Travelers

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I’m Having a Physical Fitness Fit

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004 and you can find her columns on the Huffington Post. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

LaverneI hate exercise! There is nothing about being hot, exhausted and in pain that appeals to me. The most active thing I did this week was struggle to rip open a bag of Oreos.

Every day, the media reminds me that I am out of sync with the rest of the world. The government is presently designing a dollar bill that has running shoes replacing George Washington’s face. Sweat was officially added to the list of American symbolisms, along with apple pie, the flag and Mom. Ellen DeGeneres is promoting a line of bridal warm-up suits. Antiperspirants are being phased from market shelves and replaced with cans of Instant Sweat Aerosols.

Last week, I hosted a support group for ten 50-plus men and women who shared a bond — their utter disdain for exercise. They entered my house, one by one, lethargic and overweight. There was a time when they accepted who they were, but the world’s obsession with physical fitness had interfered with their sedentary lifestyle and left them feeling disgraced, embarrassed and diminished.

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One woman, Portia Portly, claimed that she just didn’t fit in. Everyone she knew took aerobics, yoga or spin classes. So she went to Sports Authority and bought several spandex outfits that she now wears around town. Suddenly, her social life has exploded because people assume she is either going to or coming from an exercise class.

Portia’s success was applauded, voted on and accepted as standard policy.

“I joined a health club,” confessed a rather pudgy business man, “just so I can tell my macho associates I’m a member. They don’t know I only go for the saunas and massages. There’s no reason for them to ever know.”

I felt compelled to cleanse my conscience.

“When my husband completed his sixth marathon, he returned home and found me lying in the yard. How could I admit that while he’d been running over 26 miles I’d been sunbathing, on my back, motionless? I told him I had sprained my ankle while doing jumping jacks and was waiting for him to carry me indoors.”

Everyone empathized.

“A perfect example of prejudice towards non-athletes happened to my cousin, Martha,” announced a woman who preferred to remain nameless.

“Martha devised an inexpensive source of fuel by extracting energy from several diet pills she found lying in her medicine cabinet since 1952. She received presidential praise and was up for a Nobel Prize for Great Achievements.”

And then the bomb dropped.

“An in-depth interview with Martha revealed that she not only wasn’t committed to being physically active, given the choice, she would scoff down apple pie rather than an apple. Consequently, her credibility became suspect and she is currently under investigation by both the CIA and Richard Simmons.”

The meeting lasted only 30 minutes — as long as it took for everyone to finish off the donuts, brownies and Cinnabons, and run out of new business to whine about.

If you feel out of place because you don’t smell from perspiration, don’t need a knee brace, don’t have shin splints, aren’t getting cortisone shots and don’t own a terry cloth head band, join us next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in front of the YMCA.

Be prepared to march for THE RIGHT TO BE INACTIVE.

Please be prompt, as the parade is scheduled to last only ten minutes.

The local first aid squad has kindly volunteered to be on hand for those requiring treatment for exhaustion.

Other posts by this author

Dancing Through the Pain

Men and Women Throughout History

I Don’t See Well Anymore

Giddy Yup

Stop Telling Me I’m Old

Growing Up Dangerously

Watching Real Beauty

Hell, Not on the Map, but I Was There

Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

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Safety in Guatemala

Q&A with a Reader

Hi guys,

I really enjoy reading your newsletter and the information in it is very informative.

My husband and I have been traveling all over Mexico for the last 3 years and really love the country!! We feel much safer there than we do in the US!!  It’s funny because of all the bad press people hear about Mexico a lot of people won’t even consider going there for a vacation.

To us that’s really sad because as you know Mexico is a big country and one just needs to stay out of certain areas like you would stay out of certain cities in the US.

That being said we have never been to Guatemala and are interested in checking it out.  Of course as you know it seems to get worst reviews in the area of safety than Mexico.  I’ve heard that violence is increasing there… Do you know if that’s true or not?  What we are really doing in our travels is looking for a place to retire.  My question is would you guys live there?

Another country we interested in is Nicaragua.  Have you guys ever been there?

Thanks so much,


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Hi Debbie,

Thanks for taking the time to write and to let us know that you have been enjoying our newsletters. We appreciate that!

We, too, feel that Mexico is a safe country over all, and that, yes, there are some locations one could avoid to stay out of trouble, which is similar to the States, of course.

Regarding safety in Guatemala — we have been living here off and on for about 5 years now. While we have seen lots of different locations in Guatemala, we generally stay either in Antigua or at Lake Atitlan. We think that Guatemala is one of the best kept secrets in terms of a place to retire. The weather is very good (rainy season and dry/windy season), people are friendly, the cost of living is affordable, and there is good medical care available in Antigua, Xela and Lake Atitlan, with some of the best being in Guatemala City.


Let me just say that Guatemala City is considered dangerous and we only go there for medical care if necessary and we utilize a personal driver to take us there and back. But Antigua and the Lake area is very calm. We had no problems at all in Xela, Tikal, Flores or traveling in between them.

Take a look at our Guatemala Travel and Information page and I would certainly recommend reading our Guatemala Guide before you come down here. There is a thriving expat community in the colonial city of Antigua and a funky and fun expat community here around the lake.


We have not yet been to Nicaragua, although we tried making it there last year. Hopefully we will get there at some point.

Feel free to write any time with questions. We are happy to recommend things to you or to answer your questions.

Wishing you all the best,

Akaisha Kaderli

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Health Information for Independent Travelers

Guest post by Vivian Harvey. Vivian has lived in Mexico for 15 years and has traveled extensively through this country as well as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. She now spends four months each winter in Panajachel, Guatemala and travels with her dog, Sadie. You can find out about her educational travel seminars by going to her website.

VivianHarvyPhotoI’ve been spending the winters in Guatemala, after living in Mexico for a number of years.  For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been leading travel programs through Mexico and Central America for groups, and for each of these group travelers I insist on the completion of a health/emergency form which I keep with me until I put them safely on the plane to fly home.

But I have never filled out a similar form for myself.

Why would I?

I’m never sick, and, completely discounting the fact that I’m now 75, it never occurred to me that I would need to have this information on hand.  But last winter a couple of things happened that forced reality on me; two friends suffered what appeared to be strokes and were taken to hospital in Guatemala City (they turned out to be OK, but it was worrisome) and just before I was to fly home to Ohio, I tripped over my dog’s steps in the middle of the night, crashed to the tile floor giving myself a nasty gash on my leg and head (very bloody!), as well a concussion.

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I realized that if I’d really hurt myself, no one in Panajachel (the town where I stay in Guatemala) would have the slightest idea about my overall health status, or how to get in touch with my sons or my doctor. They would have no knowledge of allergies I have, or what medicine I might be taking.  So I have developed what I hope is a comprehensive one-page form, with one copy in my passport holder and one to give to the hotel where I’ve stayed for years.


Preventative action

Many friends are coming to visit me in Panajachel this winter, and I’m suggesting that they do the same. Even with friends whom I’ve known for a long time, if they become seriously ill, I don’t know the names of their doctors or how to contact their family members.  I’m sending the same information to my sons and also keeping a copy in my car with my Ohio registration.  (For the form to keep in Ohio I’m including information that my dog may be home alone; this idea comes from a friend who is equally devoted to her dog.)

What to put on the form

The things I’m suggesting should be on the form are, in addition to my name, address, phone number, passport number and birth date, are:

— Names of family members and a couple of friends at home along with email address and phone numbers

— Name of primary physician and attorney, and their phone numbers

— Allergies to food/medicine and recent immunizations, like tetanus, hepatitis, rabies, etc.

— Medicines taken regularly, including a couple of OTC ones

— Information about travel insurance companies, including policy and telephone numbers (I never had travel insurance in the past, but now I have two insurance policies which say they will cover many of the primary big ticket items if I would need to be hospitalized or (worst case) airlifted to the United States.  As with all insurance, I hope I never need it.

If you plan to do any travel in the future, having this form placed in with your passport will prevent confusion to those who may need to provide assistance to you. It will also give you comfort to know that those who care about you will be notified.

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Active Adult Communities for Retirement

I have been enjoying your newsletter and book for many years. Could I get the name of the community, state and city where you have your USA residence? I plan on checking out several places soon. I just turned 70 and am very active.

You guys are the best!



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Hi Frank,

Thank you for taking the time to write, we appreciate it!

For privacy sake, we don’t like to give out our personal residence address, but I have some links here that you can research to get lots of information on active adult communities. There are lots of them around, especially in the sunbelt of the US.

If you Google Active Adult Communities you will get lots of listings. For narrowing down your results, just put in a state and many will show up for that location.

On our Housing Page there are several listings for active adult communities, including Top Retirements which offers a directory of active adult communities for the nation.

Finally, you can check out our Worry Free Housing piece which – at the bottom of the article – will give you some contacts that will prove useful to you.

We recommend that before you purchase a home in one of these locations, that you go to visit in person and stay a season or two. There is no rush. You need to know if you like your neighbors, the community itself, and if it is close by the things that are important to you such as grocery stores, movie houses, an airport or anything else that might be on your list. If you can, purchase from a previous owner and you will save some money. The best time to look for houses for sale is just before the annual lifestyle fees or rent is due. For many personal reasons (illness, a death in the family, becoming elderly, not being able to afford two homes anymore, etc.) people might choose to not renew their lease and their home goes up for sale.

Another important decision to make is whether or not you want to own the property on which the home sits or if you will be comfortable owning the home and leasing the property. The difference in these two options are thousands and thousands of dollars – not just at the time of purchase, but also in the cost of annual home insurance. Find out what your maintenance responsibilities are. If you own the land, chances are that the maintenance requirements are higher. If you lease the land, often the community has a budget which pays for tree trimming, watering and so on.

Take your time. It’s exciting to be looking for a community where you might fit in and have a good time for years to come.

Good luck. I hope you find this information to be useful to you.

All the best,


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Retirement; Like your parents, but way cooler!



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Why California Is the Perfect Place for Senior Citizens

By Jane Brown

To adults and millennials, California’s high cost of living makes it less than an ideal place to reside. But for senior citizens, luckily, it’s an attractive place to retire and reside in. According to the California Department of Aging, the population of the elderly is expected to grow at twice the speed as total population, which means the western US state will be taking measures to accommodate the needs of the elderly.

The aging population is bringing about a wave of lifestyle changes and shifts in nationwide prices such as real estate costs. Here’s how California is accommodating the needs of senior citizens:

Legal assistance: Individuals 60 and above may be eligible for free legal assistance. With qualified social needs, applicants can receive this valuable service as a partnership between the California State Bar, Area Agency on Aging, and attorneys. Seniors can attend legal education seminars and disabled individuals confined to their residencies can receive low-cost or free in-home consultations. Issues such as consumer fraud, debt, and terminations (illegal) can be addressed.

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Nutrition program: Elderly nutrition program in the state can help seniors live an independent life by providing high quality food and nutrition. Programs can be geared towards reducing isolation with supportive services; coordinated programs can include lunch and dinner at senior centers, but can also be delivered to homes. Home-delivered food, hot meals and groceries may be provided to individuals 60 year or older suffering disabilities.

Healthcare assistance: Initiatives like PACE are providing services to seniors who would otherwise live in nursing facilities. Such healthcare models are helping seniors to remain in their homes and independent in the community as long as possible. Then there are also Medi-Cal and Medicare programs that help provide medical benefits to low-income seniors (65 or above) with certain disabilities.

Supplemental Security Income: This is provided to elderly with low income and disabilities. Single seniors may quality for $850-$900 per month, while couples may quality for $1400-$1500 per month. Single seniors can’t have more than $2000 and couples can’t have more than $3000 in countable assets to be eligible for the program. Seniors with countable assets of more than these figures can qualify for Social Security Retirement benefits.

What can seniors do outside government provided programs?

Seniors can also take measures to live a happy, healthy life in California outside of the government provided benefits. This also helps them avoid a long list of paperwork and queues. Elderly patients can save on medical costs by self-treating health issues that may arise. For example, they can:

  • Use homeopathic solutions: Elderly patients can utilize hemorrhoids treatment products and natural solutions for similar problems to reduce pain and swelling in affected areas. Topical solutions can be used directly on affected areas and their homeopathic composition makes sure there are no side effects suffered.
  • Adopt healthy behaviors: Conditions like arthritis can be self-treated to ease the burden on the joints. This can be done by strengthening muscles around the joints so that less pressure is placed on the affected area.
  • Modify diet: Avoid inflammatory foods as they have a negative effect on wellbeing while increasing the intake of green leafy vegetables and fruits. Supplements such as omega 3 fish oil can also help prevent several health issues.

By combining government available benefits with their own measures, seniors can live a healthy life in the state of California.

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Opt for Better Quality of Water in Your Daily Life

Whether it’s for drinking and cooking purposes, or for showering and laundry, the quality of water in your home is important.

If you or your family members are complaining of dry skin, or if your clothes and towels look grey and stiff, then you may want to look into the benefits that a water softener might bring.

Water Heater Indianapolis offers dozens of water softener brands that they service and repair. They all use the super efficient Clack Digital Smart System control valve that works based on water used.

Maybe what you are most concerned about is the quality of drinking water that your home provides and would like to try out a reverse osmosis drinking water system.

If you would like dirt, sand, silt, unpleasant odors, chlorine, chemicals, metals, pharmaceuticals, and many other impurities to be taken out of your drinking water, then this is the system for you. You might even check into the ultraviolet water sterilizer which removes bacteria and viruses up to 99.99%. It is a safe and eco-friendly solution to cleaning up well water or city water for drinking.

Some homes have a problem with too much iron or manganese in their water. In this case, you may be looking at purchasing an iron water filter system. This will remove iron/rust, reddish-colored water, iron staining on toilets, sinks, and bathtubs and you won’t have to worry about the rotten egg smell that accompanies heavy iron in water. If you have a problem with slimy black staining, this filter will also remove the manganese which causes it.

All in all, it may be time for you to upgrade your water system and if you do so, you will enjoy the difference it makes in the quality of your daily life.

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7 Advantages of Buying Property on a Cash Basis while Saving a Lot of Money, and 5 Ways to Raise the Cash

By Charlie Brown

Let’s say you want to purchase a property in Stowe, Vermont because you have heard such great things about the place. You think that the weather suits you perfectly, the town is just as quiet as you like and there are enough activities to occupy you for a life time. What would your next move be before you own the property?

One thing you would probably do is to go to Stowe and start looking for ‘Stowe condos for sale’ signs so that you can arrange for a mortgage. If you do this, you wouldn’t be unlike the many people who buy houses or properties in this way. However, with a little more consideration and patience you will be able to own the property and save a lot of cash at the same time. You can do so by buying the property in cash.

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Advantages of buying property in cash

In today’s real estate market, buying a property on a cash basis has very many advantages. Apart from the obvious advantage where the buyer stands to save a lot of money from a cash purchase as opposed to buying the property on credit or through a mortgage, you can also realize the following advantages through a cash purchase:

1) Property sellers often favor buyers who buy in cash,

2) Cash buyers immediately get full equity on the property,

3) The buyer attains stress free property ownership because there are no worries about losing the property during hard economic times.

4) It’s easier to negotiate for a lower purchase price on the property simply because you are paying a full amount up front.

5) A cash basis transaction reduces paper work, closing costs, bank appraisals, title insurance, mortgage applications and fees, as well as the processing time before the buyer fully owns the property.

6) Cash purchases reduce the risk of losing a property to another buyer let alone the chances of otherwise having a loan rejected.

7) It can be emotionally uplifting for the buyer to know that he or she has no major financial obligations with regards to his or her home.

Ways to afford property purchase in cash

At this point, you are probably thinking that you like the advantages of a cash purchase but you may still be worried if you can afford the property. If this is the case, here are a few suggestions on how you can afford to pay for the property you want on a cash basis.

1) If you get a bonus at work or an inheritance or you suddenly come across an unexpected windfall, set it aside for this purpose.

2) Start setting aside whatever little cash you have for the sole purpose of buying the house in cash

3) Lock the money that you save in a long term fixed deposit account, so that you can earn interest from the savings.

4) Have the discipline to tell others that you have the sole goal of saving to own property of your own. This will help you avoid wasting money.

5) Once you have saved as much as you want, don’t be tempted to buy a property that costs more than you have by taking a loan.


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How to Retire/Live/Travel with Only Social Security


Your story is very inspirational.

My husband and I have traveled to many parts of the world.  I am 62 and he just turned 65.  We are real estate brokers but lost all of our assets in the real estate crash.  From reading your stories it seems like you have always had some good assets to fall back on if necessary.  Have you addressed situations like ours in any of your books, i.e., how to retire/live/travel, etc. with only social security and say $50,000 in savings?



All of our books lead to adventure. Don’t miss out on yours!

Hi N.,

Thank you for taking the time to write, we appreciate it.

Sorry to learn of your misfortune, but don’t give up hope for a satisfying retirement. We know many people who live only on their Social Security. You could do well living in Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand, Ecuador, or the Dominican Republic, for starters.

It might require some mental or emotional flexibility on your part to adjust to cultural differences, but if you have already traveled to other countries, then you are probably familiar with what cultural challenges you might face.

I would recommend a couple of things from our website. Take a look at our video, Adventures in Financial Independence. We share some personal financial information and it might be useful to you in terms of modeling your retirement.

You might also be interested in our book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Destination Choices.  In this book we compare these destinations and it could give you some insight into these locations for retirement.

Our book, Your Retirement Dream IS Possible gives an interactive spending spreadsheet which we utilize ourselves to track and monitor spending on a daily basis. If you are watching your money, this spreadsheet is invaluable.

Our Retirement Relocation Page might be useful to you also. You will find lots of links to Expat forums there along with cost of living sites.

Another page that might be helpful is our Retirement Jobs Page. If becoming a digital nomad or making money online for extra income appeals to you, you could be a tutor, for instance.

Take heart, and we wish you the best. Please feel free to write to us any time with your questions.




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