Nomad Life Nov & Dec 2023 & CDMX Expenses

Being in the Carolinas for so long, it was lovely to revisit and visit new places. Back in the van, on our way through South Carolina on our way to Hendersonville, we discovered this beautiful lake at the Blue Wall Preserve not far from Landrum, SC.

November started out special. Greg’s mom, Dossie, had mentioned visiting Brevard College where she and Perry first met. So on the first of November, we all hopped into the car, including Dossie’s miniature longhaired dachshund, Penny, and drove a few towns over to pick up Aunt Sheila. Memories started flying as we passed the house where Dossie and Aunt Sheila grew up. The next two-and-a-half hour’s drive to Brevard was filled with non-stop reminiscing.

We had no plan at the college when we arrived. We just rode around the campus looking at the places that Dossie remembered. Then we came upon a sign that pointed to the Alumni House. We stopped in and were greeted warmly by a few younger alumni. They were delighted to meet Dossie. We were shown to a room with a nice couch, where we sat and turned the pages of two yearbooks from the years Dossie attended. “I remember her, and him, and her…” Dossie said as she pointed at the pictures. She told a few stories about the teachers and her classmates. We found Perry’s picture from the year that they overlapped and heard the story of how they met.

After our visit to the College, we stopped for lunch and then headed back home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. The fall leaves of western North Carolina had recently peaked but the mountains were beautiful and there were still a few colors left.

Dossie had only spent one night alone at the house since Perry’s passing. Greg had been there full-time since the day in August when his dad went to the hospital, only leaving when his brother, Ken, periodically came to relieve him for a week at a time. Ken and his wife, Shirley, were planning to move to be close to Dossie but needed time to find a job nearby and to wrap things up with his current job where he was currently living in Louisiana. We told him that we would stay until he got things settled. Now, two and 1/2 months later we felt Dossie didn’t need us every day and would be fine on her own for a long weekend. And I’m pretty sure after 2 1/2 months of having people constantly in her house, she felt this way too. Luckily, we had a great excuse to get away for a few days – it was the first weekend in November. And that meant it was Chomp and Stomp time!

Comp and Stomp is the yearly chili and music festival held in our beloved neighborhood, Cabbagetown in Atlanta. This was only the second time in the last 12 years since we went nomad that we had been close enough to attend. There was a Dia de los Muertos the day after Chomp in the historic Oakland Cemetery which is adjacent to Cabbagetown’s western border. So we had two fun reasons to go.

This year at Chomp besides the standard, beer, chili, music, and good friends, there was an extra special event during the festival, a second-line parade for a beloved neighborhood cat, Dexter. Dreamed up at the last minute, Dexter’s former caretaker, Tad, was about to leave town for the weekend when someone informed him of the parade. Tad changed his plans and began working on a Dexter cat costume to march through the streets.

After the festivals, back at Dossie’s house, we continued dealing with things related to Perry’s death and daily little things to make Dossie’s life easier. We planned another excursion with Dossie. This time to Greenville, SC to visit with Greg’s son, James, and daughter-in-law, Taylor, and to eat at the restaurant that James managed.

But before this next outing, Everything changed. I snapped. And I raised my voice. I won’t justify this behavior. But I do think I should (vaguely) explain. It was about a safety issue. One that had been keeping both Greg and me awake at night. One that I had been searching for solutions to. And then one day it came to a head. Frustration. A difference of opinion. The need for independence and autonomy.

I’m so sorry for yelling at Greg’s mom. I eventually removed myself from the situation and took a walk. As Greg continued trying to express our concerns, I had lots of time to think. I wandered out of the neighborhood into a field in the dark and sat on top of a raised manhole cover where a new housing development was going in. I decided to call a friend. After our chat, I retraced my steps back into the subdivision and continued with my thinking.

Perhaps we had been in Dossie’s house for too long. We knew she wanted independence and we had planned to do more get-a-way, house sitting nearby, but it seemed like there was something every single day we needed to take care of at the house.

This whole situation was hard for me – as the daughter-in-law. Family relations aren’t a strong point for me. I had aspired to find a man with no parents and no children. I completely failed. Nevertheless, I care about Greg’s family and I love to help. And although sometimes things were frustrating, it was nice being at Greg’s mom’s house, problem-solving all the little twists and turns that popped up every day. We all had dinners together and I felt like I was getting to know Dossie better than I ever had. But in the end, I ultimately felt like an outsider, not knowing if my help was helping at all. Not feeling like anything was ultimately my place.

While I walked, I reminded myself that Greg’s mom is not my parent. I realized we needed to stop thinking about her house as a place where we were at home and could do as we pleased. I decided it was time to leave and take all our stuff, including those things we had stored in the attic. We wanted to be there for Greg’s mom, not because we needed anything from her, but because we wanted to help. We wanted to draw a clear line. We had been living home-free for 12 years and needed to be more independent. And Greg’s mom needed to be independent too. She needed the chance to figure out some things on her own.

Eventually, I got a call and was asked to return to the house. I said, “Sure, as soon as I finish my 10,000 steps.” Once back, I apologized for the yelling.

We went on our excursion to Greenville the next day. Once again we gathered up Penny and Aunr Sheila and hit the road. The tension was thick. Even Penny seemed to know it. But when asked about it later, Dossie said she was perfectly happy all day. I do know that she thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Taylor and James. They are a sweet couple. And the food at the restaurant was such a treat.

The day after our Greenville trip we moved out. We packed the van and cleared our stuff out of the attic. We rented a storage locker in Greenville, drove down there, loaded it up, and then spent a night with our friends David and Michelle. It was an emotional day. I had many conversations with Dossie that morning. I wish it had all gone down differently. But sometimes abrupt change is the best. And now everything seems better. Greg’s mom seems happier. And Greg and I feel more appreciated.

After moving out of Dossie’s house, we were back to living in the van. It was mid-November and it was starting to get cold so we brought a little space heater with us. We used our Boondocker’s Welcome subscription to find people’s driveways where we could park for the night and plug in the heater. We chose locations close to Greg’s mom’s house so we could visit her during the day and help with all the little and big things that still needed to be done. We did a house sit in Hendersonville, NC over Thanksgiving while Ken and his wife, Shirley, visited.

During the house sit we met up with our friends, Dan and Lisa, and their dog, Doc, who live about 30 minutes away from Hendersonville. We hiked in DuPont State Recreational Forest and then had a few beers at the Oskar Blues Brewery Taproom. After the house sit we stopped by Brevard for a visit with one of Greg’s cousins who hadn’t seen for way too long and then swung down to Greenville to hang out with James and Taylor for a night.

At the beginning of December, we spent one night at Dossie’s house before driving her and Penny to South Port, North Carolina. There we attended the funeral of Dossie’s older sister.

After our return from the funeral, we headed to Cabbagetown again.

This time we were house sitting for Annabelle, our friend Karen’s cat. Since it was December there were lots of parties to go to. We also finally got to visit the High Museum of Art. We had been talking about doing this with our friends Anne and Paul since way back in June before our lives took a completely different turn.

After our two weeks of house-sitting in Atlanta, we swung down to the exurb of Peachtree City, to see my old college friend, Natalie, and her husband, Andy. Then we headed back to Greg’s mom’s house for one night. Ken arrived that evening for the Christmas holidays. We left the next morning for the airport to fly to Mexico City.

Months earlier, before we moved out of the house, we had been trying to figure out what to do when Ken and his family came for Christmas.  We could do a house sit, but I wanted to do something that felt not only like a vacation but like getting a bit of our life back. We decided to fly to Mexico City.

We had been to Mexico City 5 years earlier when we were traveling in our van. This time we wouldn’t have the van to consider and we could get an Airbnb anywhere. We decided to splurge a little and found a couple of places to stay near the big park, Bosque de Chaplatec. This also became a great trial run for living out of backpacks – which we will be doing when we eventually get to South America. We had an amazing time until we got sick. We hardly left our Airbnb the second week of our stay.

Mexico City Expenses

And the total of our expenses for our 2-week trip to Mexico City was…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses Mexico City 2023
Traveling Life
Accommodations $963.59
Transportation $1,446.24
Parking $170.97
Laundry $0.00
Traveling Life Total $2,580.80
Food $147.58
Booze $137.95
Cleaning/Paper Products $0.00
Medicine Cabinet $64.09
Consumables Total $349.62
Drinks/Eating Out $167.56
Museums/Attractions/Music $11.12
Entertainment Total $178.68
Clothes $0.00
Gifts/Charity $10.15
Gear $0.00
Personal Total $10.15

Mexico City was a splurge for us. I decided I wasn’t going to worry about how much we spent. This was made easier partly because we came into some unexpected money right before we left and partly because many things are cheap in Mexico – except obviously getting there.

Airfare was $1360.51. We chose a direct flight. It was the holidays and the plane was packed.  We also paid $61.20 for checking one bag going there and back. We stuffed this bag with anything that wouldn’t be allowed in a carry-on. On the way there: nail clippers, full bottles of shampoo, and contact solution. And in addition on the way back: Mezcal.

But once we were in the city, transportation costs were reduced dramatically. In total, we spent $14.83 for buses, a tram, and the subway. We ended up leaving a subway pass with credits on it because we were too sick to go anywhere our second week. On our last day, we spent $9.70 for a Didi ride (like Uber) to the airport.

I spurged a bit on accommodations. I probably could have found cheaper Airbnbs (and more expensive) but we wanted to be near the big park, Bosque de Chapultepec. We stayed in two different apartments, averaging about $69 a night. The apartments were nice and in great neighborhoods, a little off the beaten path.

The parking expense of $170.97 was for leaving Ballena Blanca (our van) in an Econo Lodge parking lot for the two weeks we were gone.

When we arrived I searched Google Maps for vegan and vegetarian restaurants. They were everywhere! I was determined to eat as many different restaurants in as many different neighborhoods as we could. We usually ate one meal out a day every day. Drinks and eating out totaled $167.56. Not bad, I think, compared to the $100 plus we have been spending lately here in the US to go out and have a pizza and beer. We ate breakfast and usually a small dinner (after stuffing ourselves at lunch) in our Airbnb. We spent $147.58 on groceries. After we got sick, we ate all our meals in our Airbnb.

A new friend had admired the painted turtle we bought in Oaxaca and now travels with us in the van. Our turtle is a wooden painted Oaxacan fantasy animal called an alebrije. Our new friend asked us to buy her one the next time we visited Mexico. I searched (virtually) all over Mexico City for a place to buy them. Eventually, I located a mercado on Google Maps specializing in Oaxacan crafts. We found tons of alebrijes but fell in love with this mercat and flying cat.

We spent $137.95 on booze. This included 3 bottles of mezcal. Mezcal is about the same price in Mexico as in the US so no bargains there. But there is no better place to enjoy this smokey distilled beverage. Unfortunately, we didn’t even touch our last 12-pack of Tecate. We left it in the fridge at our last Airbnb. That is how sick we were.

Our Medicine Cabinet expense, $64.09, was for cough drops, 2 boxes of cold medicine, a COVID test (it was negative), and prescription medicine for me (6 months) and Greg (6 months).

We didn’t visit many of the big attractions because we had done so when we stayed in Mexico City 5 years before. We were mostly interested in off-the-beaten-track sites this time. We found lots! So our entertainment expenses were low. We spent $8.86 for the two of us to visit an archeological site. The rest of the entertainment expense was for tips for street musicians.

If we hadn’t gotten sick, our eating and drinking-out expenses probably would have been at least twice as high. Our food expenses would have been lower, our booze expenses would have been higher, and our medicine cabinet would have been lower. It is likely we would have spent more on entertainment. We had plans to revisit the Museo Nacional de Antropología and no doubt would have found more street musicians to enjoy. If we had planned ahead and if it hadn’t been a holiday we could have gotten plane tickets for at least half the price. And if we had not wanted to leave our van in Greg’s mom’s driveway and had gotten a ride to the airport we could have saved that expense too.

The Plan

For those just tuning in, the plan was to fly to South America last October and spend 6 months studying Spanish. That got upended when Greg’s father died. The plan is still on but has changed a bit since then. We decided to sell the van we had lived in for 7 years instead of storing it. We thought the best way to do this was to find a good market where adventurous people lived and where there was plenty of house sitting. We picked the Denver area. We have been house-sitting since February 28 and the van has been on the market since March 24. We have had some serious interest and have shown it 3 times, but have had no real offers yet. As soon as the van sells, we will hop on a flight to Cartegena, Colombia, and after about a week take a bus to Medellin where we will start taking Spanish lessons.

If you are anyone you know would be interested in our beloved van, Ballena Blanca, here is the listing,

Right Now

We are on a house sit in Evergreen, Colorado with a sweet Border Collie and two sweet cats. This will be the last house sit we do in Colorado. If we don’t sell Ballena Blanca by May 19 at the end of this sit we will head to the Pacific Northwest to hopefully find a better market. Until then, we are in a great location. We take a daily walk around a beautiful lake every day with the dog. The cats are constantly amusing us. We are within walking distance of a great little downtown and a short driving distance to some of Colorado’s amazing natural beauty.

There is a room in the house we are staying at with a desk. It has been conducive to me getting things done – like writing. Hopefully, I will catch up with my blog posts one day and there won’t be such large gaps between them. We are getting back into the swing of things.

Back in November at our house sit for Charlotte, enjoying our Thanksgiving of enchiladas and, obviously, a few adult beverages.

2 thoughts on “Nomad Life Nov & Dec 2023 & CDMX Expenses

  1. You two have been busy and all over the place! I’m so glad you took a little break in Mexico City. I was wondering what the parking expense was for… Yes, the accommodation and plane tickets seemed expensive, but the restaurant bills not! We miss eating out and we miss Mexican food. But, we enjoy the local wines, which are still affordable in Argentina.

    While you two are preparing to come here, we have to start getting things in order to (temporarily) leave South America. Wishing you lots of success selling the van!!

    1. The eating out was so fun in CDMX! And the food was mostly really good.

      We are showing the van today – so who knows we may be in South America soon.

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