So I've been playing with my new toys lately. The other night while I was seeing how well the overdubbing worked on the Zoom H4n, Kylie was pouring us some whiskey and the audio of that bled over into the lead track I was recording. So I decided to keep it and upload it for the world wide interwebs to hear. Check it out below! And be sure to like my Sound Cloud Page at www.soundcloud.com/BobbyTaylorMusic and if you haven't already liked the Facebook Page, you probably should go do that about now; www.facebook.com/BobbyTaylorAdventures
Hello from LAS VEGAS BABY!
That's right, we made it. A whole 2,000 some odd miles away West! After this, we are going to Yosemite then San Francisco before we head North up the coast. We are about a quarter of the way through our trip and I can definitely say that I wasn't expecting how exhausting it is to drive this much, constantly figuring out where we're going to stay, what we're going to do, and otherwise just winging it as we go.
After my last update, we stopped into a BBQ Joint in Austin TX. It was amazingly good, albeit a bit pricey. So far, apps like Yelp and Google Maps have proven super useful. We wound up exploring a dried up creek bed in Austin where fire ants attacked my exposed ankle. That really sucked. I thought I walked through a prickly thorn bush or something, then looked down to see about 5 or 6 ants wiggling on me, their heads plunged into my skin. It's been nearly a week and the bites just now starting to close up and heal properly.
After Austin we continued onto Roswell NM where we wound up sleeping in the car for the first time on that leg of that trip. Roswell was pretty far away so w decided to stay at a truck stop for the night. The bed we built in the back of the Element is surprisingly comfortable but between the noises, it was a bit difficult to sleep at the truck stop. We needed to sleep there though because we drove through the night and it was crazy how many deer and animals we saw along the side of the highway. Thankfully none jumped out into the road or anything!
On the way out to Roswell, we stopped at Bottomless Lake State Park. Check out the pictures I got below and the VR Panorama on my Facebook page!
While in Roswell, we stopped into the UFO Museum and spent a good bit of time there. After that we wound up getting some tacos, resupplied our food stock then decided to continue on.
From Roswell NM we continued onto Santa Fe. While in Roswell, we discovered this really cool site, www.FreeCampSites.net which, so far, has proved to be very accurate in providing us with free camping sites. You simply log on, put in the city you’re going to, and then it will tell you areas around there that have free camping. We plan to use this for the rest of our trip. We’ve already used to two or three times and it’s saved us a lot of money. In fact, with the money we saved from not having to pay $10-40 for campsites, we bought ourselves a couple’s massage yesterday in Vegas!
Our first free campsite was Cow Creek in Pecos NM, just outside Santa Fe. Essentially, we had to drive over a mountain to the over side to find a campsite just outside a waterfall. To say it was gorgeous is an understatement. Between driving through the dirt roads at 10mph, that climbed to an elevation of around 6,000 ft, never just driving to a place to go camp in the woods without checking in anywhere or anything, we were pretty nervous. However, after finding our campsite, we felt much better. And the views just blew us away. We got a lot done there and were even able to do our laundry in the creek. The water was freezing cold and perfectly clear. We even hooked up our solar shower and wound up taking showers out there. This experience was very affirming of our choices to travel.
After Santa Fe we headed off to Albuquerque for a day trip. We stopped into Explora, which is like Discovery Zone or COSI. It was pretty fun and rather affordable; we got stuck at an exhibit that is pretty much a Zen Garden. I plan to make one once I get back home. On our way out, we got stuck in a storm and saw a double rainbow!
After Albuquerque, we were off to Vegas! But with such a long drive, we decided to use FreeCampSites.net and found a pretty epic place to camp in the Coconino National Forrest near Flagstaff AZ. Again, we slept in the back of the car in the bed we made. It’s proved super useful for camping. I think we’ll only need to bust out our tent in places where we have to hike away from the car to camp, such as in the Redwood National Forrest. The view from our campsite, again, was amazing. I really can’t explain how humbling it was to be out there. I snagged a few pictures, check them out below.
After Coconino, we started to head towards the Grand Canyon. We made a pit stop at Bearizona and at Rock Shop where they let me take a lot of pictures! At Bearizona, we got a lot of pictures of animals and ever got to catch a Birds of Prey show which was amazing. One of the birds flew so close over us it even touched Kylie's head with it's feathers when it flew by. There were bears, wolves, deer, sheep, bison, and all kinds of other animals. At the rock store, Kylie picked up some rocks and gems and from there we headed off to the Grand Canyon. I can’t even begin to explain how vast that place is… From the top of it, it looks like you’re looking at the ground, or rather the base of the canyon, but you’re not. You’re just looking at more ledges in the canyon, the real floor of the canyon is 4,000 ft below.
Rock Store pictures!
Grand Canyon pictures!
After taking a million photos and thoroughly freaking out my travel companion, we got some pizza and rode to Las Vegas. The drive through New Mexico to Arizona made me feel very small and grateful for this experience. The mountains were huge, the sun was setting, I couldn’t help but realize that in that moment, I was driving across the US with a wonderful companion by my side, heading to Sin City, after traveling 2,000 some odd miles over a week, with another three quarters of an epic adventure in front of us…
Right now, I am writing this from our Hotel Room in Las Vegas. If you’re not familiar with Kayak.com or Booking.Com, that’s what we use to get cheap rooms. As an example, we’re only 2 or 3 miles from the Las Vegas Strip in the Arts District, a block from the main strip in the Arts District, and we got our room for only $36 a night. On top of that, our hotel upgraded us to a nicer room! Which is so nice! So far, we gambled a little; we walked in with $20, spent a few hours gambling, and walked out with $11 so… While we technically lost, we got some drinks and had fun, and that’s the important part... Having fun! We gawked at how dry the air is out here, drinks don’t even get condensation on the outside of them. We also got a couples massage yesterday, and today rented a scooter and will ride around the strip, get a show tonight, and otherwise relax, recuperate, take it easy, and unwind. From here, we go to Zion National Park, then Death Valley, then Yosemite, then San Francisco before we were off to the Redwood Forrest. From the Redwood Forrest (about our halfway point) until about Denver (second to last stop of our trip) we will mostly be camping, so relaxing is important to us right now. Which also means you may not get a nice lengthy update for awhile during that time…
But keep up on the Facebook page as I’ll post when I can! Mostly Facebook is just pictures and panoramas of the views we’ve seen that I take on my phone. After this trip, I plan to write out how to planed, preped, budgeted, and otherwise how we are doing and decided to do the US in a series of blog posts. We’ve also taken well over 2,000 pictures so far, so there will be galleries, information, organization, and all kinds of things on this blog here soon.
So stay tuned and take care of yourselves!
Until next time <3
Hello dear readers!
Sorry for the delay in updates. I am currently on the road at our third destination of my first big trip! Which is a total of 17 Destinations, 20 States, 6,808 miles, a total of driving for 2 days and 13 hours, over 35 days across the entire US; from Atlanta, out West, North up the coast, then back to Atlanta! ... Then back to Ohio!
To prep for the trip we modified my Honda Element by taking out the back seats and adding a bed frame and mattress. I got this idea from looking through different blogs and threads. Since the Element doesn't have a door handle in the truck, we had to modify it so that when we sleep in the back, we can get out easily and not through the suicide doors. Below are some pictures of the car mods, I'll make a more detailed post later about how we did it all.
We left Atlanta and went south to the Providence Canyons, better known as, "Georgia's Little Grand Canyon". Unfortunately, when we got there, a server lightening storm hit so we didn't feel comfortable going down into the actual canyons themselves. Instead, we hiked the rim and got some pretty cool shots. Check em out below!
After visiting the canyons, we went to stay with a good friend in Birmingham Alabama. It was a great time where we got to try some Trim Tab brews before passing out and leaving early. But I forgot to bust out the camera and take pictures! I only got one of the sky line.
From Birmingham, we went West to New Orleans! If you've never used AirBnB before, I highly suggest it. We wound up renting a rather nice apartment that was just under a mile from the French Quarter for only $50 a night. That reservation included a full kitchen, extremely comfortable bed, fridge, full bath and shower, as well as a decently nice TV and living room. We spent a total of three days there and had a blast. On the long drive, we wound up listening to about two hours of Alan Watts lectures. We wound up getting some bike tubes because, as it turned out, the bikes we were lent had some slow leaks. Ironically, we never wound up using the bikes in New Orleans. Instead, we opt'ed to walk to prepare for the hiking we will have to do in the very near future. We explored the French Quarters and Mid City mostly. And wound up getting an amazing brunch at Katie's Restaurant! We tried everything from Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms to Hurricanes, Daiquiri's, wound up on Bourbon St and had some fun there, even trying Gator Sausage, Gator Bites, and even a Crab Cake & Shrimp Po Boy. All in all, we walked at least a total of 18 hours, about six hours a day. I can't wait to go back and visit again! Below are some pictures we snagged on the second day we were there.
Also, if you're interested in some promotions for AirBnB, please use my code to sign up and you'll get some discounts and so will we! Use promo code, "BOBBYT29" to get $30 off your first booking!
After New Orleans, we continued West!! We wound up stopping for some road side Cajun Cooking and it was delicious. We even ventured over to a small Alligator Attraction where we got to hold baby Alligators. At the time of writing this post, we are in Houston TX staying with a good friend I haven't seen in a long time. From here we go to Austin TX, Roswell NM, then the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite, San Francisco, the Redwood Forest and drive up the coast, Santa Fe, Portland, Glacier National Park, Yellow Stone, the Salt Flats, Denver, then Rocky Mountain National Park. We may even wind up stopping through Nashville and doing some other East Coast destinations such as Asheville NC and Cumberland Island if we have enough time.
Otherwise, stay tuned! I'll update soon and post more about the mods to the car, how we choose what to bring, how we figured out our budget, destinations, how we're making money while traveling, and more!
So I'm realizing aspects of this blog are going to turn into more of a, "Frequently Asked Questions" where I write a lot about the different things that come up quite regularly. Well this afternoon, I decided to write about one of the more frequent questions I get asked. And that is about health insurance and healthcare while traveling or adopting a nomadic lifestyle...
"So what are you going to do about insurance?"
Well, to be perfectly honest, for a long time I didn't have an answer to this question! It took a lot of research to determine what my options are and which ones are best for me. At the end of the day, I decided that it would be best for me to incur the annual fee for not having Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) as defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and get insurance through a broker who set me up with only exactly what I need and nothing more.
"What exactly do you need?"
Considering that I've been to a doctors office for being sick maybe three times in the last five years, I really only need emergency medical care, such as coverage for visits to the ER, a Hospital, or an Urgent Care facility. I take great care of my health and pay attention to my body, it's needs, what it responds to, what it doesn't, my emotional state, and all kinds of other things. That being said, I will eventually make some posts about positive life style choices and how to best listen to your body too! The one thing that's a bit unfortunate about having Short Term Coverage is that I will no longer have annual checkups, which are highly important for determining if you are developing a problem and catching it before it becomes a more serious problem. Keep in mind, everyone needs something different. I happen to be very lucky and fortunate that I am still relatively young and healthy. If I need to visit a doctor or get a prescription, I will just have to pay cash out of pocket.
"How did you decide the 'best route' for you?"
I decided my best route by looking at all of my different options. Which were;
Option A) Go on about traveling without insurance and just eat whatever emergency costs that may arise, after all, I haven't broken a bone or anything in years (long time thrill seeker here)
Option B) Get full coverage insurance through the Health Care Market Place under the Affordable Care Act or...
Option C) Get a healthcare plan that doesn't meet the MEC via the ACA's definitions and incur the penalty fee.
Option A - no insurance, isn't reasonable for me. For my first trip, I will be hiking a lot and I could very easily injure myself without meaning to... They're called, "accidents" for a reason. So that was off the list right off the bat.
Option B - Obtain insurance through the ACA. I decided against this because I was in a bit of a unique situation. Essentially, I found out that there is a Minimum Income Threshold of $12,500 per year that if you make that much or more, you are required to have MEC or face a fee for not having health insurance. As it turns out, this fee is $695.00 per person, per year OR 2.5% of your annual income, whichever is greater. Well my income wasn't very high, just enough to be above the Minimum Income Threshold, so in my case, the penalty fee was higher. That breaks down to about $57.92 per month per person. While I was above the threshold, my income put me in a bit of a limbo situation as I was only able to get very small premiums through the ACA to get MEC. It would have cost me around $180.00 a month to get this coverage. Granted, I would get the ability to visit doctors should I fall ill, but I'm not really concerned about that as I mentioned earlier. Also, I found out that if my income increases, as in if I get a job again this year, then I may be required to pay back some of the premium discounts as my income will be higher, so that means possibly more taxes later. So Option B seemed alright, doable if needed, but not great...
Option C - So it should go without saying that this option is going to start at a minimum of $57.92 per month for not having MEC and incurring the penalty fee. I researched and called many insurance companies. The whole process took me literally about three weeks between determining the jargon used in the Health Care Industry, checking out companies via the Better Business Beau (BBB), obtaining quotes, and more . Eventually I found a broker that was able to provide the insurance I was looking for (short term coverage) at only $62.00 a month. We spoke mostly about my concerns and developed an exact plan for exactly what I need and not a single thing more. Combined with the penalty fee I will incur (as this plan does not meet the Minimum Essential Coverage definition) this option comes out to be just shy of $120 a month. That means if I choose this option, I will save roughly $60 a month as compared to Option B; again, all while only getting exactly what I need for my concerns.
So I went with Option C as $60 a month may not sound like a lot to some people, but being a budget traveler, assuming I'm spending an average of $10 a day traveling around SE Asia, that's enough funds for two months of traveling...
"I thought if you were out of the country or traveling, you don't have to participate in the ACA?"
Like anything else in this world, it's not so black and white. There are a few things to the ACA (that are called exemptions) which can allow you to forego the penalty fee for not having MEC.
The first of which is called the Short Gap Exemption. Essentially, you have two months from the last time you had insurance to obtain insurance again. If you have insurance during any day of the month, it counts that you had insurance that month. As an example, If your insurance runs out on January 1st, you're considered to have had insurance for January, even though you may have only had MEC for one day that month. This would mean you have all of February and March to determine your best route and get insured with MEC insurance before May. The reason I say it this way is because you only need to obtain insurance for one day, any single day, in the month of April, and you won't incur any fee since you will have been considered to have MEC insurance for that month and you'll still meet the Short Gap Exemption definition. In short, you cannot go more than two consecutive months without MEC insurance without inuring the penalty fee.
*On a side note, in my research, I found that you have to apply for MEC insurance through the ACA or Health Care Market Place 15-30 days before it can be accepted and processed. So if I apply for insurance on the April 15th, it's likely that my insurance will not start until May 15th. Which can be problematic if you need your insurance to start in a week; such as in the month of April in the example. Just something to keep in mind...
The next exemption is the Expat Exemption. This is an IRS exemption that was developed to assist with Americans who make money and file taxes in the US, but are living abroad. In short, you MUST be out of the country for a total of 330 days a year. Yes, you read that right; three hundred thirty days, a year. You can only receive this exemption if you are out of the country a cumulative total of 330 days, not just consecutively. Meaning if you come back to the US for one week in January, one week in April, one week in July, and one week in October, then a week in December for the holidays, you'll still be able to claim this exemption as you will have been out of the country for all but a total of 35 days in the year. But say if your flight is delayed and you wind up staying a week and two days in December. You'll have been in the US for a total of 37 days and you would no longer be eligible for the Expat Exemption from the ACA (or the IRS for that matter).
The last exemption, is simply the Minimum Income Exemption. If you make less than $12,500 a year, you are not required to participate in the Affordable Care Act. It's that simple.
"So what does this all mean?"
This all means that if you take the time to determine your needs, research your options, you can make the best decisions you can, for you and your situations. In business school, we learned that we can make the best decisions if we have total and accurate information. While it's impossible to gather absolutely accurate and complete information, and lots of it, we can do our best. So I encourage you to take time and really explore your options in this situation and any others you may encounter.
At the end of the day, with all else equal, I will have not have to pay for any penalty fee or not having MEC insurance for May and June. I will begin receiving the penalty fee this July, along with my Short Term Coverage plan starting in July. This plan provides for my exact needs and saves me a total of roughly $360 in health insurance costs this year while giving me what I need. Option B would have cost me a total of about $1,080 for the rest of the year; while Option C will provide me exactly what I need for a total of about $720 for the rest of the year.
"What about when you're traveling out of the country?"
There's this cool stuff out there called "Travel Insurance" - definitely look into it. There's all kinds from protecting your electronics to providing reimbursement for healthcare expenses abroad. These plans do not meet the MEC for the ACA, but it's very affordable and can cover most things you'd need. So far, I have found an attractive plan that is as little as $0.30 a day (or $18 a month) to cover my bare needs while traveling overseas. (Keep in mind that's for a 27 year old healthy male with no problematic health history.) I'll still incur the penalty fee for not having MEC so my total monthly cost will be around $75.92 a month for health insurance while traveling abroad.
Summation of the points above to help you determine your best course of action...
- Minimum Income Exemption is $12,500 or less a year
- The fee for not having Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) as defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is either $695 per person per year or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater. *This is for 2016 only, as the fee will increase each year
- Short Gap Exemption states that you can go a total of two months out of the year without MEC Insurance and not have to pay the penalty fee
- Expat Exemption states that if you are out of the country for 330 days a year, you do not have to participate in the ACA; however if you are in the USA for 36 days or more, cumulatively and not just consecutively, then you do not quality for this exemption
- Using the Health Care Market Plan can take up to 30 days to accept and process your applications, keep this in mind to avoid the penalty fee if you are in a time crunch
- If your income unexpectedly increases, you may owe money back on the discounts you can elect through the Health Care Market Place
- Research all your options and gather as much information as possible to make the most educated decisions for your situations
- Travel insurance can be pretty affordable but does not meet the MEC so you will receive the penalty fee
**Remember that you cannot put a price on good health. It is often better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it. I am in no way suggesting you cut corners or do anything just to save money. Your health should be your number one priority, physical and mental. This article is intended to provide examples of my experience and show how I made the decisions in which I did. I am in no way am I providing you with advice, legal or otherwise. And please do your best to stay happy and healthy :)
Just your average, not so average, guy! Here you can follow my travels, learn to travel yourself, check out some cool photography, and otherwise follow along as I explore my interests from performance arts to traveling to philosophy and more!
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