Novi Sad is a friendly city strategically placed on the mighty Danube. It has a long history, with records showing that people have inhabited this spot for 7000 years. Today, the city is Serbia’s second largest, with a population tallying a little under 300,000 people. It’s quite pleasant to explore, with dedicated car-free pedestrian zones and many separated bike lanes. It’s also one of the current European Capitals of Culture, so naturally Katie and I had to see what that was all about.
We just finished a great 3 month stay in Budapest. The city is quite charming and has many of the things we look for in a place to live. There is lots of green space, plenty of museums, interesting architecture, and street art galore. Even the day-to-day living costs were much lower than we expected. Budapest is an easy city to fall in love with.
2021 was our second full year as retired nomads, and much like the previous one, COVID made things challenging. Our travels took us to just two countries. We lived for months next to a Vietnamese beach that we weren’t allowed to visit. In the US, we crashed in spare bedrooms and slept outside in a tent for 30 days. Many of our plans revolved around avoiding people, receiving three doses of the new vaccine, and staying healthy. All were successful in that regard. We also managed to spend very little money again, albeit not without the generosity of our family and friends.
Katie and I just finished a refreshing two and a half week camping trip. We spent our time in what’s colloquially known to Midwesterners as Up North. In this case, I’m referring to Northern Wisconsin and Northern Michigan. We did a lot of hiking and bird watching while enjoying the fresh air and plentiful stars. And since we made it before the snow started falling, we could do so in a tent.
Anywhere you go in the world, ways of life are unique. Sometimes the variance is large while other times it’s only minor lifestyle differences. The act of travel reveals that there’s always something noticeable. That’s one of the fun parts of it. Katie and I just returned from spending two years in SE Asia and during that time many of the differences in lifestyle became normalized to us. After being back in the States for a few weeks, I distinctly notice a number of the things that you probably take for granted. It’s the benefit of having a fresh basis of comparison.
Danang represents all of the good things about living abroad. It’s a modern city showcasing a beautiful, clean beach with soft sand that stretches for miles and miles. The city is big enough that it’s easy to find most modern amenities, but small enough that there’s no overwhelming traffic issues. It’s also walkable with low pollution by SE Asian standards. This package comes with a surprisingly low price tag too. Overall, Danang is quite pleasant and I hope to never return.
We are still here in Danang as we have been for 14 months now. Okay that’s not really an update, but some things have happened since my last post. We made it through the winter rainstorms and higher air pollution, so it’s been much more pleasant to live here since the end of January. We moved apartments for the fourth time. COVID showed up again after many months of no community spread. And we booked flights to leave.
2020 was our first full year in retirement and everything went mostly according to plan. Ho hum, just another year in the books. I’m kidding, obviously. Instead, our resolve was tested, both mentally and financially. We learned way more than we ever wanted to know about coronaviruses and how they spread. And we received a stark reminder of all of the things that we normally take for granted, like freedom of movement.
A few months ago I learned about an interesting visa option. Taiwan offers a specialized resident visa (like a US Green Card) called the Gold Card. The resident designation for this visa is an important distinction. While almost no country is accepting tourists at the moment, most all of them accept their residents. This includes Taiwan. My initial research showed that both Katie and I should meet the qualifications. The visa is a long term one, valid for up to 3 years. That means that we could stop doing the monthly “visa dance” here in Vietnam while getting to travel to a new country. Even the application price was very reasonable at ~$300 each. It almost seemed too good to be true.
Over the last 18 months we have learned a number of delicious lessons about how to cook in a small Asian kitchen. We both enjoy cooking, but it can be challenging to make full meals from limited appliances and space. When we first arrived in Bangkok way back in June 2019, we wanted to take advantage of the abundant cheap produce that was available. More recently, we’ve been forced to cook during COVID quarantine restrictions that not only kept us home, but closed all restaurants too. Luckily, we had perfected our techniques by then, so we still ate well. Here’s what we’ve learned over the last 18 months.