Taxi Snafu

I haven’t traveled international in over a year and I just discovered I’m a bit rusty.  As many know, my preferred travel style is what I’ve come to call unscripted travel.  That means, if it’s reasonable safe, I travel unscripted.  Unscripted Travel, is traveling with no itinerary other than an arrival and departure date. Everything else is an unknown.  Everything, no hotel plans, no defined agenda other than to have fun, explore, see, meet, see, taste, feel, connect with everyone and thing in the country at hand.

A few days ago I arrived in Lima, Peru having been well warned by numerous friends, the guide-book while on the plane, and my travel smarts from having been taxi scammed many times.  Lima is well-known for having a shady black market taxi system.  While there is a licensed official taxi system, it’s rampant with black market gamesmanship and gringo’s like me are prime targets in this shenanigans game.

I arrive late into the airport, approx. 11:30 PM.  Make my way through customs and immigration with the knowledge I need to get a licensed taxi to not get scammed.  Hmmmm walking through the airport there are large signs with massive arrows pointing towards “Official Taxi’s”   Oh great, looks like the Peruvian government has helped a gringo out.  Got my bags and follow the signs, round the corner and there are a half-dozen taxi stands inside the building, everyone’s dressed the same or at least similar uniforms, and there’s a massive ceiling sign announcing these are “official taxi’s”.  Hey, this should be easy, what’s all the fuss I’ve been reading about.  I should have known with the immediate onslaught of 3 separate taxi nazi’s jabbering at me to get in their respective side by side line that something was awry.   I work my way up to the typical car rental booth type airport counter to a guy asking me where I want to go and he tells me it’ll only be 50.  From the little pre-research I’d done I was aware a fair price to get to the area of town I wanted to spend the night would cost me 50-60 Peruvian Soles (the local currency) or the equivalent of 15-20 USD.  Wow this has moved smoothly, hand him my credit card, get a receipt and get walked out to a high-end sparkling black town car.

Hmmm, this is not what I’m used to when entering another country.  Hell, taxi’s in the US aren’t even this nice.  Whip out my receipt and umm, nope I wasn’t being charged Soles, it was Dollars. Two and a half times what the going rate should have been to this area of town.

In hindsight, while I didn’t get directly scammed/cheated by the taxi stand. The airport signs certainly led to the misunderstanding.  I’m guessing each line and taxi nazi heckling me to get in their line was an official licensed vendor and legit contractor.  Merely each line was for a different class of service.  Glad I didn’t get in the Limo line.  But they all looked the same, and dumb me, randomly picked the line strategically placed right in front.   So, I sat looking at my receipt, grinning at the fact this is the stuff about travel I hate to actually like.   But hey, I received a first class ride into town where I stayed at a $10/night hostel.  And the adventures begin!

Posted in Peru, South America, Travel | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Travel Blogger – My New Career Endeavor

Hello faithful readers, it’s been almost a year since I posted about my goals.  As a reminder, my goal before I die is to visit all 324 countries and territories of the world as defined by the Travelers Century Club, while using my personal story with heart disease to inspire others to accomplish their dreams as well.

I decided to end a 20 year career which I’m not only successful at, I love too.  It was a tough decision and no matter what unfolds on this journey, I know it’s the correct decision for my life.  This is a quest, a journey, and through the marvels of modern technology, I will be sharing it with others while on the road.  I’m not afraid to die, I’m afraid to not live my life with the time I have. We should all live our lives like it’s our last day here.  Yet me, and everyone I know gets caught up in all the noise not usually chasing that what they really desire.  For me, the noise was a good career, income, and a good quality of life by even American standards.   I’ve always been a money motivated person and heart disease has taught me, I no longer give a shit about money.   Albeit, I’ll still need money though to accomplish my quest.

This past year has flown by and I’ve been able to accomplish the major milestone of paying off my mortgage.  I’ve also been working towards closing out my recruiting practice.  I never imagined how difficult it would be to close a company.  I’ve had to work harder doing that than anything else I can recall.  I am not officially done and am still working toward finishing up business, which I don’t believe will be completed until the end of the year.  I am on my first trip writing this from a bus in southern Peru, and find myself on a “working” trip.  Ie working to close out a 20 year career.

While I’m fortunate to have reasonable retirement investments and savings from a career I love, I know I don’t have enough saved to accomplish my goal, even while traveling on a backpacker budget.  Therefore, I am making either the smartest or stupidest business decision of my life in the pursuit of achieving my dream.

I’m now becoming/remaking myself into a travel blogger an I am funding it with retirement savings until I can figure out how to build this blog into an income of some sort.  I will be taking several trips each year varying in lengthy based on logistics, price, etc.  Basically I want to spend 4-8 weeks traveling to new countries followed by 4-8 week home intervals.  I’ve been following several travel bloggers which have successfully developed a living form writing while they travel.  My goal is 1,000,000 million followers in the next 5 years.   I’m not sure how I’ll monetize a business from blogging while traveling, I merely know I have to develop a following and I’ll figure it out as I go and be sharing the journey with the world as I do.  If I don’t and also outlive my heart disease, I’ll have traveled like a pauper and end up a broke old guy with heart disease.  Not the ending I’m after.    I’m shooting for living healthily till 90, traveling to every country, and eventually doing it in luxury, with the girl of my dreams by my side.

To accomplish my dreams, I can’t do it alone. For someone who loathes asking others for help, I’m humbling myself and know I need everyone’s help.  Here’s the beginning of how you can aid me.  If you have enjoyed reading my earlier travel stories, then I’m asking for your proactive support.  I am going to continue writing from the heart.  Exuding through the keyboard my experiences good or bad which happen while vagabonding around the globe.   Here’s your part.

This is what you can do to help.  I won’t be able to do it without you.

  • Sign up for my email list
  • Follow Me on Facebook-If you don’t personally know me, please don’t add me as a friend, simply follow my post please.
  • Like Finding Flattop on Facebook.
  • Get others to follow as well and continue the trend.
  • Share the stories you like with others
  • Start taking proactive action towards whatever dream you have.

Thank you for following and reading along.  It’s an honor, a privilege, to have you cheering me on.

Posted in Travel | 7 Comments

1 Year Anniversary

One year ago today I underwent an extremely invasive surgery to extend my life beyond what nature would have naturally allowed.  I’m grateful to be alive and thankful for modern medicine.  Only a generation ago and for thousands of years before, others like me didn’t have the option of receiving a quadruple bypass to stay alive.  While the recovery and year have been rough I am humbled and grateful to everyone whom assisted and visited during this time.  Words cannot express my gratitude to all my friends.  Thank You!

While the surgery saved my life, I landed in the unfortunate crowd of approximately 5% of open heart patients which end up with chronic nueropathic pain.  A year later my entire chest still hurts 24/7.  I’ve underwent 4 nerve blocks which dramatically reduced the nerve pain and I’m on 200 mg of Lyrica, a nerve pain medication, a day.  The combination has reduced the pain to a manageable 2-3 pain level where I’m not limited functionally and have been able to have a good quality of life.  I’m very active and activity seems to be the only time when I don’t notice the constant aching.  It’s expected that the nerve pain could last up to another 2 years but that it will eventually dissipate.

In addition to Lyrica, I’m on a heavy daily regimen of other drugs.  14 pills a day and a $1,000/mo pill bill.  8 of those pills, a combination of 3 separate drugs, are specifically targeted at reducing my extremely high cholesterol caused by an inherited genetic mutation which doesn’t allow my body to dispose of cholesterol.  A typical cholesterol test for me is 300-500 range.  I’m happy to announce in my last test, taken yesterday, I reached a lifetime low of 164.  The first time it’s been under 200 my entire life.  Yeah!!!!!

I had a nuclear stress test this past summer and cardiac wise I’ve been cleared with no cardiac issues.  However, the energy boost I’ve been told which should have materialized, hasn’t arrived.  I’m thinking it’s all the drugs I’m on.

I’ve had several long conversations with my cardiologist and doctor about longevity.  The average person with my genetic condition only makes it an additional 10 years.  Due to my age, weight, diet, and physical condition he’s confident I’ll get 15 years.  Meaning 14 more from today.  There is a small percentage of folks, 3-5%, with my genetic condition which will make it 20-30 years.  Due to my bypass having been performed with all arteries and no veins, there’s hope I’ll be in the latter group.  While any of us could die today, the mere fact of having a high probability of a timeline put to my life has brought about a lot of soul-searching in what I want out of life.  I’m not afraid to die, but I am afraid to not live my life.  I want to live my life to the fullest and squeeze everything out of it I can while I have the chance.  That’s something everyone should be doing but absent the timeline one gets caught up in the day-to-day making a living, getting ahead wheel most of us call life.

This soul-searching has brought me to the conclusion that I’m going to go for my dream and goal I set back in 2009. That’s to visit/experience all 324 countries (As defined by TCC) in the world while inspiring others to reach for their dreams as well.  What’s held me back?  Why didn’t I go for it before?  Simple, I love my career and by most people’s standards, even in America, I make a lot of money and I wasn’t willing to give that security up for the harebrained idea of going broke nomading around the world, an even greater passion of mine than a career I love.  With the timeline, I simply don’t care anymore.  Why keep working, saving, and living way below my means so that I can retire comfortably in another 10-15 years?  I’d still be considered a young retiree and a success in any land.  Oh, but now there’s a chance I’d get there and leave behind a large sum to what?  A friends cat?  I’d rather burn what I’ve saved in the past 30 years (I started saving for retirement at 14) chasing my dream and risk going broke in the process than continue working and knowing that I’d be able to achieve what most would consider a success; retiring in my mid 50’s.

Let’s make one thing clear.  I don’t have enough saved up to travel and make it through my life expectancy yet alone if I exceed it.  I’m not rich, but I am fortunate to have more saved at my age than the vast majority of humans.  Note, it’s going to take 15-20 years to achieve my goal, so I need to figure out a way to create an income while traveling to afford the travel and my healthcare.  I’m willing to vagabond it and travel on an extreme budget to extend my funds, but I hope I won’t always have to travel that way.   I have no guaranteed plan on how to achieve this.  So, on the surface, it’s business lunacy.

I have some generalized plans which are still in development which I will be sharing about more at another time.  I will be needing all of your help, at some point.   In the meantime, I am staying in my current career until I get my house paid off, which I am nearing and should accomplish within the next year.  At least then if I go broke, I’ll have a place to live or an asset I could use in other ways.   Sometime in 2015 I will be traveling and blogging again.

Hopefully throughout all this, I’ll attract the girl of my dreams, which either A. I figure out a way to make enough on the road that she joins me on this quest.  B. She accepts that I’ll be gone a month at a time between visits at home.  or C.  She’s filthy rich and can afford my travel habit.

Your turn.  What are your dreams, goals, and passions of life?  What do you want to do with your life?  Are you pursuing it or putting it off for various reasons as I did?  Let me know, I am genuinely interested.

Posted in Health | 4 Comments

Continued Nerve Pain

Last week I had a second nerve block completed.  I had the first one a couple weeks earlier.   The first one was a test using a steroid which would last a few hours, I was under the impression the second one they would be burning the nerves.  Turns out I misunderstood.  The doc claims due to insurance they have to perform two test nerve blocks before my health insurance will approve the procedure to burn through the nerves.

Test one worked well for half my chest.  Test two they expanded the number of nerves they numbed and I walked out of the surgery center with roughly 90% less pain than I’ve lived with.  Sadly it only lasted 1-2 hours.  But it shows promise that if they sever the same nerves I should be able to receive the same level of pain relief for quite some time.  Thus next Tuesday 4/8/14  I’ll be back under for Nerve Block #3.  This time they will be burning the nerves as they leave my spinal column.  However they are only doing one side, my right, during this treatment.  Confusing to me why only half is being done.  The claim is 1. the procedure to burn is more invasive, and 2. My health insurance will only pay for one side at a time.  (I’m wondering if the insurance explanation is true or simply an excuse for multiple procedures for the doc to bill more and make more stretching things out, anyone have insight?)  If all goes well, by Tue afternoon I’ll be lopsided with my right feeling swelling and my left still aching like crazy.  The 4th block will be done a couple of weeks later if #3 goes to plan.

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

Nerve Blocks

It’s been four and a half months since my chest was cut open and the doc re-arranged my insides.  I wish I could say it’s been a breeze, however the past few months have been quite grueling.  A couple of weeks ago I finished cardiac rehab.  Yeah…I’ve graduated!

Cardiac CertificateI have now been cleared/pulled from restriction.  As a reminder, cardiac rehab consisted of working out for an hour or more at a normal looking gym.  The only difference, everyone’s a heart patient and we’re all on heart monitors.  I’m happy to report I had no cardiac issues throughout the 36 sessions.

I am now very active and doing/going out fairly often.  However, I’m plagued by constant residual chest nerve pain.  It hurts to touch my chest, sometimes even a shirt.  I told the doc when I can hug someone or wear my seatbelt without a grimace I’ll know I’m fine.  Activity amazingly is a distraction most of the time.  Although some upper body strength test feel like the meat is being ripped off my bones. (makes me never want to eat spare ribs again) I’ve been on numerous pain drugs trying to mitigate the near constant agony, Oxycodone, Oxytocin, Gabapentin, Cymbalta, & Lyrica. (not all at the same time)  So far, Oxy is the only thing which seems to work, and my tolerance has increased to such a state that taking it without an alcoholic drink to give it a kick, doesn’t phase it a bit.  Everyone seems paranoid I’ll end up an addict.  I’m surprised the doc even gives it to me anymore, but thank God he does.  I’ve pondered alternative solutions.  Medical Marijuana by chance?  Heck on a bad day a bullet sounds fond.

If you’ve never  been in months long constant pain, I don’t know how to describe the mental toll it takes on oneself.  Depression has stalked me like an evil soul.  Some day’s are good and other not so.  Again, going out and staying active connected with the many friends I’m blessed to have has kept me sane.

The docs have informed me while some folks are fine within a few months of such a procedure, others, like me, for unknown reasons end up with nerve damage that causes pain for up to 1-3 years.  Every day I wish I could punch my surgeon in the face for telling me I’d be on nothing but Tylenol within 30 days.

So, I’ve considered using the Scenar I’ve blogged about before, but have shied away simply because it hurts to touch my chest yet alone put an electrical charge on it as well.  I started seeing a pain management specialist a few weeks ago and last week they performed a nerve block test.   In outpatient surgery under general anesthesia they injected a pain drug directly on a dozen nerve endings coming out of my spinal cord which wrap around into my ribcage.  The test was only partially successful.  The most intense pain area which is below my nipple line disappeared.  However from the nipple up there wasn’t a change.  I’m scheduled for next Tuesday the 25th to undergo a more extensive procedure.  This time they’ll be burning the nerves as they leave my spinal column.  The hope is, that it’ll sever the pathway to the brain and therefore not feel anymore pain for up to a year at which time hopefully the damaged nerves in my chest will have re-healed as well.  Cross your fingers or say a prayer, I’m sooooo anxious to spend a day in bliss.

Posted in Health | 9 Comments