The sun finally came out after many days of cold blustery grey skies, wind and rain. Taking photos made me feel like a tourist again! These are all from a few blocks in south Philadelphia.
Yeah, yeah, I’m bummed the trip is over but you probably don’t want to read about that any more. And hey, we made it through the first few months back. If I were a reader I’d want to know the practicalities on that, so here are some gory details.
We didn’t have a car. We biked a lot and took public transport in bad weather. The buses and subways here are pathetic compared to everywhere we traveled. Very expensive, slow, inconvenient. We rented cars for longer trips. We probably should have learned to use Uber or Lyft but we didn’t. We joined a car share but haven’t used it. We paid a friend to use his car, which he was trying to sell anyway. It is a good car for now but it only seats five and it has a lot of miles on it so we will eventually get another car. We mostly own that car now, and we have car insurance now which makes it cheaper to rent if we need to. I took a job close to home. I bike or take the subway to work.
We accepted a personal loan from a friend. We preferred not to ask family for various reasons, and this friend generously offered. The credit cards were maxed out, there was very little cash, and we never did get that bank loan we had arranged before leaving.* We drew up legal papers for our friend’s loan and we are paying interest on it. Mr. Fantastic has continued teaching online as he did since Thailand so we had that income and some rental income to help until I started getting paychecks. Eventually (6 months to a year from now) I will have enough pay stubs and we plan to get that home loan again to pay off the credit cards and avoid their high interest.
We had no health insurance for about two months. After hours on the phone, we kept hearing that we weren’t eligible for ‘Obamacare’, which I had assumed would be there for us on our return. You can only apply at the end of each calendar year for the following year, unless you experience certain specific life events which evidently do not include our situation. We submitted many forms and faxes requesting state health insurance, for which we parents were denied. The kids eventually got on that insurance November 1st, but we didn’t know that until the end of November and we didn’t use it. My job required a wait of almost two months for insurance, but I lucked out by attending an orientation day before I could start working. They counted that date as my start date and we had insurance on December 1st, about a week before I started working for real. If I hadn’t gone to that orientation day, we would have had to wait until February! And I work in the emergency room!! This is hard to take for a healthy, working family of six who just want to avoid illness-related financial disaster.
More on insurance. It’s a big thing in the US where there is no national plan other than the new (and confusing and currently threatened) Obamacare which fines individuals who do not have health insurance while providing some assistance in finding and financing it. Medical costs are extremely high and prices are unclear, complex, and frustrating. Like most people we know, we’ve always had insurance through an employer, though once between jobs we bought a short term ‘catastrophic’ plan that would save us from bankruptcy in the event of an expensive injury or illness. These are affordable but not available now for our situation from a little research I did. Buying a mainstream plan would cost us about $1200/month, which we don’t have. One thing I considered is continuing the travel health insurance. It only functions 100 miles from our home address, but it is affordable. We did go to NY and OH and maybe could have driven 100 miles if we had a problem at home. We only had one incident where we might have used health insurance- bug bites on my foot. They got larger and I couldn’t walk for a day or two. Fortunately they became smaller after that. Don’t think I missed the irony that after a year traveling with over six months in Southeast Asia and India, the worrisome insect bites we had happened in New Jersey!
School. We homeschool so some things are easier. However, we missed several autumn deadlines and start dates because we got back at the end of September. We organized some things online abroad. All the kids were able to join the homeschool theater group again as well as foreign language classes in progress. Fiercely was able to join an older teen group in progress, and we host a weekly homeschool group for the twins. Cleverly decided to apply to a music charter school for next year and has been busy with the application. We found a kids’ writing organization we like nearby and have joined some of their groups. Some days seem a little slow but overall it has been smooth with school.
*We received and deposited a large check (a loan on our house) the day we headed out on the trip. The bank called us a few days later (when we were driving across Nevada) requesting more paperwork and telling us they cancelled the check and could we come back to sign more papers. Arghhh!!! So we never got that money and we ran up several credit cards instead.