Thursday, June 30, 2011

Do I really need that second horse?

I have decided to give Pete back to his owner. She asked how things were going last week, and told my trainer that in August she would only have one horse on her property, and she would take Pete back if I was ok with it so he could be a pasture buddy.

I had to make this decision with my head.

I like Pete. He can get bratty under saddle, but he's not vicious. He's not trying to get me off, he's just expressing his displeasure at being worked in the heat or having too much time off. And on the ground he is the sweetest horse ever. He's super affectionate, and will come up to say hi in the pasture, even if you're all the way across the pasture from where he's eating his hay. He comes to the gate when you come out to the fence. If he could be trusted at the canter he would be the perfect Pony Club horse for a little girl.

I like him a lot.

But I don't have a trailer. I'm trying to save up for a trip to Japan in the next couple of years. And I have a perfectly sound horse to ride that's mine.

Spending $300 a month because I like a horse doesn't make too much sense at this point.

Pete taught me a lot. I am more confident in my leg, and I have a much faster reaction time to misbehavior or bad situations than I did before I started riding him. I know how to do a shoulder-in now, and I use my outside rein like I am supposed to. I have the confidence to loop the inside rein and trust that the horse will stay on the bit. Stuff that would have thrown me for a mental loop a year ago doesn't phase me today.

It was worth having him, especially while Avalon was lame. But I think I have learned the important things I could get out of riding him. My trainer thinks so, too. Horses will always continue to teach you, but I think in this case it's time for me to start concentrating on my own horse again.

I think I would have come to a different conclusion if I had a trailer. Showing Pete would have been something that could have really helped me gain confidence in the show ring. It's funny, I don't 100% trust Pete at the canter, but I doubt he would get as worked up as Avalon does going off the property. Going to a show where you can concentrate on your riding  and your own nerves instead of your horse's nerves would be a great thing for me to experience - but I need a trailer to do that. And the Great Trailering Accident of 2010 (also known as the I Hate Alabama incident) took care of that.

I need to save up for a trailer. I'm doing a good job of knocking my debts out one by one, but I haven't made much progress towards the trailer as a result. $300 a month can make a big difference.

And Pete's owner loves him as much as I do. It's time to give him back.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can you bring your pet to Japan?

This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. 

This post was about deciding whether or not to bring your pets with you when you go abroad. 

Many people think this is just plain crazy, but all it really takes is some extra planning. Of course, when you say that it's not a big deal to bring you pet abroad and all you have to do is plan ahead, you are assuming the type of pet owner you are addressing is a responsible one. Pet owners who think finding a new apartment in the same city that allows pets is too difficult, and then dump their pets, are probably not going to be the type of pet owners willing to put in the extra effort to bring their pet overseas. 

I am clearly not a fair weather pet owner, since I plan on bringing two of my cats (and possibly my ferret) to Japan with me. Bringing all five cats would pretty much be impossible, so the three who are most likely to adapt well to a new living situation are going on vacation with my family members. One may stay permanently, I think she may be happier in a one cat household, and my brother loves her. Avalon is staying with my old trainer - he knows her and the horses there, and she loves him like he is hers.

I plan on spending a few weeks at my parents' house before we go, which will give the cats who are staying time to adjust. To be honest, one is a little bit touched, so she may not notice the people are different, but the other cat is pretty smart but shy so I want to give her some time to adjust. I also plan on leaving my horse in the same city, and giving away or selling my truck. Might as well do it all in the same place to make things less complicated. I know some of our furniture is going to have to be sold and some will go into storage, and I really want to keep my dining room table, so I don't know which city that stuff will be in. The house will be rented out, so it may make sense to just have a storage place here. I don't plan on living in South Carolina again, though. Maybe I should bring the stuff I don't get rid of down to my parents' city.

Since my boyfriend and I are both planning on going, we would simply have one cat in a carrier as part of our non-checked baggage. I would prefer to transport the cats in cabin because one of them is pretty insecure, and I simply don't trust not having them in sight for such a long haul flight. There would be at least one changeover for us, and I can't risk them getting lost or overheated/too cold. Too many animals die on airlines because the staff is so overburdened, I would rather have them in the cabin ad therefore my responsibility. There is usually a fee for this, and only some airlines allow it, but there are three airlines I know of that allow pets in the cabin and fly to Tokyo. Even better, most of these airlines allow them in business class, and I have enough frequent flyer miles to pay for those tickets. 

Japan has a 12 hour or less quarantine period if you have all the correct paperwork and vaccinations done, and most of the people I have tracked down who have done this said they were allowed to leave with their pets after 2 or 3 hours. Narita airport is about 35 miles from Tokyo, and we plan on using public transportation. JR trains allow crated pets under 10kg as luggage, and since taxi drivers are so competitive in Tokyo, if we wanted to take a taxi it would probably not take more than a couple tries to find one who could take us. The train is very inexpensive, though.

Apartments in Japan that allow pets are rumored to be impossible to find - but I think the only people who think that are people who haven't looked for it. There are plenty of pet-friendly apartments in Japan, and they just require a pet deposit like apartments in the US. They don't appear to be priced any differently than non-pet friendly apartments, either.

However, there are almost no hotels that allow pets, so I may make a trip to Japan alone about a month before we move to find an apartment and set up the house. Since renting an apartment in Tokyo is a time consuming process in general (and there is almost always a wait for move in) this seems like something I would have done with or without the cats. It would be nice to have a place to go straight from the airport that already has a litter box and food (for cats and humans), as well as beds for the people. The flight takes a lot out of you, and I would rather have a permanent place to head to, instead of having to hustle and find a rental while jetlagged. Luckily, my frequent flyer balance makes this affordable for us.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Long Term Travel and Significant Others

This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. 

Day 4

I have lived with my long term boyfriend for the last 6 years.

We have done the long distance relationship thing (8 months while I was in Japan) and while that could probably work out for me again for a long period of time, he had a much rougher time.

If it only works for half of a couple - then it doesn't work.

Luckily, he is 100% on board with going to Japan while I finish my language training. He is so on board he is in the process of getting his TESL certification, which will help him find a job teaching English while we are there. That goes a long way towards making this affordable.

Great news, right? Yes! But...

But he is not fond of the idea of going to China later on, nor does he think a nomadic round the world trip is feasible for us. I decided on going to Japan first, for many reasons, but perhaps subconsciously I also knew that I would get the support of my significant other if I aimed for Japan first.

I kind of hope that my boyfriend will experience living in another country and fall in love with it, like I did. He hasn't traveled outside of the US much (that he was old enough to remember). He is also inherently more nervous about change than I am. I'm not trying to be manipulative, I just honestly believe that once he gets his feet wet, he'll decide it isn't such a bad idea.

But for now, we have a plan. A plan he is comfortable with, and I am excited about. For right now, this is working. I don't really know what's going to happen in the future. There may be a time when I have to choose between my relationship and my passions. I hope that time never comes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can a lawyer go digital?

This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. 

Day 3

The third post in the series is all about turning your job digital. Unfortunately, I don't think what I do can be turned into a location independent job - I have to show up for hearings. Even if I decided to not be the one to show up to the hearings (which would jeopardize my usefulness to my boss) what I do on the computer, while technically possible to do anywhere, would require a major operational change in how my boss does his work. Since he plans on retiring in the next five years or so, this does not seem like something he is willing to do.

Additionally, a large component of small law firm work is customer service. If you're drafting someone's will, or handling the estate of their deceased relative, people want to talk to you in person. Maybe this preference will change when my generation starts getting older, but the demographic who is in need of those services right now tend to be old fashioned and want a face to face meeting.

There do seem to be some legal tasks in big law which allow for location independent work. Actually, there is plenty of big law document review work that could be done remotely, but every document review project I have heard of requires you to go into an office to do so. BUT! Document reviewers fluent in other languages and legal translators seem to have more bargaining power - almost every legal translation of foreign language document review project I have seen is via telecommuting.

That is something I could do. That is something I would like to do. But that is something I need additional training for before I can do. My Japanese isn't good enough right now - and I am not capable of getting to a fluency level without immersion training.

While that idea doesn't get me to Japan any faster, it does give me a possible income for after. That's pretty significant.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pete and Bratitude

That is not terribly unlike what Pete has looked like for the past 3 days. Of course, there would be both a dressage saddle and me on top of him. I would probably look like I have no idea what just happened. Because I kind of don't.

Pete has never been super good in upward transitions to the canter. I have him because he threw too many people. But I did eventually do enough work to where I had a horse I could get reasonably calm upward transitions on.

Until I gave him two and a half weeks off because the only saddle I have that fit him broke.

I now have something like the picture. For half the length of the arena. Every single time I ask for an upward transition to the canter.

I will not be going to that show my trainer mentioned in two weeks.

I will, however, be busting my butt riding that horse every day until I can get something decent out of him.

I really wish I had someone to video his freakouts.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Travel Diet? I hate the word diet.

This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. 

This post talks about something called a Travel Diet. And in case you hadn't figured it out by my underwhelming weight loss progress, I kinda hate diets. And suck at them. Trust me, the hating and the sucking at it are directly related.

But apparently Christine just wanted to scare me, because she sums up a Travel Diet like this:
Don’t buy anything, unless it’s worth the travel time it costs.
That idea? That I can work with. I know people say that dieting and personal finance are related, but I for one must have very limited willpower reserves. I can save money better than I can diet, and I can stick to a riding schedule better than I can do either of those. I think this just means that I am better at guilting myself into doing the right thing when there's an animal depending on me. Personal finance ties indirectly into that - the more money I have saved the better off my animals will be if they get sick or injured.

But back to the Travel Diet idea.  The homework for this post is pretty simple, and by necessity I have already started doing most of it.

1. I very rarely make big purchases, and most of my shopping is consumables - I try to avoid "Stuff" using the Simple Dollar philosophy. The big purchases I make are almost always related to my horses, or are a necessary expense (like the new-for-me truck I am going to need in a few years).

2. I routinely try to delay buying something I want, to see if I really don't need it, or if I really want it. Sometimes this is a bad thing (ex: my current work wardrobe), but sometimes this is a good think (I have not yet bought the new Laurell K. Hamillton book in hopes of finding a cheaper used copy).

3. I do not usually do workarounds, unless you count buying something used instead of new as a workaround.  I think that probably counts.

4. The back pack test - don't buy it unless it would be something you would use on the road - seems like a pretty good one for household purchases. I don't think it applies to consumables, but for Stuff, it is definitely appropriate.

It's actually a little sad, but most of these techniques I have already been using because my salary is so low. I'm making probably 15k less than someone who graduated from my law school 2 or 3 years before I did. Kids, don't go to law school.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Redesigning My Life

This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. 

Day 1

I don't have a date set to leave.

I haven't even really decided where I want to go first.

I want to go back to Japan and get my fluency certificate by passing the highest level of the JLPT. I want to take a round the world trip, travelling slowly and doing odd jobs along the way. I want to go to China and become fluent in Mandarin. Each of those are big long term trips that would take at least a year. I suspect that passing the JLPT would take me between a year and a half and two years to accomplish, and I may be overly optimistic in thinking that I would be able to achieve a high functioning level of Mandarin in a similar or slightly shorter time frame.

If I want to set a date I have to pick a project. Going to China would probably be about half as expensive as the other two, but I really feel a strong pull to finish my Japanese education. I liked the school I went to before, and I know their intense program will help me achieve my goal in a shorter period of time than some other schools I have looked into. The tuition prices aren't bad, either. I suppose influencing my preference for going back to Japan first is the fact that socializing with the other students really helped to improve my language skills when I was there the first time around. I imagine it's going to take some time for me to save up enough money to go, which means that I will be right on the upper edge of the student body's age range when I go. I'd rather go at a time when I would be invited to socialize, which means I would improve faster.

I want to go back to Japan first.

So what's stopping me?
1. My mortgage.
2. My horses.
3. My cats (and ferret).
4. My outstanding debt.
5. My lack of money.

None of these make going to Japan impossible.

I can rent out my house, probably for enough to break even.

My old trainer in Louisiana has reasonable board rates and loves my horse - she would care for Avalon while I was gone. Pete could be returned to my vet.

My parents have had two of their pets die of age related issues in the last three years, they would probably take a cat (or two). I know my brother would take one. And so long as we have the paperwork done, we can bring the other two, and maybe the ferret. I have heard some conflicting information on whether ferrets are allowed in so I have to check with the consulate. I'm sure my roommate would take her if we can't bring her. Actually, I probably have to worry about my roommate ferretnapping her when she moves out.

My debt is something I have been working on since the beginning of 2011, and I have made some great progress. If I continue to pay it down at this rate I should be debt free (not counting student loans and mortgage) by 2012.

The last one - lack of money - is going to be the hardest to fix. Even if a get a raise fairly regularly, chances are it will not be a big jump. I need to find a way to earn extra money outside of my 9 to 5 job.

I want to travel around the world

I have had this intense need to see the world.

Most people, to my knowledge, talk about seeing the world after they retire. Most people have a certain eight point life plan set out for them:

1. Go to school.
2. Get a good job.
3. Get married.
4. Buy a house.
5. Have kids.
6. Get those kids out of the house and happy in their own lives.
7. Retire.
8. Live the life they've always wanted.

My father is part of the baby boomer generation. I think his life has for the most part followed the eight point list, though he hasn't retired yet, and who knows if the lifestyle he is going to have during retirement is the one he's always wanted. My father has mentioned to me that he felt like he spent a lot of time and energy working in order to acquire stuff, and in turn working to acquire bigger homes to hold all that stuff.

I don't want that life.

I actually don't think that that kind of life is possible for me, even if I did want it. I will probably never earn the kind of money my father is earning right now. The news is filled with stories about how people who graduated during the recession, like I did, may need decades to recoup their losses in income, if they ever do. Real income has not risen with inflation, and many costs, like housing and medical care, have vastly outpaced inflation, much less wage increases. Working hard through college is supposed to get you a good job, and working hard at that job is supposed to get you a comfortable income to raise a family on and later on retirement. It doesn't work like that anymore. You can't really trust your employer to promote you, or even to keep your current job. People don't get pensions anymore.

The eight point plan isn't going to work for me. It's a good thing I'm not particularly interested in it.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post: Travel.

It's one of the main things I want to do. But I have a lot of things in my life that are directly opposed to a vagabond life. I have pets, I have a mortgage, I have student loans. I don't have a high income.

But I think those obstacles aren't the end of the road.

I found a blog, written by someone who is living the kind of life I want. It's called AlmostFearless. She has a series called 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign your Life and Travel the World. I'm going to work through the series here, and see what I can do to change my life to make it conform with my hopes for the future.

My saddle is back!

My saddle is back with brand new billets! Pete is back to work, and I'm positive he's gonna kick my ass for giving him so much time off.

I have a really tough time riding on a regular schedule for five days a week. I can ride three days a week regularly, but when I hit five it seems like I always have an excuse or a time shortage. And, honestly, if I want to improve enough to compete, I need to be riding five days a week.

So I'm setting a new goal.

I will ride 5 times a week for the next two weeks. I won't ride both horses every day, but I will ride at least one horse five times a week. After I accomplish that, I'm going to set a new goal. I plan on snowballing little changes into one huge change - with my end goal being to ride both horses five times a week.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I have been without my dressage saddle for almost two weeks. And it is driving me crazy!

My instructor uses my saddle for one lesson a week with one of her amateur riders. It fits the horse, and it fits the girl, and it is the only saddle in the barn which meets those two requirements. During a lesson two weeks ago the girl fell off, and somehow the billets on my saddle were ripped. I'm not really sure what happened, but I imagine the girl hung onto the saddle as she was falling and ended up using her entire bodyweight to do this. I really can't figure out any other way they would have broken, as the billets were in pretty good shape. My instructor offered to pay for the repairs and brought it down to a show she was judging in Aiken where there was a repair shop. She's kindly offered to let me use her extra saddle while mine is being repaired.

But I have discovered that I have a bratty princess mode when it comes to saddles. I used her saddle for exactly one ride. It have a steep downward slope towards the pommel, and that, paired with my more than sufficiently padded ass, means that I have to lean WAY back in order to put my back at the correct angle. And that hurts my lower back. It hurts enough that I had trouble getting out of bed the next morning because I was having twinges and soreness. Soreness I can handle, but back twinges are another matter.

And I can't help but think this is my fault. I have always had a weak lower back, and ever since puberty I have had ridiculous boobs. There was pain, but as I have gotten heavier my lower back pain has become less of an minor inconvenience and more of a major problem. I am simply heavy enough that it is affecting my quality of life.

And I have not done anything to fix that in the past month or so.

I need help finding motivation. I get up, go to work, go ride, and by the time I get home I am starving and want to eat, not run. If I am not starving I want to sit around and do nothing. I have to figure something else out.