Subject: Greetings
Dear Fellow Ziners,

I can't recall if I've ever posted in this group, but I do read everything. I may have made a few posts at the beginning, as I was hoping to get away this winter, but that has been cancelled due to some health issues.

However, I'd just like to say why I'm here and what I'm looking for.

I'm 51 years old, married, have grown children, live in Quebec and own a language school with my husband. We've been doing this for about 15 years+. Before that we lived on a farm and produced honey and angora wool. My husband has also always been in construction and has worked throughout the years as a general contracter. However, since the early '90s, he only works at our school. I take care of the immersion programme for preschool and kindergarten (this is for francophone children to learn English before beginning grade 1). My husband takes care of group classes for all the primary and secondary grades as well as organising the adult classes.

We make a decent living considering we have low overhead and don't live extravagantly. But because we've both been self-employed all our lives, neither of us have any retirement plans or pensions. We will both be eligible for the Canada Pension Plan at ages 65, but that's a long time from now. We have managed to put some money into REERS (like IRAs in the US), but far from enough to retire on. Last year this became of concern to me because I had a major health problem requiring surgery and other treatments.

This put us in a strained financial position as I wasn't working. And b/c of a complication due to that surgery, I am again not working.

Now, I am not here to complain! I am looking for solutions. As far as a decent retirement, we figure that in 2 months we finish the mortgage on our home and will keep putting that amount away monthly to invest in more REERs. And I did inherit some money from my Dad, which should have been making babies by now, but due to the low interest rates, that's practically not happened. About 3 years ago we went with a financial advisor and transferred some into the stock market. Great timing, right?

However, I have a burning desire to travel. It doesn't have to be anything exotic. I read of the trips on this site and realise that they are not currently within our financial means.

I will say what I'd really like to aim for. Since our winters are so darn long, I'm finding that the older I get, the more I get depressed once I start teaching in September, feeling like I just entered a prison....not to be let out until May or June. But in '99 we went for 8 days to Fort Meyers FL and loved it. That broke the winter in half and made spring feel like it came so much faster. But it was way too expensive. As naive travellers w/zero experience, we actually spent $6000 CAD for those 8 days! So I am here to learn.

So far I've joined some travel sites with departures from Quebec and prices in Canadian dollars. Also, I've learned that it's much more expensive to go in the US b/c of the dollar ratio. I've narrowed it down to finding that the Dominican Republic, possibly Mexico, could be something we could afford.

What would be my dream. TWO whole weeks of sunshine in the dead of winter. If not that, then at least 10 days. One week just is too short. And what about price. I've actually recently seen a deal to the D.Republic for 2 weeks at $1200 CAD per person. We've come up with a plan to try to budget between $2-3000 a year for something. I also could have had a small studio in January in Ft. Lauderdale, Air Transat and including car rental for $562 CAD per person. But I have no idea if Ft. Lauderdale is nice. And this price didn't include meals.

To me, the advantages of FL are more safety with food and water (I have Crohn's disease).

However, I spoke to a doctor who told me that there are precautions that can be taken. Mexico seems to be the worst for la turista. Also, it seems to have higher prices for flights departing from Montreal and much better prices if departing from Toronto.

Since we'd depart from Montreal, so far the Dominican republic looks better. I've checked out Cuba, but don't know if I can go (I'm still a US citizen, born in NYC). The deals at the D.Republic are in places where one doesn't need a car...they are all inclusive, meaning meals, drinks, many activities and entertainment. A friend told me that if one orders a la carte, the food is always safe compared to buffets.

So all in all these deals sound reasonable.

Just wondering if anyone can give any suggestions for things such as time-sharing. I don't even know how that works and don,t know if it's more or less expensive.

Any advice would be appreciated. Of course, this would be for Jan or Feb 2004, but I figure if I start to make serious plans now, it WILL happen. As far as seeing things from a cultural point of view, that isn't main priority right now, b/c when we,d go it's mainly to decompress, see the sun, step into summer so to speak and relax and go inward. However, if we become more experienced travellers, I'd love to work up to being able to see interesting sites.

Thank you and please excuse this long narrative. Suzan