Installation and Review of the SureCall Fusion5s Signal Booster

I had to do something about my internet situation since SaskTel is obviously getting kickbacks from the satellite company and only investing that way in my area. Getting a new, stronger, booster seemed like the logical step to take. I’d already upgraded from a cheap booster to a more expensive one and gotten an improvement in my signal strength, so it only made sense that an even more expensive (read stronger) one would do the same. The thing was, I was now in the 600USD+ range for spending, a huge gamble to take.

After doing some research and sending out emails, I was taken under the wing of Shawn from the Repeater Store. I can’t tally up how much time Shawn spent with me explaining why one booster was better for my situation than another, explaining technical things without patronizing me, and assuring me that I could get a refund if my purchase didn’t work out. But he was certain that I would see a ‘night or day’ difference going from my Wilson DT4G to the model of booster he was recommending.

Thanks to the generosity of my online community and even strangers, I was able to afford the nearly 1,200CAD price tag for the booster (700USD, plus a lightning protector, plus taxes, plus gas to go pick up in Montana to save big bucks on shipping) and placed my order. I was very disappointed that it did not ship as quickly as promised, until Shawn got back to me to confess that the model he’d sold me on had just been discontinued and that they were upgrading me at no cost to the brand new Fusion5S, a much more expensive (and powerful) booster, retailing for 850USD! There was a delay in shipping it out to me because they were waiting for stock to come in. Of course, they were immediately forgiven!

The first thing that impressed me about the Fusion5S was just how beefy and heavy the components are, a far cry from the cheap-feeling Wilson products I’ve been using. Even the coaxial cable is a smaller gauge for less loss.

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I unpacked all the components to make sure I had everything. I didn’t (more on that below), but I had what I needed to at least test out the booster and see if it would work.

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Installation of my Fusion5s booster was a bit challenging because I had to ensure enough separation between the vertical and horizontal antennas and my property is quite small. I kept being told by the booster that there was oscillation (feedback) between the two antennas, no matter how far apart I put them. I eventually figured out, with the help of tech support, that as long as those lights disappear in a few minutes, the booster is working correctly. Augh! 🙂

I started my new booster life with the exterior antenna mounted at the peak of my cabin and the interior antenna on the driver’s side wall of my office. This gave me a signal strength comparable to what I had before, but my connection was much more stable. In that sense, I got the ‘night or day’ difference I’d been promised, but it still felt like a very precarious situation even though I got through a whole week of work with no drops in service or need to go up the hill.

So despite all the time and effort of getting the antenna up on the peak, I decided to go back to how I’ve had my antennas for several summers now, quite low to the ground at the northwest corner of my lot, where I almost have a line of sight down the valley. I mounted the antenna pole temporarily and then played with the height until I got the best signal I could. It was still no better than what I was getting at the peak. Therefore, I made the decision to just leave the antenna low to the ground so it would be easier to take down and pack up for the winter.

A day or two later, my “adopted dad” Charles and another neighbour got together and cut down a bunch of giant tree limbs blocking my line of sight down the valley (!!!). That gave me a couple of extra points of signal strength, for which I was glad because the guys did a lot of work on that project! So that was it for playing with the external antenna and I decided to mount it permanently where it was.

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I still don’t want to commit to cementing the pole into the ground, so my fire pit full of rocks is an acceptable substitute and has the added bonus of providing a buffer in case a vehicle strikes it (I have a neighbour who frequently comes here on his ATV, and I sometimes drive out the back of the property).

My first attempt at bringing in the exterior cable was through the roof hatch, like I did with the old booster, which I never installed permanently, but I didn’t want to deal with this extra cable in my way. I already had larger-gauge coaxial coming in through my shore power cable box, so it made sense to use the same route and principle.

This is the before:

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On the outside, you can screw a cable connection to the the RV. Inside, a small piece of coax goes to another plate with a similar connector and then you screw your TV to that.

Now, I didn’t have the interior connector, but I did have the exterior one in the form of my lightning protector.

I’ll add a parenthesis here that the lightning protector is where the Repeater Store nearly dropped the ball. They forgot to include an extra 2′ of cable needed for the installation. You need the long cable from the exterior antenna to the protector, and then you need a shorter bit to go from the protector to the booster. It took several emails to find out how the store was going to handle that. I finally got a call from Shawn letting me know it was being shipped to Plentywood for me. A bit of a pain to go back across the border twice and Plentywood isn’t right next door, but I have free time now, can afford the fuel, and am always happy to have an excuse to go for a drive, so this was an acceptable resolution! 🙂

I’ve never had a lightning protector for my booster systems and probably don’t need one because my antenna is so low to the ground, but I paid $1,200 for this system so I’m not taking a chance!

To be able to mount the protector, I had to enlarge an existing hole in my sidewall. That wasn’t as scary as I expected it to be. Then, I took the short bit of cable and poked it through the larger hole, connected it to the protector, pushed everything back into the wall, attached a new faceplate (that I had drilled an appropriate-sized hole into), and then a nut that comes with the protector to secure it to the faceplate, like so:

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I’d say that looks pretty professional and polished, no? I’m quite pleased with myself. 🙂 When I leave next month, I can just unscrew the exterior cable, roll it up, and tuck it away for the winter along with the exterior antenna.

Something you don’t see too well in that picture is a thin green grounding wire. Croft has examined my grounding set up and deemed it adequate, but since it’s not as per code, I’d rather not show it off lest I give people lacking in common sense bad ideas. 😉

I then poked my little bit of cable through the interior faceplate I originally had there, only with a much bigger hole in it. I wound up not having much cable left, so the booster, which I had mounted over my converter, needed to be moved. I didn’t mind this because the way I tried it originally meant that the converter cover was difficult to open.

So here’s the mounted booster:

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It’s against my driver’s side wall, between my filing cabinet and my converter.

So that takes us to the interior antenna. It took a bit of experimentation, but I discovered that if I put it under my window on the passenger side of the office, right next to my desk, it is essentially back to back with the outside one and I get my best signal…

Getting the interior cable there was super easy. You can see it in the above photo, heading to the left of the booster facing it. It’s going behind my filing cabinet, under the mattress on the spare bed, under the desktop, behind the desk drawers, up through two existing holes in the desk, and to the antenna, which is wedged between my supply cubbies and desk shelf:

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I can’t imagine a more perfect place for it since it’s absolutely out of the way and I don’t have to deal with much cable.

So now, that takes us to my best signal strength.

Before I get into that, I have to state that the booster claims that, depending on the original signal strength and how far apart the two antennas are, you can get enough coverage for a property my size. But my original signal strength is zero, so I have just a bit of coverage in my back yard, enough to get a signal, but not really enough to use. The original signal is so bad, in fact, that I only get my best signal if I’ve got the phone right against the interior antenna.

So what is my best signal? It’s urban area-quality, ranging from -55 to -70. There are not enough exclamation points in the world to illustrate how I feel about this.

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I get -50s early weekday mornings. It’s usually -70s around the supper hour and on weekends and I’m in the -65ish range the rest of the time. These numbers are incredible. I am in absolute and utter disbelief. I don’t even get that good of a signal in Moose Jaw or in Assiniboia! Compare this to when -86 was a good day for me, -95 was average, and -100 (or worse) was common at peak hours.

Now, no one should think that I have acceptable internet now. It is an incredible victory to have a signal I can rely on, that I haven’t had to run up the hill to send an email in weeks, and that I can stream short videos. But I’m still throttled after 10GB, so I have a very, very, very slow connection. I still can’t do more than one thing at one time or fully load all the pictures on a particularly graphic-heavy webpage. But I haven’t had to go up the hill once in weeks. I am able to receive and respond to work emails in a timely manner. I am sleeping much better because I’m no longer worried I am going to lose my job. I am so much less stressed at work and performing better. This booster has been an absolute game changer for me and I am so grateful to every single person who made this possible for me.

Since my signal drops so much when I pick up the phone to make or receive a call, I’ve had to find a workaround to make clear calls. As it turned out, I got a good deal on a bundle of apps recently, including HandsFree, which connects my iPhone to my Mac and allows me to make and receive calls through the computer. I’ve been test running it and it works very well!

So to recap, the SureCall Fusion5s Signal Booster has changed my life. That is not hyperbole. Internet here at Haven is still terrible and unacceptable, but the Fusion5s is making it possible to do my job and has greatly reduced my stress level. I think it would be overkill for most situations, but when you live in a ‘bowl’, get only refracted signals, and need to connect to a tower more than 50KM away, it could be the solution. Neighbours down the road who have a clear view down the valley and get one bar in their living room without a booster are using my old DT4G and it is performing perfectly for them. They were going to get something a little more powerful and they really didn’t need it. So don’t go spending this kind of money unless you’re sure you need to. But if you need to, be glad that the Fusion5s exists!

My experience with the Repeater Store was generally positive. Technical support was fantastic even if they need to work on their communication skills a bit better when it comes to the ordering side of things. But considering just how much they did for me in terms of education, upgrading me to the Fusion5s, and how they dealt with the missing piece for the lightning connector, I’m nitpicking. I don’t mind if people don’t communicate super well as long as things are done and the Repeater Store didn’t just get things done, it surpassed my expectations.

I’m still planning to spend most of next summer away from Haven, but knowing that I’ll be able to work while I am here will make me that much happier to get home for a few weeks. Thank you so much again to my generous sponsors as well as Croft and Shawn for all their technical handholding!

A Mattress Topper at Last

Since I had to go back to Plentywood today to pick up a piece for the booster, I decided to make the trip worthwhile and finally ordered myself for delivery there a mattress topper, something I badly need for my bed in Mexico. As I was shopping in earnest the other night and doing research, something hit me: those things are absolutely not portable!

They are vacuum packed and meant to expand on the bed. It would be impractical to think that I could fold it up and easily take it with me to Mexico. I’m already planning to spend money on an easy chair that I will leave behind after six months and didn’t want to spend over $100 on yet another thing that was going to have to stay. So I started searching for a travel or portable mattress topper and actually found one! It is amusingly called a Bag of Comfort by Sleep Innovations.

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Now, this is meant to be portable, so it’s just a 1″ piece of memory foam, a far cry from the luxuriously thick cloud on John’s RV bed in Santa Fe, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

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Reviews say that it’s easy to get back in the bag, so I should even be able to take it into a hotel for one night if that’s true. If I can have a more comfy bed at Totonaka in San Carlos, I would be happy to go back there because it’s so convenient.

The kit also includes a memory foam pillow! I needed a new pillow, too, and have been wanting to try a memory foam one, so this Bag of Comfort was quite a deal for me.

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The topper is marked as being sized for a long XL twin (standard dorm bed, apparently). I have a full size bed and the topper is plenty big enough for me since I only sleep on one half of the bed anyway (it’s only a few inches narrower than the mattress). I think a couple could fit on it if they really wanted to as it’s a lot wider than I expected.

It was a good drive to go get both the topper and the piece of cable. My “Danger! Danger! Danger!” alert did go off at the U.S. border when they started to ask me questions about Mexico and what I do for a living. The question I have never flat out been asked, but was dreading, came, “Do you work in Mexico?”

I don’t lie at the border and I think people who do are idiots looking for trouble. So I replied in the affirmative. A very, very, very long beat passed and I wondered if they were making notes in my file that would cause me issues next month. Finally, the other officer came back to my window. “Sorry. We’re both confused. Do you work in Spanish or?”

He was curious, not suspicious. Classic U.S. customs scenario for me and I started to relax. “No, no, no. I work for my existing clients from the computer. I don’t have a visa to take a Mexican job.”

“Oh, that makes more sense! Mexico wouldn’t care since you’re not taking one of their jobs and you’re spending money. Good for you! Have a good afternoon in Montana!”

And that was that. American border officials are generally so lovely. It’s almost always, “Welcome to America! We’re glad to have you and your money, but, please, don’t overstay your welcome,” a sharp comparison to consistently being treated like a criminal by my country’s border officials.

I got to Plentywood around 11:30 and immediately went for lunch. Then, I got my packages, which cost me $10 ($5 each). I think the amount would add up really fast if I was frequently having stuff sent to them, but for these occasional situations, it’s a bargain since you get the confirmation that your packages are on site (something I don’t get in Opheim for the same price) and the package room is more secure.

After, I went across the street to a hardware store to get a faceplate for my booster project as well as some copper wire. The gal who served me was really helpful, but the surly man working there was rather unpleasant. Anyway, I got what I needed, so I was happy.

Then, I headed to a museum just east of town that I believed was open at 1:00 p.m. after Labour Day, but it wasn’t. Oh, well. I pointed the truck towards home and found a Dairy Queen tucked away off the main drag, so I popped in for a Blizzard. A ‘mini’ was still way more Blizzard than anyone should eat, but I highly recommend brownie cookie dough. 🙂

The border was quickly upon me after my snack and I sat at the window for what felt like ages but was probably only five minutes until someone acknowledged me. It was a very quick interview: where do I live, how long was I in the States, how much did I have to declare, and did I have any drugs or ATF? And that was it! I didn’t even have to go in to pay my $8.50 or so in taxes and no one emptied my truck (which was absolutely empty except for myself, my purse, and my purchases. This was my first easy crossing back into Canada since crossing at the Sault in 2012. I hate CBSA.

And then, it was just rolling hills and I think maybe passing one car all the way home. This picture didn’t turn out that well (my iPhone camera sucks compared to my Pentax), but I was struck by the golden trees contrasting with the olive hills. Fall is here!

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When I got home, I spent about three hours finishing up my booster installation. I can’t believe it was that long, but time flew by since everything was coming together fairly easily and, so, I was having fun! That post will be next!

SaskTel President Ron Styles Continues to be Ignorant and Threatens Me

Just when I thought that this file was closed, I received another, nasty-toned, email from SaskTel president Ron Styles, which I am reproducing in full. My comments are interspersed.

As you are aware from my previous response, as well as your conversations with other SaskTel representatives, I can only speak for SaskTel’s cellular data and high speed Internet alternatives, not for networks belonging to other providers.

Here, he’s referring to my comments about satellite service offered by Xplorenet. He is just being ignorant because he is the one who referred to Xplorenet as being SaskTel’s ‘partner’ and, in fact, the service is offered on the SaskTel website. I firmly believe at this point that SaskTel is getting some sort of kickback from Xplorenet.

St. Victor’s valley location creates geographic line-of-sight interference with the local towers at Willow Bunch (at a distance of 19 km), Assiniboia (at a distance of 25 km), as well as the tower at Scout Lake (at a distance of 10 km). The primary purpose of the tower at Scout Lake is to provide coverage along Highway #2, and providing cellular service to St Victor’s was an additional benefit.

Again, I have evidence that coverage along highway #2 is provided by both the Rockglen and Assiniboia towers and that there is absolutely no benefit to that area to have the tower up there. So I continue to maintain that there is something shady going on here.

St. Victor is unable to receive SaskTel’s Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) high speed Internet because the service is a distance sensitive technology. SaskTel Basic High Speed Internet Service can only be provided to a maximum distance of four kilometers from the distribution point in the local Central Office (CO). This distance is not measured “as the crow flies”; rather, it is calculated as the length the cable travels as it loops from the distribution point to individual customers.

In order for St. Victor to be provisioned for DSL Internet service or the installation of a new cellular tower, fiber would need to be ploughed from the closest viable network point to St. Victor. Cabling and facilities, as well as further equipment, would need to be installed and maintained requiring a significant capital investment on the part of SaskTel. Unfortunately, SaskTel has determined that there is no positive business case to provide St. Victor with either of these services.

We have landline telephone service connected to the outside world that occasionally needs repair. Why not replace worn sections of cable, as needed, with whatever type of cable is necessary to provide DSL until we’re connected? I know this wouldn’t happen overnight, but if you’re already working on a section, why not upgrade it?

SaskTel wireless is aware that a number of communities do not have access to SaskTel cellular service. SaskTel appreciates that you have found a creative solution to the geographic limitations of cellular service to St. Victor. However, SaskTel does not reimburse customers for the purchase of third party hardware and will not be reimbursing the costs for your recently purchased commercial grade booster. I also need to advise that if the commercial booster interferes with the network, we may need to ask you to make changes to or shut down the booster.

Yup, he just threatened on record to cut off my service if they don’t like how I use it! My booster meets all the codes for possible interference. There is no way I could threaten SaskTel operations. But I can just see SaskTel shutting me down if I continue to up the usage on my unlimited plan.

Regarding your concerns of communications for local emergency services, you may not be aware that it is the Ministry of Government Relations who coordinates the Provincial Public Safety Answering System (PPSAS), not SaskTel. The PPSAS operates on a different system than SaskTel’s cellular network.

PPSAS is designed to meet the specific needs of public safety and public service agencies such as fire departments, police services, emergency medical services, emergency preparedness, volunteer search and rescue groups, provincial government emergency response or enforcement agencies and other related groups. I would encourage you to contact the PPSTN at 1-888-953-3693.

The man really does think I’m an idiot! Of course I know this. He completely missed the point that the average tourist on the street isn’t on this network and has no way to contact emergency services!

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns.

Sincerely,

He’s so funny!

Ron Styles
President and CEO

SaskTel Cut Off My Internet for Twelve Hours and Claims It Was a System Glitch

Something very strange happened last night. I’m sitting here this morning wondering if I’m naĂŻve enough to believe that SaskTel had a huge system glitch or if I’m distrustful enough of them to accuse them of messing me.

I was in the middle of a download yesterday evening when I hit 23GB of data usage and promptly received a text message that I was being throttled again.

Sure enough, my download slowed to a crawl, going from the roughly 256Kbps throttled speed they give me to less than 100Kbps. I could barely get online. Text-only pages took about 10 minutes load, pages like Facebook were unavailable.

My first instinct was to check to see if they had changed their fair use policy. Yes, just a month ago, but there was nothing about double throttling on unlimited plans and, in fact, the only thing that applied to me was super positive as they had removed my data limits when outside of SK (but still in Canada). Yay for that.

So I got on the phone and after waiting on hold for more than 15 minutes, I finally got hold of tech support. The guy looked at my account and told me this:

  1. When I had a major data issues at the start of August, when I didn’t even have service in town, the tech removed my plan and put it back, which brought my data back. I triple checked with her that I was going back to my grandfathered unlimited $70 a month plan, not the limited, and she said yes. Last night’s tech said that I was actually on the limited plan and after 23GB you get cut off because of excessive overages and that I had about $300 in overages on my account.
  2. After 8:00p.m., tech support doesn’t have access to your full file and cannot help with complex issues like this, so I had to call back in the morning.

This morning, I called them right at 8:00 when they open. I’d been up for a bit and been online and my connection appeared to be back to normal….

This is what this morning’s tech told me:

  1. I am still on my unlimited plan.
  2. There is no way I could have the overages last night’s guy said I did because the new telecom laws force them to cap your data at $50 of overages. I know about this because when I still had my Bell Mobility account I was tired of having to call every few days to tell them that I knew my account was at so much in overages and they finally had me sign a document that meant I no longer got capped after a tweak in the law gave them permission to do so. I haven’t done that with SaskTel since I’m on an unlimited plan.
  3. There is no automatic throttle at 23GB for any plan.
  4. There is nothing wrong with my account. They must have just had a huge glitch last night.

SaskTel’s frontline techs are usually very good, so last night’s experience was a huge anomaly. The lady who helped me on August 6th is my favourite as she is really quick to understand what is going on and find a resolution. So I trusted her when she said that she would give me back my unlimited plan after taking it off (and that doing this would give me back my data). So I was shocked last night to be told that she had betrayed me. I’m glad to know that she didn’t.

So happened last night? Was it truly a system glitch that put the wrong information in my file, was it a tech guy who was making up stuff because he didn’t have access to my full file, or was there some sort of trap put into my account that was triggered when I hit the 23GB cap? Just a few months ago, I would have gone with the tech support guy making up stuff. But now, I’m rather suspicious.

A Life By Design

I tend to present my projects as faits accomplis, done deals, except to a chosen few who are cursed with hearing all the details about a plan. I’m not sure why I do it that way. Fear of failure, perhaps? Fear that if I bring my project into the light of day, the universe will strike me down for my pride and put stumbling blocks in my path? Who knows.

There’s a lot going on with me right now that I think I need to share because I have chosen to put my life out there with this blog. I know that I sometimes appeared scattered, jumping from one idea to the next, but I actually do have a plan for my life and it is coming together behind the scenes. I think it’s time to draw the curtain. When things come together for me, they tend to do so very, very quickly and I don’t want to feel that I need to explain myself with any future moves.

I’ll start off by saying that I have always known what I wanted to do with my life: see the world. Travel has always been the constant yearning and everything else has been but a balm on an itch. Science has proven that there is such thing as a wanderlust gene. If you look at my family tree on my mother’s father’s side, you will see the names of some of the greatest explorers in Canadian history. I am hardcoded for wanderlust. It truly is a biological imperative.

It took me a very long time to figure out how to see the world. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent tallying up how to pay the rent and the bills and maintain a certain lifestyle while saving up to take two or maybe three weeks, if I was lucky, to go exploring. I took a few trips, most notably to Scotland in 1998, and the more I traveled, the worse my urge became. It actually helped somewhat to not travel and focus on the half of me that is a stereotypical 1950s homemaker.

But then, the door to travel opened for me after my dad died and somehow, with a courage I did not know I had, I stepped into the unknown. Followed some of the most amazing years I will ever have as I traveled the continent on a super tight budget, seeing more of it than I could have ever dreamed of doing on four, even five times the annual income. I thought RVing could be It for me, the way to soothe my wanderlust forever, but, like an addict, I needed a bigger and bigger fix. After just about completing my Canadian and U.S. bucket lists, Mexico beckoned, but was just out of reach.

I thought that spending a few more winters in the U.S. while I continued to get my financial footing before going to Mexico would suit me, so the next logical step in my life was to get a home base. Some permanent travelers have friends or family they can always return to and where they are nearly indefinitely welcome, but that wasn’t the case for me. I had to find my own Haven, and I did. I think I knew deep down as I signed the property transfer papers that my RVing life was winding down, but it took those final two cross-continent journeys to prove it to me. I had an amazing final winter on the road, but the journey to a place I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go was fraught with difficulty… and wonderful encounters with generous people.

I was afraid when I landed here in the spring of 2013, afraid that this was going to be It for me because I couldn’t see a way past being here, and that fear mounted as my summer stretched into a winter and then a second summer. I was financially and emotionally at one of the lowest points in my life and so very weary, but this place renewed me. I knew that I finally had a well of infinite energy from which I could draw, that no matter where my life took me, I could return to this place and emerge renewed.

And sure enough, from my time here, where I could focus on monetary matters, the future became a little clearer. I got the contract that gave me the courage to head for Mexico, and we all know how that turned out (for those who haven’t be reading, Mexico was an amazing fit for me!). That contract did not pan out, so I was left in Mexico with just the contracts I’d had before, which I would never have thought would be enough to sustain me in so bold an endeavour, but I did just fine.

I figured out very early in my RVing life that working for myself was going to be the key to my freedom to see the world and there were a lot of false starts as I figured out what I could do from the road and find enough work to support myself. By the time that big contract came in late February of 2014, I was at my limits. If a big break didn’t come, I was ready to give up and get a job. So while the contract didn’t work out, it came at just the right moment, buying me enough time to get to Mexico and realise that I wasn’t ready to give up all my temporal freedom for the sake of a full-time job. I did consider a part-time summer job in Saskatchewan, however, and that’s rather the mindset I had on my way home last spring. But I’d built up enough of a buffer in Mexico that the urge didn’t feel as pressing as it had a few months prior. I knew I wouldn’t have many distractions this summer and that I could focus on getting better paying work.

Things came together for me as they always do when the time and place are right and my dream job fell into my lap. I still don’t want to say too much about it, but I am working for a company whose founder had the same dreams for his life as I do for mine, and fulfilled them, and so I know that I can always fall back on that if an immediate supervisor who doesn’t understand my lifestyle gives me grief when asking for a modicum of flexibility. In fact, much of what I proofread is relevant to the next step in my life journey and is helping me prepare for it. If that is not proof that I am firmly on my Path, I don’t know what is!

Let me backtrack a bit here to reiterate that when I bought my property, I expected it to eventually be a place I could retire to. I envisioned my future with the resources I had then. I don’t play the ‘if I win the lottery’ game, but plan with what I have and remain flexible if things change.

Well, everything has changed for me this summer because of this new client. I’m really pleased that I pushed the internet thing through as far as I did because it not panning it out was just the kick in the seat that I needed to stop clinging to old ideas I had about my future when so many doors have opened up to me. It’s a really surreal. I feel like I won the lottery without having realised that I was playing all along.

It was only seven years and three months ago that my old financial planner told me to go out into the world and play. He warned me that I would have years of misery as I built my new life, but that he was convinced that I would do better for myself financially than I ever could working my 35 years for the government and that I’d have a life to show for it all. He was absolutely right.

Why remain here in a (beautiful and wonderful!) Canadian backwater when I can work from anywhere? I am too young to be here puttering around and working myself to the bone. My second Mexican winter is upon me (in fact, I will be arriving this day in two months!) and it will be glorious, with all that extra free time and money available to me.

But what of next summer?

Even though my internet situation is greatly improved (and due to be blogged about), the severance has been made. I love this place and it will always be here for me, but it has played its role for the time being. I’m going Somewhere Else for most of the next summer. I need good internet, a time zone difference compatible with work, a super cheap cost of living, and a stable enough political situation. The answer is a country so far off my radar that I didn’t even know where it’s located until I pulled out a map! So here is my first big public announcement after all that bla bla bla: I intend to spend 90 days next summer in Bulgaria.

A decision like that always leads to new discoveries as I do research. Bulgaria is part of the Schengen Agreement, which comprises most European countries. Ninety days would be barely enough to see all of Bulgaria; what if I wanted to stay in Europe instead of coming back to North American so I could try another country? This question led me to the jackpot.

The gold standard in passports is to have one from the European Union. It opens up the entire European continent and all its benefits. It is also very difficult to get one unless you work in a specialized field or marry a national. I have tried for 20 years to figure out how to get myself a European passport short of marrying someone and the answer fell into my lap today. Just like that. It was one of those lightning bolt moments that makes me understand some of the trials I’ve been put through as it makes sense of a lot of my pondering.

Some European countries, like Spain, have a permanent residency scheme and path to citizenship for freelancers, folks with independent income from outside Europe… Of course, there’s a lot of red tape and it’s never as simple as it looks on a website, but the short of it is, you move to Spain as a freelancer, get your permanent residency, and then ten years later, sooner if you meet certain criteria, you become a citizen.

I could do that!

But here is where things get a little interesting. If you are a citizen of a Spanish-speaking country, you can get your Spanish citizenship in about two years rather than ten.

It takes about five years to get Mexican citizenship. On paper, it looks like I could get both Mexican and Spanish citizenship in less time than it would take to get just Spanish. Of course, I’m sure I will encounter tripwires with this idea/plan, but it’s one worth exploring. So discovering that I could get a European passport doesn’t derail at all my plan to get Mexican citizenship.

So from where I’m sitting tonight, with the resources currently available to me, I see myself back at Haven for about three months next year, as bookends to my Bulgaria trip, and then off to Mexico for as long as it takes to get my citizenship. It could mean being in Canada well into the winter as a good part of the permanent resident visa process must be done from your home country. But with the nearest consulate being in Calgary, I’d probably just get a short-term rental there while I deal with the paperwork so I wouldn’t be living in an RV in -40 weather again.

Once I have my Mexican citizenship, the next step would be to move to Spain and repeat the process there. And then? Who knows… I’ll be nearing 50 by then and could, in theory, retire at 55, especially if I choose to base myself in a country with a low cost of living, like Mexico. That will be the beauty of having all these citizenships, that I won’t have to base myself somewhere that I’d have to pay usurious taxes, which eliminates Canada and most of the European Union.

But Haven will always be here. I like the idea of finishing up enough work to have a rentable property here, just for a bit of added income, especially if the oil comes, as we suspect it will. I will always have this port of call in between projects. For instance, if I find that I can’t get everything aligned to go to Mexico right away, it won’t cost me much money to wait here, and the same for going to Europe. I am aware that I need to figure out a modicum of property management while I’m gone, however.

Some or none of this may come to pass. But many more possibilities exist where fewer were before. And long-term blog readers will remember that I talked about RVing till I was about 40 and then taking off to see the rest of the world. So rather than shaking your head at me with my grand ideas, take note that I’m four years ahead of where I thought I’d be… and I have a paid for property, not something I had factored into those dreams. When I want something, I make it happen. So don’t be so surprised next year if I do end up blogging from Sofia!

This was post was edited on November 4th, 2016, to add categories and tags. I am just grinning as I reread it, having come from four months in the Balkans, including 90 days in Bulgaria. I do talk big… but I get things done. 🙂