The time I spent more

I’m not frugal all the time. This week, I received a notification from Mint that I exceeded my travel budget. I didn’t even know that I have a travel budget. I also don’t have a budget. I will continue to spend my money for things that brings me joy.

We recently went on a trip to sunny Los Angeles. The trip was not cheap. In total, I spent $1,025.26 in one weekend. This is a considerable amount given that the trip was short and domestic. I paid for the hotel overlooking the marina, rented a car and feast on seafood. This is my fifth visit to LA and I somewhat know the area.I specifically stay in the South Bay and didn’t bother visit to the “tourist” spot. About 7 years ago, I stayed in the same area, but stayed in a hostel. I was also there for work and I just extended the trip and my overall expense is minuscule compare to this. I’m doing a lot better now, but I do not mind staying in hostels. In fact, I stayed in a hostel when I was in Lisbon.

Overlooking Alfama, my last trip where I stayed in a Hostel

For this trip, I tried to listen to my body more. I can say that I am becoming more emotional. I can feel my baby move. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I can never really prepare for what’s about to come, so I took a time off. For this trip, I relaxed, ate and took a lot of naps. This is not my typical travel style, where I’m usually on the go, but it is on purpose.

Local brunch by Redondo Marina, we walked here from our hotel

I am incredibly grateful that I can take these kind of trips without breaking the bank. The main reason I choose a frugal lifestyle is to have options like this.

 

A moment in paradise – Why I spend money traveling

My favorite hobby by far is traveling. In fact, I get this urge to visit the airport if I’ve been in one place for more than 3 months. I used to travel almost every week for 3 straight months for work. It was exhausting, but I enjoyed it at the time. I still travel for work, but I try to limit it to once a year. It’s no longer as glamorous as it sound, but I still enjoy traveling for fun.

One of my favorite trip was way back in 2010 and again in 2013. It seems like a long time ago, but the memory is still so fresh in my mind. I visited Coron, Palawan in the Philippines back in 2010. It took a plane ride, a car ride on  a very rough road, a tuk tuk drive and a boat to get to the final destination.I did this again in 2013.  It was worth it,

I spent 4 days to a place where the beach is crystal clear, water is calm, the sand is white and sea creatures are on sight. I’ve met the most accommodating, nicest, and happiest people. Who wouldn’t be happy if they are surrounded by this, plus they get fresh seafood everyday?

I took the same trip in 2013 with my then boyfriend, now my husband. It was even better than I imagined. It was the same calm beach with sea creature on sight while snorkeling above waters.

The entire trip cost less than $1500 per person for 2 weeks. Majority of the expense was the plane ride to the Philippines and to the islands itself. It is easy to spend more than this. For one, we could have chosen to stay on a resort instead of local hotel, eat on a fancy restaurant instead of going to the local market, picking our own catch of the day and asking one of the vendors to cook it for us to our liking. We could have taken a private tour instead of joining the locals aboard their boat to travel from island to island. I’m very lax on my spending when I’m on vacation but I choose to spend it to activities that will bring me closer to the way of life of the locals. Because of this, I spent less.

I realized that $1500 is a lot of money. I spent more than $100 per day, including air fare. Is it budget? Maybe not. I’d like to think of this as normal – as I said, I’m pretty lax with money when it comes to travel.
Now, my next adventure will be different and might require me to stay put longer in one place. But for now, I’m enjoying all the memories. That’s the beauty of traveling, no one can ever take away that experience.

How travel keeps me humble

I was hit by a travel bug ever since I spent 6 months studying in the Netherlands. From then on, I made sure that I prioritize travel from my budget. Knowing different people from different backgrounds got me hook. It was not necessarily the place or the architecture or the drama or the food (ok maybe some food) that excites me when I travel. It’s the chance to glimpse a way of living that is totally unknown to me.

Living abroad

I was born and raise on another country before settling here in the pacific northwest. College gave me a totally different experience. I was able to meet people from different backgrounds, hear different language and eat variety of delicious food. Studying abroad gave me a chance to see Europe and admire it not just from the photos. I visited major cities in the US and in Europe. I admired the architecture, history and food from each visit.

Going East

I continued traveling since then. On average I go to another country once or twice a year. I’m fortunate (maybe?) that I can travel for work. I visited India late in 2015. I took a week of vacation and traveled across the country. I signed up for a tour through Intrepid and traveled with like minded people from Ireland, South Africa, US and Australia. This experience was different. It reminded me of the simplicity of life. I saw the joy from people’s eye from the way they gather within their community, the way they share food and help everyone around.

First world problems

I’ve seen poverty first hand. This is normal when I was growing up. Everything seems relative so I never felt that my childhood was deprived. Lack of electricity and sometimes running water is normal. Food is cook daily, fresh from the market and eaten during the day since not everyone owns a fridge. Laundry is wash by hand and you re-use the same water to flush the toilet. I almost forgot all about this until I visited India. Life like this is unknown to majority of the people here. Perhaps, if we see it first hand, our outlook in life will be different. We’ll consume less and be grateful that our basic needs are met with abundance.

A humbling experience

I can only say good things about Intrepid and the group that I’m with. We were exposed to the streets of India and the way of life of majority of the people living there. I saw monkeys, dogs and cows roaming the streets. I ate the street food and drank chai from an elder that prepared it from his home shop. I stepped on poop, haggle in the market and saw the intricacy of pattern printing and jewel making from a family from a small village. The streets are narrow, the electric wires are hanging on the post, and you can smell a very distinct aroma everywhere.

These were the things that I remembered the most during the trip. I visited the famous sites. I saw Amber Fort, watched a Bollywood movie (in Hindi with no subtitle) and of course visited the Taj Mahal. But it wasn’t these buildings that I remember the most. When I looked at my picture from Amber Fort, it reminds me of the food that was cooked by our host that gladly invited us in her kitchen and showed us the magic of making her food. When I see my post from Facebook about my Bollywood experience, I’m reminded by the conversation that night with our tour guide trying to describe us what really happened. Until now, I don’t know the story line, but I laugh every time I remember some of the scenes. And when I see the Taj Mahal, it reminds me of every locals that I encountered during the trip. The genuine smile, appreciation of our difference and the love for their neighbors — the main reason Taj Mahal was built, for love.

It’s easy to lose sight of this, but traveling reminds me of the simplicity of life. It breaks the stereotype that are molded on my mind. It gives a new meaning to the word normal.

Travel cheap by extending a business trip

I had an opportunity to travel for work for a week and decided to extend it and travel personally. Combining business and pleasure is the cheapest way to travel. If you have an opportunity go for it! I travel quite a bit and don’t mind if it’s my biggest expense for the year. Since I know that this hobby can be expensive, I try to find ways to travel cheap. Here’s one example.

I spent 5 days in Lisbon and it cost me 337.93 USD

Obviously, the biggest saving is the cost of the flight. I could have save even further by staying in the same country where I was doing business, but I’m craving for some sun. I literally went on a map and pointed south and there it is Lisbon. I searched for a one way flight and found one that cost 78.32 at Ryan Air.

Since I am traveling off peak, prices for hotel is pretty affordable. I was traveling alone and decided to stay in a hostel for a cheaper alternative. For 4 nights, it cost me 55.34 USD. I stayed in a dorm room but since it is off peak, I was the only one in the room for 3 nights. This cost includes a modest breakfast and internet access.

Lisbon is such a wonderful place and exceeded all my expectations! There is so much history in the city. My favorite part is the narrow streets that seems like a maze. I let myself get lost in the city and found neighbors actually talking to each other through the windows!

Narrow Streets

I also saw Fado. For those visiting Lisbon, this is a must see. This is such an experience that I will never forget. Locals sing about anything to express their emotion. It’s in Portuguese, but you don’t need to understand the language to be amaze. It cost me 47.24 USD with dinner.

Fado

I also went to Sintra for a day. I took the train from Lisbon and signed up for a hop on – hop off bus. The day trip was not part of my plan, but was highly recommended by the hostel. It didn’t disappoint. I reached the westernmost point of the continental Europe.

Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa...[Here, where the land ends and the sea begins...
Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa…[Here, where the land ends and the sea begins…
The rest of 157.03 USD was spent on tours, food, transportation and kitchen magnet for my souvenir.

Definitely money well spent!

Pro and Con – Traveling for work

I used to travel a lot and I mean a LOT. Back in the days, there were months when I’m in the airport every Monday and go home every Thursday. I can recognize the voice of the pilot and the flight attendant remembers my drinks. I used to not mind it, after all, I don’t have any obligation at home, living in a cheap room at the time and started earning miles and hotel points that I used for my vacation. It went on for 5 years and then all of a sudden, I do mind it.

Pros —

I had my “yuppy” moments and traveling for work just sort of add on to this feel. All of a sudden, I no longer stay in a hostel, my rental car is upgraded, and I’m taking car service to and from the airport (before Uber became mainstream). My friends even think it’s fun and I’m “lucky” that I get to travel. But really, after a while, it gets tiring.

Con —

People don’t realize that you actually work more hours when you travel for work. A typical 4 weeks project will need to get done in 2. Traveling is expensive for the company so projects better get done quickly. My routine consist of gym, work, hotel and dinner (repeat that 4 times every week).

Again, it was ok in the beginning. I don’t have a lot of responsibilities and I get to eat out on really good restaurants. I still didn’t mind it when I moved up. I get to show the place to a new colleague, and I can see the same excitement that I had when I started.

And here’s the tipping point – a big con

One day, I was visiting my parents and I notice my little sister. I am 12 years older than her and she’s consider our baby. I thought, wow, she got taller, maybe about an inch. And then, I realize that it’s been 6 months since I visited my family.  For some people, this might be normal, but I live 45 minutes from them, so there’s really no excuse. I used to help her with her homework and visit every week. When I asked her, she said that I’m probably tired from work and she doesn’t want me to go all the way to our parents place. My father, mentioned that I lost weight, and said something about my second glass of wine. Don’t get me wrong, they are proud of where I was, but I can see the concern on my father’s voice and I knew that they are on the verge of losing me.

My relationship outside my family are also not established. Most of my friends in college are now living out of state, or out of the country. My 2 best girlfriends (thank goodness) kept up with me. My first relationship ended after 3 years. I’m sacrificing my relationships for my career. My hobby consisted of collecting points (not that bad!) and counting restaurants I’ve eaten. I realized that I’ve never really discovered myself.

It didn’t take long to get a job. I just have to entertain calls from recruiter. A couple of weeks later, I interviewed and got a new gig. It’s a stop on a freeway. I needed that.

I still travel for work, but everything is plan. It’s not every week and I can say no, without feeling guilty or scared that I won’t move up fast enough. I listen to my body and I give priority to my friends and family at all times.

Do you travel for work? Do you like it?

 

 

European Vacation Cost for 2 weeks

I got back from Europe a month ago and haven’t really had the chance to write post. First of, the trip was awesome. We visited 5 different cities in a span of 14 days. We went to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg and Munich. My sister and I called this a castle tour. It was very hectic but fun. I just felt that I needed some rest after that vacation.

Berlin was our first stop. After arriving at Tegel International Airport, we took the bus to our hotel on the West side of Berlin. As I expected, we got lost from the airport to our hotel! My sister and I are not really good with directions. After a few bus trips, we finally found our way. I actually really enjoyed Berlin. We also went to Post Dam and saw the Summer Palace. Of all the places that we visited, Berlin has more history, with the World War II and the Cold War taking place in the city. I enjoyed it.

Replica of a car that was used to transport people from East Berlin to West Berlin

Prague.. oh Prague… the Castles, the bridge, the old buildings, beers and food … there’s really nothing else I could ask for and it is cheap! Prague is a very romantic city, with the most accommodating and open minded people. I have a feeling that the history has something to do with it. But no words can describe what I felt when I was there… just like Paris, I fell in love with this city. Just wishing that I can come back.

The Castle, now used as a government building

Vienna, well, if you like clean, organized, firm and proper type, then Vienna has it. The castles and the gardens are well kept. The old buildings are huge, but for some it didn’t strike me as anything different from other old buildings in Europe. The story of Sissy is quite interesting though.

The Belvedere Palace

Salzburg is probably one of the highlights of our vacation with the Sound of Music Tour! The hills are alive .. 🙂 The food is great and the town is peaceful and quiet.

Doe, a deer a female deer 🙂

The last leg of the trip is Munich. Oh Bavaria, you are amazing with food, music and great jolly atmosphere everywhere! I enjoyed my time there and will visit again. We also manage to visit the first concentration camp. It was a very humbling experience. Life changing and something that we should not forget and learn from it. We ended our trip by visiting the real Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Neuchweinstein Castle

My sister and I planned this trip in advance and the total cost is $1607.66. I don’t think this is bad. I’m a bit over $100/day in Europe which includes our hotels and airfare. I tried to itemize the cost, since we are paying in cash for the most part. But here’s the total cost for hotel, airfare and train:

Hotel: $795.39 in total split with my sister so my total cost is only $398
Airfare: $154.30 taxes and fees since we only used our mileage.
Train and Buses: $288.62 in total split with my sister so my total cost is only $145

The rest are for the things that we actually did, like the tours, museum entrance, bus passes and food. I budgeted about $2000 for the trip and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Maybe next time, I can budget for less than $100 a day…maybe a trip to Quintana Roo?