Country #6: United Kingdom

Finally, I’m able to say I can check off another country off the list of all European countries that I’ve visited since starting this blog. Being accepted to speak at a conference in Manchester, which was held this week, meant I finally got the chance to go to the United Kingdom again, for the first time in 12 years. Funny how it has taken me so long to get to the UK, it’s very close to the Netherlands and easily accessible.

Manchester itself isn’t all too interesting, but this has been more than made up for by the incredibly nice people I’ve met and discovering the glory that is steak and ale pie. I think this will be the last country I visit this year, which means I have been able to get to only two new countries instead of the three I planned to visit, but I’m not complaining. I’ll just try harder next year.

United Kingdom

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Seeing a film on my own

So, since I found myself in Manchester, UK this week with a couple of hours to spare, I thought it would be a good idea to make good use of my time and check off another item on my list by popping into a cinema to see a film on my own.

The film I saw was Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully painted feature film. Since I’m a fan of Vincent van Gogh’s work and the idea of seeing a film that’s entirely created out of hand painted work sounded like a good idea as well, this film was an obvious choice.

And it didn’t disappoint. The film was beautifully made, the storyline was decent and being in a cinema for the first time in years was a good experience as well. I’ll try to do this more often!

For those of you that are interested in what Loving Vincent is all about, here’s the official trailer:

Quite possibly the best concert I’ve ever seen

So, after almost a year of waiting (we bought tickets in December 2016!) yesterday evening finally came around. One of my favorite singers ever, the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, stopped by in Amsterdam on his latest tour for a concert in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam.

And what a concert it was! The 2,5 hours that the concert lasted must have been one of the most delightful ones for my ears and eyes in my life. Great sound, great stage, and absolutely wonderful music. The first half mostly consisted of more classical work, including famous arias like ‘La donna è mobile’ and ‘O mio babbino caro’, whereas in the second part of the concert Andrea went through spectacular renditions from film themes (including works from The Godfather and Gladiator), as well as a couple of his own biggest hits. All this supported by both a full blown orchestra (the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra) and the amazing Fine Fleur choir.

Needless to say time flew by and after a generous amount of encores, it was suddenly over. One of the best (if not the best) concert I’ve ever been privileged to witness.

If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to see Andrea Bocelli live, grab it. You will not be disappointed. I sincerely hope to be able to go again some day!

Country #5: Romania

Finally, another update.. A week or so ago I had the opportunity to attend and contribute to a work-related conference in Cluj, the second largest city in Romania. Having never before been to this country, it was another excellent experience. The city of Cluj is partly quite modern, with a lot of young people and several universities, and partly quite old (both in the good way, with medieval churches, and less good, with seventies-style brick towers).

I spent three nights in the country, enough to at least get enough of a feeling of the city and the people. Being there for work-related purposes meant I didn’t really get to tour the area around Cluj, but that’s OK. Maybe some other time… But in the meantime there are a lot of other countries awaiting me!

New beginnings, mortgage-wise

It’s been an eventful couple of months! Our second child turned one, we bought a house, sold another, packed up everything and moved!

We are now the proud owners of a larger, roomier, newer and all around better house than the one we had (and that wasn’t too bad either). One downside: there’s now a new and significantly higher mortgage that we have to deal with, so we have to start all over again in our quest of living mortgage free.

Current debt: 418.000 euros. Let’s bring that down to under 400k before the end of the year. With the money we gained from selling our old house, that shouldn’t be too hard. After that, we’ll see how things go, but chipping away at our new mortgage is definitely going to be an important part of our financial strategy for the coming years!

A new mortgage!

Looking forward to 2017

As the year has almost come to an end, and after having looked back to 2016, it’s time to plan for next year in terms of bucket list items I want to complete or make progress at. Here goes!

#91 – Complete a Coursera course
I didn’t manage to complete this one this year, but for next year it’s definitely on the list. I’ve selected my course already, got enrolled, and with the first class starting January 9th I should be able to complete this one this time. Maybe it’ll be a one time thing, maybe I like it so much I’m going to do it more often. We’ll see..

#100 – Visit at least three other countries in Europe
As a self-proclaimed traveler, I’d love to visit at least a couple of countries I didn’t visit after including this item on the list. One country has already been scheduled and booked for May, so I’ve got two more to arrange. There are a couple of easy countries left (Belgium, Luxembourg and France aren’t too far away), but I’m open to less easy ones too, of course. Again, I didn’t expect to visit Lithuania last year, so who knows what this year will bring!

#73 – Pay off 20k of our mortgage
Now that we have bought our new home and sold the existing one, it’s time to make serious work of paying off our mortgage again. Saving and dedicating 20k to mortgage payoff will not be that easy with the increased cost of living (higher mortgage, family of four instead of three), but I really don’t like being in debt and will do everything I can to make it.

#16 – See Andrea Bocelli perform live
This one should be very well doable too, especially given the fact I’ve already secured tickets. The concert’s not on until October, though, so it’ll mostly take patience, but this one IS going to happen next year.

#33 – Run at least one half marathon
With me having gotten back into semi-regular running again (finally!), and having rediscovered the joy of distance running, I’d like to schedule, run and complete another half marathon somewhere next year. At least one, that is..

Looking back to 2016

So, again, the year’s almost over. Time has been flying! Time to see how I did this year with regards to the bucket list items I planned to complete. Again, it has been a bit of a mixed bag..

#20 – Have and raise children
To start with the biggest item of the year, by far: done! Last January, my wife gave birth to our second child, and much of this year’s time and energy has gone to raising him and his older brother. It has been an interesting and sometimes exhausting journey, but a wonderful one nonetheless.

#81 – Run a 5.59 mile
Not completed. I realized two things this year: I’m NOT a fast runner and being parent of a young child is NOT compatible with a lot of training. I’ll solve the first issue by removing this item from the list as soon as I think of a worthy alternative. I don’t find joy in running fast, and life’s too short to try and achieve things that don’t bring me joy. The second thing will solve itself, hopefully, as our children grow up and become more independent. The last couple of weeks have seen me get back into running on a somewhat regular basis, so that’s promising for next year.

#91 – Complete a Coursera course
Also not completed. Not trying to use our child as an excuse, but this just wasn’t a priority this year. I’ve done quite a bit of interesting stuff though (more on some of that later), and I actually do have a course planned that starts in January of next year, so it’s not all bad. I’ll just transfer this item to the 2017 to do list.

#100 – Visit at least two other countries in Europe
Done! I’ve managed to visit three, even. One very easy (Germany), another quite common (Spain) and one that I never expected to visit this soon at the beginning of this year (Lithuania). I’ll definitely include this item again for next year.

#73 – Pay off another 20k of the mortgage (if we don’t move)
We made the decision to move house this year. In fact, we bought a new house (with a substantially higher mortgage) and sold our existing home, so paying off our mortgage has been put on hold for this year. Again, this is something I’d like to pick up again next year, so expect this one to feature on the 2017 forecast too..

Apart from these items, I managed to complete one more this year. That’s not much in terms of item count, but it was quite a bit of work to get it done!

So, that’s it for another year. In another post I’ll take a quick look forward to next year.. For now, I wish you happy holidays and a great start to 2017!