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!

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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!

Country #4: Spain

And another visit to a European country is behind me! Last week, I spent a wonderful week together with the wife and kids on Gran Canaria, an island belonging to Spain, even though it’s situated far more south than mainland Spain. The island of Gran Canaria is roughly on the same degree as the southern border of Morocco, but as it belongs to Spain, it surely counts as another country for the list!

We had a wonderful week there, lots of sun and fun, a wonderful break from the cold weather over here in the Netherlands in November. Taking a holiday in November was a first for us, but it surely won’t be the last time!

This has been the final trip for this year, hopefully I’ll be able to add some more countries in 2017. One’s already confirmed, but I’m looking to add at least two more to the list.

Spain

My first ebook has been published!

A little over half a year ago I got an email asking if I’d like to write a short ebook on a subject related to my field of work. Since writing an ebook was on my bucket list anyway, plus they told me I’d be paid to write, there was no way I was going to say no to the opportunity.

I’ve recorded my experiences in a blog post on my work-related blog, which you can read here. As for my bucket list adventures: the book has been published this week, so that’s finally another item done!

The cover of my ebook

Country #3: Lithuania

Well, riiiighttt.. When I added the item of visiting all fifty European countries to my list, I didn’t dare to think that the third country I’d visit would be Lithuania. Belgium, maybe, France, or Italy. But not Lithuania. Nonetheless, last week I went there for a work-related conference. And it was great.

Granted, I’ve only seen the capital, Vilnius, but I stayed there for two nights, had a walk through the city to get a feel of the place, spent a full day networking (and speaking) at the conference, so it was definitely a Lithuanian experience of some sorts!

Lithuania was great!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling all too well, so I didn’t feel like going out for a nice dinner in a restaurant (something I like to do when abroad) or spend time in a bar, a theater or even outside at all (there was work to be done after all), but still, traveling for work, doing a public speaking gig abroad and visiting a place I’d never been before has been a great experience. I’m definitely going to do more of this work-related travel in the future, so that’ll be a great opportunity to tick off some more countries on the list. But before that, there’s a week of holiday left next month, to yet another European country..