#5b – Visit all provinces and territories of Canada

Canada may well be my favourite travel destination in the world. I’ve been there two times, so far (plus a short day trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls when I was in the US), but I’d like to see much more of the country. Therefore, I’m making it a bucket list item to visit all of the 10 provinces (which should be relatively easy) and the 3 territories (a bit more challenging) of Canada. Again, starting from 0, which is also a good way of making myself visit British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland once more!

Provinces and territories of Canada

This item replaces the original #5 on the list, visiting all 50 states of the United States. As I said in that post, I find Canada an even better travel destination, and I think that visiting Canada on a couple more occasions would be much more satisfying than completing the list of all US states.

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Looking back to 2017 and looking forward to 2018

With 2017 almost to an end, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate on what I planned to do this year, as well as to look forward to 2018 a bit.

Here’s what I wanted to do this year:

#91 – Complete a Coursera course
Sadly, I haven’t been able to carve out the time to do this. Work and family, as well as moving house pretty much ate up all of my time. I don’t consider this a particularly good thing..

#100 – Visit at least three other countries in Europe
Almost.. I managed to visit two countries that I hadn’t visited ever (Romania) or at least not since adding this item to my bucket list (the UK).

#73 – Pay off 20k of our mortgage
Done! Even though we moved house, we managed to pay off just over 25k, something I am massively proud of.

#16 – See Andrea Bocelli perform live
Done as well. Not a big achievement given that we bought the tickets in 2016, but still an amazing experience.

#33 – Run at least one half marathon
Blegh. Fitness-wise, this year has been quite crap. This is one of the biggest focus points of next year, though. I really need to get back into shape instead of feeling lethargic and growing chubbier by the week..

Other items
I managed to complete one single item I didn’t directly plan for, this being seeing a film on my own while visiting the UK. Not a score that makes me overly enthusiastic..

So.. On to my 2018 plans.

#100 – Visit at least three other countries in Europe
Like this year, I’d like to visit three more countries in Europe. One of them has already been confirmed (early March), and I do have some other traveling plans lined up, but they are to countries that I’ve already ticked off. No idea what other two new countries will be added to the list, but I’ll make an effort nonetheless!

#73 – Pay off 20k of our mortgage
I’d like to pay off another 20k of our mortgage in 2018. This won’t be an easy task as we’ve got some other large purchases coming up, but I still would like to try and do this.

#81 – Run a sub 20 minute 5k
Above, I talked about the need to get in shape again. I hereby solemnly swear to carve out more time to actually do this and will use this item as my ultimate goal. By December 31st, 2018, I will have run a sub 20 5k. No excuses this time.

Other
In general, there are a lot of outdoors items on my list that I’m nowhere near getting finished the way I live my life at the moment. That’s something that’s in dire need of change as well, so 2018 will see me being outside much more!

Enjoy the holidays and I’m looking forward to what 2018 is going to bring me.

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

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!