Tuesday, May 19, 2009

the euro leap

Six cities, four travel books, one carry-on bag.

I hope I can get some sleep in the plane.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

luxury pod in london

Most of you know that I love small-ish spaces, and that I myself live in a tiny, efficient condo (322 sq feet). It's tight but it feels much more spacious because there's a lot of light in the AM and because the appliances are compact. Also, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in touches of luxury -- Egyptian cotton, hotel-grade sofas, engineered efficiency. Still a work in progress, but getting there :)

Well, they now have a term for small spaces like mine: "
luxe pods." Apparently, this small-space trend has been quite popular in London for some time. Here's a London luxury pod - just ONE THIRD of the size of mine! Amazing!

I dont know about sleeping in a tiny "loft" (her bed is right on top of her door). I value my big bed. But still, given the square footage, this space is very cool.

Apartment Therapy interviewed the owner. Here are excerpts:

Name: Judith
Location: London, UK
Size: 101 sf
Rent/Own: Own

What is the advantage of SMALL? Small gives one the chance to use truly luxurious items. One can experiment with a range of innovative materials, such as leather floor tiles, highly reflective surfaces, painted glass, combinations of lighting effects and to source specialists to create bespoke pieces. If all goes wrong it is only 101sq feet to remedy (9.5 sq metres)! The challenge is to indulge the individual so much, that the size of the space becomes immaterial. It is the form and function of the space that outweighs the size.

Judith's kitchen (pictures below) looks a lot like mine.

My refrigerator and freezer are also tucked under the counter. I have a bar sink and induction stove, too.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

how are you doing financially?

There's a fun CNN money quiz here. You may have to convert your values to US dollars to get accurate results.

I got a pathetic B+.

How did you do?


Saturday, May 09, 2009

the costs of living "extremely well"

Ever wonder how much money you need to have in order to "live extremely well"? To measure this, economists use several indicators, such as Gucci loafers, Pratesi linen, a lavish dinner for two, and beluga caviar, among others. The changes in the price tags of these items illustrate the ever-rising costs of living the rich life. Forbes' eye-opening index is here. It's rather dated, but still interesting. There's a more recent index here - and it's very visual, too.

Financial maturity, or just plain maturity

If there's anything I have learned in the last two years, it's frugality. Some people think I spend a lot, but I really don't. My things are expensive, true, but they last. And more importantly, I use them to death. Nothing is redundant, so all the designer things I own get aired out (too often).

My realization is this: "Having the money for it" and "affording it" are two very different things.

For example, having enough money to buy an Hermes bag is not the same as being able to afford an Hermes bag. If you have only P700,000 in your bank account, then technically, you HAVE THE MONEY for the Hermes. However, you CAN'T AFFORD the Hermes, because you would go bankrupt if you bought it.

Five years ago, I spent all of my money on things I thought I could afford, but didn't. I had virtually no savings, but I had a fully paid for second hand car, a designer handbag, and a big mortgage. I was 23 then, and that's normal I guess.

I don't regret it; in fact, I am thankful I learned all those financial lessons early. The demons are still there (buy that Goyard!) but I have kept a lid on most of them. For now, at least.

"You don't lose anything when you travel"

Over dinner the other night, I talked to my friends about the very real, very scary costs of leisure travel. To prepare them for the Euro tour later in the year, I told them exactly how much my upcoming trip would cost: almost P500,000 for two people, including some pocket money. Here is the breakdown:

Hotels - P131,000

Airfare (including fuel surcharges, Euro taxes, Philippine taxes, etc) - P113,000

Eurail tickets (for five destinations) - P45,000

Visa application fee and travel insurance - P15,000

Pocket money based on
average needed in Paris - P150,000 (around EUR 2,400+)

Extra "emergency" money (on top of emergency credit card) - P50,000


I told my friends about how sad I was about the costs of this vacation, as it's been the most expensive MSP and I will take so far.
Half a million is no joke. It takes us months to save that amount. Thinking about it made me a bit nauseous. I was losing money.

But Barry said something very interesting.

"You don't lose anything when you travel."

Makes sense (though our bank accounts don't think so). I'm still reeling about the travel expenses (all of which have been paid now, so there's no turning back), but the excitement of seeing Europe is much bigger than my "buyer's remorse."

So when it was drizzling this morning, I decided to pack.

I travel light, so I will only take a handcarry and a handbag. Unbelievable? Well, believe it. I'm taking on Paris, the south of France, Monaco, Barcelona, and Madrid with just one bag for clothes, and another handbag for the laptop, chargers, and travel books/maps. NO CHECK IN LUGGAGE. I hate waiting for bags.

I made all of these wool tops, a coat, a raincoat, several tank tops and shorts, a swimsuit, scarves, wool socks, flat shoes, swine flu masks, etc etc etc....

Fit into this

The secret is THERMAL WEAR. No need to bring lotsa bulky coats and sweaters :)

*Sorry for the dark pictures. It was really dark outside, and I don't use the lights in the morning. FRUGAL! :)


Thursday, May 07, 2009

the story of stuff

This can change your lifestyle, or at least some aspects of it.

Watch the video here.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

europe here we come / how to get schengen visa for filipinos

Traveling to other countries is especially difficult for us Pinoys not only because our currency is zilch against the Euro and the USD, but more so because it's hard to get visas. If you still hold a Philippine passport, then you must know how paralyzing those visa denial stories are.

That's why MSP and I consider ourselves very, very blessed to have been granted Schengen visas without any special help. We just followed the SOP, showed up when we were asked to come to the embassy, and now we have the "permission" to see these really soon:

Madrid, Spain (Source)

Avila, Spain (Source)

Barcelona, Spain (Source)

Nice, France

Paris, France (Source)

* * * *

How to get that elusive Schengen visa

When I started my search online for comprehensive information on how to get Schengen visas about a month ago, I was disappointed to see that there was no honest to goodness detailed page that existed. There's the usual list of embassy requirements, sure, but forums are bloggers were all vague when it comes to questions that matter, like

"What did the consul ask you?"

"How much 'show money' is needed?"

"What is the dress code for the interview?"
and other such seemingly mundane but important details.

So here, I attempt to give concrete, frank answers.


* * * *

I know that to some people, a Euro trip is just another vacation. But to us, it's a really big deal. It marks a momentous period in our lives - a period when we can finally travel semi-freely, with some pocket money and one handcarry each :) And we are MAKING IT HAPPEN, just us.

This is A MOMENT. Like that fancy dinner we treated ourselves to when we finally got the company up and running. Like when I bought my first designer bag with my first bonus. Like when MSP got an entry-level high-end watch when our company made serious money. Like when we went to church one night thanking God for the first major deal we landed. We were holding hands.

After seeing much of Asia, it's about time we see Europe. So we stopped dreaming and finally got going, like we always do.

We're a good team, MSP and I :)