Tag Archives: digital nomads

Cats eating

Video: Our Cyprus Housesit Watching 7 Cats

~B~

I first attempted to make an overall Cyprus video, but our “tourist” clips just didn’t blend well with all the cat videos. So this is a video mostly featuring the seven cats we watched in Dhoros. Gotta love cat videos, though!  I will probably make another short video showing some of our activities out, though. Enjoy!

Christmas ornament

Monthly Roundup 21-22 (November-December 2016)

~B~

Summary
Summary-Christmas Decorations

The roundup is later than normal not because it took me longer to write it but because I forgot to post it (it’s actually been sitting here ready to be posted for several days-oops). Anyway, back in the last roundup in October I mentioned that we weren’t really sure what was going to happen in the following few months and it could have gone many different ways but in the end Kyle was offered the job in California and now here we are sitting in our very own apartment in San Jose. I haven’t decided if I’ll be continuing the roundups after this but if I do they’ll be a little different because we are no longer traveling full time. I originally wrote this to be very long with the full format for both November and December but I changed it to November and an abbreviated version for December. I hardly got on my computer the first few weeks in December which is why the November roundup didn’t get up then. We kept ourselves busy both months and, as per normal, there are various of things I will probably leave out of the post simply because it’s already going to be long and I have to use some discretion.

Where We’ve Been
WWB GPS to Niceville

31 days in Budapest (part day plus a flight with a short layover in Oslo before arriving in Orlando to be picked up and brought to Jacksonville)
8 days in Florida (specifically: Fleming Island, Niceville, and Destin)
3 days on the road including a night in San Antonio and a night in Tucson
19 days in San Jose, CA

Distance Traveled by..
Z-Distancetraveledby On the way across country

November
Foot Over 100 miles
December
Plane 5,525 miles
Car ~3,000 miles

Highlights
Z-Highlights St Stephen's Basilica Christmas MArket

November:
1. The Christmas Markets! They’ll get their own post but we went to multiple Christmas markets within Budapest and we went to the one in Vorosmarty Ter three times. I really enjoyed everything about them, especially the mulled wine!
2. The Baths. We tried to go to a different, cheaper public bath but it didn’t work out (we’ll write about that later) so we thought, you know what, let’s just splurge and do Szechenyi. It’s iconic Budapest (at least for tourists) and we already wanted to at least see it (which itself costs money) so we went there. We had a great time!
3. Margaret Island. I am sure this place is nice year-round but it was just lovely in the Fall. There is a bunch of different stuff to see/do there, but this too will get its own post.
4. Gellert Hill Outing. Before we went to Budapest I saw a picture of a place in the city on Pinterest and thought ‘I want to go there!’ so I asked my mom to ask Jutid where it was and she said it was Gellert Hill. It was just as beautiful in person and luckily I feel we were able to capture that with our camera.
5. Pinball Museum. My favorites games there were actually the non-pinball games like shooting and bowling but we both had fun.
6. The Great Market Hall.
7. Trash day, also known as lomtalanítás. This was unexpected and interesting.
8. Ice skating. Okay, another slight splurge, but where else are we going to get a chance to ice-skate in front of a castle??
9. Sweets. Everything from the grocery store bakery section sweets, to candy, to ice cream, to the market desserts, to a Tiramisu coffee, we enjoyed many different sweets this month.
10. Panineria. We ate here the night before we left and Kyle just raved about his sandwich. Mine was also good and I especially liked the dessert.
December: Our highlights included seeing people and pets, Christmas celebrations and Christmas decorations/displays, nice gifts, heated seats, good views on our drive, finding a place (and one with a washer and dryer and a dishwasher), having our things, food and drink, knitting and playing instruments, the mountains, making a couple travel videos (did you see our spin video and follow video?) because it’s fun for me, and Kyle liking his job so far.

Lowlights
Z-lowlights-takingmy temperature

November was fun, but various things (see lowlights) also interfered with plans at times. They’re not in chronological order.
1. Sick/Virus. Look up norovirus. I don’t know for sure if it’s what we had but basically those symptoms. First Kyle got it and then after a few days I contracted it from him. It was just terrible. You pretty much don’t stop throwing up for the first 12-24 hours and it’s just exhausting. I think Kyle stopped throwing up after his initial time period but I continued beyond this, just with longer intervals in between. Between us we were out for a week and it took longer than that to feel all the way better.
2. Workers Outside. Really not a big deal but the workers outside could be kind of loud in the morning which would wake us up. A couple days they also actually blocked our door painting or something so we were not able to leave.
3. Planning Stress. First there was the wait to see if he really had the job and then we were waiting on a finalized start date while also trying to plan our time in Florida and getting across country while not knowing just what awaited us in terms of how much stuff we would need to do in each place (Kyle’s parents’, my mom’s, my dad’s, and my grandma’s), what my parents’ work schedules might require, etc. We were also trying to figure out whether or not a stop in Orlando was realistic, decide if Kyle was trading his car with his parents, decide if we were or were not going to take both cars and cats on our initial drive across country and the implications for which hotels we could stay at, figure out if we could tow one car, and estimate how long we should book a place/how long we’d be apartment hunting. We were also trying to look at apartments online but the rents changing by hundreds per month from day to day (at the same places) and we were trying to figure out if we really could live alone or needed roommates especially not knowing what exactly the wage would be at that time, and so on.
3. Knocked Down. When we decided we were done ice-skating Kyle said he wanted to go one more time around so I said that’s fine but I am tired and went and sat down. After he was done he told me I needed to do the same. I said I didn’t want to but he said I must so fine I went on the rink and within about fifteen seconds this little girl flies out of nowhere into my legs and knocks me hard to the ground. It hurt and my hand bled and I experienced pain in my hand for many days and a mark for a couple weeks. And that was just a couple hours before I got sick.
4. Not Getting In. The first time we went to the Pinball Museum it was closed for an event (not disclosed on their website or any of their social media because we checked) which was pretty upsetting because we planned our whole day around it but we did end up going back on a day it was open. Then there was the NY Cafe, the most beautiful cafe in the world. We tried to go in one night and wow, we felt so out of place and underdressed we had to leave immediately. We were really in the mood for ice cream, though, so we searched Maps for another ice cream place but saw it had already closed so then we searched for another but when we arrived it was closed too. So then we went to Burger King and got ice cream there which was pretty good.
5. Souvenirs. Just all the cool stuff we didn’t or couldn’t get for ourselves or others (like the item in the cover photo) because they were too big, too fragile, etc.
December: Our lowlights for December included not having as much time as we wanted with family and friends, not having enough time to go through all my stuff or the room for all of it, getting sick again (me)- I had a cold in Niceville and pretty much literally did not stop blowing my nose on the entire car ride across country, Kyle’s wage being lower than he was originally told (though it was balanced by cheaper insurance and better benefits but was initially a concern), moving expenses, us planning our schedules around a particular work date and then arriving to California only for his work to tell him they changed it meaning not only could we have done things a little differently (though it did work out well) but he also was not getting paid for those two days which we were sort of counting on, not getting holiday pay for two four day weekends and one three day weekend because he had not been in the system long enough, finding out he won’t get paid at all until mid-January, and finding out that we are missing a bunch of stuff (such as most of our tupperware, our crock pots, some mugs, our ladle, a few small souvenirs from Budapest we had in the car, and some things I hope are somewhere at my parents’ places but that I didn’t come across).

Firsts
Z-Firsts- Budapest Baths

November
First time having mulled wine.
Kyle’s first Christmas market.
Kyle first time ice skating in a foreign country (it might have been mine too but I don’t remember). What is crazy is that he never went ice-skating at all until he was in college!
Kyle’s first time having a curly mustache.
December
Farthest north we’ve been together (Oslo).
First time with our own place that we are renting long-term while married (lol).
First time seeing Augustine lights (me).
Kyle first time donating his hair.
Interestingly NOT our first time driving across country from FL to CA nor our first time moving to San Jose.

Budget
Z-Budget Budapest Christmas Shopping Lights

November cost $1085.56.
Accommodation   The cost of our place for the month was $530. Yes, one of our more expensive places, but worth it. We didn’t actually pay that this month and instead paid our final payment of $180 towards it which brings our actual spendings down to $738.56 this month.
Food   Wow, so uh, we spent $181.96 on groceries this month. We were pretty amazed last month when we only spent $235 and this month we significantly cut that! And everywhere (including the market near us) took cards so there were only a couple time we had to use cash so we can see our spendings online. I don’t really understand how we spent so little but I think a few things played a role. Kyle barely ate at all for like a week (when we were sick). Illness has never been able to keep me from eating so I did eat (especially kiwis which I was craving like crazy) in between throwing up but I also ate less for a few days. Another idea: I wouldn’t have thought this would have played a role but we literally went to the store like every day so maybe that somehow helped us keep our costs down too. We also shopped around- for example, the avocados were way cheaper at the market than at the grocery store. There were like five to seven different grocery stores we went to based on what we wanted/needed and prices. The specific dishes we were making may also have been playing a role. I mean, we do try to be careful with our spendings but I feel we used a similar level of care in each location. Maybe groceries are just cheaper in Serbia and Hungary than we realized. I mean we look at the prices of everything when we buy it but with us moving locations and the currencies and exchange rates changing everywhere it can be confusing. I think certain currencies make us more frugal than others for whatever reason. Of course, that was not all we spent on food. We also spent $55.68 on food out including 9 ice creams, 2 donuts, a chimney cake, langos, coffee, mulled wine, a pita, a piece of pizza, a kebab, fisherman’s soup in a bread bowl, a burger, 3 sandwiches, 2 fries, a salad, and another dessert. So we spent $237.64 total on food.
Entertainment/Outings   We tend to like to keep this pretty low due to the number of free and cheap activities available in many regions but in Budapest more activities require fees (there are even parks which require you to pay to enter there) and some activities are expensive. We chose not to do a couple things we were interested in due to price but we weren’t going to go there to not do things. We ended up spending $87.83. If we hadn’t got sick and had the construction workers blocking our door it would have been higher though because we had several more things we really wanted to do which cost money such as the Bear Sanctuary and a couple of caves close to Obuda. We just didn’t get a chance before we left.
Regular stuff   $141.44 for storage, Netflix, Google Storage, Dropbox, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
Miscellaneous   $75.77 on souvenirs, gifts, and developing a little bit of film.
Fees $12.88
Now for December. Because we are no longer traveling, even if I continue the roundups I will no longer be disclosing these relatively full, informative financial reports because it would probably be weird. If we are able to travel I might talk about the cost of trips, though and I will still note things of significance like wow we only spent so much on this or wow this was so much.
The December budget was pretty significant. WE SPENT MORE MONEY THAN WE HAVE EVER SPENT IN A SINGLE MONTH EVER (I have been tracking our spendings for years but even if I hadn’t this would be obvious). That amount of money would have lasted us months traveling (UGH). And we basically couldn’t work the entire month, though we both got paid a very small bit for things we did last month. Costs included everything from the apartment stuff (application fee, deposit, rent for December, rent for January), transportation stuff (driving across country, renting a uHaul, the smog test, registration, a new license, etc.), a place to stay while looking for a place (less than a week at one of the cheapest Airbnbs we could find still came close to what we were often paying for a place per month abroad in Asia), bills for electricity and internet already coming in, all of our regular expenses, food, and more.

Work/Productivity
Work Kyle on couch

Kyle: Work for me over these past two months has been a little weird, but then it always seems to be a little weird. I finished up a large project in November and began another large project which has just wrapped up now after the holidays. I’m happy to report that both ultimately went off without a hitch, although there was some last minute understandings on the first project that did get taken care of. As well I had some work from one of my regular clients that I was able to finish up as we left Budapest and took care of packing in Florida. I’m happy to report that I have been hired as an artist at the University of California Santa Cruz and the role itself is great, but I will miss the regular travel.
Briana: I don’t feel like writing a lot more just to say the same things I’ve said most other months. Pretty much things were the same for November. I was unable to work in December, especially at the beginning. If I had chosen to work I couldn’t have taken care of the things I needed to do and I would have had to basically ignore our families to earn a low wage so I lost my clients. I can still do my flashcards though and I did one set at the end of the month. I can also still log onto a tutor site and wait to see if anyone needs help with something within my knowledge base. I tried to find some community college teaching jobs which I’d be qualified for which would be starting the Spring semester but I only found one which I did not get. Obviously we were busy with all kinds of other stuff this month and I also worked on the travel videos and other things.

Health and Fitness
Z-Health and Fitness Kiss Cookies

As I said above, we walked well over 100 miles in November alone in Budapest. We did our first hike back in California on the day after Christmas. Since we have gotten settled Kyle has started working out a little bit everyday and I have been trying to stretch a little everyday. It was fairly rare for us to do any exercising, stretching, yoga, etc. on our travels because of many reasons which varied by time and place but now we can more easily get back into doing these things. It helps that we have carpet. In terms of food we have been making more Mexican food but we are still eating pretty healthy.

Next Month/Next year
Z-NextMonth Sunset Reflections

What’s in store for next month? We will continue to get back into the swing of the ‘normal’ life, though I think we’re pretty much already there. We both have so much more time than we did while traveling which is really nice. I’ll explain the reasons in another post. We’ll be further organizing and decorating our place and doing our regular hikes. Hopefully my car and our furry friends will be arriving. In terms of the blog, I will probably be working on articles about the year, maybe a “year roundup” and/or travel superlatives (our favorite cities, food, etc. from the past year), possibly one on our overall travel budget, things we’d do differently, and so on. Of course, there are lots of other articles Kyle has been wanting me to write that I have been putting off for many months ago, such as the Batu Caves, Angkor Wat, and so on. So we’ll see. Kyle will probably be writing more on Serbia and Hungary.

Follow Us 2016 Travels

~B~

Another travel video for you! Obviously I had both this and the spin idea in mind throughout our time though there are definitely quite a bit for more certain areas/countries than others.

Budapest, Hungary

Monthly Roundup 20: October 2016

~B~

Summary:
Fishermans Bastion Summary

We are happy to say that we made it to Budapest! I had been looking forward to the idea of coming here for a long time and it lives up to expectations. We had a nice time finishing out our stay in Belgrade even though we found ourselves on an unconventional sleep schedule and were stressed out wondering if we were going to need to fly back to the US at the drop of a hat for a job for Kyle. I personally have decided to mostly forget the whole thing exists so I don’t have to think about it. Fall has made itself apparent in both locations and we are relishing it. We found ourselves to be very comfortable in Belgrade and we feel similar in Budapest. The biggest downside to Budapest so far is discovering the cost of many of the popular activities but as a whole, Budapest is obviously still well-priced for a European city. We are still getting used to not standing out anymore like we did in Asia. In Asia, on account of us not being Asian, it was obvious to locals that we weren’t from the area and probably didn’t know the language well. In Serbia and Hungary locals sometimes try to talk to us in their local language- whether it’s yelling at us at the supermarket for not putting away our groceries properly (this was in Budapest), or commenting something friendly to us on the street (also seems to occur more frequently in Budapest, but has happened in both places). We must look pretty comfortable though because in Serbia we even had tourists come up to us asking if we could we give them directions and in Hungary I watched as the ticket person at a museum gave directions to the people in front of us in English and proceeded to tell me instructions in Hungarian.

Where We’ve Been this Month:
Budapest-Where We've Been
20 days in Belgrade Serbia
11 days in Budapest, Hungary

Distance Traveled by Bus: 378km
Belgrade- distance traveled by

Highlights:
Leaves-Highlights
1. Final Outings in Belgrade. The first fun thing (October 1st) we did was go to the Ballet which was really neat. It was so grand-looking and the performance was also great. One cold, rainy evening we finally crossed the Sava in Belgrade and wandered around and saw an old concentration camp. We also visited a large cemetery, saw more street art, re-visited the fortress area, Saint Sava, and Saint Marks and went to a few other places. We also enjoyed doing some aimless exploring.
2. 3am Walks. Due to our schedules we went on several of these and even did entire activity outings in the middle of the night! My favorite was a visit to Zvezdara Park Forest (this was intentional, not aimless exploring as we tried to get here multiple times before succeeding). When we went on late-night walks in Belgrade we usually encountered a quiet city with a nice mist and streets almost entirely to ourselves. It was really quite pleasant to wander the quiet city and we actually felt quite safe.
3. OTC Birth Control. There only seem to be a couple countries which allow you to get birth control over the counter and we’ve happened to be in one each time I’ve needed to re-stock! That worked out well! I only got 3 packets even after 2 visits because we waited until the end to do this and the pharmacies weren’t well stocked but it’ll do for now. Now I am just going to take a second and compare this to the process of getting birth control in the U.S. I remember one of the times in Orlando I was trying to get more birth control I first called the doctor and looked at my busy schedule to figure out a time which worked for me which was open. Once at the appointment, I asked for birth control. No, sorry, you are due for a pap smear, I will not give it to you until you have a pap smear. Fine, schedule me for the thing. Then I ask for it again. No, sorry, we need to make sure your results are fine. Wait two weeks or whatever. You know what? It looks like it is not a perfect pap smear, you have to go to a gynecologist for further treatment and we still won’t give you birth control even though you’ve needed it for over a month. Now we are going to do an invasive procedure and never tell you the purpose or results and then we’ll think about giving you your birth control. Ok, now can I have it? Yes, but you can’t have that one. I don’t like that one so I won’t prescribe it to you. Annoying AF. Finally they do give me the prescription and I have to make time in my day to go to pharmacy and ask to get it filled, wait around, etc. Seriously, what are they doing during the 30 minutes that I have to sit and wait for them to hand over my prescription?? And I have to do the same thing every month because they won’t give me more than one at a time! Meanwhile in Korea and Serbia I just show up to the pharmacy and ask if I can have some and they *gasp* give it to me! I don’t even have to wait. And if I ask for more, they give me as much as they have! Korea is all about efficiency which we really appreciated during out time there. I was somewhat surprised that Serbia was progressive in this area but I appreciated it as well. If we’re going to talk about some of the reasons that I have read that doctors need to prescribe it- it’s like ‘they need to tell you about the side effects.’ No doctor has taken the time to tell me about any side effects and I don’t see why the pharmacy person can’t do that anyway.
4. Weather/Fall. We are loving the cool weather. We spent a good portion of the year in 100 degree temps and it’s nice to cool down a little and for fall to feel like fall. We thought we would have trouble adjusting but we are doing just fine with temperatures in the 30s-50s so long as it’s not too windy. Our heat works great here in Budapest so we get to feel super cozy. We are also enjoying watching the leaves change colors! It’s weird to think it was a year ago that we were doing the same thing in Korea!
5. Fairly Smooth Transition. I probably wouldn’t have put this under the highlights but Kyle requested it. After our last experience on a train and reading a few too many horror stories about the train ride from Belgrade to Budapest, we decided to look into other options. Buses travel faster than trains (because they stop so often) and this particular one was extra convenient because it picked us up near our Belgrade Airbnb and dropped us off at our Budapest one so we could avoid taxis and hauling our stuff around more. There was a long queue at the border which we were told was abnormal and we had to get out of the bus and have all of our things checked and I had to pee the majority of the time but other than that, it went well.
6. Our New Airbnb. I have to say, it is so worth it to have a place to ourselves and to be in the city center and that is what we have been able to do/have both in Belgrade and Budapest. We are currently staying in a loft in the Jewish Quarter and I am very pleased with it. We have a great bathroom with a shower/bath that actually plugs and reliably provides hot water! We really wanted to know what it was like to live in a loft and now we are learning what it’s like!
7. Outings in Budapest. We’ve had a fun time beginning to explore the city. Every outing could be its own highlight but then we wouldn’t have room for other highlights. We’ve been more places so far but I will only touch on where we went in October since this is the October roundup. We explored some of the Jewish quarter where we are staying including checking out a few synagogues and churches. We went to the House of Terror, visited Heroe’s Square and the City Park, saw Vajdahunyad Castle, went to Vorosmarty Square, climbed to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica, walked along the Danube and saw the Shoes on the Danube, visited the (outside of the) Parliament building, crossed the river and saw Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and Matthias Church, went to a cat cafe, walked down Andrassy a couple times, got a few desserts and a little bit of food out, and did a little bit of general wandering.
8. Groceries! I know, weird, but there are a few things to be excited about in this area. Aside from the 7/11s in the Korea, the only other time we had access to any sort of store 24/7 was in Bangkok. We have that again here, though. There are a few such places within walking distance of us and it is extremely convenient, especially for when we are keeping strange hours. In addition to the 24/7 stores, we are directly across the street from a big (though allegedly one of the smallest in the city) sort of farmer’s market with a great selection of produce and there are like 10 other little grocery type stores within walking distance of us. It’s kind of crazy because normally we are used to having to walk a mile just to get to one!
9. Food. As you will see in the budget section we tried out some local (though not necessarily all local) food. In Serbia we shared a giant delicious crepe, tried out lots of bakeries, and found a good Mexican place (we really appreciate a good Mexican place). In Budapest we enjoyed chimney cakes filled with ice cream and cake from one of the oldest bakeries in Budapest, among other things. Kyle has also begun to cook with sour cream and paprika, just like the locals (or so it appears based on what’s available and what the internet tells us).
10. The Buildings. I just love looking at all the buildings. This was true in Belgrade but it’s even moreso the case in Budapest. They are so beautiful and decorative and multi-colored. I could just wander around looking at buildings all day.
Honorary Mentions: My phone can connect to the internet in Budapest (it couldn’t connect in Belgrade for some reason), I enjoyed getting up early while it was our schedule (it’s still somewhat early but probably won’t be for long), and we had a little bit of rain in both places.

Lowlights:
Waiting-Lowlights

I can only manage to think of five this month. I could probably make it 6 or 7 by dividing aspects of the lowlights below into multiple lowlights but five is a nice number. I will also add an honorary mention which is that the top of one of our umbrellas blew away in the wind while I was holding it. The reason we couldn’t retrieve it was because it flew into busy traffic. While Kyle didn’t seem to agree, I thought it was funny and we had another so it was fine.
1. Weird Sleep Schedule. Not sure how it happened, but we ended up having a bedtime of about 4-6am. We just stayed up a bit later every night until it came to that. We both got rather bad insomnia at times. I think it was partially stress. While we are both night owls, but I’d say it was more Kyle pushing this schedule. It’s not that we didn’t try to fix it either. Sometimes we’d try to go to bed at midnight, only to lay in bed for a few hours wide awake before getting up. Then our bus ride to Budapest was early morning which meant we did not sleep and then I couldn’t really sleep when we arrived. Kyle and I ended up on slightly different sleep schedules. Kyle was sleeping extra and I was sleeping very little. For the first few days I was trying to get on a normal schedule and ended up trying to keep myself awake as long as possible before dropping and then only sleeping for like four hours before I was wide awake again. It was all strange and eventually I got to a bed time of about 5:30pm but now it’s more normal and we’ll probably push it to a late schedule again! *sigh* For me, it’s just that I always feel I haven’t accomplished as much as I hoped during the day so I need to stay up and do more. There’s also always issues like when I am not able to sleep in the night because I’m up with a headache. One night in Belgrade I think I had a reaction to a salad Kyle made me and was sick and throwing up during the night.
2. No Daytrips. I really wanted to make some day trips outside of Belgrade using buses or trains and even spent a good bit of time creating entire itineraries for multiple places but we didn’t end up going to any of them due to a mix of 1) our sleep schedule, 2) hesitancy to spend money, and 3) the whole job thing. I was particularly looking forward to the idea of going to Novi Sad or Vukovar. Novi Sad had previously been a consideration for a location to stop for a while in between Belgrade and Budapest.
3. Which brings me to: Not Knowing. I feel like we are always living in limbo and it’s a little frustrating. There is almost always something, usually multiple somethings that are in the air for us and we are just waiting for someone to get back to us about some potentially life-direction-altering thing. Right now it is the potential job for Kyle in California.
4. Apartment Scam. Kyle hasn’t even been offered the job and we aren’t even back in the US yet and yet we are already dealing with scams! We were researching housing in the bay area in anticipation of the job when it seemed like Kyle definitely had it (though we do still think he will get it) and encountered a somewhat elaborate scam. The person even sent us their ID to verify themselves as a real person. I informed them the real person their information was being used for these purposes but they already knew. I actually did tell Kyle it was a scam early on but he didn’t believe me.
5. Joint Pain. Doesn’t really bother me compared to my headaches and I have gotten joint pain occasionally since I was like 12 so it is nothing new but it seems to sometimes get worse, such as this month (maybe the cold?) It also seems to come and go rather quickly sometimes. Example: On our way out one time in Belgrade I really struggled to walk down the stairs because my knees ached so much but by the time we came back they were fine.

Firsts:
Umbrella Restaurant- Firsts

First time staying in a loft.
We don’t normally put ones on here that are more like ‘duh’ or ‘okay’ but I will add a couple anyway: first time in Hungary, first time in Budapest, first time eating at a restaurant with umbrellas above us, Kyle’s first bus ride in Europe (I used to live in Europe and would take the bus to school- lol! and I took others), first time meeting a fellow self-identifying digital nomad while in transit to a new country (literally discovered each others’ status at the border).

Budget:
Opera House for the Ballet- Budget

The total cost of October was $1131.51 which seems to be a little bit better (less), but fairly on par with our usual average spendings. We spent less than that this month of course because we purchased our accommodation in advance. Now, when renting for longer periods it seems Airbnb does not charge all at once so we did have a payment (about 1 weeks worth) taken out during this month but the majority of the payment was made in August. Now, for the breakdown:
Accommodation. As I said last month, our nightly cost in Belgrade came out to about $13.91/night. At 20 nights for October, this amounts to $278.20. In Budapest the cost was a little higher at $189.61 for the 11 nights we were here in October. The total cost of accommodation for the month comes out to $467.81. I spent a good bit of time finding what I determined to be the perfect place for us in each city and we have been happy with both. We did spend a tiny bit more than we wanted to in Budapest but the place is worth the price. The two primary reasons we chose to come to Budapest in late October rather than directly after Cyprus were 1) we could not find any housing which fell in our budget range for the initial time period and 2) the Christmas markets start earliest in Budapest (like out of all of Europe).
Food. Now I am a bit baffled that we managed to only spend $235.83 on groceries this month but everything seems to match up! The groceries in Serbia were cheap (and in Budapest as well), but the groceries have been cheap most places we’ve been! I think it may be partly because some of the things that typically really eat into our food budget if we buy them, like cheese, was pretty cheap in Serbia. We also may have been eating cheaper things at home. For example, we started every morning with toast and coffee. A big fresh loaf of bread there is less than a dollar. Also, my favorite thing to eat which I probably ate more days than not was spaghetti with butter and beli sir (the local cheese) which was quite an affordable dish to make there. The sweets were also pretty cheap. Maybe our sleep schedule somehow played into it all as well. I’d like to keep it down there if we can, though! We did spoil ourselves a tiny bit by eating out but obviously it worked out fine. We do have to try a few things out in each country as we need to experience a little local cuisine and there is no way we could get as much food per cost out back in the U.S. as we are able to in some other countries. We spent $30.31 on desserts out. This number includes 3 pieces of cake, 5 ice creams, 1 crepe, 7 pastries (from bakeries), and 2 coffees out. This doesn’t include the pastries we got at the grocery stores which have bakeries (this goes under groceries). We spent $59.78 on food out which includes dinner at a nice traditional Serbia restaurant, lunch at a Hungarian restaurant (and tips for both of these places), a pretzel for Kyle, 5 meat things out for Kyle (burger/chicken burger/sausage burger/whatever), 4 burritos plus 1 bag of chips, a large pizza, and over-priced Indian to go (Kyle did not listen to me when I said to not get it if it was pricey- I was too tired to go with him- but whatever). The total cost of food this month for both of us was $325.92.
Transportation. Our bus ride from Belgrade to Budapest cost $56.18 for both of us. We were able to minimize our transportation cost this month by 1) not having any big/major flights this month which was one of the (many) reasons we had chosen Belgrade as a destination to precede Budapest, 2) avoiding taking any taxis (which the bus made possible) 3) walking everywhere (made possible by choosing an Airbnb in a good location) and 4) not doing any day trips, even though I think they may have been worth it if we had.
Activities. We spent $9.25 on activities this month which includes the cost to climb up to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica which we deemed ‘worth it’ and the cost of coffee at the Budapest cat cafe. I could have put the cat cafe cost under sweets out but I thought I’d put it under activities. Now, Budapest is a city where most things seem to cost money and many things are rather expensive (at least compared to what we’re used to and for people on a budget). We are currently trying to decide how we want to allot our activity spendings for the rest of our time here. We did manage to make it into one museum for free on a national holiday (to celebrate the 1956 revolution) but it’s unlikely we’ll be able to manage something of the sort with other activities. So far we’ve managed to see a fair bit (mostly the outsides of buildings) without spending much, though.
Regular. $210.28 for storage, car insurance (twice-again Kyle pays weird), Google Drive storage, Netflix, Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and Dropbox.
Miscellaneous. Kyle had to pay to use the toilet once, I got a few more months of birth control, we picked up a couple small souvenirs and some extra chocolate, and then there was a little bit of spendings recorded which we couldn’t place (no, it does not look like this was groceries, I’ll probably figure it out after I publish this article). The total was $44.33.
Fees. $17.74

Work/Productivity:
Kyle Working- Work
Kyle: Work this month for me was almost non-existent. Luckily, my large animation project I had been working on for months paid the final payment. I had no projects at the beginning of the month to work on and spent some of my time my working on personal projects, and scoping out possible living accommodations for if the California job came through. I know on the previous round-up I had said that I would know if I had got the job by now, but – I don’t. I’ve yet to receive any real feedback, other than that they were busy, various technical jargon stuff, and that they would get back to me; but they did like me apparently. So now, I’m still sitting here feeling a little anxious about whether this will go through or not, starting to feel like it won’t. Considering that I had an interview with them, they said they liked me, and they asked me to do a little extra after the interview, I would think they would get back to me to at least tell me yes or no – but today’s job market and hiring culture doesn’t seem to put much consideration to potential hires, so I won’t be surprised if I never hear back either. Towards the end of the month, I suddenly (partly due to Briana finding me jobs) managed to get a few projects on my plate and one of my old clients came back and has been keeping me busy. So coming into the new month, I should be kept busy which is good.
Briana:
I am going to change it to work/productivity because I already sort of generally address not only the work we did, but also things that interfered with productivity and simply the other things we were doing with our time. I put myself second because I usually have more to say.
Work:
A little into the month one person told me they don’t need anything else from me until after the holidays which is a little unfortunate but fine (it’s not my only work but it was the easiest).
I also had this flashcard reviewer for a few of my sets that was so extremely annoying to the point that I plan to avoid sets on that subject until it becomes necessary to take them. To make the cards I am to use lessons as guides but she thought that the lessons were all wrong so my cards were wrong. She was very nit-picky about things like the location of emphasis in pronunciation guides (again I am just following the lesson and would assume this would actually vary depending on where you are from so it seems a little over-the-top to me). Additionally, the first time I created my cards in a certain manner (I had done it before- just the first time she reviewed such a set) she praised it as creative and the second time I did it she told me to delete all the cards and find a better way. I mean I understand that there would be some differences between different reviewers, but this was the same reviewer. I don’t get paid by the hour, only by the set, so when I have to spend a lot of time fixing the set, that really sort of eats into my wage. I feel like I really deal with a lack of consistent feedback in general, though. Between this and being busy with other things, I didn’t get a ton of sets done.
Other than that things have been pretty status quo. Even though I get low pay, what I enjoy about all of my work is that I am always learning new things. I feel like I am getting paid to learn random subjects which allows me to look at it with a more positive perspective. One of the interesting subjects I learned more about this month was economics. I mean I took AP macro in high school but that was the last, and probably only time I learned anything about this subject aside from now. Creating the flashcards I am able to learn and review a little bit too. If you didn’t guess from what I said above, I was mostly doing Spanish language flashcards but now I’m moving onto other subjects.
By the end of the month I had resumed looking for jobs and advertising for Kyle. He didn’t look or advertise at all for something like a month and was doing so sparingly before and wasn’t getting any new work so, of course, it became necessary that I take over for him again. He simply doesn’t have the motivation to do it though he suddenly started to look a little more himself as well when I started helping him again. I also did something I do every few months which is review his work and internet profile. I discovered that all of his reels, resume, etc. all display an email to which he no longer has access. I also advised him on a few other matters.
Other things:
I would say I had as many as three full days which were basically useless due to me being immobilized by a headache and/or fatigue and sickness. Some of my headaches are very difficult to treat. In regards to the fatigue and nausea- I am usually just fine but I occasionally get hit with this extreme amount of both that I simply cannot do anything but lie down and it is truly a struggle just to get up to go to the bathroom or something along those lines. The next day I could be perfectly fine though so it is quite strange.
We have both been doing the blog but nowhere near as much as normal. I told Kyle I was no longer making the blog a priority some time ago but he wanted to develop it more. He hasn’t really been doing it, though. We are both still posting and will continue to post but we will probably continue to make less posts than we did previously. We are making posts which combine things which we normally would have separated into several different posts, though, such as the churches in Serbia post and the Paphos post. I doubt much else will actually change except that I plan to do some more general travel posts. I am using the blog as a way to learn a little more about social media, though. I have grown our twitter following to over 750 and am continuing to attempt to grow it more. I am also beginning to look into growing our Instagram following more as well. It’s currently around 170 followers. I am also learning to use Pinterest as a way to drive traffic to the blog. I occasionally advertise myself as willing to manage a company’s social media for an affordable price but haven’t gotten any takers yet. Perhaps when I have more to show for it.
Now, there were some other things taking up our time too and most of these were associated with the job for Kyle. One of these things was apartment hunting. They initially made it sound as if we would need to come over at the drop of the hat so we began looking at apartments, creating documents with price, location, features, availabilities etc., contacting some places and so on. Kyle was actually doing more of this but I spent some time checking things out as well. Well, eventually we didn’t hear back so after a while we just stopped.
The other big thing which was almost entirely me, was the making of plans. I looked at policies on changing flights, checked out flights back to the U.S. from Belgrade and Budapest, flights from other cities within a day’s train ride, and so on. Because we thought we’d be heading back to the US soon, I began planning a short trip up to Budapest since we really wanted to go and looking into Airbnbs for that time period. Obviously it was all unnecessary. Somewhat irrespective of the California plans I also made plans to other cities and did the regular activity outings planning.

Health and Fitness:
Walnut Ice Cream-Health and Fitness

Everything is pretty standard. Bad posture while working continues to be a problem for us. We are still doing a lot of walking and mostly cooking at home. Berries were affordable in Belgrade which was nice. I do always seem to fill myself with less healthy sugar too, though!

Media Consumed:
Our little place- Media consumed

Kyle continued reading The Illiad and finished reading The Assassin’s Village. We didn’t really consume much media in general, though. We listened to one podcast episode by Extra Pack of Peanuts and one on Budapest by someone else. We tried the show Haters Back Off but couldn’t quite manage to finish the first episode. I thought it could have potential but it just seemed a bit too over-the-top for us. I also watched a couple episodes of a show called Good Witch on Netflix (I like it, Kyle thinks it’s boring) while I packed for Budapest. I also, of course, watched the new Gilmore Girls trailer a couple times. We intended to watch lots of Halloween movies but somehow it didn’t happen! I did also download several free books onto the Kindle and hope to read at least one this coming month. I tried to download more but suddenly Amazon knew we were in a different country and didn’t want me to download anymore. Our VPN expired recently and we don’t currently have plans to renew it since we don’t know what we’re doing with our lives after next month.

Next Month:
Coffee and Pastry- Next Month

We will be spending all of November in Hungary. We are really excited to see the Christmas markets in Budapest. The first one begins November 11 and we have plans to get chimney cakes and mulled wine and stroll around and enjoy the holiday decorations. Hopefully we will get to see Jutid and Larry (family friends) sometime during the month. We also plan to explore the city more and possibly make a trip or two to areas just outside Budapest. We hope to know if Kyle has the job or not. We’ll see. We do kind of need to know so we can figure out what we’re doing with… the rest of our lives! We will be flying back back to the states (into Orlando) on December 1st, so just after the close of next month.

Lebanon bus ride

Getting From Beirut to Bcharre (Lebanon)

~B~

Our time leading up to arriving in Bcharre was pretty stressful. The night before we left Weligama our host had his family over for his engagement party. Our tuk tuk did not arrive on time. Kyle had his wallet stolen on our way back up to Colombo so we had a limited amount of cash and no cards which worked (one of mine had literally expired just days before). We had a long day/multiple days blended at 3 airports. We spent over 12 hours in the Colombo airport and I had work due during this period so I sat there refreshing the internet constantly as it would drop for me about every twenty seconds and I’d have to log back in to do research. I’d have to quickly search for info I needed and then take screen shots. Uploading the documents proved to be very challenging. We ate lots of snack cookies and chips which were like twelve cents at the store which was available to us (okay, that’s not bad, but it wasn’t good for us)! I was also having abdominal pains which were intensifying during our journey there and were terrible on our flights. When we arrived we found that the sim card (which we were counting on in order to contact our Airbnb host when we arrived in his town) for Lebanon was too expensive. And so on.

Window View Of Beirut

I’ll just start the journey to Bcharre at the Beirut airport (but skip the whole sim card thing). We picked up our luggage and went through security (which was less annoying than at some of the other airports) and immigration. We thought we might need to pay a visa fee but the man didn’t mention it (yay)! We were off to a good start.

Even though I had read reviews that they were often late, our pre-paid taxi driver was also ready and waiting for us in the terminal. Kyle had ordered the taxi online though Allo Taxi. I am not sure if you can make requests, but when we get back to the US I will add our particular taxi driver’s business card because we liked him. (It’s among other souvenirs we sent home with parents when they visited in Cyprus). He spoke very good English, didn’t overcharge us, and made sure to find the exact spot where we needed to be for the bus. He stopped several times to ask people where the bus would pick us up to take us to Bcharre and eventually dropped us off and told us to stay with a man who was sitting on some steps.

Waiting For The Bus In Beirut
Near The Beirut Bus Stop
Beirut Bus Stop

I assumed this man was the bus driver (but later figured out I was wrong). We had about an hour and a half wait for the next bus to Bcharre so we just waited. We tried talking a little bit with the “bus driver” but he did not speak much English. After a couple minutes, he went up to a gas station and came back with some drinks for us (very nice of him)! It was kind of fizzy and I only sort of liked it and I already kind of had to pee but I drank it anyway. It had an interesting flavor and we always enjoy trying local stuff.

Drink While Waiting For The Bus

At one point I saw a friendly cat which captured my attention.

A Friendly Beirut Cat

She looked a little beat up in some areas but loved getting pets and made herself comfortable on my lap. She would give me a little love bite sometimes if I stopped petting her.

Briana With The Kitty

At one point a woman walked by and started talking to me and the cat in French. I had been trying to learn a little French and thought I understood some of it, but not much. I think she might have told me that cat had kittens but I’m not sure where or if that is true. She then pulled out a container from her purse, opened it, and began pouring cat food on the ground. ‘Why don’t I carry cat food around,’ I wondered. I will need to get a good container for such a thing (since then, I have adopted the habit of carrying cat treats with me everywhere- it’s paid off but I would also like to carry around actual cat food in a container). Anyway, this distracted the cat for a little bit (obviously it wanted to eat the food) before it resumed sitting on my lap. After some more time a man walked out and brought some fish for the cat. I am glad that some people make efforts to take care of this kitty.

Meanwhile, Kyle and the man were trying to talk a little bit more but there was the communication barrier. The guy wanted a picture with Kyle so I took it and then also took one with Kyle’s phone of them together. I figured maybe he wanted to put it on the bus Facebook page because I had seen them post pictures of people on the bus. There was also a minor amount of communication with this other younger guy. At one point Kyle asks me if he should give a sketch of his (a lion) to the older guy in return for him buying us the drinks. I thought it was a little odd but I had been trying really hard lately to get Kyle to learn about reciprocating kindness so I said yes, sure. I told Kyle to write his name on there so the guy could find him and Facebook but he never did.

Our Friend The Syrian Refuge

At one point (after finishing my drink) I really wanted to find a bathroom. I didn’t realize that it was going to turn into this complicated fiasco of wandering around and the men asking countless store owners, etc. or I never would have asked even though I really had to pee and knew we had a couple hour bus ride and who knows what else after that coming up. Eventually I ended up going in this terrible bathroom in like a convenience store with no lid, no door, and no toilet paper and had to act grateful.

Eventually the bus came and the four of us piled on though Kyle and I struggled quite a bit going in with all of our stuff. We sat in the very back and basically took up that whole area. I was against the window and my pain had returned and I was very tired from lack of sleep and already kind of had to pee again so the journey was uncomfortable to say the least. I sometimes nodded off but when I didn’t I tried to stay calm as the bus navigated windy mountain roads.

Inside The Bus To Bcharre
Kadisha Valley Lebanon

When I did decide to look out the window, the view was pretty nice, though.


Kadisha Valley Lebanon

The whole way we made various stops where people got on and off. Someone who later arrived on the bus had given the guy who was talking to us before a small box with what looked like some basic living items. He ended up getting off before us in a rather remote looking area. Later, Kyle told me that the guy (who I originally thought was the bus driver) was a Syrian refugee. I assume the younger guy might have been as well.

Eventually, we arrived into town. Of course, this did not mean we had arrived to our place. We told the bus driver where we were going and he told us to get off the bus and another bus would be coming for us (though I don’t think he actually said this to us because there was a communication barrier, but it was expressed somehow). We dragged all of our stuff off and went and sat in front of the bus building in town. The town was pretty cute but we were exhausted and just wanted to be there already.

Outside The Bcharre Bus StationChurch In Bcharre

I think it was about ten or fifteen minutes later that the next bus arrived and we got on. It was going, going, etc. and eventually we thought, okay, we need to figure out where we need to get off. We showed the bus driver the address and they didn’t seem to know the location. We showed some other people on the bus and they didn’t know either. It’s not like it was a big town so we were kind of surprised but I guess the area is a bit spread out. We asked if he could call our Airbnb host (I had the number written down as well) but he wouldn’t but luckily a woman on the bus did this for us.

The woman communicated to the bus driver and our host and let us know that our host would come pick us up. The bus driver dropped us off a little farther down the road and we waited with our things until the host pulled up to pick up up in his two-seater convertible BMW. Kyle said it was okay if I just got in because I wasn’t feeling great and he followed the car up the big hill and down the road with a bunch of stuff.

Finally, we made it. He took us down the steps, showed us inside and…. it was amazing!! We had several bedrooms and several beds to choose from (but they were all, also exclusively our’s), TWO bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room with soft carpet and rugs, and a stunning view. Our host offered to take us to the store and Kyle went with him.

Bcharre AirBNB Bedroom
Bcharre AirBNB Living Room

I knew I needed to unpack but at first I just laid down on the bed for a while, and looked out at our peaceful view after of the valley such an exhausting few days. I would actually have to say the past couple months had been pretty exhausting at this point.

Bcharre AirBNB Window

Eventually Kyle and our host returned and Kyle handed me an ice cream cone which our host had bought for me (Kyle already ate his) while he put away groceries. Then Kyle went with him up to meet his parents who gave us a bunch of cherries they had picked from their cherry tree out back (which we could see/reach also). They were very hospitable. We even had internet sometimes- we originally thought we wouldn’t have it at all.

Even though we were really tired and I kind of wanted to go to bed, Kyle was hungry and began cooking dinner. I unpacked, he cooked, and we enjoyed the rest of our evening before we went to bed.

Extra info: Before we left, due to Kyle’s demands, I spent a quite a bit of time researching and figuring out how to get from Beirut to Bcharre. The information available is very limited. You basically have two options, though: a bus or a taxi. Obviously the bus was the only option for us as a taxi would have been expensive (probably over $60). I was even more worried than I would normally be, though because we would be going on a Sunday which meant the schedule was not normal so I messaged the bus transport company on Facebook to confirm their schedule. We used Transport Estephan but I believe there is another company that runs this route as well. In general, with Estephan it runs pretty regularly from the morning until evening. Here is some of their info:
Monday-Saturday Schedule: (I believe this shows the route from Beirut to Bcharre on the left and Bcharre to Beirut on the right.)
Sunday Schedule
Estefan Bus Schedule Bcharre
Cost: It cost us 7,000Lebanese pound ($4.64) per person
Time: It says 2.5-3.5 hours online. It was in that range for us.
The phone number: for Estephane Transport (not positive if accurate) +961 (0)6 671 108 / (0)3 534 701
Other info: The bus leaves from the Dora/Dowra area. We were picked up across from a gas station. If you get to the Dora area and aren’t sure you are in the right area, you should be able to ask around for the bus to Bcharre (though if you don’t know Arabic or French, you may want to write down your question in these languages in advance).

If you are considering the trip and have further questions, let us know because we really would have appreciated it if we could have found anyone to provide us with more information on this trip and Bcharre in general as the current information is pretty limited.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup 19 (September 2016)

~B~

Summary
Summary

The first half of the month of September was spent finishing up our housesit in Cyprus. We were a little sad to leave our quiet, pretty mountain town and all seven of those sweet little fluffballs, but we were also excited to go somewhere new. On September 15th we arrived in Belgrade, Serbia and finished out the month here. Once we arrived, we held a contest for viewers/subscribers to guess our location which was fun. We are pleased with our choice as Belgrade has been a nice city to explore so far. We (mostly I) have been a bit stressed out for the past couple weeks, though because Kyle might be getting a job in California with an unknown start date (the stressful part as I don’t know how to plan!) He should be finding out this week, though! It would definitely be nice to have some stability plus the position would be good for him, and our stuff is already out there, but we’ll also be a bit disappointed if we don’t get to spend as much time in Budapest or with friends and family as we’d hoped before heading off. We’ll see!

Where We’ve Been this Month
Where We've Been Belgrade

15 days in Dhoros, Cyprus
15 days Belgrade, Serbia

Distance Traveled by Airplane: ~1066 miles
Distance Traveled Map

Highlights
highlights

1. My signed book! As I mentioned before, we stayed in the house of a writer and her husband. She (Faith Mortimer) is a best-selling author in several categories on Amazon (including popular ones like mystery and literature and fiction). I had read the first book in her Diana Rivers series (along with another) on the Kindle because I did not want to touch her originals which appeared to be in perfect condition and she gave me the next one and signed it “Thank you for looking after our babies.. They’ll miss you!” It was fun reading her work while staying in her house, snuggling on the couch with her kitty, etc. This first book in the series also takes place in Cyprus which made it really easy to envision it all. I am pretty sure I even met at least one (though possibly more, aside from her and her husband) of the persons who were the basis for certain characters in her book. We are wondering if there will be a book in the future about house-sitters who get murdered! haha
2. The Sunrise in Athens. We had considered Athens when looking at where to go next and flights were among the most affordable but there weren’t a ton of Airbnbs which were in our price range for the period of time we were looking at and of those, none were in great locations or looked super cozy aside from one. Of course, we also got a lot more restrictive with Airbnbs this time as I wanted something definitely to ourselves. Anyway, the sunrise we witnessed while flying in was quite beautiful. As we flew over the city which was just coming alive we really kind of wished we made a stop here, at least for a little bit. Ultimately, we have grown quite tired of lugging our packs all around and flights (and transportation in general) are/is quite a bit more expensive in Europe than in Asia. The extra stop would have meant at least two taxi rides, another flight, etc. We really hope to make it to Greece in the future, though.
3. Our Current Place. We currently have a little studio to ourselves right in the middle of Belgrade. The place has a lot of character with cute decorations and lots of art on the walls. Our host told us it’s his mother’s place and she likes to collect art. We are actually kind of enjoying being in a smaller place again as the cleaning and maintenance is less, but we still have plenty of room for our things.
4. Sites of Belgrade. Belgrade certainly has some beauty! Some of the sites we’ve seen so far include the Belgrade Fortress (though we plan to return to explore it further), the Church of Saint Sava, the Nikola Tesla Museum, the National Assembly building, the former Yugoslav Ministry of Defense, the botanical gardens, St. Mark’s Church, and various other churches. We’ve walked around various parks and the Republic Square (several times) and Knez Mihailova Street area as well. Check out Instagram for pics (and mine).
5. Food, Affordable Food. The following items each cost just over $2 or so: a tub of the local cheese, an ice cream cake, a nice little box of chocolates, a box of frozen raspberries (or other berries) or four beers. Kyle can get a big burger out for $1-$2 and I can get a variety of bakery items.
6. (On that note) Cafes and bakeries. We are a big fan of having cafes and bakeries on every corner.
7. Finally Getting Film Developed! When we were in Bali (and pre- the nice digital camera) I had thought about buying more film as all I had was part of a roll left by the time we left but Kyle convinced me that the security at the airports in Sri Lanka would ruin it. I still shot the rest of the roll anyway, trying to be quite conservative with it. There was nowhere in Sri Lanka for me to develop film and then we didn’t have time in Lebanon (where I only got a couple shots). I contacted several places and film photographers in Cyprus as well only to not get any responses except the possibility of a place or two in Nicosia (which was quite far and the places were across the border). Anyway, alas, Belgrade has a place to develop film. Some of those photos had been waiting around four months to be developed! It was not the only roll I developed but I am going to try to save some info for a post about it.
8. Communication. We Skyped my great Uncle Walt (whom Kyle and I were fortunate enough to spend a little time with on a few occasions when we were living in Orlando) on his 90th birthday and it was pretty neat because I don’t think he knew about Skype/the idea of video chat until the call and we sang to him with the people in the room and I think he enjoyed it. He seems in good shape so hopefully we can make it for his 100th! On that note, I think it is nice how the internet allows us to remain so connected to people far away. It wouldn’t have been possibly even not so long ago. I regularly Skype with my mom (and sometimes Jutid) and my dad and grandma and sometimes guests who are with them or others (other grandparents, my sister, etc.) and Kyle Skypes with his parents as well. Texting hasn’t been working great for me abroad but messenger on FB works just as well most the time for keeping up with the details good friends don’t always share to the public! I also usually enjoy sending snaps (mostly to my sister) but my phone has been having trouble connecting to the wifi here.
9. Another Big Project Finished. Kyle finally finished a project he has been working on for most of the year. He has been telling me he’ll finish it “this month” for many months but he finally did.
10. Little Things. The weather has been quite nice here. We got a little cool down very briefly but we know more is coming! There are some more options on Netflix in Serbia than in Cyprus. I took some me-time to read and draw/paint the cats at the end of our stay in Cyprus.

Lowlights
lowlights

1. Leaving the Cats. They were soooo cuddly and sweet.
2. Transit. It was fine but we were so tired during our transition from Cyprus to Serbia as we did not get to sleep during the night. We took a nap when we arrived though and it was so nice.
3. A Few Small Things. We honestly can’t complain that much as we knew this coming, but the kitchen is obviously a little smaller than our gigantic one in Cyprus (which wasn’t much smaller than our current place overall). The bath doesn’t quite plug properly and drying laundry isn’t the easiest thing. All of these are very minor issues, though. The bed also has a sort of gap though we have had this in the past but had such bigger problems that it couldn’t even make the honorable mentions.
4. Stress from not knowing about what is happening next (like with this job and not knowing if he has it).
5. My normal pains. My back, my stomach, my (wisdom) teeth, my head, my toes, my knee, etc. Nothing too severe, though (most of the time).
It’s another good month if we can’t even manage to think of ten things!

Firsts
Kyle in Park Firsts

Kyle’s first time in mainland Europe!
Our first time in mainland Europe together.

Budget
budget2

This month cost $1193.17. We spent less than this since we purchased our flight and Airbnb last month but, as normal, I will apply the costs to the month they were used. Unlike last month, we did make more than we spent this month! Yay! We also made more than the cost of the month, but the additional amount was still not as much as the loss last month from purchasing various things (Airbnbs and flights) ahead.
Accommodation.   The first half of the month was spent housesitting, aka no accommodation costs (yay!) The remaining fifteen nights cost $208.50. I was looking at a couple places in Belgrade and had inquired at the one we chose with a few questions. The host offered us a special price on top of the discounted monthly price for our five week booking so we decided to go with this one! We were already looking at a couple that compared a bit more with the discounted price but this one looked cozier and we were happy with the location. Before fees, this comes out to $12/night, and after, just under $14.
Food.   The total amount we spent on food this month was $410.39. $379.42 of this was spent on groceries and $27.32 was spent on food out which included 3 burgers (for Kyle), 3 sandwiches, a large pizza, a falafel, fries, ice cream, coffee, and a water. One of these meals was a more expensive airport sandwich, too. $3.65 was spent on four small trips to the bakery. Living large!
Transportation.   The total cost for our gas during our last weeks in Cyprus, our flight from Larnaca to Belgrade, and our taxi from the airport to our Airbnb was $281.01.
Activities.   Most of the activities we have been doing have not cost money, but the few we did added up to $19.19. The only activities which cost were the Nikola Tesla Museum, the Botanical Garden (which we hadn’t anticipated), and the ballet. I know it doesn’t follow the rules, but I am going to add in the cost for the ballet ($5.49) in September when we purchased it, even though the tickets were for October.
Regular.   The standard type of stuff: storage in CA, Creative Cloud subscription for Kyle, Google Storage, Dropbox, Netflix, etc. was $170.07 this month.
Miscellaneous.   $89.62 for a variety of things including contact solution which we could only find behind the counter of the pharmacy and which turned out to be quite a bit more expensive than we anticipated, more ibuprofen because sometimes the aspirin and other things don’t seem to be enough for me, developing a couple rolls of film and having to buy a new USB stick because they said our’s wasn’t working, more postcard credits, a treat pouch for a local cat (this is in addition to the treats we carry with us which went under groceries but they are all like $0.30), a couple items which I wrote down but can’t discern what they were, and more.
Fees. $14.39

Work
Kyle with Purdey Work

Kyle: My work for the month has been on the light side. I have finally finished my long traditional animation project. As well, I have completed a small logo animation. The majority of the my time has been sent searching for new clients, a few of which I have had to turn down due to not being the right fit unfortunately; and the rest of the time I have spent working on personal projects as a directive to improve my own skills and make myself more marketable. A big development is the possible job I am currently interviewing for with a position at a university in San Jose. I am hopeful for the position and do believe it would be a good fit.
Briana: I didn’t work as much at the beginning of the month as I wanted to due to a few reasons. (1) I was stressing about the condition of the house before the homeowners’ arrival. We normally would do a major cleaning and a minor cleaning per week but before they returned I was trying to make sure any food of their’s Kyle used was replaced/refilled, deciding what meals to prepare for their arrival, making sure everything was in its place, making sure the little things were clean, etc. I spent many full days in the hot sun picking weeds and breaking off dead branches, flowers, picking up leaves that flew into the yard or fell from the trees and so on. (2) We spent quite a bit of time thinking and talking about our plans for after December. We did some research on different options and listened to podcasts and videos on different topics relating to our possible plans. Now it looks like that may not matter though we didn’t come up with any ideas we hadn’t at least considered before anyway. (3) I had made a goal to paint a picture and read another of Faith’s books before we left and so I did (though I have not quite finished my painting as I decided to expand on it).
I like the flashcards because I can watch/listen to something while I do them but I got a tiny bit annoyed because all that was left at the end of my subject was very long sets. Not all sets are created equal and to finish these, I end up working at about $2/hr. Still, no one else was taking them and I needed to finish so I could have other subjects open to me so I could then work at a better wage again. Then I get my new subjects. I choose a set I liked and began. The server went down and then when it came back up it was a different set. I don’t know if I accidentally choose a set I did not intend for or something weird happened but I cannot just send it back. This set required many many cards. So I was making very low pay again. It is okay as we are staying in places where people make low wages but if Kyle doesn’t get this job I am going to have to go back to finding work for him again because to be honest he isn’t spending as much time doing it as when I did it and his work is a better use of time as he can make far more in less time. Then perhaps I will be able to do personal projects as well. Also, as of now, the flashcard site isn’t even letting me login. I have contacted support but they haven’t gotten back to me.
I had mentioned something I did back in May (a keyword thing) which didn’t work for me after the initial test period. Well after several more emails to the people running it (I could go into it more but I just won’t as you may not understand it anyway), I finally got it settled (there was a code issue). I logged in and worked for a bit. I ended up making about $10 before I got an email saying client paused the server and no one could take more work (there is this big pool which of words which something like hundreds of people draw from). It hasn’t since resumed.
My writing/tutoring work is fine. It’s nice to learn things while getting paid. Sometimes it can be a little difficult writing about subjects of which I have no background knowledge, though.
I also was scheduled to have an interview with a job to teach english online. I thought that would be great but with Kyle having this interview I asked if I could do the interview at a later time (and they said yes). I did a bit of research and talked to current employees and think it would be best to pursue once we know what is going on/are settled. Training comes after the interview and then there are practice sessions. Schedules are made one month in advance and right now I just would not be able to tell them a schedule. The time off policy is 2 weeks during the 6 month contract but the weeks cannot be consecutive. I believe it said they must also be asked for a month in advance. I do not want to have to take off time as soon as I get it and I may need more than a week if we are flying to Florida, driving across country, finding a place, etc. I also don’t know when that would be so I could not tell them. I also will need props (like plastic fruit, a stuffed monkey, etc.), an orange shirt, and will likely want more as well.

Health and Fitness
Oatmeal_ Health and Fitness

At the beginning of the month we thought we were starting to get into Acroyoga again but we haven’t kept it up. We used to do it everyday in California for a while (months) and we definitely could use some work. We’ve been walking a lot again since we’ve been in Serbia and are eating as normal- a mix of healthy and unhealthy. Fruit and veggies, but also fries and ice cream. I hadn’t had oatmeal in a while and I am enjoying having it again. I went a bit crazy at first when we couldn’t find tofu or peanut butter but we later came across a health store farther away which contained both but we just picked up a couple containers of tofu. We eventually found peanut butter in the grocery store too but it’s expensive!

Media Consumed
Missy Reading on the Kindle Media Consumed

The two books I read by Faith (one of the homeowners we sat for) were the Assassin’s Village and Children of the Plantation. They are both mystery-suspense thrillers in the same series but take place in different locations (and obviously quite different stories). I had also begun reading When we Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro when I was in Cyprus but I did not finish before we left (and it was the homeowners’ paperback). I do hope to finish it, though. As I mentioned earlier we listed to podcasts and youtube videos on various subjects too. We also listened to a bit of NPR because Kyle wanted it on but I personally am tired of hearing about the election.

Next Month
Park_NextMonth

What’s in store for next month aside from hopefully some pleasant fall weather and the changing of the leaves? Well, we should find out if Kyle has the job in California. We should have a better idea of what is going on next year. We may or may not take a day trip or two to another city. We were originally planning on it, but we’ll see. If things go according to plan, we should arrive in Budapest later in the month.

Orthodox Church

Contest Reveal: Where did we Go this Time?

It’s contest time again! We have been leaving a trail of clues on social media (see Facebook, Instagram, Instagram) for viewers to guess our location. We made it pretty difficult this time but we do have a winner (or two)! If you just want to know where we went and who won, scroll to the bottom.

Here are the clues we provided:

1. Our last location was Cyprus.

2. We had a 1.5 hr layover somewhere. See below. You can guess this if you want as we already have a contest winner. It looked very pretty. We had considered the location and as we flew over it during the sunrise, we sort of wished we’d made at least a short stop there.

Clue 13- Layover

3. There’s a fair bit of street art here.

Clue- street art
Clue- street art 2

4. The food is pretty cheap. Kyle had a large burger for about $1.50 and we had a nice lunch at a cafe for $5. Yesterday at the store we bought a nice box of chocolates for under $1.

Clue 2- Burger
Clue 8- Cafes
Clue 10- Donuts

5. There are lots of parks and playgrounds. It seems very family friendly.

6. There are lots of dogs and kids to use the parks and playgrounds.

Clue 7- Kids
Clue 6- Dog 2
Clue 5- Dog

7. There is a big cafe culture.

Clue 8- Cafes

8. The people are very tall here, especially the women. Many people smoke as well.

Clue 11- tall women smoking

9. We provided a picture inside a church which is iconic for the city.

Clue 9-In Church

10. We also provided various pictures around the city.

Clue
Clue 12-Worn building
Clue 12- around town
Clue 4- building
Clue 3- Street
Clue 1

Here was our methodology for choosing the location:

Step 1: During early August the homeowners of the place we were watching let us know they would like to come back around early to mid-September. We looked at flights from Cyprus to various locations during this time frame with a preference for mid-September as we preferred to stay longer without paying for accommodation, and because we were enjoying our time there. I then narrowed these down by price. We were probably looking at somewhere around 20 countries, maybe a few more. I went farther down the list to potentially balance flight and accommodation costs (knowing some cities may be cheap to fly to but expensive to live in/visit).

Step 2: I eliminated cities we knew would be too expensive for us and scoped out the remaining options for accommodation. I eliminated locations that did have places which met our standards (we wanted a place to ourselves, internet, and a kitchen) and fall under the cost cap we had set.

Step 3: Next, we eliminated places that didn’t have at least a few options which matched our conditions (so in the case that one did not accept us or canceled on us that we would have other options). We also decided we wanted to be in a good location in relation to the major things to do in an area which helped us eliminate a few more. It’s far more convenient when you can just use your feet as transportation. This was the factor that made us eliminate quite a few cities (including ones in which we had a strong interest). We’ve definitely stayed out of city center in the past, but we just wanted things to be more relaxing and easy this time.

Step 4: I was down to just a few places at this point. The particular city we ended up choosing seemed to have more accommodation options available to us and was within reasonable train destination (~9 hours) to our next destination (Budapest). The state of accommodation is really important to us because that is where we actually spend a lot of our time living, working, eating, etc. We really liked that we would have the option to ride the train to our next location (but could still fly if we found it necessary for some reason) because we found flights to be more expensive within Europe than they were within Asia. At first we were a little hesitant about the city as some people call it “gritty” rather than “pretty” or describe it as having little to do but we also found plenty of people who judged it as underrated. We were okay with somewhere which wouldn’t overwhelm us with things to do as we thought it might make us feel more stressed (we were feeling a little burned out of doing things at the point we were choosing this destination) and we also enjoy going to places which fall a little bit under the normal radar of travelers. There were a couple other locations in the country to which we could make day trips as well. While I went back and forth between this city and a couple others for about a week, and I actually thought I wanted to go to the others more, this one really both felt right and logically seemed like a decent choice.

Where did we go?

We are in Belgrade, Serbia! So far we have found the city to be very nice and counter to some opinions on the internet, we find it to be pretty with plenty to see. It’s quite a nice place to take a stroll around and feels fairly safe as well (as much as any major city). I can explain why we eliminated other cities (various reasons ranging from Airbnb hosts didn’t message me back to we actually wanted to see too much in a particular country!) and more information if you are curious but we are happy with our choice! 

And the winners are…..

They did it again! Jutid (and Larry) and Marilyn are the sleuths who figured out where we went. As Jutid is from Eastern Europe (Hungary) this may have given her a slight advantage in insight but we still made guessers, including her work hard to figure it out! Postcards will be in the mail shortly. We were quite happy to have some further engagement in our contest, with several good guesses! It was fun for us and I hope it was fun for all of you as well!

Sunset in Cyprus

Monthly Roundup 18: August 2016

Summary
Summary Castle On The Beach

August was basically more exploring, including re-visiting a couple areas, more work, and more kitties kneading my lap (it hurts a little but is so sweet)! We even found a new part of Dhoros we hadn’t explored (we thought the road just ended). My dad was still here in Cyprus through the 10th, though he took a little trip to Israel for a couple days during that time. Like last month’s roundup, this one is going to be a little bit shorter than the others due to us remaining in one place and due to the nature of our experiences (less crazy/stressful). I will be leaving out more sections including: “distance traveled by”, “weird and interesting”, “where we’ve been”, and “health and fitness” (we just don’t have much of anything different to add here). I could only think of five things to include in the lowlights section. I will be adding a section at the end, though: “next month” highlighting some of what to expect from next month as we have some changes coming up. You may have noticed that our blog looks different. I will touch on that briefly as well.

Highlights:
Highlights_Lofou

1. Starry Nights. We’ve had lovely starry nights our entire time in Cyprus but I don’t think I’ve commented on them yet. Sometimes the moon is very bright which makes the stars a little more difficult to see, but we always have something beautiful to look at in the sky. We enjoy looking at the sky from the porch upstairs and on walks in the cool night. My dad showed us an app he has on his phone which will show you the constellations, milky way, moon, sun, etc. wherever you point the phone. Kyle has now downloaded it as well.
2. Lofou. We went and walked around this village twice during sunset and it’s just perfect at that time! The first time we had been out doing other things and it just happened to be sunset and the second time we went because we liked it so much before. The village was beautiful like the others, but also seemed a little different (to me). At the times we went, it was cooler out, the people were friendly. There were several places we found which had amazing views overlooking the village. The ride up and down were experiences themselves. This may be one of my favorite places.
3. Omodos. This village also exceeded our expectations. There are many little shops, cobblestone streets, a cute village center, a shop where locals make blown glass, and more. The Monastery of the Holy Cross had more to offer than we thought with several museum areas surrounding the beautiful church which allegedly contains a rope which bound Christ to the cross. Like Lofou, we visited the area twice (once with my dad and once again after he’d left).
4. Sweet Treats. Both times we visited Omodos we had something sweet. The first time we all had ice cream and the second time Kyle and I shared an ice cream, nutella, and syrup covered waffle. So good! We also got ice cream two more times with my dad and two more times on our own! I didn’t realize just how much we got ice cream until now!
5. Paphos. Prior to this month, the only time we’d been to Paphos was when we dropped off the home owners at the airport on Kyle’s birthday. We thought we’d return when Kyle’s parents were here but it didn’t end up happening. While my dad was here we went, though and checked out the Tomb of the Kings which was much larger and impressive than we expected, walked around the marina where we had a nice lunch, went inside the Church of Agia Kyriaki and saw St. Paul’s pillar, and visited a local mosque and another church.
6. Aphrodite’s Rock. Almost anywhere you go on the island you will find the water to be a gorgeous hue of turquoise or deep blue and this area is no exception. We stopped here, at what is supposed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite on the way back from Paphos with my dad and realized there was a beach down near it where we could swim. We returned ourselves later and had a nice picnic there and watched men do flips off of one of the rocks. Kyle jumped from the rock as well.
7. Taking Pictures. We are both really enjoying taking pictures using our new camera!
8. Sushi! We had been really craving sushi for a while. As far as we can remember we hadn’t had it since Vietnam, and we hadn’t had sushi with cream cheese in it since before we left the US, so probably something like a year. On a recent visit to the store we found both sushi wrappers and cream cheese and indulged.
9. Kitty Cuddles. We can’t get enough of these little sweeties. With seven of them, we almost always have at least one, or two, or three or cuddle with us at any given moment.
10. Planning Ahead. We actually pretty much know what we are doing for the rest of the year and are starting to think a little bit about next year! We also got a discount on the place we are going next which was nice!
Honorable mention: My toes have been hurting less and sometimes they don’t even hurt at all!

Lowlights:
Lowlights_Mosaic

1. Heat. So it definitely cooled down some towards the end of the month, but the greater part of August was HOT. On most of the days we went out I would end up red-faced, soaked in sweat, and sun-burned. When we had our beach picnic near Aphrodite’s Rock, the hot rocks burnt through our towels onto our bottoms. It didn’t really bother Kyle because he enjoys the heat and it didn’t bother me that much but I am definitely ready for a little bit of cooler weather seeing as we’ve pretty much been in hot places since January.
2. No-see-ums. Those darn things keep biting us. A lot.
3. Water. We don’t consistently have it. Similar to last month. Not a huge deal though because we always have at least a small stream downstairs.
4. Headaches. I’ve been getting lots of headaches lately (ok that is just forever my life and the frequency seems to vary somewhat randomly but it at least seems more frequent lately).
5. Umm, it’s almost time to leave!

Firsts:
Firsts The Moon

Kyle’s first time scaling a rock in the ocean and jumping off of it.
Our first time climbing to the top of a minaret! We had originally seen this semi-abandoned looking mosque the first time we went to Koilani with Kyle’s parents but didn’t look into it too much. When we went with my dad I went in and discovered we were able to explore the place. I felt a bit claustrophobic climbing to the top and I assume a number of people would not fit but we all managed and thought it was neat.
Our first time being able to photograph the moon not as a white speck.

Budget:
Money Sparkling Wine

The total cost of August was $805.56. We spent more than that this month, though because we also bought our flight tickets to our next location, our flight tickets back home, and our next accommodation (but of course that won’t be accounted for on here until we are in the corresponding months). I have been learning about accounting through my work and realized that, though it doesn’t apply exactly in this situation, I tend to take a more cash basis method of accounting for our personal budget and use something close to the accrual basis of accounting for the blog! Though that only applies to spendings as I certainly use cash basis either way for our income in case we don’t get paid. Though, at the same time, I also don’t fully disclose our income on here, but just give you an idea. For example, this month I am going to say that we made more than the cost of the month, but less than the amount we spent this month (which I also did not disclose so as not to confuse people too much). I could write a little more about how my method could be different but I think I am just sticking to this one so there isn’t really a point. This month Kyle had a work expense which was paying for renders but instead of including that as an expense, I simply subtracted it from his income on that project. August was another rent-free month so I will begin with our food.
Food: We spent $320.52 on groceries and $17.96 on food out for a total of $338.48.
Transportation: $57.45 for gas (and parking) which is pretty much the same as last month.
Activities Entertainment: For a visit to the Tomb of the Kings and our monthly Netflix subscription, we spent $16.36.
Standard: I asked Kyle how he decides when to pay his car insurance because it seems like he pays it between 0 and 3 times a month which makes no sense to me (why would you not have a schedule for these things?) and apparently he just pays it when he gets an email. So he paid that twice this month (but not last month), and then we had the standard storage, and subscriptions Kyle needs to work which came out to a total of $200.47.
Fees: Originally I was thinking we might not have fees this month because we didn’t visit an ATM but there are also the card fees. It was nearly a $7 fee to buy the air tickets alone. The total cost amount we paid in fees was $19.23.
Miscellaneous: This month we needed to replace the windshield wipers on the home owners’ car, picked up a couple gifts (in addition to getting part of Kyle’s dad’s birthday present), replaced tape we used, and picked up some cheap watercolors. We also decided to switch over to wordpress.org so we paid for hosting for the year. Total: $173.57.

Work:
Work_Purdey

Kyle:
Work has been interesting for me this month. I got paid for the work that I did for Wake Forest Baptist Health (yay), and was quite happy with that project, but really that was more of last month than this month. I did some small storyboard work for a company owned by a guy who went to my school (different year) and that has hopefully set the stage for some future work to come my way. I got contacted from an old client (my favorite client) and did some work for him that went quite smoothly with no hiccups – payment hasn’t come in yet, but it’s on it’s way, he’s a trusted client. Meanwhile, an earlier client I had done some graphic design work with decided to stiff me. He brought me through multiple revisions and seemed quite happy throughout, but then once the final was done, he responded back that he decided to not go with the work and wasn’t going to pay me. I would take him to a small claims court, and I have all the proof and the law on my side to win, but not being in the country unfortunately prevents me from going this route. I’ve invoiced him, making my claim, but I can only hope he’ll honor our agreement (he won’t). Meanwhile, I have almost finished my huge animation project that I’ve been working on since January. I thought I had finished it, but after submitting the completed animation it has come back to me with some notes for me to address. Luckily, they aren’t huge changes that need to be made.
But with that all said and done, I’ve actually dried up on work. I kept getting distracted with other projects, that I wanted to just finish the major animation before I took on some new clients. It did allow me to make good time, but now that I’ve completed it, I’m back to scouring the internet for gigs. Usually Briana does a hefty amount of this work, but I’ve been discouraging her from doing it so she can work on her own stuff. While I have not yet got a client, I do not expect it will be too long before someone pops up that I can work with.
In the meantime, I’ve been pursuing some personal work to better my skills as a generalist. I’ve noticed myself lacking in certain areas, so I’m putting a focus on some smaller projects that address specific areas of interest and are helping me to build my generalist reel further. This is something that I intend to keep up from here on out, there’s a lot to learn and I need to keep myself from pursuing giant projects that I inevitably never finish.
Meanwhile, I have not been ignoring major jobs either, both abroad and back home. I made a very serious attempt at getting a design job at Lockheed Martin – unfortunately, that did not come to fruition for me.
Briana
I am jealous of Kyle because not only is his work the type of work he wants to do and in his field, but now when he doesn’t have work, he is able to work on personal projects which are also what he wants to do. Meanwhile I am not that fond of most of my work (though I might like it better if it were better paid or I got credit for it or it was a little more creative), nor do I have the time to work on personal projects. Kyle could actually be doing many of the same things I am doing but he does not.
After my dad left we’d had about 3 weeks of time with parents and I was feeling a little overwhelmed with everything I needed to do both with work and everything that needed to be done outside of work. Of all of the many things I applied to last month, one small one actually did pan out! I now have a job as a flashcard writer. It is also very low-paying independent contractor work (I usually end up making less than minimum wage). I am just happy I have something else and I can do it at my discretion. I haven’t been able to do a ton of work with it yet, though and there also appears to me a limited amount of work. Somewhere around the mid to end of the month I began working again on other things I’ve been doing which I had taken a hiatus from for most of the month and I’ve also been continuing to apply to positions which interest me.

Media consumed.
Media Consumed

The thing we consumed the most of this month was podcasts: from NPR to travel podcasts to blogging podcasts to the Millennial podcast. It’s pretty convenient because we can do work, stretch, clean, etc. while listening to the podcast and it’s even easier than tv as it does not also require a visual component. In terms of Netflix, Kyle hadn’t watched Jessica Jones so he watched that and we watched a few re-runs of things we’d already seen. Cyprus Netflix is a little more limited in shows that appeal to us and the VPN doesn’t work on it.

What’s up next month?
See you next month sunset

First off, we just switched the blog over from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. Yes, we still have the same URL so you don’t need to do anything different but it’s going to look different. We will explain why we made the switch in another post. We also plan to make some other changes with the blog, but we aren’t sure what yet. We may have some surveys for you!
In September we will go to a new country after spending almost 3 months in Cyprus. We actually almost had 3 different house sits which is crazy but none of them worked out, all due to timing/length issues. We’ll explain when it comes times for our contest (see next paragraph).
We fly to our next location on September 15th and decided we are going to have another contest (like we did with Lebanon) where you guess our location! We will begin releasing clues once we arrive and the reward will be a postcard!

Airbnb in Kuala Lumpur

The Pros and Cons of Airbnb

~B~

While house-sitting is our favorite option for accommodation while traveling (and working), Airbnb is our next top choice. I will go over some of the pros and cons of using Airbnb but please note that this list is based mostly off of our personal experiences, all of which took place in Asia. Still, after staying at over 20 different Airbnbs in seven different countries, I think we’ve got some idea of the Airbnb experience. We will be staying at two more in Europe this year and I will update the lists if necessary. Most of the pros and cons should still apply elsewhere, but there might be a couple things that are different depending on the location.

nice area in ja-ela

I may also do a future post on how to search for (and find) an Airbnb that meets your needs and that will give you the experience you want, as well as one on our favorite and least favorite places so far. On that note, if you’ve never used Airbnb before, please sign up using our link. Depending on when you sign up (it seems to vary), this will give you between $20 and $35 to use for free! The only stipulation is that you must spend $75 on your booking (or that’s what it says currently). That number is not per night, but as a whole and this would end up amounting to $55 or $40, depending (before the fees- I may discuss this in a future post). When I signed up I did not use anyone’s link and therefore missed out on twenty free dollars! I did have Kyle sign up using my link which gave us both $20, though. My dad and one stranger also signed up using our link and used it so more free money! Unfortunately, that is all so far. We get more credit if you decide to host (though I’m not sure if that gives you any credit). We aspire to be Airbnb hosts ourselves someday if we ever get a place of our own.

On to the pros of using Airbnb as accommodation for travel!

1. Cost. Pick a city and compare the price of an Airbnb with the price of a hotel in the same area. In many cases (albeit not all), you will find that it’s cheaper. There are also often discounts offered on long-term stays. Most places will offer a nice weekly discount and an even greater monthly discount. You may find a better deal at a hostel, but in most cases, for two people, an Airbnb will be a better deal and will also likely offer you more privacy. Even if you don’t save money on accommodation on the surface, Airbnb may allow you to save in other ways. If you have a kitchen, you can cook meals occasionally rather than eat out at restaurants. If you are digital nomads like us, having access to a desk/table and other amenities may also aid in your productivity. If you are staying where the locals live, you may also find things to be cheaper than in the more touristy areas.

Below I will note some examples of the great deals we have found with Airbnb. All prices listed are before the fees (which will add something like $0.50 to $2 a night to the price, depending).

A hotel room with two large beds on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam with this view for $10 a night!!

Room View on Cat Ba

A studio in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with this view and a maid who would clean a couple times a week for $11 a night.

Saigon sunsets

Multiple motorbikes to use as often as we pleased, a large, fun-looking room, great views both from our personal porch and the rooftop, fruit and snacks shared from the family, and a new friend for $13 a night, also in Ho Ch Minh, Vietnam.

Rooftop Views

2. Quality.

Or at least, quality for cost. I do have to note that this is not true everywhere and thus quality is also mentioned in the cons. We have found plenty of high-quality places and great hospitality through Airbnb, though. One example is our second place in Kuala Lumpur. It was a very secure luxury condo on nearly the 30th floor of a building in the heart of the city. It was clean and modern, and had gym and pool facilities, a steakhouse (we didn’t go), a convenience shop, and a cafe. Finding a hotel that could offer all of this would likely have been at least triple to quadruple (if not more- but KL is still fairly cheap) the price ($16/night).

Kyle in KL
Beautiful Storm in KL

3. Options and variation.

Airbnb is not limited to rooms in peoples’ houses. We’ve stayed in the middle of nowhere and in the heart of the city. We’ve stayed in spare rooms in condos and houses, in studio and one bedroom apartments, and even in hotels and hostels. We’ve had entire floors of houses complete with room, living room, kitchen, en-suite bathroom and a separate entrance both to ourselves, and also shared a floor solely with other Airbnb guests (in separate rooms). One time we sort of even had a huge house to ourselves (long story- link coming later).

Here is part of our funky studio in Bangkok ($14/night):

Our studio in Bangkok

Our bathroom in Bali ($16/night) had some interesting lighting.

Bathroom in Bali

And here is the outdoor dining area at our Airbnb in Yogyakarta ($15/night) where we received breakfast every morning.

Outdoor dining in Yogyakarta

If you would like to see some really crazy places, look at this cool list on Distractify.

4. Search Function Options.

You can filter your search by type of place (private room, entire place to yourself, shared room, etc.), neighborhood, amenities, and more. You can search only for Airbnbs with pools or hot tubs or breakfast! Or you can ensure you have air conditioning or parking available. I always initially search for wifi and a kitchen. The quality of the kitchen and wifi may vary, but at least we’d filter out the places that didn’t have these at all. We always choose entire home, private room, or both (usually both) as we aren’t interested in shared rooms. There are a couple other things I wish they had on there, including the option for ensuite bathroom, but for the most part, you can really narrow down your search by your needs with filters. Pictured: the living room of the floor we had to ourselves in Negambo.

Negambo studio

5. Amenities.

On that note, it depends on the place, but through Airbnb, it is possible to have access to a kitchen, a washing machine, wifi, cable, and more, all of which are particularly convenient for the long-term traveler, but could also be nice for someone staying for a briefer period. Some places (particularly condos) may have pools or a gym. Our first studio in Bangkok had a kitchen, two desk spaces, a pool right outside of our door, and a 24 hour grocery store (perhaps the only we’ve found) less than a two minute’s walk away.

The pool from our second studio in Bangkok:

Pool in Bangkok

A home-cooked meal at our place in the Qadisha Valley in Lebanon:

Homecooked meal

6. Local Life.

Having access to more amenities makes you feel more at home. Staying in a local home/condo/apartment rather than a hotel can also allow you to obtain more insight into local life in the area. We felt we could get a better vibe of different cities and what it would be like to live there longer. Many people now want to travel “authentically” and this is a good way to do it. You are also supporting locals when you book (though I’m sure that is true of many hotels/hostels as well).

The train tracks we crossed on our way out to the grocery store/anything from our place in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka:

Local Sri Lanka

Kyle with some local dogs in Weligama:

Kyle with local dogs

7. Local insight and tips.

Your host is most likely a local and therefore can provide you with all sorts of tips and advice. Our host in Kuala Lumpur took Kyle to a breakfast place he liked and our host in Sri Lanka brought us local food he picked up. Our first host(s) in Yogyakarta gave us all kinds of advice about the area. They gave us a map they drew of the surrounding area and activities of interest because there isn’t much online. They brought us to the market the first time we needed food and offered to take us other places as well. Some hosts (like our one in Siem Reap) may provide you with local maps and guidebooks to use while you are there.

Our Place in Siem Reap

If you spend time talking to your host, you will also likely learn a great deal about local culture. We learned A LOT, including many things we haven’t found on the internet, but I won’t start getting into it or I might ramble. Pictured: us with our host in Weligama.

Airbnb host sri lanka

8. Hospitality and Support.

In Cat Ba, we were having issues with the internet and and so our host went and bought a new router for us. It worked well. Some hosts end up feeling like (and becoming) your friend, while others just provide great service and support while you’re there. Some hosts may pick you up at the airport (for free or for a fee), some will provide you with long and deep conversations (and beer), some will send you a nice fruit basket and card with the maid because it’s a holiday in their country, some will share their snacks with you, and some will take you to the store when you arrive- at least those have been some of our experiences.

Our hosts in Sri Lanka provided us with a constant supply of local tea. It’s a part of their culture to drink tea like water it seems.

Tea in Sri Lanka

9. The Review System.

This is good for a few reasons. Previous tenants may tell you things about a place that isn’t obvious on their profile and you can get a better idea of the accuracy of the profile. The system also gives hosts incentive to be good hosts. They want to maintain a good rating so they are able to get future guests. I find them really helpful most of the time (see the cons for the rest of the time).

Cutesy Airbnb Room in HCM

10. Help with Transportation (sometimes).

If they do not provide you with transport or rent it to you, your Airbnb may have connections to a particular taxi driver which can offer you good deals or have suggestions for transport for places which require it. There were a number of places which we could get most places by walking, but there were also plenty where we needed or wanted to venture farther. Our hosts in Cat Ba, Bali, and Weligama rented motorbikes to us at inexpensive rates, while our second Airbnb in Ho Chi Minh and our first one in Yogyakarta allowed us to use their motorbikes free of charge (included in the price for the place). We had hosts call us cabs when we were having issues with our phones or apps and also give us recommendations on transportation in general. Below: Java and Sri Lanka.

Motorbike in Yogyakarta
Kyle using our host's motorbike

On to the Cons!

1. Rejections.

We can guess the reason behind one of the times this happened to us: we were booking less than 24 hours in advance. The other times, I don’t know the reason. It’s only happened a few times, but each time the host said that the place was actually already booked and they just hadn’t updated the calendar. Many Airbnbs may list their place on other sites, especially if they are actually a hotel or hostel. Even houses may be listed on other homestay sites or things of that nature. If they get booked elsewhere, the host may forget to update the calendar on Airbnb. If they don’t actually then go and update the calendar, though, that is a sign that they simply did not want to rent to you. It could be because they are racist (this has been a significant problem with Airbnb), sexist, homophobic, etc. It could be because they have something against people from your country, or they prefer to only rent to couples or single people or older people, and so on. If you are new to Airbnb, it could simply be because you don’t have any reviews yet but your potential host could have some sort of problem in their personal life. Who knows, but they can reject you for all kinds of reasons.

Yard PLant in Siem Reap

2. Cancellations.

We’ve only had cancellations twice, and both were places in Lebanon. The first place we booked in Beirut cancelled because “There has been an emergency and I need to travel abroad.” Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know. Something different happened with the place in Bcharre. I had noticed the place had gotten a couple reviews that weren’t impeccable since we had booked. Suddenly the place disappeared from the site. I assumed it was under review. Now, I did not realize this until after we figured things out with another place, but the host actually messaged me on Facebook after their place was removed from the site letting us know it was still available. I didn’t see it at first because it went into my “other” folder. The places we did end up booking were honestly preferable but we hadn’t originally chosen them because of the prices. We were not happy about having to go up on our budget but we were happy to get a taste for what else Airbnb can offer if you pay a little more (which would actually still fall in the low-budget range for most people).

Bcharre Airbnb ViewBcharre Post-sunset

3. Difficult to find.

This has been one of our biggest issues.

Alleyway in Saigon

I think you are far less likely to find this problem in the US, but internationally we have faced a number of problems including: 1) the host not providing us with the correct address 2) taxi drivers who don’t know how to find the address 3) the taxi driver only being able to get so far and then having to navigate the various alleyways to find the place 4) the host providing us with the name of the apartment complex but not the building number and us not realizing until we are there that the complex is gigantic 5) the host being late and us being unsure if we are in the right location 6) the host not being there to pick us up at the train station because the train was late 7) streets which are confusing and difficult to navigate, and more. Each could be a story. Pictured below: our stuff sitting in an alleyway in Hanoi because we had spent hours exhausting ourselves trying to find our place and needed to take off our packs for a little bit.

Lost in Hanoi

4. Quality.

The quality can be great and the quality can also be terrible, and you don’t always know for certain until you arrive. Our second place in Hanoi did not look like the pictures. There was a single bad review for the place but we overlooked it because we weren’t booking early or for very long, so we were limited in places that fell within our budget. We were told we could use the kitchen but this wasn’t really true as it was actually a hostel. It cost money to do our laundry and we heard what we think was domestic violence among the staff/owners. We have a few other horror stories (for different reasons) that I’ve touched on in the past in our monthly roundups and may mention in a future post. Pictured: the “balcony” at our first place in Hanoi.

Cons

5. The Good with the Bad.

Many places which had some fantastic qualities and benefits also still had at least a couple downsides. The bathroom in our first Airbnb in KL (which gave us access to several luxury style pools) was filled with spiders (daddy long legs). I think I counted twenty once. Once the host’s mother returned, we were also no longer able to use the kitchen, even the microwave. We’ve also stayed at a number of places that were great in many ways, but were maybe a little more remote from activities, or far from a grocery store. Pictured: Kyle munching on some bread on our porch in our second place in Saigon. We were more remote here and almost everything was closed for Tet so we had trouble finding food.

Kyle on our Porch in Saigon

My assumption is that if you pay a little bit more, you are less likely to encounter some of these issues, but I’m not positive. As one might expect, the most expensive place we stayed at was probably the nicest.

6. Living locally.

Living locally is a great experience in many ways, but it also means dealing with whatever issues the locals face. We had frequent power outages in Sri Lanka, had an unstable internet connection in our second place in Bangkok, and didn’t have hot water at many places. Some of these issues you are likely to also face at hotels, and some of these issues can simply be fixed by paying more. For us, the first two are only problematic for work and at this point, hot water seems like more of a luxury anyway. Pictured below: To the left there are Vietnamese men fighting loudly below our studio in Saigon.

Local Life

7. Hosting and Staying Style Conflicts.

Staying in someone’s house can present a number of issues,  particularly if you are a digital nomad like us rather than a regular traveler. The biggest problem we face is hosts who want to socialize too much.  Some of the socializing has been mutual (Kyle really enjoyed spending hours just talking and drinking with our host in Kuala Lumpur) but other times, hosts were just annoying. All of the time, it interfered with us getting work done. Some hosts seemed to feel an obligation to entertain us incessantly even though we told them not to and that we had work to do, while others were bored and lonely and wanted company. At some point I wrote on my profile that we really prefer to be left to ourselves but it seemed to have the opposite effect. The other issue we’ve had is because we are night owls. If we are staying in someone’s home, sometimes have to be quiet, can’t cook at night, etc. There is a way to mediate this issue, though, which is to stay in a place to ourselves.

Bed in Bali

8. It’s not a Hotel (unless it is a hotel).

Some Airbnbs are actually hotels which advertise themselves on Airbnb but plenty are not and you cannot expect the same things/services in someone’s house as you would at a hotel. Actually, even at foreign (particularly family-run) hotels, you cannot necessarily expect the same services you would in the U.S., Canada (or maybe Europe?)  While there is typically someone at the desk 24 hours at a hotel, if your host is sleeping, it would be rude to ask them for new towels. Most Airbnbs hosts have their own lives (albeit we have encountered a number that don’t seem to have jobs or a social life) and while they may try, they cannot be there all the time if you lost your key or can’t find something. Still, many of them are available to communicate on WhatsApp or Airbnb most of the time.

Workinig in the Dark

9. Airbnb as a Front.

I guess I wouldn’t call it a front, per se, but some people use Airbnb to upsell other things, especially if they are in the tourism industry. For some people this works out great, but it can also be annoying. The downstairs of the hotel we stayed at in Cat Ba was a hair salon/beauty parlor/massage parlor/place to rent motorbikes/place to book tours, etc. and we were asked often if we wanted any number of things. We did rent the motorbikes a few times but booked our Ha Long day cruise elsewhere which made things awkward. Their other services were honestly very affordable and if you were on vacation then you would likely enjoy taking advantage of them.

Ha Long Bay Cruise

10. The Review System.

The review system is good, but it can also be misleading. One place we stayed at which was quite bad quality in many ways (tons of bugs, hard, damp beds, slippery floor, etc.) had only five star reviews. Why? Sometimes the hosts guilt trip you into leaving positive reviews even though there are lots of issues with the place. I’ve seen places where they are using Airbnb to raise funds for a family member who is ill. In this case, he was trying to pay for his daughter’s college. He was also a very helpful, gracious, and generous (and sensitive) host so we too, didn’t really feel like we could leave a negative review.

Beds in Colombo

At the same time, you may see a bad review from someone who simply had different circumstances from you or was a bit ridiculous with their requests. Hosts also sometimes fix problems mentioned in reviews. Then there are Airbnbs without reviews. Unfortunately for them, we usually ignore those unless we are really having trouble finding a place. We tend to book for longer periods so we don’t want to be stuck somewhere that’s not so great for a couple weeks to a month. I’m going to note one extra con which is that Airbnb support is kind of difficult to contact.

Though there are some disadvantages, I think there are plenty of benefits and the company does continue to work to improve their features for the best user experience. While it may not be for everyone, and may not work in every situation, we still think Airbnb is a great place to look for accommodation for travel. Now that you know the pros and cons, do you think you’ll try it? Do you think there was anything I forgot? Let us know if you’d like information on any specific Airbnb, want to know the price for anything I didn’t mention, or if you have any questions in general!

Pool in KL

 

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