02
Apr
12

Late March – Goals and Loafing

I only have one passport, though.

Okay, so it’s officially April, I guess (and my kid brother’s 19th birthday, woo!), and I missed the March deadline.  But!  I figure I can blog twice this month, one now and one after Germany/turning 26 and that’ll at least bring my resolutions up to speed.

In March, I was sent to a huge convention for work held in Louisville, KY.  Now, in addition to being my first semi-truck show (surprising, I know), I was pleasantly blown away by the center of Louisville and the bar/restaurant selection available during our days there.  It was a great trip, and aside from the 5-hour delay in my return flight on Friday night (which resulted in an airport copy of The Hunger Games – the entire series of which I’ve now wept through and will likely read again).

The biggest impact the trip had, though, was surprisingly on the flight there, while I flipped through the Delta in-flight magazine out of lack of book-material in my carry-on (a mistake I will not be making again).

There was a great article in there about how Western students are moving East for business study, and it focused on a few international business schools that are coming into the spotlight in destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong for the hungry graduate student.  One particular school, INSEAD, caught my eye.  They have campuses in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and Fountainebleu, France and are a top 10 international MBA program.

Immediately, I wanted it.  The international pedigree, another year overseas, the personal career advisor, the six-figure salary average, and the potential for hand-picking my country of residence.  Since swiping the magazine directly into my laptop bag, I’ve thought about relatively nothing else (Katniss Everdeen notwithstanding).  This is something I desperately want.

Warning - Lofty Life Goals and Highly Addictive Substance Within

Last night I started my GMAT research.  I have three incredibly challenging goals to accomplish before I apply.  700+ on the GMAT, bringing my French to fluency, and ramping up my blogging buisness to require two employees.  Those things should secure me in the contender zone for the program and as my credit is still progressively increasing by the day, I should be able to fund myself through the program!

This is, obviously, a long-term goal.  I’m going to drop $800-ish on a Kaplan prep course for the GMAT, find a private French tutor, and go through Ramit’s Earn1K course several more times before I will have any of these goals in-hand.  I also need to start the scholarship hunt in earnest and ramp my professional presence here at Level 6 into hyperdrive so I have excellent references.  (Side note: personal blogging during the workday perhaps not the best way to accomplish this).

I’ve floated through the fantasy of a top-10 MBA for the last week, though.  It’s been a good one and a realistic one (I hope!).  And finally, for the first time maybe since I left London, I don’t feel like age is creeping up on me, ready to whack me over the head until I’m slumped into suburban submission.  I feel like maybe I’m still young and full of promise, and all I have to do is chase after it.

So, as far as I’m concerned, March was a good month.

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27
Feb
12

The 4-Hour February: Weight Loss and Freelancing

These two guys are my personal heroes.

It’s been a hell of a month.  In addition to starting regular weight training with an at-home kettlebell routine, getting back on the SCD eating plan, and succumbing at least once to a sugar-blackout induced by a bowl of strawberry cake puppy chow, I’ve also been enrolled in Ramit Sethi’s Earn1k course in the hopes that I will eventually be an independently wealthy jet-setter.

So far, my progress has been one promising new freelance lead (a bakery!  woo!) and pretty speedily getting back to my pre-holiday weight and size, as well as starting to develop noticeable muscle tone in my arms and a magically gravity-defying ass.

The thing that’s so encouraging is that I know if I were devoting more time to either project, they’d both skyrocket in terms of success, but I’m making enough progress at a happy enough pace to relax and just enjoy the fact that things are actually improving in a slow but sure way.

On the travel front, I’m planning on visiting my friend Catha in Germany over my 26th birthday in April.  26 kinda freaks me the hell out, what with passing mid-20s and all, so I figure being in a foreign country where I don’t speak even the first word of the language might be a nice distraction from my fear of aging and failure.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research on Buenos Aires.  I think going solo for a week in the winter (which would be Argentine summer) to stay in a hostel, take some tango classes, and practice my Spanish (which is currently at an at-least-she’s-trying level of non-fluency) would be an excellent use of my newfound enhanced vacation time.  I thought about going with G Adventures – the company that I went with to Costa Rica – but I figure since I’d be in the same city the whole time, that’d probably be more of a hinderance than anything else, plus it’s kind of pricey.

So, that’s been my February.  Not generally the inspired writing fancy that generally moves me to blog, but I did make a resolution to do it monthly and we’re woefully close to the end of the month here.

 

18
Jan
12

Late January 2012 – The Resolutions Post

Okay, so obviously I’m doing it wrong … the whole resolutions thing.  It’s nearly the end of January and I should’ve been out ages ago, waving a new, $200 gym membership card in everyone’s faces before ultimately abandoning it.  But hey, I’m here now, and we’re going to talk about this new year thing.

First of all, I’m pretty sure this all started out on the right foot.  While I (usually) loved my job with Cimbali, I made a decision at the end of last year to start looking for something that was all creative, all the time.

I figured it’d be summer before I even got any bites, but within four days of posting my resume up (on Thanksgiving weekend), I had three offers to interview for three very different creative roles.  Hell, the effort was worth it just for the newfound knowledge that I am now a competitive candidate in my field of choice!

I ended up taking a job with Level 6 Marketing.  My job description is officially ‘project manager’, but what I do is the creative marketing stuff for a few accounts that belong to me as well as some blue sky development on products and projects the company is vested in.  It’s pretty bitchin’ so far.  There’s a lot of travel involved (I was in Charlotte last week and will be up in Kansas City next week), which you all know I love, and along with a pay raise, I now have triple the holiday time in which to satisfy my wanderlust while I’m stuck in Florida.

So, let’s take a look back at what I managed to accomplish (without any clear goals) in 2011:

(note: this is either accountability or boasting.  Probably boasting)

  1. I lost 22 lbs between June and August.
  2. I then stabbed myself in the leg leading into holiday season and subsequently lost motivation, gaining about 6 lbs back
  3. I left the country  – went to Costa Rica
  4. I got my first local client – Yesterdaze Vintage
  5. I grew my social network by about double – this is HUGE for me

In a fit of wild optimism, in 2012 I would like to:

  1. Get to a weight between 140 and 145 lbs and MAINTAIN.  I am hoping to get to the 145 mark (which is my general sweet spot) by April 1st.  The smallest I’ve ever been was 135 after massive illness back in college.  For those of you who think this still sounds quite large, consider on my build 140ish is about a size 6-8, and stop your damn judging.
  2. Get my freelance earnings up to at least $400/month on the side (currently at about $100 on average)
  3. Blog monthly through 2012 (already feeling like this isn’t going to happen, but I will TRY dammit)
  4. Get a new mattress that doesn’t suck
  5. Leave the country.  Twice.  (Germany is happening in April, I hope)
  6. Hire a French tutor.  Refresh and achieve comfortable conversational skills
  7. Max out my IRA
  8. Stop being so damn affected by the opinions of others (I realize this is abstract, but it’s something I would very much like to accomplish)

Wish me luck 🙂

10
Apr
11

Woo! New Camera!

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this thing.  It came in the mail super fast, has this sweet panorama feature, and takes decent night shots.  Should be good to have with me in Costa Rica next month :).

These shots are from the beachy area near my apartment.  It’s near Clearwater, but not quite.  Feel free to click for larger resolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

07
Apr
11

Costa Rica Checklist

I’ve now been employed at the espresso company for eight whopping months.

In those eight months, the longest stretch of time off I’ve had was Thanksgiving weekend (into which I squeezed a trip to England).

That said, I can officially say I am now beyond burnt out.

Perhaps I’m spoiled, I dunno.  After college and life abroad, with my only full time stints of work being four months respectively as a cocktail waitress and a London office girl, this might be the first time in adulthood that I don’t feel like life is separated into little four-month compartments of travel, afternoon naps, and eating out of a can.

Which is why my happy ass is headed to Costa Rica for a well-earned week of leisure.  I plan swimming in waterfalls and staring at active volcanoes.  I plan on bland local food and bunking with lots of other poor 20-somethings.  I expect buyer’s remorse all the way leading up to this thing wondering if Costa Rica is a bit too much of an “obvious” destination.  Whatever.

I wanted to go to North Africa, but I’d hate to get civil unrest all over my luggage.  I also wanted to go to Turkey and Thailand, but the jet lag and plane costs don’t really justify trying to cram it into my measly 7-day window.

So, it’s off to the tropics I go.  As of yesterday, I finally had bullied my boss into approving a week (this was after my original three options sold out and I was worried I’d never get out of here), booked my plane ticket, got signed off by my doctor, and officially booked up with Gap Adventures for the Budget Costa Rica tour.  I also bought a camera ($145) and have been scoping the internet out for a pair of hiking sandals that won’t cost me $50.

From here, I’ll need to do the following:

  1. Purchase Travel Insurance
  2. Book my airport transfer
  3. Hiking sandals
  4. At least one pair of shorts
  5. Rain jacket
  6. Bug spray
  7. Convince self she’s not a fatty-fatty-fat-fat

The trip is May 7 – 14 and yes, I’m going alone.  I like traveling alone (remember Pueblo Ingles?  And, you know, that time I moved to London?)  The fact that my bank account has shrunk by half in the last 24 hours is a little jarring, but after all, I was saving specifically for this.

Honestly, I can’t wait.  Screeching monkeys, giant bugs, and Arenal volcano spitting lava at me be damned.  This is going to be awesome.

03
Mar
11

Monies, Websites, and The Guv

Lately, I’ve been a little preoccupied with personal finance.  Perhaps it’s just being financially secure and independent for the first time in my life or maybe it’s just the obsessive way I enjoy counting and goals.

Either way, I’m loving it.

As a slightly obnoxious gift to you all, scroll to the bottom of the post for my favorite internet finds on my road to having put away nearly $2k (is it okay for me to call it “two large”?) in the last two months and saving for my trip to Costa Rica:

Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t always been frugal or at least money-conscious.  The other day, I was contemplating with Gina on how we’ve handled money over the years, and she said that she probably wasn’t the best person in the world when it came to managing it.

The National Rail Logo - perhaps not coincidentally some backwards dollars

But, I disagree.  I’ve seen Gina go to bat for money in ways that would exhaust the average consumer.  Like the time she lobbied against the National Rail in England for months because an apparent ghost in King’s Cross lost our return tickets from Yorkshire (a great story on its own).

The woman is relentless.

But my favorite story by far was a joint effort when we railed for a £10 refund from a mini cab service in Islington run by a man known only as “The Guv.”

The day I moved into the synagogue out of sharing Gina’s room in Angel, we took a mini cab (for my American friends, this is a certified taxi service in England that is not the traditional black taxi car, but rather people in regular vehicles with licenses in their windows) to transport my luggage to Hackney.

Apparently Lenny McClean

The cabbie dropped us off relatively far away from where we were supposed to be (even though he had a GPS), and we ended up dragging my stuff all the way up Stamford Hill and then up the several flights of stairs to my room at the top of the house on our own, essentially laying waste to the extra funds we spent to take the damn cab.

When we went back to the cab agency (which was in walking distance of Gina’s flat) to request a refund for being dropped in the wrong damn place, we were basically told no, and that we’d have to take it up with “The Guv.”

We asked where he might be and the cryptic little Middle Eastern dude behind the counter lifted a shaky index finger to point to a closed, wooden door behind the desk.  “He ain’t here.”

Well, “ain’t here” pretty much sums up the Guv, because Gina wasn’t about to take no for an answer, and because it was on the walk into town, we made a point to pop in every time we were on the way to the tube, the movies, Mucho Mas for guacamole, or Starbucks for a taste of americana.

That door was never open.  Not once.  In a year, it was never open.

Also, the answer never changed.  Have to ask the Guv.  He ain’t here right now.

I just think that in light of my newfound expertise in the art of cherishing every penny, I’d really like that £10 back, but since we got so recognizable to the staff that they’d actually start to hide when we passed by after a while, it might be time to write it off.

And now for the websites:

Mint.com

This is my favorite.  It’s a free (FREE!) budgeting tool that pulls in all of your banking info, helps you create budgets and goals, and sends you emails when you buy too much white cheddar popcorn and you are $5 from the end of your grocery budget for the month and it’s only the 10th.  Highly recommend.

ING Direct

This is my new bank.  I’ll be done breaking up with BoA in the very near future, I think, but as of right now, I’m using BoA for all bill pay, putting $250 into a spending fund for groceries, gas, and all the etc. every two weeks, and everything else goes into my super handy categorized savings accounts (Globe Trotting, Emergency Fund, and Money to Invest).

Lending Club

This is peer-to-peer lending with a general annual return of about 10% (better than the stock market right now).  I’ve put in $250 just to see how it works.  I will report back in a month or two on the results.

My favorite money blogs –

Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, and I Will Teach You to be Rich

Happy saving!

17
Jan
11

Le Bourdon in my bonnet

 

The summer I lived in France featured countless steamy afternoons walking down into the gulley of Briancon for a scoop of creamy glace in a waffle cone.  My personal favorite was a decadent Snickers gelato, with thick swirls of hot caramel and giant, salty peanuts folded into chocolate and yogurt. 

We’d walk through the parc, with cool ribbons of liquid sugar running down our hands as we watched the swans in the lake and the inevitable soccer game on the field. 

There was one particular day, one of those bright blue jours d’ete, that during our walk through the winding sidewalks in the park, Gemma suddenly unleashed a panicked squeal, “watch out for Les Bourdons!  They like the sugar!”  She darted around me to avoid three tiny yellow bees, hovering harmlessly over the lake to our right.

“Buzz, buzz, buzz!” I teased, giving her a little pinch in the side.  Never much of one to find humor in these situations, she shot me a look and told me, in no uncertain terms, not to laugh.  “Once they sting you, it keeps hurting,” she said, solemnly.  I consented that this was true.

“I hate bugs,” Gemma muttered, taking a giant slurp of her sweet cream gelato.  Ten and surly, this was Gemma’s game.  She will one day be a master of stormy passion and the femme-francaise pout. 

The trick was to distract her or to get her to laugh.

“Even butterflies?” Noemie teased, “and the ladyladybugs.”

“Les Pupillions?” I guessed, appealing to Gemma’s love of being smarter than me when it came to French.

“PA-pillions,” she corrected, smirking despite herself. 

“Do you like bugs, Shannon?” Noemie asked, blue smurf custard giving her a charmingly bizarre goatee.

“Yes!” Gemma said, her face lighting up before I could deny it.  “You told Lucie you had TRAVEL  bugs.  Ew.  I bet they’re in your suitcase.”

Well, the truth of it is, they were in my suitcase, and in my clothes, and whether they liked it or not, multiplying by the day all over my two little French girls as we spent our lazy summer afternoons together.  I was dealing with a rather serious infestation of the travel bug, and we’ve all heard the rumor that there’s no getting rid of it.

When I was exiled back to Florida last year, I was so beaten down by the shitty economy and the special kind of hell that moving back home after being independent for five years brings to any functioning young adult that my travel bug went into hybernation to make room for the basic-survival bug that really needed to take over for a while.

It's true.

Well, after about five months here at my new job, I’ve got to say that all of my basic life reqirements are being met (and then some).  Last month, I was actually able to start tucking money away into a little tiered savings account I opened with ING Direct.  One of the tiers is labelled “Globe Trotting,” and man, my blood has started to heat back up to a rolling boil to get my ass back on the road, if only for a week or two here and there.

I think I’ve pretty firmly set my sights on South America for cheap and satisfying scenery change within the very small allotted vacation time I’ve got to work with here at work.  (at least for now)

I’m looking at a potential spring holiday in either Costa Rica or Guatemala.  I’d love to splurge and hike the Inca Trail or go learn Tango in Buenos Aires, but I need to start with the cheapest possible options since saving is still the ultimate goal … and eventually living abroad again.

So, for now, I’m dreaming of jungles and volcanos, and possibly sunbathing in a hammock in Montezuma or Antigua, and I have no intention of attempting to stifle my wanderlust.

I guess that means I do like bugs.




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