We are not perfect, will Mrs. CF is of course (yup, I’m in need of brownie points), but I’m certainly not. Ignoring (many) mistakes on a personal level, which mostly don’t involve financial issues, financial mistakes were definitely made too. How did I screw up, why and what are the lessons learned? Here are my investment mistakes!

My Investment Mistakes

We were having a chat in the FIRENL slack group (which is surprisingly addictive and popular; all in Dutch) about investment mistakes. It was good to read that I was not the only one, but it made me realize I had my fair share of financial screwups. Most of them due to being arrogant and misinformed. Most of them also because of a short term vision. But also some because they don’t match my psychological profile. Let’s have a laugh (& cry) here shall we?!

My investment mistakes

My investment mistakes

Sprinters

Back in 2009, when we had moved abroad, I still had some money in a savings account. Because we didn’t need this money at the time, I decided to play around with this money on the stockmarket. This was mistake 1. I bought and sold some shares, which worked out okay but did not make much money. I got arrogant thinking that when I could make a little bit of money, I could also make more! This was arrogant mistake 2. I started trading with leveraged products (ING Sprinters). At the beginning I lost some, won some, lost more, won a little, and lost a lot!

Total damage: ~€9.000. I didn’t return to the stockmarket for about 6 years!

Moral of the story, don’t daytrade and definitely not with leveraged products. The chances of losing money are a lot bigger than making money in the longer term. Buy-and-hold rules! See also the graph below, and I was way worse!

High Dividend Yield

At the beginning of developing our dividend portfolio (2015-2016), I still needed to learn a lot. Based on the above I had somewhat learned to look at a longer period to invest (and not use leverage). But what I didn’t learn yet was to remain critical and not chase dividend yield. I had already seen several stories about dividend growth and it’s longer term return on investment “miracles”. So somewhat wisely I did pick the majority of our shares with a chowder rule of >12%, low(er) PE ratios and acceptable payout ratios.

However, when companies pay a very juicy +7% I did get tempted…….. and I got burned. The companies I bought were often cyclical in nature but well established. However, their business models were under attack due to changing market conditions, their debts were high and their earnings per share under pressure. The yields, as appealing as they seemed, were not sustainable. I’m talking here about NewAlta (NAL), Liquor Stores (LIQ) and Corus Media (CJR.B). So, I took my (our?) losses and moved on to other actual dividend growth shares.

Total damage: ~€5.000

Moral of the story, do not chase yield. It will lead to financial losses in 9 out of 10 times. Look for the companies that grow, have a solid business model and have lower payout ratios (so they can continue to keep paying your dividends).

My investment mistakes

My investment mistakes: I’m a loser sometimes! Pun intended 🙂

Options Trading

During a FIRE meetup in Antwerp I was introduced to options trading. The supplementing investment strategy that I found interesting was writing put options and collecting the premiums. Owning some dividend shares during a bull market, this seems like a good idea for some extra yield.

Wisely I started small to get a feel for how this option trading works. You can still find some of the option trading update posts under the “options trading” category in the side bar. However, I made and lost some money on the options again. Sometimes due to share price fluctuations but mostly due to the desire for (high) yield. I started to take more risks to recover losses I made. After a substantial market correction for some shares (which today have actually recovered!), I ended up losing my shirt.

Don’t get me wrong, you can make very good money with trading options, but you have to be consistent and stay calm under pressure. My psychology simply does not allow for that. I keep staring at that screen with red numbers and don’t feel well. I also don’t like the pressure of the unknowns that affect these option prices and movements in time. It’s not an investment method that works with who I am and how I work mentally. I simply felt very uncomfortable with this investment method. So I did what financially was not a smart decision, but psychologically was the best; I sold everything and moved on.

Total damage: ~€4.000

Moral of the story, do try different investment methods to find what works for you. But start small and as soon as you see that you get carried away, stop! Limit your losses and move on to an investment type that works better with your psychological profile. It will ultimately make you a better investor and a happier person.

Conclusions

I’m one of those people that has to try different things, to fail, get up and move on. I could have avoided many costly investment mistakes if I would just be true to myself and would have listened to others. I’ve been too arrogant and thought that I could chase yield and get away with it.

In contrast, Mrs CF is far more sensible and has not made any of these investment mistakes. She was the one that liked the real estate and initiated the first two property purchases, which have only made us money to date.

That being said, these personal lessons learned have gotten us to a mixed portfolio consisting of real estate, dividends shares and index funds. It might not be the best yielding investment portfolio, but I’m now comfortable with these investment, their price fluctuations and risks. I’ve also finally learned to look for the longer term and stop chasing high, unrealistic, yield. Furthermore, I won’t make the same mistakes again either! I’m happy with where I (and we) am (are) today.

 

How about you? What mistakes have you made? What did you learn about yourself and how you invest?

 

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Dividends, those little paychecks that companies send you just for owning their shares. Lovely isn’t it? Here is the update of all those little paychecks for July. Here is the July 2018 Dividend Update.

July 2018 Dividend Update

In an ongoing attempt to solidify our dividend portfolio and maintain only dividend growers and/or REIT’s that DRIP like crazy, we did some shuffling again. We bought companies we like and sold the ones we don’t.

The following stock(s) were reduced or disappeared from the portfolio:

  • 273 Shares of GLUSKIN SHEFF & ASSOC (payout ratio too high, not a dividend grower)
  • 373 shares of Corus Media (pending dividend cut)
  • 172 Shares of Evertz Technology (not a stable grower)
  • 55 Shares of Nutrien Ltd. (cleaning out shares in Mrs CF’s account, bought new in Mr. CF’s account)

With the proceeds (and cash) we made the following new purchases:

  • 20 shares of RBC
  • 70 shares of AGELLAN COMMERCIAL REIT
  • 51 shares of HIGH LINER FOODS INC
  • 30 shares of COGECO COMMUNICATIONS INC (new position)
  • 26 shares of Nutrien Ltd (to allow DRIP in Mr CF’s account)
  • 15 shares of CBIC
  • 10 shares of BMO
  • 12 shares of National Bank of Canada
  • 100 shares of DREAM GLB REIT
  • 40 shares of CDN APT PPTYS REIT
  • 75 shares of ALGONQUIN PWR&UTILITIES

Most of the number of shares were selected to keep the DRIPs going (saves investment fees in the long run, DRIPs are free).

Keen on some Canadian shares? Try this awesome list to see which companies might be of interest. Oh, don’t forget to check out the community updates at the Dividend Diplomats and Easy Dividend!

July Dividends

All the dividend deposits received into the bank accounts (and correct for exchange rates) sum up to a total dividend income of €563.90 for July.

Compared to last year we had an increase of 10.8%. If you purely look at the dividend increase in CAD (Canadian Dollars), we are up 14% compared to last year. 

The stats for last month:

July 2018 Dividend Update - Dividend Income

July 2018 Dividend Update – Dividend Income

The graph below is showing the yearly dividend totals for 2015, 2016, 2017 and the YTD for 2018. Despite selling many shares in 2017 (reinvested in Real Estate), we might actually beat 2016’s total this year! That’s still very good 🙂

July 2018 Dividend Update - Yearly Dividend

July 2018 Dividend Update – Yearly Dividend

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio now contains 35 companies with a total of 7.851 shares.

The portfolio looks like this:

July 2018 Dividend Update - Dividend Overview

July 2018 Dividend Update – Dividend Overview

Dividend Sector Breakdown

When you breakdown the previously shown dividend stock overview by sector, it looks as follows:

July 2018 Dividend Update - Sector Allocation

July 2018 Dividend Update – Sector Allocation

Compared to the previous update, we now no longer have any technology positions in our dividend portfolio.

 

How was your July on the dividend side of things?

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Below is a breakdown of the July 2018 Savings Rate. It’s our first month with the new “normal”, e.g. being on one income. How did we do?

July Finances

Where did we spent our money on in July? Well, here is our overview of the various ins and outs of the budget:

  • One income by Mrs CF, but high business expenses that drive down this income. Expense claim should probably come in September. So a very low income for the month.
  • Crowdfunding income was €367, due to early payback of two loans. This income will quickly decline to below €150 month in the coming year.
  • Living expenses were low due to the year end return by the utility provider (€196!). Lowered the new monthly bill to the minimum allowable. Total expenses €580 (mortgage interest, health insurance, utility bills, phone bills, home insurance).
  • Groceries were high, as we had to restocked upon coming back from our 9 week road trip. Total of €476, that’s €100 above the YTD average!
  • Transportation was low at €276, did not drive much and no special expenses.
  • Kid: normal expense for the after school care at €322, no other items this month.
  • Leisure was low at just €13. Couple of trips to the swimming pool. Other outings were free.
  • Other items: €418. This includes a couple of workout related expenses (including a pool access pass for the coming year) and a new (used) office chair. Also includes some gifts and other minor items.

July 2018 Savings Rate

As noted. July was the first month with the new “normal”, albeit income was low due to business expenses. Still, we managed to have a savings rate of 23.4%. Peanuts compared to the previous months, but very much acceptable on one income! Still a YTD savings rate of 52.8% though 🙂

Here are the stats for the month of July:

July 2018 Savings Rate - Overview

July 2018 Savings Rate – Overview

If you breakdown our expenses for the month, the distribution looks like this:

July 2018 Savings Rate - Expenses

July 2018 Savings Rate – Expenses

Forecast Coming Months

There is not much new to report compared to what I mentioned last month. I’m happily unemployed and for now only Mrs. CF brings in the cash. The coming months will have higher expenses because of renovations around the house. Busy with improving insulation at various places to lower the heating bill this coming winters. Painting is almost complete.

 

How was your month in terms of savings? Enjoying the summer season?

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Not to long ago we looked at if you should buy a holiday home? That was not such a great idea. Let’s think outside the box, could you make money with a boat? In short, should you buy a yacht? 🙂 Yes, this is not looking promising either, but it’s just too much fun not to check this out!

Should you buy a yacht?

Don’t you just love dreaming about a boat? I do! Should you buy a yacht? No, of course you should not buy a yacht! Why not, let’s review the numbers.

Should you buy a yacht?

Should you buy a yacht?

The Boat

As noted in this post, we might have about €150.000 to spend on a new investment. What if this would be a boat? This is what that kind of money could get you: https://nl.boats.com/motorboten/1990-tecnomarine-t-62-6039328/?refSource=standard%20listing

For a “measly” €139.800 you get a +18m long boat with 2 X 1.000 HP engines constructed in 1990. It has 3 cabins for 6 people, tons of storage and a large fresh water tank (1.200l). Cruising speed is a whopping 26 knots! No wonder it has a 4.200l fuel tank 🙂 It’s quite a big boat for a very reasonable amount of money.

Here is the same page in case the listing disappears: Croatian Party Boat

The Expenses

What expenses are you to consider for your yacht? Here are a few of the main items that you will have to consider:

  • Docking fees
  • Insurance
  • Fuels & Lubricants
  • Maintenance
  • Miscellaneous expenses

But how much are we looking at in terms of expenses. Based on our +18m yacht as presented above (no, not the one in the picture!). Assuming you keep it in Croatia, this is what I could find (high level estimate, did not have enough details to get more precise):

  • Docking fees: €14.000 (in Zadar, might be cheaper in other marinas). Includes water, parking, facility use, etc.
  • Insurance: €2500 (Source, based on market value)
  • Fuel & lubricants: €30.000 (based on 30 day use per year = about 500-800l diesel fuel per day)
  • Maintenance: €30.000 (Source)
  • Miscellaneous: €2.500 (estimate)

The total operating cost including fuel would be about €79.000 (€49.000 excluding fuel). Pardon? That’s a shit load of money! About half the purchase price of the boat itself. Darn…..

If you ever consider a (big) yacht, check out this tool, it might be useful:

https://luxyachts.com/management/OperatingCostCalculator

No, you should not buy a yacht!

No, you should not buy a yacht!

The Profit?

How much money could you make with a 18m long yacht? This obviously depends on what you use it for. If you look at renting it out for people to sleep and sail on (so via Airbnb for example), you might get between €11501800 per night for the proposed boat (excluding fuel). Albeit I think that is pushing it a bit. Also the boats used in the references are newer & nicer.

Let’s assume that we could rent this out for about €900 per night during peak season and €600 during the shoulder seasons (without fuel obviously). Considering this is very much a niche market, let’s assume that you only have a 20-30% utilization. The 3 months of Winter we will not include.

This would get you to:

  • Spring: 90 days * 20% * 600 = €10.800
  • Summer: 90 days * 30% * 900 = €24.300
  • Fall: 90 days * 20% * 600 = €10.800

Total revenue for the year: €45.900. That’s a lot of money! But, considering the above noted expenses of €49.000 a year (excluding fuel and cleaning/management expenses), you are not going to make a lot of money.

So no, you should not buy a yacht! Just rent a boat if you really want to go out sailing/motoring. Even as an investment, it’s likely not the best thing to buy. Index funds or real estate is definitely a better option!

FIRE?

Ok, so let’s assume you still want to be living on a boat. On something like the one we just reviewed. But you do a lot of your own maintenance and get a cheaper docking location. Plus, you’d not sail as much and primarily stay in the marina or only sail short stretches and anchor. How much money would you need (excluding the purchase) to FIRE?

Assuming the above, the yearly operating costs would probably be around €50.000 per year. Add to this the need for food, medical care, transportation (car rental/public transport/etc.) and various other costs. You’d likely be looking at €65.000 total.

Based on a 4% withdrawal or net cash-flow rate, you’d need €1.63M. Guess we need to keep on saving and investing 🙂

 

How are your sea-legs?

 

 

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This Real Estate Report – July 2018 edition is a catch up from the last few months. Regular readers will know that we were travelling through Europe. If  you are new (or interested), you can check the various travel posts here, here and here. In the mean time the real estate has been steadily going forwards, not including the expensive renovations.

Real Estate Report – July 2018

Rental Income

Our rental income for July 2018 increased from previous months due to a new tenant (with a higher rental rate) and a rental increase for one unit. We are now at a total income of €3.764.92

The monthly income distribution is provided below:

Real Estate Report - July 2018 Income

Real Estate Report – July 2018 Income

Rental Expenses

The expenses for July 2018 were extremely high and consisted of the following:

  • Outside renovations of two units;
  • Insurance;
  • Mortgage and loan payments; and,
  • Management fees (including new tenant selection).

Now, should we incorporate these large scale renovations as an expense or investment? The properties have increase in value as a result. For now we have included them in the expenses, just to show what it can do to the cash-flow. We previously estimated that we still should just be positive with cash-flow on a yearly basis. This is still correct, albeit barely.

The expenses for the month are as follows:

Real Estate Report - July 2018 Expenses

Real Estate Report – July 2018 Expenses

Real Estate Report – Overview

The net rental and loan income for July was -€12.306. The net cash-flow was even lower at -€13.362. As noted earlier, we have a mortgage and we provided a private real estate investment loan that does not pay out the monthly interest (hence a lower net cash-flow). We will get this interest income once the loan matures in late 2020.

If you take the about €14.000 renovation costs out of the equation, we are still doing pretty good. Both in terms of income and cash-flow. The new tenant is initially somewhat expensive due to the property management fees.

Total net YTD income is €3.723, net cash-flow is -€3.653.

Real Estate Report - July 2018 Overview

Real Estate Report – July 2018 Overview

Real Estate Report – Forecast

We are working to sell one property to family. This should hopefully be completed by September. For now, financing options are being evaluated. The assessment for the mortgage is already done. Once the property is sold, we will have to reinvest the money. We did however not get a lot of love from the twitter crowd as to reinvest into real estate:

We will however most likely reinvest into real estate, but via a loan. We need to keep the funds relatively liquid in the coming years as we have mortgage refinancing coming up in 2020. Buying new physical real estate might not be the best move at this stage.

Also, renovations will still continue in August/September, as new windows will be installed. More expenses to come! Albeit not as much as we already made a deposit to pay for the materials.

 

 

How did you do in July?

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After writing part 1 & 2 earlier, it’s time to sit down and write this 9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3. In between finishing the rather long to-do list…. Anyhow, we start this overview in southern Italy, go to Croatia and travel onwards to Slovenia. Enjoy the pictures!!

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3

As noted in the previous post(s), a 62 day road trip is a bit much to pack into one post. I split the story into 14-16 day segments, to be followed by two posts about trip finances and Airbnb experiences.

Below is a short summary of day 32-46. We start in southern Italy (Amalfi Coast), drive to Bari (at the Adriatic sea), jump on a boat and sail to Croatia!

Day 32 – Drive to Central Italy

Today we drive off from Amalfi and towards central Italy to stay the night. It’s a very rainy day and actually perfect if you just have to make some kilometers. Still managed to shoot some okay pictures of the Amalfi coastline and the rural side of Italy.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Amalfi Coast

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Amalfi Coast

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Central Italy

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Central Italy

Also, some Airbnb madness today. Check out the amount of cutlery we found in a unit for 4 people. This tweet was also viewed more than 67.000 times!? #Airbnb does miracles 🙂

https://twitter.com/CheesyFinance/status/999537639048040448

Day 33 – Drive to Bari and Board a Boat

The drive from central Italy towards Bari brings you along lovely rolling hills and endless olive groves. It was a beautiful day today once again, as the rain had disappeared completely. In Bari we had time to visit the beach before we had to board our (old) boat to Croatia. It was a smooth cruise over to the other side of the Adriatic sea.

We also ended up meeting tons of fun folks today, from Americans living in Italy to retired folks travelling Europe in their RV’s. Great stories all around.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Bari

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Bari

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Boat

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Boat

Day 34 – Landing in Dubrovnik

We had an amazingly beautiful arrival by sea into the city of Dubrovnik. Unfortunately it did take some time to get through customs and into the actual city. We had found a place close to the old city and settled right in. Once we got some monopoly money (Croatian Kuna’s), we walked toward the old city and enjoyed the views.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Hello Croatia!

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Hello Croatia!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Dubrovnik

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Dubrovnik

Day 35 – Dubrovnik City Wall Tour

Each day about 2.000-3.000 people arrive by cruise ships into this relatively small city. In total it gets swamped every day by about 10.000+ visitors during peak season. In order to do the city wall tour without being in a human traffic jam or getting issues with heat exhaustion, we started early in the day. It was fantastic! The views are amazing but don’t come cheap at €20,50 pp. (150 Kuna).

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Dubrovnik from north wall

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Dubrovnik from north wall

Later that day we left the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik behind and drove towards the small town of Trpanj. Here a ferry goes to the mainland again. In this way we avoided tourists, the Serbian border crossings (2) and were able to enjoy the spectacular country side. This peninsula drive is highly recommended, you can also find the second longest stone wall here after the great wall of China!

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Great Wall of ….. Croatia?

Day 36 – Driving towards Krka National Park

In the morning we enjoyed the beach, after which we packed up and drove onto a boat again to sail to the mainland. Next, it was just driving inland towards the Krka national park area and position ourselves for the next day. A travel day indeed.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Getting ready set sail

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Getting ready to set sail to the mainland

Day 37 – Krka National Park

The Krka national park is amazing, water and waterfalls everywhere! Take note that you cannot drive into parts of this part, but can walk or take the bus. There is also a limit of 8.000 visitors each day, then the close it off to limit the impact. So get here early in the peak seasons!

Prices also vary depending on when (winter, spring/fall, summer) you get here. In the summer you pay about €28,- pp (200 Kuna) to get in. We got in for almost half that amount (110 kuna) You can also drive to the other sites in the park, which are more peaceful and quiet. These also come with even more spectacular waterfalls and views.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Krka National Park

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Krka National Park

Day 38 – Zaton and Zadar

When driving away from Krka National Park we set course to see Zadar and its sea organ/lights. But before we could get there we drove along the coastline and enjoyed some time in Zaton (small picturesque town with best lunch spot ever) for lunch.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: perfect spot for lunch!

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: perfect spot for lunch!

In the afternoon we had time to hit the beach again, this time at Biograd. Later that day we arrived in Zadar. After dinner we went to see the old town, listened to the sea organ and watched the light display. Unfortunately, it was partially broken L, but still fun to see.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Sunset at Zadar, listening to sea organ

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Sunset at Zadar, listening to sea organ

Day 39 – Driving towards Plitvička Jezera National Park

From Zadar we drive back land inwards towards Plitvička Jezera National Park. Along the way we enjoyed lakes, mountains and very pretty scenery. There are some great opportunities to do river activities (canoeing, etc.), but we were unprepared for this. Next time perhaps?

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Mountain views during drive

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Mountain views during drive

Day 40 – Plitvička Jezera National Park

We went to entrance 2 at the Plitvička Jezera National Park, which is slightly quieter and you can park your car under the trees. Which is great when it’s hot and sunny outside. It’s also a shorter walk to get into the park itself and you somewhat go against the flow, which can be convenient as there are shorter wait times for boats early in the day.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Boat ride to hiking trail

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Boat ride to hiking trail

Take your time in this park, it’s big and you have to do a lot of hiking. Weather is also tricky as there are frequent thunderstorms in this area in summer. Be prepared for all kinds of weather.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: View form above on various lakes

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: View form above on various lakes

Day 41 – Driving towards Rijeka

Today was a day of driving again. We had to get toward the Rijeka area to allow for a couple more days to relax and enjoy the seaside. Before driving onwards to Slovenia.

The drive from the mountainous area to the coast is rather spectacular when you get closer to Senj. The views are amazing from the last ridge before you drive towards the sea.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: View on Senj in distance

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: View on Senj in distance

Day 42 – Opatija Visit

Sometimes referred to as the local “Riviera”, Opatija is a little coastal town with nice local gardens, seaside and boulevard. We had a great day here, enjoying the great weather and views.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Opatija

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Opatija

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Kvarner Hotel in Opatija

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Kvarner Hotel in Opatija

Day 43 – Travel to Slovenia and Skocjan Caves

It was time today to leave Croatia, which is really an amazing country to visit, and go to Slovenia. The first impressions were not great, as the border crossing too ages due to road work. But once that was behind us, it became clear that this country is a gem too! Fantastic scenery, amazing caves and nice villages.

We visited the Škocjan caves in the afternoon, but where not allowed to take pictures from the inside. But believe me, when you could fit the Cathedral of Milan in this underground gorge system, it’s mind-blowing! The old trail system they used for tourists (until the 1930’s) must have been some serious undertaking, you really needed some balls for that one.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Exit of Skocjan Caves

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Exit of Skocjan Caves

Day 44 – Castle in the Cliff & Ljubljana

When we drove off in the morning we first visited the Predjama Castle. But looking at the number of castles we already visited and the entrances fees, we chickened out! Made the picture and moved on to the capital Ljubljana next. Which is a great city to visit. Pretty laid back, nice castle on the hill too, and dragons!

If you can, take a bike to go through the city, it’s perfect for that too.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Predjama Castle

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Predjama Castle

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Ljubljana Dragons

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Ljubljana Dragons

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Ljubljana city view from it castle

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Ljubljana city view from its castle

Day 45 – Waterfall Visit

At the end of day 44 we drove towards the Bohinj area to stay the night. Today we were able to visit the Slap Savica waterfall. Albeit weather was not great, we did not get drenched. Beside the waterfall, we also enjoyed some time at lake Bohinjsko jezero. Oh, and some homemade pancakes in the afternoon.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Savica Falls

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Savica Falls

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Bohinj Lake

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Bohinj Lake

Day 46 – Enjoying Lake Bled & Travel to Austria

Before it was time to travel onwards to Austria, we spent the morning at Lake Bled. With near perfect weather it was amazing! A very pretty lake and beautiful surround mountains. The pictures speak for themselves I think?!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Lake Bled

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Lake Bled

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 3: Lake Bled Mountain Views

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 3: Lake Bled Mountain Views

In the afternoon we drove towards eastern Austria. But more on that in the next 9 week road trip report!

 

How’s your summer season going so far? Seen and done some great things too?

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The June 2018 Cheesy Index update is an interesting one. Firstly as we also included April and May. This was obviously because we were travelling and could no do much over the past months on the financials. I also quite my job, so we have a lot less income. But mostly because of the final results! Let’s have a look shall we?

June 2018 Cheesy Index

The last few months were good on in the passive income side of things. The dividends keep coming in. The savings rate was also surprisingly good for during a 9 week road trip (thank you tax returns).

The real estate did good too, but that update will come in July. Still working on the renovations, and assessments of the property, to find out what all has happened in terms of value. So no impact yet from all this on the Cheesy Index, other then rental income from the past months.

That being said, we are now at a Cheesy Index of 70.2%. Well what do you know?! We went up, despite the travels and loss of income :-). Got to love passive income!

Here are the latest stats:

June 2018 Cheesy Index

June 2018 Cheesy Index

Cheesy Index Forecast

July is going to get even more interesting as we just paid €12.000 to our contractor for insulating and stucco-ing two properties. This will increase it’s value, but by how much? Not sure.

We had a property value assessment done last week. A family member will likely buy the property in the coming months and we needed to agree on a reasonable market price. The value assessment was the most logical and independent solution. Added bonus, it can also be used to apply for a mortgage too.

However, this assessment is not in yet, so we kept the value of the property at what we invested in it. This should be lower than it’s actual market value. Hoping to see a jump in value for July and thus an (slight) increase in the Cheesy Index. Despite the massive bill we just paid…..

For August and onwards there are no upward jumps expected, downward is always a possibility with market movements. Assuming Mr. Market stays happy & stable, we expect a small but steady increase in the cheesy index going forward. But with a reduced (now single) income, it won’t go as fast anymore.

 

How about you? Did you go forwards or backwards in June with your net worth?

 

 

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Should you buy a holiday home? This is a question that we reviewed several times during and after our epic road trip. Albeit we quickly came to the conclusion that you shouldn’t. In most cases at least, let me explain.

Should you buy a holiday home?

Now that we had our final vacation outside the main peak vacation seasons, we need to get creative. Miss CF will turn 5 not to long from now and will have to go to school mandatorily. Only in exceptional circumstances can you get leave for your child outside the fixed school vacation periods. The fine if you take your kids out of school and get caught: up to €100/day! Not a good idea.

So what if you buy a holiday home? Would this give you a cheaper place to stay during the peak holiday seasons? What are the pro’s and con’s? Time to find out.

Should you buy a holiday home?

Should you buy a holiday home?

The Boundary Conditions

As with everything we evaluate on this blog, we define the boundary limits first. In this case, we go for one (French) example with the following assumptions:

  • Suitable for a group of 3-4 people (family)
  • Budget for a holiday home is €100.000-150.000 (yes, that’s a lot of money)
  • Paid in cash!
  • Return on investment is 6% on above noted amounts when invested
  • Time to travel each year 3 weeks (21 days)
  • Property tax (1.2%) for the selected property
  • 8% transfer taxes (rough estimate)
  • Maintenance cost 2,5% of property value (all inclusive, including reservations)
  • Property price inflation: 2% per year

The Property

After watchin “Escape to the continent” the last few weeks on Netflix, I decided to look for a cheap but special property. This is what I found:

http://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/89503TNW24/lakes-for-sale-in-abjat-sur-bandiat-dordogne-aquitaine-france

It’s a 41 cottage/fishing hut, unconnected to the grid, in the Dordogne in France. It comes with 3.3Ha (!) of land and it’s on lake (you have 3 lakes actually). Oh, and it has a 5.000m² (0.5Ha) Christmas tree forest How cool is that?

The price for all this? Just €114.450!

Oh, for future references (in case the property get’s sold), you can download the spec sheet here: French property with lake

Operating Expenses

Ok, let’s see how much this property is costing you on a yearly basis. Based on the assumption above, you’d get the following:

  • Total purchase price (incl. transfer taxes): €126.606 = lost opportunity costs = €7.416
  • Maintenance costs: €3.090
  • Utilities (gas use only, estimate): €150
  • Garbage/waste removal (estimate): €30
  • Property taxes: €1.483
  • Insurance (rough estimate): €300
  • Property value adjustment: -€2.472

Based on the above this vacation home would “cost” you €9.997 per year. Cash-flow wise it would only be about €3.000 per year (assuming 35% of the maintenance costs is actually spend every year). Based on the 21 days per year of vacation time, that would mean €474/day and €142/day in cash-flow costs. That’s a lot of money!

Obviously if you can stay longer (i.e. during FIRE), the costs per night would go down rather quickly. It’s actually not an expensive place to enjoy your retired life. Other things you could consider is to rent it out when you are not there. But you likely need a local someone to help you (cleaning, check-in/out, maintenance, etc.).

Extra Holiday Home Income

Ok, so you decide the balance the property expenses with some rental income. Based on an Airbnb search (see also next section) a property like this should fetch about €60 per night. Let’s say that you can rent this out about 30% of the year (this place not for everyone and in winter it might not be interesting). This would bring in about €6.570.

Let’s assume that this is paid by 30 different guests (average stay of about 3-4 days/group) and each check-in/out and cleaning would be €30. You would also have more garbage removal, say €150. And more maintenance due to wear and tear, say €500/year. Total expenses would be about €1.550.

Net profit on the rental would be about €5.020.

In this scenario the place is “only” costing you about €4.977 per year and is actually making your cash-flow positive! By a surprising €2.020 per year.

New expenses for your holiday of 21 days: 237/night. Ouch…..still expensive.

Vacation costs

If you go on holiday in the summer season for 3 weeks, in a similar area and sized property, you are looking at about €40-75 per night (based on Airbnb search). Let’s take €60 here for argument sake (including booking fees). The costs for the holiday (travel to site, food and attractions not included) for 21 days would only be €1.260! Seems like a no brainer to me.

Discussion

Obviously having your own place is not financially interesting if you don’t rent it out. Heck, even when you rent it out it’s still not financially interesting (albeit cash-flow positive perhaps). For personal use a couple weeks per year, you are better off renting a place for that time. Looking at the lost opportunity costs of €7.416, that’s one heck of a holiday! We actually spent less during our 9 week road trip (post to follow on that too)!

There are some good things about having your own spot. You can make sure its outfitted to your liking, have your own personal stuff there and you can avoid other tourists. It certainly seems to be a quiet place. You are also free to come and go as you like, but at a high cost for sure!

The down side, besides the money, is that you always need to go to the same location. And in this case, the location is about a 1.000km from the Netherlands. You can’t really “hop” over for the weekend, you actually do have to plan your trips.

We made many more calculations like this and made the same conclusion over and over again. So we will not buy a holiday home now of in the future.

 

How about you? Is a holiday property something for you? 

 

 

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Hello Folks, got some exciting news today! We have scheduled another FIRE meetup, but one that is specifically focussing on real estate investing. In short, get ready for Utrecht Real Estate Con!

Utrecht Real Estate Con

We noticed that a lot of people are interested in real estate investing as (part of) their FIRE strategy. Likely because it is an investment that you can see, feel and easily comprehend. However, there are many things about real estate that one should consider.

Utrecht Real Estate Con

Utrecht Real Estate Con
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House#/media/File:1156_Marken,_Netherlands_-_panoramio_(1).jpg
Attribution: Ben Bender
CC BY-SA 3.0

There are also many different investment strategies related to real estate, which depend on your risk profile and preferences. It’s therefore time to review this investment method in more detail during a meetup.

Together with Divnomics and GeenBaanMeer.nl we came up with the idea of Utrecht Real Estate Con (Dutch: Vastgoed Con).

The Date

The “Utrecht Real Estate Con” is scheduled for Saturday 17 November 2018 (in Utrecht, go figure!). Location details will be made available for those that sign up for this event.

The Program

The preliminary program for the day:

  • 12:00-13:00 – Welcome
  • 13:00-14:00 – Introduction to Real Estate investing
  • 14:00-14:30 – Coffee Break
  • 14:30-15:30 – Real Estate investing Examples
  • 15:30-16:00 – Coffee Break
  • 16:00-17:00 – Real Estate Investing Strategies for FIRE
  • 17:00-18:00 – Q&A and Drinks

The final program details will be made available closer to the date. We plan to tailor the program upon your input. For example, we can focus more on the strategies and examples and skip on some of the introduction. Please let us know what you think. Either way, it should be very interesting and a good learning opportunity. Especially for anyone that wants to invest into real estate in the Netherlands.

The Costs

The fees for the day are about €29.61 (€28 + Eventbrite booking fees), which is including drinks and snacks. We have a total of 45 seats available. Don’t wait too long before signing up as our meetups are getting increasingly more popular.

Signing up?

Inspired and interested to talk real estate for the day? You can signup via the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.nl/e/tickets-utrecht-real-estate-conference-48118543860

To sign in you need the following password: Vastgoed Con

 

Hope to see you in Utrecht!

 

Not interested in Real Estate, just come and have a chat with us in Zwolle! Check out Chris’s blog:

FIRE Meetup 30-9-2018, The Zwolle Edition

 

 

 

 

 

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What I like about dividend investing is that once you have selected a few good companies, the rest is relatively easy. Yes, you need to keep an eye on your investments, and check how the companies are doing. But the money generally just keeps flowing in, how great is that! Here is the June 2018 Dividend Update (with catch-up from April and May)

June 2018 Dividend Update

The following stock(s) were reduced or disappeared from the portfolio:

  • 974 shares of AAR.UN (REIT): company was bought by an investment group and was delisted. Made a killing though! Nearly 80% profit 🙂
  • 150 shares of PJC.A (Consumables): company merged with the Metro group and was delisted. Albeit we were supposed to get MRU shares, we missed the exchange deadline (due to travels) and got the cash. Also a 30% profit.

We made no new purchases (since we were travelling and did not look at the account for almost 2,5 months!).

Keen on some Canadian shares? Try this awesome list to see which companies might be of interest. Oh, don’t forget to check out the community updates at the Dividend Diplomats and Easy Dividend!

April – June Dividends

All the dividend deposits received into the bank accounts (and correct for exchange rates) sum up to a total dividend income of €567,4 for April, €567,13 for May and €638,93 for June. Not bad!

Compared to last year (when we still had some Dutch share too) we changed by -23.6%, 34.9% and -34.3% for April to June respectively. Now that is what I call a rollercoaster!

However, when looking at the Canadian part of the portfolio (in CAD), we see the following changes: 18.2%, 34.6% and 13.9% increases. Now that is what I like to see, growing dividends! This is organic growth too, as we did not add to the accounts since 2016.

The stats for last month:

June 2018 Dividend Update - Dividend Income

June 2018 Dividend Update – Dividend Income

The graph below is showing the yearly dividend totals for 2015, 2016, 2017 and the YTD for 2018. Despite selling many shares in 2017, we might actually beat 2016’s total this year! That’s good.

June 2018 Dividend Update - Yearly Dividend

June 2018 Dividend Update – Yearly Dividend

Dividend Stock Overview

Our dividend portfolio now “only” contains 36 companies with a total of 8.124 shares. As noted in previous post(s) NTR is noted twice in this overview. This is due to the merger of POT and AGU (we each had one of these in our RRSP accounts). Since I’m lazy (and have the spreadsheets setup to provided an overview of both our accounts individually), this probably won’t change soon.

We generally try to keep the weight of individual companies within our portfolio below about 5%.

The portfolio looks like this:

June 2018 Dividend Update - Dividend Overview

June 2018 Dividend Update – Dividend Overview

Dividend Sector Breakdown

When you breakdown the previously shown dividend stock overview by sector, it looks as follows:

June 2018 Dividend Update - Sector Allocation

June 2018 Dividend Update – Sector Allocation

 

How did you do in June on the dividend side of things?

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3 months of doing nothing…..sort of. It’s been almost exactly 3 months since I gave up my well paying job and decided to travel and think what I want to do with my life. I’m now only more confused!

3 Months of Doing Nothing

Since I quit my job in April, I first prepared the house to be able to be rented on Airbnb. Next we disappeared for a 9 week road trip (first two posts are here and here). After we came back renovations works stated on some of our real estate, so that took up some time & energy. But this is progressing well and almost finished, should have this all wrapped up in a couple of weeks.

In short, albeit having no work anymore for the past 13 weeks, I have been far from bored and this does not seem to change in the near future. That being said, emotionally it’s been interesting. Still not sure what I want to do! I’m confused?!

3 Months of doing nothing

3 Months of doing nothing
By Johnycanal – Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Image:Phuka_beach.jpg, CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1060769

The good

Quitting your job (when you have a good financial backup) that you don’t like gives an amazing feeling! Some of the (obvious) observations since I quit:

  • I sleep better / am far less tired
  • No more sitting in traffic jams / getting up insanely early to avoid said traffic jams (yeah!)
  • No more stress/frustrations
  • More time to work out
  • The house is a lot cleaner / dishes don’t pile up anymore
  • We don’t have to rush in the weekend to get stuff done (we both were working fulltime)
  • I’m happy and extremely relaxed, have not felt this good in years!

In short, this was a brilliant move! Should have done it sooner. Being happy and relaxed is very important in life, but you often realize this quite late in the journey.

The bad

Are there any “bad” things, yes, but not what you might expect. It’s also not really “bad”, more “unexpected”.

We are not financially independent just yet. However, there is a large pile of cash available and we have a pretty decent cash-flow income every month. Plus Mrs CF is still working and enjoying it. So financially we are in a good shape, but not done yet…… and this is bothering me. This because I’m farting around, while Mrs CF is still busting her @$$ to get us to FIRE. Albeit I know she is fine with it, it’s still bugging me.

I’m also confused as to what I want to do, I thought I knew when I was still working, but now I’m not so sure. Let me explain with the following two examples.

The side hustle

When I quit my job I was already planning a small side hustle to add some extra income (both passive and active). Because I didn’t like me job I was really motivated to get started, spent quite a bit of time researching and setting up a website/content.

But during the road trip the motivation to get started all but disappeared. Still cannot really figure out why, I still like the idea and the interaction with other people about it. But getting my butt moving forward with it is very hard right now. I rather go outside and play in the garden, cycle/swim, or cook. All great activities, but they cost money rather than add some funds to get to FI.

The blog

Same as with the side hustle idea. I really was looking forward to writing lots of content on this blog. But somehow that motivation has (almost) completely disappeared. I still have tons of ideas, but for some reason I cannot focus and write it all down.

The great summer weather outside and various other fun things that I can do stop me from blogging. Where blogging was a great way to avoid doing “work” at work, now it takes time away from sunshine and relaxation. Heck, it almost feels like “work”. Perhaps this changes in the fall/winter when it gets cold and nasty outside.

I’ve therefore decided to limit blogging to once a week for now (if that). Being outside, not behind a computer, is a much better way tp spend my time (sorry for being very egoistic here)

The Plan

So the plan for now is to just relax, enjoy the summer season and fart around. I’m just going to do things when I feel like it, not because they “have to be done”. Perhaps the motivation returns, perhaps not. Perhaps I might look for another job again to speed up the journey to FIRE, perhaps I’ll stay a stay-at-home dad. Heck, I don’t know it anymore, I’m confused! But at least I’m happy & confused 🙂

 

Thoughts? Ideas? How do you deal with lack of motivation? How do you take a hurdle? 

 

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After the epic road trip, it was time to start figuring out how much we had spent (and saved!) in the past 3 months. Below is a breakdown of the June 2018 Savings Rate (with catch-up from April and May too).

April – June Finances

April through June were messy months in terms of both incomes and expenses. We received our tax returns from 2015 (final assessment) and 2017 (temporary assessment). The 2017 ones were as planned, the 2015 one was a surprise! The temporary assessment did not show any money being returned. Not complaining here about the payout!

My income still came in in April and partially in May (holiday allowance and final payout). Mrs CF’s came in in April and partially in May and June (4 weeks of unpaid leave spread over those months). The good thing is that we also received some money in April, May and June from our house being rented through Airbnb! All in all, no complaining on the income front.

Expenses were well above average due to the road trip, obviously. Food and fuel costs were much higher too. Because we prepared the car for the trip, we also had some maintenance costs in April. No issues during the trip, so it was money well spent.

Daycare costs were lower, as we took Miss CF out of after-school care for 2,5 months. She started again in July, as she loves it and it give me time to work around the house/start with the side hustle.

A more detailed breakdown of the holiday expenses is still to be completed, but we came in under budget!

June 2018 Savings Rate (and catch up)

With all the extra income from tax returns and Airbnb rental, we were able to stay in the black despite the road trip! This was a big and pleasant surprise. Did not expect that at all. The savings rate for the year is now a very respectable 54.6%, including the entire road trip!

Here are the stats for the last three months:

June 2018 Savings Rate - Overview

June 2018 Savings Rate – Overview

If you breakdown our expenses for the month, the distribution looks like this:

April 2018 Savings Rate - Expenses

April 2018 Savings Rate – Expenses

May 2018 Savings Rate - Expenses

May 2018 Savings Rate – Expenses

June 2018 Savings Rate - Expenses

June 2018 Savings Rate – Expenses

Forecast Coming Months

As you are most likely aware. I’m unemployed and for now only Mrs. CF brings in the cash. The coming months will have higher expenses too. This because of renovations around the house. We want to add/improve insulation at various places to lower the heating bill this coming winter (and the next). There is also some painting work to be done.

The new side hustle is therefore on the back burner for the summer. I also want to take it easy during the summer and enjoy the season. The side hustle activities should pick up in the fall. Hopefully by the end of the year there might be some income from this. Otherwise next year, I’m in no rush.

No other exciting things planned for now that cost heaps of money, other than our real estate investments. That being said, the savings rate will drop. We hope to stay within the 20-40% range going forward. December should be a nice one once again with a couple payment for Mrs CF. Might hit the 50% once again.

 

How about you? How was your month in terms of savings and living life?

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Last weekend, on Saturday, we had another BENL FIRE meetup. The 6th already that we organized. We have already been to Antwerp, Eindhoven, Leuven, Breda and Utrecht. It was another fun day with lots of chats, discussions, presentations, food, drinks and financial fun. Without further ado, here is the Utrecht FIRE meetup recap!

Utrecht FIRE Meetup Recap

It was our second time we visited the venue in Utrecht. It’s a very nice place with good access by public transport and car, but gosh it’s hot on summer! The place is obviously very affordable (otherwise we would not have been there), but it does not have air-conditioning. With 28 degrees Celsius outside, it’s really hot inside. Needless to say a lot of folks enjoyed the outside and chatted in the sun. We will likely return to this venue again, but during a different season 😉 Other lessons-learned: when it’s hot, buy more beer!

Utrecht FIRE Meetup Recap

Utrecht FIRE Meetup Recap – We are not the only cheese heads!

Presentations

The real reason we organize these meetups is to have the opportunity to chat with like-minded people. But we do like to have the occasional group discussions and educational moments. This time we had two presentations and one interactive presentation with discussion.

Making money online with blogging

We started the “formal’ part of the day with a presentation about making money online with blogging/writing. This presentation was done by Adine from lekkerlevenmetminder (a Dutch personal finance blog). Adine is a great writer with a passion for personal finance. But this passion has turned into a nice gig where she is actually making some decent money blogging (in addition to her writing job). Her presentation can be downloaded here: Making Money Online.

Crowdfunding

The second presentation was done by Daphne. She has many years of experience with crowd-funding, both professionally as well as personally. Daphne has invested in more than 550 projects to date, and has a surprisingly low default rate! She shared some of her lessons learned and insights with the group. Unfortunately, this presentation cannot be shared due to the details of the content.

Negotiations

HOT” Chris finished up the “formal” part of the day with a presentation and discussion about negotiations. Bottom line is, always try to negotiate and try to find out what the percentages are that you could potentially get (think kitchens, cars, furniture, etc.). Also check on times when certain items might go in sale (think year-end inventory sales, etc.).

Thank you all for presenting!

Slack

Oh, for those interested in FIRE and want to spend even more time on social media/their phone, Spekvet and Divnomics have setup a Slack group. Just in case you are interested!

Next Meetup?

There will definitely be another meetup in the future, we have no fixed plans for now but are in for suggestions or offers to help. It takes a lot of time and energy to organize the meetups, which takes away some of our time to enjoy the meetups too.

One of our ideas is to have another meetup at a bar or pub, no entrance fees or presentation, you just show up and we have a beer/wine/whatever. Similar to what we did before in Gouda.

We also noticed that more and more new people come to the meetups that are especially interested in the presentations. A lot of folks are just starting out on the FIRE journey and are exploring their options for investing. I’m now looking at ways to see how we can cater to those of you. Perhaps I have to ask this guy to help out? There might even be a camp FIRE in Oosterwolde! Anyhow, lots to consider!

Any feedback from your end of what you would like to see or do for the next meetup is greatly appreciated.

Hope to see you next time!

 

 

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We are back in the Netherlands! “Normal” life has resumed, albeit I don’t have a job anymore at this stage. You would assume that I now have tons of time on my hand, and you are probably right! However, the to-do list is longer than ever, go figure 🙂 On top of that to-do list is also writing down all the fun things we did on the road trip. Today I hope you enjoy this “9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2” as much as I did writing it.

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2

As noted in the previous post, a 62 day road trip is a bit much to pack into one post. I planned to split the post into 15-16 day segments, followed by two posts about trip finances and Airbnb experiences. Below is a short summary of day 16-31. We start in southern France and moved to southern Italy during this time.

Day 16 – Trip to Cannes

We arrived in Cannes the day before the whole movie thing was about to start. It was kind of cool to see all the movie related stands, stages and displays. We walked around the boulevard before travelling to the Monaco area later that day.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Cannes

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Cannes

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Cannes Film Festival

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Cannes Film Festival

When driving through Monaco, the GPS had a rough time and we sort of got lost. The fun thing though is that we ended up driving on parts of the F1 grand prix circuit! Made my day 🙂

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Monaco Street Circuit

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Monaco Street Circuit

Day 17 – Trip to Beach & Monaco Run

Monaco is obviously an expensive place, so we arranged accommodation just outside of Monaco. Fortunately not that far away. We used this day to give Miss CF some time to play at the beach, while Mrs CF could do some work. Yes, unfortunately she actually needed to work a few days during our trip (part of the time-off deal).

Once Mrs CF was done work and Miss CF fell asleep, I got the opportunity to hike around and decided to speed walk to Monaco for a preview for the next day.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Monaco

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Monaco

Day 18 – Trip to Monaco

We took public transport to get to Monaco to limit the parking costs & troubles. We decided to just hike around town to see all the famous sites like the Casino and the harbour. Fortunately for us, the preparations for the historical grand prix where underway, so we could do some car spotting and walk on the actual F1 grand prix circuit.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Monaco Harbour

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Monaco Harbour

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Historical Grand Prix Cars

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Historical Grand Prix Cars

Day 19 – Trip to Menton & Travel to Italy

We closed our time in France by visiting a small amusement park in Menton. Once Miss CF has spent all here coins, we drove onwards to Italy. We arranged an accommodation about halfway to the town of Pisa. it was still pretty near the coast, so we did another boulevard walk (and ice-cream) that afternoon.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Beautiful welcome to Italy

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Beautiful welcome to Italy

Day 20 – Travel to Pisa

While in France we avoided all toll road, we quickly discovered that’s not a good idea in Italy. The toll roads are in pretty good shape, but the highways and secondary roads are mostly rubbish! For the sake of our kidneys and our car, we stuck to toll roads as much as possible. I though Belgium was bad, but Italy actually has far worse roads.

Today we drove to the town of Pisa (yes, the one with the tower). As we were scheduled to arrive late, we would not have time to visit the city (+ the little one was tired). So we decided to just park at the Port of Pisa and enjoy the scenery and the peace & quiet.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Port of Pisa

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Port of Pisa

Day 21 – Trip to Pisa

We started the day relatively early and took the bus to downtown. As we started our day outside the main centre, it was still pretty quiet. Once we got into the city centre we were surprised how laidback it was. However, once we turned the street to where the leaning tower and cathedral stand, we noticed how incredibly touristic the place actually is! Wow, it’s busy in this place.

Once we returned to the city center later that day, we noticed that the whole town was swamped with tourists. So, if you want to do your sightseeing in relative quiet (and limit your time in waiting lines), start way before 10:00! Cheesy top tip here 😉

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Pisa

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Pisa

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: River through Pisa

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: River through Pisa

Day 22 – Travel to Monte Argentario & Aquarium

After leaving the town of Pisa, we decided to look for more tranquility along the coast line. We found this at the peninsula of Monte Argentario. This “island” is connected to the main land via three “legs”, which have loads of campsites.

We first visited the town of Porto Santo Stefano, which has a small aquarium and ferry service to local islands. It’s quite a nice coastal town with nice blue waters and some beach access and restaurants.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Porto Santo Stefano

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Porto Santo Stefano

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Porto Santo Stefano Aquarium

Day 23 – Trip around Monte Argentario

On the second day at the peninsula of Monte Argentario we drove around. We also did a bit of hiking to get to the waterfront (most roads are up the slopes of the peninsula). It’s a very nice area and definitely worth a visit.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Monte Argentario Coastline

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Monte Argentario Coastline

Day 24 – Travel towards Rome

As you probably noticed, we like to visit cities, but don’t like to stay there for very long. Too busy and noisy for our liking. Driving (and parking) in major cities is not much fun either. Especially not in Italy! So when we were planning our trip to Rome, we decided to find accommodation outside the city and use public transport to get downtown.

Today we drove away from Monte Argentario and took it easy. The drive got us to a town just outside Rome. Oh, and the roads got even worse! Never seen so many potholes in my life.

We also did have some time to relax at an outlet centre outside Rome (something with playground areas…….)

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Outlet Centre near Rome

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Outlet Centre near Rome

Day 25 – Rome in a Day

The trains in Italy are extremely cheap, surprisingly comfortable and even travelled on time! We were pleasantly surprised to be honest. The train ride got us to Roma Termini from which we arranged the hop-on-hop-off bus (the cheaper green line) and started out on our first tour around town. We actually ended up doing two loops.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Old Stuff

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Old Stuff

Rome really is too big to see in one day, but the tourist busses work really well. Be very careful when going out to restaurants (or get a cab, etc.), as you get screwed everywhere in this town. Don’t expect too much friendliness either. It’s also not the cleanest place I’ve ever been. Albeit very pretty and full of history, Rome was not our favorite place to visit.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Colosseum

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Colosseum

Vienna on the other hand, which is a kind modern and clean version of Rome, is so much more fun to visit (more on that in a later post)

Day 26 – Trip to Lake Albano

After the busy day in Rome, we picked Lake Albano to chill for a few hours. We had to drive to Naples that day, and this lake was definitely worth the small detour. We rented a paddle boat and had fun with the little one on the local beaches.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Lake Albano

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Lake Albano

Day 27 – Trip to Naples

Cheesy top tip, don’t drive into Naples during rush hour. Probably one of the scariest rides we’ve ever done in our lifetime. Still surprised that the car (and us) came out in one peace! We have driven a lot and certainly are not scared to drive, but this was a bit too exciting for our liking. Italians don’t do road rules.

You probably are familiar with the problems in Naples (garbage issues, mafia, poverty, etc.). Some are still very clearly visible in the city. The Archeological museum on the other hand was really nice. Also the old inner city very pretty to walk through. Not as “nice” as Rome, it was still worth the visit.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Roof at the Archeological Museum

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Roof at the Archeological Museum

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Gesù Nuovo Square

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Gesù Nuovo Square

Day 28 – Trip to Pompeii

Who thinks of Naples also thinks of the volcano Vesuvius and Pompeii. We would have loved to hike up the volcano, but with the little one that was not going to happen. So we visited the next best thing related to that volcano: Pompeii.

Fortunately, we had visited the archeological museum in Naples first. Otherwise Pompeii might have been slightly disappointing as most art work and statues are located in the museum. Pompeii was a very interesting visit, but it does start to look alike once you walk around there for a few hours. Glad we visited though! One less item on the bucket-list 🙂

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Pompeii

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Pompeii

After leaving Pompeii, we moved on toward the Sorrento area for some relaxation again.

Day 29 – Trip around Sorrento

It was time again to for Miss CF to play and relax. So we spent some time on the beach at Sorrento and enjoyed the surrounding areas (including some fresh made lemonade). Sorrento and surrounding area is famous for its Limoncello (we bought some too). The place is packed with lemon orchards, which look very pretty when you walk through them.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Sorrento

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Sorrento

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: View of Vesuvius

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: View of Vesuvius

Day 30 – Travel to Amalfi

The next area to explore was on the other side of the peninsula. Today was our trip to the Amalfi coast. Unfortunately, It didn’t go as smooth as we hoped though. We arrived around mid-day in the Positano area, which is stunning but there were NO parking spots anywhere. People already parked alongside the road more than a km before the town. With our big Prius wagon we were simply out of luck 🙁

The roads are super small, has concrete barriers/rock cliffs and there are tons of busses and trucks that drive around. Needless to say that it was not a very comfortable ride. It actually was a near 2 hour traffic jam to get from Positano to Amalfi. We had virtually no opportunities to park, turn around or look around.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: "Positano" Coast line

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: San Pietro Coast Line

To continue the nightmare, our accommodation didn’t plot correctly on the GPS, we overshot by a good half hour! Needless to say we all were pretty grumpy by the end of the day. But we had gotten to the Amalfi area! We did make a plan to make the next day go smoother.

Cheesy top tip for the Positano/Amalfi area, don’t drive but take a bus/boat! Alternatively, go really early so you can park (and get a small rental car while you are at it). Or, if you have a lot of money to spend, arranged a place with private parking.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: "Amalfi" Coast line

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Not quite “Amalfi” Coast line

Day 31 – Hike to Amalfi

We parked our car up the hill in Pontone (still had to pay €1.5/hour, cash only!) and walked down into Amalfi. It was such a better way to get around Amalfi and actual have time to enjoy the area and the coast line. The hike up and down were really good too, stunning views. It’s such a pretty coastline. Really worth the visit!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 2: Amalfi

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 2: Amalfi

Ok, time to wrap it up for today. Planning to do another recap next week.

 

How about you, did  you visit any of these places? Similar experiences, or totally different? Let us know!

 

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We are in Austria and are having a bit of a break day. After having pretty good weather for the last month and a bit, we are now suffering from clouds and rain. In short, it’s a great time to look back at what we have done so far. Here is the 9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1 with a recap of the first 15 days of our epic road trip.

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1

Considering we did a whole lot of sightseeing during our road trip, it’s way too much to dump into one post. I’ve decided to split this post into 5 posts.The first 4 will contain the day-to-day recap of the trip (about ~15 days each). The final one will deal with the finances. I perhaps will make one about Airbnb too, about being both as a host as well as a user. Learned quite a few interesting things over the last weeks.

Anyhow, below is the recap of the first 15 days of the road trip. Enjoy!

Day 1 – Trip to Maastricht

It’s Sunday April 22 and we are ready to go! We tried to limit the amount of stuff we wanted to bring, but wanted to be ready for most situations one can encounter during Airbnb stays. You really never know what you are going to get :-). So we brought extra towels, bed linen, some useful items such as a sponge, kitchen cloths, matches/light, dish washing soap, etc. Smart thing that we did!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: The Start!

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: The Start!

Day 1 we started late and had a long drive. We ended the first day with dinner at friends in Maastricht. Pretty relaxed and nice day to start the road trip!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Pretty end of the day.

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Pretty end of the day.

Day 2 – Trip to Fairy Tale Forest (Valkenburg)

Since we are travelling with our 4,5 year old, we had to incorporate some entertainment for her too. That is why we started with “sprookjesbos”  (Fairy Tale Forest) in Valkenburg. We were a bit too enthusiastic and got there before the gates even opened! So we had cart place to ourselves 🙂

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Sprookjesbos Valkenburg

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Sprookjesbos Valkenburg

Day 3 – Trip to Luxembourg

Having been to Belgium already many times before (see here and here for a few). We decided to drive straight through to Luxembourg to make some distance. However, we did visit La Roche de Ardenne during they day and visited it’s castle ruins.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Church in La Roche en Ardenne

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Church in La Roche en Ardenne

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Castle ruins in La Roche en Ardenne

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Castle ruins in La Roche en Ardenne

Day 4 – Trip to Luxembourg City

On day 4 we drive from northern Luxembourg, via Luxembourg City to Northern France. During the day we visited another castle ruin (this time in Esch-sur-Sûre) and Luxembourg City itself. Due to the bad (rainy) weather (and a tired kid) the amount of things we could see and do in Luxembourg City were limited. It was still a fun and interesting visit.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Castle Ruins Esch-Sur-Sure

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Castle Ruins Esch-Sur-Sure

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Luxembourg City

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Luxembourg City

Day 5 – Trip to Chateau des Ducs de Lorraine

During our first day in northern France we visited yet another castle ruins (the little one liked them, so we just keep going!). This time we visited Chateau des Ducs de Lorraine, this is located in the small town of Sierck-les-Bains. The town is not very special, but the ruins are well maintained and take about an 1-1,5 hours to visit.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Chateau des Ducs de Lorraine

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Chateau des Ducs de Lorraine

Day 6 – Travel to Gérardmer (Parc Vosges)

On day 6 we drove quite a bit. On one of our first stops we visited Pont-à-Mousson and had a quick look at (the outside of) Abbaye des Prémontrés. Next we drove onward and explored a waterfall called “Grande cascade de Tendon”. This is located at the small town of Le Creux on the D11 road towards Gérardmer. We finished the day with stay at the lake. The Vosges parc was known to us only by name, as many people visit this area and spoke highly about it. They were right!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Le Grand Cascade

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Le Grand Cascade de Tendon

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Lake Gérardmer

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Lake Gérardmer

Day 7 – City Visit to Luxeuil-les-Bains

During our travels this day we visited the city of Luxeuil-les-Bains, a lovely place to stroll around for a couple of hours and get an ice-cream!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Luxeuil-les-Bains

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Luxeuil-les-Bains

Day 8 – City Visit in Besançon

More city visits, this time in Besançon on our way to the Jura Mountains and Lake Geneva. There was a flea market in the city streets that day and we found some new records for the jukebox. We also got a puzzle for Miss CF to use during the trip. It still fitted in the small suitcase we got for her to put all her toys in.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Besançon

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Besançon

Day 9 – Jura Mountains and Lake Geneva

The highlight of day 9 was a small mountain lake (Lac de Lamoura) and a mountain pass (Col de la Faucille) with a gorgeous view of Lake Geneva.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Lac de Lamoura

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Lac de Lamoura

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Col de la Faucille

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Col de la Faucille

We actually ended up reaching the southern shores of Lake Geneva later that day.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Lake Geneva

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Lake Geneva

Day 10 – Évian-les-Bains & Switzerland

This day we took a drive towards Switzerland and walked across the border (just for the fun of it) at Saint-Gingolph. For cars on the main road there is a border patrol check, for pedestrians it looks like this:

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: French - Swiss border crossing

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: French – Swiss border crossing

During the day we also visited the source of the Evian water in Évian-les-Bains. The company still has an office here too.

Day 11 – Swimming and Lac de Bourget

After our visit to Lake Geneva we continued our travels in the direction of the south coast of France (Cote d’azur). But since the little one showed signs of being tired, we stopped for a swim and did a short lake visit in the afternoon at lake de Bourget.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Lac du Bourget

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Lac du Bourget

Day 12 – Serres & Gorges de la Méouge

More traveling southward. We did not expect much this day, as we had not seen any special places based on our route. Boy were we wrong! First we drove into the town of Serres and got this awesome view. Added an ice-cream to make it perfect.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Serres

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Serres

Next we found the Gorges de la Méouge, a small car park along the road and short trail got us to a few falls and a nice area to enjoy nature.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Gorges de la Méouge

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Gorges de la Méouge

Day 13 – Gorges du Verdon

The “Grand Canyon” of Europe is call the Gorges du Verdon, and it’s awesome! It certainly is not as big as the actual grand canyon, but it is really pretty with the blue water and the big lake. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Good hiking in the area too.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Gorge Du Verdon from above

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Gorge Du Verdon from above

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Gorge Du Verdon from below

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Gorge Du Verdon from below

Day 14 – St. Tropez

I always wanted to to go St. Tropez, the name alone is cool. Albeit we did not spend much time in the village (tired kid and not enough cash for parking!), we did go to the beach at the outskirts and visited the citadel in the center of town.

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: St. Tropez

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: St. Tropez

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: The Citadel of St. Tropez

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: The Citadel of St. Tropez

Day 15 – Beach day in Sainte-Maxime

Even during a slow travel road trip, you need a break day on occasion. That’s what we did in Sainte-Maxime. It was good, albeit still pretty cold water at this time of year!

9 Week Road Trip Report - Part 1: Break day at the beach in Sainte-Maxime

9 Week Road Trip Report – Part 1: Break day at the beach in Sainte-Maxime

 

That’s it for now. It’s just waiting for the next rainy day, or until we are home, before I can make the rest.

In the mean time, enjoy your own travels and/or travel planning!

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