In August, we visited my sister who lives in El Centro of Madrid, Spain. We landed in a city suffering from 107 degree heat in the latter part of the summer season. Somehow, we survived all the walking. It was absolutely worth the sweat. We were only there one full day, as she also wanted to vacation away from home. These photographs are a handful of my favorites.
Of note are the croissants from Pum Pum Bakery, as well as the environment at Hola Coffee, who houses a fantastic collection of coffee magazines and coffee books. I actually wanted to spend all day in both spots! Not pictured is Hanso Cafe, another great spot to grab a matcha waffle, egg sandwiches, or coffee. And if I had another day, I would have nabbed a pastry at Mision Bakehouse, too!
I also recommend swinging by Mercado de San Miguel for a few bites, even though it’s a bit touristy. For a great dinner, I would recommend the Sky 44 Bar and Restaurant above the hotel Hostal Charlotte. Go to the rooftop bar before heading to the floor below for a nice dinner. The rooftop has sweeping views of the entire city, which is known for its red buildings. Don’t let the view deceive you! From above all you see is red brick but when you walk the streets, colorful alleys abound!
And if you wish to shop, the Cortes district all the way to Gran Via has a number of great stores to explore. My favorite discovery was a clothing brand called Oysho and a store dedicated to the most intricately shaped candy I have ever seen. As you are walking about, I would also recommend stopping at the empanada stores, trying the Patatas Bravas, Churros and Chocolate, and I suppose the Calamari Sandwiches were a thing, too (although we didn’t have the chance to try it). Plaza Mayor has a great number of outdoor patios where one can stop and order a beer and snacks, in case the walking gets to be a bit too much.
It was such a treat to be able to discover this city, even for a little while. I will definitely be back!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
A tidy home equals a tidy mind, or so the saying goes. It’s no wonder most people would assume that I have an already tidy mind by looking at my home. Quite the contrary. The reason why I work so hard at keeping my home minimal is because I have a tendency to be cluttered. It becomes obvious when one analyzes my lifestyle. I am always doing something. I am always trying to be better. I have multiple jobs, and do twenty different things in a day. In order to focus on all of that madness, I need a space that is completely barebones and highly organized.
I have shared before that the best way to stay tidy for me is to keep everything behind closed doors. But things aren’t just thrown willy-nilly into cabinets and drawers all the time. I shared last week how TokoDesign (gifted) helps us keep our kitchen drawer neat. I employ a similar tactic in our living room, where we have one media console. I employ storage boxes and cabinetry to organize my stuff. Inside the media cabinets, we hide a number of things, but keep it fashionably clean.
The biggest thing we hide are our white Sonos 5 speakers. (affiliate link) I despise tech for its wires and unsightly bulkiness, even though I love tech for all the things it allows us to do. It’s a necessary but ugly thing – so my one requirement for speakers was to be able to hide them. The small size fits perfectly in our Ikea Besta media console (we have the combination with white doors/Stelsviken/Stubbarp/High-Gloss/Beige combination with a glass top and without the legs on). The sleek appearance of Sonos displays beautifully, making it okay for me to leave the doors open when it is in use. I love how the white color option really matches our home’s Scandinavian style. My husband enjoys the sound quality of Sonos speakers, and it has been so nice adjusting the volume and playing music from Spotify using our cell-phones. I love playing music from the kitchen island while we cook meals together on the weekends. It also easily connects to our record player and projector via Wifi.
The second thing I hide are all of my notebooks and binders. I use Ikea’s White Tjena Magazine Files to keep non-white colored books hidden. I first saw this tactic used in the Kinfolk Home book. I loved the way you could keep cabinets and open shelving clean, while having my most-used recipe books at-hand at all times. The file boxes are very sturdy and have a notch at the end for easy movement and grabbing. These boxes are sold in beige and black as well, in case white doesn’t match your style. As for the collection of books that have white or black bindings, I display those openly within the cabinet. These books include our Kinfolk collection and Drift magazines.
In this console, we also hold some Ikea boxes from Ikea’s Kuggis collection. This collection has a number of white boxes in different sizes. I use them both in the living room and in the bathroom. One larger box holds my desk supplies, including pens, hard-drives, envelopes, stamps, and paintbrushes. A smaller box holds Mike’s cables and other tiny trinkets. These boxes come with lids and have a circular cut-out akin to the Magazine files, which makes grabbing and moving them quite convenient.
We placed the record player in the center of the console and hide the records in the middle cabinet. I specifically chose the middle cabinet because using the speakers require the left and right cabinets to be open. I couldn’t find a white container that was big enough to hold the records, so I did what I could and hid it where it can stay hidden. Along with it are the main power plug, the cables that power the speakers, Mike’s Switch console and charger, and his gaming controller. The unsightly things go in the cabinet that stays mostly closed.
I make it a point to keep the doors to our media console closed unless we are using our Sonos speakers. This makes it easy for me to “tidy” the space. In photographs, it makes the living room look polished at all times. When guests are over, the clutter stays out of the way. Even if we play music for dinner parties, the white boxes and magazine files give the living room a cohesive look. I know not everyone shares my neatnik tendencies, but for those who do, these are some of the ways I’ve learned to cope with messiness. I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks!
One of the most influential books that I’ve read in 2021 was How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economyby Jenny Odell. Big companies spend a lot of money to gain our attention. Before the digital age, companies were focused on capturing our hard-earned dollars through consumption of their products. Today, companies seek to capture our attention by consuming their advertisements. Our attention, rather than our money, has become the commodity that big companies compete for. Looking at it from this perspective, our attention is what we must protect. Our attention is the resource that companies seek. Our attention is what we run out of all the time, because sneakily, companies are trying to buy them from us.
The attention economy is what drives us to social media. It’s what makes us pick up our phone and unknowingly click on Instagram. Addictive apps are creating social behaviors that keep us coming back to these companies. The companies that have the ability to bring your attention back to them has the most influence, and influence is power. If they can make the behavior a habit, any future influence they want to have on you in the future will become easier. They can essentially make you do whatever they want you to do, without you ever being aware of it. Because of this, we must resist, to the best of our ability, the attention economy.
In the book How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell articulates how doing ‘nothing’ (according to our society’s definition of what gives life purpose and meaning) is actually a way for us to ‘fight’ these companies from taking control – which really means that by doing ‘nothing’, we are doing something about the way in which large companies are subverting the general public. That really struck home, as I prefer to see my choices in life as its own form of silent rebellion against the current institutions that I don’t agree with.
Plus, as a frugal-wanna-be who has spent the last five years resisting consumerism as best I can, I have gained plenty of experience in finding analog activities that do not succumb to companies vying for my attention. In general, just being out there doing things for others around you and for yourself is the best way to resist the attention economy. But in case you need a few ideas on how to separate yourself from those Instagram advertisements, here are a few of our favorite activities to engage in.
Our Top 50 Analog Activities
Play vinyl records.
Go bird-watching at an estuary.
Skim stones on a glass lake.
Learn how to walk a tight-rope.
Cook meals together.
Read books by candlelight, or aloud.
Wash the car.
Go on a hike.
Have a social interaction without social media.
Plant a tree or garden.
Visit a farm.
Bake something challenging (like a croquembouche).
Make a sandcastle at the beach.
Go for a bike ride.
Organize the home.
Walk other people’s dogs.
Do a puzzle.
Visit a museum.
Play board games.
Enjoy a picnic, even if it’s on your balcony.
Play a sport outdoors. Think tennis, or kick a soccer ball around.
Visit friends or family.
Have a bonfire at the beach.
Take afternoon naps.
Pick up an instrument and practice, practice, practice.
Take a long, hot bath.
Finish a home improvement project.
People watch on a park bench.
Give your pet all the cuddles they deserve.
Do a nature walk and photograph all the different plants and animals you encounter.
Make lists of the things you want to do.
Draw, paint, or do some sort of art project.
Try your best to master chess.
Perfect magic tricks.
Pick up pottery.
Learn how to make sourdough bread.
Do your own car maintenance.
Try to become a mixologist.
Pull out those rollerskates.
Complete an adult coloring book.
Practice flower arrangements.
Make plans for the future.
Go swimming at the community pool.
Declutter your things.
Start a journal and process all the feels and thoughts.
Do a workout routine.
Stare into space and let your mind wander.
These are a collection of our personal favorites and we pull from this list quite regularly. Of course, you’ll want to find activities that align with your own personal hobbies! It seems the younger generation will have a tougher time finding things that they can relate to but as the adults, we need to show them how to slow down enough to disengage from the RA-RA-RA, GO-GO-GO mentality, lest they develop a strong sense of FOMO in their early youth that will make resisting the attention economy quite difficult for them in the future. Enjoy your silent rebellion.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
This post is sponsored by TokoDesign, a new modular minimalist company fabricating eco-conscious organizers for messy drawers. The name “Toko” comes from the Japanese word ‘tokonoma’, which describes a special alcove for displaying art. As I’ve alluded to in other posts about the home, I believe that our homes should be artful representations of ourselves. I am all about letting the furniture do the decorating, substituting architecturally historic or artist-driven products for hanging paintings, sculptures, or other traditional methods of home decor. By being mindful of the products we allow into our home, we can create art using house items that are equally functional and beautiful. TokoDesign plays an ode to those ideals – mimicking the emphasis on minimalism, versatility, and natural beauty in traditional Japanese interior design.TokoDesign has gifted me a set of organizers so that I may try it out myself. As always, this review and the opinions held within are my own.
I have a secret about my home, and that is, that it’s incredibly messy. However, I have tricks stashed up my sleeve to make it appear clean, neat, and minimal on social media and to my friends and family who visit, one of which is quite simple to do. I create the illusion of tidiness and sparsity by putting things behind closed doors. It doesn’t help that we have a shortage of doors at our home, living in a live-work loft open floorplan that has no door to separate our bedroom nor our bathroom from the rest of the space. It also doesn’t help that our space is tiny, in general.
Even though I don’t own a lot of things compared to the general public, the limited hiding places and my desire to hide everything from plain sight means that our few items still get a bit crowded. One of the banes of my existence are the kitchen and bathroom drawers. Filled to the brim with accessories, utensils, and gadgets, my items get jostled around with every opening of the drawers. Some people find the solution in placing cooking utensils in a beautiful holder on the countertop, but I have this insane itch to keep counterspace clear.
Luckily, TokoDesign has come to my sanity’s rescue. This minimal, modular organizer is probably the best organization tool I have come across since Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy book was published. The wood is made from renewable bamboo and has a beautiful look to it. The rails come in either black or white, which works for different home styles. I personally chose the white, because the exterior of our drawers are a light wood color and the inside is white. I preferred for the rails to blend in rather than stand out (there I go again with hiding things from plain sight!). I can see the black rails working with more modern kitchen schemes, like Ikea’s charcoal grey cabinets, or dark wood finishes.
The design is thoughtfully made so that the organizer can work for different drawer sizes. My qualm with other organizers is the pre-determined dimensions and the need to find ones that exactly fit a space. The rails of the TokoDesign have adjustable lengths thanks to a knob that you turn at the end of the rail to make it flush with your drawer length. There are multiple length options and the width of your drawer will determine which dividers you choose. There are three divider widths available, and even if it doesn’t span the width of your drawer perfectly, the end section can still be used as storage, as I’ve done below.
What makes the process even more fun is the accessories that TokoDesign has produced. Kitchen knives stack neatly in the knife block, cutlery lay neatly in the silverware trays, spices align on the rack, and tiny trinkets and bobbles stay contained in boxed compartments. A person has the ability to create the combination that works for them digitally on their online order form. You can visualize how the items you purchase will look in the drawer before you even order them. I really enjoyed playing around with the different combinations once can make. I was even able to combine TokoDesign’s boxes with my pre-existing bamboo silverware tray, and it blended perfectly!
Of course, I used TokoDesign for the drawer that gave me the most grief – the kitchen drawer that holds all our cooking utensils. However, I can see this system working just as well in the bathroom drawers, work desk drawers, and even nightstands. For women who have a lot of jewelry or makeup products, the boxes could prove quite useful for showcasing your favorite things in a way that makes you proud to open your drawers.
They ship everything with as little plastic as possible, by the way. Only the side rails were wrapped in a thin sleeve to prevent scuff marks. All the divides and boxes were packaged without plastic, and the big shipping container in came in was also without plastic. I was so excited when the package arrived that I opened it immediately and started playing with the dividers right away. It seriously felt like a new toy on Christmas morning, which goes to show the extend of my OCD. It was easy to set up and assemble and it requires no tools to do! Most importantly, it really stays in place and nothing slides around. When I was finished playing with my TokoDesign, my drawer truly sparked joy.
After writing about my new String work desk yesterday, I started to daydream about ideal mornings at my new ”office space”. When I first quit dentistry, I was very unhappy with where I was working. I spent an entire month brainstorming why things did not work out. I read books on how to organize your work space, how to make your work line up with your dharma, how to create a good work-life-balance, and how to create an environment that increases the chance of happiness at work. Books I read included Joy at Work by Marie Kondo, The Kinfolk Entrepreneur, and Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. I learned that my previous job did not align with my dharma. The environment I was placed in was not conducive to my personality.
I spent days writing lists of what items I imagined would be in my ideal workspace. Some of my requirements included a carafe of water, a beautiful everyday coffee mug, a minimalist laptop, a few plants, a scent diffuser or candle and a beautiful pen. I also jotted down activities I would like to do each morning. I thought about how items could help me to achieve things I wanted to do.
For example, a beautiful carafe of water be a great reminder to drink 8 glasses of water each day. A beautiful coffee mug will make fueling my energy more enjoyable or meaningful. A minimalist laptop will allow me to work on blog posts without distractions. A big work desk will help facilitate multiple tasks. A few plants will keep me joyful and breathing quality air. Meanwhile, a scent diffuser could help emit aromas that create a calm atmosphere. Lastly, a beautiful pen would inspire me to plan wonderfully productive days.
On the flipside, I also wrote down items I did not want in my space. I did not want a clock anywhere in my office, because I believe that creative work should not have a time frame. I also find the ticking sound distracting and stressful. Plus I would be ever-conscious of my progress, or lack-there-of.
I did not want a lot of drawers as I knew I have the habit of stock-piling paper. I did not want an insane number of pens (do you know I use one at a time and own no more than three?), as I get frustrated by clutter. And I did not want to face the inside of my home, because it would cause me to get up from my desk and do chores and errands. This is why my desk used to face the dark corner of the living room, and now faces out onto the street.
This isn’t to say that our work depends solely on the stuff we own, but it does make a difference. I find that having the right items really make or break my productivity level. Also, surrounding myself with special items make work more enjoyable. So in today’s play pretend post, I imagine all the things that I would love to eventually surround myself with in my future work space.
A Morning At My Work Desk
A water carafe (affiliate link) as a reminder to drink plenty of water.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
Small Space Living: Tip #16: Choose a Minimal Work-From-Home Desk
Creating my ideal from-home workspace has been a long and arduous process. My intentional habits tend to get in the way of progress as I am quite particular in the function, overall look, and general meaning behind each item I introduce into our home. Couple that with my tendency to talk my way out of purchasing things, and it becomes easy to see how I get in the way of myself. It’s all migraine-inducing, but I finally feel like we are getting somewhere.
To say that we haven’t quite come to grips with our final WFH environments after a year-and-a-half into this WFH state does sound laughable. To be honest, I’ve been making do with the kitchen table, eventually upgrading to a tiny $50 Ikea Micke desk. My husband was holding meetings and conferences in our bedroom, and yes, it has been odd having no doors in our home to create any sort of privacy. In order to talk to someone during Mike’s workday, I have been stepping onto our balcony and shutting myself out, imposing my conversation on our neighbors, while the streets around us impose their city noise. We ended up getting Herman Miller chairs sometime earlier this year, and by doing so, cluttered our bedrooms and living rooms respectively. However, with the advent of our roommate moving out at the end of August, we reclaimed the downstairs space which we are now turning into Mike’s permanent WFH area, after the company’s recent extension of remote work.
Meanwhile, I’ve moved from my dark nook in the living room to the bedroom, where Mike used to be. And with this new location comes a bright, shiny new desk. Well, shiny to me, but in reality, it’s quite humbly muted. I upgraded to the ever iconic Work Desk (affiliate link) from the Swedish company, String Furniture, and I must say that I am beyond excited about this improvement.
Famous for the modular system that they created in the 1950’s, the work desk is made up of rails and a large, hanging platform. I chose beige for the rails paired with a classic white desk. Positioned right next to three window panes that look out to the downtown streets below, the rails allow plenty of light to pass into our home and my workspace, where many plants reside. I made sure to position myself right beside the windows, so that I may look out and daydream, as that is part of a writer’s job.
The entire desk took three months to ship from Sweden but came packaged in two thin boxes, lighter than the desk from Ikea. I could lift both boxes easily. Essentially, the desk is founded on the two light-weight side rails mounted to the wall by four nails. The desk sits on four pins hooked onto the rails. The height of the desk can be changed so that it can work for a child as well as an adult. The back bar for the desk holds the platform down, locking it into place.
This simple design and easily shipped product is the reason why they won the national competition in Sweden in 1949, and why they have been classified as Applied Art under the Copyright Act in 2009. So yes, the desk is a piece of artwork itself. This is something I have been trying to do in my home – that is, adding art in the form of furniture and design, rather than the traditional painting, print, or sculpture art. In essence, this is a way for me to add beauty AND function using fewer pieces, thus maintaining minimalism in the home. Let the furniture do the decorating.
String Furniture hasn’t just made a desk, by the way. This modular system was originally designed to produce a shelf (affiliate link), which once decorated the UN headquarters in NYC in the ’50’s and which became the best-selling Scandinavian furniture in Germany in the ’60’s. The shelf has turned into a system that can also be a nightstand, media console, desk, dining table, and kitchen cabinetry.
In true fashion, I’ve ordered the most minimal combination. The rails are floor panels that only reach halfway up, contrary to the original desk design that used panels that reach higher to place shelving above. I have the desk without the drawer as well, just the platform on which to work. Eventually, I would like to put a small filing cabinet in the 12-inch space between the desk and the wall, and I’ve got my eyes set on this one by Branch furniture. I want a filing cabinet that triples as a drawer, a paper organizer, and a side table as well.
Having the desk situated by the windows is useful as the sill doubles for a place to stack my planners and notebooks within arm’s reach. I also charge my phone on the sill at night, further away from my bed, which is a habit I’ve adopted a few years back to create distance between my phone and I. Meanwhile, my desk mates consist of plants which surround me on either side, adding a bit of life and fresh air to this space. Most of the plants I own are gifted, some from The Sill (affiliate link), a company that ships plants directly to your door, pottery et al.
I’ve also loved my Herman Miller chair but I recently saw this modern, ergonomic option by Noho Co (affiliate link)., and have been contemplating switching out my wheels for a more grounded sitting situation. The going is slow in my space but I am so happy with the current state and what I’ve put together so far.
My daily coffee mug is from Hasami Official and the water glass is Pokal from Ikea. The linen coaster is from Fog Linen.
I also wanted to share with you the contenders I had for desk options, in case you don’t love the String desk but are also hoping for your own minimal desk upgrade.
Snaefellsnes National Park is a beautiful, secluded area on the western coast of Iceland, only two and a half hours away from Reykjavik. It was voted one of the most romantic areas to get away in Iceland, and is the perfect place for both hiking in the summer and Northern light viewing in the winter. We stayed two days in this area and I absolutely fell in love. I wish we could have stayed an extra day in order to explore more of this region, but we were short on time in general. There are many things to see in this national park, and some of the most iconic images come from this area. The experience is unparalleled by other national parks we have visited, coupled with the seclusion and moody weather (even mid-summer!). Here, I will highlight a few sights but to be honest, none of these photographs do it justice and you really have to go for yourself to believe it.
Note: the sights are listed in order if you drive around the national park counter-clockwise, which is the direction that you approach it from Reykjavik (the south).The best way to get to the Snaefellsnes area (and all around Iceland) is by renting a car or campervan. We rented a car from Hertz which had the best deal at the time. Just a side note, there is plenty of gravel roads and F-roads in Iceland so you want to rent an F-road approved car if you want to reach the most remote of places. Also, we got car insurance for peace of mind since flying gravel is a common occurrence and we weren’t willing to risk car dents and broken windshields.
These cliffs are encountered on the way to Snaefellsness National Park via a tiny road splitting from the main highway to the right. Parking wasn’t an issue as this place is usually deserted, allowing you to revel peacefully at its glory. Evenly spaced, dark grey basalt columns made from lava rock line the cliff walls and have baffled scientists for many years. It isn’t so much the fact that the columns extend for miles but rather, the fact that the evenness in width of each column makes it seem as if this natural beauty was carved by hand. The explanation comes from the way in which the lave rock must have cooled evenly. Small indentations in the grass show a path by which you can climb to the top of the cliffs to get a better view of the valley below.
Ytri Tunga Beach
This beach is comically famous in island as it is the only yellow sand beach present. To which Mike replied, “So like every beach in California?!” I suppose to an islander who is used to black sand beaches, this is a sight to be seen. It is still worth a visit as this is the stomping grounds for different breeds of seals. We visited during golden hour and the seals were playing in the water, bobbing their heads along as Mike and I climbed rocks to see them. Although we were originally unsure whether the “sameness” of this beach to one you would find in sunny San Diego is worth the drive, I was pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed our sunset there. We must have watched the seals for an hour, before heading off to dinner.
This black church is similar to many churches in island, so if you’ve already seen one, there is no need to pull off the side of the road to see this one. However, it does mark the start of an eight-hour hiking trail that I wish I was able to do. It is hardly mentioned in the blogs online or in travel books, but it travels from Hotel Budhir to Hellnar. We did end up doing a portion of it, hiking from Anastarpi to Hellnar, but when we return to this region (which we surely will!), I would like to set aside the proper time to do the hike that starts from this church.
This grand waterfall is so close to the road that you can see it on the road. The sign to the right of the road is small and easy to miss, but it is definitely turning back around for. There is a short hike that gets you closer to the falls, but not right up to the tippy top. Pro advice: a tiny picnic area hidden among the trees at the base of the waterfall makes this a great place to eat lunch.
I’ve written about what can be found in Anastarpi in my previous post highlighting the hike from Anastarpi to Hellnar. This tiny town is a great place for bird-watching from the Cliff Viewpoint. It also has the famous Bdar Saga Statue that was built from rocks and towers over the town. You can climb the stone bridge and take a photograph that makes you look like you are high-up in the air, too. And I wrote in that post about the pizza we had for lunch, which I totally recommend. If you have a few days in the national park, I would really recommend hiking from here to Hellnar, as it is a short 1-hour trek and would break up the site-seeing quite nicely.
There are many viewpoints along the highway running around Snaefellsness National Park. This one is just a few steps from the lot. It isn’t much different from the bird-watching that can be found in Anastarpi, but the rock formation was sure worth the two-minute detour.
The Vatnshellir Cave is an 8,000 year old lava tube created during a nearby crater’s volcanic eruption. As the lava flowed down a hill onto the lava river, it cooled on the surface as the lava river continued to drain out, thus creating a roof-top over the existing cave. One company does tour guides for the cave and they are the only ones with a permit to enter. That means that you need to do a tour with a guide to see the cave. We decided not to join the tour as we had many other sites on our list. It doesn’t seemed to be booked in advance, which is good, as we saw cars pulling up and signing up for the next tour. You do need to wear proper gear which they provide (such as a helmet), and they ran 45-minute tours every hour at the price of 3500 ISK per adult.
This beach was another area in which I sadly did not set aside enough time for. I was expecting nothing more than a black sand beach, but to my surprise, there were multiple hiking trails to take from the car park and this beach actually spans a large area. We did do one of the shorter hikes which took us down to the black rock beach, where the remains of a ship wreck can still be seen. To the right of the beach are steps that leads one to a small pool where previous settlers (mostly sea people) had to walk to to get access to drinkable water. There were two other hikes that I really wanted to see, each of which took 1-2 and 3-4 hours respectively. I will definitely be back here to explore! I think it would be best to set aside a half-day to see this beach at leisure.
The Saxholar Crater is nothing but a huge hole in the ground that is viewable after climbing a surmountable number of steps. The cardio work was fun, don’t get me wrong, but the view was anti-climactic and honestly not worth the climb (unless you’ve never seen a crater before?). It is a five-minute detour from the road, if you just want to see it. But Iceland had so many other things to see!
This was definitely not worth driving to as it required a 1 hour driving detour from the main road on a gravelly path (which meant a 2 hour detour total) just to see a lighthouse. There was, however, cool signs at the end that gave a bit of history about how the sea travelers who landed in this part of Iceland survived. Some of the old dwellings are still visible as mounds in the soil, and there is a scary looking well that you can look at. Mike was brave enough to walk into it, but it was too claustrophobic for me to even try. To be fair, we were coming to the end of our very long day of sight-seeing and I was getting cantankerous from the hunger pains signaling the need for dinner, and soon … so there’s that.
This waterfall and the background mountain reminds me of Mount Crumpit from Who-ville where The Grinch lived. It is so fairytale like that I wouldn’t believe it was a real place if I didn’t see it myself. The fall itself isn’t as grand as it seems from the photographs but the background can’t be beat on a clear day (luckily, it did clear up in the latter half of the afternoon). There is a lot on the side of the road and it is a minute’s walk from the car park to the fall itself. I had to open this entire post with this photograph, although here is another view of it without the mountain in the background from the base of the fall. Not as grand, right? It is one of the most famous sites for Google stock photos, and looks even prettier (or so it appears in other people’s pictures) with the Northern Lights in the background.
Sights we did not see:
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, a few days was not enough time to see it all. Here are sights we did not see but will make the list on our second go around. Also, the hikes mentioned in today’s post are also going on the list for our return trip! These photographs are only a sneak peak of what there is to see in this area of Iceland. The pictures do not do the beauty justice. ‘Til next time!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
This past week, I had the pleasure of hopping on an InstaLive session with Dr. Unorthodoc once again. In this week’s Live, we talked about my recent post: 10 Steps for Financial Success for New Grads. She even threw in two bonus recommendations, which you can surely review on her Instagram @dr.unorthodoc. In typical fashion, I’ve spent the last few days conjuring up a few afterthoughts that I wanted to share in this post.
Regarding Financial Success:
“Financial success” can mean different things to different people. The vision could include accumulated wealth, fancy things, or financial freedom. For me, it is certainly the latter. A quote that I recently read sums up my idea of success:
“A nice car and a big house are the old status symbols. The ultimate flex is freedom. Time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom.”
Obviously what was success to my parents’ generation is not financial success to me. The same goes for a peer of mine who might hold different values, be in a different situation, or have a different upbringing. There is no judgement in that fact. It is simply an observation. When I talk about my own journey, I don’t want to exclude people and make them feel like the information is irrelevant to them. I want them to tailor my experiences to their own needs and versions of financial success. Because of this, not every tactic we discuss will apply to everyone and certainly the order in which you do things may change. We went into some of those details in the InstaLive so feel free to check it out!
This is a prime example of how we can use our money to get closer to our ideas of financial success (wealth, stuff, and freedom). For me, I wanted to be free from debt or anything that would prevent me from living as I please in a day-to-day basis.
Regarding Financial Literacy:
What this also shows is differing levels of financial literacy. I think that’s what makes my financial journey so relatable is the fact that I started at the bottom with zero financial literacy. Meaning, I have been through every possible stage of wealth accumulation so many people can relate to the different phases of my financial journey.
I have classmates who have more money awareness than I did at graduation. Heck, I had friends who had more money period! One of my closest friends spent his mornings in dental school investing in the stock market. I was not even exposed to that world at that point in my life. I also did not have access to generational wealth being a zero generation immigrant.
I am not saying this in an accusatory way or anything like that. But, certainly, they were better versed and can invest in things right out of school because they were at a stage in their life where they were already set up for that. Just because I started at the bottom doesn’t mean every has to hire a financial planner. You might already know everything a financial planner has to tell you!
Remember: the path to financial success is mutli-factorial. The level of financial literacy, current phase of wealth accumulation and your personal definition of financial success all play a role towards your path post grad.
Regarding Student Loans
The best advice that I can give is to choose a path that works for you.
Not everyone should aggressively pay student loans back, and I don’t mind going on record saying that! Those whose definition of financial success falls under wealth accumulation or having nice things would be better off with the loan forgiveness program, granted that they invest their money in preparation for the tax bomb at the end of the 20-25 years. Those who yearn for freedom or value frugal living would benefit from paying it off aggressively.
The question new grads need to answer is, “What lifestyle do I want to live?”
Since my values are centered around gaining financial freedom, the reasons why I decided to pay my student loans off aggressively are as follows:
I don’t like having debt looming over my shoulder. It causes me stress and holding on to debt has a psychological and emotional toll on me. Even when it comes to a to-do list, I am the type of person that prefers to check off tasks as quickly as possible, in order to alleviate worry. If you asked my husband, my famous saying that would follow me to the grave would be, “Let’s get it over with!”. Regardless of whether the task at hand is enjoyable or not, the part that matters more to me is getting it done. At the end of the day, it gives me more peace to get rid of my debt.
I am not the type of person to only do one thing for the rest of my life. Right after graduation, I knew that I wasn’t going to be the type of dentist who would happily work a 9-5 shift Monday through Friday, running a practice until I was 65 years old. I am a creative person and I wanted to have the choice to quit dentistry all together, whenever I want. If anything, the last four years since graduating has been proof that the 25 year loan forgiveness is not for me. I’ve already quit once (here I wrote about How to Gain Enough Financial Independence to Quit Your Job) which happened to be a job that did not bring me joy at a time when I wanted to recreate myself (we can blame that on Saturn’s return.) I’m the type of person who wants to be a baker some days, a writer other days, a pet caregiver on my time off, and a world traveler not tied down by a consistent job. I want to work remotely in my pajamas at home sometimes, and interact with people other times. I want to think up of ideas as much as work with my hands. Because this is the person I am, I decided having no debt gave me more freedom to live wherever, work however, and be whomever. This required a deep understanding of the true me, which is where the real work lies.
Lastly, I am a numbers gal and while there is wealth growth potential to doing the loan forgiveness programs, it appealed to me that paying the loans off in ten years time is still cheaper than waiting 20-odd years – cheaper by more than $100,000! Of course that profit margin increases even more if you pay it back quicker than 10 years, which is what I am trying to do!
Regarding Emergency Funds:
I like emergency funds because it gives me that layer of added security and ease of mind. That being said, emergency funds don’t have to be that traditional idea of putting away a monetary amount in a savings account or in a safe under your home. I don’t like that idea anyway because that prevents you from growing your wealth. You should at least invest it as a hedge against inflation. I like to make every single dollar work for me and I love the idea of passive income. There are many ways to have an emergency fund without reducing the chances of wealth accumulation.
Open a brokerage account and invest your savings into something. Even a mutual index fund like SPY, VTI, or VTSX will be better than keeping it in a savings account, especially if you don’t know much about stocks. Your brokerage account can be you investing in stocks, but also a source of funds in cases of true emergency.
We travel hack a lot so that we never have to spend our hard-earned dollars on our travels. Which means we have multiple credit cards open at the same time that have maximum limits. Since we pay all our credit cards in full every month, we have those funds readily available for emergencies. Between my husband and I, we have over $100k in unused credit card spending (I alone have $83k) and that is a source that we can turn to in case of a true emergency.
Depending on your loan situation, you could use pivoting your plans to gain access to more money during tough times. For example, even though I am paying off my loans aggressively, I remained with REPAYE the first three year’s to benefit from the program’s promise to pay half of the interest fees. My minimum monthly payment was $900 per month, but I was paying $6,500 or more per month. When 2020 hit and my husband lost his job for 10 months, we paid only the minimum payments to my loans and used the left-over to cover his income loss. Luckily, the interest rate since the pandemic has been at a miraculous 0%. Regardless, this was a good example of using loan repayment pivoting in cases of emergency.
Just like you can gain access to money by selling stocks, you can do the same if you have equity in real estate. We own a commercial/residential property and can sell it if things go south, immediately gaining access to our equity.
We briefly touched on investments here but I think the InstaLive had better content within the banter that Dr.Unorthodoc and I had. I just want to summarize with the following: Investments are GREAT but require a bit of heeding. Do your research, don’t let emotions carry you away, and use your head.
Regarding the big picture:
I am all about balance – as you can tell from my lifestyle. Paying loans off aggressively does not hinder us from
-maxing out our 401K
-buying a property
-growing our wealth and investing in stocks
Do a bit of everything! It makes life more fun and interesting. I view life as one big social experiment. Novelty is good for the soul and honestly, I know very few people who can do the grind and truly call themselves happy.