Debt-free Detour through Madrid

It was just under two years ago when my husband and I made the decision to move abroad to Madrid, Spain. If you were to hazard a guess as to why, most likely the answer would fall along the lines of having a serious case of wanderlust, being disillusioned with life in the U.S., or fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to the country. But the reason wasn’t nearly as glamorous. In fact, it was more practicality than adventure that led us abroad for a short time. Most of my friends don’t even know this, but we left because it was the quickest way to pay off graduate school loans and reach our goal of being debt-free.

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Coming to that conclusion wasn’t easy. It required leaving behind certain things like a full-time job that I loved and getting rid of the majority of our belongings – including a condo, 2 cars, and a really good bed set. (Never underestimate the value of a really good bed set.) I left the comfort of a good community in a city where I knew my way around and could easily communicate with everyone. Instead, we chose a life where half the time I felt like an insecure 6-year-old attempting to speak a new language and make new friends. But, after weighing the options and adding up all the numbers, it made more sense to follow this “promotion” abroad than both of us working full-time and staying in the States.

You may be wondering, “How are you saving money moving to Europe?”. Most people think living in Europe would cost more than the U.S. And it’s not necessarily wrong if we were being transferred to a city like London where cost of living is indeed high! But a typical monthly expense in Madrid was even less than half of what we spend now that we’re back in the States, living in the shadow of the great (and pricey) New York City!  For example – one-bedroom apartment for two in a great neighborhood near the city center = 725€, treating a few friends to a couple of rounds of beer and wine = 20€, three-course lunch menu with drink of choice = 12€.

For all other things that weren’t quite as cheap, I either bought it when visiting the States or grit my teeth and do without. (The latter felt like a chore until I adapted more to the Madrid lifestyle.) There were times it was as if we were college students instead of seasoned professionals. We spent the least amount possible and on a selfish note, did very little traveling than I had hoped. There were also moments when I wasn’t so sure my ego could stand not having a full-time job and spending my days instead with social and volunteer projects. I couldn’t have made it though without my awesome partner who helped keep things in perspective and reminded me to focus on the greater goal instead of the temporary challenges and discomforts.

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In the end, it was all worth it. With less money being spent, most was squirreled away to the loans. After 1.5 years of chipping off at that gigantic iceberg, I am so happy to say that the day has finally arrived when I am completely debt-free again! The only downside is that we’ve since left that wonderfully affordable city, following yet another practicality, and are now trying to save money in a very expensive part of the U.S. Wish us luck!

P.S. I know everyone’s journey is different, depending on necessity as well as preference. I acknowledge how incredibly fortunate it was that mine happen to include a stint out of the country when others have given a far larger sacrifice. Where has your path to a debt-free life taken you?

 

May Day in Munich

You could definitely tell something was up when drinks were served. Granted, this was the first time that I’ve flown on Lufthansa. But when drinks were passed out and a large bottle  handedProcessed with VSCOcam to those who requested beer, it was more than just good German hospitality.

After arriving in Munich, we walked through the open terrace on the way to the underground. The sound of German folk music signaled that there was some sort of celebration before we saw people dressed in traditional garb! It seems that we came at the perfect time.

We arrived during May Day celebrations (1 May). What lucked to get a 7-hour layover in Munich, Germany! With that kind of time, it’s hard to miss a chance to check out a new city. To make the opportunity even more perfect, Munich Airport has a brochure complete with suggestions on where to go and what to do for people who have a long layover.IMG_7814

With all the merriment, a rainy day in Bavaria couldn’t get me down. We got a partner day ticket (unlimited for one day for 2 people) to take the S-Bahn to and from the city center for 22.30€. It took a half hour or so to get to the center, but it was fun to watch the passing countryside and small towns along the way.

One of the train stops on the way to city center

One of the train stops on the way to city center

With only a handful of hours, we explored one part of the city – Marienplatz, which seemed to be the epicenter of most tourist sights. Sure enough, it was the place to be. In the plaza, there was a crowd of folks who braved the rain, surrounding a platform where bands were performing. To the side, another booth was selling beer to passersby.

The Rathhaus in Marienplatz has a famous glockenspiel that would play a couple of times in the day. Since there was still another hour or so before the next show, there was time to visit nearby St. Peter’s Church for a bird’s-eye view of the city. The staircase to the vantage point was narrow, but well worth the leg burn.

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view of Marienplatz and Rathaus with its famous glockenspiel from the top of St. Peter’s Church

rooftops near Marienplatz

rooftops near Marienplatz

After taking tons of pictures of how gorgeous the city looked from above, it was time to watch the old glockenspiel do its thing. We headed back to the plaza, this time in the pouring rain, and bought a cup of beer to keep us warm.

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Glockenspiel at the Rathaus

The show at the was interesting, but we watched only about 5 minutes. Blame it on short attention spans. Instead, we went to the next must-see listed, the Frauenkirche. It’s a gothic cathedral that is known to have the “Devil’s footstep” inside. During World War II, the inside was destroyed, but you couldn’t tell from seeing it now. Honestly, we were more distracted by the area right in front of the cathedra. We don’t know it’s purpose, but most of our time was spent walking through and taking pictures there.

There were many other sites we discovered while wondering the area around Marienplatz.

Finally after all the walking, we were getting pretty hungry. Since this was the location of the world famous Hofbräuhaus, we tried to get some grub there first.

Hofbräuhaus

However, though the hall itself was larger than Hogwarts and boasted at least 3 floors, there was no room for 2 hungry/wet humans. At least we can say that we’ve been there. Just the experience of being in a very large room filled with loud raucous joyousness all around was memorable. Instead, we went in search of  a restaurant where one finds just the right amount of cheer to hear yourself think.

At the end, we ate at Augustiner am Dom. The restaurant’s layout was fascinating since it was several floors (5 maybe). Though, in areas where space is a hard to come by, it makes sense that even restaurants are built up instead of spread out.

With all that walking, we were very pleased to have some have some comfort food warming our stomachs. After the meal, we headed back to the airport, happy at a half-day layover well spent in this lovely German city.