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April 2016 24 Hour Readathon



It's another Read-a-thon day again! Early this morning, I woke up and got ready for the Family Travel for Real Life seminar. I've been here since 9AM, meeting new people and learning new things about travel hacking. It was only through a break that I happened to check upon Twitter and saw an update about the Read-a-thon.

I completely forgot about the event!

We still have a two hour drive from Orlando back to Jacksonville so I'll read then.

On the reading list:
  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - I've read 100+ pages so far out of 270+. 
  2. Busy by Tony Crabbe - nearly done, last 20+ pages remaining! 


Hour 15 Update:

I finally got home and had dinner after the big travel seminar I went to today. I napped in the car and finally got to pick up Big Magic a few minutes ago, then put it back down again to catch up with social media & memes I've missed while traveling.


Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Still the same as the starting meme answer - well, because I just typed the starting meme around 5-10 minutes ago! 
2. How many books have you read so far? Big fat Zero!!!
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?I'm hoping I could make a dent on Big Magic, we'll see
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? A lot - my fiance is working right beside me on our blog, and he is asking me a few questions about other things. I just deal with it normally, I multi-task. 
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That people are super super active on social media -- I can't keep up!! 

Starting meme answers: 


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Jacksonville, Florida

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Big Magic

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Nothing. I don't eat snacks while reading, just water. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm Ruby, originally from the Philippines, but moved to Florida more than 2 years ago. I have a dog named Rosie, a future husband named Peter from Slovakia, and love to travel. You can keep up with our travels on our new blog, A Journey We Love and you can read more about us here

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I participated in a couple of other ones, from when I was in the Philippines and from a few months ago. You can see an archive post here. The one thing I did differently today was nap in the car during a long (2+ hour) car ride, and well, tried to keep up (but failed miserably) on social media as well. 

Book Review: How to Retire with Enough Money: And How to Know What Enough Is

How to Retire with Enough Money: And How to Know What Enough Is How to Retire with Enough Money: And How to Know What Enough Is by Teresa Ghilarducci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was an okay book, not something I will want to read again though.
The book's premise revolves around how to plan for retirement. As an early 30-something year old, why am I planning for retirement as early as now? Surely I can do this later on when I'm old(er) and wiser?

The thing is, myself and Peter are aiming to become Financially Independent as soon as we can, just so we can be "retired" and we can use that spare time in pursuing other interests, like traveling the world and building businesses that we are passionate about. So, picking up this book is adding to my agenda of learning more about retirement, and properly preparing for it.

First off, this book is catered to the US setting - so, sorry if you live in another region, you may not be able to relate much to the tips, such as:

1. Putting the maximum yearly in your 401k.
2. Maximizing your contributions to IRA (if you don't have a 401K)
3. Investing in low-fee funds (hello Vanguard)
4. Hacking away at your debt (in our case, we only have a mortgage which we are starting to hack away slowly by putting a quarter of our side hustle money in it)
5. Having an emergency fund of at least 3 months to tide you over (in our case, we are saving 6 months of our home emergency fund as a couple. I already have my own personal emergency fund, and we're working on Peter's) - having an emergency fund is a lifesaver!
6. Saving for a car as early as now - because where we live (Jacksonville, FL), it's almost impossible for us to get anywhere without a car. We are going to do the bicycle route eventually when our workplace moves closer to our home, but I'll need to learn how to cycle first (yes, I don't know how to bike) and we'll also need to buy bikes, which is an additional expense.
7. Being more frugal and only living within our means

While those tips seem great, we've already been putting them into action for the past two years, so I'm not sure how the book changed my mind or convinced me to do a change in lifestyle otherwise.

However, the book is fairly thin and is a quick read, so might be worth perusing over.

I'd give this book 3/5 stars because it may help other people, but I for one, don't find it so useful or life changing to entail a 5/5 stars.

The book was borrowed from my local library (Jacksonville Public Library)



View all my reviews

Book Review: The 39 Clues Cahills vs Vespers: A King's Ransom

A King's Ransom A King's Ransom by Jude Watson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading the first 11 (12?) (13?) 39 Clues Books a few years back when I was still living in Manila, I decided to give it another go because I was looking for something fun and light to read when i was having such a bad month. This time, it picks up where book 1 left off - Vesper One still has Amy & Dan's family/friends hostage and they still have to steal another priceless artifact for him, in this case the Da Virga map. It takes them through Europe - Geneva, Neuschwanstein Castle & Prague in search for the map, along the way trying to dodge people who may want to harm them (the Vespers), and Interpol.

While it is an interesting read for me because I've personally been to Neuschwanstein and can definitely imagine the characters running around trying to find it through the passageways, the book tackles murder and well, sabotage - which I don't think is great for really young readers. I do love the fact that it tackles historical people & of course, the travel part from city to city.

Reading this book made me pick up the next book in the series from the library, which I'm due to pick up sometime soon. Now, this book is also one of a few more published/planned to be published in the franchise, so I think those who like the series will have something to look forward to.

I gave the book a three stars mostly because I'm getting annoyed at having a lot of questions yet not enough answers to them. I'm sure it'll be revealed during the last few parts of the book (or on consequent sequels), but it just hooks you to it. It kind of sucks if you have to buy the books as there are so many of them, but hey, I've got my local library to help me out!

Book was borrowed from the Jacksonville Public Library.

View all my reviews

**Would I recommend this book? Why yes, it is a great series -- but would only do it if you have a public library that has all the books. It's going to cost too much time & resources (ie money) if you want to collect all the books yourself! What if it never ends, you know?

Review: The Bride's Guide to Wedding Photography

The Bride's Guide to Wedding Photography The Bride's Guide to Wedding Photography by Steve Sint
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finally finished this book as I was researching and trying to learn more about things I need for my wedding day. I was actually shocked at how much wedding photographers cost - if I wanted someone really good, it will eat up more than half of the original budget I intended, so I thought of staying away from having a professional and just let my friends do the photos. Yes, regardless if people say that I will want to look back at it and I'm paying someone for the creative styling, it just doesn't make sense to spend that much money for just one day.

Yes I know it's also once in a lifetime, but hey, my money can last me longer than that one day if I saved it and invested it, right?

Back to the book - it is dated, it was still talking about film, and really - who uses film nowadays (except maybe for Instax or Polaroid) - and with the new day & age of everyone having smartphone cameras with huge megapixels and HDR, then again, what is the point of having professional photography right?

Instead of the book trying to sell me a photographer, it actually said an option I liked, to skip it all together!

So, would I recommend this book? Probably not - because it's not really that useful in this day and age right now, plus you can see excellent photos from magazines instead.

View all my reviews

Review: Minions Volume 2: Evil Panic

Minions Volume 2: Evil Panic Minions Volume 2: Evil Panic by St├ęphane Lapuss'
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a great, quick read - there is literally no dialogue in this book, just the illustrations of the minions, but it was cute and fun to read. I love the minions, they make me happy - so reading this after a long day at work makes it all the more better! This is also my first book read for 2016, so many more books to come, hopefully!

You don't need to pick up the first book in order to get what's happening in the second book as their stories stand alone from each other. The theme of this book is the evil minion - where one spray can actually cause your good, old minion friend to turn into a purple evil minion that wants to eat everything!

Of course there are plenty of other stories in the middle that makes it even more entertaining.

Definitely recommend reading this book - but probably not to buy it, as the price is a bit steep. I picked it up from my local library (Jacksonville, FL) - I'm always in the library a couple of times a month (sometimes even multiple times a week!)

View all my reviews

2015 in Books

As we nearly end 2015, we look back at the things that we have done mostly throughout the year. I was updating my Goodreads account based on the books I have read (that will count for 2015), and got the below Year in Review.

Overall, it was a great year for reading, and for blogging as well. When I was younger, one of my goals was to read all the books ever published. Yeah, not so attainable a dream is it? I'm slowly reading through books that engage and excite me - and no, these does not include self published e-books on my Amazon account. These are purely the books that I've picked up in hard copy form (from the library, of course - can't live without it!)

2015 in Books

Books I've read

More books read for 2015

I've completed the reading challenge!

Review: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book about the power of human habits, and how they ultimately shape (and maybe destroy) your life. It makes you more aware of the innate habits that we have as humans, and how to effectively change them (hard, but definitely doable with a lot of discipline and willpower). Also mentions the habit loop: the cue, the routine and the reward. Every habit has these three, and how to address your habit and change it means identifying a cue, and maybe changing the routine or the reward.

Absolutely amazing book, really glad I picked it up.

View all my reviews

Moving Domains




Hello All,

Just a quick note to say that I haven't been blogging here for a while because Peter and I decided to get our own domain! You may now follow us at A Journey We Love (www.ajourneywelove.com)

We'll upload our travels on that new websites, as well as how much we spent, itineraries you may replicate if you happen to go to the same destinations as us, trip reviews, and everything in between.

That's also the place where we discuss more about our small business (AirBnB-ing our spare bedroom & freelance writing), wedding planning & details, as well as looking after our home.

I might still utilize Ruby Loves Adventure for one-off personal posts & maybe a bit of book reviews, but most of the activity will definitely be in the domain. This blog has been up for the past 8 years and I couldn't be more happy about it, but we all have to move on at one point to better things ahead. I don't know why it took us a while to finally get a domain but we finally did it - better late than never!

Join us on our new website, and thank you for your support on Ruby Loves Adventure!

Ruby
Tag : ,

Happy Thanksgiving!



It's November 26th in the US, and it's Thanksgiving! 

I'm thankful for a lot of things, mostly going to be posted starting next year on our brand new website, A Journey We Love. It's still under construction, but hopefully it'll be up within two weeks (or more, depending how long Peter will get to reconfigure the template)

For the meantime, we are busy booking our trips for 2016! It's going to be very exciting, and hopefully you'll still stay with us for the ride.

Until then, I'm off looking for shopping deals for things we need for the year (yes, we stock up). Have a nice holiday for those of you in the US

Schengen Visa Application for Filipino Passport Holders in the USA

In my last visa post, I delve into the Chinese and the Korean visa applications. This time, I'll tell you how I applied for my Schengen visa application last year when I went to Germany, Austria & Slovakia.

Neuschwanstein Lake
Me in a lake near Neuschwanstein
Our itinerary was as follows:
Arrive Germany, spend 5 days
Austria, spend 3 days
Slovakia, spend 5 days

The Schengen visa stipulates that you apply for the visa on either 1) the country you're spending the longest time in, or 2) if spending an equal amount of time in different countries, apply at the first point of entry, which in my case was Germany.

NOTE: The German embassy in Miami does not accept walk in applicants. You have to schedule a visa interview on their website in advance.

Here are the requirements I had to give:
  1. Filled out visitor visa application form 
  2. Passport Photo
  3. Roundtrip airline tickets (USA to Schengen countries & back)
  4. Hotel Reservations (for Germany & Austria)
  5. A letter from Peter's aunt inviting me to Slovakia with her home address & details 
  6. Proof of income (3 months of bank statements, both from my checking & savings account here in the US as well as three months of payslips from the company I'm working for)
  7. Employment letter (with annual salary) 
  8. Insurance covering the Schengen area + Switzerland from AXA Schengen covering at least $50,000 worth of incidentals if something were to happen to me. 
  9. Photocopy of my US resident visa (I don't have a green card)  
 Not that much, right?
In Strecno Castle near Martin, Slovakia
 I initially tried to apply for a multiple entry visa, and asked me why I need it. I told the consul I am going back to the Schengen area next year for the Euros in France, but the consul told me that they do not grant multiple entry visas for first time applicants. She did tell me that I can just mail my application to France if they have my records in the database. Hopefully they still have it.

So, what were the questions I was asked:
  1. Where do I work?
  2. How many days are you spending in each country? It is imperative that you know your itinerary by heart. No shuffling through papers, you must be very prepared for this interview. 
  3. Is Slovakia included in the Schengen Treaty? Yes.
  4. Then she asked for all my documents in the order she asked for.
When all my documents were in order after her review, I gave the fee (in cash, including the shipping fee from Miami to Jacksonville as we won't be able to get the passport in person).

Then I'm done, easy peasy, I'm in and out within 15 minutes! My visa was approved and I should get it in the mail within 3 days!

Things to note:
  1. Make sure you have complete requirements with you. They had me retake a photo because the AAA passport photo I had was not close enough. Good thing there was a CVS a block away from the embassy and I had my photo taken in no time. 
  2. Make sure you have more than enough money in cash when you go to the embassy. They do not take debit or credit cards. 
  3. Look presentable! 
  4. Make sure you have all the documents in order. In my case, I made sure everything was in place because there is no way I'll drive another 10 hours just to go back to Jacksonville to Miami (Well, Peter was doing most of the driving but we don't want to spend the extra money on gas & food and the time getting there anymore). I quadruple checked everything to make sure I had it and I made backups in my gmail account just in case I need to get anything.
So, that's my easy breasy Schengen Visa application in Miami. My next visa application will be May 2016, for my Euro 2016 trip in July. Fingers crossed I get a multiple entry one!



October 2015 24-Hour Readathon

Rosie the dog of Furry Reads reading Roadmap by Roadtrip Nation
I already have a Roadmap..to my food bowl behind me!
Woof! My name is Rosie and I'm taking over my mom's blog to join in the 24-Hour Readathon. My parents have been building a website for me, but they didn't have time to finish it so I said I'll take over the blog for now. They happily agreed.

If you are interested in following more of my adventures, you can do so on Facebook, Twitter, on Instagram or you can email me here.

The 24 Hour Readathon gives me a chance to read all the books I want in a span of 24 hours. Now, I'm a very active dog and I like to play with my dad so I'll take a few lot of breaks to snooze, rest, and eat, but I'm doing what I can, right?

Rosie from Furry Reads reading Orson Welles's Last Movie
Me and dad reading Orson Welles's Last Movie

I'll post all my updates on this link (boo my parents don't want me to create new pages for them) - so here's an introductory meme.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from sunny Jacksonville, Florida. 

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Roadmap by Roadtrip Nation - mainly because I need to only read 50 pages in it. Woof!
Another book is Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, because you know, it's a cute book. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

My doggie treats, crumbs that my parents left behind, cereal, bread, oooh a lot of them. With these doggie eyes, my parents can't resist anything I ask for. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I was adopted from the Humane Society by my parents, and was a stray dog. My dad was patient enough to train me and both parents loved me, and I now love my new home and am spoiled to bits. Most people say I look like an ewok, from the Star Wars movies. Do I?

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to
?

I haven't participated in the readathon yet, but my mom had, on several occasions, when she was still living in Manila. My parents are busy with a guest renting out our spare room today so I'll sneak in their room and read while they're distracted!  

The 2016 Travel Calendar [Luxury Travel on a Backpacker's Budget]

A blog has gone viral recently when Rolling Stone magazine published an article that this guy travels for free. I follow his blog, and also want to show the people that no, he didn't really do it for free, these points & miles have a cost in it (ie credit card spend, etc).

This post is to show that lowly people like me and you can indeed travel for free. You don't have to become a popular travel blogger, nor email a lot of establishments asking for free stays and activities. In fact, I find that it is actually easier to just pay for your own travels than ask for sponsored trips. That way, you don't have to be biased when you write about the destination and you get your own experience instead of someone painting a picture of a destination for you.


 
Here is a list of our 2016 plans of (almost) free travel:

January 1-3, 2016:  Orlando, Florida

Why?

February 2016: Montego Bay, Jamaica

Why?

Hotels -

May 21 - 23, 2016: Miami, Florida

Why?  Need a visa to get back to Europe (third world passport and all). Plus his cousin is landing in Miami for our wedding! (cousin-in-law managed to snag a $500 RT direct flight from Vienna to Miami, which was a great deal)

Hotels - Eyeing the Hyatt Renaissance in Miami for 12,000 Hyatt Points a night or perhaps an 8,000 Hyatt near the airport. Any suggestions?



June 18 - July 3, 2016: France, Switzerland, Austria & Slovakia

Why? Euro 2016 - as you probably know by now, my fiance is an avid soccer fan, so we're flying there mostly to see if Slovakia (the country he's from) will play. We got ticket to one game already in Lyon. 

The Routing: TPA - FRA - LYS - GVA - VIE - RSW.


We start from Tampa on the 18th of June, as we have to bring our dog to my future in-law's place. Myself & Peter will travel to Frankfurt, spend an 8 hour layover (free c/o United), then get on a plane to Lyon to meet his brother. We'll then make our way to Geneva, where I'll get on a plane to Vienna. Will spend a day or two in Vienna to wait for Peter & his brother to arrive, then spend a week in Slovakia, his home country. From Vienna, I'll fly back to Ft Myers, where my future in-laws will pick me up.

Airfare: Used 60,000 United Points (transferred from Chase Sapphire Preferred/Ultimate Rewards)  + $150 in taxes & fees (reimbursed using Barclaycard Arrival+). Total spend: $0.

Hotels:

  •  Lyon - 
  • Annecy -  
  • Chamonix -
  • Geneva - 
  • Vienna -

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