Category Archives: San Francisco

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent…

The calendar says it’s Summer but the weather here is San Francisco is a little too brisk to even consider wearing shorts or running through the sprinklers.  I’m pretty used to it after spending four summers shivering through Fourth of July fireworks and craving heart soups instead of light salads while the rest of the country basks in sun.  But having spent my whole childhood sweating through 100 degree temps, hosing myself in the backyard and laying on top of the comforter listening to the hum of the air conditioner at night, I still find myself checking the weather expecting to see the optimistic sun graphic in the ten day forecast.

It’s around the end of June that I start craving real Summer.  I head down to Manteca to get my 15 minutes of relentless heat (all I can really handle before I’m pining for the cool breezes of SF) under the guise of visiting my parents.  I convince Roem to take a Zipcar across the Golden Gate to warmer pastures; intent on getting my monthly dose of Vitamin D.  Sometimes though, it all gets to be too much.  I need some time on a beach without wearing a sweatshirt.  I need the freckles across my nose to return in all their spotted glory from winter hibernation.  I need a good excuse to read trashy books without hiding them behind more studious covers.  I need sun in 12 hour cycles.

So last month, Roem and I discussed some possible summer destinations on our rather meager vacation budget.  I originally had my heart set on a European adventure but quickly decided that spending $1,500 a plane ticket for a 9 day trip just wouldn’t work for us.  Even with visions of freshly baked baguettes, runny stinky cheeses and glorious picnics in Provence, I couldn’t justify it.  We tend to budget our trips based on a daily price tag, so $3,000 in airfare over three months wouldn’t be inconceivable at $33 a day, but $333 a day is way over our daily price point.  Unfortunately, due to increased gas prices, extra flight surcharges and a decrease in capacity from the airlines, flights this Summer are more expensive than ever.

I am not a patient person by nature but I took a deep breath and waited. When you are working with a small budget, it’s never a good idea to have a single destination in mind because in the end your budget will pick the location.  So I compulsively checked airfarewatchdog.com for possible sales and read every blog online looking for deals.  I included previously dismissed locations like Hawaii, the Carribean and even a few locations within the continental US.  And finally a few weeks ago, I came across cheap tickets to Mexico that were $450 inclusive of taxes and fees bringing us to a reasonable $100 per day flight budget.

Street food near the bus station in Playa del Carmen.

You may recall that last year for our honeymoon, we traveled to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.  The only destination we traveled to in Mexico on that trip was Playa del Carmen and, while beautiful, it wasn’t really our style.  It was perfect for our relaxing, luxurious honeymoon but we still yearned for the more authentic side of Mexico we only caught glimpses of during that trip.  For this trip, we consulted the well traveled foodies over at Tacolicious for some advice.  They showered us with recommendations for beautiful guest houses, amazing resturants and great off the beaten track attractions.  It wasn’t long before our flight into Mexico City and out of Puerto Vallarta was booked for the first week of July.

Our itinerary will include a few days in Mexico City, then a bus to San Miguel de Allende, another bus to Guanajuato, and an overnight bus to Puerto Vallarta with our final destination being Sayulita.  It’s a full itinerary but with our main objective being to stuff our faces with as many street tacos, fresh seafood and authentic mole as we can find, I think we will be in good shape (or not, based on aforementioned taco consumption).  So any thoughts/suggestions/admonishments for us?  Have you been to these locations?  And most importantly, where do you recommend we eat?

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Filed under Airline Travel, Lifestyle, Mexico, San Francisco, Travel, Uncategorized

Paradise on Earth

Growing up, the library was my sanctuary.  I practiced writing my name for hours to attain the coveted status of my own library card.  My mom would hold me up to hand the librarian my own card and I would watch her scan my pile of books under the squiggly infrared reader.  Once a week, I would take ballet classes there, dressed in my pink leotard and

Posing before heading to my dance recital at the library,

slippers while twirling off balance across the room with bad turn out.  Summer nights my sister and I would put on our pajamas, grab our blankets and watch a movie sprawled out with dozens of other kids on the floor.  That was the best because it was like living out my fantasy from the book Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, where two siblings who run away and live in the New York Metropolitan of Art.  If you haven’t read this book, I suggest getting it immediately, even if you no longer need permission to runaway from home.

I was a curious kid and an avid reader, so the mere thought that I could pick up any book to bring home was astonishing. I spend hours reading about how to raise a hamster, do magic tricks and went through both the classic and contemporary Nancy Drew Series by the time I was 7.  In 7th grade, I stayed up all night finishing Gone With the Wind and that wouldn’t be the last time I watched the night sky turn from inky black to faded gray, and finally streaky pink, before finally putting down my book.  In high school, when one of the kids I tutored knew more about the Rock of Gibraltar than I did, I drove my newly acquired car over to Center Street to research a few points to one up him at our next session.

In college, I would sometimes borrow a textbook for one of my classes from the library to save money and spend hours on the third floor, studying in the corner. In Grad School, I rented French language CDs and books on tape to make my hour commute into the city fly by.  I remember sitting in the parking garage, listening to just a few more minutes to find out what happened at the end of the chapter before dashing into class.

My relationship with the library hasn’t only been one sided. More often than not, my books were late and I paid handsomely to borrow books without expiration dates.  As a kid, my mom always had some loose change to pay the inevitable fines I’d rack up from 15 books all 3 days late, at a nickel a day.  This became problematic as I got older and those fines got more expensive, eventually culminating in a $100 penalty when my car was broken into and my (their) French CDS were stolen.  I might be the only American under 50 with a derogatory mark on their credit from a forgotten library book and too many forwarded addresses to catch it.  I consider these fines to be a sort of payment for all the books I read for free. In today’s modern world, a beautifully organized store that let’s you borrow their wares, and not just their old merchandise but new beautiful items, is a bit of an anomaly.

Even as an adult, visiting the library still gives me that sense of awe.  It feels like such a nerve center of any community.  In San Francisco, we have the most beautiful public resource right across the street from City Hall.  To me, those floors of books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs represent access.   You don’t have to be rich to be able to read and learn about anything you want.

The library was the first place I felt my mind become fully engaged. The lingering boredom I had always felt in class when I finished my math problems early or read ahead in my history assignment, finally vanished. Now when I finished my classwork I could open up my library book and be completely transported out of my pedestrian classroom in small town America. Books gave me permission to dream and the will to believe I could really go places. This led me to work hard and excel, something my working class parents had been trying to instill in me the moment I signed my childish signature on that plastic card.

My borrowed library books have trekked all over the world from Europe to Asia, Africa and South America.  I would scan the shelves for the most recent travel guide, renewing my borrowed books overseas to free up some money for beer or an upgraded hostel room.  I attribute my love of cooking to the amazing selection of food related books in the Santa Rosa Library which sparked my desire to know more about non-GMO and local foods.  I’ve learned to make cheese, brew beer, raise chickens and keep bees, all from books I’ve checked out from the local library.

Libraries bring people together. Grad students sit next to homeless people and ride the elevators with mothers and their squirming children. Kids can pull books off the shelf about anything that interests them and sit cross legged on the floor listening to librarian do funny voices to Where the Wild Things Are People struggling with unemployment can surf the web looking for job listings and perfect their resumes. If you are cold and have nowhere else to go, you can duck into a library to escape. Young mothers limp with exhaustion can commiserate with other moms in low voices while their kids flip through picture books in the corner. A brilliant poet can share her work with a community that values her words.

“I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library”.
-Jorge Luis Borges

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Filed under Lifestyle, Reading, San Francisco, Uncategorized

Everything Old is New

I used to think antiques were weird and fussy.  My grandmother was an avid collector and while I liked sifting through her vintage jewelry, I wasn’t a big fan of the dusty dishes or worn furniture.  I fantasized about a house filled with shiny new furniture, just purchased rugs and pottery barn dishes.  Even my dollhouse had a tasteful, victorian aesthetic with newly manufactured furniture only reproduced to look like antiques.

My freshman year in high school, my friends and I embraced thrift store shopping with a vengenace.  My parents wisely viewed this as a phase and allowed me the “creative” space to find myself.  We visited thrift stores all around the Central Valley, picking up old bowling shirts with long forgotten names stitched across the lapel and ringer tees with weird sayings on them.  I went through my Dad’s closet, scoring such finds as a velour striped sweatshirt and a hand tooled leather belt with a sunset design.  I loved looking different from everyone else and took pride in my eccentric ensembles.

In college, I still wandered thrift stores but I was looking more for things I could pass off as new, rather than vintage treasures.  I wanted to fit in with my sorority sisters and upperclassmen and knew instinctively that anything different or weird would be shunned.  When my mom offered me my Nana’s dining room table for my first off campus apartment, I took it relunctantly knowing it didn’t look anything like the new Cost Plus models my friends all had.  Luckily my older and impossible cool roommate declared it “gorgeous” and I felt a glimmer of pride that I had something else no one else had.

Years later, I could kick myself for showing little interest in some of the items my mom inherited from my Grandma and Nana.  She is a very practical woman who eschews saving things if they don’t have an immediate purpose, and so a lot of things I would now love, were given away.  During wedding planning, my mom was often heard exclaiming, “Oh we had something that looked JUST like that before I got rid of it!”  She made up for it by finding a pristine box of lace from her own wedding dress and loaning us her beautiful vintage cake topper.

Now as I set up my first newlywed nest with my beloved husband, I am drawn to vintage furniture like a moth to a flame.  For one, it’s so economical and green to buy things that would otherwise go into a landfill.  After reading countless shelter blogs I am a firm believer that every piece of furniture on the planet can be re-purposed into something gorgeous with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware.  I’ve convinced Roem to haul furniture home that we found on the side of the road and pleaded with him to see my “vision” at garage sales.

Photo from Apartment Therapy found here.

Photo from Apartment Therapy found here.

And After—–>

This whole post has been written to lead up to this absurdity: I woke up voluntarily at 7:30am to attend a flea market this past Sunday.  And it wasn’t the first time.  My parents and I attended the Alameda Flea Market and it is such a magical, wonderful place that I only hesitate to tell you about it because it may increase the already insane traffic.  That being said, not even the nearly hour wait to get in and out of the parking lot can dampen my love for this incredible flea market.

I suggest you bring water and some emergency fruit because you really have no idea how long you will be there.  Coat your pasty skin in sunscreen even if it’s windy and overcast and wear comfortable shoes.  If you bring a luxury vehicle (such as a nearly new honda accord with leather seats, ahem, parents) then be sure and grab some rope and a blanket.  I’ll explain later.

I really can’t imagine anyone not liking the Flea Market, unless you are my brother-in-law who describes the one Sunday I dragged them along for a wedding shopping trip as, “the worst day of his life”.  Both he and my sister have incredible taste, but it does not run to mid century stereo cabinets cum entertainment consoles, they prefer things new.  Even if this more closely resembles you, I know you will still be able to find some treasure such as a cool bag or painting.

The market has lanes that are alphabetized and runs A-Z before it doubles up AA-KK.  It’s a lot of rows and rookies may not be able to make it to the end.  Be warned, I tend to purchase items towards the latter half of the trip, not sure if they have better things towards the back or if I just work up the courage to blow $60 on a 1960s medicine cabinet.  Which may have housed a pair of artificial legs complete with socks and shoes and Roem said looks just like, “a cabinet”.  He still doesn’t see its potential for a bar, bathroom cabinet or side table.  Sigh.  Good thing I didn’t come home with the old school lockers I was thisclose to buying for our entry way.  Also note the amazing 1950s hand cranked ice crusher I got to accompany my bar cabinet.  Currently it’s in the running for my favorite possession.

In addition to these amazing finds, I was forced to give up on the most incredible Zenith stereo cabinet because my Dad said it, “wouldn’t fit”.  I confess I threw a fit worthy of any two year old and insisted it HAD to fit because I WANTED it!  Alas, it would not have fit and I still have not received a call from my BFF Walter to announce it is now mine because it didn’t sell by the end of the day.  That’s another tip, don’t go there looking for furniture if you arrived in the aforementioned luxury sedan with leather seats.  Take a pickup truck or a convertible.

The Alameda Point Antiques Fair runs rain or shine on the first Sunday of the month. I’ll be there next week with my Zipcar pickup, a wad of cash and a (un)willing husband looking for that stereo console.

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Filed under Lifestyle, Moving, San Francisco, Uncategorized

It’s Not Always Sunny in San Francisco

Living in San Francisco, I often feel like I belong to a special club.  It is such a beautiful place with amazing people and so many things to do, that I hand over my exorbitant rent each month just happy they let me stay a member.  I chat up tourists on the bus about places to visit in my city, provide detailed recommendations to anyone new in town and am basically a goodwill ambassador for this unique corner of the world.

The last few weeks as we weathered day after day of torrential rain, my love for San Francisco never waned.  I made my way to work in the sideways rain and hail, jockeyed my way onto one overcrowded bus after another, and huddled under my covers to keep warm every frigid morning.  I suffered sleep deprivation every night when my little dog, Sadie, grew increasingly anxious as the wind howled, the rain beat against the window and tree branches pounded our building.  I protested in a downpour at City Hall, assured volunteers that we would be there rain or shine and passed out soggy flyers to anyone brave enough to cross the flood zone in Civic Center.

Four years ago when I moved here, I traded in my beloved summers for this beautiful city on the bay and never looked back.  I can still commiserate with tourists who come to California each June, optimistically sporting shirt sleeves and shorts, only to snatch up the first San Francisco embroidered sweatshirt they see to fight off the inevitable chill.  Before our wedding in July last summer, I tried to warn the guests that although the calendar said summer, most likely the temperatures would hover around 58 degrees with a cold breeze.  Some people willfully ignored these instructions and shivered throughout the ceremony, sheepishly mumbling in disbelief at the fog blanketing Golden Gate Park.  Even the comfort of our guests was sacrificed to celebrate our nuptials in our favorite city and we smiled through every chilly moment.

The reasons SFists continue to pay astronomical rents, ride out the seemingly endless season of fog, and sacrifice summers, is all for days like today.  The sky is a brilliant blue, nary a cloud in sight, the breeze just cool enough to refresh, and songbirds fill the air with their nosy chatter.  Residents flood the street, basking in the sun on every imaginable surface and soak up the weather with gusto.  At the park across the street from my house, dogs frolic on the cool green grass, a few homeless people are stretched out on the bench wiggling their toes and smartly dressed corporate drones eat their lunches on the steps, all in utter bliss.

We all delight in the weather together.  The barista at my local coffee hop leans forward and whispers confidentially, “How about this weather?!”  My coworkers and I swap secrets for the ultimate place to spend a sunny SF afternoon.  Every outdoor cafe, restaurant and bar is packed with smiling people looking like they just won the lottery.  The beaches are packed with pasty limbs, parrot colored umbrellas and people, kids and dogs giddy with relief from the never ending fog.

A San Francisco day such as this is rare and therefore, appreciated.  We love this city despite her weather- related flaws and when she gives us a rare reprieve, we are thankful.  SFists didn’t move here from around the world for the weather, but rather, in spite of it.  Many of us have stayed here because of the sun filled, magical promise of days like today that can pop up all year round.  Whether it be July, October or March, we squeeze every moment of enjoyment out of it, because we don’t know when it’s coming again.

Today, this San Francisco resident will lounge in the park with her dog and take a long, ambling walk in the park, thankful these days only come around once so often.  The rarity of these days protect us from even more people clamoring to live here, without fully appreciating our city’s charm.  All those fog filled, dreary days make today feel like a gift and the enjoyment of it is that much sweeter.

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Filed under Lifestyle, Sadie, San Francisco

Bigger is better: Buying in Bulk

Until fairly recently, I did all my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.  At first I would just go there for a few specialty items.  Then I slowly realized that my nearest Safeway sojourns were netting me fewer and fewer items and most of my time was spend wandering the aisles, marveling at Trader Joe’s products.  I swiftly converted and did all my shopping there; grabbing my basics first and always throwing a few new curiosities into the cart.  I discovered frozen garlic naan that tasted homemade, unsweetened, dried mango that tasted like candy and marinated cannellini beans.  For years, I was content to wander, a tad self righteously, through TJ’s, picking out high quality items at affordable prices.

We don't need to add anything to this.

It was then that I began to notice how much waste our little family of two was throwing away.  At first I ignored it, I mean we were eating healthy! whole! foods!  But I had a sneaking suspicion that even though my frozen black bean and corn enchiladas were delicious they would probably be healthier and better for the environment if I made them myself.  So a few months ago, I made a commitment to cut down on packaged foods by 50 percent, including the whole foods I regularly purchased in packaging.  Because I really didn’t need the extra guilt that came with the shrink wrapped bok choy, bagged apples and microwavable butternut squash when I was trying to do the right thing..

Now your eyes may be glossing over right about now because this is sounding way too hippie for you to even consider implementing.  I’m not relying on the environmental concerns alone to sway you, because that wouldn’t work for me either.  Here at WPP we are always concerned about the environment and healthy eating, but the bottom line is it needs to be budget friendly  So I will add that it’s possible to cut your food budget in half by reducing your packaged foods.

Eliminating packaged produce was actually a welcome relief considering Trader Joe’s is a wonderful store but really has average vegetables and disappointing fruits.  We switched to a CSA called Farm Fresh to You and although my fantasies of farm visits have yet to materialize, we are very happy with the service.  We receive the medium regular basket every other week and that seems to fit our needs well and the produce is exponentially better than TJ’s even with the odd bruised or damaged item.  The best part is there is no wait list, you can opt out of those items you don’t care for and they deliver to your house.  It’s a little more expensive than other services but considering the WPP household is car-lessfree it is really convenient.

We cannot live on fruits and veggies alone so we also venture out every few weeks to the utopian wonderland known as Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.   Let’s just say it’s a really good thing that I am on borrowed Zipcar time there because  I could easily spend a whole day in what I’ve dubbed “Adult Disneyland”.   And as it’s a workers’ co-op, it’s owned by the employees so you are supporting a business that is fair and equitable.  Not sure about you, but that just makes everything taste better to me.

A usual trip will find me starting out in the spice aisle and refilling my reusable spice jars, coffee tins and tea cans.  If you love to cook or bake you will be astounded at the variety of flours, (gluten-free and regular) sugars, cereals and pasta in the bulk area.  If you aren’t in San Francisco and you want to try shopping in bulk, make sure the place you are visiting has high turnover and seems to do brisk business.  No one wants the forgotten, weeks-old granola thats been sitting in the bin forever.

Some items you should always buy in bulk are spices, beans, grains and cereals.  Spices are significantly cheaper in bulk and you can try a variety of exotic blends that will make your food taste better.  Now is the time to get a little bit of smoked paprika and hickory salt which will only set you back a few dollars and really improve the flavor of your food.  When buying in bulk, you just get the amount you need, saving you from the unfortunate discovery of the dill seed you needed for a recipe three years later for a recipe, that now has gone rancid.

If you love to bake or are following a gluten free diet, then shopping in bulk is a good fit for you.  You have access to high gluten flour for bagel making, chickpea flour to try that new recipe for socca or a gluten-free version of yogurt cake with almond flour, without committing to an entire bag that could go bad.  I purchase my cereal and granola in bulk and transfer directly to my oxo containers at the store.  Don’t miss out on the dried pasta aisle for some whole wheat pasta, rigatoni for a meat based sauce, and throw in some orecchietta just because it is  so cute.

If you love food and are trying to improve the way your dishes taste, switch to dried beas immediately  Not only do they taste SO much better, they are cheaper, healthier, and take up less space.  The selection you have when buying dried beans in seemingly endless and you can cook up your own heritage varieties like the Rancho Gordo.  Not only do they taste better, they are so easy to make.  All it takes is an overnight soak and some extended cooking for dried beans to come into their own.  I always soak at least a double batch and put half my cooked beans in the freezer.  That way I can whip up a quick chili or hummus whenever the mood strike,  Beans are a budget shopper’s dream and I implore you to give up on those cans with their mushy product and extra sodium immediately.  I promise you will never go back.

You can refill everything from your peanut butter jar, soy sauce bottle and shampoo container.  That’s right, even your personal products can be refilled at the co-op for much less than those costly salon bottles.  While you are there, make sure to pick up some Strauss Whole Milk Yogurt and organic beer after hitting the exceptional cheese department that is truly a foodie’s dream.  It’s also a great place to get rennet if you are interested in making cheese or raw milk if you’ve never tried it.

Don’t be intimated if this is your first trip to the bulk bin or food co-op.  My first time, I was nervous they would spot me as an imposter as soon as I entered the line with my shameful disposable bags.  Just remember, you are making the first step and going much further than most people do.   Next time, just bring your own containers and weigh them ahead of time when it’s empty.  Record the weight on a sticker at the bottom and fill with you desired product.   This is called the tare weight and will be subtracted from your final purchase.

See that’s not so hard!  Just beware that these little changes will slowly begin to change you and before you know it, you’ll be proselytizing too.  Your food will taste better,  your impact on the planet will decrease and you’ll be saving money on your monthly food bill.  I’m not asking you to create your own dairy products or bake your own bread, but I bet that’s not too far off.  Embrace your inner hippie!

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Filed under Family, Finance, Finance, Food, Lifestyle, San Francisco, Uncategorized

A Few of My Favorite Things: Remodelista and Microwave Popcorn

There are two thing rocking my world right now that I must tell you about immediately.  You may remember back in January I wrote about my obsession with the restaurant Caseros in Buenos Aires and its gorgeous design.  I have recently found a website that is basically page after page of jaw dropping, gorgeous images that have turned my dropbox account into a fan club for the website known as Remodelista.

I know I’m a little late to the party in my obsession with Remodelista, which is even more apparent as I spend hours browsing their four years of archives.  This is not a website that I am content with just reading the highlights of each entry and tapering off when I hit the two year out mark.  I am literally at March 2008 and not stopping till I get to the end.  I love every category of home inspiration but I have to admit I’m partial to Steal This Look which features beautifully designed private and commercial spaces around the world and then translates them into home decor.

One image they use on Steal This Look is an inspiration photo that I used for our wedding reception.

Our cheese table for the Champagne reception in Golden Gate Park after our wedding.

They provide some beautiful sources to recreate this tablescape and although most of the items are out of my price range, it gives any design addict that’s good with research a place to start.   As soon as I discovered this mutual love for organic materials, raw edges, neutral tones and simplicity, I knew we would be able to go the distance.

Some other spaces that are causing me mini heart attacks over at Remodelista are their take on Delfina Pizza in SF, Mill Valley Beerworks and this exotic bathroom.  I wish I could bring this website to life and walk its hallowed halls for hours, completely absorbed in its chicness.  Blogs such as Remodelista are so special and such labors of love, and to this girl they are an art gallery.  Roem was not immune to her charms either, last night I fed him carefully prepared tidbits of the gorgeous images and he was still clicking late into the night.  When I nagged urged him to bed, he distractedly said, “I can’t.  I’m still looking at that BLOG.”

The other amazing thing I have to share with you is a hack for microwave popcorn.  It’s kind of a ritual around here in my office to make and share some afternoon popcorn.  Actually, the ritual really is that my amazing coworker makes popcorn for herself and generously shares some with me.  As she’s somewhere out in the Bahamas right now, I have had to fend for myself come 3:00pm.

I love microwave popcorn but hate all the sodium and artificial flavors that come in the packaged kind.  I’ve heard you can grab your own plain kernels and throw some in a paper bag to be popped in a microwave.  I finally brought the popcorn to work and using a stapler, had my packet ready to test.  After about 3.5 minutes in the microwave, it’s ready to share.

Microwave Popcorn

1/4 to 1/2 popcorn

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon oil, if desired (I don’t add any oil and mine is delicious)

Just put all the ingredients in the bag and fold over once and staple twice.  Let pop about 3.5 minutes or until there is a pause between popping kernels.

And that’s it!  it’s almost silly to write a recipe but I know when going the oil-free route I was a little nervous it wouldn’t work.  Just be sure and catch your popcorn before it burns or you will go from the most popular coworker to the one on par with the guy who puts the coffee pot back on the burner with just a sip left instead of remaking it.  No one likes that guy.

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How to Make Money While Traveling Abroad

A friend asked me the other day whether we spent a lot of time “saving up” for our month in Buenos Aires.  The question caught me off guard because really the way we travel is a tad irresponsible and tends to be more haphazard.  Of course, we have a vacation savings account and we are always adding to it, in the hopes we find ourselves with the time off to escape.  But more realistically, I dream up the idea first and then find a creative way to finance  it.  If I waited to have all the money in order before dreaming big, we’d never get any further than Las Vegas.

Dreaming about a life that includes a bedroom with a door and windows that open..

As a consummate saver, I am usually plagued by self doubt right as my finger hovers over the “book it” button.  I mentally scan the empty rooms of our apartment, lament our car free lifestyle and notice the growing hole in the bottom of my shoe.  Can we really afford this?  Is this the most ridiculous decision I have ever made?  Will our unborn children suffer because of our hedonistic decisions?  But those thoughts are always crowded out by more pleasant thoughts like meandering through a local artisan market in Argentina, slurping noodles in Bangkok or hiking a volcano in Costa Rica.

Sometimes, the universe aligns with the travel gods to create a perfect storm. Maybe you find round trip tickets to Thailand for $650 to be used in November, right when you will be finishing a particularly brutal election cycle.  Or perhaps you are feeling stifled in your 350 square foot apartment, ready to move, when it occurs to you that if you put everything in storage for a month you can finance another trip.  I also follow the old adage that if you are starting another job, you always take a trip.  Period.  There is no room for discussion on this one.

It was around late September that I was hit with the inspiration for traveling to South America.  I happened to have some time on my hands after barricading myself in the bathroom to get away from Roem, who was breathing funny while working on music.  Seriously, if you are living right now with your significant other and sharing a space that could be considered a glorified dorm room, I promise it gets better.  Do whatever you have to do to upgrade to the absolute minimum of 450 square feet.

So back to South America.  I was thinking at the time about moving to a bigger apartment after the election ended and

Our apartment in BA that measured twice the size of our previous dorm room in SF.

maybe taking some time to recuperate, when it hit me.  What if we moved out of our apartment, loaded everything into storage (if you want to know how this went, read here) and used the rent money we saved to get a place in Argentina?  I knew from my previous visit that Buenos Aires is a beautiful city where one could live very frugally without much sacrifice.  Our rent in SF totaled about $1500 and I knew we could find a place in Buenos Aires for about $1,000.  By staying in one place and not moving around too much, we could keep our travel budget fairly small.  We added in a long weekend visit to Mendoza that didn’t break the bank and began to realize we could actually do this.

I used some money from our travel account to buy the cheapest tickets to Buenos Aires (around $850) that I could find.  That is a LOT more than I would normally pay for airfare, but I knew once I got there it would be worth it because the cost of living was so much less.   I factored in our usual spending money for the

Ordering the premium cuts of meat I can afford now that we are below the Equator.

month, including grocery money and other incidentals, to get our total budget for the month abroad.  Then we cut out any nonessential spending for October, leaving us with enough money to enjoy ourselves in Argentina and put a security deposit down on a new place when we got back.

It also helped that my amazing sister and brother in law let us crash at their place on our return, until we found an apartment.   They put up with our smelly laundry, messy backpacks, forwarded junk mail and all else that comes with jamming four people into a one bedroom San Francisco apartment.  This one week saved us about $500, allowing us to check a case of carefully packed wine from Mendoza, take our long suffering siblings out to dinner and put the rest in savings.

I am extremely lucky to have a very understanding boss that supported me in my request to take some time off after the election.   Roem was also able to take time off from his job as a server and still promoted his open mic from the Southern Hemisphere.  We maximized our time off by traveling during Thanksgiving and still got some family time in via skype for the holiday.  Our Christmas shopping was done for a fraction of the cost in Argentina and I handmade the rest of our gifts.

So that’s the short version of how we saved money by moving to Argentina for a month.  This is by no means the only way to do this, we have lots of friends that have found their own version of this formula.  Some rent out their apartment or house while they are gone to turn a profit or turn a business trip into a three week long road trip.  Our advice is to think creatively and look outside the box for ways to explore the world without breaking the bank.

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Filed under Adventure, Buenos Aires, Finance, Lifestyle, Mendoza, Moving, San Francisco, San Telmo, Uncategorized