Tuesday, August 4, 2009

One of those promised posts - finances

How in the world can we afford to do what we're doing?

In all, we've spent about $5000 in the past 10 months, including student loan payments, airplane and bus tickets, 4 months of rent, and emergency medical care. Excluding those, we've spent about $200 per month or $3 per person per day. And we're having fun, that's important, too, isn't it? We have since increased our daily budget to $15/person because we saved so much in the earlier part of our trip and anticipate either having jobs in Germany or moving to Los Angeles in 3 months. Please note that the "Europe on a Shoestring" and other budget travel books suggest a daily budget of anywhere from 40-70€ per day (That's, like, 4 times our budget. Plus, they make sweeping generalizations about nationalities, and that just smacks a bit of racism/nationalism, especially when the generalities are on the order of "Austrians are grouchy and right-wing". NOT a view we espouse.)

Here's what you should do to live a typical week of our lives (spliced together to accomodate a wide variety of money-saving tactics, but all borrowed from real experience):
Wake up in Lingdal with some cousins. Eat a full breakfast, compliments of the family. Get a cozy, comfy ride to Kristianstad and bid adieu to the relatives.
Go into the Ferry terminal. Learn that the cheap tickets to Denmark sold out, and we can either pay the equivalent of $75 or wait a week. Leave ferry terminal to consider options. Go into grocery store. Brendan is pleased as punch to find a whole grilled chicken for 29,90 kr ($5). Stina gets chocolate and beans (pork and beans style, but without the pork) for about the same total. Eat on the curb while watching the Norwegian world go by.
Upon having full stomachs, come to realize that hitchhiking is the best thing in the world.
Catch some rides into Oslo (Thank you, rides!). Ride the train ($6 each) to the center of town, getting directions from the train driver while aboard. Hurry into the central station (it's dark now) to find bathrooms. Discover these cost money, so go to Peppe's Pizza across the street and ask the bartender if we can use their bathroom. Get the kind man's permission. Use the toilets. Eat bread and cheese or chicken.
Haven't confirmed a place to sleep tonight, so find the Sidewalk Express internet terminal (1 hr - 2€ - $2.80). Log in to Couchsurfing.com. Find kind like-minded host has responded to request (have sent about 9 to potential hosts). Copy down the directions left in the message and a phone number. Log off after 12 minutes, save sidewalk express username and password in wallet. Find whole cigarette laying on ground. Pick up, examine, determine cleanliness and perfection, hide in brim of hat for use later as bargaining chip when thrown in the slammer.
Ask the lady at the newspaper kiosk which numbers to dial into the pay phone. Put lots of small change and one large piece of change into the phone. Dial the correct numbers. Confirm that you can stay with her, get some specifics about getting off the train, down the hill and to her home. Hang up and collect all the pieces of small change, losing only the 20 kr piece ($3.33). Get on subway, noting that bus ticket from earlier will suffice for this ride. Ride tram to appropriate stop, enjoy sensation of rain in anticipation of dry abode. By happenstance, meet host as she drives past. Follow car to home. Go to room. Spread out wet gear to dry. Go downstairs for a cup of tea and to get to know host. Sigh with contentment.
Awesome day! Total cost: $14.07 per person
Awake next morning around 10:30AM. Shower. Plan to go into Oslo to see the sculpture park and all the awesome things there are to do for free in Oslo. Opt to read and nap instead. Around 3PM journey downstairs to visit with hitchhiking-enthusiastic host. She's making jam. Go outside and pick plums and cherries from her trees. Interview host about her hitchhiking. Learn of her housemate's impending birthday. Choose to make a special meal for the evening. Go to store and discover that they don't carry tomato paste or lentils. Buy fixins for spaghetti and sauce: Pasta ($2), tomatoes ($2), canned tomatoes ($1), red peppers ($2.50), Hvitlok (garlic, $2). Already have onions. Buy ice cream ($4). Buy yogurt ($2). Go home and make dinner while everybody chats in the kitchen. Be the opener of a fine Riesling contributed by the birthday girl. Eat way more than necessary. Play Yatzy (the Scandinavian version!). Giggle until breathless. Sigh with satisfaction.
Awesomer day! Total cost: $7.75 per person
Awake next morning around 10AM. Wish the birthday host her happy birthday. Eat jam and bread and leftover pasta. Use internets to discover possible jobs in Magdeburg and Saarbrücken. Relax in the sun with Euro Shopper brand müsli and yogurt. Bid adieu to hosts. Tramp, upon consultation of map and knowledge of hitchhiking-savvy host, to nearby freeway entrance. Catch some rides (thank you, rides!). With last ride of the day, learn of a medieval festival in a castle taking place in Kungälv. Ride is working at festival, and can sneak you in for free. Accept invitation to stay the night in host's tent on the castle grounds. Borrow clothes from host. Meet host's friends, all fellow LARPers. Notice that they all call one of their number "Dansk". Also call him "The Dane". Imagine he's decended from the same line as Hamlet. Learn to say "Kann jorg yelpe de?", "Jorg elske de.", "Wat hette du?", and "Hor mor du?". Become "The American". Find a discarded plate of medieval stew. Follow the partying medievally-garbed men and women around the castle. Sigh with excitement.
Unexpected day! Total cost: $0 per person
Awake around 9AM. Use toilets. Help set up a beam for an activity for the public to enjoy. Anticipate swinging a straw pillow at an opponent and falling off. Gather straw and spread on mat under beam so that falling off won't hurt. Follow someone important-looking to their car and ride with them to the store. Buy tomatoes ($2) and cheese ($8). Return to castle by secret entrance. Note that porta-potties have become pay-porta-potties. Thank lucky stars you already went. Wander around festival now in progress. Watch the slave auction. Try to participate, but fail. Covet others' candy apples. Find candy apple dropped in dirt and abandoned. Take to hose. Wash thoroughly. Enjoy thoroughly. Listen to rocking German bagpipe group that everybody's been talking about, Schelmisch (trans.: Rogueish). Scavenge two more candied apples and some bread from trash cans. Everything free tastes better. Leave festival, using workers' toilet on the way out. Tramp about 1k to nearest freeway entrance. Catch some rides (thanks, rides!). End up at deserted entrance. Watch gorgeous sunset as you try to catch another ride. Wander into woods and make good use of alt mann's rette (trans.: every man's right). Sleep with the gurgle of a stream to lull you. Sigh with appreciation.
Delicious day! total cost: $5 per person
Awake to rain pattering the tarp on the tent at 7AM. Hurry up and pack away everything. Thank goodness for tarps. Hitch towards Copenhagen (thank you, rides!). Have a slow day. STop at a gas station with a Burger King. Bus other people's abandoned food. Scavenge 1 large fry's worth of fries. Get ride to Malmö. See the Turning Tower and the bridge to Denmark at night. Ride asks his building's "fake cop" (his words. Americans might say "rent-a-cop"... but properly and in order to not be derogatory, you think "security guard") if you can sleep in the apartment building's side yard. The guard says that he won't disturb you unless someone complains. You decide that's too much of a risk, and your kind and patient ride leads you 200 meters to a park. Find an out of the way corner and pitch your tent. Awake to rain pattering at 2AM and cover the tent with a tarp. Toss and turn restlessly. Sleep fitfully. Sigh with exasperation.
Rough day! total cost: $0 per person
Get up at noon. Trudge to hitchhiking spot as advised by hitchhiking-unsavvy ride the night before. Stop to use the restrooms in a mall along the way. Complete trudge to spot. Turn down 3 rides (thank you, almost rides!) going the wrong way. Make a sign. Wait at fruitless spot through heavy rains. Get cold, wet, and frustrated. Practice singing. Give up. Trudge back to mall. Go to grocery store. Find too-high prices and a confusing array of goods. Buy chocolate (16,50 kr - $2.35). Sit despondently. Get fed up with bread and cheese. Go back into grocery store. Buy lettuce ($3), tomato ($3), mango (7,90 kr $1) and feta cheese (13,90 kr - $2). Eat salad in a plastic bag. It's a delicious change of pace. Decide to go to train station to see your non-hitchhiking options. Have no Swedish cash for tram. Try to buy crackers and get cash back at store. Get told "not with that card". Buy crackers anyway in embarrassment (9,90 kr - $1.40). Just start walking towards the center of town. Get confused about which way to go. Ask a lady who speaks no English. Watch her disbelief as you try to explain you are WALKING into the center because you don't have 18 measly kröner to take the bus. Accept with grace that she has pointed in two directions 90 degrees apart and indicated that they are the centrum. Note that the signs also point in two directions, and suspect that one is for cars and one is for bikes. Then accept that that still doesn't make sense, but walk in the direction that seems for bikes. Spy a streetcar after trudging a couple km. Discover hurrah! that you can buy tram tickets with a Visa. Get flustered when presented with options for Copenhagen and Malmö centrum. Choose the cheaper of 2 options (18 kr - $2.65 per person). Feel poor. Eat some chocolate. Find Malmö centrum to be bustling but closed. Note the very sad woman on the floor and the man protesting to a transit employee that they don't have any money. See Sidewalk Express. Use a few more of the minutes you already have from your card in Oslo to check some internet. Consider the lateness of the day and the possibilities available to you. Get frustrated and flustered when you realize you poured $5 down the drain. Get over it. Bite the bullet and buy tickets to Copenhagen ($14 per person). Discover that nothing seems cheap or easy. Then discover that Sidewalk Express provides free access to Gmail and Blogger. Send emergency couchsurfing requests for Copenhagen and to a friend in Copenhagen. Call friend in Copenhagen (5,20 kr - $1.40). Get email from friend. Go to her home. Sleep soundly. Sigh with relief.
Long day! total cost: $16.75 per person
Wake up at 9AM. Enjoy the company and generosity of friend and her roommate, who both insist on paying for everything. See the amazing city of Copenhagen. Sleep.
Rejuvenating Day! total cost: $0 per person
Cost for the week: $87.14 for two people or $6 and some change per person per day.

Most mornings when we wake up in someone's home we have a full and leisurely breakfast during which we share our jam, cheese and chocolate, and they offer us some veggies, bread and spreadables.

Now play mad lib with the details for a choose your own adventure and send it to us. You can do this. If you don't, we'll try to live it out vicariously for you!


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