Wow… Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE) actually happened! For me this is such a great feeling. In late 2015 we had an idea to bring together some fellow FIRE bloggers and have a great time somewhere nice. We wrote a blog post to get the message out and it was great to see how many people were interested in actually coming. I mean, actually buying a plane/train ticket, booking a room and coming to meet complete strangers in a city most of them had never been to.
Am I surprised? No! Simply because I know the FIRE community well enough to know what cool people are out there and how much they want to meet similar people in real life. Blogging is good, but actually meeting people with similar mindsets is a lot better and this is a major reason why we started our blog in the first place.
So what did we do?
Day 1 – Wed 20th July: Mrs W and I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and met Oliver (frugalisten.de) who had arrived the night before. He stayed for a whole week just like us so we walked and talked a lot with him. We love his blog. His minimalistic, rational way of life makes so much sense. What a great guy!
Day 2 – Thurs 21st July: We spent the day walking through the city, had a look at St Stephan’s mummified hand and discovered a rooftop bar with fantastic views of St Stephan’s Basilica and the rest of the city. We decided not to stop there for a drink since the price list wasn’t very Mustachian 🙂
Later we had a long walk on Margaret Island, where we had some good lángos. We also spent an hour or two having some very affordable drinks on a boat that’s part of the city’s public transportation system. If you visit Budapest, make sure you check it out.
In the evening Amber Tree Leaves and his wife arrived form Belgium so we picked them up from their hotel and took them for lángos (probably the most calorie-dense of all Hungarian fast food). Great stuff.
Day 3 – Fri 22nd July: We had breakfast in a very nice place called Vintage Garden. This was the place where we discovered how frugal our wallets are. Have a look 🙂
Green Didl-Maus kids wallet: Software engineer
Moustache duct tape wallet: Online marketing consultant
Paper wallet: Option trader
Unfortunately not all participants made it. Ankur had to cancel at short notice since one of his kids was ill. His visit to our home is allready in planning though…
Later on we went to a ruin pub where we discovered minty lemonade. That’s where Jenny and MadFIentist joined us. From there we moved to a different ruin pub called Kuplung where we picked up the Klunkerchen girls and waited for Natasha and Martin.
In the evening we had a long walk along both sides of the Danube. Walking turned out to be a great way of talking to everybody in the group since you can move about more freely than in a restaurant or bar where you tend to only talk to your direct neighbours.
Day 4 – Sat 23rd July:
In the morning a friend of ours gave us a guided tour of the Pest side of the city that included Heroes’ Square, and the iconic Parliament building. We ended up at the central market where some of us tried a modern Hungarian fast food beauty called Kolbice. It’s basically a bunch of cheeky little sausages with cream cheese, salad or sauerkraut in a crunchy bread pocket. Mmmmm…
In the afternoon we checked out the labyrinth of tunnels under the castle (where Dracula was apparently kept prisoner for 10 years). This was a new one for me and Mrs W too (thanks to Jenny for the suggestion). We had a really spooky experience walking through the dark tunnels and even learned some stuff about medieval Hungary.
Once again our day ended in a ruin pub (Köleves). Can you see a pattern emerging here? This time though we discussed how, when and where we want FIWE 2017 to happen. More details below…
Day 5 – Sun 24th July: We started the day at Rudás, one of the oldest Turkish baths in the city. It’s fairly small, but its 500-year-old Turkish section, the fact that it sits right on the banks of the Danube and its rooftop jacuzzi with 360° views of Budapest make it worth visiting.
The Székelygulyás (cabbage-based Hungarian goulash) we had for lunch was not a bad decision after the baths. Yet another opportunity to sit down and talk, talk, talk!
You might have noticed that I can’t talk about Budapest without talking about food. You just can’t use the word Budapest in a sentence without mentioning the wide variety of meals and really good wines you can have there!
At lunchtime, one of the two non-blogger participants arrived: Mr Y from Germany. He originally comes from Indonesia, and he actually just started (possibly the first ever) Financial blog in Indonesian. Be sure to check it out if you speak the language.
During our early afternoon ice cream session first people started to leave to catch their flights home and our second non-blogger arrived: a Dutch guy called Robert who lives in Vienna. Once the new group was complete we all went up to our AirBnB apartment and had some wine.
In a change from our usual evening programme, we picked a Mexican ruin pub/restaurant for our evening discussions. Mrs W was happy to have a break from Hungarian food (after 3 months in Romania eating nothing else, it was time for a change). The place we picked turned out to be pretty loud though so it was difficult to talk properly.
Day 6 – Mon 25th July: Time to leave the tourist trail and show our guests some of the real Hungary: breakfast at an authentic local market (Fényutcai piac). We love it and know it well since we’ve spent a lot of time in the area.
What do you do after breakfast? Exactly! Lunch! After a coffee and a lot more interesting discussions we had lunch in a nice pedestrian street nearby.
Then it was time to make good on our promise of a boat trip on one of those commuter boats. There’s no better place to have a glass of good Hungarian wine than on a boat going up and down the Danube with the parliament on one side and the castle on the other. The ride was basically free. I love that.
Later we met some Hungarian friends in a restaurant for our last dinner together. We tried to sell our friends the concept of FI with limited success and Mr W and our tour guide from Saturday sang the Hungarian national anthem right there on the street. Then it was time to divide up a metre-long bill once again before taking a final walk through the city and saying goodbye.
Day 7 – Tues 26th July: Unfortunately FIWE ended for us as well early on Tuesday morning when we decided to go home because our kids were a bit ill. We were really lucky my family took care of them so that we could be in Budapest for a whole week. We’re really thankful to them.
So what did we think of the first FIWE?
When I first started thinking about organising something like this, I knew we’d meet some cool people. I had no idea how many bloggers would make it, but it wasn’t even that important. I just wanted to get people together and brainstorm about building up the FIRE community in Europe, have a nice time and talk about things we like to talk about.
Here are some random things that I personally learned from this first event:
- We didn’t run out of stuff to talk about: Even though there are so many different countries in Europe with different tax systems and laws etc. there are enough topics to talk about. The concept of FIRE is universal but everyone has to adapt the strategies and find out how things work in their own countries. Most of the time we didn’t even talk about finances, tax stuff or the like. We mostly talked about general lifestyle things like minimalist living.
- Geographic arbitrage is big: The excuse “Oh, but the tax laws are so different in each EU country, there’s no point about talking about it” is nonsense. The fact that laws are different makes the discussions all the more exciting: Europe is the place for geographic arbitrage. FIWE is a forum for discovering interesting strategies.
- The stuff people don’t write about is at least as interesting as the stuff they do write about: Reading European FI blogs is great, but what’s even better is to talk to the people behind the blogs and find out what they don’t write about. All those little loopholes, all those legal differences between countries that are soo good and so incredible that people don’t really want to publicise them. For me this point alone makes it really worthwhile to continue with the whole FIWE project.
- We made new friends. The other participants were just great. Obviously I won’t become really close friends with everybody we met, but everybody was interesting in their own way and I feel very positive and look forward to meeting them again soon.
- We learned about ourselves: Organising FIWE made me and Mrs W stronger as a couple. I am the one who comes up with the crazy ideas, while Mrs W is really good at making my dreams reality. She enjoys dealing with the small details. It works really well and we both know how important that is for our relationship. Raising kids together is one thing, but having a common project is something that makes us stronger and happier as a couple.
- Having enough time to talk to everybody properly is important: Enough said.
- Give precise information: As the organisers, it’s up to us to set out a clear framework for the event with clear rules so that everything goes smoothly. At future events we’ll need to improve how we manage things like exchanging money and getting metro passes so that we save ourselves and the participants a lot of time.
FIWE 2016 is over – so when is FIWE 2017 happening?
We discussed FIWE 2017 with the other participants and got loads of great ideas. At the moment we’re working hard to get a time and place pinned down, then we’ll be posting more details here and on our facebook page. Watch this space…
Update: here’s Mrs W’s post about FIWE