Diaries of a Wandering Lobster http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com A Journey in Personal Finance, Travel, Life, and Everything Else Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:57:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Horsing Around with Newport Polo http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/27/horsing-around-newport-polo/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/27/horsing-around-newport-polo/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:57:38 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1641 Newport, Rhode Island is a classic New England summer resort town of the rich and famous. Some of the wealthiest families in America owned summer “cottages” in Newport in the early 1900s. It was once known as the city of “Summer White Houses” during the administrations of Presidents Dwight D Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. […]

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Newport Polo

Newport Polo

Newport, Rhode Island is a classic New England summer resort town of the rich and famous. Some of the wealthiest families in America owned summer “cottages” in Newport in the early 1900s. It was once known as the city of “Summer White Houses” during the administrations of Presidents Dwight D Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. In 1953, John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouiver in St. Mary’s Church in downtown Newport.

Each year thousands of tourists flock to Newport to experience the charm of this classic seaside town. Many choose to indulge in their favorite seafood dishes, take a stroll down the 3.5 mile public Cliff Walk trail, or experience how the “other half” lived while touring the various Guilded Age mansions of the Vanderbilts and the Astors.

I enjoyed all those activities during my weekend in Newport with my best friend, but the one activity that I was truly looking forward to was the polo match on Saturday afternoon. Growing up I rode horses competitively for 10 years and when anyone mentions the word “horse” or I see a horse, I immediately get giddy with excitement. I’ve never seen a polo match before as it is not played in such places as Maine. Polo very much is known as the sport of the rich and famous or royalty (at least in the US).

The Newport Polo Club was founded in 1876 in Newport, Rhode Island. The club is a functioning body of America’s first polo club, the Westchester Polo Club. Many of Newport Polo Club’s founding members were from Westchester County, NY and summered in Newport. The original club remained active until 1929 where it stopped due to the onset of WWI and The Great Depression. The club was revived again with its original name in 1992. Today it is a registered club with the United States Polo Association. The Newport Polo Club has a wonderful in-depth piece of the club’s history here.

A polo pony

A polo pony

Polo is a team sport played on horseback. Players attempt to score against the opposing team by driving a small white ball through a goal post with a long-handled mallet. Each team consists of four pairs of horses and riders on the field at one time. The game is played on a large field at speed. Games last about 2 hours with periods called chukkas of 7 minutes. Most games consist of between 4 and 8 chukkas in a match. Newport Polo plays 6 chukkas in their matches. The very first polo game ever played occurred in Persia (now Iran) around 6th Century BC and 1st Century AD. Polo was a popular sport of the Emperors in Asia in the early centuries. The modern game of polo originates from Manipur (now a state in India). In 1862 the first polo match, Calcutta Polo Club, was founded by two British soldiers stationed in India. Military officers imported the game to England in the 1860s. Around the same time, British settlers in Argentina began playing the sport. The first polo match in Argentina was played in 1875. Since the mid-1800s, the sport has spread throughout the Americas in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.

As a self-proclaimed horse lover, I enjoyed watching the “polo ponies” the most during the games. The horses used for polo are not actual ponies as they are called. Most of the “ponies” are horses that stand between 14.2 and 16 hands (a hand is equivalent to 4 inches and is measured from the ground to the withers (where the neck meets the back)). Most of the polo ponies are Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbred crosses. Thoroughbreds are a very popular horse breed outside of horse racing due to their speed, stamina, and agility. I owned a Thoroughbred for a few years and trained him as a show jumper. All players have more than one horse to ride throughout the game to keep the horse “fresh.” As you can imagine it can be a tiring game for a horse running up and down the field sometimes at a full gallop.

Newport Polo Club matches are played at the historic Glen Farm in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The land was settled in 1630s with some of the very first settlers in America. The field is located a short drive from Newport. Matches are played every Saturday from June through September starting at 5pm (4pm in September). Matches are played against other teams from the USA or international teams from far-away places like Singapore, Ireland, and Kenya. There are three levels of admission: lawn seats ($12/person), box seats ($20/person), and VIP Lounge passes ($50/person). Parking is free and you need to pay in cash! Dogs are welcomed on leash and you can bring a picnic and blanket and/or chairs. People will commonly tailgate before the match begins.

My friend and I attended the July 26th match between Newport and Palm Beach. It was sprinkling a little in the afternoon, but other than that the weather was decent. We met up with my sister and her friends who had set up a tent and had been tailgating for a couple of hours prior to our arrival. We brought a picnic lunch of cheese and crackers, fruit, and some lavender mead from Maine Mead Works. The game started about 20 minutes late because one of the team’s horse trailer got stuck in traffic. Once all the horses arrived, the teams paraded around the field for the audience and they began warming up. The announcer, who had a wonderful British accent (swoon!), announced the players and played the National Anthem. Soon the first chukka began! We had lawn seats, but most of the game was being played at the other side of the field. Like football, after each goal is scored, the teams switch sides. Palm Beach quickly took the lead and held it for the rest of the match.

 

Swinging the mallet at a cantar Stomping the Divots Flags of the countries Goal! Imprinted hoof A nap before the game Horse "on deck" Parading players Let the games begin! Chasing the ball "Get off the field"

As soon as the whistle went off I moved myself up to the front lines to watch the match as I was excited to see the game! Everyone else stayed back at the tent and drank beer and wine. The game was fast-moving and the 7 minute chukkas went by quickly. I was quite impressed with the rider’s horsemen abilities. Polo is a tough sport and requires not only the horse to be agile and move in any one direction at the drop of a dime, but the rider needs to be able to control and maneuver the horse to get to the ball. Not to mention there is a giant mallet being swung around one’s head! Since Newport plays 6 chukkas, there is an intermission between the 3rd and 4th chukka. During this time the audience is invited to “stomp the divots” in the field. During play, divots or small holes in the turf are formed by the horses’ hooves. Patrons will walk across the field to stomp the grass back in place. At this time patrons can meet some of the players as they walk their horses back to the playing field.

Just as quickly as we were able to walk on the field, the refs ushered us off the field to resume play. Palm Beach quickly scored more goals, but Newport was able to rally a bit during the final chukka. Palm Beach won the match with a score of 11 to 8. Bummer for the home team! I enjoyed the game and I would go back in a heartbeat to see another match, preferably against a foreign team (hello gorgeous Argentinan men!). However, I really want a telephoto lens so I can take better pictures!

Have you ever seen a polo match before? Would you ever consider playing?

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Exploring the French Quarter of New Orleans http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/25/exploring-french-quarter-new-orleans/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/25/exploring-french-quarter-new-orleans/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:53:36 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1624 I think John Goodman said it right in 2010: “If I could put my finger on it, I’d bottle it and sell it. I came down here originally in 1972 with some drunken fraternity guys and had never seen anything like it — the climate, the smells. It’s the cradle of music; it just flipped […]

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I think John Goodman said it right in 2010:

“If I could put my finger on it, I’d bottle it and sell it. I came down here originally in 1972 with some drunken fraternity guys and had never seen anything like it — the climate, the smells. It’s the cradle of music; it just flipped me. Someone suggested that there’s an incomplete part of our chromosomes that gets repaired or found when we hit New Orleans. Some of us just belong here.” – John Goodman, Los Angeles Times, 2010

Traditional French Quarter architecture

Traditional French Quarter architecture

In June, I went to New Orleans for two reasons: 1) a work conference and 2) to check out Tulane School of Public Health. Tulane has been my number one choice in graduate schools for some time so I jumped at the chance to go for a work conference. Tulane has the exact PhD program that I want and numerous professors that conduct research in public health areas that I’m interested in (since I’ll be studying that subject for 4-5 years!). When talking with one of the professors, he asked me how I liked New Orleans. I told him that I hadn’t seen much of it yet because of my conference. He told me that it was a city that I’d either hate or love. There is no real in-between. Good thing because I absolutely fell head over heels for this city that I hope to call home in a few years.

New Orleans is a city of deep history and culture. Everywhere you walk, you’ll see it on the streets. However, the area you’ll see it the most is in the French Quarter. The French Quarter, or Vieux Carre, is the oldest neighborhood in the city founded in 1718. “The Quarter” is designated as a National Historic Landmark and suffered relatively light damaged from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 due to its distance from the levee.

The French Quarter is bordered by the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and inland to North Rampart Street for a total of 78 street blocks. Many of the current building date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s when the United States purchased New Orleans in the Louisiana Purchase. The architecture of The Quarter reflects Spanish colonial architecture because most homes were built during Spanish occupation of the city. The original French architecture was destroyed during the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 and another great fire in 1794. Since the 1920s the historic buildings have been protected by law and cannot be demolished and renovations must be approved by the city.

One of the main attractions in the French Quarter is Jackson Square. Jackson Square is a one-square public gated park designed by architect and landscaper Louis H. Pilie. It was originally names Place d’Armes, but renamed after General Andrew Jackson (who would later become President) after the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. City leaders purchased the equestrian statue of Jackson in 1856. Opposite the small park is St. Louis Cathedral. To the left of the cathedral is The Cabildo, the old city hall, now a museum where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. To the right of the cathedral is The Presbytere, which originally housed the Catholic priests, but later became the courthouse in the early 1800s.

Beginets Cafe Beignets - not quite Cafe du Monde, but equally yummy! Hotel flags Traditional architecture A horn band playing on Bourdon Street A Mississippi Riverboat on the river

Nearby Jackson Square is Cafe du Monde, where you can purchase beignets and cafe au lait 24 hours a day except for Christmas! If you’ve never had beignets then it’s a must hit spot to feed your sugar tooth. Beignets is a French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux paste topped off with powdered sugar.

Playing on Bourdon

Playing on Bourdon

Perhaps the most famous landmark in the French Quarter is Bourdon Street or Rue Bourdon. Bourdon Street extends 13 blocks from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue. It is primarily known for its bars and strip clubs, especially during Mardi Gras. Walking down Bourdon Street will stimulate all your senses. Local musicians will hang out in the streets playing amazing jazz for a few dollars from the tourists. You’ll see barely clothed strippers hanging out in the doorways trying to attract the attention of some drunken men. Numerous tourists are sipping hurricanes while walking down the street to the next bar. The French Quarter has an open container law so it’s not uncommon to see drunk folks stumbling down the street with a giant hurricane in their hands.

There are several restaurants located on Bourdon Street and many delicious restaurants throughout the French Quarter serving traditional Creole, Cajun, and anything in between. While I was in New Orleans I tried everything from the local fish, Beignets, to turtle soup. You can’t really go wrong with all the good food around!

Just walking around the French Quarter is like walking back in history. I’m a huge fan of the architecture of the Quarter. It reminds me of the Caribbean meets Europe. As an avid traveler I enjoyed the mix of architecture styles and the culture. Around every street corner is a local musician, artist or fortune-teller. The art galleries are prevalent and full of local artists’ work. The cobblestone streets have hanging plants draping off the iron-rod balcony fences and old-fashion gas-lit lanterns light your path.

A little birdie ate my grits A painter at work Do you want your palm read? Royal Street Restaurant Saxophone player

Thousands of tourists flock to New Orleans every year to enjoy its history, architecture, music, and good food and drink. Whether you are sucking down hurricanes left and right during Mardi Gras or eating your way through all the Creole and Cajun dishes in New Orleans, the French Quarter cannot be missed. It is truly the heart of New Orleans.

Have you been to New Orleans? What do you think of the French Quarter?

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Sunday Postcard – August 24, 2014 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/24/sunday-postcard-august-24-2014/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/24/sunday-postcard-august-24-2014/#comments Sun, 24 Aug 2014 23:31:32 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1621 Sunday Post

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Sunday Post

Boats on the Kennebunk River in Kennebunkport, Maine

Boats on the Kennebunk River in Kennebunkport, Maine

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10 Things To Do in Kennebunkport, Maine http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/22/top-10-things-kennebunkport-maine/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/22/top-10-things-kennebunkport-maine/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:44:38 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1596 Kennebunkport, Maine is a quintessential seaside town in southern Maine. Thousands of tourists flock to the small coastal town to eat lobster and get a glimpse of the Bush family. After all, Kennebunkport is only about 90 minutes north of Boston and 30 minutes south of Portland. The town is more than just Presidential sightings […]

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Welcome to Kennebunkport, Maine!

Welcome to Kennebunkport, Maine!

Kennebunkport, Maine is a quintessential seaside town in southern Maine. Thousands of tourists flock to the small coastal town to eat lobster and get a glimpse of the Bush family. After all, Kennebunkport is only about 90 minutes north of Boston and 30 minutes south of Portland. The town is more than just Presidential sightings and lobster though. There is plenty to do in both Kennebunkport and its sister town, Kennebunk, to meet the whole family’s interests.

10 Things to do in Kennebunkport, Maine

1. Seashore Trolley Museum – The Seashore Trolley Museum is located just a few miles outside of Dock Square on Log Cabin Road. The museum contains over 250 transit vehicles, mostly trolleys from all over the world. It was started in 1939 and has since grown exponentially over the decades with the help of hundreds of enthusiast volunteers. As you walk through the main gate, you are instantly brought back in time where railways dominated transportation around the world. One can step aboard trolley cars from Boston to London to Japan. For $10 an adult and $7.50 a child, it’s a great way to explore history and ride a trolley!

Welcome to the Seashore Trolley Museum

Welcome to the Seashore Trolley Museum

2. Ocean Avenue – Ocean Avenue is the main seaside road that winds around the coast from Dock Square in Kennebunkport up to Arundel. Grab your jogging shoes or a bike to exercise with a view! Of course, you can drive your car down the road, but to really take it the beautiful summer cottages and the most famous “cottage” on Walker’s Point, it’s best to explore on foot as you’ll want to snap some pictures of the ocean waves crashing on the rocks.

3. Walker’s Point – Any trip to Kennebunkport isn’t complete without a glimpse of former President George H. W. Bush’s family compound on Walker’s Point. While you can’t just walk up to the front door without being jumped by multiple secret service agents, you can stop along Ocean Avenue and snap some photos on the cliffs of the home. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see the Bush family!

Walker's Point George H. W. Bush Crashing waves

4. Saint Ann’s Church – St. Ann’s Episcopal Church is a historical stone church located off of Ocean Ave. It’s about halfway between town and Walker’s Point. The church was built in 1887 to serve the communities of Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Cape Porpoise. The church is constructed from large sea-washed stones, pine beams, and slate floors. There are 25 beautiful stain-glass windows, many of which are from the turn-of-the-century. The church is open from mid-June through Labor Day for visitors. You don’t have to be a religious person to enjoy the church as its history and architectural beauty are worth the stop.

A view from Ocean Avenue Saint Ann Church Inside the Chapel Beautiful stained glass windows

5. Dock Square – Dock Square is the main town square located along the Kennebunk River. Historically Kennebunkport is a shipbuilding and fishing town, which you can still see with the many boat yards in the area. Seafood is abundant at all the restaurants and it can’t get much fresher than that! Shops are filled with local, handcrafted goods and typical preppy, nautical-inspired clothes. Any trip to Kennebunkport isn’t complete until you stop at the Pink Tangerine for some Lilly Pulitzer! :-)

Shopping for Lilly Pulitzer Dock Square The Candyman Candy from The Candyman Take a carriage ride

6. The Beaches – There are several great beaches in the area for your swimming and tanning pleasure. Just make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen! Kennebunk Beach is a great sandy beach to hit at low tide for the whole family. Just beware that parking can be limited along the street. Gooch’s Beach is another hot spot and is dog-friendly during the early morning and evening hours. It’s best at low tide and parking is $20 for non-residents.

7. Saint Anthony’s Monastery – Located across the river in Kennebunk, the Monastery grounds are open to the public year around. The Monastery operates a guesthouse/hotel on the grounds that has favorable reviews. As a functional Monastery, there is an open air chapel on the grounds and numerous walking trails along the Kennebunk River to enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature.

The Wedding Cake House

The Wedding Cake House

8. The Wedding Cake House – Located at 104 Summer Street in Kennebunk, the Wedding Cake House is claimed to be the most photographed house in Maine. Who doesn’t want to take a picture of a house that looks like a wedding cake? Now only if it was edible…. oh, wait this is not the story of Hansel and Gretel. Unfortunately, there are no tours offered at the house as it is a private residential home, but you can stop along Maine 9A and snap a few photos of this unique home.

9. Picnic in the Park – Grab some food at any of the local eateries around Dock Square and head to the River Green Park to enjoy a picnic on the grass. The small park is quiet and kid friendly. The little flower garden is perfect place to sit a read a book for a couple of hours or just people watch. PS – There is plenty of free parking on the side streets in this area.

History at the park Pink lillys The perfect reading nook Colorful flowers The River Green

10. Eat Lobster – Obviously, if you visit Maine you need to eat the red crustacean that we’re so famous for! Whether it’s a whole lobster or a famous lobster roll at the local seafood shack. You can’t go wrong. Follow up your lobster feast with a cone of the world-famous Rococo Artisan Ice Cream!

Lobster!

Lobster!

Kennebunkport, Maine offers a wide range of activities to do during the summer months. Not just the things listed above. You can enjoy whale watching, kayaking the Kennebunk River, or sailing the great Atlantic Ocean. If adventure on the sea isn’t you’re thing, then explore the art galleries while nibbing on homemade fudge from The Candy Man. Visiting Kennebunkport during fall, winter, or spring? Check the Kennebunkport Business Associate website HERE.

Have you been to Kennebunkport? What was your favorite activity?

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Green Animals Topiary Garden – Newport, RI http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/18/green-animals-topiary-garden/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/18/green-animals-topiary-garden/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:45:47 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1574 The Green Animals Topiary Garden house is located in Portsmouth, Rhode Island not far from the mega-mansions of Newport. The Green Animal estate is nothing like the historical marble homes of the Vanderbilts and Astors, but offers something unique – the lust and colorful gardens. The small estate overlooking Narragansett Bay was purchased by Thomas E. Brayton […]

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Views of the archway from the wrap-around porch

Views of the archway from the wrap-around porch

The Green Animals Topiary Garden house is located in Portsmouth, Rhode Island not far from the mega-mansions of Newport. The Green Animal estate is nothing like the historical marble homes of the Vanderbilts and Astors, but offers something unique – the lust and colorful gardens. The small estate overlooking Narragansett Bay was purchased by Thomas E. Brayton in 1877. The estate contained a classic white clapboard home, farm out buildings, and seven acres of pasture and gardens. Mr. Brayton was treasurer of the Union Cotton Manufacturing Company in Fall River, Massachusetts from 1879 to 1920. The family used the estate as a summer cottage for many years until about 1910 when the family closed up the house, possibly due to the death of Martha Brayton (Mr. Brayton’s wife). When Mr. Brayton died at age 86 in 1939, he left the estate to his daughter, Alice, and son, Edward. Alice decided to make the estate her permanent residence in 1940 and named it “Green Animals” after the topiary gardens. At this time she winterized the summer cottage and moved the kitchen inside the home.

Alice is a very remarkable woman. She never married, but was very active in her community. During the Great Depression, she helped initiate a relief program in Fall River to administer tickets for milk, food, and clothing based on family needs. She founded the District Nursing Association of Fall River and sat on several boards. She also supported many children’s causes as a result of her effort, there is a toy museum in her home. Edward sold his share of the estate to Alice for $1 in 1939. After moving to Green Animals, Alice published five books and was a contributing author to “Gardens of America.” Alice was very fond of the gardens and enjoyed her morning ritual of a daily walk through the gardens. She entertained frequently in the garden. Her most renowned party was Jacqueline Bouvier’s coming out party she hosted in the late 1940s where she rented a carousel for guest’s amusement. Alice allowed the gardeners freedom to design and cultivate. Alice enjoyed the fresh vegetables and fruits from her garden and only allowed the produce to be picked at its ripest time to be consumed that day. Alice lived at her home until her death in 1972. She left her estate to The Preservation Society of Newport County for future generations to enjoy.

The green giraffe

The green giraffe

What makes the estate unique and a beautiful place to visit is the topiary garden. Mr. Brayton hired Joseph Carreiro, a Portuguese gardener, as his superintendent. Carreiro was responsible for creating most of the present topiary up until his death in 1945. His son-in-law, George Mendonca, took over as superintendent and continued to care for and create new topiary until his retirement in 1985. The gardens contain 80 sculptured trees amongst the flower beds. Favorites include the teddy bears, a giraffe, and many more. The sculptures are made from California yew and English boxwood. The oldest topiaries are made of boxwood seedlings in 1912. Boxwood is a dense small-leaved native evergreen. Topiaries from the 1940s forward are made from California privet. Privet is a semi evergreen shrub that grows quickly. Many of the topiaries took decades to shape. Unfortunately, a few of the animals have been hit with a fungal infection.

On the day that we visited the estate, it just started to rain. Despite the rain, the gardens were beautiful. I was excited to finally be able to take some pictures of the estate (you’re not allowed to photograph inside the mansions) and enjoyed the colorful and heavily scented flora. As you enter the formal gardens, you are greeted with the giraffe, camel, lion, and elephant amongst the colorful flowers. You’re walk through the orchard beds of crabapple trees and assorted perennials to the upper topiary lawn filled with many more topiaries, including my favorite – the teddy bears and baby giraffe. Further past the topiaries, you’ll find the award-winning dahlias and lilies and many more flowers.

Personally, The Elms was my favorite house, but Green Animals is a very close second. Green Animals is a bit off the beaten-path compared to many of the mansions located on or near Bellevue Avenue. But, it is worth the 10 minute drive to see the beautiful gardens and glimpse at a different style home.

  

White lillies Wally the Wandering Lobster meeting one of the teddy bears The elephant The grape arbor The gardens Colorful flowers

For more information, check out http://www.newportmansions.org/documents/green_animals_living_art.pdf.

Have you been to the Green Animals Topiary Garden? Do you enjoy colorful gardens?

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Sunday Postcard – August 17, 2014 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/17/sunday-postcard-august-17-2014/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/17/sunday-postcard-august-17-2014/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 15:14:46 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1571 The post Sunday Postcard – August 17, 2014 appeared first on Diaries of a Wandering Lobster.

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A Saturday afternoon polo match in Newport, Rhode Island

A Saturday afternoon polo match in Newport, Rhode Island

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5 Things Every College Graduate Needs to Do http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/15/5-things-every-college-graduate-needs/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/15/5-things-every-college-graduate-needs/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:50:07 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1566 So, you just graduated college (okay, maybe some of you graduated 10 years ago)… congratulations! Welcome to the “real world!” Let’s hope that you were able to land a job fairly quickly once you graduated. Maybe it’s not the job you wanted, but it pays the bills as you look for your ideal job. Finding […]

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thetruecostsofcollege

So, you just graduated college (okay, maybe some of you graduated 10 years ago)… congratulations! Welcome to the “real world!” Let’s hope that you were able to land a job fairly quickly once you graduated. Maybe it’s not the job you wanted, but it pays the bills as you look for your ideal job. Finding a job after graduating college is tough, especially it the recent years of the economy. I graduated undergrad in December 2008 just as the economy collapsed. It took me a few months to find full-time employment, but it was only a temp position. Nine months later I found full-time employment at a small biotech company. I finished my Masters in Public Health degree in December 2012. It took me over 9+ month to find my current full-time job. Luckily I was still working at the lab while I was job searching. I was extremely unhappy at my lab job, but I sucked it and did what I asked because I needed to pay my bills. Sometimes you just have to do that.

As a newly graduated college student you probably don’t know much about how finances and employment benefits work. It’s confusing and you’re not alone in figuring it all out. I am lucky that my father drilled the importance starting investing in your retirement as soon as possible. But, not many young adults have this support system. Below are 5 things that I think all recent college grads (or really anyone) should do as soon as you say your final goodbyes to your college campus. I recently helped my younger sister with some of this as she recently graduated college and has absolutely no concept of money. She spends it as soon as she gets it… like most young people.

5 Things Every College Graduate Needs to Do

1. Create a budget and stick to it

I didn’t have a strict budget for many years and it showed. I was never horrible with money, but I certainly could have done much better with my spending and saving. I got my wake-up call this past fall when I began a new job, my graduate student loans came out of their grace period (hello $300 a month bill), and new life focuses (i.e., grad school, travel). I am now on a budget that I generally follow every month. It has certainly helped me focus on the important goals – start a 6 month emergency fund and pay off my student loans! There are various tools that you can use to create a budget. I personally use Mint.com (which I absolutely adore and it’s free!) and a good old fashion spreadsheet. So, create your budget based on your current monthly income and stick to it!

2. Organize your student loans

With all my undergrad and graduate school student loans, I have multiple lenders and different payment due dates. The first thing I did when I graduated from my undergraduate university was to make a spreadsheet of all my student loans with all the pertinent information (i.e. payment due dates, interest rate, amounts, etc.). This allows me to not only determine my payment schedules and keep track of each one, but also to calculate my total student loan debt (and it’s a very scary number!). I recently did this for my younger sister because her student loans just came out of their grace period. I highly recommend this step because it gives you a glimpse of the whole picture. You can then add your student loan accounts to Mint.com or ReadyForZero. Check out my article here on tools to help manage your student loans.

3. Start a retirement account and invest in it

Compound interest is a beautiful thing! Start contributing to your retirement account as soon as you can. I started a 401k with my last company when they first began offering it about a year after I started it. The company didn’t offer any company match, which was a bummer. But, I still invested 8% of my annual salary to the account for close to 3 years. When I left the company in September, I had over $6000 in the account. I rolled that account into my Roth IRA account that I contribute to monthly in addition to contributing to my 403(b) account at my current job. My current company offers a 6.5% match. I contribute 7% of my annual salary in order to get the full match. That’s free money and you should never turn down free money! Remember, the money you contribute to your 401(k)/403(b) accounts are excluded from your taxable income, thus it can bring your taxable income into a lower tax bracket where you’ll pay less taxes at the end of the year. Many financial planners will recommend investing 15% of your salary into your retirement account(s). When you have a boat load of student loan debt, it is difficult to invest that much from the get-go (especially if you have a low paying job). Invest as much as you can. Maybe it’s only 2% of your salary, but at least it’s a start.

Let’s look at an example here. You start at age 25 investing $3000 a year in your company 401(k) plan every year for 10 years and then stop altogether. Assuming an 8% annual return, at age 65 you’ll have $472,000 in the account. Now, say you skip contributing to your 401(k) for 10 years and then decide one day at age 35 it would be a good time to start. You invest $3000 a year for 30 years into your 401(k). Again, assuming the 8% annual return, at age 65 you will only have $367,000 in the account. Think about… what would you do?

4. Start building good credit

Start building good credit at an early age! Someday you will need to buy a new car or house. You’ll want good credit so you can get a low interest rate. Your first step is to check your credit score. I’ve used Credit Karma in the past, but there are other options as well. Mint.com is currently offering free credit score checks on there site. I just checked my credit score, which is an excellent 781! Depending on which credit company you check, scores generally fall somewhere in the range of 300 to 850 points. The higher the number the better. Credit scores are calculated as follows: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and types of credit used (10%). If you don’t have a credit card yet, this is a good time to open one up. Be smart when using a credit card! Currently, the average household credit card debt is $15,480! Pay off your debt every month! Credit Card Insider can help you figure out what card is best for you. Maybe you want cash back or want to earn airline miles. There is a card out there to meet you needs.

5. Start an emergency fund

Everyone has their opinions about how much an emergency fund should hold. Most financial planners recommend at least 3-6 months of worth of savings. Essentially you want enough in the bank to cover your monthly bills for 2-6 months in case something happens and you can’t work. For most recent college grads I recommend starting with a goal of $1000. Once you have established that goal, then work towards the 3-6 months of savings. I currently have $1300 in my emergency fund with the goal of at least $6000 by the end of next year. That will cover all my living costs in case something happens to my job. A few people will tell you to use a credit card in case of emergency, which you can do. But, then you may or may not have credit card debt. That’s a personal choice. A few renegade financial planners will tell you to use your Roth IRA as your emergency fund. I guess if you got really desperate and was on the verge of homelessness, then you could dip into this. However, I don’t recommend it! Emergency funds should be used to pay for things like your monthly bills if you were to become unemployed or if your car breaks down and you need to fix it. A cute outfit for a party does not count. I use a high interest rate online bank for my emergency fund. You can read more about which banks I use and why here.

It pays to be smart with money at a young age. If you start the above 5 things now at age 22 then you’ll be set for life in the future. I started the beginnings of this things about age 22, but became super serious about them this past year at age 26. There are others things that you can do to become even more financially smart, but I recommend starting with these 5 things. As a small disclaimer, I am not a certified financial planner. This is in no way a substitute for professional advice. It is just simple things that I have done in my life to become more financially stable now and in the future.

Do you have any advice for recent college graduatess? Do you agree with my above list? I’d love to hear your opinion!

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Travel Tips for Poor College Students – Traveling the World on a Beer Budget http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/13/travel-tips-for-poor-college-students/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/13/travel-tips-for-poor-college-students/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 12:51:22 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1544 There is a reason we have the phase “poor college students.” A large majority of college students don’t have any money and the ones that do tend to spend it on food and alcohol. College is extremely expensive in the United States and most of us pay for it through student loans only to be […]

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Sunset in Florence, Italy

Sunset in Florence, Italy

There is a reason we have the phase “poor college students.” A large majority of college students don’t have any money and the ones that do tend to spend it on food and alcohol. College is extremely expensive in the United States and most of us pay for it through student loans only to be working our tails off after college to pay those loans off (if we’re even lucky to find a job).

I graduated undergrad and graduate school with a combined debt of $44,000. Yikes! I have friends that have undergrad debt upwards of $120,000+. Now that is scary! Chances are you’re a college student (or recent college grad) with between $29,400 (the current average student loan debt in America) and $100,000+ and the number continues to rise every year. If you’re one of the really lucky ones whose parents paid for your entire college education then we are not friends! Just kidding, but, I am extremely jealous.

The topic of how ridiculous the cost of college in America is not want I want to discuss today. If you are interested in that topic, then please check out my True Costs of College series. Today, I want to discuss how to travel the world as a poor college student (because that is not as depressing!).

Total confession: I am not actually a poor college student at the moment. I finished my Masters degree in December 2012 and currently work fulltime. I do plan on going back to grad school in the very near future for my PhD. However, I still consider myself one of those “poor college students” because I pay close to $600 a month in student loan bills. That amount makes up about one third of my monthly budget. The other two-thirds I use to pay my living expenses and put into my travel and emergency savings account (very important!).

I love to travel. I am lucky that I am in a position now that allows me to afford traveling more often. I never could afford travel back when I was a true poor college student as an undergrad at the University of Maine. I knew I could study abroad, but as a Biochemistry/Pre-Med major, I found that spending a semester abroad in Europe like many of my friends was almost impossible. I would spend countless hours (when I should have been studying for Organic Chemistry) browsing the internet for study abroad programs in Europe, Australia, or other tropical far off places, but I never pulled the plug on going. I did do a two-week English course in Italy though. Not studying abroad was my biggest regret from college. I do plan to write a post in the coming weeks about studying abroad as a science/pre-med major because it can be done. Stay tuned for that!

The more I travel and the more I research, I have learned that you can travel as a “poor college student.” It just might take a little more work and commitment to get you on that tropical beach in Thailand. So let’s break it down into steps.

1. Do you plan to study abroad for a semester or backpack someplace over summer break?

Snorkeling in Belize

Snorkeling in Belize

This is an important first step to determine because it will help you determine how you will finance your travel. If you study abroad at an approved program through your university then you can most likely fund this through your financial aid office (aka student loans). However, there are several important factors that you need to consider. First, check with your Financial Aid Office to ensure that your student loans/scholarships/grants/etc. can be used to cover the cost of attending the university aboard. Do you need to apply for financial aid through the school abroad? Second, you most likely can take extra student loans to cover the cost of living. However, I strongly discourage this because at the end of the day you have to pay those loans off with interest. Make sure you really think about this! Trust me, paying back student loans is no fun. Research and see if you can get a work study job abroad. Not only will you make some money for spending cash, but you can meet new people!

Now, if you’re thinking about exploring the world over your 3 month summer vacation then you need to start saving your money now and start planning. Maybe you just spent the spring semester studying abroad in Paris and now you want to explore the rest of Europe. Plan ahead!

2. How do I fund your travel plans?

  • Student loans – Like I mentioned above, use this option with caution. No one wants to be in debt for the rest of their lives with student loans because it is no fun. Student loans are with you until you pay them off in full or you die. Those hefty loan payments will affect your lifestyle after college and no one wants to live with their parents until they are 45! So, weigh the pros and cons here and talk with your parents. However, don’t let the inability to afford a life changing experience stop you, just use common sense with student loans.
  • Scholarships – Some colleges and universities offer students scholarships for study abroad programs. Check with your Financial Aid Office and Study Abroad Office to see what they offer. It never hurts to try. I know my university offered a special scholarship program for one exceptional student to study at the University of Cork in Ireland for a semester with all expenses paid. Scholarships like this do exist so do your research.
  • A job – Get a job! Many schools offer work study programs. If you qualify then make sure you hop on that bandwagon. Just don’t spend that money on beer and pizza every week. Make saving for your travels the priority. Not getting drunk with your friends every Thursday through Sunday might make you a lame friend, but think about all the fun you can have on a beach in Costa Rica. Costa Rican beer is also cheap and very good! Of course, you should have a little fun, just try to limit the extra spending. If you don’t qualify for work study or if you want to make extra money, get a part-time job somewhere else. Become a waiter, bag groceries at your local grocery store. Just do something!
  • Side-hustle or FreelanceI dabble in a lot of side hustles to make extra money to stuff money into my travel account and to pay off my student loans faster (see, student loans suck!). Some of my side-hustles involve selling things I don’t use anymore on eBay and teaching spin classes at a few local gyms. Find something you’re passionate about and see if you can make extra money. If you’re good at fixing computers and cell phones, put up a flyer in the student union and advertise. Maybe you’re super smart and can tutor in Calculus (lord knows I could have used you in college!)?
  • Parents/Relatives – It can’t hurt to ask the “Bank of Mom and Dad.” Maybe they are willing to give you a $1000 towards your trip. Offer to mow the lawn for them or wash the dishes in return. Sit them down and explain to them why traveling is so important to you. Make sure you have a good reason other than to sit on the beach and drink beer. Traveling truly does enrich your life and you gain valuable life skills like communication skills, planning and logistics skills, and cultural immersion that many employers find as beneficial.

3. Where should I go?

Rolling a cigar in Granada, Nicaragua

Rolling a cigar in Granada, Nicaragua

This is always a fun question. I personally have a hard time trying to determine my next vacation spot. One day it may be Paris and the next day it may be Buenos Aires. If you’re studying abroad then it is important to consider the coursework available at the university and the language. Are classes taught in English or in another language? Do you speak that language? Do you want to be able to travel to various countries on weekends and/or holidays? Do you want to be close to home? Many students tend to go to Paris, Madrid, or Rome for study abroad opportunities. Choosing a European country allows you to explore other parts of Europe relatively easily on weekends. However, Europe is expensive. Can you afford it?

If you’re just backpacking for the summer (or maybe studying abroad too), Central America and Southeast Asia (SEA) are very common for backpackers because both areas are cheap. I personally have not made it to SEA, but I have traveled quite a bit in Central America. Your dollar will get you a lot farther in most countries in this region. South America is another great place, especially if you want to improve your Spanish. I am currently planning on spending some extended time in South America in 2016.

4. How do I budget?

Exploring the canals of Venice, Italy

Exploring the canals of Venice, Italy

You NEED to budget prior to leaving on your experience abroad. This is a very important step and one that most young people skip. You’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking “yeah right lady,” but it is no fun to run out of money half way through your trip and need to call the “Bank of Mom and Dad” to wire transfer you money. You will never live that down. Before I embark on any new adventures I do a lot of research on the countries and the areas I will be traveling to get a sense of cost of living. From there I determine my daily budget and multiply that by the number of days of my trip. I then take that sum and multiply it by 20% and add that 20% cushion to my original total budget. For example, I can get by on $30 a day in Thailand and I will be there for 10 days. My trip budget is $300. I then add $60 to $300 for a trip budget of $360. It’s best to over-budget and underspend. At the end of the day you can save that extra money for your next trip or spend it or something really cool like zip-lining through the jungle! You might make some mistakes like I recently did in Belize so it’s good to have a credit card for emergency purposes. And I don’t think new Italian leather boots fall under emergency uses! A great site to compare travel credit cards for student is Credit Card Insider!

5. Where can I save money?

There are lots of ways to save money on your trip! Here are some great ideas:

  • Stay in hostels over hotels
  • Cook your own food over eating out all the time
  • Choose street/market foods over a sit down meal at a restaurant
  • Obtain student discount cards and/or ask for student discounts at places (make sure you bring your student ID with you!)
  • Use airline miles for free flights
  • Look for free events (many museums offer free days/nights certain days of the month)
  • Walk instead of a taxi/train/bus/etc.
  • Try workaway programs or volunteer in exchange for free room and board

Traveling on a poor college student budget is possible. You need to make it a priority and plan ahead. Save money when you can and look for ways to save while you’re on the road. If I could go back in time and redo college, I would do a lot of things differently. Mainly I would have studied abroad and traveled more. But, since time travel is currently unavailable, I will provide you with my wise words. Below are some of my favorite resources and items for travel.

Resources:

Nomadic Matt – A great source of information on round-the-world budget travel. Nomadic Matt also has several great ebooks (I used his Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking to earn over 100,000+ miles within 6 months) and his book How to Travel the World Under $50 a Day (which I have read and found a great introduction to the newbie traveler).

Lonely Planet Guidebooks – There are a lot of good guidebook brands out there in the world, but I personally believe that Lonely Planet Guidebooks (both print and ebooks) are the best. I have several of them as I begin to plan my “Great Escape 2016” and I highly recommend them to any budget level traveler. These are also helpful to help you plan your budget.

International Student ID Card (ISIC) – For only $25 you can purchase this card through STA Travel that will give you discounts at over 125,000 places worldwide. For $199 you can upgrade the card and get travel insurance too.

World Nomad Travel Insurance – I never leave home without travel insurance, mostly to protect myself and my camera in case something was to happen while I was aboard.

STA Travel – If you’re a student (or teacher) then you definitely need to check out STA Travel. The travel agency provides students and teachers with big discounts on a lot of things, like flights, travel insurance, and many other discounts. I suggest checking here first for your flights abroad and then use other sites such as Kayak or OneTravel to compare prices.

Student Universe – Like STA Travel, Student Universe is geared for students, teachers and youth (18-25). The agency provides big discounts on flights, hotels, trains, and tours. Make should you check this site for deals before buying anywhere else.

HostelWorldI’m a big fan of staying in hostels while traveling because they are way cheaper than hotels and a great way to meet fellow travelers on the road.

Credit Card Insider - This site is a great resource of anything related to credit cards. They even have a whole page dedicated to students who study abroad! Did you know in Europe you’ll need a card with EMV chip card?

Capital One 360 Savings Accounts – I keep my travel savings account separate from my regular checking and savings account so I am not tempted to spend my hard earn money on something frivolous. Capital One 360 offers fee-free savings accounts at an APY rate of 0.75% (much more than most brick-and-mortar banks). It’s easy to move money from different banks and the app allows you to easily deposit a check via their phone app.

What are some of your favorite travel resources? Do you have any advice for “poor college students” who want to travel on a budget of corn chips and beer?

Disclaimer: A few of the links above are affiliate links. There are no additional costs for you if you use them, but I do make a small commission that helps me pay the bills here. All of the above links are sites and/or items that I have used in the past (I’m not a student at the moment and thus can’t use the student sites. Insert sad face) or currently use for my travel needs.

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Summer Book Challenge – July Reads http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/11/summer-book-challenge-july-reads/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/11/summer-book-challenge-july-reads/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 15:34:18 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1531 July was a rather sad month for reading. I was on a roll through May and June devouring books left and right. I thought that I would finish the last few books of the challenge in July, but, I got distracted. Dang you Netflix and the release of several of my favorite shows! I did […]

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July was a rather sad month for reading. I was on a roll through May and June devouring books left and right. I thought that I would finish the last few books of the challenge in July, but, I got distracted. Dang you Netflix and the release of several of my favorite shows! I did manage to read two books and will finish the last two books in August to round out the Semi-Charmed Kind of Life Summer 2014 Book Challenge.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (399 pages)

This is the second book of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. I read the first book in June and absolutely loved it! I quickly purchased the second book on Amazon and finished all 399 pages in less than 2 days. The second book continues where the first book left off. New characters are introduced and the storyline takes a couple twists. I find this book series a breath of fresh air from all the vampire and “end-of-the-world” type young adult books that are currently hot on the shelves. The book is a quick read and I was sad when I finished it. I’m not sure when the third book is coming out, but rest assure, I will order and read it the second it is released!

Category: Read a Children’s Book from the Library or Book Store (10 points)

The Traitor’s Wide by Allison Pataki (467 pages)

Unknown-5I’m not sure where I got this recommendation. I think it was an email from Books a Million, but I’m not sure. However, I’m glad I picked this book up. I was struggling to find a historical fiction novel that doesn’t take place in Europe. Why does every historical fiction novel seem to take place in Europe? I’ve always been a huge fan of early American history. My favorite book is Gone With The Wind, so this book seems like something I would enjoy. And enjoy I did! This novel is based on a semi-true story. If you know anything about American Revolution history then you are well aware that Benedict Arnold was a traitor to the US. However, it was his young socialite wife, Peggy Shippen, that urged him to spy for the British. This story is told through the eyes of Peggy’s maid, Clara. The chapters are long, but you easily get engrossed in the story. Pataki painted a wonderful and exciting story. It’s definitely a must read in my library!

Category: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe (15 points)

 

Total Points: 25 points

I have two books left to read for the summer book challenge. One is to read a book written before you were born. Originally I started George Orwell’s 1984, but for the life of me I can not get through the first chapter. Then I decided to read Emily Bronte’s Wurthering Heights, but again I couldn’t get into the book. So, I’m currently reading Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. A classic novel about a horse told from a horse’s point of view. As someone who grew up with horses I knew this would be perfect for me. The last category that I need to complete is to read a book that you couldn’t finish the first time around. Obviously I could pick quite a few books for this 10 point category. I’ve decided to finish Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running book, since I’m a newly certified RRCA running coach! And then my next mission is to start to finish some of the books that are in my “to read” pile on my night stand. :-)

In case you missed it:

Summer Book Challenge: May Reads

Summer Book Challenge: June Reads

What books have you struggled reading? Do you have a good book suggestions?

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Sunday Postcard – August 10, 2014 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/10/sunday-postcard-august-10-2014/ http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/2014/08/10/sunday-postcard-august-10-2014/#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 18:37:31 +0000 http://www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com/?p=1526 The post Sunday Postcard – August 10, 2014 appeared first on Diaries of a Wandering Lobster.

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Portland Headlight, Maine's most famous lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Portland Head Light, Maine’s most famous lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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