Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE) 2018 Report – RIP’s trip in Romania

Hi RIP friends,

Last month, in June, we’ve been traveling for 2 weeks in Italy to attended a wedding and let grandparents play with BabyRIP for a while.

Being away from home for that long for the first time after BabyRIP was born has not been easy. To make things more complicated, I found time to leave my amazing wife alone with our daughter and 4 grandparents (!!!) to attend a Financial Independence conference in Romania! The famous FIWE!

Even trying to explain that to friends and relatives has not been a walk in the woods:

You’re going for work in Bulgaria? Over the weekend? Does Hooli have offices in Bulgaria?

Romania, not Bulgaria. Well… not exactly… I’m not going there just for ‘work’…

Whaaat? You’re leaving your wife and your daughter alone to go to… Poland… to do what? I heard that they will kidnap you and sell your kidney on Ebay!!

Romania not Poland. Anyway, yeah… I’m joking! Of course I’m going there for work 🙂 (but kind of yes. I consider my commitment to my personal finance journey and my blogging passion as “work” but I’m not going to waste my time trying to explain this to you. You that are staring at me right now with a blinking face because your only door to the world is the TV and your racist echo chamber on Facebook and you think Romania = bad place) Plus, I’m also going to meet some friends!”

You have friends in Estonia??

Romania. Yes, I do have friends. Please, go fuck yourself. Bye

Anyway, On Thursday June 7th I Ryanair’d from Bergamo to Timișoara.

Pre FIWE and Rural Romania

The official conference stated the day after but I wanted to spend time with the “core” of the FI European Movement! The White family, who blogs at whatlifecouldbe.eu and maintains the Fire Hub (firehub.eu, the European rockstarfinance), lives in a rural village not far from Timișoara. They gently offered me a mattress, a wifi password and a beer, i.e. the blogger starter pack!

when you don’t agree on how to paint a shared facade…

It’s been a very warm welcome! We spent the whole day together: playing with their kids, drinking Pálinka (Hungarian alcoholic drink, like Italian Grappa), biking in town and grabbing fruits from trees, like our ancestors did. It’s been shocking at first, but I felt at home within few hours.

I cooked my legendary Pasta Carbonara for them (brought right ingredients from Italy) and we chatted and had great time and… yeah, that’s all a wise person needs!

In the afternoon we welcomed Oli, from frugalisten.de. The real VIP! Oli, the Whites and I had already met via Skype several times. We also attempted playing Cashflow 101 once (and I had the same reaction of FIREcracker while playing!) via Skype but we never met all together IRL. Well, they already met last year at FIWE 2017, but I declined with short notice because at that time we just discovered Mrs RIP was pregnant.

Last guest at the White’s resort for FIWE Preview was Hannes, who blogs (in German) about his airbnb business at superhostcampus.com. I felt at home, among long time friends. Never thought in life I’d be making jokes about 4% rule and saving rate… and people would actually laugh at them!

Like any FIRE Seeker, when I visit places my mind gets lost in thoughts around the question: “could I live in this place?” Could I and my family live in rural Romania?

Coming from big cities (my grandpa was a farmer though) my instinctive answer was “Hell NO! But maybe…“.

Then Robert said “see this house in front of ours? it’s on sale for 30k!

Math math math: “Holy shit, I’d probably be FatFIRE by a factor 4x if I’d move my family here today…

Yo bro, I didn’t come to Romania for this. Forza Roma, always!

It’s a choice, everything is a choice. I’m currently choosing to go to work everyday instead of  being already FI (and rich) in a place like this one.

When you look at things this way, you’re always the actor, not just a passive character of the plot, a victim. It’s empowering but it also makes you feel like shit if you’re not taking action and somehow unhappy.

Anyway, more fuel to the fire. Food for thought. Whatever for whatever else. Too much midlife crisis all at once. Let’s move on.

FIWE and FIWEes

We transferred to Timișoara for the FIWE kickoff meeting after lunch on Friday June 8th to meet the rest of the group.

The venue for this FIWE event was a nice Italian style hotel/pension. We’re in shared room to save some money. 3 nights in a comfortable triple room for 53 EUR total. Love this place!

We’re a group of 25 people. Actually 26, since a guy just contacted Robert while we were on the train to Timișoara: “Hey, I just discovered this meeting and I live in Timișoara… can I join?” Sure, you’re welcome my friend 🙂

First impression is – as usual – pure oddity. I’m in a strange place with people I don’t know. Why am I not comfortably sitting at my desk and working at Hooli as usual? Mental clutter dies hard.

Outside FIWE area, perfect for drinking FIRE Water!

The conference kicked off at 5pm on Friday, with a kind of “lightning talks” session. Each attendant talked about themself and why they’re attending the conference. We have a very diverse group! there are 50% of bloggers / actual FI seeker / Already FI and roughly another 50% which are people interested in the concept, on the brink of a career change or deep in midlife crisis (that’s probably why my talk got a lot of votes on the private poll) or just discovered FIRE recently thru MrMoneyMustache and they want to know more and meet other European FI folks.

I’d call the first group the “active FI folks”, hopefully not pissing off the other half. Of course everybody who’s attending such a crazy reunion is way more active than the drones who surround us in cubicles till official pension age!

Most of the active folks gave a presentation or organized a workshop. I also did 🙂 I’d like to share here who they are (those who agreed to be mentioned) and what they’e up to.

Robert and Emma White, who blogs at whatlifecouldbe.eu and firehub.eu. They were the main organizers of this event. I can’t thank them enough. Without them there would be no European FI community. They went thru all the pain associated with organizing a mid size event without any kind of compensation. Actually sharing their house with strangers, a lot of them! They also gave a talk about zero waste living. Actually negative waste living. Is that even possible? Sure, why not!

Oliver, who blogs at frugalisten.de, is our public face! Oliver is becoming popular and being featured frequently on TV shows. And he’s a funny and nice guy. As soon as a mathematical/financial issue arises his eyes seem to sparkle and he simply gets excited of facing a new problem! I wish I had more Olis in my life! Oli gave us a nice presentation about the 4% rule and its applications and controversies.

Hannes, who blogs at superhostcampus.com. Hannes is the perfect lifestyle designer. He reads a lot. Wait, he doesn’t just read, he has a framework to read and take notes and write down book reviews! He knows a lot of things. He’s the side hustler by definition. I wish I had many more Hannes in my life! I wish I had 10% of his confidence! He quit his job and started hustling. He write books, he makes money with affiliate marketing, he’s a serial airbnb machine. Of course he gave us a presentation on “Turning problems into a website to generate a recurring side income”. Hannes, we need to talk more!

Erik and Sofia Flores (and their kids), who live in Switzerland and blog in Spanish at hippiesdelandrover.com. The Hippies colored the whole event! Having kids around all the time made the whole conference more informal and filled with funny moments here and there. They also hosted a very interesting workshop, sharing with us their financial situation and ER plans and asked the question: “can we retire yet? how to reallocate resources/investments?” It’s been a funny exercise that I enjoyed a lot! We split in groups and I ended up with the Science Department: I, Oli, Robert and The FI Professor. We math-ed the shit out of their situation!

The FI Professor (as I like to call him, it’s not his real pseudonym), who lives in Germany. With a PhD and a researcher attitude, talking with him always brings the conversation to unexpected abstraction and philosophical layers! So sad he doesn’t blog (as far as I know). The FI Professor gave two talks: one about frugality and very high saving rate and another one about his version of midlife crisis and happiness in general. Enlightening! Fun fact: The FI Professor introduced the concept of the PI% (3.1415…%) SWR!

Tomek, who started a b2b business writing plugins for a famous project management tool (Jira, by Atlassian). You don’t need to know more about Tomek, just read this blog. It’s incredible how much overlap there is between our lives, current situation, philosophical questions and thoughts about the future. Again, I wish I had more Tomek in my life! Tomek gave us a presentation about his business and how everything started. It’s the story, the evolution of his side project and his mental process, more than the final outcome that mattered the most to me and caught my attention. Thank you very much Tomek!

Angelo and Zsofi, a young couple who is already trying to live a FI life without waiting for FI. They’re both minimalists and gave us a presentation on their minimalist lifestyle. Angelo has a youtube channel on ketogenic diet (Minimalist Keto) and Zsofi about animated book review (Minimalist Ways). I wish you good look with your creative endeavors 🙂

The Interviewer, probably the most frugal of all of us, advocating zero costs traveling and extreme frugality. The interviewer spent most of his time interviewing each of us to gather data and gave a final funny presentation on how we discovered FI, where we are right now, what are the saving tools, earning tools etc etc. The Interviewer is also trying to organize other FI meetups around Europe, and I heard his not-so-secret goal is to kick off a FIRE Village, a dream community!

Among those who just attended the conference without giving a talk I discovered entrepreneurs and bloggers as well. Like Flo, the guy who blogs at geldschnurrbart.de, Nicole, who blogs at financialindependenceireland (who also blogged about this conference here), Claus, the mastermind of p2p lending who’s behind p2p-banking.com and many others! So many interesting people and so few time to spend with each of them!

There was also this crazy guy, this… Morten? In his video presentation he said “I really want to join FIWE because I heard this year Mr RIP is coming and I would love to meet this guy!!“. See? I couldn’t have declined this year too, like all famous persons do at the very last minute. How could I have done this to my fan friend Morten??

Know what? Morten is waaaay younger and well set up for success on his FI journey than I am! I wish I had his vision when I was his age! Next year I will be videoing about “I heard that Morten is attending this Very Kooool Konferenz in Machu Picchu can I join pliiiz?

woddefaak??

Morten also gave to me a book as a present (haha you really believed I was serious when I said “thanks for the loan”?), a book I’m devouring, a life changing book I strongly recommend to anyone who’s struggling with happiness and midlife crisis: The Subtle Art of not giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson. A review about the book might come sooner or later on this blog. Or never. Anyway the book is really good. Hannes also suggested it to me and Zsofi realized an animated book review!

Thanks Morten, your presence was a whole new bag of burritos under the hood of FIWE!

And btw, your book has been marginalia-ized already. Why? Because I don’t give a fuck! 😀

I wish I had way more Morten in my life.

But… I will… I mean… Ok, I give up, I can’t find a valid pun with the words “Post Morten” and that irritates me a lot!

And there there was Mr RIP, i.e. me 🙂 I conducted a workshop session called Midlife FIRE Crisis. If you’re following my blog you know what I’m talking about.

Thank you guys for having listened to this old man for almost an hour and half and for having provided help, feedback and a special letter that I’ll always bring with me 🙂

Fun fact: I was randomly chatting with a couple of participants (Terry and Mariann) on the first day, when I introduced myself “Hey, I’m RIP, I’m a software engin…” Terry smiled and said “Yes, of course, we know who you are. You’re famous!” what a strange feeling 😀 I hope it means I’m producing something worth some value in our field! Thanks for that small recognition, it means a lot to me 🙂

The three days went by very fast, and before you know it time was over. I enjoyed every single talk and session. Each one touched a cord of my messed up life:

  • After the frugal-centered presentations I felt guilty because I was the real spendypants of the party, and I wanted to act on it (but ended up tolerating my family spending pattern at ~6k CHf per month).
  • After the entrepreneurial talks I got hit by a desire to build something and make it my job.
  • After the White’s zero waste talk I felt the urge to fix world problems.
  • After the midlife crisis talks (including mine) I felt empathy and a sense of belonging. Each and every talk made it thru my biases and my ego curtain.

I can’t wait for next year FIWE! Where will it be? Timisoara again? The Whites told they’d be more than happy if someone else would take care of the organization and propose a new location.

What about… Italy?

Thirsty? Take some FIRE Water (Pálinka)!

Timișoara

The conference took place in Timișoara, a mid size (300k inhabitants) city in western Romania. The city is very nice and its historical center kind of remembers me an Italian city, with walls, large squares, churches and so on. The city center is also completely car-free.

The weather was nice (a little bit too hot), and the food was awesome! Even for a picky Italian food addict like me. The two Gelateria (Ice cream shop) I’ve tried in city center were surprisingly high quality. Ok, they are both owned by Italians, that doesn’t count I guess 🙂

Timișoara is cheap: according to Numbeo, cost of living here is roughly half compared to Milan, Italy, and less than a third compared to where I live in Switzerland 😀

Given we’re all interested in FI and the majority of the group has a master degree in frugality, we enjoyed the frugal setting of the event: cheap (but amazing) lodging, traveling by foot in the city center, buying beers at the grocery store and few semi-luxurious dinners that totaled to a MacDonald lunch in Switzerland!

A FIRE seeker reunion doesn’t have to cost 3k like a Chautauqua. I have a deep esteem for bloggers like MMM, Millennial-Revolutions, MadFientist, Jim Collins but guys… you’re asking 3k for a luxurious week where you teach people how to save 5 dollars on groceries?

Cmon… I spent more or less 200 EUR for 4 days, food, lodging and flights (and an awesome FIWE t-shirt) included, and I met amazing people!

I was expecting chaos, noise and unsafety, like Italian big southern cities, where people go in party of 5 on a moped scooter and don’t stop at traffic lights and at stop signs, where crossing a street is a Russian roulette. I’m sorry for my biases, but I’m grateful that this experience really helped me getting rid of them! Car drivers stopped way before I showed intention to cross at a pedestrian crossing. Several times!

People don’t make noises! I was expecting car horns, people screaming, kids listening high volume music with loud speakers (which seems to be national sport in Italy these days). Timișoara is a silent city! What a pleasant surprise!

Ok, we stayed at walking distance from the city center, maybe in the suburbs things are different. But I felt very safe. Never once I had to think about someone may be pickpocketing in our party.

Here some photos, enjoy 🙂

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FIWE Extra

I sadly left FIWE on Monday June 11th to come back to my family and my duties. Roughly 50% of the FIWEes stayed another 3-4 days for the so called “FIWE extra”.

They all stayed in rural Romania, at White’s house (not to be confused with the White House), spending days getting to know each other and doing cool stuff like swimming in lakes, drinking beer, playing boardgames and drinking more beer!

I wish I could have stayed longer!

Back to Reality

It’s been so hard to re-normalize in normal life, with normal people, talking about which restaurant serves the best meat where you can spend “less than 100 Francs per person” if you don’t take a dessert.

I had problems even re-calibrating my brain while talking to my wife even though, as I said several times, she’s awesome and a frugal (absolutely not minimalist) person.

It’s true that we’re the average of the closest five people. I need more FIWE people in my life then!

I hope to see you all soon!

Your Mr RIP.

19 comments

  1. Awesome post RIP! Thanks so much for being a part of FIWE this year and contributing immensely to the fun factor of the event. See you next year at FIWE 2019!

  2. Would be great to have you as a neighbour. Why don’t you move over here. The “Forza Lazio” house is empty btw. Should I ask what the rent is? Not sure you can afford it though, it should be close to 100€/month.

    Great post! Hope to see you soon and meet your family too!

  3. It shines through your recap that you guys had a great time over there. You awakened my FOMO. Too bad that I discovered the European FIRE community too late and already had a mandatory appearance (on a wedding also) by the time 🙁 The topics seem so interesting (and relevant). I will grab the opportunity to get a summary on them from the Whites soon 🙂 I am happy that you enjoyed your time in our little Estonian region 🙂

  4. I’ve been on last years FIWE, it was great. Sadly, I couldn’t make it this time. Would have loved to meet you there, get to know new people and see familiar faces like Oli, the Whites, Geldschnurbart, The Hippies etc. etc.
    Glad to hear that there are ideas of organising more FIRE meetups accross Europe (The Interviewer) or having FIWE 2019 somewhere else – even though I liked Timisoara and the White’s house very much!

    Thanks for this detailed and interesting review!

  5. So, how do you find the bulgarian beer? :))

    I plan next years I will be there, too 🙂 – i am romanian but never visited Timisoara :). Until know I participated to dutch FI meet ups, and every time after I felt “enrich” and “speed” on the road.

    1. I guess we’ll have a problem in keeping the group small next year 🙂
      Idea: let’s do in in Switzerland!
      The ads would say: “Still cheaper than a Chautauqua!” 😀

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