The Traveling Investor: Europe Edition

Besides stock investing, one of the things I am most passionate about is traveling.

I made my first trip abroad (without my parents) in the spring of 2005 – right before my college graduation. That trip was to Puerto Rico and after that first experience I was hooked on traveling the world.

I remember making a personal commitment to myself to travel as much as possible. A few years later I made that commitment a bit more specific by telling myself I would travel to at least one NEW country or city per year. I am happy to say I have been faithful to that commitment for over a decade – and counting.

A couple of weeks ago I visited one of my favorite continents – Europe! During that trip I visited Spain for the first time – specifically Madrid and San Sebastian.

My journey began in Madrid where I still managed to complete an entire tour of the city despite being extremely exhausted and jet lagged! Not many photos were taken there but I did enjoy walking around the hot Madrid streets while learning about the history.  

The next morning I took the train and met up with a friend in San Sebastian, Spain and then continued my journey to Bordeaux, Paris, and finally Amsterdam.

This trip as a whole was specially interesting for me considering it was a mix of “solo traveling” yet, for some of the days, I also got to meet up and travel with a good friend who lives abroad (Hi! Katherine :). Best of both words!

Side Note – you can follow Kathy’s awesome Instagram page all about amazing food from all over the world, here.

As someone that is passionate about investing – I tend to keep my “investor hat” on whenever I travel abroad. This means I keep my eyes peeled for publicly traded companies I interact with or see outside of the US. I also make observations on consumer demand and think about whether or not I should consider them for my portfolio.

It is also pretty cool when I get to interact with companies whose stock I already own.

During my most recent trip to Europe I took my investor hat with me, as I always do, and below I share some of my top observations.  I also throw in some photos in the mix. Enjoy :).

American companies are everywhere and they are just as popular as they are here (maybe more). 

Almost every other block or random corner I explored in Spain, France, and the Netherlands, had either a McDonalds or a Starbucks. I also noticed Burger King and KFC but these restaurants were not as prominent. I also noticed ads for Honest Tea – EVERYWHERE. Honest tea is owned by The Coca Cola Company. I wondered if they decided to accelerate their ad campaign in Europe considering how strict that continent tends to be with “all natural” ingredients.

Out of this list I am only a shareholder of Starbucks and Coca Cola but used to have McDonalds in my portfolio years ago. I have been considering adding Mickey D’s to my portfolio again for some time now and this trip just made that urge even stronger. There are a few things I want to look into before making a decision but the business is back on my radar.

There is money in tourism – like a lot.

Before and during my trip I spent a good amount of time booking trains, places to stay, and checking out maps as I planed my self-directed tours. Companies like Booking Holdings (NASDAQ: BKNG) , Air B&B (not yet public), and Google Maps (NASDAQ: GOOG) were my go-tos as I completed my research and planning.

If Air B&B were a publicly traded company I would definitely consider buying shares. Also, I got to thinking that at some point in the upcoming years Booking Holdings might acquire AirB&B (or vice versa).

All of my room and board was booked via AirB&B at a price that is just a fraction of hotels. When I returned from my trip I got link to share with my friends and family which offers a $40 credit on a future booking. I’m happy to share it with all of you here. If you have questions about how AirB&B works (if you’ve never used it before) let me know and I’ll be happy to share my feedback.

Alphabet (parent company of Google) was my life saver when getting from one place to another – specially during the “solo” part of my trip. GoogleMaps works exactly the same as here. In a very good way. As long as my internet was working – I was good.

I should also point out that my phone company – Verizon (NYSE: VZ)- benefited from me using data while away. I tried very hard to just use free Wi-Fi while abroad but it became difficult and inconvenient to just rely on free internet service. I had to let go of my frugal tendencies from time to time and use my international plan which consisted of $10 per day (on top of my regular monthly bill). Pretty good deal if you ask me. I just pray that when I take a look at my bill they don’t try to sneak in any hidden charges.

I am not a shareholder of Verizon but feels fair to include this here since I am talking about companies that benefit from those who travel. I have to admit it was nice to have that convenience despite the fact I am not exactly looking forward to my next phone bill.

There is money in transportation.

I have personally never been a fan of airlines stocks. However, if we want to travel oversees there is only one way to do it and that is by getting on a plane.

I remember one of my college professors (YEARS ago) telling us that one of the worst investments we could ever make would be airlines. Her argument was that these companies have to keep up with tons of regulations and are tied to unfixed costs and fluctuations of oil prices and the such. This in turn reduces margins and makes it difficult to reach a level of sustainable profitability.

Not to mention that most customers are not loyal to airlines and simply look for the cheapest deals to get from point A to point B.

Although my professor made excellent points that were very much valid around 2004 (when I took that class) – I feel that a lot of things have changed in this industry since then. One of those things is that there has been many consolidations, and thus, there are not as many airline options as we once had. Also, these businesses have learned to become much more efficient over time by implementing rules and regulations that might not favor consumers but do favor shareholders such as charging for bags,  cutting down on the free food (or free anything),  charging for on air services – and the list goes on.

I still don’t own any airline stocks but If I ever were to choose one I would go with the leader in the industry (if there is one) and an airline company that figures out the happy medium between making money and making shareholders happy while also keeping in mind the satisfaction of consumers. Know any that meet those requirements? Share below.

Also – since we are on the topic of transportation – I must add that since I was in Europe I booked most of my trains from country to country using EuroRail. I looked up whether the company is publicly traded and it doesn’t seem like it is. Appears that is owned by EuroRail Group which seems to be privately held but if this is wrong please let me know in the comments :).  

Side note – I tend not to add foreign investments to my portfolio due to my limited knowledge when it comes to international laws in having to deal with capital gains, etc.

Now for a photo break ….

(last investing lesson from this trip is at the end :).

San Sebastián Highlights:

sansebastian5

icecream

sansebastian4

sansebastian2

sansebastian3

Bordeaux Highlights:

Macaroons

mandkat

After a couple of days in “wine country”, I made my way up to Paris and ultimately Amsterdam – two places I have visited before but whose beauty and cultural richness never fades.

Paris Highlights:

Versailles Highlights:

Amsterdam Highlights:

 

And last but not least …

Investing is more than just making money – it allows freedom and flexibility.

Since I began my investing journey (10 years ago this month!) I have been asked this question many times – why are you so frugal? why do you save? why do you invest? what is the reason behind all of it? Considering I started investing when I was around 24 years old – retirement was not necessarily the first thing that came to mind when I thought about the reasons for my financial decisions.

It wasn’t until several years later when the reasons started to click for me – I save and invest for my freedom and to be able to do the things I LOVE such as investing in traveling, experiences, and doing the things that bring me JOY with peace of mind.

Being responsible with your money doesn’t have to be a “boring” shore as long as you keep in mind your WHY. This applies to a lot of things in life including investing. Would you agree?

Thank you for reading! Comment below and let me know where have you traveled lately or whether you have any places you want to go to on your radar. OR, you can simply tell me WHY you invest! 🙂

Until next time! Cheers to health, love, adventures, and profits!

-Mabel$

***

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4 thoughts on “The Traveling Investor: Europe Edition

  1. La Tonya Hunter

    Great article and love the pictures! This past April, I traveled to Instabul, Adana, Mersin and Tarsus in Turkey. The American dollar was 3 to 1 for every Turkish Lire. I was able to make a few meaningful purchases without any hesitation:-)

    1. girlsonthemoney

      Wow that is awesome! I have yet to visit those places but they sound amazing! Putting them on my list :). Loving the exchange rate. Wonder if it still like that!! Thank you for reading 🙂

  2. Charlee Bennett

    Fantastic article with pictures! I love that you even travel with your “investor hat” on, this is a great idea that I will employ during my travels in the future. I’ve been to Spain as well (Barcelona), Naples, Cannes, Rome, Amsterdam, but from these breathtaking pics, I need to check out San Sebastian (and I been wanting to spend time in Madrid as well)!

    As far as transport stocks, I think Southwest (LUV) and Jet Blue (JBLU) are airline picks to consider, as they both make money and appear to keep shareholders happy (excluding SW’s unfortunate disaster a couple of months ago). Southwest has grown massively over the last 25 years, flies international recently, and has kept their baggage fees free whereas others are charging for even carry-ons. Ugh, I digress. SW also has no transfer/change fees for cancellations/changes. I think these are excellent attributes which can keep customers loyal. Cheers!

    1. girlsonthemoney

      Hi, Charlee!

      Thank you for passing by and for your comment/feedback on the post. I am happy to hear it has inspired you to put on your “investor hat” while traveling. Is a lot of fun =). Looks like you’ve visited some amazing places. The only places I’ve been to from what you mentioned are Rome and Amsterdam but the others are on my list. I definitely highly recommend San Sebastian. It’s like a hidden gem. I wouldn’t have never gone there if it wasn’t for my friend’s recommendation.

      As far as the feedback on the airline companies – I definitely agree with you that crème of the crop in this industry (at least at the moment) are probably LUV and Jet Blue. As a matter of fact, I was listening to an Audiobook yesterday where they mentioned LUV was the only company during the times after September 11 that actually emailed employees telling them not to worry and that things might get a bit difficult but most will be able to keep their jobs. This was during a time when most companies were announcing massive layoffs. I felt that speaks very highly of the business. Appears this strategy of being good to both, employees and customers, have worked well for them since they’re still around and thriving. I think I’ll add both to my watch list and start doing my research. Thanks again for passing by. Cheers to health, love, success, and profits!

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