January in Budapest

Nicole Fu in Salzburg, Austria

I rang in 2018 in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart and the backdrop to The Sound of Music. All day long on the 31st, there were sounds of schweizerkracher (firecracker) to be heard throughout the city. And at midnight, we were treated to a 360-degree view of fireworks from the Staatsbrücke bridge. There were the official fireworks being shot out from near the castle, locals setting off fireworks from points along the Salzach river, and even as close as a meter from me, on the bridge amidst all the crowd. The next day, the streets resonated with the live stream and replay of the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Concert. New Year’s in Salzburg was quite something, and quite special.

I then headed to Vienna for a few days, and met with the reigning Austrian Barista Champion for my side project, Coffee Collectif.

I was torn between where to head next: Budapest or Prague. Vienna was exactly halfway between the two, and I’ve heard good things about both.

When making small talk, a common question is “where is your favourite city?” And by far, the response I’ve heard most frequently is Prague. But that wasn’t enough to sell me. I made a pro/con list, conducted a Twitter poll (Budapest won by 6%), asked on multiple remote work/travel Slack channels.. and finally went with Budapest. Budapest was ranked much higher on Nomad List @ #5 v.s. Prague @ #281, and I had a friend there.

I found an amazing apartment right in the center of the city, with a view of the Budapest Eye. It was cheap, too. Everything in Budapest was generally cheap. Public transit was about $1, and coffees were half the price compared to elsewhere in Europe.


Diet & Discipline

I spent the month heads down in work, and tried the ketogenic diet for the first time. Paired with intermittent fasting. It’s basically a zero carb, high fat diet. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s backed by science. When done right, your body enters a state of “ketosis”. 2.5 weeks in, I realized I mistook 1g of fat for 4 calories, when in fact it’s 9. (1g of protein is 4 calories, and 1g of carbs is 4 calories) That was so silly as I had been killing myself and adding heaps of olive oil to everything to try and up my fat count. Turns out I was way over the suggested amount of calories per day. No wonder I didn’t reap the benefits of ketosis including weight loss, increased focus and mental clarity, etc. I did experience keto symptoms like nausea and the keto rash. The former may have been from forcing myself to have so much thick yogurt etc, and all the oil from canned fish at lunch. And the latter could have been my body freaking out from the sudden lack of carbs.

Anyway, I surprised myself at being able to go a month without carbs or candy. No pasta, pizza, rice. No chocolate or cakes. I’m looking forward to giving it another go later this year.


  • Ryan Carson, CEO of Treehouse, recently shared a talk he gave a few years back: Begin With the End in Mind. Because of it, I’ve started every Monday morning going over my Personal Mission Statement project on Asana. It’s a great way to start the week, provide clarity, and to help me refocus. If you have 20 minutes, it’s worth a watch.
  • Hot Iron fitness class. It’s like BodyPump which I discovered last year and loved. Higher reps of lighter weights, paired with clubby music.
  • Did you know you can rent Christmas trees? I found out about it late last year, and my heart ached every time I saw a Christmas tree tossed out on the street last month.

I’ve read something about focusing on forming one habit at time. And that’s why new year’s resolutions tend not to be kept, because we try to introduce too many at once. My focus for now is: no technology right before bed + right when I wake up.

I loved Budapest and its old world charm. Its mailboxes and its engraved, statued buildings. Its proximity to water: the uncluttered Danube river, unlike London’s Thames. My friend there, Steph, put it best: “Budapest is gorgeous and old in a rundown nostalgic way.”


Last month, I re-read Do the Work, and partially re-read The 4-Hour Workweek. I watched Goodbye Christopher Robin, and Woman in Gold. I’m currently reading Doing Good Better, and plan to read One-Minute Stories, a Hungarian classic.

I’m currently in Singapore, which you can read about on my Now page, or my next blogpost. Happy Valentine’s Day, and Happy Chinese New Year!


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