Welcome back to the second part of Season V. The remaining episodes will be a bit darker than what we are used to from Marcus in Budapest. But there is no successful healing journey without exploring the darkest places of your mind. Not everyone is capable of this journey. Some will forever be stuck in the black hell of their souls. That`s how movie villains are born. Others will fight and come back stronger than before. That`s how heroes are born. Because darkness does not even last for a second, when you turn on the light.
Intro music playing…
“Let`s fast forward to 300 awkward small talks later,
If she got no mind, I will surmise that you`ll probably hire her,
You dream of my face before it called you a lying traitor,
You search in every submissive servant for something greater, baby.”
Before we dive into the darkness, let`s do a brief recap of the summer of music.
47. The Festival Finale
Bijlmer Arena – where it all began. Five years ago. The first time I set foot on dam ground. In the Harlem of Amsterdam. The most un-Amsterdam area of the city. Little did I know what the next five years will bring. Traveling the world. New favorite people. Covid. Moving abroad. Twice. Farewells. Starting over after losing everything I had. Twice. Creating new homes. Over and over again. Everything changed. Except this one thing which brought me here. And suddenly I`m sitting in Bijlmer again. Listening to the Weeknd concert on last minute tickets. But I don`t see anything from where I am sitting.
First time I stepped foot into Bijlmer five years ago a little voice told me that one day I will call this place my home. And they say the universe whispers until it screams. So when I sat in front of the giant moon of the after hours til dawn tourset which obstructed my view, I had to think back to this exact moment five years ago.
“Maybe you and I are the sun and the moon.
We can only reflect each other, my midnight is your noon.
Maybe you light up the world from your end, and I light up the world from mine.
And maybe, that`s the only way for each of us to shine.”
Halfway through the concert I moved to a different seat and enjoyed the rest of the show with unobstructed view. Happy 5-Year-Anniversary to me!
And that was just the beginning of the craziest festival summer ever. Between June and October I went to 7 more concerts:
- The1975 – London / Finsbury Park
Probably the most anticipated music event of my life. I have grown into a hardcore fan of The 1975 over the past years. Seeing them in their home country. At a legendary location like Finsbury Park in London. With a festival like line up. And one of the best sets they have ever done. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget. Jumping with 40.000 others to The Sound. Hearing People, Ballad of me and my brain and all of my other favorite songs live. Seeing Jack Antonoff as pre-act. Listening to Carly singing About You. I can talk about this concert forever. No words will ever be worth of describing the feeling.
- Coldplay – Johan Cryuff Arena
The blinking lights of Coldplays universe is the best you will ever see. Some of the most emotional ballads that have ever been written. Yellow. The Scientist. Fix You. Their concerts have an environmental pledge to it. I actually visited their concert in Amsterdam twice. First day sitting on the outside, watching the sunset over the arena. Second time inside, jumping with 50.000 other fans and glaring at the fireworks in the Amsterdam Sky Full of Stars. I enjoyed it so much, I bought tickets for two more concerts next year.
- Mysteryland – Hoofdorp
The little sister of Tomorrowland. One of the oldest festivals of electronic music in the world. The area is huge. I just spent the whole day walking around and exploring all the cool places. So many different music styles. Fireworks. A large pyramid hill. Lakes. Colors everywhere. And so much cheaper and easier to get in than Tomorrowland. I`ll come back here every year for as long as I`m in the Netherlands.
- NF – AFAS Arena
I discovered NF in 2019 while I was at work trip in the US. I really love his rap style and storytelling. There are not many rappers who can actually transport a message in their songs. And his message about mental health is even more important. Two of his songs were on my running playlist all year long and pushed me through the hardest passages of my marathon. Hope and Happy. It took me months of daily raffles on Ticketswap to get in this one. I can`t believe that Amsterdam made all these dreams come true in one year.
- Blink182 – Ziggo Dome
A little bit of guilty pleasure. But I loved their old music and I`m a huge fan of everything by Travis Barker. Seeing Travis live was the most godlike thing I have ever seen. He became one of the most famous person in music as a drummer. The only drummer who ever did this. And he for sure deserves it. He carried the show from second one to the end. Travis is a show in itself. I loved the new album from Blink182 and discovered many news songs during re-listens of their old albums. A full Ziggo Dome, dancing to a band that was big 25 years ago. Not many groups can claim to achieve this.
- Amsterdam Music Festival – Johan Cruyff Arena
Second year Amsterdam, second AMF. The setlist was not as good as last year, because Martin Garrix was playing his own concert and light show at the same weekend. I still enjoyed it. Nothing represents Amsterdam more than music. A football stadium turning into the largest night club with EDM music from 8pm to 6am. The large triple X hanging from the sides. Fireworks in the middle of the crowd. It has a special place in my heart. Like this arena has. It is my living room now.
- Martin Garrix – RAI
Martin was playing his own show one day before in RAI. A huge convention center turned into the most vibrant laser show in the world. Three hours of pure Martin Garrix. In his hometown. I discovered many new favorite songs during this evening. But the main thing I remember from this night is pain. Just one week after my marathon I was not in the shape to stand in a concert crowd for more than three hours, including a long walk in and out of the location.
Enough music for 2023. But not for long. The plan for next year is,
- Noah Kahan – Brussels/Amsterdam
Is just discovered his music and I cannot stop listening. He worked himself up from Paradiso (5.000) in 2023, to AFAS Arena (10.000) next February to Ziggo Dome (20.000) in August 2024. Nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist. He may make it to the Arena one day.
- Taylor Swift – Munich/Amsterdam
She could fill the Arena for 5 nights in a row. This will be my concert highlight of 2024. First time seeing Taylor live, after having her as my top Spotify artist in the past five years. With her Eras Tour. And on top I will see her twice. In the most iconic stadiums. Time to make some friendship bracelets.
- Coldplay – Budapest/Munich
Two more Coldplay concerts. What more can I say. First time in the Budapest Arena. One more circle to close.
The one and only. Tomorrowland. No words needed.
Bijlmer Arena – where my Amsterdam story began – will also be the place where I will see Taylor Swift live for the first time in my life. Another circle that will close soon. This area will always have a special place in my heart. Just like NDSM on the other side of Amsterdam.
48. The Lilac Skirt
NDSM – the old shipyard halls that turned into the largest flea market in the world. A street art heaven. And the coolest place in Amsterdam. After one year I finally paid a visit to STRAAT. The Street Art Museum. And I had it almost to myself. The pictures inside are gigantic. I could wander through the large halls for hours and not get bored its paintings. One of it conquered my heart by storm. I called it The Lilac Skirt.
“The monster you saw at the end. That is who they really are. The rest was a lie, a fairytale, an illusion of the truth.”
I love this picture. No matter how beautiful something looks, you will never understand what lies beneath, if you don`t dig deep enough. What someone shows you might only be the façade of themselves. Covering up the devilish darkness that lurks behind the curtain.
Heaven and hell. How quickly you can switch between extremes. The snake on the heart hands. It was always visible. But the mind tricked you into seeing only the beauty of the moment. The mask. Once it falls, you can`t unsee it. There is no way back from this place. Now I can see her real face. Can you?
It is a metaphor of our perfect little worlds that we present on the outside. Always smiling. Always happy. Always living our best life. But deep down we are just lost. We are searching for something, but we don`t know what. We want to go home, but there is no place that feels like home. We are tired, but no matter how long we sleep, it never ends.
“Imagine being bitten by a snake and instead of trying to help yourself heal and recover from the poison you are trying to catch the snake to find out the reason it bit you and prove to it that you didn`t deserve that.”
Heaven or hell. It is a decision we have to make every single day. Like an alcoholic fighting to stay sober. A depressed fighting to stay alive. A good person fighting to stay kind in a cruel world. One day at a time. And we just have to pray we never lose this fight.
Did you know that despite the popularity of the word “narcissist”, most people have never heard of the phrase “narcissistic abuse”. More than 80 million people are negatively affected by narcissistic abuse. Yet the public awareness of the abuse is as invisible as the wounds of those abused.
Narcissistic abuse isn`t something that only happens between two people. It happens in groups, communities, systems, churches, organizations and workplaces. June 1st is narcissistic awareness day. It was also the day an evil being from my past, who is a picture perfect example of narcissism and who I had suffered severe narcissistic abuse under, got rewarded despite of their ruthless behavior and damage they did to the people around them.
But as Taylor said, the trash has a habit to bring itself out. Every. Single. Time.
So if you suffer under someone who is like this. Don`t waste your energy on them. Your nemesis will defeat themselves before you get a chance to swing. Karma will take them down. Just wait and see. And it will be better than revenge.
I have one more story about evil.
“This is a story of a little girl that wanted to be a star. Let`s call her Penny. Penny is not a saint and she`s not what you think. She`s an actress. Penny was born in Hollywood. And all Penny ever dreamed of was becoming the most famous actress in the world).
I met Penny five years ago. I was enchanted to meet her. She already had made herself a big name when we met. But Penny was not happy. She wanted more. She wanted to be the biggest actress in history. Every time Penny saw another actress who looked prettier than her, she stole her clothes to look just as pretty. But, sophistication is not what you wear, or who you know and no amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity.
Soon Penny had to find that her behavior did not make her many friends in Hollywood. Everyone knew that all Penny ever was is mean. And a liar. And pathetic. And alone in life. And mean.
And when the big role was finally on her doorstep, the show producers decided to give her role instead to one of the young, not so mean, rising stars. Penny was too stunned to speak. I never heard silence quite as loud.”
This story is not about Penny. It`s about someone I met in real life. The worst person I have ever met. A monster who turns everyone who spends too much time around them into a bad person too. I have lost many close relationships to this person. Imagine Cersei Lannister and the Mad Queen in one person. But hey, what would a good story be without the villains right? Boring. In fact, we already eliminated two villains during this season. Say goodbye to Dear John and Dear Martin.
So, while I`m waiting for the downfall of Viktor and Vladimir, I must concentrate on my own goals. One of them is getting back in physical form.
49. The Black Forest Reinstation
Home is where your heart is.
But what if your heart is at different places at the same time?
September I finally made it back to Germany. For three full weeks. After a relaxing trip to Mykonos in August, September was the first month of the year I did not travel to another country. Being back at home in Germany felt like a vacation though. The weather was perfect. And I still had to catch up with my marathon training plan. Three weeks turned into a perfect training camp.
I started to visit the open air swimming pool in Sasbachwalden and had a check in on my ability to swim. If I want to do a triathlon, the hardest part is to become a decent swimmer. I can cycle for 200km. I can run for 40km. But I get out of breath after 50m of swimming. And not making the time cut during the swim session of an Ironman is probably the worst thing ever to happen.
After my swimming sessions I usually had sore arms. So the next day I did either go for a bike ride on my favorite Black Forest roads or did trail running in the vineyards. The perfect week was one day swimming, running, cycling and then all over again. I even did a swim/run session and a cycling/run session.
These three weeks at home made me realize three things. How much I love the area I grew up in. How perfect it is for triathlon training and that I actually can finish an Ironman, if I just train enough.
There is one more place I used to call my home. This series is called Marcus in Budapest for a reason. Time for the finale of Season 5.
50.1 The Firexplorer and the Death of the Ivy Queen
Back in Budapest – again. I think I`ve seen this film before. You`re not my homeland anymore.
End of October I got another chance to visit Hungary after my weekend Ultrabalaton excursion in May. Four days in Budapest. The first time without any emotional attachment to it. The first time I got to see the city and its people for what it truly is.
While in Amsterdam I constantly feel underdressed, Budapest is the other way around. Don`t get me wrong. The city has beautiful places. But if you look beneath the surface, it gets ugly quickly. And this is not just the rundown parts of the city or the uninspired dress code, it is the mentality of the people that live there.
It’s pure negativity. Not being able to escape the prison of your own mind, but blaming someone else for it. Not having any ambition to improve in your life. Living the same day all over again and again. Spending all of your vacations in your own country. Excluding everyone who is not Hungarian. Voting for far right politicians. Of all the 50 countries in the world I have visited in my life, it is the most negative and egocentric group of people I have ever encountered.
The first time I visited Budapest without emotional attachment. The first time I did not feel sad walking though the streets I have called my home for more than a year of my life. It was eye opening. And even though I will have further visits to Budapest in 2024. This might actually be the end of Marcus in Budapest.
Time to look ahead.
When in doubt, zoom out. Sometimes it can be hard to see progress in the daily routine. It feels like stagnation. Watching your portfolio and never seeing any growth. The market always goes up in the long term they say. That`s why this phrase exists. You just have to zoom out far enough to see it. So let`s do a 365 zoom out of the daily routine.
- 365 Days
- +30k Net Worth growth
- Time to FI: 36 months (12/2026)
- Time to be a millionaire: 144 months (12/2035)
- 12 countries, 14 cities.
- 8 concerts.
- 42 runs, 5 half-marathons, 1 Ultrabalaton, 1 Marathon.
The last vacation of the year was my favorite. Ten days of Sri Lanka. While it is getting more and more famous to tourists, I felt this was the perfect time to visit. Some places are already pretty touristy, others are completely raw. I found myself in an amazing group trip organized via Instagram with 18 other travelers from Amsterdam and the UK. As we were almost all the same age, the journey soon turned into a crazy adventure.
One evening we went with Kanoo boats into the jungle for dinner. This turned into a jungle rave with heavy thunderstorm rain in the background. Then, around midnight we had to get back to our rooms. Surrounded by lighting and completely soaked from the rain we were sitting on tractors, covered by rainbow colored umbrellas and slowly making our way back the dirt road. The bus home was a party itself.
Some more rock climbing during sunrise, stuck in mud on elephant jeep safari and getting escorted from a party back to the hotel by a group of wild dogs in the middle of night later, I found myself in a rooftop pool with views over Colombo. This trip made me remember how much I enjoy real travel. Not just spending time at a hotel beach or doing some sightseeing, but the adventure that comes with trips where you never know what will happen next and if everything will work out in the end. The kind of travel I wanted to do once I`m finally retired.
Back to Firexplorer. The first 100k finally accomplished and growing, I had to take a step back and figure out what to do next. The stock market had an extraordinary streak in the end of 2023. I still can`t believe that I successfully accomplished taking 12 international vacations in 2023 and my net worth still increased significantly. My next year is already fully planned through. I have gained back enjoyment at work. I have combined it with training for marathon and possibly will combine it with future training for Kona too.
My biggest struggle now is, what to do with all the money, if I`m not planning to retire at all?
50.2 The Director
Do you know that moment when someone close to you does something which will change your relationship forever? It can be something they say. Something they don`t say. Something they do or don`t do. Or something you learn about them from someone else.
As soon as it happens you know deep down in your heart there is no way back from this. You can forgive. You can forget. But it will always hover over your relationship. It is the beginning of the end.
If you know that moment, you know it is just as if not even more painful than the actual thing that happened between the two of you. You are grieving a friendship that did not even end yet.
It happened to me this season. With someone I know for many years. I spent wonderful moments with. Celebrated birthdays, visited across the world, ran into under funny circumstances. Someone I`m admiring. That has been my biggest role model. Someone I would have jumped on a flight overnight to help them if they had asked me to.
Until I learned – they would not do the same for me. They don`t even care about me. Maybe time and environment changed them. Maybe they have been like that all along. It`s not relevant. When you would sacrifice the world for someone and they don`t even care about your opinion. Not only do they not consider your side of the story, they even turn to your biggest enemies for support, knowing damn well what they put you through in the past. That`s the moment when you are so disappointed that you lose respect for a person.
But life goes on. Just because one side character decided to act out, doesn`t mean the story is over. You are the director, the creator and the writer of your story. You decide which role that side character gets to play in your movie. Or if they get replaced by a better actor.
We have not had a lot of work plot for this season. But there is no finale of a MIB season without visiting the corporate madness. Lucky circumstances brought me into a position that is very similar to the Director of a movie. Director of a department. Which sounds better than it is, given you have to do it in a corporate environment that is governed by narcissistic freaks and desperate boomers. But at least it is good for the plot.
What is interesting, is that you have to create work. Like the creator of a TV series has to create the plot and the director has to bring it to life. In the corporate setting you actually have to play the role of both at the same time. There is no work per se. No projects. No timelines.
You have to create the projects for your team. You have to imagine projects that are creating value for the business and your team. And once you have created the projects, you have to manage your team through the process. Yes, you are the writer, creator and director of the department. And when you are just working for fun – without any pressure on targets or deadlines, this can be very fulfilling work. I get now how Emily was able to be so creative in the series. She just could do whatever she wanted.
In the past months I almost forgot about my financial independence plans. I can work from anywhere, anytime. I can do whatever I want at work, as long as it creates value. And I`m constantly learning new skills. I`m training for marathons and ironman. Writing a book. Traveling the world. Going to concerts and football games every month. Why again did I want to stop “working”?
I feel this as positive side effect of FI. That you can transform your work into fun. And once you look past the toxic corporate environment and let the ugly, mentally ill people be who they are, you can even enjoy the show. I`m getting too comfortable now. Hey, better finish the new season of Emily in Paris, because I need plot to write about…
Out of the darkness. And into the light.
There will be no explanation.
There is a lot to look forward to in Season 6.
There will only be reputation.