Interview With Chryssanthi Sahar – Middle Eastern and Greek Tsifteteli Dance Expert

Dev – Chryssanthi Sahar you are a performer and teacher of Middle Eastern and Greek Tsifteteli dancing, Can you tell us what is the basic difference between those two styles.

Chryssanthi Sahar – The main difference between Middle Eastern, or better to say Egyptian belly dance and Greek Tsifteteli is the repertory of movements and rhythms. Egyptian belly dance (Raqs Sharqi/Raqs Baladi), has a huge repertory of movements and the Arabian music has a big variation of rhythms, as well as complex musical arrangements. Greek Tsifteteli has, opposite to it, a small repertory of movements, rather simple musical arrangements and uses only 3 rhythms (Maqsoum, Malfouf and Chifteteli), but actually one of them (Maqsoum) is the most popular one for Tsifteteli songs. This is because Tsifteteli is rather a social than a stage dance and because it derives from the Egyptian Raqs Sharqi. So you find almost all Tsifteteli movements in the Egyptian belly dance, but not the other way around. The same is valid for the music. Tsifteteli uses Arabian rhythms, but only 3 of them, while in Raqs Sharqi you find at least 10 popular rhythms (there exist lot more than 10 Arabian rhythms, but the rhythms used for the belly dancing are about 10).

So concluding one could tell, that Greek Tsifteteli is like a summary of Egyptian Raqs Sharqi.

Dev – In Turkey there is a folk dance called Tsifteteli, which does not represent any form of oriental dance, while Greek Tsifteteli is more oriental based Are these two styles related in any way?

Chryssanthi Sahar – The Turkish folk dance is called Ciftetelli (pronounced Tchiftetelli). Actually it is the same name like Tsifteteli, the name is Turkish and means “two strings”, but since Greeks don’t have the loud “tch”, they pronounce it as “ts”. This folk dance has elements of belly dance and most probably the Greek Tsifteteli is somehow related to it, because the Greeks of Smyrna (today Izmir) who mainly brought the Tsifteteli to Greece after been driven away from their city because of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922, seem to have known this Turkish dance called Ciftetelli. One evidence of this is the fact that the costumes of the first Greek belly dancers (most of who were Greeks from Smyrna), looked very much like the costumes women wore when dancing the Turkish Ciftetelli (little hat with veil on the head, harem-pants. )

Dev – Your first public performance as an Oriental dancer was in 1986. Twenty two years later what are the differences you see in the general publics attitude towards the dance, specifically in Europe.

Chryssanthi Sahar – I cannot talk about the entire European continent, because Europe has so many different countries with different perceptions of the belly dance. I can talk only about Germany, where I live and work and where I started performing 26 years ago, as well as a bit about my home country Greece, where I have been performing once in a while over the last 2 years. In Germany there is a huge progress in the general public’s attitude towards belly dance. 22 years ago many people didn’t know what belly dance is and they thought of it rather as a kind of erotic animation than an art form. This has definitely changed, mainly thanks to the engagement of many German (and non German) belly dancers, who did their best to clarify things about belly dancing. The pioneer in this matter was a lady called Dietlinde Karkoutli, who did a huge promotional work to change the image of belly dancing in the public in the 80s and early 90s. This wonderful lady unfortunately passed away in the mid 90s, but she definitely opened the way for other dancers to present the real nature of this dance to the public. In many places of Germany belly dance is acknowledged an art form and it is even presented in theatres. The good thing is, that since belly dance has become very known to the wider public, many people learned to differentiate between skilful professional dancers and not so skilful amateurs and the good dancers are nowadays appreciated. For example many Germans who would hire a belly dancer for an event, would rather pay higher fee and hire a good dancer than pay less and hire a bad dancer. Also age and body type are not relevant, if the dancer is really good. Of course there are still places in Germany (especially in Eastern Germany), where belly dance is still not so popular and kind of misunderstood, but in most areas the dance has got its place in the cultural life. In my city Heidelberg the dance is well accepted as an art form, my shows in the theatre are always sold out and I have become a firm part of the cultural life of the city

As about Greece, the dancers still have to fight against prejudices, especially because until recently most belly dancers didn’t have high skills, since the dance was mainly performed in the Bouzoukia clubs (Greek style night clubs) and it was kind of erotic animation. In this case it was not important if the dancer was good or not, it was more important how she looked like and how old she was. Unfortunately this situation still exists, but there are some serious, skilled dancers all over Greece who present belly dance as an art for a wider public and somehow the image of the dance has started changing, slowly but surely.

Dev – One of the main aspects of Belly Dance is looked down upon and often misinterpreted by the general public as being sexual in some way, In current years we have seen many dancers especially non ethnic dancers who try hard to diffuse the sensuality from the dance, As an instructor and teacher how do you tackle this complex situation with your students.

Chryssanthi Sahar – Actually we don’t have this kind of problem here in the area of Germany where I live, perform and teach. As I mentioned in my last answer, belly dance has been accepted as an art form in most parts of Germany, so the erotic aspect is not really relevant. You would hardly find some Germans (except if they come from villages, or maybe from the Eastern part of the country where belly dance is not so popular yet) who would mistake belly dance for erotic animation. The point is, since Germany is a country with open and tolerant attitude towards sexuality, you can find different kinds of entertainment who are very directly erotic (like peep shows, strip shows or even sex shows on stage) and there is no reason for the Germans to disguise erotic entertainment as dance or other kind of art. A German who wants to watch an erotic show, would probably be very disappointed with belly dance presented as such. I think the problem of mistake dance ( especially belly dance) with erotic animation exists rather in countries with more prudish or restricted sexual moral. The truth is, that in Germany we have a completely different problem about the image of the dance: it is rather mistaken for a dilettante dance practiced by frustrated housewives, because there are quite many ladies of that kind who unfortunately have no skills at all, but want to present themselves as professional dancers, although they are bloody amateurs. So what I am mainly fighting against is THIS kind of wrong image and not the erotic thing, which is irrelevant here

Dev – Do you think in the present day situation oriental dance could be a tool to a better understanding and help cross barriers for Western people and vice versa.

Chryssanthi Sahar – I am not sure. What is sure, is that Westerners who deal with Oriental Dance definitely start getting more interested in Middle Eastern culture in general, but I don’t know how Oriental Dance would be a tool for people from Middle East to understand the Western culture better. The only Middle Easterners who would be interested in that, are maybe musicians who work with Western belly dancers or Oriental dancers from Middle East who work and teach in Western countries.

As about the Westerners, dealing with Middle Eastern cultures can bring a deeper understanding about them, but it can also bring some disillusioning. Some of the dancers have very unrealistic and romantic ideas about Middle East, but the more they deal with it, the more they see that their imagination and the reality are falling apart. For example, a common problem is that many Western women who start learning belly dance don’t realise that belly dancers have a quite bad reputation and bad social status in many Middle Eastern countries and they are quite shocked when they start realising this. I think this is a reason why some dancers turn then away from the original Middle Eastern belly dance and dedicate themselves to Western belly dance styles (like Tribal, Gothic, Tribal Fusion etc.).

Concluding I still would say that I am not sure about the role of Oriental Dance for the cross cultural understanding.

Dev – You are involved with the CID (Conseil International de la Danse) which is a sister organisation of UNESCO, What is the goal of CID and how does a dancer benefit by being a member of this organisation.

Chryssanthi Sahar – The goal of CID is to bring dancers of all genres and from all over the world together and to establish dances of all kinds as art forms. So there are not only professional dancers of the established artistic dance genres who can become members of CID and present their work, but also dancers of genres who are not recognized everywhere in the world as art forms yet (like for example belly dance, salsa, tango Argentino, etc.), as well as amateur dancers, who dance rather folklore than artistic dance forms.

The benefits of being a member of CID are various: one very important thing is the possibility to participate the CID congresses for a very low fee (60€), where high class dancers from all over the world teach workshops, give lectures and perform on stage. One can participate actively, but also passively. For a professional dancer it is a great opportunity to present the own work in front of an international expert audience, as well as to get to know other professional dancers of all possible genres and styles.

Another benefit is the fun you have during such congresses and friendships you start with people from all over the world

Destination Review – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Often referred to as the Europe of South America, Argentina is one of those countries that draws you in and makes you feel right at home amongst its friendly people, beautiful scenery and relaxed way of life.

A country I could easily call home, Argentina captured my heart upon arrival in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, and anyone who enjoys great food, excellent wine, music, dancing, and socialising will appreciate what this grand city has to offer.

Buenos Aires combines a mishmash of old colonial-style buildings with modern condominiums and as each barrio of the city offers something that little bit different, it caters for every taste. Fine dining along Puerto Madero, catching a local football match at the Boca Stadium, watching the Tango danced outside pavement cafes in El Caminito, and searching for antiques in San Telmo are just some of the things one can to fill up a day.

Argentina is easily accessible from major European and US airports, and if you start your journey in Buenos Aires, you will be perfectly placed to discover the rest of the country. The bus system is comfortable, reliable and affordable, and you can get to virtually any other city in the country from this bustling hub.

20 years ago, Argentina was an expensive place to visit, but with today’s exchange rate international currencies such as Euros, Pounds and Dollars go a very long way. Eating out is cheap, beers and wines are plentiful, and as the hotels are generally cheaper than those at home are, one can stay longer and see more of the country.

As a “Peronista”, my highlight of Buenos Aires would have to be the Casa Rosada. A magnificent building in the centre of town, you can almost taste the history that surrounds this rose coloured structure, and I guarantee you will feel an urge to sing “Don’t cry for me Argentina” when you see it (thank Madonna for that one)!

The food in BS AS is as varied as the people that live there. Breakfast usually consists of hot coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a basket of freshly baked medialunas, a sweet croissant shaped pastry. Lunch, for us at least, generally consists of a stone baked pizza with fresh mozzarella or pasta, and for dinner, it has to be Parrillada!

Just walking around this amazing city is enough for me, and if you take the time to learn a few words of Spanish before you arrive, you will have plenty of opportunities to chat with the locals, and maybe make some new Porteño friends in this cosmopolitan metropolis. Buenos Aires – Me Encanta!

Wendy Kaufmann is the owner of Equatours Limited. A family owned and family run business specialising in unique travel experiences to countries below the equator.

Fully bonded tour operator, our packages are inclusive of all travel arrangements, accommodation, insurance and a personal travel guide is with you every step of the way to make sure your trip with us is a holiday of a lifetime.

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A Culture of Benidorm

Mention Benidorm and with it, by implication, the concepts of package tourism, hotel buffets, British bars with one euro a pint lager, northern English Working Men’s Club turns imitating something neither themselves nor their audience have ever been, lobster-impersonating spit-burnt sunbathers and fried English breakfasts with the bacon already coated in tomato sauce, and I would bet that very few punters would auto-associate the phrase “cultural experience”. More likely, perhaps, might be the image of over-revelled revellers spewing out from the industrial-sized, garish and scruffy discos along the strip at nine in the morning, seated wavering by the roadside amidst the split, cracked and squashed plastic waste which these no doubt environmentally aware individuals seem to generate by the ton.

Benidorm, certainly, is not Spain. Like many other popular mass tourism resorts around the world, it has an identity which is quite apart from its host country or hinterland. Benidorm is not Spain in the same way, perhaps, that Kuta is not Bali, Nice not France, nor Acapulco Mexico. On the same scale, Blackpool is Britain! In effect these places are melting pots of imported identity, usually with a strong flavour of the largest group of visitors. In the case of Benidorm, of course, it’s the Brits. A fortnight in Benidorm can offer about as much exposure to Spanish culture as the experience of September lights in Blackpool informed the visitor of the Lancashire cotton industry. (The past tense is highly relevant here.) Equally, Benidorm juxtaposed with the word “culture” might vie for a definition of “oxymoron”, alongside German with humour, Ireland with culinary and British with honest. (I may borrow here and there from our working Men’s Club humour tradition, but perhaps employing a consistently different skin colour!)

Benidorm is known for its seven kilometres of perfectly kept, clean beaches, its year round tourism, its millions of visitors. It has fine places to eat in its old town and environs. It has nightlife, theme parks and five star golf resorts. It is surrounded by mountains, has an island nature reserve. And in a European sense, the area as a whole is truly cosmopolitan and increasingly sophisticated.

So when my wife and I came here about five years ago to claim a November base while we examined the possibility of a life-changing shift from work-a-day pressures, our prime goal was to investigate whether, near this tourism megalith, there might be space for a small rental business, aimed at those who might crave proximity to the iniquitous den whilst also wanting to retain a suburban distance from the rasping motorbikes, the hen and stag parties, the beachfront Harley Davidson pubs, the plastic glass discos and even the line dancing. Well we found our place and took the plunge. What we had not bargained for was “the culture”.

In that first month, as late-booking package tourists ourselves, we were making our first visit to mainland Spain for 24 years and we were pleased to find an odd festivity or two. Having lived here for a few years we now know, of course, that it’s actually quite hard to avoid them! The Benidorm town band – symphonic bands are the Valencian tradition, we now know – did a free concert in the salubrious Benidorm Palace, a place whose usual show apes the Folies Bergeres. The local choral society did the Venusburg music from Tannhauser alongside original compositions for the band and some populist offerings. We sought and found a sub-set of the band doing a jazz and Latino evening at the CAM Bank auditorium where, another night, there was a chamber music recital. Just along the road at the Cultural Centre in Alfaz del Pi there was an American pianist who had studied in Barcelona playing Montsalvatge.
Similarly, we found a soprano giving opera arias in Calpe.

And so we bought the place and we were owners of a house with two apartments, a beautiful Mediterranean garden, proximity to the tourist hub, but still very much a part of its own town, a place with outstanding local services. Our aim was limited, pragmatic and clear. After some fifty-six years of unbroken professional employment between us, we decided that a change was potentially better than a rest. We had already lived and worked in five countries and had extended experience of several others, but we had also concluded that pounds of flesh weigh the same the world over. Though we had gained a few of these over the years, having them occasionally demanded and extracted ran the risk of their being ripped from critical areas. Over the years the pay had been good, the pressure significant and, overall, the rewards worth the pain. But times change, lives change, priorities change and people reach fifty.

This was the time to do something different, to trade income for quality. We bought a house in La Nucia, just five kilometres from Benidorm’s beaches, the town’s skyscraper hotels visible from our front balcony. Our aim was to establish our own niche business renting the two bedroom garden apartment while we lived a modest if sometimes indulgent life on the first floor. We have now been doing this for more than four years, have an established clientele and basically have achieved what we wanted to achieve. We will not get rich from the trade. That was never our goal. From the start we wanted to offer simple, clean, affordable accommodation at a reasonable price, modelling our pitch on the kind of place middle class backpackers like ourselves would find both satisfying and a little surprising at the price. And it has worked well. What we had not bargained for was the “culture”.

For some sixteen of our thirty or so post-graduation years we had lived in London. We were vultures of the cultural type whenever energy levels ran to it. We were friends of the English National Opera during its ‘power house’ years. I was a teacher and, during school holidays, used to walk from Balham to central London for the lunchtime concerts, St James’s in Piccadilly being my favourite venue. Then we moved to Brunei and then to the United Arab Emirates. In Brunei we were members of the Music Society and helped to organise concerts. In Abu Dhabi, cultural events were very much in the purview of the diplomatic and private sector people, and there was and remains a vibrant cultural life in the city which, after all, is the nation’s capital. So we were able to attend good quality cultural events, comprising mainly music, theatre and visual arts, in both places. And then we came to Spain.

Our initial visit had suggested that there was more going on in this sphere than a browse through the package tour brochures might suggest. But if I was to relate that in the last eight months we have been to four operas, four full orchestral concerts, ten chamber music recitals, five local festivities, an international film festival, uncountable art exhibitions and goodness knows what else – and furthermore if I were to qualify this by saying that not once did we have to travel more than ten kilometres from home, would you associate this with Benidorm and the Costa Blanca? And, if you are mildly surprised by what I have just claimed, it would probably further surprise you to learn that in addition to this, Benidorm itself is building a new cultural centre, that ten kilometres down the road the new Villajoyosa Cultural Centre is about to open and that this year La Nucia, our home town, itself opened a 600-seat concert hall and a 3000-seat outside auditorium.

Perhaps I need to re-state how local is my claim. About thirty kilometres down the road from Benidorm is Alicante, a regional centre with a nineteenth century theatre presenting a full programme of ballet, drama and opera. About a hundred and forty kilometres north is Valencia, where the programme of the spectacular new Reina Sofia opera house is coordinated with those of New York’s Met and London’s Covent Garden. What I have described excludes those venues and only includes what can be found within ten kilometres of where we live, within ten kilometres of Benidorm, a cultural paradise.

You may have guessed that we are very keen on music, my wife and I. But we are also keen on theatre, dance, painting and the arts in general. We don’t tend to go to pop festivals, but if we did we have those locally as well.

Why not check out the listings for La Nucia, Altea, Benidorm, Alfaz del Pi, Villajoyosa and Finestrat? Choose your time of year and you could attend a superb musical event every night of your stay and I guarantee that the performance standard will be as good as anywhere. And if you can also take in Joachim Palomares and his ensemble playing their arrangements of Piazzolla tangos, or Altea’s April opera week or La Nucia’s Les Nits festival, you are in for a real treat. And when Benidorm’s new cultural centre is open, imagine glossy package tour brochures offering deals inclusive of stalls seats for Puccini or a performance of Steve Reich’s Drumming! Followed, of course, by a one euro pint of lager, bacon and eggs and a northern comic, perhaps.

Buenos Aires – Tango With Luxury

Buenos Aires is a bright city of melancholia set to a dance-step; a tango town of once-fabulous wealth and now of nostalgic mansions gone to delicious decrepitude; the city of jackbooted generals and the Mothers of the Disappeared, of Maradona and even, briefly, of Madonna.

There’s more to Buenos Aires than memories of tarts, tango and generalissimos. This city of Belle Epoque elegance and endlessly wide avenues is like no other Latin American capital. From the red, pink and blue houses of Caminita to the centre’s grandiose edifices, it is a city of fascinations.

Where to stay in Buenos Aires

In addition to its hip-swinging culture, the city is also host to a slew of high-end luxury hotels to make your stay as decadent as possible.

Alvear Palace Hotel: The most elegant and comfortable luxury hotel in Buenos Aires. It glories in its Louis XIV and Empire style – all marble, gilt and elaborate stucco. The suites on the ninth and tenth floors have the best views over the Parks and the River Plate.

The Mansion: A century-old palace with period rooms and suites. The eleventh and twelfth floors of the main building allow faraway views of the madness of the Avenida 9 de Julio (Avenue of the 9th July), Buenos Aires’ massive, multi-laned main street, with obelisk commemorating the city’s 400 years.

Faena Hotel: Rock-star glamour finds its home at uber-designer Philippe Stark’s edgy take on luxury hotels, all done up in piano black and red leather.

Two to Tango

They say the dance reflects the soul of Argentina: melancholy, wistful, erotic. It originated in working-class neighbourhoods, such as San Telmo itself, as a rough and ready musical style often accompanied by obscene lyrics. Later it was refined, and embraced, by all of Argentina. There’s nothing better than to linger on the street, talking to the artists and watching the tango dancers: Buenos Aires at its brilliant best.

Cafe Dorrego: As an entre to this most theatrical of dances, head for the Sunday morning antiques market in the bohemian barrio of San Telmo, where dancers perform in front of the Cafe on Plaza Dorrego. Watch as dancers twirl and pout in the shadows of evening, accompanied by the haunting banoneon concertina and the raspy voices of elderly men.

Confiteria Ideal: If you’re misguided enough to think you can do it too, join in on an afternoon milonga – an up-tempo style of tango and a participatory event, where you can take lessons.

Gran Cafe Tortoni: Established in 1858, the robust European cafe culture revels in this beloved venue, undoubtedly the granddaddy of old-school Euro-style, with its red velvet curtains, stained glass ceilings and waiters in black suits. The cafe is only one of the dozens of locations that host the annual Tango Festival; ten days filled with music, dancing and even cinematic competitions.

Buenos Aires – A Bargain Hunters Dream!

Not very long ago the currency of Buenos Aires was tied to the US dollar. While this fabulous city offered great panache and European flair, it had spiraling inflation and was as pricey to visit as any other major metropolis. That all changed in 2002 when the Argentine Peso was liberated to float on its own and experienced a significant devaluation. In the five years since, while the Peso has slowly gained in value, Argentina has become the darling of jet set travelers flocking to bargain shop in trendy boutiques filled with European designer goods, dine in world class restaurants and learn to Tango.

So what makes this city such a magnet for those in the know? Quite simply, the city sizzles! Often called the Paris of South America, the streets hum with the exuberance of a culture that has embraced its uniqueness and has rediscovered its youthful vitality. Buenos Aires enjoys a vibrant cafe society where
artisans mold works of vibrant color, musicians old and young revel in the music of the street, and nothing seems more important than gathering with friends to discuss the news of the day.

Fashioned by immigrants from Europe, the architecture of Buenos Aires evokes feelings of Rome, Paris and Barcelona. The city is home to numerous landscaped parks, a world famous opera house, well respected museums, magnificent churches and broad avenues filled with trendy shops selling designer goods at a fraction of their Euro prices. Tango bars and techno clubs abound to make Buenos Aires one of the great nightlife cities of the world. And do not leave without purchasing some of their world famous custom crafted leather goods.

So let’s review 7 reasons why you should hop on a plane to Buenos Aires as soon as you can:

1)It is a fun, sophisticated city with museums galore, cafes for dining, boutiques for shopping, on streets that could have been lifted straight from France or Spain.

2) The tremendously good rate of exchange means all your activities and purchases will be a terrific value.

3) Because Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, they have summer when we are having winter. January, February and March see temperatures averaging 80 degrees. Likewise, when we’re hot and steamy in summer, they are having temps in the 60’s.

4) Shopping is divine, with supple leathers and designer clothes being the best bargain.

5) Dining is world class. Try their famous Argentinean Beef at incredible prices.

6) The nightlife positively sizzles to a Tango beat.

7) For all you sports fans, no one loves their football (soccer) more than Argentines! Soccer, polo and horse racing are much loved as well and draw huge crowds. You may want to bring along your golf clubs, as BA is home to several exquisite golf courses.

All this and great prices too – incredible! Where else can you find five star hotels for only $200 a night; or gourmet dinners at upscale restaurants for only $25 per person? It’s time to move Buenos Aires to the top of your MUST SEE list!

The Cheapest Awesome Places to Travel

International travel doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact, if you pick your destination properly you’ll be able to live at a much higher standard of living than you can Stateside without spending any more money than you’d shell out for an average weekend of forgettable nonsense at your usual low-rent haunts.

If you’re in the mood for some low-cost travelling that won’t leave you broke, consider the following awesome cheap places to visit.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin has held the title as Europe’s premier low-cost capital for nearly two decades now. Despite being the capital city of the world’s third largest industrial power, the fall of the wall back in the late 1980’s set the stage for an affordable international party hub. During Berlin’s half-century of schism the Soviets just couldn’t stop building unnecessary new neighborhoods and utility buildings in the East and that means to this day East Berlin continues to stretch out in a nearly endless sprawl of city blocks slowly being transformed by artists, immigrants, and anyone with a dream and a lack of capital to make it happen elsewhere. Cheap housing = cheap everything, and it’s easy to have a truly world-class night on the town for $30 USD (€23 euros, £18.50 British pounds) or less.

Porto, Portugal

Lisbon is cheap, but Porto puts Portugal’s capital to shame, especially if you go during the off-season. You can find great lodging in Porto for $10-$15 (€8-€12, £4.50-£9) a night, an exceptional lunch of seafood caught right outside town for $5 and massive dinners of grilled octopus, heaps of salt cod and all the vegetables and buttered potatoes you can eat for no more than $10 a head. Cheap tours of the local Port cellars (complete with buzz-inducing tastings), trips up the Douro river to visit some of the world’s most gorgeous vineyards and the natural beauty of the city’s rocky terrain and expansive beach make Porto one of Europe’s hidden treasures.

Greece

It’s important to note, very quickly, that economic instability in safe, developed countries is every budget traveller’s dream. The bigger a country’s economic crisis the cheaper and cheaper it becomes to spend some quality time exploring its shores. This is true both when it comes to daily living and to actually reaching countries suffering from hard times, as locales taking a beating tend to bend over backwards on airfare to get people to continue to visit them (i.e. Japan post-Tsunami).

It isn’t exploitative to live it up in a country like Greece while they’re experiencing some economic turmoil. In fact, there are few more positive actions you can take for these countries than travelling to them and spending a bunch of money on local products and services. Helping to stimulate local economies while living like (polite) royalty is the definition of a win-win.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A perennial favorite, Buenos Aires (a.k.a. BsAs) is home to more travellers and ex-pats than any other city in South America, and for good reason. Modern BsAs is the result of a mix of about a half-dozen different European and South American cultures meaning the food, architecture, attitude, and vibe of the city strikes the right chord between the foreign and the familiar. Want another positive benefit of the city’s mixed pedigree? You’ll be able to find just about anything you could ever want there, including more than enough English speakers to find your way around. Add on other positives including the city’s love of dance and a resident daily diet consisting mainly of gelato (ice cream) and the world’s best grass-fed beef and BsAs would be a steal at any price. The fact you’ll get the equivalent worth of $4 for every one US dollar you spend makes visiting BsAs a no-brainer for the wise budget-conscious traveller.

Central America

As great as Buenos Aires may be when you’re looking to live large on the cheap, the city does have one daunting downside that might prevent you from living up your tango-dancing dreams. That is the fact BsAs sits at the absolute end of the world, down at the southern part of the South American continent. It might as well be a short boat ride from the glaciers of the South Pole. BsAs’ distance means it can be a bit expensive to fly to, and shelling out $1,000-$2,000 US for a round trip ticket won’t strike the average individual as a cheap trip, no matter how cost-effective the end destination may be.

But Panama, in addition to other relatively stable and safe Central American countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras are cheap to enjoy and cheap to fly to, even from the northern United States. A two-second search on Kayak just revealed I could purchase a round-trip ticket from New York City to Panama City, leaving next week no less, for $301. Unlike Costa Rica and Guatemala, Panama remains a hidden treasure, offering inexpensive amenities and entertainment, endless natural beauty, and a decidedly welcome lack of tourists.

Thailand

If there’s one budget travel destination more famous and well-trafficked than Buenos Aires it’s Thailand. Bangkok has long been considered the destination for a traveller to live like a little prince without breaking the bank, providing easy access to every sensual pleasure you could ever want at a bargain. And when I say every sensual pleasure I do mean every. Great local food for under $1 US a plate, hour-long massages on the beach for $12 US, and yes, whatever sex you could ever dream of. You don’t need to seek out sexual experiences when you visit Bangkok to have a good time, not in the least, but it’s impossible to mention Thailand’s best-known destination without at least tipping your hat to its status as the world capital of sex tourism.

If you’re interested in a lower-key, but still inexpensive and traveller-friendly corner of Thailand, you should visit Chiang Mai. At Chiang Mai you’ll find an abundance of travellers and ex-pats more interested in living a less wild expression of the good life while still getting an authentically Thai experience.

And if Thailand is too popular for your desires, nearby Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia offer their own unique low-cost traveller-friendly pleasures.

Think North American

You don’t always need to travel overseas to open yourself up to new experiences, to regain a little perspective on your life and to rewire your perspective on the world. I currently live in North America and while I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to various far-off corners of the world, I’ve stumbled upon some of my most significant revelations and enjoyed some of my most life-changing experiences travelling in this continent.

The warmth of a bank teller in Knoxville, Tennessee, once dissolved my encrusted cynicism as powerfully as the kindness of strangers located half the world away. Visiting the West Coast for a couple months was a bigger culture shock than visiting Berlin, and spending a few days at my friend’s cabin in Central Pennsylvania always acts as a powerful system-reset and never costs me more than an all-inclusive $60 (€48 euros, £27 pounds).

International travel does offer its own unique set of circumstance and environmental cues that sets off personal growth in a manner domestic travel doesn’t always achieve, but don’t assume you need to jet away to get the break from everyday life you crave.

Marketing Your Rental Income Properties Effectively

Anyone who has been engaging in real estate investing for any amount of time has surely tried to sell an investment property at one time or another.

It’s called marketing. Over my thirty-year real estate career, I certainly did my share. And though my attempts didn’t always produce a successful outcome, the experience taught me a few things about marketing rental income property I would like to pass along.

Most are common sense, but mentioned as a reminder because there are realtors and sellers out there who need to hear it. The remaining tips are more subjective, but included to help you consider what might be a more effective marketing approach than you’re using.

Foremost, never make your marketing packages too vague. When you omit important financial data, it makes it very difficult for a buyer to adequately determine whether or not it presents a good investment opportunity. And this will typically lead to a further exchange of data with a buyer or agent that, at the very least, will be time-consuming, and at the worst, could cause a buyer to lose interest in the deal altogether.

Secondly, resist the temptation to skew the property’s financial data to appear overly optimistic. Perhaps rents can get raised, for instance, and you want to reveal that. But if you over-inflate what you deem could be future rents, you risk losing your credibility with the buyer, or may end up wasting your time in a deal that never has a chance anyway, once it’s subjected to the buyer’s due diligence. Keep your estimated assumptions realistic.

Thirdly, and this is a bit more subjective, don’t present marketing packages that contain everything but the proverbial kitchen sink-at least not in your initial presentation. In my opinion, distributing more than a three-page property report at your local investment club meeting or in response to a telephone inquiry, is overkill. Remember, you’re just trying to generate a response from credible investors with a valid interest; a more comprehensive set of reports can always get presented during subsequent exchanges.

Okay, now let me show you the essentials that worked for me. For simplicity, I’ve organized them by category: the numbers, and the reports.

The Numbers

Aside from sale price (which is a given), you’ll want to provide an itemized break down for the property’s annual cash flow, and computations for at least two rates of return.

  • Cash Flow

Cash flow is crucial because it’s essentially what the real estate investor is purchasing in the rental property. So compute it for at least the first year of ownership by focusing on the following three financial elements:

  • Gross Rental Income
  • Operating Expenses
  • Debt Service

Rates of Return

The rates of return (at least the two listed below) are important for the investor to determine whether or not his or her yields get met as well as providing a good way to compare the property’s financial performance and value to other similar-type rental properties in the market area.

  • Cap Rate
  • Cash-on-Cash

The Reports

Here are two reports I commonly used for initial inquiries. Both clearly show the rental property’s cash flow, and each include the cap rate and cash-on-cash rates of return. So they are informative, easy to read and understand, and straight to the point. Consider them as examples.

  • Marketing flyer

This announces the listing to the community-at-large (i.e., investment meetings, call-ins, and inquiries from colleagues). (Sample available on my site).

  • APOD

This enables you to show your own investor-customers a likely scenario during the first year of ownership. (Sample available on my site).

In a Nutshell

An effective way to market rental income property is to consider the process in two stages: the initial presentation, and the subsequent follow-up. Keep the initial presentation concise; even one report with enough data to reveal the property’s description, estimated cash flow, and investor’s rate of return should be adequate to garner interest from credible buyers when they exist. And reserve all the other reports (e.g., acquisition funds, proforma income statement, rent roll) to the subsequent follow-up exchanges.

Lending Private Money on Real Estate

Lending to real estate investors offers the Private Lender many benefits not otherwise enjoyed through other means. Before we get into the benefits, let us briefly explore what Private Money Lending is. In the real estate financing industry, private money lending refers to the money an individual, not a bank, lends to a real estate investor in exchange for a primary determined rate of return or other consideration.

Why private loans? Banks do not typically lend to investors on properties that require improvement to attain market value, or ‘after repair value’ (ARV). Savvy people with available cash in a broker account or self-directed IRA, realize that they can fill the void left by the banks and attain a greater return than they may be currently getting in CD’s, bonds, savings and money market accounts, or even the stock market. So a market was born, and it has become essential to real estate investors.

Private Money Lending would not have become popular unless Lenders saw a tremendous value in it. Let us review key advantages to becoming a Private Money Lender.

Terms are negotiable

The Lender can negotiate interest rate and possible profit share with the borrower. Additionally, interest and principle payments can also be negotiated. Whatever agreement that suits both parties to a private loan is allowable.

Return on Investment

Current interest rates charged on private money loans are generally between 7% – 12%. These rates, as of April 2018, are currently greater than returns from CD’s, savings and money market accounts. They also outperform the 4.7% the stock market has produced, inflation adjusted, since 1/1/2000. That is over 18 years.

Collateral provided

Real Estate property serves as collateral for the loan. Most real estate investors acquire their properties at a significant discount to the market. This discount provides the lender with quality collateral should the borrower default.

Choice

The Private Money Lender gets to choose who to lend to, or what project to lend on. They can get detailed information on the project, the investors experience, and the kind of profits normally made.

No Effort

The Lender only worries about the loan. The Investor takes all the other risks and does the work to find, purchase, fix and sell the property. The Lender just collects the interest.

Stability

Real Estate does have ups and downs. But its volatility is nowhere as pronounced as the stock market. Additionally, when purchased at a proper discount, the property provides a cushion against the ups and downs.

Tax Free/Tax Deferred

A Private Money Lender can lend on real estate from a self-directed IRA. The gains achieved can grow either tax-free or tax deferred helping to build the retirement nest egg faster than ever.

Diversification

Lending on real, tangible, brick and mortar assets provides additional diversification to a Lenders portfolio to provide protection in the event of a down period.

If you have the desire to invest in real estate, but don’t want to take on all the associated risk, or get your hands dirty, private lending could provide a wide range of opportunities and benefits in growing your wealth and providing for your retirement.

Global Business on a Budget

Businesses today need to look beyond geographical borders in order to expand. There is a whole world of consumers, customers and clients out there waiting to buy your service or product. Opportunities aplenty await the astute businessman willing to take the risk and go global.

“Going Global” does not need to be expensive. It’s relatively straightforward and cost-effective to target foreign markets if you are astute enough and cost conscious enough. Neil Payne set up his business on a laptop in a studio flat in 2018. He now oversees a company with offices in the UK, USA, Argentina, South Africa, Germany and the UAE. Here are some tips on how he did it.

  • Marketing

“Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive anymore,” explains Neil. You don’t need a massive budget to get customers. A simple website, fully-optimized for the search engines and in the local language is probably one of the most effective means of entering a market at very little cost. If worse comes to worse you may lose a few hundred dollars.

  • Phone Bills

Using Skype, Google Chat or any other VOIP system dramatically reduces phone bills. With Skype you can call internationally for as little as £0.02 per minute which, compared to landlines, is peanuts. “Skype has helped us in many ways”, adds Neil. “Not only can all offices conference call for pennies, but in emergencies we can even have calls forwarded via Skype to one of the other offices ensuring we never let clients down.”

  • Virtual Working

If you fancy having a go at a market it’s not always necessary to actually have staff on the ground there. “When we first started our operations in Germany we actually had a German speaker in the UK office handling calls and emails. We still had a German number and appeared to be in Berlin through using a virtual office,” comments Neil. “Once we knew the German market was for us, we only then invested in people there.”

  • Get Funding

Governments generally want to see businesses doing well abroad. It’s good for everyone. As a result there are usually pots of funding available for companies wanting to trade abroad. UK Trade & Investment (in the UK) offer numerous incentives including Market Research, Aid-Funding and one-to-one business advice. Check what other grants may be available through local governments, enterprise incentives and the like.

  • Watch Exchange Rates

Many a decent business as been caught out by exchange rate fluctuations. “I remember many years ago when the Euro suddenly shot up against the Pound. We were losing money hand over first to our Europe based suppliers, ” states Neil. “In the end we decided we had to fix rates against the Pound so that we were always paying the same amount regardless of exchange rates.”

  • Money Transfers

Working internationally inevitably means you have to pay people in foreign locations. Avoid paying money via wire transfers. Banks charge extortionate rates. There are plenty of alternatives now on the market such as Moneybookers, Paypal, Payoneer and the like. “We used to be charged £25 per international transaction by our bank. Now we use Moneybookers and literally get charged around a £1 per payment,” states Neil.

  • Minimize Business Trips

Travel costs time and money. In the age of conference calls, emails, the internet and online demonstrations travel is no longer a necessity. You save thousands in using technology to address problems, meet with employees or sell to customers. “But,” adds Neil, “always bear in mind cultural differences. Some cultures will only ever really want to do real business with someone face-to-face. Doing so online may actually alienate them.”

  • Book Flights in Advance

If you are prepared enough you can block out a few weeks well in advance and use this time to visit a location. You will then be able to tell suppliers, customers and staff to also set aside those times to meet with you. This then allows you to book flights well in advance and save serious money.

  • Centralize Functions

If it’s possible to do so, have one of your offices deal with a certain function. For example, you may do all your invoicing from one location, all quoting from one location or all marketing from one location. This saves time and money and decreases the burden on the different locations.

  • Look for Local Partners

“My strategy for all our offices has always been that I want to find someone like me in that country; someone with entrepreneurial skills and plenty of passion. If you find the right person they can take on your business and make it their own at a fraction of the cost of immediately employing a manager for example,” says Neil. If you do not want to go through the burden of managing an office or staff, then look to franchise or partnership agreements.