Who is Crazy…They or Me?

You might know we drive on the right side of the road here in the West, but even that has at least 2 lanes. The right-most lane is for the slow moving traffic, and you wouldn’t want to be there unless you have all the time in the world to reach your destination! The left-most is for those who can’t wait to get to their destination (like me)!

Now, I am not a slow driver, so I hardly visit the right lane. But then I don’t over-speed in the left, so people keep overtaking me from the right. Even if I am over the posted speed limit, people still keep zipping past me from the right. Some even give me horrible looks as if I shouldn’t be driving at all! That drives me crazy! Would you give me that title if I am already above the posted speed limit? Crazy! Not me…they!

Because of those looks, I do visit the right lane at times…when I get frustrated enough! But then I can’t see people leaving me behind from the left either. And some still give me looks as if I am too old to drive fast! Do you think I am crazy to let them reach early at their destination while I slog in the right lane. No way! …And here goes my car from the right to left 🙂

So, as you can imagine, it’s a constant struggle for me on the road – I can neither let people give me horrible looks when I am on the left-side; nor can I let them feel sorry for me when I am on the right.

When we have 3 lanes, it is easy for me to decide – just be in the middle one 🙂 That’s where I am at peace as I get the least of the weird looks, compared to the other 2 lanes. Some still show me the middle finger occasionally, but I consider it the price I have to pay to be on the road.driving-on-the-rightThings get complicated when there are too many lanes, as in the picture above. What do I do then? That requires a bit of analysis: Leave the left and the right altogether for the reasons mentioned earlier. Leave the 2nd from the right also, as those are the ’un-deciders,’ who can’t be on the extreme right but are afraid of picking up speed too, which is required in the left. That leaves us with 2nd from the left and the middle lane – and I use them both, with 80% of my time spent in the 2nd from left and only 20 in the middle one. The 2nd gives me the speed I need and the middle gives me relief, when I want to relax. The combination works well for me, and since there are too many options for people, I get the least of the crazy looks 🙂

*Picture sourced from here

Looking to move your car from the US to Canada? Here’s what is involved…

Let me state at the outset – it is very easy to move your car from the US to Canada, if you have proper documentation. I was told otherwise by a few, but after going through the experience myself, I would say it is only time consuming but well worth the pain and money you would save (by not selling in the US and buying again in Canada)!

toyota camry
I drive this Camry, which I absolutely love 🙂

Here’s what you need to do to make the process a cake-walk for you:

Assumptions/Notes:

  1. Your car should be in the acceptable list of vehicles permitted to be imported to Canada. Check the list here
  2. The car is in your name and you’ve driven it for some time in the US. I am not sure what the process is for bringing a brand new car from the US to Canada.
  3. I still had my US DL active for a month when I moved to Canada.
  4. I also continued with Geico US Auto insurance till I got my Canadian insurance. When I got the local insurance in Canada, I discontinued Geico and got the refund of the remaining amount I had already paid for in my US account.
  5. I didn’t drive the car through the border – Since I wanted to avoid the hassle of putting proper documentation in place, I sent my car through the moving company my firm has a tie-up with.
  6. If you had renewal(s) of DL in the US, you should have even the earlier DL(s) to surrender to the Canadian authorities to be considered for full driving history.
  7. Carry all the documents that would collect from various agencies over time before you head to the next one. You don’t want to go to an agency and be in the queue only to find out you are missing something that you should have carried along.
  8. I spent around CAD1,000 overall and most of it was reimbursed by my firm. Your charges could vary a bit here and there depending on your personal situation.
  9. If the moving company paid any charges to any of the 2 governments, I am not aware of that. What I do know is they billed my firm for about USD2,000 for the move.

What to do in the US:

  1. You would have to go to DMV a month or so in advance and get the ‘Abstract’ of your driving record. In New Jersey, they charge USD15 and you can get it in minutes if you go yourself. You would need this (along with any previous DLs, as mentioned above) to have your entire US driving history taken into account in Canada. Without the abstract, Canadian authorities would only allow you to exchange the US licence for G1 licence (as if you have under 1 year of experience).
    I had 3 years of history in the US and got the extract before moving to Canada. So, I got the full G licence by paying CAD90 in exchange for my valid US licence (had to give them my expired US DL also from a year back and the abstract).

What to do in Canada:

  1. The first thing you need to do is to get the DL as explained above. You can visit the nearest Drive Test Center for this step.
  2. Next is to get the car when it arrives in Canada by getting it cleared through customs. I was called by the moving company on the day it was ready for pick-up at customs. I just had to go there with the documents I was handed over in the US by the moving company, along with the Canada Work Permit and Passport. Overall, it took about 5-10 minutes to clear my car and the payment was a customs fees of CAD220.
  3. You would need to get the vehicle inspected so it meets Canadian standards. I went to Canadian Tires and it took about 4 hours to get that done. I was asked to replace the rear break pads and a couple of other minor things. The total was CAD600, out of which parts were for about CAD222 (except for the cost of parts, the labor and inspection cost was borne by my firm).
  4. Then comes the process of buying Auto insurance. I spoke to a few vendors and finally went with TD Insurance, they gave me a good deal by combining both Renter’s insurance for my Apartment and the Auto insurance. Always lookout for such deals!
  5. Finally, the registration of car is required, which is to be done at Service Ontario. It is a 5-10 minute job (I paid CAD240, which includes a sticker too) and you should be able to happily walk away with a new number place. Remember to mail the US number plate to the DMV back there.

Don’t be frightened by the number of steps. As I mentioned upfront, it is only time consuming, but would save you thousands of Dollars!

The Valley of Rocks: Monument Valley

Just a couple of hours’ drive from Page, Arizona (the location of HorseShoe Bend and Antelope Canyons) lies the valley of rocks – the Monument Valley! It has a cluster of large Sandstone buttes (an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top).

Though the tour of the valley was not in our original plan for Arizona/Utah, we decided on a quick trip from Page as we had one afternoon open. The drive itself is through the vast barren landscapes, but as one approaches the Valley at the border of the 2 states, the tourists begin to be seen.road to the monument valley utahThere is a general admission fees of $20 per vehicle and then you can just drive on the 14-mile graded dirt road that takes you through the major monuments – The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Totem Pole, Yel-Bichel, Ear of the Wind.

Here’s the John Ford’s Point, followed by the Three Sisters:john ford's point utahthree sisters monument valleyThere are many monuments there, difficult to capture in just a few hours. One can stop at the designated points though and enjoy the stunning views.snow in desertwhat to see in arizona utahIt had snowed a bit there earlier (who can imagine that in the so-called desert!), but it made our outing all the more exciting. This one is my personal favorite from the day (the colors are all natural):beautiful photography monument valleyThe below shot has Yel-Bicehl on the left and Totem Pole on the right, which has gone through extensive erosion over time!best of usa travelIt was about time for dusk, and that’s when I get super-active. The reason – most of my best shots have come either at dawn or when the sun was about to bid good-bye for the day!snow in arizona utahThe last shot of the day was that of the Mittens (left and middle one) and of the Merrick Butte (right foreground) – looks magical, isn’t it?night shots at monument valleyAfter about 4 hours, we left another of nature’s wonder, but not before collecting a souvenir from a large shop at the entrance.

Why MBA is Your Best Bet to a Lucrative Career?

Blog-images-MBA-min-1At some point in our lives, there is this big question that stares at us – what career to pursue? While some of us give it a due consideration much in advance, some are left wondering when the time to take a call dawns upon them. The result is falling prey to the family pressure, or even as flimsy as just going with what is hot in the market. Would you want to take that gamble in your life? Hopefully, not!

An MBA (Masters in Business Administration) can propel your career prospects and can even help you get into boardrooms at the higher stages of your career.

The questions that I dealt with when I was deciding on my future included:

  1. Why should you do MBA?
  2. Which B-schools to target and why?
  3. How to prepare for the Entrance Exams?

Being a critical aspect of our lives, we need to give it a due thought before finalizing on what would keep us happy all through.

The details around each of the above points have been shared on the Money View Blog here.

Please do share your thoughts.

The thunderous experince of Niagara Falls

We went to Niagara Falls on the US side about 5 years. Though the views are spectacular (and I posted a few pics on my Instagram account earlier), but the beauty on the Canadian side is overwhelming. So, after moving to Canada, the first trip we took was spending a Sunday afternoon there…it is just about an hour-and-a-half drive from our place!

Niagara Falls is a common name of 3 falls – Horseshoe Falls (the largest), Ameircan Falls, and Bridalveil Falls (the smallest).

We arrived there around 3.30pm and parked our car at the Falls Parking Lot (there are many other options around too, you can check on the internet beforehand). At $22 for the day, it is a great option as it is just opposite the Horseshoe Falls.best view of niagara fallshorseshoe falls canadaniagara canada.jpgthe mesmerizing waterfallsThe beauty of the place is eye-catching as there are many hotels close by and the landscapes provide for an added charm. There is enough to spend even a day there as one can just stroll around along the falls for a couple of kilometers!hotels near niagara falls.jpgstrolling along the niagaraJust a few steps aways from the Horseshoe are the American Falls (the long ones on the left below) and Bridalveil Falls (the small one on the right) – both lie entirely on the US side.american and bridalveil fallsThe boats you see in the shots run from both the US and Canadian side – they are referred to as Maid of the Mist experience. We took the one from the US side when we visited earlier – it is an amazing experince as you would hear the craching waves by being as close to them as possibe, and soak up drops of powerful spray (be ready to get wet though you would be given a protective sheet for the body). We hope to take it again from this side someday. I also have to shot the night views of the falls since they illumite in different colors through high-intensity beams!

Being a major attraction in both countries, there are other ways to indule too…take the carriage ride for instance!carriage ride at niagaraIf you feel tired or hungry, there is no dearth of outlets to enjoy the meal you prefer, or just shop for some souvenirs.

Btw, Canada is celerating its 150th year and all national parks across the nation have free entry this year…something we hope to leverage soon!canada 150th day celebrationWe started back around 10 in the night, after witnessing the amazing fireworks over the falls. For more details for your trip, I suggest checking their site.

When is the best time to invest in Stock Markets?

Each of us have our own perspective when it comes to timing the Markets! If you look at where the India Stock Markets are right now, some would say the conditions are ripe for a much further move up; while some others would say the valuations are over-stretched and it is better to book profits. Well, to be frank, nobody knows what would happen tomorrow. Our guesses are as good as the toss of a coin!stock-market-investmentSo, where does that leave us?

My experience investing in over a decade says invest regularly. That way you won’t feel left out if the stocks move up; if they go down, your further investments would average out the ones you’ve already made. However, basic common sense would say a developing market like India should pay off in the long term, and that’s what it has done! Nifty50 – a widely tracked index of the Indian Markets – has a CAGR of 11.7% in last 20 years (since 1996) and 7.5% in last 10 years (since 2006). But one has to keep in mind that these are long-term averages, meaning there were ups-and-downs over these years. To put things into perspective, if you had invested a lump-sum amount just before the crash of 2008, your money would have taken a serious beating; but, if you had invested at the peak of the crash, you would have made a killing in the next few years. That’s why the wisdom says invest over time.

One basic mistake is to blindly go by the commentary of Analysts. Many have been advising since long that we are in the over-bough territory. If I had followed their advice, I would have not made record profits in each of the last few months! Though it might sound concerning, most of those profits have come from stocks that already rose a bit and my gut feeling asked me to still go with them. Having said that, I do maintain a balance between investing directly in stocks and also in mutual funds via sip route…the individual stocks might get hammered during tough times, but a basket of them would be relatively better off. It is essentially risk vs reward playoff.

This leaves us with using our best judgment when it comes to investing. If you have a long enough experience in the markets, the call will be relatively easy to make; but if you are a novice, you might burn your fingers initially. Again, that’s where investing regularly over a period of time helps and you learn in the process too!

*Picture sourced from here

Following the multi-cultural dream!

We have moved to Canada!

I would have hit H1B limit in the US end of this month and I declined Green Card request from my company 2 years back…and I have no regrets whatsoever!

More often than not, my decision to move on was met with shock to extreme disbelief with whoever I’ve shared the news. I was asked why on earth I don’t want to settle down in the US. Even otherwise, I could have applied for and taken the Green Card (GC) and then left. Well, I was never intent on doing so…and I don’t do anything unless I am comfortable with it!

I can imagine why people behaved the way they did. Let’s take the Indians in the US as an example – most of them dislike India after they’ve spent some time in the US, so much so that some even start ‘hating’ the place they come from! An India-born lady I recently met in the US said, ‘I am happy Trump is adding restrictions on immigrants. Indians are trash and should be sent back!’ As much as I was sorry to hear that and had to bow down my head in shame, I couldn’t believe she can hardly speak a sentence in proper English, in spite of being in the US for over 15 years. If you ask me, she should be the first one to be sent packing!

For me, my love for my motherland never changed. It is natural to ask then, why did I spend 6 years in the US? A simple answer – to fulfill my financial obligations.

As much as I would like to head back to India, I still want to make myself financially stable and gain multi-cultural experiences. I tried very hard to find my next assignment in Europe for multiple reasons. And, for many months last year, Belfast in Ireland was looking like a good possibility. But things didn’t work out eventually and my current client never wanted me to leave either. All in all, Mississauga (close to Toronto) in Canada is where the discussions finally settled down on – not exactly the outcome I had hoped for, but such is life! So, here I am, publishing this post from Canada. The dream of going back to India someday is still there, though.

Btw, I had promised myself to visit Niagara Falls on the Canadian side the first weekend I am here – and I fulfilled that ambition. Here’a video of the world-famous HorseShoe Falls visible only from this side of the border.

More on my Niagara outing would come up across platforms in due course, but there is a lot to look forward to as we start exploring Canada now 🙂

Before I end, a request to my readers  – We all understand the craze to move to the West to pursue our ambitions is something hard to pass over. There is nothing wrong in settling down here too. But, don’t badmouth your own country. If for some reason you are ‘kicked-out’ of the US, it will only be your home country that will still be willing to welcome you with open arms!

Drive to the top of Mount Washington

Even though I’ve been to the highest peak of North-Eastern United States a couple of times, I can’t put down my feelings in words. Just the thrill of driving through the curvy and (mostly) narrow roads is enough, and imagine adding nature’s beauty alongside it! Well, such was our experience this time, primarily because we were there during the peak of color change.

After buying the tickets at the base, we were on our way to drive about 8 miles to the summit through the Mt Washington Auto Road. There are designated stops every once in a while where one can park the car (stopping is recommended though as it lets the engine cool off) and just get lost in the beauty!

I hardly miss the changes in scenery; else, I wouldn’t have enjoyed these stunning landscapes!alpine beauty in mountainsbest nature colorsThe place is famous for skiing during the winter time, and one can see those paths in the distance from the top. Well, October is actually the time when snowfall starts for the season, so make sure the road is open before you even head to the area. It is better to check their website for daily updates during or around the winter time.best views in new hampshireThe summit is nothing short of being at the top of the world literally – the entire White Mountains area of New Hampshire is visible right below us. There are trails too at the peak…actually, one can hike also all the way to the top from the base – yes, some are that crazy!

There are a couple of structures at the top proving history of the place, and also on early visitors. There is a shop too where you can buy souvenirs. We always purchase at least one at the places we visit. If we were to put all the magnets we have on the fridge, I guess we would run out of space already 🙂

Enjoy yourself to the fresh air of ever gorgeous landscapes. If you feel tired, there is a cafe shop too, with enough to fill the stomach (paid, of course – not pricey though!).mount washingtonAs mentioned in the previous post, you can plan to take cog railway also to the top (instead of your car). It can be taken one or both ways, though we never experienced it. Here’s how it looks though – a toy train from the far off!cog railway nhnew hampshire trainYou would need a couple of hours at least to spend a decent time there and explore the summit. We must have spent about 3 hours before starting the downward journey. Needless to say, I stopped at many places, again! There was not much traffic on the roads, giving me enough time for my clicks and experiments.beautiful fall drivesfall color photographyThere is nothing compared to the beauty of the fall, it is as if the entire world around us has been painted in different shades of magnificent colors!

Photo shoot at the base of Mount Washington

Mount Washington (highest peak in the Northeastern United States) enthralled me the first time we were there a couple of years back. So, I always wanted to go back and enjoy its unparalleled beauty once again…and autumn provides for a perfect time to witness the stunning landscapes the region offers.

But before I write about our 2nd excursion to its summit, let me give a glimpse of how gorgeous the base looked. We were on our way from the hotel in North Conway to the base of the peak.new hampshire fall colorsI must specifically mention I have never seen such a picture-perfect scenery anywhere else (yet). The multi-colored trees, white and blue skies, mist atop the mountains playing hide-and-seek, the river stream below – all take our breath away!

We just parked our car (free parking) in a large open lot and enjoyed for about an hour before buying our tickets to head up to the summit.base of mount washingtonmount washington nhfall in new england regionHere’s the entrance to the summit just a few feet away. The road to the summit is formally called Mount Washington Auto Road.best of new hampshireYou might feel like you have seen the best nature has to offer by just being there, but imagine seeing all this from the elevation – I will cover that in my next post on New Hampshire.

Notes:

  • We had to pay $29 for the car and myself and $9 for the wife as fees ($7 for kids of 5-12 yrs of age) to drive to the summit.
  • If you are traveling in winters, chances are the road might be closed because of weather. I suggest visiting their site for current information.
  • One can also take the Cog Train to have a different experience. Though we didn’t take it, I will show how the train looks in my next post. Details on the same can be found here.

Basics to keep in mind while Investing in Stock Markets

stock marketI am a fan of Stock Markets! But when I bring it into my discussions, some people avoid talking about it. The reason – they might have either lost or fear losing their hard-earned money. However, if you ask me, you will never lose sleep if you follow some basic rules.

Here are the ones that I have learned over the years:

  1.       Indulge with your surplus money.
  2.       Do your own research, not go by recommendations.
  3.       Go for quality stocks.
  4.       There can be dips too, maintain calm.
  5.       Don’t get greedy if a stock performs well.
  6.       Never put your eggs in one basket.

Each of them is explained in detail in my post for Money View here.

If you are not invested in the India markets (I like US markets too, but don’t have any exposure here though), you have missed out on some serious money in the last few years. And if you still don’t invest, you will surely miss on much more!

*Money View is India’s No.1 Money Manager app and has one of the top blogs in Business and Finance. Though I am paid to write for them, the thoughts are genuine.
**Image sourced from here