DAY 1Jul 01 2017
DAY 2Jul 02 2017
Sofia is as different as anticipated, coming in with absolutely zero expectations, heartbroken to leave Lisbon.
To start, the city is so much cleaner and so much more modern than I thought it would be, with touches of history scattered throughout.
I'm living in a two bedroom with Shelbi this month and, even though we're in the nicest part of downtown, our apartment street and door look like they belong to a crack den. But after entering, ignoring the exposed wire and the six story climb, the place itself (minus the lack of AC) is actually pretty decent. I don't have a freezer or a dishwasher but I do have a little microwave!
The workspace seems also a bit run down, but it's close to home and the wifi is awesome so I'll probably be there regularly now that my weeks are full of meetings.
The language will be a bit challenging this month. For the first time, and as an apt preview to Asia, we aren't using Roman characters. The skrillic alphabet is foreign and confusing and there's no patience for English unlike other cities.
It has been record breaking hot the last two days (>110'F) and we're thankfully expecting a storm to roll in. I'm writing this post as I'm falling asleep to a lightning storm out of my terrace, looking forward to my first day of rain in months, to my first day of work in months, and to a city of unknowns.
DAY 8Jul 08 2017
Bulgaria is as weird and mysterious as I had anticipated. It's equally modern and run down, crazy and boring, clean and dirty. After managing to check 1/3 of my Sofia bucket list off after just a few days, come the weekend I was itching to get out of town. Flights to anywhere and everywhere are dirt cheap from Sofia ($19-50 nonstop) so I debated Budapest, Milan, Pisa.
But the voice inside my head told me that it's my only weekend in Sofia and I may as well explore the Bulgarian countryside a bit, because, let's face it, I'm probably not going to come back. So I rented yet another car (that's at least one in every country so far!) and drove down to the Rila mountains.
The monastery at Rila is 1200 years old and still fully functional. The Bulgarian priests are SERIOUS about their sanctity, and even more serious about making sure everyone else follows the rules too. I wore a scarf but literally each moment it so much as shifted someone would approach me telling me to cover up. I must have very offensive shoulders.
All in all it was beautiful and peaceful. We got to witness the bells being manually tolled and the monks leading chants. It's nestled in the valley of mountains so the air was crisp and clean and it was a much needed head-clearer.
DAY 9Jul 09 2017
The next day and main attraction was hiking the seven Rila lakes. To get to base camp you have to drive an hour up into the mountains, park, and take a 30 minute (!) vertical chair lift to 7000 ft.
From there you scale another 1000 ft to start the seven hour mountain trek around the perimeter of the lakes, gaining and losing another 500 ft up and down rocks, through grassy plains, and across waterfalls and rivers.
Returned to Sofia late with some amazing pictures, two very sore legs, and a really bizarre cross shaped tan on my shoulder from my KT tape.
DAY 10Jul 10 2017
On this 100th day of Remote Year I wanted to share this goals sheet that I wrote confidentially before the program started. I'm extremely proud that I've held true to each of these and can't wait to keep it up for the next 265 days.
DAY 17Jul 17 2017
I booked the tickets to the music festival early in Prague (what month was that again?) and pretty much put it out of mind because it was so far in the future and there were so many other trips between then. I obviously forgot that 2 months of Remote Year passes in a blink, and all of a sudden our Romania trip was upon us.
Like Sofia, I had no expectations about Cluj, and was EXTREMELY pleasantly surprised. The town is clean and beautiful and has a lot to do. The countryside is lovely, the people are friendly, and the language is much easier to grasp. I could have sworn I smelled a hint of garlic everywhere but that might have been in my head ;)
The festival itself, apart from some shitty weather, was killer. Headliners included Moderat, Zedd, Alt-J, Franz Ferdinand, and Deadmau5. It took place about 40 mins from town in Banffy castle, and the castle grounds had all kinds of art installations, food trucks, games, and activities. A little group of six of us rocked our Remote Year hoodies in the rain, got featured on Romanian TV, and went to the airport straight from the last act on Sunday night in time for work at 9am on Monday. Sleep is for losers. (Jk, passed out hard for 2 straight days).
DAY 24Jul 24 2017
Sofia is for side trips it seems. Returning to Split for Diva's bachelorette was a hectic but welcome excursion.
Finding enough wifi at the airport and on the boat to get in two full work days while on the go was certainly a challenge, but with the help of the WIP Split team and my newly acquired international 4G, I was able to get everything done in time to enjoy the weekend. I even bumped into some new coworkers while getting some work done at the workspace on Thursday. Finding colleagues around the world is awesome but will take some getting used to! For one, I'll need to be more careful about not wearing short shorts to the "office." Oops.
Seeing Croatia in the summer was so incredibly different and made me appreciate having lived there in the off season. Tourists overran every street and restaurant, shopkeepers defaulted to English, and the exchange rate improved from 7 to the dollar to 6 to the dollar, making everything way more expensive. A shop tried to charge me $10 for one can of beer. On the other hand, the water was incredible and we had a blast on our private sailboat island hopping, swimming, wine tasting, and celebrating.
DAY 25Jul 25 2017
Because when it's your last 3 days in Sofia, you hop out of town yet again, armed with your hotspot and your bikini, and work from a resort on the Black Sea.
The town of Golden Sands, an hour north of Varna, is weird, kitschy, and loud, with some of the grossest food, craziest music, and beautiful beach lounges. Despite the pics below, 8 of us actually had a fairly productive work week before returning to Sofia in time for our farewell party.
DAY 29Jul 29 2017
Waiting to take my eighth flight in as many days, with six more planned for the coming month. It's hard to believe that the European portion of this adventure is coming to an end. Sofia roundup:
Average breakfast: Usually skipped
Lunch: Goat cheese or shopska salad
Dinner: Some sort of pasta from one of the many Cheesecake Factory chain restaurants on Vitosha
Drink of choice: Jameson and coke, which incidentally is sold cheaper in Bulgaria than it is in the states. Also rakia, though I cringe thinking about it.
Theme song: Subame El Radio
Most money spent on: Diva's bachelorette festivities. Unbelievable how much more expensive Split is during the summer.
Apartment highlights: Great location smack in the city center, but up 106 steps and without good AC or water. Little mini fridge meant no cooking this month.
Workspace highlights: Two adorable workspace golden retrievers, a great little garden, and relaxed feel. Not the most productive though.
On the locals: Not the friendliest. Uber was driven out by the mafia who controls the local yellow cabs and it was always an adventure hailing one whether or not they felt like picking you up.
On the krew: Relationships forming. Individual side trips becoming more common than large group ones. First few members left for health or work reasons.
Packing adjustments: Bought a MacBook Pro for work, along with a bunch of festival clothes for EC. Shed most of those festival clothes along with some black jeans.
General feeling: To be honest, quite burned out. Barely settled into a routine in Sofia and spent so much time out of town. The work grind is exhausting and is taking some getting used to. Shoulder getting stronger, but still not 100%. So ready and excited for the Asian subcontinent.
Top five meals:
5. Zucchini fritters - Happy
4. Truffle linguini - Pastorant
3. Baked Jalepeno appetizer - Made in Blue
2. Goat cheese / pear salad - Rainbow Cafe
1. Zucchini prawn soup - Hotel Marinela
One continent in the books ✌🏼