D-15Mar 16 2017
It's unreal that I'm only 3 weeks away from embarking on my journey with Remote Year. More to come in the next few weeks as I pack up and get ready to go, but here is my planned itinerary:
Apr 2017: Split, Croatia
May 2017: Prague, Czech Republic (+Germany)
Jun 2017: Lisbon, Portugal (+Morocco)
Jul 2017: Sofia, Bulgaria
Aug 2017: Hanoi, Vietnam (+India, Sri Lanka)
Sep 2017: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Oct 2017: Kyoto, Japan
Nov 2017: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (+Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore)
Dec 2017: Lima, Peru (+Brazil)
Jan 2018: Medellin, Colombia
Feb 2018: Bogota, Colombia (+Chile, Argentina)
Mar 2018: Mexico City, Mexico
D-7Mar 24 2017
One of the most common questions I've been asked is how to pack for a year of travel. I've boiled it down to a few things:
1. Each item is accounted for and serves a purpose. Preferably multiple purposes.
2. Everyone you'll be with also only has 6 shirts, so avoiding outfit repeats isn't really a thing.
3. If you forget something, you can always buy it on the road.
4. If you bring something superfluous you can always chuck it or donate it or send it home.
It's amazing that I used to think I needed multiple shapes of cutting boards, three different pairs of flip flops, and about 60 graphic tees (seriously) saved from any time there was ever a free shirt to be had. Downsizing my apartment, closet, and life has been liberating and I'm looking forward to a more minimalist lifestyle.
Some photos of the packing, planning, and final product below.
DAY 2Apr 01 2017
John F. Kennedy International Airport
DAY 3Apr 02 2017
DAY 4Apr 03 2017
It's Monday which means it's back to the work grind. Our workspace is pretty new and decked out with conference rooms, shared work benches, a kitchen with pro grade expresso machine, blazing internet, and all kinds of nooks and crannies. Also, it's on the beach. Yeah.
DAY 5Apr 04 2017
DAY 6Apr 05 2017
DAY 7Apr 06 2017
Tales from a Croatian ER:
In a spastic turn of events, I managed to whack myself in the face with my camera this afternoon and give myself a concussion. All's well that ends well, but seemed like a good opportunity to share some notes on Croatian healthcare. I didn't get much for my art project because, well, my brain was (is) kind of fuzzy, and my camera and I aren't exactly on speaking terms, but here's the gist.
- Enter ER with Croatian Remote Year staff (Tamara) at 6pm.
- Nurse laughs and says "camera can't cause blood." I show her my bloody head. She says "okay you wait there."
- Entire extended families are there, at a roughly 8:1 cousin to patient ratio, and everyone is laughing and chatting so it is impossible to know how many people are in front of you.
- All of the Croatians are taken before me, even the ones who arrived after.
- 3 hours later I'm called and have the below exchange with the ER doc:
Doc: Okay you get x-ray.
Me: I'm dizzy, I need a CT, not an x-ray.
Doc: X-ray first, then maybe CT.
(One hour and two x-rays later)
Doc: Skull not fractured, you can go.
Me: I'm not here for a fractured skull.
Doc: So where is pain? Arm? Another x-ray?
Me: My vision is blurry, I need a CT.
Doc: No CT.
Me: I'm paying cash.
Doc: Okay, I call neurologist and order CT.
The rest was pretty normal except for the part where someone had his full body shaved out in the open in the holding room. I was discharged in the end at 11:30pm with a verbal diagnosis of concussion and a written diagnosis of "cut".
After speaking with my dad, sounds like the concussion protocol they put me through (or lack thereof) is reminiscent of how medicine was practiced in the 60's, where unless you've blacked out they send you on your merry way. Tamara, who stayed and translated the whole time, told me she was mocked by the nurses when I ordered the CT, a) because it's overly expensive ($70, which to be fair is a lot of Kuna), and b) there's cultural aversion to radiation of any kind. Except x-rays, I guess.
Moral of the story: Be nice to your camera and your Tamara. 📸🔪
DAY 9Apr 08 2017
Had a great orientation to Remote Year this afternoon where we talked about logistics and our new normal. One quote stood out:
There's a big party happening now but I'm still not feeling 100%, so pics of the crazy Croatian nightlife will have to wait. Instead I came back and hooked up my computer to stream some comfort TV, followed by an incredible solo dinner at the 5-star restaurant downstairs where I got serenaded by the entire restaurant. Not a bad sick day. Laku Noć!
DAY 10Apr 09 2017
There's a word in Croatian, Pomalo, that embodies local life and translates to "take it easy" or "chill."
So when I woke up dizzy again today and not feeling up for the two hour bus ride to the waterfall hike I had planned, I decided to sleep in and embrace pomalo for the day.
....But it will come of no surprise to anyone that knows me that by 3 pm I was bored of being pomalo and decided to take a local bus to the neighboring city of Trogir, aka Meereen, with my camera gingerly in tow.
The light off the water, rooftops, and throughout the alleys was stunning, so I'll let the pictures describe themselves.
DAY 12Apr 11 2017
Remote Year is... game night, poker night, sunset dinner, and an AWS Meetup all happening simultaneously, but choosing to stay home and make quesadillas instead.
DAY 15Apr 14 2017
In a casual Slack comment a few weeks back I mentioned being interested in spending Easter weekend in Dubrovnik. This quickly escalated from some 'me too's and 'that sounds great's to 'what time are we getting there' and 'let me know what I owe you.' So I brushed off my event planner hat, created an excel sheet, chartered a bus, booked two entire apartment buildings, and shuttled 35 remote lunatics across the border, through Bosnia and Herzegovina, safe and sound and semi-sober to Dubrovnik.
DAY 16Apr 15 2017
I planned to spend the day wandering around the Old Town (aka King's Landing) but then somehow ended up grabbing a bunch of to-go mojitos from a street vendor and chartering a boat for some island hopping.
Valentina, who grew up in Italy on the water, fished us some sea urchins, had us hold them, feel them moving around in our hands, and then viciously cut them open and had us slurp their innards off a scissor.
Back in Dubrovnik the nightlife was insane. It's similar to Spain where the clubs don't open until 1am and you have no intention of going, but then a few hours later find yourself dancing to Euro trans in the walls of a castle, with fire breathers and laser beams, and getting back to your apartment at 5am only to find four people piled onto your bed.
DAY 17Apr 16 2017
It was supposed to be raining all day Sunday, so when we woke up and it hadn't started yet we decided to climb the fortress walls, an hour trek around the perimeter with one entry/exit gate. The storm was visible in the distance and we got some incredibly dramatic photos.
NOTE TO SELF: Dramatic storm photos make for dramatic storms. About 3/4 through the walk the sky opened up. The wind was whipping off the water, the lightning was directly overhead, and it was hailing in chunks. We were unfortunate enough to be at the bottom of a flight of steps, so as we huddled in an archway the floodwater pooled at our ankles. 30 minutes later it showed no sign of stopping, so we ran for it, slipping everywhere and getting soaked through our jackets, until we found a vendor under an overhang who gave us hot chocolate while we waited for it to let up enough to make it back to the gate.
For some outside perspective, below left is a shot that Kim (@plethora.etc) took while we were stranded, and the aftermath of us trying to get dry. I look much happier than I had any right to be, especially after spending 450 Kuna on that silly striped hoodie from a gift shop to help warm up. I could buy like five x-rays for that.
Instead of returning to Split on the bus in the afternoon I decided to rent a car and drive solo a few hours south to Montenegro. I've been fortunate enough to have driven nearly all of the world's most famed drives, so having done no research, I was absolutely blown away when my drive from Dubrovnik to Kotor was the most beautiful I've ever seen. The rain had just stopped, there was mist rolling off the mountains into the bright turquoise of the bay, and the road twisted along the cliffs and right beside the water. I normally stop for pictures every few miles but I was so absorbed by the drive that I came away with just an iPhone photo or two, and visuals I won't soon forget.
DAY 18Apr 17 2017
DAY 19Apr 18 2017
Budva is interesting. In a 24 hour period I listened to live music at a biker bar, gambled at Casino Royale, had my morning cafe in the library of an 8th century Citadel, and laid out at what was ranked the top beach in the Balkins.
It was bizarre to realize that returning to Split felt like coming home. On the way back google maps had me cut an hour off the twisty mountain roads by driving aboard a ferry.
To end on a rare sappy note, this weekend highlighted just how incredibly lucky I am to be on this journey. I can already feel the impact of these experiences and connections both personally and professionally, and can't imagine what it will be like as the network expands and the relationships deepen. And more importantly, having had a taste, I'm so excited for everything to come, because the world is incredible and I'll be surrounded by these fun, brilliant, supportive, adventurous people who are slowly becoming family.
And now I'm going to go sleep for days.
DAY 26Apr 25 2017
A long post to answer the question, "so does any work get done between all this adventuring?"
And the question, "what do you actually do everyday?"
(tl;dr: As much as I can while also keeping sane.)
Let me start by saying that the Remote Year Krew is one of the most talented, hard-working bunches I have ever met. We all have different schedules working different industries across different time zones, so you can always find someone headphones on in the office, day, night, or weekend. Everyone has their own workstyle whether it be in a conference room on calls, sprawled on a couch, at a standing desk with a sketch pad, or surrounded by multiple monitors.
There are people from big companies like Microsoft, Disney, Ogilvy, and AWS, people from small startups based around the world, photographers, marketers, video producers, and lawyers. Some have worked remotely for years and others are here with the expectation that they return back to the office for a minimum number of years to follow. There is always another perspective to hear and always someone who can vet your ideas or help you out with random things. Here's an example from earlier today:
Because mostly everyone is working East Coast hours the mornings are fairly leisurely. I've been (apart from the 10 day concussion hiatus) focusing mornings on fitness, have joined a fairly intense daily TRX circuit, am learning acroyoga, and am working on my handstand. I also use the morning to do normal human things like laundry and dishes and errands.
Around lunchtime the bulk of people begin trickling into the workspace. There's a good blend of chatter and quiet and music and people on calls. Coffee and ice cream breaks are common, as are strolls to the beach. Professionally, I've been filling my days interviewing for jobs, doing some freelance work, taking online classes, working on some art, building a new personal website, and designing a logo for a local charity. Tomorrow I'm hosting a dev talk on the designer/developer handoff and am meeting with a small group who I'm launching an app with this summer. And then scattered throughout it all I'm planning side trips for myself, booking concert tickets, organizing excursions, ordering swag for our group, and trying to keep in touch with everyone at home. I feel busier and more productive than I've ever felt even though I'm technically unemployed.
The day is also pretty scattered with all the events you can think of. Some on the calendar just this week (besides TRX and acro) include yoga, bike and brunch, Spanish lessons, improv lessons, poker night, lunch roulette, potluck dinner, photo retouching lessons, a jam session, a full day road trip to the waterfalls at Plitvice, running club, game night, salsa night, a charity event for the local animal shelter, volleyball and soccer games. I learned some chords on the guitar and am becoming decent at darts. 90% of things are led by our own people which is also a testament to the variety of talents and how open everyone is to teaching, sharing, and most importantly learning. The biggest challenge is not letting the calendar consume you, to set your own goals, know your interests and limits, and to periodically set aside time for yourself.
And even though we organize most of the day to day things for ourselves, Remote Year is phenomenal about planning events and excursions for us. This past weekend was "tracks" weekend which are the bigger two of four monthly local experiences that RY plans for us to get to know each country. The tracks to choose from are incredible and planned by locals. Everyone this weekend chose from either:
1) Saturday sampling olive oils and hiking Klis Fortress and Sunday learning to sail, or
2) Saturday at an olive farm and Sunday horseback riding and cave diving, or
3) Saturday volunteering at an Eco Farm and Sunday visiting the Krka waterfalls, or
4) Saturday hiking Split's tallest peak with Croatia's only female to climb Mt. Everest and Sunday learning to fish and eating your catch for lunch.
I did number one (Klis Fortress, one of the filming sites for GoT) but chose, in true Remote Year fashion, to skip the Sunday sailing in favor of preparing for the work week.
The best way to describe it is a work-life blend rather than a work-life balance. When you are free to network while in your pajamas, and laugh throughout the workday, and your professional and personal network are the same, there really isn't a boundary when work stops and play starts. Let's see if it keeps up, but so far my levels of productivity and levels of fun are as high as they've ever been.
DAY 28Apr 27 2017
One month has flown by and it's time to say bok to Croatia and ahoj to Czechia. There's so much more I wanted to do this month, but I do feel that I got to know Split intimately enough to be comfortable here and fondly enough to know that I'll return.
I thought it would be interesting to do a city roundup with some highlights and stats each month, so here's the first:
Average breakfast: Cold coffee, cereal, yogurt with granola, bananas, purchased every morning from Tommy's hipermarket
Lunch: Leftovers, or a salad from Fast Food In
Dinner: Pizza, risotto, pasta, seabass
Drink of choice: Croatian wine, either nice bottles at a restaurant or from a jug at home
Theme song: "Don't act like you know me" - Javi Persa
Most money spent on: Doctors
Apartment highlights: A dryer!!
Workspace highlights: Space exclusive for RY made it a second home, a killer espresso machine, and proximity to the beach
On the locals: Very tall. Only sometimes friendly. Guys are fairly aggressive and girls have legs for days. Bad at following GPS.
On the krew: Starting to becomes closer and more comfortable doing things in smaller groups rather than massive gatherings. I know everyone's name, where they are from and what they do.
Packing adjustments: Added a leather jacket, that striped hoodie, two long sleeve shirts, and two extra sets of workout clothes. Shed three dresses that I shrunk (see above about being overexcited about a dryer).
General feeling: Exhausted physically and mentally. Triceps burning. Brain struggling to recover and keep up. Lack of sleep beginning to get to me. Heart and stomach so completely full.
Top five meals:
5. Cream of carrot soup - Bokeria
4. Tomato basil parmesan soup - Bistro Tavulin (Dubrovnik)
3. Four cheese pizza - Konoba Dalmatino
2. Beetroot risotto - Corto Maltese
1. Fig and sage ravioli - Zinfandel
And a Croatian recipe to keep:
1. Cut 2 cups beetroot into large wedges. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil on a foiled baking sheet season, then cook for 1 hr at 350 until the beets are soft.
2. Cook one chopped onion and one clove of minced garlic in olive oil and butter 3-5 minutes until fragrant. Stir in one cup of risotto rice until well coated with the butter and oil. Pour in 3/4 cup white wine, then let the mixture bubble for 5 mins.
3. Stir well, then pour in 2.5 cups vegetable stock
4. Stir again, cover and place in the oven. Cook for 15 mins until the rice is soft.
5. Remove the beetroots from the oven. Whizz ¼ of them to make a purée, then chop the remainder into small pieces.
6. Stir half a cup of grated Parmesan, beetroot purée and chopped beetroot through the risotto.
7. Serve with some cream cheese dolloped over and some dill and extra Parmesan on top.
See you soon, Split. July, to be precise.