The Har{t}est Part

Hola My Lovers. I come to you this morning with a heavy heart.  I wrote in my last letter that, like most of my fellow Harts, I had been approaching the last days of our program with an eery calm… gratitude for the past year, excitement for what’s next.  This morning that calm shattered as I am overcome with thoughts of how life will look come tomorrow when the Earhart Official calendar comes down.

Why do I say it like that?  Because as our days come to a close, the only thing about Earhart that truly ends is that calendar.  We are still Earharts and will always be. We spent a year together, an unimaginable, inexplicable, glorious, tragic, beautiful year as a part of each other’s lives, and while the sand on our 358 days runs out, nothing is coming to an end.

I’ve said a thousand times that I can’t imagine what it will be like to wake up and not have these people in my everyday life.  Come tomorrow, that unthinkable becomes my reality.  I have fallen in love with these souls, over and over again, and while some hold bigger pieces of my heart than others, as we depart from each other over these next few days, they will each take that part with them, leaving me heartbroken.  But as my beautiful Amelia once showed me, love is not a finite emotion.  Our hearts create love as we need it. And my Harts have given me the greatest gift: the ability to love them and myself.

As I sit here, unable to pull out my suitcase, literally unable to even attempt to pack this year up, physically or emotionally, I’m hoping to reconcile with the fact that even though today is the expiration date on these relationships as they exist in this moment, there is no end to the love we’ve gained this year.

This one is for my Harts.  Please take care of the pieces of me that you take with you when you go. I look forward to seeing you again on this beautiful journey we call life.

Home is where the Harts are  video courtesy of the epically talented Rachel Yancey

Specifically Theirs,

SR

There’s no Yo{u} in Colombia

Hola my Lovers. I find myself drawn to you in the dark of night after an evening of wine, food and sisterhood with my former Colombian roomies and a few others…. mostly wine. As I sit here with a mezcal, I’m forced to ponder why this altered state of mind always brings me back to you… my desire to reach out in this state is only matched by my need to write you during travel. Whatever the reason, I’m sitting on my balcony in CDMX listening to the soundtrack of the city, What So Not playing on my speakers, and I can’t think of a better setting for my latest Love Letter.

It’s been an eventful few months, and as I find myself in the final few days of Remote Year, I’m oddly calm. Questionably non-emotional. Cautiously excited for the next phase, and keenly aware of the heartbreak I’m about to endure. I’ve heard a myriad of responses to the end, but what rings the most is the peace we all feel that we made the most of our time together, and we intend to carry what we’ve learned from each other, what we’ve taught each other, into the world. A better version of ourselves, with better views of the world around us and our relationships as they exist in it. But before we get there, here’s a recap of how we got here.

Medellin

“I just worry about you being there. It’s not safe”
A popular opinion about the former cocaine capital of the world, but my experience was anything but scary. One thing Remote Year does a fantastic job of is putting us in the right areas, and Poblado was as safe as it was happening. Every corner, while inhabited by vendors selling everything from gum to cocaine, was covered in lush greens. There were mouth watering restaurants, cute boutique shops, happening clubs and a vibe at every turn that just screamed energy. Our workspace, Selina, boasted a bar with a classic car for a table, a tattoo parlor and a tincture shop where Mel and I got a particularly seductive perfume. We spent our weekends exploring Guatape, playing paintball at Pablo Escobar’s former mansions, touring coffee farms, and checking out the graffiti that turned Communa 13 around. Our month in Medellin housed my birthday, and Beckie threw a swank ass rooftop party complete with trick candles and an appearance from my favorite Meraki, followed by a morning where Marky scooped me up and presented me with a scooter to explore the city with. I also acquired the WORST cold since yacht week, but in RY you power through more than you rest, because the only thing finite is time.

I carried that cold into rainy, dreary Bogota for three days before flying to Cartagena for Casa en el Agua. You can read about my love for Cartagena in Conceding to the Universe, but before I reconnected with me, I joined the majority of my Earharts on a trip to a house in the middle of Caribbean where we drank, laughed, and just loved life with each other. There was bioluminescent plankton, lobster dinners, kayak rides, and just a general feeling of togetherness that even now if I close my eyes I can feel in every bone of my body.

Our return from Casa was a week of one on one for Marky and I before we ventured into the Colombian jungle for Tayrona National Park. I had procured a swank spot that made for the best office of the year, but we took our evening to visit Old Town, have dinners on rooftops with sick views and imbibe Aguardiente while talking about life post RY.

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Tayrona

At the end of the week, we hopped in an Uber to the bus station to promptly missed our scheduled ride, barely catching the last bus out for the night. We reaches Santa Marta way later than expected and crashed for an early morning rise to catch the bus to Tayrona. A packed bus kept us on our feet for the 1.5 hour ride that dropped us at the edge of the park where we started our trek to the beaches at the other end. Marky scoped for monkeys as I tried to keep rocks and sand outta my shoes, and after about 3 hours we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen. Having that foresight to call ahead, we’d secured hammocks on rock outcropping that afforded the best views, so we checked in, dropped our bags, and explored the landscape until we found a beach that was nearly abandoned. It takes a little convincing, but soon M has me scaling wave crashed cliffs with him for the best view of the setting sun. Knowing the epicness is back where we came from, we hightail it back just in time for the most amazing sunset I’ve seen all year. This picture is unedited, and it still does the scene no justice.

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After we grab dinner, we sneak off with a bottle of wine to a dark and quiet beach where I can see as many stars as I did in the fields of rural Niagara Falls we visited when I was a kid. We’re identifying constellations left and right – I’ve honestly never seen the dipper so clear in my life. Before we can even realize what is happening, a rogue wave crashes all the way up the beach, overtaking us and all of our belongings, including electronics. As we regroup and take inventory, we realize the wave has not only soaked us, but taken a towel as a souvenir. Call it a sacrifice to the Tayrona gods. The stars were worth it.

We’re robbed of sunrise by impeding clouds, so we snooze a bit more in our hammocks before exploring the other way for the day. This place is a gorgeous mix of jungle and beach, where you disappear into the thick only to emerge into a new waterside paradise. We find a particularly breathtaking one with a mix of white and volcanic sand that the waves craft into artworks that change with each rise of the tide. Eager to find more, we try several “paths” off this beach only to end up in parts of the jungle that my stepmother would have a heart attack about me being in. Being the Boy Scout he is, M leads me out of danger just a surely as he takes me into it, and we head back toward the resort to avoid my hangry Pino – but not before being dragged up onto more bbbooouuulderrrsss.

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My cohort’s sense of adventure as well as age and stamina far outweigh mine, so as he wanders back into the jungle for some more adventuring, I post up on the beach for a little soul{ar} recharge. I’m set up even with the majority of the beach and I’m about to nod off for a nice afternoon sun nap, when wouldn’t you fuckin believe it, another rouge wave washes completely over me, soaking me and everything I had. You would think I had learned my lesson. At lest this time i didn’t lose anything but my dignity. *Eye roll*

Marky comes back and we catch the boat back to a tiny town where we grab churros and a taxi to the bus station and procure a ride back to Cartagena. Tired and sun worn, we’re beyond lucky to once again barely catch the last bus out for the evening. After what was a ridiculously long time spent traversing Barranquilla, we get back to Cartagena and grab some bus station empanadas before Ubering home to crash.

With one last day for M in Cartagena, we go in search of the one thing that I’ve seen make him smile more than anything else – sloths. There’s a park just outside of Old City that we wander into, and with the help of some locals, we first find monkeys, then the trademark sloth in the park. M is beside himself, and I gotta admit, it was kinda cool….. but the little guy didn’t move. At least the monkeys danced for us.

I send M off that evening and commence a week of much needed solo time in my Bocagrande palace. After San Andres, I’m ready to get back to my Harts, so I fly back to Bogota and I’m pleasantly surprised that the weather has mellowed since my departure. My last few days in Bogota are filled with sunshine, Hart catchups, sunrise hikes, and farewell dinners. Bogota was a hard entrance, but I truly enjoyed the last few days I spent there.

Now I sit here, three weeks into the last four of my journey. Yes, you will get a recap. CDMX has been too much of a grand adventure not to share, but I’ve already kept you too long, so I’ll say good night and leave you wanting more. After all, that’s my signature style….

Specifically Yours,

SR

There would have been more pics in this post, but I had trouble uploading.  No worries Lovers, you can see everything here

Feelin’ It in San Andres

Oh my Lovers… today I’m treating you to a special post, a recent memory accounting of an island adventure, something I haven’t provided for months. You’ve been subjected to past adventures, hustled through previous experiences, and denied recounts all together. But today I’ll provide all access in real time. Adventures as they happen. My steam of consciousness, as live as it gets.

Back in Medellin, Sarabear and I arrived at city preview, late, sweaty and out of breath – but just in time to hear Juan pitch his Feelin experience in San Andres, a Colombian island adventure that drew my attention from the get. After some mental debating, a fat commission check and a need to do something for myself, I booked a spot and a flight, and was headed to and island I’d never heard of with people I had never met for the experience of a lifetime (sounds like RY, right?).

I arrived at the airport with minimal time to spare, an experience I had designed over my many early morning airport trips over the past year. An extra 15 minutes of sleep, or a cushion to grab a coffee and a croissant? I’ll take the sleep any day. Not by design was my check-in bag, something I desperately tried to avoid on side trips, but these budget airlines and their stingy overhead space…..

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter, flashed my biggest por-favor-discuple-mi-mal-espanol smile and handed her my passport. Everything was going as per usual until she asked me for a return flight, something I had been waiting to get to the island to decide on. She made my decision for me when she told me I had to have confirmation of departure from the island if I wanted to go to the island. Thank god for cell phone technology. I stepped out of line, and within a few moments had booked my flight back to Bogota for Tuesday the next week. Now we were cooking with gas. Or so I thought…

I hit the ATM before going through security, and I was still left with a few moments before boarding, just enough time to get that passport insta-post in {“Island bound bitches!!!”}. They called my flight, and I watched as the line dwindled to a manageable length before jumping in – only to be denied because I didn’t have a customs form. Customs forms? Wasn’t San Andres Colombia? Was I not in Colombia? I was sent to the back of a much longer line, where I waited to get my form – and pay my island fee. Another item I hadn’t factored into my travels. Good thing I hit that ATM. Also, mental note to do more research on reaching my intended destinations.

A quick hour later, we’re touching down in San Andres. After a short stop for airplane crossing (these tarmac flights tho), I find myself in an actual customs line… talking to a customs agent. In the same country I flew from. But as far as customs experiences go this one is relatively painless, so I’m spit out on the other side to wait for that damned check-in bag. Now, I’ve stood at 20+ luggage belts over the past year, but I am not above the panic that sets in the longer it takes for my bag to peep its purple head out on the belt. My only solace is that several other passengers from my flight are standing around with the exact same look. After 20 minutes, a fresh set of luggage emerges, including my trusty duffel, still adorned with the Tigger given to me by JDC prior to my States departure. Another long line for customs X-ray and I catch sight of Juan on the other side (after being asked 7 times if I needed a taxi – gotta love the hustle these drivers put out).

After a stop at our <AIR CONDITIONED!> accoms for a quick change, Cata, Juan and I hop in the back of scooters and are off to our first adventure, a lunch spot directly on a beach that’s as empty as it is gorgeous. I dig my toes into the soft sand as I gaze out over the waves crashing in, and I can see at least 4 shades of breathtaking blue. To my right is a small rowboat with an ancient trolley motor bobbing in the waves. Off to the left is Johnny Cay, an island covered in palm trees, and just in front of it is the remains of a shipwreck that has been abandoned, a relic that help sets the tone of this scene. If Norman Rockwell painted the perfect beach, this would be it.

With Aguila Lights in hand, Juan recounts the history and politics of the island to me while we soak up the sun. San Andres is closer to Nicaragua than Colombia by far, and the Colombian government has considered it an afterthought for far too long, causing a difficult economic strain on the island. Once a tax haven, put out of business when Colombia opened its customs border, the island turned to fishing until the Nicaraguan government commandeered the waters they depended on. Left with little to work with, narco traffic became the big business of the island as cartels took advantage of its proximity to Miami. As I look around at the beauty of the island, dotted with obvious signs of poverty, Juan confirms the thought I am having that tourism, done right, could have a much needed positive impact on the island.

After lunch, we’re whisked into the center of the island to the national park that houses Big Pond Lagoon, a fresh water lake that sits in front of a compound of houses inhabited by native islanders – Rastas. We start our walk around the lake by feeding the alligators that live in the pond, and as we circle, our guide tells us about each plant, each tree, and how they use them – cedar wood for furniture, gourds for plates, medicinal plants for anxiety, cholesterol, gastritis, diabetes, cancer – there’s mango tress, guava trees, cottonwood. His family has been on this land for generations. I learn that while this area of San Andres sits between two mountains, the bedrock is coral reef, not volcanic, and the coral filters the water from the sea, making the lake a source of “sweet water” as they call it – a “mystic place” he calls it in his heavy Caribbean accent. The natives here speak Criolla, an island English adapted back in slave times – there are forms of this all over the Caribbean – here in San Andres it is derived from English, Jamaican having a more French influence, and the Dominican Republic heavy in Spanish.

Seeing that this is the “Native Experience” portion of the trip, our guide and his family are preparing Rondon, a traditional island stew in which fish, conch, pork, plantains, yucca and local potatoes (all locally grown) are all cooked down in coconut milk {which itself is made from coconuts macheted open, grated and soaked in water}. As the stew cooked down, we once again wander in the the jungle, and it occurs to me that I’m following a machete wielding Rasta into the San Andres nowhere, something that when my step mother reads this will give her a heart attack, but this is my #newnormal, and fear is merely excitement at the adventures ahead.

Our return from the jungle trek, where we find more trees and plants used for shampoo, rope, ties, ship masts and more, is greeted by the delectable aroma of the Rondon, almost ready for us to eat. Truth time: I am FAMISHED, but leery of the hodgepodge stew – 1) I’m not a huge fan of dishes where everything is thrown together – I usually deconstruct burgers, I don’t assemble my fajitas, and bread is a side dish, not a vessel for whatever was meant to go on it. *side note, I make exceptions for pho – load it up with the goods. 2) As my father, step mother, and most recently Marky, will tell you, I’m a grazer. Big meals are not my forte, and I’m aptly served up with a HEAPING plate of this stew. But it smells heavenly, so here goes nothing.

To say it was delicious gives it no justice. If I call it delectable, mouthwatering, savory, or any other food related adjective that I can think of, I’m not even coming CLOSE to accurately describing how amazing this dish tastes. Knowing that even in my ravenous state I don’t have the capacity to eat this entire dish, I quickly isolate the components that will be the focus of my attack – 1) The conch. Dear Key West – please STOP frying this. Yes, your signature fritters are good, but sans deep frying, conch is one of the best creatures from the sea I’ve ever had. 2) The fish. A local fish, white and flaky that falls from the skeleton (sans bones, gracias) in the most delicious fashion. 3) The pork – fall off the bone, flavorful – only to be eaten with hands, gnawing at it to get every last bit *interesting aside, the islanders only eat pork from the States – they aren’t fans of the Colombian swine. 4) Everything else – the plantain and yucca make the top of the list, and there is a dumpling that I want to eat all of, but strategy dictates that carbs will inhibit my goal to eat as much of this as my tiny tummy will handle. Just when I think it can’t get any better, I’m asked if I like spicy (YES) and handed a pepper sauce that ups the ante to mind blowing. I made myself absolutely MISERABLE trying to eat as much of this as I could. Although I wasn’t able to finish it, I’d still say my dad and Marky would have been proud that all that remained was half a dumpling and two Irish potatoes.

Satiated and sun worn, we headed back to the accoms for showers and a wardrobe change. I have a lengthy convo with Latam after a survey of the local wifi proved to be insufficient for a Monday client meeting. Once my flight is rebooked, we head to the main beach walk. As we walked along, I found myself with a sense of deja vu. My surrounding reminded me of my time spent with Ariela in Koh Samui. Or with Duff in Gili. Kiwi in Krabi. Even back to my pre RY days in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and St. Croix. I began to wonder if this cookie cutter island experience was by design. Had someone scripted what a beach feel was, patented the color scheme, filled it with white plastic chairs, stuck some palm trees in the ground (always at least one sideways) and sold it to every tourist destination? A fully functioning island experience, just insert your own music! Whatever the implementation method, this place is vibrant and beautiful, and as we walk the promenade, a warm Caribbean breeze blows in from the sea giving my lions mane an island wind blown look that I’m not opposed to. We settle in for a beer and talk about travel. Juan asks for advice, as someone who would like to see the world. My only advice to give: Do it.

Saturday morning I wake up to a feeling… an odd one only to be described as my skin BEGGING for a day not exposed to the Caribbean rays, but day two is White Wata, or as I like to call it, BOAT DAY! I concede to the adornment of sunscreen, a usual afterthought in my life, and despite the protests of my dermis, we head out. After some breakfast at a local cafe where I horribly mispronounce “revultos” {scrambled} we’re picked up on island time {read, 45 minutes after planned} and head to the marina. Our vessel properly loaded with sub wings, snorkels, and {of course} whiskey and beer, we head out into the Caribbean blue. History first, we cruise by San Andres’s only port before heading to the mangroves. On our way, we pass a graveyard of shipwrecked boats, just sitting in the water, no one caring to remove them. It’s eerily majestic, and Juan tells us that they are narco boats that the government has left to deteriorate on their own. Into the mangroves we go, and Juancho recounts their importance for the eco system and the economy, as the fish and shellfish feed on the algae that grows on the roots. We grab our snorkels and head in search of sea life – I’m looking for lobsters {er, dinner}, but they must know my intentions, because we can’t seem to find any. Lobsters – 1 Pino – 0. I’ll get you next time…..

Onto the White Wata {Criolla}, a breathtaking area of the ocean where the coral reef produced an island of white sand about three feet into the water that reflects the clearest aqua water you can imagine. It’s sub wing time, but my shoulder is still nagging from Lisbon-New Zealand-Cordoba and most recently attempted pull up at Casa en el Agua, so I pass on this adventure and play photog for Cata and Juan. As we’re slowly treading through the water, I look over and there’s this random guy swimming through the ocean – no boat in sight, and we are pretty far off shore. Juancho tells me he’s conch hunting, and his crazy ass had absolutely swam in from shore, with nothing but a snorkel and mask. He tosses one up to the boat, and overshoots his landing – before I can say go, Juan Pablo has dived off the boat after it, surfacing a few moments later with a victorious grab.

After everyone has had their dolphin like experience, we park the boat and hop in for some snorkeling. I dive off the boat sans snorkel, so I swim back to the boat so Juan can toss me a setup. These waters are intense, but I consider myself a strong person, and I’ve faced rough seas a few times this year. Note about a snorkeling mask – put it on before getting in the water. Note about snorkeling in rough waters – use flippers. I’m getting pounded by waves at I try to get set up, and Juan Pablo swims over to help me – something even my stubborn self accepts. Once I’m ready to go, I start swimming towards calmer waters, but I’m already out of breath from my adorning adventure. I tell myself it’s ok, just swim slowly and take some deep breaths, but the waves are crashing over my snorkel, making this difficult. I consider its time to go back to the boat, but I have a destination in mind, and well, like I said, I’m stubborn. It’s not long before I briefly consider the possibility that I might drown out here, as I’m terribly winded and making no progress. About that time, all three Juans are waving Cata and I in, with Juan Pablo sticking close by as we head back to the boat. Yep, those waters were rougher than any of us suspected, which makes me feel better about my own struggle. And let’s be honest, it was easy to push the bounds of my limits knowing full well I was never in any real danger with the boat and boys nearby. Although I have probably once again scared my stepmother. Sorry Bettejo.

It’s time for another island meal, so we pull up to Johnny Cay, anchor off and wade to shore. Lunch is served up at a Rasta run hut, and I have immediate order envy – my shrimp rice was delicious, but the island fish the boys were tearing into looked so much better. We’d been watching the storm clouds roll in for a bit now, and the sky opened up halfway through lunch. We trudged back to the boat, and slowly headed out in the rough waters to yet another abandoned ship – this one a tanker sitting on a reef that divided the rough seas from the calmer waters inside the reef. A quick jaunt over to Rose Cay, but when the sky opens up this time, it’s dumping buckets, so once it lets up, we call it a day and head to shore.

After and absurdly long sun nap (seriously why does this orb take so much outta me?), Juan, Cata and I head to La Regatta for dinner, a restaurant perched on the dock beside the marina. I’m beside myself with wine joy when I see a Sancerre on the menu, and it pairs beautifully with the fish I ordered. *Happy girl*. On our walk home, we run into the boys headed out for the night, so we decide to join and end up at Coco Loco, one of the three or four clubs on the island. Everyone told me the music in Latin America was an acquired taste and it has taken this moment to to make me realize its true. A bottle of whiskey is ordered and we dance to the Latin beats… but I know I’m at home when the beat slows and a remix of Sweet Dreams vibrates across the crowd.

The next morning my alarm blares way too early and I can feel the night before pulsating in my temples. I rouse from my super soft bed with super soft sheets to throw my bag together for our departure. We’re scheduled to fly out at 11:11, and by way of island time, we arrive at the airport at 10:35, and still make it to our flight with a few moments to spare despite Juan being placed on the standby list.

I’m not ready for Bogota… the cold, the rain… but I land in manageable temperatures, albiet without data. Thank goodness or my developed taxi skills, and its not long before I’m headed back to my Harts.

To quote my beloved Dre, home is where the Harts are, and I’m home. San Andres was an incredible adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I can’t contain the joy at being back where I belong, with my tram by my side. <Insert sappy ending….or don’t>

Specifically yours,

SR

Want to Feel It for yourself? Get in touch with my man Juan here.  Tell him I sent you 🙂

Conceding to the Universe

Hola mi amantes! I’m coming to you today as I soar high in the sky above the Caribbean on my way to San Andres island. This is the third weekend in a row that I’ve jetted off to Caribbean destinations in Colombia – first it was a house in the middle of the ocean, and then a beach hidden deep in the jungle – now its time to live the island life for a few days before heading back to Bogota. But with some time to kill, I thought I’d check in with you with my latest personal discovery in yet another brain dump post.

I used to believe that in order to love my Harts, I needed time away from them _cue solo side trip_. See, in a past life, I was the kind of person who would sacrifice my own well being to make sure that the people I cared about were happy. After being taken advantage of in this respect time and time again, I started to view this as a weakness, and attempted to reinvent myself as someone who didn’t give a fuck about anything but what she wanted. Ahem, this doesn’t work for me {insert Starbucks “toasty marshmallow” reference}. I’m not saying people aren’t capable of change, but once a caring soul, always a caring soul. What I did learn as the number of people that I cared about in my life grew, is that in order to love and care for those around me, I need time away to love me. Surrounded by the group, I allow myself to be swallowed up by the pursuit of their happiness ~individually and collectively ~ and I’m not complaining, I love every minute of it, and it is a much more fulfilling way of life when those around me are constantly recognizing and appreciating me for who I am. What I didn’t realize until I landed in Cartagena is how draining it can still be on me if I let it, and that my happiness {while still mainly derived from the joy of others} requires effort on my part to focus on me and recharge that spirit of giving. So, in order to love my Harts, I need time away to love me.

I’m not big on faith. I have a hard time accepting that there’s a grand master plan out there, or a celestial being is guiding my life, or that my mood is dependent on where Mars is in orbit {cough, control freak, cough}. That said, sometimes the Universe speaks so loudly, I can’t help but give it a little nod and an “ok, ok”. When planning my flight to Cartagena, the launching point for a weekend at Casa en el Agua, I decided to take a few days on the front end for myself ~ a funny notion, considering this was the consensus of at least half the Harts.

When we landed in Bogota, it was gloomy. I was sick. It was cold. Sure, cold is relative, but when my suitcase is loaded for endless summer, 50 degrees and rainy is a bit uncomfortable. It was fine, I told myself, only a few days until I was coastal bound. When making my usual initial grocery run [er, Rappi delivery], I hesitated on a few items I would normally get for the month {mainly the makings of a PBnJ}. I also heavily researched gyms, and hesitantly held off on signing for the month. When I packed for Cartagena, I WAY over packed, a severe deviation from my usual minimalist travel style. All of the above mentioned out of character moves made complete sense the moment we landed in Cartagena. I stepped off the plane, the Caribbean breeze hit my skin, and I knew I > was > home. Month 11 wasn’t meant for me to spend in the mountains of Bogota {which I’m sure is a lovely place rich in experiences}, but rather on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, gazing out at the sparkling waters and recharging my so{u}l<ar> batteries. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to buy a jar of PB. I see you universe.

Cartagena is a beautiful mix of Miami and New Orleans. I had booked a swanky top floor condo in the Miami-esque area of Bocagrande, a peninsula of high rises that overlooked the bright blue waters of the Caribbean. A mere 5 minutes cab ride away is Old City, a walled maze of brightly colored buildings, energetic activity, and a distinct New Orleans vibe, if you replace the jazz with salsa. Less than 24 hours into my trip, I booked my AirBNB for another 10 days.

I didn’t spend the whole time alone. As I previously mentioned, there were other Harts with the same idea I had, so I hung at the pool with Duffs, had lunch dates with Mel, birthday dinners with the crew, a week of the Marky and Noir show featuring jungle treks, beaches, hammocks and _boulders_, and of course, the tramily gathering at Casa en el Agua. But when I was alone, I was never lonely. I slept. I ate clean. I drank lots of water. I took myself out to dinner. I ordered food in and binged on trash TV. I laid by the pool. Caught up with friends. I wrote. I read. I watched every sunset. I worked, long days, that I didn’t mind because I was slaying. I woke up every morning to the sound of the waves crashing and a view of the ocean that put a smile on my face. I started to feel rejuvenated and refreshed, felt my confidence return and my mind start to ease. I missed my Harts, but I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Ok Universe, I get it.

As we begin our descent into San Andres, I have to regrettably say that the time allotted for this brain dump is up. I’m off to more Caribbean adventures and can’t be bothered divulging my inner workings anymore. Until next time Lovers…

Randomly Yours,

SR

Sad you didn’t get any adventure updates? Guess what… pics are UTD

Imma Li-ma Heart Here…

Buenas tardes my Lovers of Random. I’m sitting in a cafe in the Poblado district of Medellin, about halfway month 10 of my adventure, so it seems to be perfect timing for a recap of my Peruvian adventures. My recent delays in updates stems from a variety of causes – juggling three gigs during tax season (a treacherous time of year that I continue to subject myself to), trekking into the jungle to find ancient ruins, planning retreats into the Colombian Caribbean, getting as much time in with my beloved Harts as possible – but also a lack of the fire that usually ignites me to spew my thought onto paper{screen}, through in inter webs and into your Loving minds.

So, what is a writer with writer’s block to do? I can tell you what doesn’t work. Designating time. I tried to set aside time to write. Maybe this is when I believed that I didn’t write because I was too busy. Fastest method of disproving that theory was “making” time to write. First, I would just stare at the blank screen. Then, I would put on some “background” noise – Netflix – not distracting at all {binge watches three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy}. Then came the excuses, and after a while this space, your Loving space, was a distant thought, only visited when Johnny Boy and I would discuss our lost passion.

What changed? If I had to pin it down, I would say it has to do with the release of my latest blog last night, and the humbling outpouring of response to it. I wanted to give people back home a picture of this life – I knew I would capture the sentiments of some Remotes, but I never expected the overwhelming positive feedback that I got from the community. That, paired with the two glasses of house white that I’ve imbibed for lunch {hey, its Friday, no judgements}, seems to have sprung me from my funk. So, while I’m feeling all the feels, let’s run down month 9 of this epic journey: Peru.

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After a homey month in Córdoba, I was elated to once again be in a city by the sea. This wasn’t your typical beach town though. The sea sat below towering cliffs, gorgeous monstrosities that lent Lima a piece of its charm. Each morning we would wake to an intense fog that rolled in from the crashing waves, up over the cliffs, blanketing the city. We were told this wasn’t the norm, but at least for our 5 week stay, that was how we started our days. Two months of hearty, meaty, Argentinian cuisine made a city full of ceviche and fusion music to my stomach. Our first night in, we hit up Panchita where we shared a smattering of local delicacies (including the Pisco Sour) that I chased with the most decadent pork belly I’d ever had in my life – followed by Peruvian cervezas and shaking it to reggaton until the Dinster and I are almost sleeping on the dance floor.

photo cred Vueltica

Being seaside again means SURFING, and I’m elated to get back up on the board and try again, my first attempts in 6 months, since Lisbon. I’m quickly humbled by the first set of waves {fall, fall, ride for 4 seconds then fall}, quickly bored by the time between waves {2 good waves, 15 minutes of calm waters} and quickly over it when I get swallowed into a wave and my board crashes into my face. I surfaced from that last failure just praying my nose wasn’t gushing blood, sure I was about to suffer my second black eye of the trip, but once again my resilient blood vessels kept me intact, and the minor swelling I did incur went down rather quickly. I’m not usually one to quit on things, but the universe might be telling me it is time to hang up the surfboard.

My first full weekend in Peru started with a Saturday track. We loaded up early in the morning (after a rather late night) and headed to a local fishing village that backups up to a weekend beach getaway for the better off of Lima ~ a rather odd juxtaposition of cultures. The boats took us out into the choppy waters, around sea lion and penguin filled cliffs from one side to the other. Once docked in the swankier side, there was an attempt to fish (another to add to my list of things I’m not good at), some good tunes and some Peruvian history under the Saturday sun (or lack thereof).

That evening Marky and I were booked at Central. Fine dining was a big part of my “former” life, a part that I miss, so after hearing that the world renowned restaurant was a mere 10 minute walk from my Lima digs, I talked Marky into pulling something more decent than his usual t-shirts out of his closet and accompanying me to the 17 course adventure. I was so excited for it I even bought a hair straightener (recall, mine died with a electrifying POP in Thailand). In the interest of manageable posts, the meal itself will be detailed in a separate Love Letter. Dinner was followed by a walk along the cliffs where we jumped the fence and faced the edge of the several hundreds floors of height of these beauties ~ well, he did ~ I stayed about 5 feet back.

The next Saturday was another early morning load up (after an equally late Friday night) to head to Huacachina for the day. Long bus rides mean sleep, even if it is shorts naps interrupted frequently by the unpaved nature of Peruvian roads. We arrive in another tourist town and proceed to wait an annoyingly long time {sleep deprived and hungover} to load into a boat, where we’re whisked off to see {more} sea lions and penguins, but the penguins must have had the same Friday night I did, because they didn’t show. After the boat ride, we head off to a Pisco making palace lined with armed guards – only a bit strange, but they had my name nailed to a tree, so I let it go.

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photo cred Dre by Day

Post Pisco tour we loaded up in massive dune buggies to go bashing through the desert. This adventure was reminiscent of Dubai, although this time we got try our skills at sandboarding. It was… challenging. The boards themselves were total crap, and even with the sad wax they provided us, getting them to actually slide down the sand was almost as impossibility. That didn’t stop us from trying ~and failing~ over and over again. Once we had exhausted our efforts, we loaded up to check out a desert oasis perfect for a photo shoot with my Princess, and then we were homeward bound (read:napping) again.

 

After some Sunday morning catch up, Johnny Boy, Marky, Eddie, Starbucks, the Dinster and I decided to explore Barranco, an edgier, more hip and up and coming neighborhood then our Miraflores area. Street art, murals, sculptures, bands in the streets, it was all very cool. We wandered aimlessly until we found our way to the cliffs, just in time for sunset. A sunset viewed from the cliffs of Lima is like no other – cotton candy skies float above crashing blue waters, a sea that sparkles for miles as the sun dips toward the horizon ~ ugh, I could stay there forever.

Our next week is pretty chill as I’m busting out work in anticipation of our Cusco trip. Bev arrives later that week, but travel has her bed bound for the first few days, so I stop by her hostel to take her the goods {crackers, ginger ale} and pick up my care package from home. An entire carry on suitcase of all my favorite USA goods – protein powder, O’Henry’s coffee, WHA swag, rye whiskey and of course, Sour Patch Kids. I’m a happy girl.

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Returning from a 10 day Cusco trip including a 4 day trek to Machu Picchu requires some recovery, so my last week in Lima is mostly uneventful. There was our farewell, where I took a client call constantly interrupted by crashing waves and Pisco Sours, drinks on the rooftop of a fellow Hart’s building, and a last minute meal at Panchita {that pork belly tho}.

I know I’m missing some things.  As I go back through my pictures {which become fewer and fewer each month}, there are drum tracks with musical chair contests, nights out dancing, nights in watching movies, the resurrection of my risotto skills {and the continuation of Marky’s empanadas}, dates with the girls,  Race Across the Nation, sushi making class~ but darlings, I can’t be expected to fill you in on it all without writing a novel {foreshadowing?}, so I’ll leave you with the beautiful sunset that was our farewell in Lima.  And don’t worry my Lovelies, much like me, this pic has no filter.

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Until next time

Specifically Yours,

SR

Untitled

This is not a small thing we are doing.  We made a choice.  For some it was easy.  Others agonized over every detail – either way, we ended up at the same conclusion. Some were excited, some were scared, but most were a mixture of the two. We packed up life as we know it, and said our see-you-laters.  We boarded flights to destinations, both known and unknown.  We began a journey that has taken us further than we could have ever imagined.

We chose. To live an unconventional life.  To leave loved ones behind and abandon our creature comforts.  We warped our sense of home, to the point where some of us don’t know how to answer that question anymore.  We changed our perception of family.  We opened our hearts and our minds to the world, agreed to weather whatever it threw at us.  We prepared to do it alone, and quickly realized we didn’t have to.

We climb mountains.  Crawl through caves.  Swim in oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, pools. Hike to lakes, hot springs and epic views – through jungles and rice fields to hidden villages – to waterfalls we scale up and rappel down.  We seek sunsets and sunrises – sometimes we miss both. We camp. There is bungee jumping, cliff jumping, wake boarding, skydiving, skateboarding, sand boarding, paragliding, surfing, volleyball, soccer games, rugby pickup, disc golf (that last of which I suck at).

We work.  All hours of the day and night.  We prop our laptops up in airports, cafes, workspaces – in homestays, hostels, hotels and AirBNBs.  We take calls in the desert, on docks, outside clubs, on boats, at breakfast/lunch/dinner, in the wee hours of the morning and the darkest hours of night. We hunt wifi and power.. outlets and passwords are our survival tools.

We dance in the rain – and in airports, on beaches, in workspaces, apartments, elevators, on planes, trains and automobiles. In the occasional club.

We set goals. We grow. We fail. We succeed.  We fall in love, and have our hearts broken –  we break hearts along the way.  We fight… with ourselves and each other. We celebrate, ourselves and each other.

We explore – near and far.  We take early morning flights and overnight buses – ferries, rails, and bullet trains – we rent Pandas and load into BlahBlah cars, hop on scooters (sometimes with strangers), all to reach the furthest corners of the world that we are capable of seeing.

We face tragedy. We get sick, and hurt, and lonely and sad. We struggle. We miss our family and friends.  We feel guilt at not missing them enough sometimes. We fear we may never be able to return to our previous lives.  We process the reality that we may not want to.  We accept the fact that we are forever changed, and consider that our loved ones will never understand.

We sleep… sometimes very little, and mostly whenever and wherever we can.

We get Bali Belly and the Peruvian Plague – between porcelain palace trips we run down the sushi/ceviche/street meat/not-properly-boiled-water we ingested that could have put us in this predicament.

We face language barriers – we learn hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and I’m sorry (mostly for not being able to communicate).

We live everyday life.  We do laundry and grocery shop, get haircuts, manicures, pedicures.  We pay bills and balance our budgets, with the added pressure of FOMO and side trips.  We order Dominos in Peru, eat mac and cheese in Malaysia, visit Hooters in Colombia, make stuffing out of pancakes in Bali –  we Netflix and chill, have girls nights in. We try to eat healthy (amidst a sea of delicious cuisine), and we hit the gym – Crossfit, Monkey Boxing, Muay Thai, Zumba, Pole dancing (yes) – we go for runs, power walks, lift heavy things, practice yoga.

We lose tramily members along the way – to personal, family and professional obligations. We know that a piece of us goes with them, and a piece of them stays with us. We make new friends as well – at Nation Houses, Island Takeovers, New Years, Carnival, Lantern Festivals.

We share our adventures. Through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, blogs and journals. We recount stories over FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, however we can reach you. We share the world, our world, with those that we love, so they can live vicariously and have a sense of our joy for themselves.

We inspire you. We confuse you. We scare you (mostly our parents). You’re envious of our adventures, proud of our bravery, fearful for our safety, grateful you don’t face the struggles we do. You’re happy for us, but you miss us. You want us to come home, but know we are where we need to be.

I chose. To live an unconventional life.

I have been holding onto this post for a while.  Tweaking it, adding to it – thinking of a good title, a play on words – trying to wrap it up with a neat little bow, something catchy, witty, something that will have you coming back for the next post.  I regret to say I’ve come up empty, so until next time Lovers….

Randomly Yours –

SR

The Only Constant is Change

Hola mis Amantes!  Last weekend, I took a quick jaunt over to Mendoza to hang out with the ever so lovely ACs while they were on their South American Tour.  Determined not to repeat my Aerolinas Argentinas error from my departure from BA, I left my Còrdoba apartment with ample time to get to the airport…. but without my (forgotten) iPad, my usual method of entertainment on flights, even one as short as this one.  After a quick check-in misunderstanding clear up, I quickly realized my phone was my only method of distraction from the boringness that can be solo travel.  So I pulled out my notes app and typed up this gem for you.  Its not the epic adventures I usually portray, but instead a depiction of the journey between who I was when I left for RY and who I am now – a trip just as read-worthy as the rest imho.

How has Remote Year changed me?

This isn’t the deep stuff or the monumental growth – both personal and professional – that I’ve achieved on this trip.  Its not the life changing moments I’ve had, or the self realizations that have made me a better version of myself.  This is the superficial stuff. The day to day.  The shit that you might not give two flying fucks about, but hey, its my blog and I’ll write what I want.

Schedule

What’s changed

So far on this trip I’ve been fortunate enough to live in the future from my friends, family and co workers, and the only time it really bit me in the ass was New Zealand when I was 21 hours ahead and therefore starting my days at 4am and working “weekend” days.  Overnights in Asia were rough too, but Europe and South America are kinda my jam, where I am/was 3-6 hours ahead of the curve. This means that the girl who used to routinely rise for 530 am Iron Tribe classes now doesn’t dare rise before 9am, which is beneficial because here in Argentina, nothing starts before 10pm. Dinner party? Show up at 930 and you’re early. Empanadas are served at midnight and goodbyes are said in the wee hours of the morn. We showed up to a club in BA at 2am one time and it was devoid of souls besides us and about 15 others… within an hour you couldn’t move in the place…. and by sunrise, it was a madhouse with no signs of slowing down.  Europe wasn’t much different.  It seems the US is the only place where ‘early’ is a thing.

What hasn’t changed

No alarm weekends.  I cherish at least one day a week when I don’t have to be risen by the bleating chirps of my phone. Tomorrow is one of those days, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to get to sleep and not be woken until I’m ready.  Do not disturb is your friend, especially when a good portion of your friends live in worldwide timezones and text you at all hours of the day and night.

Workouts

What’s changed

Your girl was a beast when she left on this journey – everyone said exercise routines would be the hardest routine to keep up with, and despite locating Crossfit gyms in each city I traveled to before even leaving AND running TWO separate fitness challenges (Lisbon and Thailand), I only find myself back in a regular gym routine here in month 8, where I’ve found a box that I really like and there are 6-8 of us going a day and shaming each other for not making it to class.  To be semi-fair, I injured my shoulder in Lisbon, and without access to my favorite orthos and PTs, it was more of a self-med sitch, and we all know I’m not the best at ‘laying off’…. but it has really been more of the side tripping, partying, and general exploring that’s contributed to the demise of my former cut AF physique.  My return to the barbell has been humbling to say the least, and not just because I’m nursing a back injury that I can only trace back to skydiving… or sleeping in a camper van for a week.  Having a core group that pushes each other helps, but even then I still find myself hitting snooze on the workouts sometimes…. and the rule is if you don’t Crossfit, you can’t talk about Crossfit…..

What hasn’t changed

I still have desire and the will and the want to participate in physical activity. It is still my best form of stress relief, so I swam the Adriatic in Split, ran the sights in Prague, trekked the river in Lisbon, traversed the parks in BA, snatched axels in Thailand (ok, it was just that once), and gotten in what I can where I can.

Water

What’s changed

I used to be the biggest water snob in the world. If it wasn’t Smartwater or Evian, I turned my nose up at it. At the very least, it had to be filtered from the fridge. Now, when I get to a country, my first question is whether or not the tap water is safe to drink, and I’m usually ecstatic when it is. I have no problems filling my water bottle up in an airport bathroom sink, something that I would have found appalling before. Water is an important thing to all of us, and knowing the boundaries of that staple in each country is imperative. Just ask Duffs about Bali Belly.

I also used to load my water down with ice.  Tons of it.  I spent the first two weeks of Croatia looking for ice.  Turns out there, they make it in plastic bags.  In Budapest, we had *an* ice tray for three of us… by Lisbon, ice was a thing of the past.  Here in month 8, I realized I had an ice bin and three ice trays… and didn’t even use them until two weeks later after the ACs gifted me with a fun size pack of Heaven Hill whiskeys.

What hasn’t changed

My love for water.  Cold water.  In lieu of my ice failures, I still attempt to keep my water as cold as possible while chasing summer.

Beauty

What’s changed

Because we are chasing summer, embracing the flip flop lifestyle has been one of my favorite parts of this trip.  Top that with walking almost everywhere, and you can get some rough soles.  When I lived in the states, I wouldn’t dare bare my feet without biweekly pedicures, and if I was treating myself, a nice shellac mani. It’s month 8 and I’m pretty sure the last pedicure I had was month 3 (despite wearing flip flops every day) and even then I was scolded for the status of the skin on my feet.

Additionally, my level of give a fuck about the status of my mane has dropped dramatically.  Although I do have my favorite shampoo and conditioner muled in from the states, my general attitude about the tameness of my curls has decreased immensely.  Most days I don’t wash my hair and just throw a little water on it and hope for the best.  Managing this mop in a myriad of climates had generally produced what Marky refers to as my lion’s mane – a heap of golden curls that are messy and tangled a far cry from the carefully crafted ringlets I strove so hard to achieve while living stateside.  Oh, and anything but curls?  Forget it…. my straightener died with a pop that blew out a fuse in Thailand and my curling iron decided to stop heating up in BA… I’m left with my travel hair dryer, but most days I don’t consider it even close to worth the effort.  So lion’s mane it is.  Roar.

Make-up…. ugh make-up, shmakeup… what’s the point? I throw on some eyeliner and mascara if I want to feel pretty, but it’s mostly reserved for nights out. In this heat it mostly just melts off, so, like I said earlier –  what’s the point?

What hasn’t changed

I’m still a product loyalist.  Ever since Birchbox sent me my first sample of Beauty Protector, the only time another shampoo and conditioner has touched my hair is when I’m in the salon and don’t get to choose.  I’ve had friends restock me and even risked Vietnamese customs to have my signature product in my possession, not to mention the precious suitcase space and KGs I’ve sacrificed for that delectable scent.  Don’t get me wrong, I tried in Split to use something I could find on the road, but some things are with the hassle, and BP is one.

Another item worth it, my Forever After Lotion.  I’ve been using this product for over 15 years, and as long as I can still get it shipped from Amazon and muled to my location, I’ll pay a decent price for the comfort of my favorite skin product at my disposal.

Travel 

What’s changed

I used to despise traveling, and god forbid there was a bump in the road concerning my travel plans. Delayed flights, forgotten items, and crying babies used to send me into a travel tizzy. 8 months in, nothing really phases me anymore. I just left an airport where my reservation had been cancelled because the airlines domestic site had not accepted my foreign credit card despite sending me a confirmation. NBD, head downstairs and re-book the flight. Volcano erupted and stuck in Bali? Ok, book another flight and contact your travel insurance. Flight delayed 8 hours? Leave the airport, find a bar and taste the local brews. Got drunk the night before and missed your flight?  There’s another one in a few hours. Pay your stupid tax, grab a hangover nap and try again (this has happened to me twice now – whiskey is the devil).  Didn’t get the window seat you wanted on a 13 hour flight? Take a whole xanax instead of a half and sleep that sucker out.

Grabbing a taxi to my destination from the airport (or anywhere at all for that matter) used to make my heart race, but now I walk out with ease, locate the taxi line, negotiate the rate and hop in. Uber isn’t always a thing and taxis will try to rip you off, so of I want that extra empanada or glass of wine, I have to be able to show the local chariots I can’t be pushed around. It’s helpful to know flat rates to and from airports, and ALWAYS have the meter running otherwise.

I’ve begun to work as many travel hacks as possible too. How to sneak your overweight carry-on onto any flight.  Most airlines only allow 7kgs of carry-on, and my tech alone weighs that.  When not traveling alone, leave your carry-on with a friend and check in without it.  The alternative is getting caught by Air Asia in Osaka and getting smacked with fees for bags you now have to check. How soon do you really need to be there beforehand? You’ll learn more from the fails on that one. Figuring out if said airport has food and/or drinks once you pass security – not always a thing. Best packing job to have the items you want accessible. I’ve also abandoned the use of my Apple Wallet for boarding passes too. It’s much easier just to have the paper pass. Travel pants – complete with pockets for phone and passport so I always know where those are. Displaying said passport in key moments to convey I may or may not speak the local language. Always have a pen handy for customs forms. Always – ALWAYS – be nice to customs agents, even when the scold you for not speaking Spanish after aforementioned 13 hour flight in a middle seat after being delayed a total of almost 10 hours (I’m learning, damnit).

What hasn’t changed

I still carry my script of low dose Xanax for two reasons: hangover anxiety and travel.  I don’t care how used to the travel mishaps I am, airports are still stressful places.  Judge me if you want, but it is in everyone’s best interest and enhances travel experiences for all for me to down that half of a little blue pill that brings me back to zero from a seven or eight. I’m not the only one taking advantage either… I’ve facilitated a much more enjoyable flight experience for more than a few of my fellow Earharts by prescribing to the sharing is caring method (see what I did there?).  Also, my travel essentials: a bottle of water, a bag of Sour Patch Kids and noise cancelling headphones.

Reliance on technology

What’s changed

Sometimes you land in a country and for whatever reason, your phone doesn’t work.  Most airports have wifi, but having a game plan in place regardless is a fantastic idea.  T Mobile had a worldwide outage last weekend while I was roaming Mendoza with the ACs.  We grabbed a map and did it old school.  Worldwide data is great, but 2G speeds are bullshit.  I have recently cut ties with my US based SIM to go the international route VIA Google Voice, Hangouts, porting and local SIMs… I’m not exactly sure what this means for my text messages yet (even though Johnny Boy has tested it and explained it numerous times), so to be safe, if you need me, hit me on WhatsApp.  Its how the rest of the world sends text messages.

That said, when landing in a foreign country that’s not on the itinerary, grab a local SIM, find an ATM and get moving because there is limited time and lots to see.  Always.

What hasn’t changed

My need to rely on technology.  I am a digital nomad after all.

There you are my Lovers, a little insight into the changes in your SR that aren’t really important, but fill up the space of a short flight to Mendoza (plus a bit extra for editing).  Stay tuned for more adventures along the way – Abuela’s empanadas, mountain biking the Sierras, Asado and more…. all in the next episode.

 

Until then, as always
Randomly Yours,

SR