Hanoi(ingly late)

Greetings from SE Asia my Lovers. Yesterday marked one week in my new home of Hanoi, and while I have spent the majority of my time either working or sleeping, I still have plenty to report on the Random front. I am truly in a different world, in every sense of the word. Europe was beautiful and romantic, not drastically different from home, and you could almost always find someone who spoke English, or you could at least fumble your way through the language. Hanoi does not afford us any of these luxuries – even if you can find “western” food, goods and influence on almost every corner.

Marky, DL, Ktunes and I all arrived in Hanoi on a 7 hour overnight flight from Dubai. I sat between the boys while they slept, unable to zonk out myself despite the copious amounts of free Jack Daniels Emirates provided. Customs was a breeze, contradictory to the horror stories we had been prepped with, but I was tired and cranky and a whiny little girl. They keys to my home (and my eventual sleep) were at the workspace (Toong) with Pigeon, so DL and I ubered/napped there to gain my access to my home and also my data – Vietnam is the one place that T-Mobile is not a thing. Our first introduction to the language barriers was arguing with our Uber driver who was supposed to carry us on, but it didn’t work out and we were left on the sidewalk with our baggage in hand. DL had a call, so we ducked into Cowboy Jack’s, a restaurant downstairs from Toong that can best be described as a Vietnamese Hooters. One business call, two plates of chicken cartilage, and a few beers later, we start our search for our Hanoi homes. The address provided to us is NOT accurate, so we spend the next HOUR dragging ourselves up and down the street, dripping with sweat, trying to find our air conditioned apartments for the month. Skeen to the rescue, we each find our destinations, I unpack a bit and go down for a much needed nap before my first taste of the night shift.

The next evening has me missing some faces, so I venture out to , my new favorite cocktail bar, to meet some fellow Earharts and have my first flaming Pho cocktail – which is every bit as delicious as it sounds. We leave Nê and wander to the corner for some actual pho, served on the sidewalk while sitting 6 inches from the ground on a plastic stool.  After lighting ourselves up with chili sauce, we move to Xofa for some iced coconut coffee to cool off in the monstrous heat and humidity.  The crew eventually breaks off, but Phil the Thrill, Bonina and I aren’t ready to turn it in, so we catch on Uber to the Old Quarter, follow some nice young expats into a ruin type bar that is entered to through a scooter rental shop, meet some english teachers (seriously, everyone here teaches english) who then take us to another corner where we drink Vietnamese beer and chat amongst our group of 20 or so until the sun comes up – sitting a corner on plastic stools 6 inches from the ground.

The next week is mainly me trying to manage the jet lag, a new work schedule (8pm-2am seems to be my jam), and one hell of a sinus infection. Its not until the end of the week that I really start to hit my groove, but a forced 10am wake up one day for Town Hall allows me to explore in the daylight, grab lunch and catch up with an Australian beauty, hit the grocery store, and stumble upon the cutest little park with a lake just a few blocks from Toong. Naps a plenty, grabbing 90 minutes here and there, I finally start to feel human enough to interact with the world, only my world now is limited to my fellow creatures of the night – those of us bound either loosely or tightly to US hours. We inhabit Toong until the wee hours of the morning, pack it in and head over to Puku, the late night joint that hosts us until sun up when we depart for our blackout shaded rooms for our 8 (or 10) hours of slumber.

The streets of Hanoi are filled with scooters and motorbikes – and the sidewalks, and the alleys, and, well, pretty much everywhere – you even see them inside.  Crossing the street was best described by Becks as a delicate game of frogger – although basic strategy dictates picking a moment, picking a speed and just going for it.  Which brings me to one of my favorite things about Hanoi: Uber. Moto. When you think about it, UberMoto makes perfect sense in the organized chaos that is the streets of Hanoi – and when you factor in that each ride only costs $.44 (read that right, forty-four cents), its a no brainer. Riding an UberMoto makes you feel like you are a part of the elite Hanoi scooter gang -each red light a new chance to be in a sea of motorbikes all revving at the same time to take off and ignore all proper traffic laws – lanes, lights, one ways – anything goes.

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Saturday night is ladies night, and we all get dressed up in our sexy best (much better than your Sunday best) and head to The Rooftop – a swanky joint on the 19th floor of the Saigon Hotel with expansive views of the Hanoi skyline. A girl DJ and drinks named “The Hot Lady” have us turning the joint into a dance club, because Earharts can start a dance party anywhere. Once we’ve exhausted our welcome there, we descend down to the lobby (with one daring rescue of a damsel in douchebag distress) and walk more than a few blocks in the drizzling rain to our next destination – The Toilet.  Despite it’s name, the club itself is quite swank, but the vibe is weird and we leave after not being about to dance the weirdness away.  Back to Puku, where there’s always Earharts to be found, a little sheisha, a little whiskey, and I’m home to pack for my 6am departure to Sapa (see Sleep When I’m Dead for overnighter status continued).

Week 1 recap: Hanoi is hot and humid and I mostly see it under cloak of night.  I moto as often as I can, eat food from street corners while sitting on cheap plastic stools and I questions anything that costs more than $4.  Side trips often require all nighters, and sleep is gotten where I can get it.  There’s more to come, so stick around Lovers; the Asian Random has just begun.

Specifically Yours,

SR

P.S. I know, this post is late – upon posting I only have two weeks left in Hanoi – but don’t fret, all will be revealed – I would never abandon your Love.  Kisses.

Du-Bye – The City of Excess

Welcome to the mile high edition of Specifically Random my Lovers. I am coming to you from the air somewhere between Dubai and Hanoi, a bridge between my summer in Europe and my Asian adventure. An (un)fortunate accident in preparation resulted in the addition of a city to my itinerary – Dubai, the city of Napoleon syndrome, where the biggest and the longest and the most ridiculous of everything exists around every corner. I’m not kidding you my Lovers, the mall has a Versace Home – for the most pretentious of the pretentious. Any who, welcome to the Middle East edition of SR – I hope you enjoy my take on the city of -ests.
A few weeks back, Marky and I were sitting in the workspace – we tended to be a few of the last souls left in the workspace, both tied to loosely the same hours. We we’re discussing upcoming travel plans when he realized that the visa he had so proactively attained for Vietnam would not actually be valid for our specific travel dates – his visa was Sept 1, and we traveled the upcoming Aug 26. I, being the classic overachiever that I am, had already scoped out our travel plans and knew we were breaking up a 16 hour travel day with a short stop in Dubai, so I suggested we ditch our second leg and hang out in the Middle East for a few days until his previously obtained visa allowed him entrance into the Asian part of our 12 month adventure. It was a win-win in my opinion – a chance to break up a L ON G ass travel day, a reprieve some some serious jet lag, and a chance to check a city off my bucket list. A recap of this idea to DL had him on board, and before you know it, we were concocting plans to hop off our transition flight for a Middle Eastern Adventure. We de-boarded in Dubai and were on our way to Burjaman to get settled for 5 days of a mix between murdering work, relaxation, exploration and (little would we know) ridiculousness in the UAE.
A late arrival had us all sleeping well into the afternoon the next day, but that didn’t stop DL from scoping the local scene while Marky and I attempted to catch sunset at 360 Bar. A miscalculation in both Uber drive times and haze factor caused us to miss sunset entirely, but the food made up for the mishap, and after dinner we snuck onto the deserted beach, removed our shoes, and walked through the surf under the lights of the Burj Al Arab before sneaking back out through a security gate. A (not so) quick Uber over to the Mall of the Emirates, where we wandered the expansive mall and expansive arcade that included virtual reality, a trampoline park, and every other thing you’d expect from an arcade, including skee-ball and Pac-Man. Close to mall closing time, I drag Marky down to the Shake Shack to satiate my never ending crave for cheeseburgers and (cheese) fries before we catch the LAST metro home – no joke, the staff was hurrying us through and cheering us onto the train that left just 45 seconds after we reached the station – you should have seen me double stepping the escalator in a floor length skirt.

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Our return times up nicely with DL’s, and we venture out of the hotel and around the corner looking for an open watering hole – no small feat in a town that frowns upon everything fun – in public at least. We stumble upon Rock Bottom, a dark, smoky, honky-tonk decorated hole in the wall that’s playing club music. A couple of highly overpriced double Jamesons for me a some beers for the boys before this place shuts down and we head up to the rooftop bar where everything is 50 AED – from Jack on the rocks to Corona – 50 AED. We drink our overpriced libations while overlooking the area, mercilessly fuck with each other, fend of some Milan douchebags (“They’re all douchebags” – DL), diffuse one total ass, and head back to the room. Realizing sunrise is only 30 minutes off, we take advantage of the floor to ceiling windows in our room (and a lamb pizza from 24 hour room service) and watch the big ball of fire ascend over the city before knocking off for the night (er, morning).

We’re all committed to taking this time to knock out some serious work, so when we finally rise, room service is ordered, command centers are set up and we get to digital nomading.  Each of us digs deep into the evening, stopping only to check out the hotel pool – which closed 10 minutes after we got there – and to walk a few block to the Lovebird Cafeteria where we have our most delicious and cheapest meal to date – two rounds of schwarma for each of us and the total was just over $10USD.  Needing a change of scenery, DL takes off to a sports bar, and I join him a few hours later for some overpriced double Jamesons – well deserved after being yelled at in Arabic outside the hotel that the bar was situated in.

We decide to spend our next evening watching the sunset from The Observatory at the Dubai Marriott Harbour. After one extremely uncomfortable walk through a bus stop of about 100 contractions workers, we make our way up to the 52nd floor, where the bar affords an epic view of the Dubai Marina, so we settle into our shifts in a high fashion form of digital douchebagging.  When the bar gets a bit rowdy and crowded, we relocated to the Dubai Mall, in search of a quaint bookshop with views of the fountain that I had read about – only to find it is now an Apple Store.  I have a call coming up, so we mad dash back to a French Bistro we had found and finish out our shifts before catching the last fountain show – or so we thought – turns out the last show is at 11:30, not 12:00.  We stare up at the Burj Khalifa  before grabbing a few cocktails at Karma Kafe and closing the night out at Rock Bottom.

Our last day in Dubai is by far the most fun as we decided to go play in the desert – dune bashing, sunsets, belly and fire dancing, bbq buffets – the day couldn’t have been better for closing out our semi-forced detour.  We close the gap between our desert adventure and our flight to Hanoi with a stop in The Irish Village where we manage to remote reality an entire corner of the bar with our luggage and technology.

If I’m being completely honest my Lovers (and we all know I believe honesty is the best policy), I did not love Dubai. Don’t get me wrong.  The architecture is amazing, and there is something big and beautiful almost every direction you look – maybe I didn’t go at the right time – maybe I didn’t see the right places, or eat at the right restaurants, drink at the right bars – but what I can tell you is I went with the right people.  If I walk away from Dubai with nothing else than the friendships previously forged and now incredibly solidified, I feel like I won at Dubai – because while I am here to see incredible places and have amazing experiences, I’m also here to create the bonds that lend themselves to lifelong relationships – something I feel the three of us achieved in Dubai, if not before.

 

Until next time my Lovers.

Specifically Yours,

SR

Lisboa

Dearest Lovers of Random – I promised a post about my latest city of habitation, Lisbon Portugal.  As referenced in my past post, Lisbon has been a different feel for me.  I’m an employed woman now and I am throughly enjoying being an accounting badass again.  I’m running a fitness challenge and have started a new weightlifting program, so I’m enjoying slinging weights again (thanks Dustin!). Budapest may have felt like home, but Lisbon feels much like my old life…. with a European twist, of course.

What can I tell you about Lisbon? Well, for starters, its dirty. In the midst of an economic rebound, there is construction everywhere, which means there is dust everywhere. Also, most of the drinking is done in the streets. So is the male relief of the by-product of that alcohol. Speaking of the drinking in the streets, Lisbon is also loud. At least my home is. Situated between the two bar districts in town, Barrio Alto and Pink Street, and having a few lively places of our own, there is always a chorus of drunken madness wafting it’s way up to my windows. Also directly beneath my window, a tram rail and a bus stop. Both run frequently. The sidewalks are narrow. The locals hate tourists. In the dead of summer, every day is hot and there are hills everywhere. But all of this is just as much a part of the unique charm of Lisbon as the tile buildings, towering staircases, stone walkways and street art filled walls. I’ve learned that Lisbon is a lot like me…. you love it for what it is, or you move on. It does not apologize for what it is.

In most cases, this dedication to culture is heartwarming and satisfying in the form of decorated plazas, delightful local dishes (I recommend the duck rice at Castro), and a wine culture that rivals any I have ever seen. Seriously, two buck chuck has nothing on the bottles you can get here for 3 euro. Some if it is better than a $50 bottle at home. There is a craft cocktail bar – 4 Caravelas – where I can walk through the door and order a Bulliet rye, and the Australian expat who owns the place automatically puts the dash of bitters that I enjoy so much and only had to ask for once. We can talk about the subtleties and differences of rye, bourbon and scotch while I sip my cocktail and it reminds me of HBG at home, because my glass is never really empty. There’s Helio, the local who runs the aforementioned Castro’s, a quaint bar and eatery offering open air seating in vintage upholstery served with a side of conversation about local culture. There’s Red Frog, a speakeasy that reminds me of Death & Co in NYC, although the door guy is a midget instead of a towering ape in a tux. There is Foxtrot, with it’s open courtyard and smoky old fashions. And one of my personal favorites, Baguettes & Cornets, a French corner bakery with the best baked treats and the friendliest staff in Europe.

But Lisbon also has a dark side, and it is ugly. I never personally experienced it, so I don’t feel I have the right to write about it, but you can read my tramily’s takes on the events of one horrible evening here and here. I have no respect for those who fuck with the people that I love, and I love my fellow Earharts deeply, so Lisbon will always carry a scar on my heart. But if I were to lump all of Lisbon in with the few neanderthals that perpetuated the events of that night, I would be no better than them.

In the spirit of open mindedness, I climbed the hills of Lisbon and watched sunrises and sunsets. I peered down it’s picturesque alleys and enjoy local wine in it’s parks. I ran along the river and watched the rising sun sparkle across it. I boarded a sailboat with friends old and new to see sunset from the Tagus and eat homemade stew between bouts of uncontrollable laughter. I wandered Pink Street and Barrio Alto after late night shifts. The Goddess visited and we sipped sangria with DL on top of a parking deck while watching the sunset over a bridge that resembles the Golden Gate. She and I swank it up at the Palácio do Governador with pool time, spa visits and girl talk in hotel rooms. I enjoy meals and drinks and late night deep chats with the 11 other souls living in my building. I do my best to make the most out of my time in Lisbon. That said, I’m not disappointed to leave.

My European adventure has come to an end. I’ll spend a few days in the Middle East before starting my life in Southeast Asia, and I don’t even have a clue what to expect, so I’m ready for anything. Stay tuned for the Random adventures: Vietnam addition.

Specifically Yours,

SR

 

Sintra in 4 hours (or less)

Boa tarde meus Amantes.  In an attempt to keep you up to date on the adventures, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: writing about a side trip the moment I’ve returned from it.  You would think that this is the most logical step: the events and sights of the day fresh in my mind, thoughts and words just ready to tumble out with precision…. but considering I haven’t even started my post on Porto yet (that trip was nearly three weeks ago), consider yourselves lucky that I found a few free moments to address you, my ever so faithful Lovers.

As my time in Lisbon is winding down (very quickly, I might add), I find myself with a laundry list of things I wanted to do while here that have not been checked off the list yet, and Sintra was one of them.  Sunrise is another, so after missing yesterday’s monthly sunrise hike with the crew (snooze and stop are too close together on my alarm), I rounded up Marky and Isaac (who also failed the initial trip) and we drug ourselves out of bed and up the hill this morning to watch the sunrise over Lisbon.  You can read more about this in my Lisbon post, but after the big ball of fire was adequately high in the sky, I made my way through the streets of Alfama to the Santa Apolina station to catch the 7:45 train to Sintra.  It is an hour train ride, and I have to be back at 2pm to knock out some work before tonight’s farewell junction, so when the train hits the station in Sintra, I’m off to the races to fit everything in before catching the 12:36 back to Lisbon.  Throw in me getting off at the wrong stop initially, and I’m down to less than 4 hours….

My first piece of advice for doing Sintra in 4 hours or less: don’t be that asshole.  Sintra deserves so much more, and I am kicking myself in the ass for not giving this castle and garden laden city it’s proper due…. alas, I vowed to do the best I could, and stubbornly did it all on foot.  From the train station, I set out and began the 1,477ft ascent to the Pena Palace, ducking into the woods at my first chance to hike the majority of the way through woods so quiet, I felt my labored breathing was disrupting the serene environment.  It is still early when I arrive at Pena, but the ticket lines are already long and a Remote Citizen who visited the day before has told me she didn’t think it was worth the wait, so I duck around the corner and make my way up to Castle of the Moors instead.  I don’t regret this decision at all, and I’m like a kid at Christmas climbing all over this castle, along the walls and up the watch towers to see all of Sintra from above.  The view is fantastic and the castle has expansive walls and nooks and crannies a plenty –  I want to stay there all day, but I’m a dick and I only have 2.5 hours to go, so it’s down the hill into the city center I go.

My previously mentioned amazing city team member Tomás (who happens to be from Sintra) has provided me with some must dos, should dos, and if-you-have-the-time dos.  I obvi only have time for the must dos, and one of those is hitting Piriquita to sample the local pastries, travesserio and queijada.  After my insane trek up the mountain and rather fun walk {hop/skip} back down, I’m famished and order one of each and an iced coffee.  Here’s the thing about Portugal: you never know what you are going to get when you order an iced coffee…. sometimes you get an iced coffee.  Sometimes you get hot coffee with ice.  Today, I got a hot cup of coffee and a glass of ice beside it… but it all works out, and the pastries are delicious.  If I didn’t have more walking to do, I would not have hesitated to order an entire box of travesserios and brought them back…. to share of course….. But I have castles to see and gardens to walk and only 1.5 hours left, so I pay the check and move on.

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I’ve been previously warned about how crowded Sintra is, but I’m still pretty amazed at the sheer number of people all going to do the same thing.  The next stop on my list is Quinta da Regaleira, and it is absolutely mobbed with people, even though it is just coming up on 11am.  I’m still high from my castle adventures earlier in the morning, so not even the line gets me down, but it does eat into my allotted time, so once I get through it, I kick it into high gear again so I can cover as much ground as possible.  I open the map and quickly realize that even at my fastest pace, I can only afford to hit about 10% of this place, so I steer away from the main (read: crowded) attractions and spend my time dipping through the gardens in hidden staircases and off the path trails.  The gardens are intricate and expansive, with waterfalls, lakes, grottos, caves and everything in between.  The statues are especially breathtaking, and include a hall of the gods, and my particular fave, the lion {who does not concern himself with the opinion of the sheep}.  Sadly, my time here in Sintra is fast approaching it’s end, so I exit stage {garden} left and head back the the train station via the National Palace of Sintra and whatever this place is:

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Back safely on the train, I attempt to grab some shut eye, but a woman and her two young boys post up next to me and the younger one is still learning spacial relations, so I abandon hope at a nap, open the blinds for him and switch seats so he can plaster his face against the window.  Once I hit the Oriente station, I plunge underground to take the metro the rest of the way home, because let’s face it… you haven’t mastered a city until you’ve conquered the subway.  I navigated my two line ride back to Cais de Sorde and slid into my home office chair taking only 14 extra minutes over my planned return – leaving just a few moments for my current Love Letter to you.

As far as Sintra goes, if you come to Portugal, do as I say and not as I do.  Make time for Sintra.  I’d say 4 days.  Visit the castles early to beat the crowds.  Take Tomás’ recommendations and besides Pena and Mouros, hit Palácio de SeteaisChalet do Condessa, and Palácio de Monserrate.  Spend your afternoons on the coast at Praia da Ursa, Praia da Adraga and Praia Grande.  Spend an ENTIRE day seeing every corner of  Regaleira.  Eat your weight in travesserios.  Every day.  Don’t be an asshole like me.  Give Sintra it’s due.

Randomly yours,

 

SR

 

 

Lisbon > Lagos {And Every Beach In Between}

Olá, meus Amantes. I’m coming to you today from my perch atop a small cliff at Praia do Figueira along the southern coast of Portugal, somewhere between Lagos and Sagres. I’m watching waves of the prettiest blue green water crash in as the sun bakes the salt from my dip in the icy Atlantic into my already darkened skin. I’m rolling solo today as my cohort has been bed down with the wine flu, but that’s ok with me. I have you, my Lovers, the ocean, the waves, and a handful of naked Europeans to keep me company.

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In each of our cities, we have a group of two or three locals deemed our City Team who run our local experiences, give recommendations for everything you can think of and just make sure we have a good experience in general. This month’s team provided us with 3×5 cards in the first week with a few local recommendations. At the bottom of mine was suggestions for an epic west coast road trip. Never one to turn down a local recommendation, when Starbucks Lightning messaged me last week and said he just felt like he had to get out of Lisbon, I knew just the trip. When I told one of the team we were going, he lit up and gave me another (two) handful of beach recs and a pizza place that he said was the best he’d ever had. We rented a Panda, mapped it out, and planned to head south via the west coat of this gorgeous country.

I had previously stated that one of my goals this year was not to drive at all, but this itinerary was epic and worth it, and SL’s Brit ass is incapable of driving on the correct side of the road, so I slipped into the driver’s seat, got my stick shift skills in gear (see what I did there?) and we headed out. Over the next 11 or so hours, we wound through a national park, stopping at every beach the city team threw at us. From Sines we hit Porto Covo, where we hit the cliffs and took in the views. From there we would down to Praia do Tonel and Porto das Bracas where we pulled into a fishing cove and the locals were not impressed. Onto Zambujeria, where SL napped on the beach – exhausted from a long day of riding passenger – and we got lunch, and I ordered way too much shrimp because I don’t understand the metric system. From there it was Odeceixe. We hiked down to the beach waded across a makeshift river, and trekked across the black cliffs that were laced with marble to get the best ‘gram photos. By this point we are torn between hitting all the beaches and conserving daylight, so we hightail it back up the cliffs (after I asked and SL said “fuck the stairs”) to hit Arrafina, where other remotes are, but we are up on the cliffs and they are down on the beach. Time for just one more, we park it at Praia do Amado until I drag us back up because my old ass doesn’t see well in the dark and the sun is going down.

Despite my irresponsibly large shrimp lunch, I’m famished shortly after arriving at our hotel, so I put on a pretty dress, invite my British travel companion, and descend to the restaurant alone after he declines. I wasn’t that way long though, as they had mushroom truffle risotto on the menu, and SL loves his truffle. We wine and dine (well, I martini’d) and decide to check out the Lagos bar scene after gathering some recommendations from the hotel bartenders and some regulars at the bar. None of the bars are particularly impressive, so we spend our evening hopping from one to the next before attempting to grab a cab home…. thing is, there are no cabs. The hotel is 3 miles out, so I vehemently oppose SL’s poorly crafted plan to walk, stubbornly plop down on the sidewalk and pull out my phone to call Hey Jude, my virtual assistant app. In my slightly inebriated and full on tantrum state, I instruct my VA to get us home. Where are you going? I don’t know, but you made the reservations for me, so look it up. Where are you? I don’t know. Pinpoint my location. And they did. 15 minutes later, a taxi shows up and whisks us home. Hey Jude FTW.

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The next morning, a full fledged hangover and a full English breakfast take SL down for the count, so I’m left to go beach exploring by myself. A little me time never hurt anyone, and when you’re rolling 47 deep at all times, it’s actually a refreshing change of pace. I take off in the Panda, park at Praia Cabana Velhas, and before I can get out, four fellow Earharts on scooters pass me by. We exchange pleasantries and they scoot off while I head up to the top of a cliff. The beach itself is neat, with bean bags and straw umbrellas, but I’m not feeling it, so I load up and move on to the next, where I find myself now. This beach is by far my favorite despite the 15-20 minute hike to get it it. When you approach the beach, to the left is a cliff with the ruins of an old fort at the top (which is where I run into my fellow remotes again), a lagoon straight on, and to the right, a neat rock laden bridge across a tiny stream that leads to a small, not so crowded beach with cliffs that wrap around to tinier and more private beaches. This is where you find the naked people. And my perch. I don’t want to leave this place. Ever. There is no cell service. The waves are perfect and the sky is clear. Alas, there are more beaches to see, so we will pick this up later.

I’m now finishing this post from the Lisbon airport on travel day. I should have stayed on that beach. I carried on to two more beaches, Zavial and Ingrina, but my love for Figueira was too great, so after being as disappointed as one can be in South Portugal beaches, I check back in with SL to see if he has rejoined the land of the living. He has, so I circle back to get him and we head to a tiny little village in the hills of Portugal to have what Tomas called “the best pizza he’s ever had”. The village itself is quaint and quiet, with Pizza Pazza very obviously being the focal point of 80% of visitors. We both gaze out at the hills while each devouring our own pizza (Tomas did not steer us wrong). Before we make our way back to civilization, we climb up a hill to investigate an abandoned house where all you can hear is the bells on the cows in the pasture below.

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After our adventure in the hills, we drive down into Sagres to catch the sunset across the cliffs. SL uses his nerd brain to explain deep space matters to me, including what kind of eclipse is coming and why we can’t look directly at it. Hey, I may be able to talk taxes and numbers backwards and forwards, but science is just not my jam. After the sun dips below the cliffs, we leave the beaches and head into town to meet other remotes for some good wine, good food, great convos and even better theatrics regarding a lonely bar patron that we stalk across multiple bars.
Monday we are ready to head home, but not before one last trip to Figueira, one last climb up a hill, one last dip in the Atlantic, and one more bask in the sun. Our drive home is relatively uneventful, although SL does take us on a few “adventurous detours” and we get a taste of Lisbon rush hour traffic. Luckily our workspace has a shower, so when I slide in nearly two hours after planned, I’m able to go straight there and rinse off the sand that’s still clinging to my legs, thereby officially ending our west coat adventure.

Stay tuned for Sintra and Lisbon my lovers.

Specifically yours,

SR

Remote {Emotional} Reality

Bom Dia my Lovers. I know it has been a while since I have written you, but I promise you've never been far from my thoughts or my heart.  Arrival in Lisbon has meant a shift in more than one of my day to day activities – I'm ramping up at a new job, running a fitness challenge in the group (selfish motivation is my own lack of fitness these past two months), hosting friends, and basically trying to find a new balance between all of those things while still taking side trips and exploring a new city.  Don't worry, I'm well aware that I owe you posts on Lisbon, Porto, the Goddess of Love's visit and, soon to come, Lagos… and probably Sintra.  But I felt this post was what I needed right now, and let's be honest – it's really all about me.

After our arrival day in Split, we were subjected to a day long presentation about what to expect out of Remote Year – the good, the bad, the ugly – and despite being epically jet lagged and most every one of us hungover from our meet up the night before, we sat on edge and took in all we could.  This month, I'm finding one part particularly useful, and I'm not the only one.  RY's Experience Leader, Travis, a guy who has the most positive energy I've ever experienced in my life, reviewed the four stages we would go through, each on an individual and group level over a year.  Of course there is the honeymoon period, where life is fun and we all love each other.  After that comes a dip, where we start to settle into who we were, who we are, and where we fit.  This is a tough phase for an individual, and a difficult one as a group.  Ours started this month, and so many of my tramliy have been brave and outspoken about their struggles, so here I am, doing the same.

Those that know me the best know that baring my soul is my least favorite thing to do. Shit gets too real and I shut down, walk away, end the conversation, never talk about it again.  Healthy, I know, but up until now my strategy has served me well enough. It helps to be surrounded by an army of people who like you, and circle of those who love you, and an even tighter knit group of those who love you unconditionally – relationships that were forged over months and years of interactions, both positive and negative.  The thing about RY is, you're forced to press the reset button on all of those timelines for the people you interact with on a day to day level and you are starting fresh with 50 (give or take) people.  50 amazing people.  50 brave souls.  50 uniquely individual human beings that by the end of this year will have a bond that doesn't exist outside outside of this experience – but for now, we are struggling.

Disclaimer: in no way am I insinuating I speak for everyone in the group. For purposes of this post, I am generalizing from those who have spoken up.  My usage of the word "we" is solely for simplicity of writing.

We miss home.  We miss our families, our friends, the long forged bonds that facilitated the unconditional manner of support and love.  Our relationships with those we left behind are changing and we are dealing with their hurt and pain along with our own.  We're getting to know each other on a deeper level, figure out what we need (and don't need) from each others.  We cry, we hug, we fight – and hopefully make up. We reach out when we can, shut away when we need to.  Most importantly, we support each other.

I can only speak for others with what they have shared, but if I'm brave enough, I can keep typing and ultimately hit publish and let you into my personal emotional journey this month.  And you can choose to keep reading, or wait for the next post, where I promise to lighten it back up and open the window back up to the fun stuff.  Freedom is a powerful things my Lovers.

My month got off on to a rocky start from day one with an argument from a loved one at home that spanned the majority of a 15 hour already stressful travel day – I didn't cope with the manner in the most adult manner, behaved quite embarrassingly, and worst of all, caused a fellow Earhart pain that a sober me would never impart on anyone.  The aftermath of my behavior caused a lot of anxiety, but I resolved to use the experience as motivation to grow and be a better version of me, both for myself and those around me.  The fallout from the airport caused some (much deserved) setbacks in this resolve, and I was emotionally raw to some of the interactions after it, causing misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and in one case, acceptance that making amends was out of my hands.  None of this boded well for my spirit, and I spent a emotionally charged morning dipping in and out of the conference rooms at the workspace crying because I didn't trust myself to be able to make it home without breaking down.

I consider myself extremely lucky that there are already several people on this group that I feel really care about me…. maybe not unconditionally yet, but they are definitely dedicated enough to recognize when I'm struggling and take the time to help me through it.  I hope there are those in this group that feel that way about me, if not now, then by the end of this post, this day, week, month or year.

My most difficult struggle has been finding a way to fit into the group while still being the unapologetic me I've always been.  Here are some things I know: I come in hot.  I'm loud. I have a tendency to overdo a lot of things in life, including drinking.  I'm a guys girl, always have been.  If you don't know me, those things can be….. annoying.  Intimidating.  Eye roll worthy.  Misconstrued. You don't know that I laugh loudly because I spent too much time not laughing enough. I'm boisterous because I spent years fitting myself into a box someone else built for me. I'm one of the boys because I was raised by a single father who knew nothing about girls: I didn't even know how to blow dry my hair until I was 17. And my excess indulgence is a product of my love of whiskey. These things make up who I am, and as I said before, I will not apologize for them, or change them to fit into a world that's clearly not meant for me. One of my favorite quotes inthe world is from Dina Von Teese: she said “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” I have to continue to accept that not everyone loves peaches. Or Pinos for that matter.

Today, I'll prepare balance sheets and do capital reconciliations through tears as an uncontrollable wave of homesickness grips me. I blame the Goddess's departure for this. Tomorrow I will embark on a journey of the west coast with Starbucks and fill my soul with the beauty of Portugal.  Next week, I'll get ready to move to Asia (with a short stop in Dubai), and I'm hoping to leave behind the loneliness I've felt here, be it self-imposed or real. Over this next year, I will work to get to know each member of my tramily on a level that allows me to miss their quirks and ticks and demeanors for the rest of my life. Beyond that, I hope I can take these experiences and continue to become a better version of myself, molded by the beautiful souls that surround me every day.

Emotional post over.

Specifically yours,

SR

P.S.  After an outpouring of concern (and love) from home within minutes of posting, I do want to let you know that I am still fantastically happy, and yes, everything is ok.  But feel free to keep sending the love.  There can never be too much in this world.

Tomorrowland

Oh, my Lovers, are you in for a treat. I knew my Tomorrowland post would be one of epic proportions, but even in my wildest of Random imaginations, I never would have considered what an A D V E N T U R E Tomorrowland would actually be. There was bike drama (lots of it). I was an entourage. We got in a fight with a taxi driver. I got hit by a car. I’m battered, bloody, bruised, and flying home to Budapest on a delayed flight with a throbbing head and a black eye that’s growing by the moment, and somewhere between all of that I attended the most epic music festival in the world, danced to my hearts content (in the rain more than once) and forged more life long friendships. Let’s first answer the question that is burning in all of your Loving minds. Did I partake in mind altering substances to enhance my Tomorrowland experience? I hope I don’t lose any of your Love when I tell you that I did not, and instead fueled my weekend with double shots of Jameson and more sugar free Red Bull than any one human should consume, and as the events of the weekend unfolded, this further proved to be the correct decision. Brace yourselves for the Randomness that was: Tomorrowland.

For two weekends each July, nearly 180,000 people descend on the quaint town of Boom, Belgium to unite over music at one of the greatest festivals worldwide. This year, my first decision after joining Remote Year was to be one of those 180,000. As mentioned before, I’m travel weary from overloading (overloving?) my plate this month, and the night before we leave for the festival the crew gets together to celebrate the Russian Beauty that is Milana on her birthday in another dance filled late night eve that includes me running through an open fire hydrant and ruining the hair I had straightened just a few hours before. Despite the late, whiskey laden evening, I’m up bright eyed and bushy tailed in time to shower and make breakfast before our two hour flight to Brussels. Once we land, our overly gracious AirBNB host scoops us up at the airport and we join the crew that is already settled in. Hair, makeup (because, as Jen once told me, festivals are all about the makeup), then festival. Our host as provided us with bikes so we can get to the festival in about 10 minutes. The Princess Meilz, J Lee and I take off to dive into the madness headfirst. The festival itself is a gorgeous setting of circus themed stages placed throughout a massive park with trees, lakes and bridges. J Lee is a hit and made me get in every pic that was requested of her, so I have strong urges to scour Instagram #tomorrowland to see if I can actually find any of the entourage pics.We kick it off with Cederic Gervais at The House of Books, hit Alison Wonderland at The Garden of Madness, get some Mainstage on with Marshmello and Tiesto before hitting the other end of the festival for Paul Van Dyke on The Freedom Stage and, my personal fav, Seven Lions at The Rose Garden, where the #PIC saw me twirling my little heart out on the live feed.

Dizzy from whiskey and dancing, we head back to the bikes for a whimsical ride back to our Boom digs. We uncouple our bikes, mount up to go, and J Lee’s bike doesn’t move – she’s got a tire lock on her bike and it has somehow gotten engaged – and the key is nowhere to be found. We look. And look. And L O O K. That sucker was G O N E. Meilz heads home ahead and I stay back with J Lee to walk the problem bike home. I have to pee before we go though, so I pop a squat, where I proceed to lose my ID – for the first time. Recovered in the most unsanitary of fashions, we proceed with my driver’s license in pocket, and I quickly realize this >2 mile walk will go much quicker if I clean this sucker up to my shoulders and carry it in a manner that all of my weightlifting coaching has prepped me for. This bike is heavy, and we are stopping nearly every five minutes so that I can rest and switch shoulders. After a good mile and a half, several switches, a scary detour into a park that is NOT as happy as Tomorrowland, we stop to rest and I realize my ID has once again escaped the confines of my person. This time we aren’t so lucky, so after J Lee retraces our steps without any success, we forge on just the two of us until Julian arrives like a knight in shining armor to help us with the last half mile. Lovers, usually I tell knights to ride the fuck on because I have my own white horse, but I was quite grateful in this instance. I’m just as grateful for the Jameson I bought at the duty free on the way in.

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Day two starts with a family breakfast, hair, makeup, trampoline jumping and pregaming with champagne before grabbing a cab to the festival because fuck those bikes. Upon arrival we revisit the lost key area from the evening before and find said key in less than 90 seconds. Into the belly of the beast, it’s The Garden of Madness for Valentino Khan before Mainstaging it for Nervo, then down to The Freedom Stage for Sebastian Ingrosso – who I confused for Ferry Corsten – and the best set of the whole weekend. He killed it. We shoot over to The Arch for some Brennan Hart before Mainstaging Armin Van Buren and attempting to find the real Ferry Corsten. We eventually abandon our quest and head for the taxi line where we grab the only cab from a cashless festival that doesn’t take credit cards, a fact we don’t realize until he takes us to the wrong address for a second time. Once we finally manages to get us to the correct address, J Lee and I throw 20 Euro at him and bolt for the house as he screams at us from the street. Grateful again for the Jameo.

Day three we decide to give the bikes another shot after waiting out the rain, and we don’t get a block before I have to pull out my childhood bike mechanic skills and get J Lee’s chain back on. After washing my grease covered hands – I still have bike grease under my fingernails – we head for the Mainstage and dance in the rain to Yellow Claw and Oliver Helden. The next stop is the Freedom Stage for Nicky Romero, which is the only indoor stage and is extra packed due to the rain, but I don’t care about any of that as some overly excited (and rather short) guy behind us lifts me up on his shoulders for my favorite song “I Could Be The One”. Our escape from the overcrowded stage leads us to the Rose Garden, where I remain for the rest of the day with Jonas Blue, Feder, Robin Schultz and Klingande. This is also where I spend the most time with the non-Earhart Remotes that are at the festival and feel part of an even bigger family, The Remote Nation. Some of these guys have finished and are re-uniting. Some are in month 11, some month 4. We give each other pro-tips on cities and group dynamics between dance sessions and rain storms and bond over the mutual crazy that brought us not only to Tomorrowland, but also on this unbelievable journey.

Leaving the festival, I get separated from the group and end up having to bike home alone. On a bike that’s too big for me. With no light. In the dark. And the rain. I’m hugging the curb when a car comes up beside me and swipes me just enough to throw me off course. The bike hits the curb and stops – I keep going – until the right side of my body makes contact with the sidewalk and my head smacks the ground with the most sickening crack I’ve ever heard in my life. I still attest that the driver had no idea, because they kept going and I would like to believe in the goodness of people – luckily my faith was restored by the car behind that did stop. I tried to assure them that I was ok, but when I turned into their headlights and the guy’s face went white, I confirmed with them that I was not actually ok. Luckily it was all scrapes and bruises and one knock to the skull with no concussion symptoms, so we locked the devil bike to a tree and they drove me back to the BNB where my fellow Earharts patched me up while – you guessed it – I calmed my nerves with some Jameson.

So there you go my Lovers. That’s your Specifically Random rundown of my weekend at Tomorrowland. I am battered and bruised and I have one hell of a shiner from my abrupt pavement encounter, but I wouldn’t trade one second of the shit how that was leaving Tomorrowland for any second of being in there. I have never smiled, laughed, and danced to my heart’s content so much in my life. Tomorrowland was my happy place, and all the things that happened when I left only served to tell me one thing: next year, I’m camping.

Randomly Yours,

SR

Guess what?  Pictures have been updated! Budapest, Prague, Tomorrowland and MORE!

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