You Can Never Go “Home” Again

Hello my Lovers of Random. I hope at this point I have satiated your needs for updates on the adventure that was Remote Year Earhart. Even though I’ve closed the chapter of that particular adventure, I am in no way done. There will be sequels, both in the form of adventures with new ‘Krews’ as well as reunions with Earhart past. As I write this post, I’m 10,000ft in the air on my way to Denver to see Marky, my first Earhart neck to hug since my tearful goodbye with the ever so beautiful Mel at the Cancun Airport. But before I land and begin the second chapter of my nomad life, let’s touch base about life in the US post RY.

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photo cred Ryan Nelson

I have to tell you that I truly didn’t know what to expect upon landing on native soil after a year abroad. I landed in Houston with time to make an earlier flight to Memphis and hopped terminals to see if I could secure a seat. With the help of the friendliest United gate agent I ever met, I made it onto the flight, only to be delayed, deplaned for maintenance, and reboarded 10 minutes after my original flight took off. I was rewarded with a seat in 1a, which I was grateful for as I found myself succumb to the emotions that had been hiding the past few weeks. Silent tears slid down my cheeks nearly the entire flight, and I’m thankful for the flight attendant, who handed me tissues and a Jack on the rocks with no questions asked.

I landed at Memphis and after a snafu with my car rental caught a 45 minute Uber to my parent’s house in BFE Tennessee. I hadn’t clued them in to my early arrival, so when I rang the doorbell, there was a round of surprise and hugs, and an off comment or two about my red and puffy eyes. My unsuspecting nephew rounded the corner straight from the shower and his face lit up at the sight of his Aunt Krystal. Before I knew it, he was on me, and I wrapped him up in a bear hug and spun him around a few times. If that doesn’t cure the blues, idk what does.

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I spent a couple of days rummaging through the boxes left behind in my parent’s attic. It was almost reminiscent of being a kid and playing in my attic with my grandmother’s old clothes. Resurrecting #formerlifePino was surreal – although I did enjoy the full breadth of my shoe collection.

A couple of days in I was boarding a plane to Atlanta for Xerocon and an in person meeting with the HPC crew. The week was a whirlwind of co workers, new colleagues, fantastic speakers, and, as any good conference has, too much whiskey. Xerocon didn’t take enough out of me to not meet up with some ATL Citizens at the end of the week though, including the lovely Jess, my definite partner in crime had I been a Meraki. We had dinner, drinks, and talked about how the world didn’t’ get us as we watched the ATL night ride.

The next morning I was headed back to the fam for a chill week in good ol’ Oakland, TN. The week before I had dropped in on Crossfit Penance, a box not far from the ‘rents, so I got back into the routine of throwing weight around between hours of settling into my new role of Head of Client Experience at HPC. All in all, a welcome uneventful week.

Friday had me taking off for Birmingham with a quick stop in T-Town for a catch up and hair rescue with my stylist of 17 years. As soon as she touched my hair, he faced revealed everything I already knew… it was time to say goodbye to the golden locks, the lion’s mane mop of curls I had been torturing all year. Within the hour she had me fixed up, a brunette beauty again with layers and depth, free of split ends. The woman is a hair goddess and I am lucky to have her.

Birmingham kicked off with a mini class reunion of a few of us that crewed the night shift at UAB’s accounting program. We caught up over pork loin and beer before I hightailed it to catch up with the most consistent friend I’d had all year. She offered me refuge on night one, and we drank local craft brews while catching up on all the gossip.

The next morning was Saturday, which in my mind, means a couple things in BHM. 1) Pepper Place Market, with a guaranteed stop to see the Salsa Guy (who remembered me after a year abroad) and 2) Brunch at El Barrio, complete with a Palmoa for Two (but really just for me) and the Cuban Madam. After getting my fix of both of the above with Aaron and a guest appearance from the #PIC, I headed to the ‘burbs t meet up with some old bar patrons and friends at a memorial to honor our fallen comrades (oh, you thought I meant old as in time… no.. they’re old as in age. JK guys, love you all). After a lot of hugs and too many stories, I headed back downtown to join the “family” for dinner at my FAVORITE spot, Highland’s Bar and Grill. As per usual, I was over served, over fed and welcomed back like I’d never been gone.

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Sundays in Birmingham are for brunch at Dyron’s, so I rustled up the other half of the ACs and we joined Sloan to chat over Titos and grapefruits (fresh pressed, of course) while munching on beignets, crab claws, and chicken and biscuits. I left brunch in hope of catching a Baron’s game, but an Alabama summer thunderstorm had other ideas, so beers at Good People with Sarah, the #PIC, Oliver and his fam was the play. Once the rain settled, the boys took off on their one wheels and Sarah and I headed to Jinsei for the best sushi in town. Once again, there was no love lost as I was welcomed back by Abe, still managing the place, and Patrick, still slinging the best Hot Kiss this side of the Prime Meridian.

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A slammed packed week of catching up with friends was promptly derailed once I saw my Gracie baby and realized she was sick. A trip to the vet confirmed she had leukemia and was struggling to breathe. Sarah and I made the decision to put he down, and I cried… for days. Despite my guilt and grief, I was able to muster the energy to make a few engagements, have a bowl of pasta at Gianmarco with Jake still nailing my wine tastes, compete in a competition at Wheelhouse and podium, hit the community pool with my Ella bug, and grab a Spicy Hawaiian from Slice with the ACs and the Ex and his new Boo.

Exhausted and spent, I hit the road back to the fam to spend a few more days with them before jetting off again. Between dinner at home with the ‘rents and dinner dates with my nephew, I met up with another Citizen and SS Shitshow crew member for some pizza and peanut butter pie with a mutual friend of ours. Is anyone catching a theme here yet? Food. It’s all about the food.

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My bags are once again packed, and I’m toting 60lbs of my life off to Denver before hitting the world again. First up Europe, then South Africa for an extended stay. While it was good to see faces, hug necks, and eat and drink my way through my former life, it didn’t quite fit anymore. There was an uncomfortableness to the comfortability of it, and I found myself anxious to get on the road again. I got a hitch in my stomach every time someone asked how it was to be “home”, and I quickly realized that for me, Birmingham would never be “home” again. As amazing as it is, and although it holds some of my favorite souls, I have outgrown it, at least for now. So, the only reality I see is to keep going, onto the next home, on and on until I find that one place that captures my eye, heart and attention for the long term. Here goes nothing,

 

Stay Tuned Lovers.

Randomly Yours,

SR

CDMX Part Cuatro: The Final Chapter

Here we are my Lovers. The final week of the adventure that was Remote Year Earhart. 51 weeks. 7 days shy of a full rotation of the earth that I spent circling it with 50 47 42 39 35 32 of some of the most quality humans I ever met in my life. Earharts. Braveharts. Danceharts. My Harts.

With most of my core group still business retreating it up, I took Monday to spend some time with the ladies in RY that mean so much to me. It started with a bistro lunch work date with the Dinster where we talked life after RY over a bottle of Beaujolais. Later I cheffed it up for my Medellin roomies, SaraBear and Kiminy, along with Kellz Bells and Momma Gorks. I threw together my signature roast chicken with some mashed potatoes laced with ooey gooey Oaxacan cheese while we sat in their kitchen indulging in wine and memories. I’ve always been a guys girl, but the last 51 weeks had taught me that there are amazing women in my life, and all I have to do is trust them enough to let them and the result is life long relationships with strong, beautiful, caring ladies who empower and enlighten me. I’m so grateful to those on RY that pushed me to tear down that wall, my distrust of female figures, because it led me to the friendships I had in that moment along with a hundred other moments on RY that I never would have had otherwise.

As Tuesdays go, I was busy with work calls the majority of the day. I found time for some outdoor cafe working and even snuck in a mani/pedi before my favs got back home. House and heart full again.

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artwork credz Mel

Wednesday brought the unveiling of the hard work Yancey Pants had put into our farewell video, but not before a screening of a surprise video from our former city teams, a heartfelt and hilarious congrats from those who had provided recommendations, experiences, laughs and love along the way. After we watched our send off from them, we were given a first (and second, then third) showing of the video below. Yes, we cried. We also laughed, smiled, and felt the weight of what we had achieved in the previous year. I dare you to watch it and not feel the same.

As we all cleared out, Kiwi, M and I convinced Momma V to join us for a carnivorous feast at Sonora Grill. The venue itself was an eclectic mix of 80s and 90s music videos paired with a Bern’s like offering of steak galore. We over-ordered, overshared, over drank and over loved. On our way back home, we stopped to grab some drinks (because we hadn’t had enough), but its after hours and Marky and Kis have to bribe the gas station cashier to sell to them while V and I wait in the sketchy cab.

Thursday was B U S Y as I tried to balance work with running this month’s PI event alongside Duffs. The afternoon found us Ubering far from our Condesa bubble to a double cart trip to Walmart (my first Wally World all year) to stock up on food and booze for our rooftop bar and bbq to raise money for Yugen Build. After we filled our carts with snacks, beer, tequila and charcoal, we headed back to the workspace to set up for the night. I had to excuse myself to join M in a frustrating attempt to procure a whip for tomorrow’s balloon adventure, adding to the already stressful nature of the evening. Beer without ice, beer pong without beer pong balls, a ticket system with no tickets, charcoal with no lighter.. but somehow, as these things always do, it all came together at the last minute. I parked myself at my familiar spot behind the bar and doled out beers and shots to a stellar turnout to raise money for the Yugen Build. Kiwi was on the grill charring hot dogs and brats to soak up the drinks, and Kiminy and Kellz had arranged for entertainment by La Laura Guevara, so we swayed to her velvet voice as DL and Flickty took the beer pong championship. The night ended with Rappi burritos and leftover beer. Hey, too much is better than not enough, right?

The next morning (and I mean morning), M and I loaded up in the previously mentioned rental to head to Teotihuacan for a hot air balloon ride for two above the pyramids. Recall in week 1 I had decided against this adventure at that time, but its and RY staple, a CDMX must see, and we weren’t going to miss it. We arrived to a chilly morning, and it wasn’t long before we were soaring high in the skies above the former Aztec ruins. The views were breathtaking, and the ride exhilarating, albeit a bit scary because the foundation was straw, so every movement felt as if we might fall through. We landed our balloon and M tried to work out our next meal with the tour guides. I’m both grateful and resentful of his advances in Spanish – on one hand, he gets done what we need done, but on the other, because of his fluency, I’m never pushed to use mine. Either way, we ended up with breakfast and were hooked up with a tour guide for the pyramids.

We spent the next few hours in the grueling sun touring the moon and sun pyramids amidst the Teotihuacan ruins. I have dressed WRONG for this windy day, and several times in ascent and descent, I give the fellow tourists around us a show. You’re welcome pyramid goers.

After our ruins tour, we load up to grab lunch at La Gruta, a neat little restaurant nestled in a cave.  The atmosphere is beyond amazing, even if the food is mediocre.  We’re both practically falling asleep at the table, and have a combined battery percentage of 3% in our phones (read: maps), so we devise a plan to get back to CDMX on our limited juice, both personally and technologically.  I took the first shift, so we weaved our way back to the highway with both phones dying before we even got there.

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Between the two of us, M is definitely the one with the better sense of direction.  Much like my Spanish, I haven’t had to rely on my own merit because he’s so good at it that I just trust and follow him.  The problem with this is that in true Markolepsy fashion, he’s now lightly snoring in the passenger’s seat and I don’t have the heart to wake him.  But I’m an educated woman, so I can figure this out, right?.  We aren’t close enough to the city yet that there are signs for CDMX, so I decide to just follow the signs that point to the airport…. and quickly land us on a road that is not the highway we were previously on.  M wakes up long enough to ask a local “Dónde está la Ciudad de México” who replies “Derecho, Derecho, Derecho” (straight straight straight), and he’s back to Marky nap land while I follow the old man’s instructions.

Problem number two: this road isn’t straight.  It forks.. in a very unclear V fashion… a lot. Still not having it in me to wake M, I just make the best decision I can at each fork, hoping that some context clues (mainly the plates of the cars around me) are leading me in the right direction.  Thankfully they are, because soon I am passing the airport, and before you know it, we’re in a city like atmosphere.  The adventure is far from over though, as CDMX is a large city, and we live in a very small part of it… somewhere…. not close to where we are.. and neither of us has any clue how to get from point A to point B… so after a couple of failed attempts, we pull into a gas station and buy a phone charger.  Google maps FTW.

Safely back to our Condesa ‘hood, we drop off our rental car and hustle over to Cicatriz Cafe to meet DL and Kiwi for a (second) mezcal tasting, and this time I walk out with 6 bottles of the rocket fuel to take home with me and share with friends.  Momma Joe eventually joins us and we plan to hit the pool hall after swinging by our favorite taco joint.  After several tacos and a nearly 20 hour day, suffice it say M and I never made it to pool.

Friday is our last official day of RY.  I’ve already got a busy day planned between packing, getting my last set of coordinates, checking those if us staying an extra day or two into our bonus BNB, but when M proposes we go hit a few of the sites we haven’t seen yet, I agree.  While I was waiting on him to come scoop me up to head downtown, I figured I would start packing.  I started toward my closet to grab my suitcase, and was suddenly stopped in my tracks.  It was as if someone has built a brick wall of all of the emotions, thoughts, feelings and implications of the fact that this is the last time I would pack my suitcase as a member of Earhart.  I was frozen, unable to move another inch towards my suitcase. So I did what I do when I’m hurting.  I wrote.

Once I processed what was going on internally, I was able to throw a couple of items in a suitcase before M was shouting beneath my balcony, my very own modern Romeo, hurrying me into an Uber.  Once we got downtown, we grabbed a couple bikes and pedaled around, marveling at the sinking buildings of CDMX, which was built over a lake and sinks an average of 8 inches per year.  I’m due to be inked with my last set of coordinates, so I bid M adieu and join Sarabear and Dre by Day  (the designer of my current set of digits) at the shop to complete my set.

photo creds Dre By Day and Marky Mark

Friday night…. we were together.

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The weekend came to a close as we all slowly departed over the next few days.  Each goodbye got a little harder, and after a week in the Yucatan, my last see-you-later was said at the Cancun Airport, where I walked around, hollow and dazed until my flight was called.  Even at the last minute, I was gripped by a need to panic, not board this flight, not end this year. But everything I learned this year would be for not if I didn’t take it forward and use it to continue living the best life I can imagine for myself.

So, after:
21 Countries
39 Flights
4 Overnight buses
8 Trains
18 Hotels
20 AirBNBs
5 Hostels
2 Homestays
18 Boats

I closed the Earhart chapter.  But if you think that means this is over, you haven’t been paying attention.  And boy are you in for a treat.

Until next time my Lovers,

Specifically Yours,

SR

Pics are up to date!