London Calling

I was going to wait until I returned to my 100 sq ft hotel room outside Gatwick to write this post, but then I just kept thinking that I’m already going to unintentionally leave out parts of this amazing day, so why not use the 30 minute express train ride from London to Gatwick to at least try to begin to fill you in on everything I packed into the 8 hours I had in my first stop on this worldwide tour. Full disclosure, I’m running on 14% battery, dicey service and little sleep, so cross your fingers Lovers of Random, we may lose some valuable insight here. 

The day actually didn’t start out looking good. While having an hour and a half shaved off your flight might sound like a good things, it really means the 6.5 hours sleep you planned on getting was actually 3 hours of turbulence interrupted doze off sessions.  After landing, checking in to the Bloc, and participating in an accidental 15 minute power nap in my pod of a hotel room, I found the nearest coffee bar and got a triple espresso before boarding the express train into London. Caffeine would be the key to my jet lag cure. At least I hoped it would be. 

I made the decision to see London on foot after arriving at Victoria and realizing Buckingham was only 15 minutes away – not to mention the weather was PERFECT. It took me twice as long because I detoured several times into random gardens, back streets with beautiful buildings and yes, a coffee shop for a re-up. I won’t say that Buckingham was disappointing, but I was certainly underwhelmed. To be fair, that may have had something to do with my desire to find wifi and FaceTime the #PIC, who was breakfasting with the ‘rents at the Redmont. I departed the palace and found a crumpet shop, used my pretty girl discount to swindle the wifi password, and checked in with the loved ones while having a detox juice and a doughnut that wasn’t NEARLY as good as Hero #imisspepperplace.

After getting my loved ones fix, I wandered a bit more. The London Eye was high on my priority list, and lucky for me, Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey stood between the giant ferris wheel and my current locale. Shout outs to geography for the extra culture. As I was walking bridge #1, Miss London (a fellow Earhart travel mate) reached out to invite me for a drink. I was already planning to find a way to skip the line at the Eye, and her availability gave me extra incentive. This is where the London Eye VIP Experience works in my favor. And once again, the travel gods smiled upon me, because the 3:30 group was full, but a couple doesn’t show, so I slid into their spot.  Bonus, it comes with champagne.  Don’t get excited yet, Randomers, this will prove to bite me in the ass. 

The Eye is a funny thing… it *usually* doesn’t stop moving, so you have to board quickly as the car moves across the platform. The views are breathtaking, but I picked a bad time of day, because the sun is adversarial to every picture I attempt. I’ve also managed to book myself on the only VIP car with a demon toddler hell bent on screaming and acting a fool the entire time – a fact his parent seem to be conveniently unaware of. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Eye stops for a good 20 minutes due to technical difficulties.  I swear if this car wasn’t glass enclosed, I would have considered  throwing this devil child into the river below. And VIP on the Eye might include champagne, but just one glass. #flawinthesystem

Escaping into the refreshingly silent air after my ride on the Eye that further enforced my belief I will never have kids, I scurry across bridge #2 on my way to meet Miss London. She’s at a brewery in nearby Covent Garden, but we don’t stay long because the bar across the way has better happy hour. We bond over our love of whiskey and adventure, as well as our distaste for waitresses who forget about us. After a round (of doubles), she takes me on a walking tour of her London. First stop: a square with a street performer who has me laughing almost as much as the #PIC does. Next up, London’s “Broadway” and “Times Square”, and we round it out with the breathtaking Trafalgar before dipping underground to navigate the tubes. I fully expected to be following her around like a lost puppy, but I’m happy to report that I was able to contribute to our successful navigation of London’s subway system. She goes her way and I go mine, promising to be her Croatian advocate should British Airways get her in a bind tomorrow.

There’s the 30 minute train ride back to Gatwick where I started this post, and upon arrival at my pod, I realize I miscalculated the Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion for AC in my room and it now resembles Antarctica, which btdubs, doesn’t come until later in this grand adventure. A quick correction, some FaceTime with the #PIC, and I shoot down to the terminal to grab a quick bite and finish filling you guys in on my London Adventure. As an interesting side note, there’s only one restaurant still serving food at 10pm, and the two patrons next to me are complaining profusely about the “horrid” nature of their food.  My cheeseburger warrants no complaints, considering it’s a late night airport meal. 

If today taught me anything, it’s that this is still so surreal. I can’t tell you how many times I stood still today, looked around, and couldn’t believe where I was and what I was doing. Between you and me Randomers, I really hope that feeling doesn’t go away any time soon. 

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#PIC 

Back in March, I pulled the trigger on some amazing photographs from a wildly talented friend of mine. After having them framed, I reach out to my network for help getting them up on my walls, because of all my talents, straight lines are not something I excel at. Lucky for me, I am part of a community that helps each other out, and it wasn’t long before I had a volunteer. We swapped messages about schedules and some casual jokes about digital dating. A few days later, I needed a date to a ball, and I took a shot in the dark based on the previously mentioned FB messages. After assuring him I looked fantastic in an evening gown, he agreed to be my escort for the evening. 

It is truly amazing when you consider how the smallest choices can change your life beyond belief. The third conversation that I had with this guy was “Hey, I’m leaving for a year… don’t get attached”. It was like I looked two four year olds in the eyes and said “don’t push the red button”, because it became abundantly apparent in a very short period of time that neither of us were going to be able to stick to that promise. 

I know what you’re thinking.. what kind of fun loving gal falls in love with a guy before leaving for an entire year… but lemme tell ya, not only did I not have any control over the situation, given the opportunity to rewind, I wouldn’t change a thing. My #PIC is the perfect Partner in Crime.  We laugh, we smile, we push PDA to the limit (extra fun in the south).  We both drink rye whiskey (which makes the trips to the liquor store easier) and even though he has an affinity for tofu, he indulges my constant need for cheeseburgers. We don’t judge each other, and our expectation don’t go beyond honesty and adoration. Neither of us are perfect, and we each have a past, but we spend our time giving each other giggle inducing shit instead of focusing on who we were before we were us. He’s promised to be my number one fan on this journey I’m taking, and I have no doubt in my mind he’ll carry that torch. Oh, and he’s coming to see me in Vietnam. #happygirl. 

The Countdown

I admire the strength it took for him to watch me prepare to leave him for a year over the last few weeks. He walked me right up to security and stood by as I weaved my way through the longest Precheck line I’ve ever been in
Edit (way too spoiled by BHM). I could go on for days about what a rockstar human being he is, but I’ll leave it at this: if this Random gal threw down the drawbridge and let him in, trust me, he’s a good one. 

But First, NYC

Hello Lovers of Random.  As if my first post outlining my impending travel wasn’t jealousy inducing enough, this past weekend, the #PIC and I jetted off for a 36 hour whirlwind trip to one of my favorite places, New York City.  I was almost as excited for this trip as I am for Earhart (the name of my RY program, for those of you who have other things in your mind than my travel shenanigans). The food, the city, the air that is so distinctly New York… AH!  24 hours before takeoff and I get an email that we’ve been upgraded to first class… way to spoil me before I fly budget for the next year. Hey, I am not complaining.  I’ll take it.  With a rye whiskey before take off please.

A fantastic dinner with the crew the eve before takeoff made our 6am flight a slight challenge, but we managed to slide into our seats just in time to get delayed by a faulty jetway. Gotta love Delta and those spicy ATL connections!  Lucky for us, the travel gods were on our side and we made it to our LGA chariot with a few moments to spare and only a couple of dirty looks. One anxiety ridden Uber through a very crowded Queens and bridge under construction and we arrive in Manhattan.

First on the agenda, feed me.  Seriously Randomers, hangry is a thing for me and it is not pretty.  The lavender chocolate chip cookies provided by our beautiful hostess from the night before are long gone and I need to be refueled.  I can’t think of a better spot than Balthazar, so it’s off to SoHo to get my French fix.  True to form, Balthazar does not disappoint, and after a short 10 minutes wait, we belly up to the bar (easy access) and I get my carnivore fix with some steak tartare and a cheeseburger… those fries though…

Now that I’m satiated nutrition wise, its time for some exploring.  The #PIC has never been to Eatly and was craving a beer, so we set off toward the Flatiron (my fav bldg in NYC), stopping at an art/flea gallery and catching a dance party parade on the way.  Only in NYC.

I’m like a kid in a candy store when we get to Eatly.  Its like this place was designed for me.  My little Italian heart (and tummy) wants a little something from every corner, but we shoot up to the roof for a little La Birreria action.  Now, I know, we’re at a beer garden, but guys, the cocktail list here is mouth watering.  Inspired by our previously mentioned cookies, I opt for the Bloody Greyhound with a lavender salt rim (gasp!  She didn’t get whiskey!).  Even the #PIC opts for a bourbon cocktail before switching to beer.  Before heading back to the hotel for a wardrobe change, we swing by the meat counter and get some prosciutto and some mozzarella for hotel munchies.  I am sad to report the mozz was forgotten.  The prosciutto, however, was everything we hoped it would be an more.

The plans were a quick drink with some fellow Earhart digital nomads and then dinner at the bar at Gramercy Tavern (noticing a pattern yet?), but an ill-timed yet much needed nap caused us to have to make a decision.  Now, I am never a fan of choosing against Gramercy Tavern, but we made the right call and headed to Black Barn to crash my travel mate’s going away party.  I’d like to tell you I was as cool as Frank Sinatra stepping out of a helicopter with a (rye) whiskey, but I was not.  Meeting my Earhartians brings a whole new level of real to this journey, and I was a bundle in nerves in need of a rye stat.

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All of my worry was for nothing, because as soon as I walked in the door, I hit it off with my #IPIC (International Partner in Crime).  The #IPIC and I are going to find some trouble, but damn it is going to be fun.  The PR Queen, who was gracious enough to let us use her party was a meeting vessel, introduced us to the chef as well as the FOH manager, who is actually from Croatia (pro tips incoming).  Later, my Croatia Roomie showed up and we swapped tips on managing our curls in 12 different climates.  While confirming fears and sharing packing strategies, the kitchen sent us out a smattering of desserts.  Now, I live in the South, and bread pudding is the South’s jam, but this bread pudding was the best I’ve ever had.  And the bourbon ice cream.  And the apple cider doughnuts.  And I didn’t think it could possibly get better than the bone marrow and the chicharrones.  If you find yourself near Madison Square Park, give them a try.  After an amazing evening of food and bonding, the #PIC and I took our leave and decided to relax in Times Square before heading off to bed.

Day 2 started with a tour of the 9/11 Museum.  I won’t write much about this, because I found it to be a pretty personal experience.  Go, take tissues, be ready for the roller coaster of emotions.

We made the grave mistake of not eating before going to the museum, so hangry was making her way back into the scene.  Not to worry though, we were headed back to the Flatiron district to satisfy my eternal craving for the brunch at Maysville.  I’m well aware that there are a thousand spots to get brunch in NYC, but I will ALWAYS go to Maysville.  I mean, they have a WALL of bourbon.  Initially disappointed that my bourbon milk fizz was no longer on the menu, the bartender Aaron became my hero when he offered to make it anyways.  Once again a happy girl, I dove in and ordered us the crispy grits, arctic char tartare and my personal fav, the hay roasted oysters.  We plowed our way through the menu, chatting with Aaron about rare ryes and sampling some of his spot-on suggestions. We were pretty sure we couldn’t eat another bite, but there was no way we were not going to try the monkey bread he brought out (we finished ALL of it).  Special shout outs to Aaron for being a rockstar brunchtender, and Kyle Knall for keeping the menu at Maysville mouth watering.

Next stop: walk the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was on the #PIC’s bucket list, and his only request for the trip.  He had obliged me all the other decisions, and I was happy to oblige this one. But Brooklyn to Manhattan, because the views, of course.  We hopped into the best Uber ride I’ve ever had and headed to DUMBO.  Before grabbing a pre-bridge trek cocktail, we wandered a photo exhibit depicting mothers in nature.  Then it was a quick rye and we were off the bridge.

Walking the bridge is one of my favorite NYC activities.  If I haven’t previously mentioned, the #PIC is an engineer, so walking it with him didn’t only bring new memories to it, but also a different perspective and some cool new stories.  I also have a new book at read, and Savannah, GA has been added to my bucket list.  After the bridge, we opted for a drink in the park, and while he wanted Central, I convinced him to take me to Bryant where I could stare at the BofA Tower, another fav of mine.  A rye on the rocks for me and a gin martini for him (yes, the bartender got it backwards) and we’ve got just enough time for one more NYC meal.

I haven’t written much yet about the Funday Partner.  He’s not Sunday Funday or a Friday Funday, he’s an erry day funday partner.  I’ve decided that it is impossible to be around this guy and not have fun.  #Lifegoalz for sure.  He’s a big reason I have the courage to go on Remote Year, because he refused to take no for an answer.  Anywho, the Funday Partner is the kind of guy that when he recommends a restaurant, you go – which is how we ended up at Indian Accent.  If you’re not looking for this place, you’ll NEVER find it, so lucky for us, we knew where were going.  Cherry bourbon cocktails, sweet ribs, pumpkin curry and build your own lamb tacos were a perfect end to our NYC culinary tour.

No trip to NYC would be complete without a stressful ride to the airport . I’m still not sure how we made it onto our flight when 15 minutes before takeoff we were still in the Precheck line (which at La Guardia meant that we got to the usual asshole line, we just got there quicker).  We earned our pre flight bourbon with a full on sprint to the gate (apologies to my orthopedist) and settled in for our direct flight back to BHM.

Until next time, NYC.  I’ll always love you.

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Check out my Instagram  #butfirstnyc for all of the pics.

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That Carry-On Life Tho

I do some of my best writing with a slightly sweet whiskey hangover, and since the #PIC and I went on our first “real” date last night (read: got dressed up to drink whiskey in public), I thought today would be a good day to touch base with you, my loyal readers.

I have long subscribed to the minimalist theory of packing, a stark contrast from my female partner in crime, the Goddess of Love, who comes prepared for anything and has saved my ass a few times. *You’ll begin to notice as I mention my life mates, I’ll use nicknames to  protect identities, add spice to my writing, and hell, just because it’s more fun that way.*  But even I, firm believer in the carry on life, thought that I would have trouble fitting an entire year into the two bag limit imposed by Remote Year.  I mean, if variety is the spice of life, how do you pack outfits for an ENTIRE YEAR on the go?

Step 1: Admit that you do not need 21 pair of Lululemon shorts.  Even though I’m planning on seeing if I can go the entire year in nothing but workout clothes and cotton dresses.

Step 2:  Ask those that have gone before.  And by ask, I mean watch a pre-recorded webinar, because I can’t be bothered to stick to a schedule and actually attend.  The most devastating piece of advice I got from it was to try to blend in.  There goes all my graphic tees. *Still taking my Whiskey & Weights tank.  Stupid American status be damned.*

Step 3:  Watch a YouTube video (or 7) on rolling, then decide your way is better than all and just do the damn thing.

Step 4:  Tell your friends they can come see you.  But they are required to refresh your wardrobe.  I know the Goddess is going to have a hard time giving up valuable suitcase real estate for me.

Step 5:  Just let it go.  But first, get super frustrated.  It’s the best path to realizing that its just stuff, and as long as I have the essentials, I can get the rest of the way with my sparkling personality and saber tooth wit.

So that’s it, my lovers of Random.  I am now packed into one 33 lb suitcase and a backpack, with room to spare I might add. I wasn’t able to achieve carry-on only status, but I’m still pretty happy with what I’m packin’.

Welcome to the adventure

I still remember they first time I said it out loud.  We were sitting at dinner in St. Croix, and I looked across the table to my now ex and said “I want to start a blog”.  It made perfect sense at the time.  I have random thoughts.  People like to read other people’s random thoughts.   It’s a match made in internet fame heaven.  But like most other things, I smothered the dream under work and deadlines and career advancement (and if we’re being honest, more than a few whiskey fueled evenings).  But here we are.  I’m blogging.  And it makes even more sense now.

Back in December, I was introduced to a program called Remote Year.  Think study abroad, but for people with jobs and without trust funds.  I’m not knocking trust funds -I wish I had one.  But alas, I have to find another way to see the world, and Remote Year is that way.  After months of agonizing over the decision, a process that included my (now ex) therapist, my family, friends (almost lost one over it) and even some random strangers at bars, I took the plunge and threw down the deposit.

On May 26th, I will depart from the Atlanta airport to join the Remote Year Earhart program, and it is a personal goal of mine to not return until this year is over.  I’ll live and work in 12 different cities around the world, for roughly a month each, with 49 other like-minded nomads.  Where am I trekking off to?  I’m glad you asked.

June – Split, Croatia

July – Budapest, Hungary

August – Lisbon, Portugal

September – Hanoi, Vietnam

October – Chiang Mai, Thailand

November – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

December – Buenos Aires, Argentina

January – Cordoba, Argentina

February – Lima, Peru

March – Medellin, Colombia

April – Bogota, Colombia

May – Mexico City, Mexico

Besides calling the 12 cities home, I’ve also got side trips planned to London, The Yacht Week – Croatia, Tomorrowland in Belgium, Ibiza, Morocco, Myanmar, Japan, and Antartica – and that list is only going to grow.

Short and sweet, that’s the skinny on my adventure into not only the blogging world, but the actual world itself.  Whatcha say, want to follow along?