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 Uno: T-Minus 4 weeks

Hola my Lovers!  It’s been a while since I’ve indulged you in a detailed play by play like I did back in Split or Budapest, where I recounted my adventures on a least a weekly or biweekly basis, often more frequently. Either way, and though it is after the fact, I feel like there is enough content to break my last month into a 4 part series covering each jam packed week of Mexico City, our final adventure on our chosen journey.  And I feel I can do this in a manner where I don’t feel like I’m rushing you through in an attempt to “catch up”.  Instead, I’m looking foward to re-living the live, laugh, love that was CDMX.

Travel Day Adventures

The CDMX adventure began way before we hit CDMX.  With a 4am rousing for a 430 airport pickup and my continuing procrastination regarding packing, the most exciting part of my night before transition was Mel’s uncontrollable giggling as I answered the door for my Rappi order in my Rappi hat, a favor Sadie and Marky had championed for our travel day activity.  We arrived at the airport, zombies in bright orange hats, only to discover our flight was for Sunday.  All of RY always travels on Saturday.  As my Ella and the mommas tried to sort things out, I found a Marky and used him as a nap vessel until we were told they had managed to get all 30 of us on a flight that afternoon.  Able to make it past the security gates, we found a bar to post up in and Marky, DL and I took advantage of Aguardiente bottle service, pouring ourselves onto the plane as gracefully as we had poured each shot.

After an annoying delay on the runway, I re-engaged Marky’s services as a pillow for my second much needed nap <er, pass out>, waking in time to see our plane swinging wide and adding more time to our already re-booked and delayed flight.  Turns out there was a hailstorm in CDMX preventing us from landing.  After landing and collecting baggage, a few find that checking into the wrong flight has caused bags to not arrive, so the gaggle that got checked in before the scheduling error was discovered proceed to lost luggage, the rest of us pile around eating Mexican Cheetos and grabbing our pesos out of the ATM.  By the time we get rolling an to our accoms, its after midnight.  Don’t worry about the math Lovers, that’s a 20 hour travel day.  Went out with a bang.

 

Swankity Swank

I’m rooming with Mel and Taryn this month, but when we arrive at our home for the month, I’m focusing on a friend in crisis at home, so they get the run of the place prior to rock-paper-scissors for rooms.  Round one goes to T.  Mel takes round 2, which leaves me with the shit room. They take the two upstairs.  Oh, I forgot to mention our apartment is two stories. With an open ceiling living room.  And glass all across the front.  I trudge off to my losing room…. with a patio.. and a walk in closet… and my own bathroom… wait a second, if this is the shit room….. further inspection reveals that we won the apartment lottery this month, so instead of going out for the evening, we Rappi in some Indian and settle into our bad ass digs.  Just when I think it can’t get any better, Marky responds to my location pin that he’s 100ft away on the bar street – which means bad ass apartment IN happening part of town. Double win.

The next day is city preview, so we walk to the workspace amongst the ice and foliage that covers the ground after last night’s storm.  Despite the storm, it is a beautiful day, so after our intro, the team takes us to Chapultepec Park for a tour and some history.  Afterwards, a large majority of the crew hits a local eatery for lunch, after which we depart to meet up with some Citizens we had met along the way.  A few rounds in, we decide to move the party to our place (our swanky, loft-esque, built for entertaining space) and quickly grow to 20+ deep over the evening.  Monday is work and WestWorld, and I make it to bed relatively early.  Unfortunately, I don’t stay there long.

Montezuma’s Revenge

Around 3am, I’m awakened by a feeling… a feeling I haven’t had since…. Peru… I’m going to… I’m not… oh, fuck, yes, I am going to throw up.  I barely make it to bathroom in time, and spend the next 7 hours or so in a similar state. Bed>bathroom>bed>bathroom.  I’m able to doze off a bit in between spewing my insides up, and awake around 9am to an alarming number of messages in our group WhatsApp.  After some back and forth, we discover that 17/30 of us have gone down with some ailment – I consider myself lucky mine was up, not out.  One of the affected is my roomie T, so we Rappi some activated charcoal, Pedialyte, and home for quick recovery.  I hop on a call and quickly preface that if I suddenly disappear from screen, I have good reason.  By noon I’m feeling better, so I try some soup, and by then end of the day I’m keeping everything down (and in).

I rebound swiftly enough to hit Crossfit the next morning – and I exit class with a text message from Marky asking for a water delivery after his house went down the night before.  Seems that all but 2 of the 13 that had escaped the first night went down in night two. Montezuma does not discriminate.  I deliver all the above mentioned goods that got me back on my feet so quickly before hitting the workspace for a call laden day.  Besides a packed work day, I’m running another Going Deeper session this evening, so I’m prepping for that in addition to everything else. Told you it was a busy month.

Lucha Libre

I’ve got no complaints about an uneventful Thursday and Friday – my roommates and I have discovered the only thing better than our apartment is staying in it all day and only putting pants on to answer the door for Rappi.  But Friday night is Lucha Libre, so we adorn lower extremity clothing for some good ol’ fashion Mexican wrestling fun.  We’re given a tour of the arena and private training before the show – RY exclusive, of course.  After our ring tumbling lessons, we find our way to our seats for one of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever seen in my life.  We laughed and cheered for hours while we downed beers and nachos and instant ramen – yep, the concession guy sold instant ramen.

 

Wrestling is followed by dancing at Whiskey Wallace, conveniently located across the street from – you guessed it – our bomb ass apartment. This made it easier to abandon ship when the subsequent club search was less than fruitful.  T and I headed back to our place (sensing a theme yet?) to (take off our pants) open some wine, and, well, whine a bit.  Mel came home to join and we washed down leftovers with Malbec while chatting the way girls do.

Here to There to Klingande

Saturday I was doing a test run on an app for a company wide photo scavenger hunt, so I enlisted Mel’s help and after some brunch, we bop around grabbing pics of ourselves in the city.  After 5+ miles of hiking, we decide to head back and post up at Whiskey Wallace before grabbing a pre-Klingande nap.

 

Excuse me?  Did you just ask what Klingande is?  Lovers, let me educate you – you can thank me later.
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I saw him perform at Tomorrowland, so there’s no way I’m missing his CDMX performance.  We meet up with some Citizens – including my long lost roomie from my short stint in Belgrade, dance our little hearts out and pour outta the club around 4am.  As we’re debating Uber size, Sutton points to a stud behind me – its KLINGANDE HIMSELF!  I’m a <little> intoxicated, but I strike up a convo and we talk Tomorrowland (guys, he’s main staging next year) among other things for a good 10 minutes.  As I thank him for his time, he asks if I want a picture…. I was so busy fangirling, I for.got.the.pic.  We grabbed a quick snapshot and the crew and I Ubered off.  I poured myself into bed, still jazzed from the night, so I swiped my World Clock to see who I knew in the world still awake.  Kiwi and Hunter were the lucky winners subjected to my ramblings while I waited for sleep.  Solid dudes those guys.

 

That wraps up week one.  Stay tuned for week 2, coming to a blog screen near you soon enough.

Randomly Yours,

SR

Guess what? Pics are updated!

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