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

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.

IMG_3174

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:

IMG_3191

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