So, like, when do you work?

Hello my Lovers.  The Random is on hold while I deal a dose of Specific.  A lot of things have been bothering me lately.  I’ve been a little stressed as I ponder my next move in this grand scheme of the life that I’m living, and I’m staring down the barrel at the end of the year, feeling the pressure to achieve the goals I set for myself in 2018.  One thing has become apparently clear (or has probably been clear to those closest to me forever), is that is when I am stressed, I’m irritable. The topic de jour of today’s frustration – my least favorite question on the planet.

Friends.  Lovers.  Parents.  Strangers.  Please, for the love of god, stop asking me when I work.

This post is not aimed at anyone specific, as I’m willing to wager that 90% of you that are reading these words have asked me this at some point over the last 18 months.  And I still love every single one of you, and thats why I am writing this post… so that love can go on and on.

The short answer to your question: Always.
See Untitled for elaboration.

As a digital nomad at a remote firm, the only thing standing between me and my work is internet, and this day in age, its rare that me or my cohorts are ever without that arched symbol at the top right hand corner of our devices.  Which means even if its not the hours a day that I’m perched in front of my laptop, I’m answering emails and Slack messages, at dinner, while getting tattooed, in an Uber on my way to the gym, at the top of a mountain, when I get a sliver of data out on safari, in airports, on buses, I could do this all day.

Ok Pino, so if you’re working all the time, how do you manage the fabulous life you post on Insta?

First off, I wouldn’t be the first human ever to only portray the best 3/4 of my life on social media.  If it pleases the court, I’m more than happy to post pictures of the hours I spend in workspaces, cafes, on my couch and even in bed (wtf is a sick day?) staring at my 13 inch Macbook Air Screen if it would stifle your FOMO a bit.  But you don’t want to see that.  And I don’t want post it.

Second,  I average 6 hours of sleep each night.  Fitbit says so.  Despite late night meetings, US hours and 3am client calls with the Pacific Coast, I remain an early riser.  And while I usually spend my first hour of the day answering emails (from bed, of course), I have a solid 6 hours before the east coast gets up and moving, so unless my clients in Europe are vying for my time, that’s 6 hours I can explore. Climb mountains.  See penguins. Hit the gym.  Go surfing.  Take Spanish. Mountain Bike.  Learn to dive. Take amazing pictures that make you all drool.

Third: There are a lot of things you may do that I don’t.  I don’t watch TV, unless you count the Gossip Girl I put on in the background as I fall asleep to drown out the sound of my loneliness, or the rom coms I watch on flights as I depart away from loved ones.  Errands and day to days take on new meanings as well, and while I still shop for groceries, do laundry, and take showers, these are all very condensed activities.  Especially the latter, seeing as the last 5 months I have been in Europe, where lasting hot water is scarce, and Cape Town, where water itself is scarce – wonders if I can add 2 minute shower to resume under skillset.  Also, my commute is rarely more than 10 minutes, and I’m not confined to sitting in an office, so there are occasions that I’m able to work WHILE doing amazing things.

Oh, and I still make time to write my Love Letters to you soooooooooo


Lastly, and most importantly, I am hyper aware that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to live the life that I do and it is my work that affords me this lifestyle. I do what I need to do, when I need to do it to honor the commitments that allow me this privilege, and I’m determined not to waste a moment of this fortune bestowed upon me.

So, instead of worrying about how I fit everything into my hours, get out there and make the most out of yours.

Ok? Love you! Byyyyyeeeeeeee

Specifically Yours,

SR

As punishment for your misdoings, no pictures updated yet.
Jk, been to busy to update pics.  Still love you though. Xx

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.

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-16 at 00.04.10

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!

CDMX Part Dos: T Minus 3 weeks

Considering this is a continuation of a series, I’m thinking there’s no need for the usual witty intro, the Lovers greeting, the quippy jokes. Or maybe I’m just a little lazy about it these days. Either way, in lieu of this year long staple, I’m just going to launch into week two of CDMX.

The night after the Klingande show, the majority of the crew went on hot air ballon rides at the Teotihuacan Pyramids. Knowing my propensity for being an absolute grouch on not enough sleep and need to crank out some work, I had decided to skip the trip and spent the {Sun}day catching up instead. When my roommates arrived back looking like zombies, I patted myself on the back, put the work away and fired up some Netflix.

The next day was more work work work with a side of PI planning. This month I had stepped up to help run our positive impact event, so I met up with Duffs, KSheng and the city team to throw together some plans for an epic last month event. I was suffering a second (and thankfully less severe) bout of Montezuma, so couch and girls time was in order after PI.

I was grateful to be feeling better later that week, because it was Temazcal time. Don’t have any idea what I’m talking about? It’s a sweat lodge experience. In a teeny tiny clay hut. Month 12 and I’m still facing fears. Dark. Claustrophobia. OPENING UP. Fears aside, the experience was like no other, and I left it pretty raw and open about some things. I took the opportunity to channel those emotions into some brutally honest conversations, because at this point, we’ve got less than three weeks left, so if there are to be no stones left unturned, let’s start kicking rocks.

After some air was cleared, the boys and I took to the bikes the next day to change the scenery for work a bit and pop our laptops up on Polanco. We start at Pujol, where we drank overpriced cocktails in between client calls. We moved to a new spot where we indulged in Italian dishes between rounds of mezcal. The Earhart crew is doing some damage nearby at a bowling alley, so we join up for a few rounds of pin dropping and beer drinking. As with most evenings, we cap it off with some tacos el pastor before calling it a night.

The next adventure proves to be more of a challenge than I bargained for. We’re signed up for a track where we are dropped at nearly 14k feet to hike up and into a volcano crater. I’ve tackled many a feat with a hangover this year – climbing up and rappelling down waterfalls, hikes to remote Thai villages, boat rides, etc… but today was different. Once we reached the edge of the volcano, before hiking down into it, we were offered the chance to summit one more peak. Being the guys girl I am, I followed the boys up without question. Mistake. I made it about 75% of the way up this peak before began to feel dizzy. I sat down and prepared myself for the descent. We made it back down, but I was light headed and irreconcilably nauseated. A few of the crew stayed behind with me, only forging ahead when I requested them to so that I didn’t have an audience to the eventual loss of my breakfast. The remainder of the day was a struggle where I continually felt like I was trudging through molasses. Add altitude sickness to the list of experiences for this year.  But the views….

In typical RY fashion, there wasn’t much time for recovery, especially considering the number of citizens in town that weekend. Rooftop bars, dance parties and mezcal ensue, with a late night taco stand stop soaking it all up before Trajineras in Xochimilco the next morning.  The roomies and I are running a bit late, grabbing supplies and hustling our way to the morning bus.  I’ve donned my shades for more reasons than one, but as we approach the bus, I’m grateful to have them as a shield for the tears that stream down my face when Kiwi pops off the bus, a surprise month 12 reappearance that has me smiles all day.

The trajineras are all of the fun and total shitshow that was promised by previous groups and when we pour our sun worn, alcohol saturated, over tired bodies onto the bus, I take it upon myself to remind everyone that the mother’s day surprise for our PLs that Marky and Mel put together is still a go at our place 30 minutes after our return.  A rally effort was made on all parts, and the Mommas appreciated the effort, even if we scared one and make the other cry.

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Temazcal, altitude sickness, and the return of good friends made for a good week two.  We’re cranking though it guys.  Week three coming your way shortly.

Specifically 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.
Jubel    RIVA    Somewhere New
A N Y W H O
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 Har{t}est Part

Hola My Lovers. I come to you this morning with a heavy heart.  I wrote in my last letter that, like most of my fellow Harts, I had been approaching the last days of our program with an eery calm… gratitude for the past year, excitement for what’s next.  This morning that calm shattered as I am overcome with thoughts of how life will look come tomorrow when the Earhart Official calendar comes down.

Why do I say it like that?  Because as our days come to a close, the only thing about Earhart that truly ends is that calendar.  We are still Earharts and will always be. We spent a year together, an unimaginable, inexplicable, glorious, tragic, beautiful year as a part of each other’s lives, and while the sand on our 358 days runs out, nothing is coming to an end.

I’ve said a thousand times that I can’t imagine what it will be like to wake up and not have these people in my everyday life.  Come tomorrow, that unthinkable becomes my reality.  I have fallen in love with these souls, over and over again, and while some hold bigger pieces of my heart than others, as we depart from each other over these next few days, they will each take that part with them, leaving me heartbroken.  But as my beautiful Amelia once showed me, love is not a finite emotion.  Our hearts create love as we need it. And my Harts have given me the greatest gift: the ability to love them and myself.

As I sit here, unable to pull out my suitcase, literally unable to even attempt to pack this year up, physically or emotionally, I’m hoping to reconcile with the fact that even though today is the expiration date on these relationships as they exist in this moment, there is no end to the love we’ve gained this year.

This one is for my Harts.  Please take care of the pieces of me that you take with you when you go. I look forward to seeing you again on this beautiful journey we call life.

Home is where the Harts are  video courtesy of the epically talented Rachel Yancey

Specifically Theirs,

SR

Feelin’ It in San Andres

Oh my Lovers… today I’m treating you to a special post, a recent memory accounting of an island adventure, something I haven’t provided for months. You’ve been subjected to past adventures, hustled through previous experiences, and denied recounts all together. But today I’ll provide all access in real time. Adventures as they happen. My steam of consciousness, as live as it gets.

Back in Medellin, Sarabear and I arrived at city preview, late, sweaty and out of breath – but just in time to hear Juan pitch his Feelin experience in San Andres, a Colombian island adventure that drew my attention from the get. After some mental debating, a fat commission check and a need to do something for myself, I booked a spot and a flight, and was headed to and island I’d never heard of with people I had never met for the experience of a lifetime (sounds like RY, right?).

I arrived at the airport with minimal time to spare, an experience I had designed over my many early morning airport trips over the past year. An extra 15 minutes of sleep, or a cushion to grab a coffee and a croissant? I’ll take the sleep any day. Not by design was my check-in bag, something I desperately tried to avoid on side trips, but these budget airlines and their stingy overhead space…..

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter, flashed my biggest por-favor-discuple-mi-mal-espanol smile and handed her my passport. Everything was going as per usual until she asked me for a return flight, something I had been waiting to get to the island to decide on. She made my decision for me when she told me I had to have confirmation of departure from the island if I wanted to go to the island. Thank god for cell phone technology. I stepped out of line, and within a few moments had booked my flight back to Bogota for Tuesday the next week. Now we were cooking with gas. Or so I thought…

I hit the ATM before going through security, and I was still left with a few moments before boarding, just enough time to get that passport insta-post in {“Island bound bitches!!!”}. They called my flight, and I watched as the line dwindled to a manageable length before jumping in – only to be denied because I didn’t have a customs form. Customs forms? Wasn’t San Andres Colombia? Was I not in Colombia? I was sent to the back of a much longer line, where I waited to get my form – and pay my island fee. Another item I hadn’t factored into my travels. Good thing I hit that ATM. Also, mental note to do more research on reaching my intended destinations.

A quick hour later, we’re touching down in San Andres. After a short stop for airplane crossing (these tarmac flights tho), I find myself in an actual customs line… talking to a customs agent. In the same country I flew from. But as far as customs experiences go this one is relatively painless, so I’m spit out on the other side to wait for that damned check-in bag. Now, I’ve stood at 20+ luggage belts over the past year, but I am not above the panic that sets in the longer it takes for my bag to peep its purple head out on the belt. My only solace is that several other passengers from my flight are standing around with the exact same look. After 20 minutes, a fresh set of luggage emerges, including my trusty duffel, still adorned with the Tigger given to me by JDC prior to my States departure. Another long line for customs X-ray and I catch sight of Juan on the other side (after being asked 7 times if I needed a taxi – gotta love the hustle these drivers put out).

After a stop at our <AIR CONDITIONED!> accoms for a quick change, Cata, Juan and I hop in the back of scooters and are off to our first adventure, a lunch spot directly on a beach that’s as empty as it is gorgeous. I dig my toes into the soft sand as I gaze out over the waves crashing in, and I can see at least 4 shades of breathtaking blue. To my right is a small rowboat with an ancient trolley motor bobbing in the waves. Off to the left is Johnny Cay, an island covered in palm trees, and just in front of it is the remains of a shipwreck that has been abandoned, a relic that help sets the tone of this scene. If Norman Rockwell painted the perfect beach, this would be it.

With Aguila Lights in hand, Juan recounts the history and politics of the island to me while we soak up the sun. San Andres is closer to Nicaragua than Colombia by far, and the Colombian government has considered it an afterthought for far too long, causing a difficult economic strain on the island. Once a tax haven, put out of business when Colombia opened its customs border, the island turned to fishing until the Nicaraguan government commandeered the waters they depended on. Left with little to work with, narco traffic became the big business of the island as cartels took advantage of its proximity to Miami. As I look around at the beauty of the island, dotted with obvious signs of poverty, Juan confirms the thought I am having that tourism, done right, could have a much needed positive impact on the island.

After lunch, we’re whisked into the center of the island to the national park that houses Big Pond Lagoon, a fresh water lake that sits in front of a compound of houses inhabited by native islanders – Rastas. We start our walk around the lake by feeding the alligators that live in the pond, and as we circle, our guide tells us about each plant, each tree, and how they use them – cedar wood for furniture, gourds for plates, medicinal plants for anxiety, cholesterol, gastritis, diabetes, cancer – there’s mango tress, guava trees, cottonwood. His family has been on this land for generations. I learn that while this area of San Andres sits between two mountains, the bedrock is coral reef, not volcanic, and the coral filters the water from the sea, making the lake a source of “sweet water” as they call it – a “mystic place” he calls it in his heavy Caribbean accent. The natives here speak Criolla, an island English adapted back in slave times – there are forms of this all over the Caribbean – here in San Andres it is derived from English, Jamaican having a more French influence, and the Dominican Republic heavy in Spanish.

Seeing that this is the “Native Experience” portion of the trip, our guide and his family are preparing Rondon, a traditional island stew in which fish, conch, pork, plantains, yucca and local potatoes (all locally grown) are all cooked down in coconut milk {which itself is made from coconuts macheted open, grated and soaked in water}. As the stew cooked down, we once again wander in the the jungle, and it occurs to me that I’m following a machete wielding Rasta into the San Andres nowhere, something that when my step mother reads this will give her a heart attack, but this is my #newnormal, and fear is merely excitement at the adventures ahead.

Our return from the jungle trek, where we find more trees and plants used for shampoo, rope, ties, ship masts and more, is greeted by the delectable aroma of the Rondon, almost ready for us to eat. Truth time: I am FAMISHED, but leery of the hodgepodge stew – 1) I’m not a huge fan of dishes where everything is thrown together – I usually deconstruct burgers, I don’t assemble my fajitas, and bread is a side dish, not a vessel for whatever was meant to go on it. *side note, I make exceptions for pho – load it up with the goods. 2) As my father, step mother, and most recently Marky, will tell you, I’m a grazer. Big meals are not my forte, and I’m aptly served up with a HEAPING plate of this stew. But it smells heavenly, so here goes nothing.

To say it was delicious gives it no justice. If I call it delectable, mouthwatering, savory, or any other food related adjective that I can think of, I’m not even coming CLOSE to accurately describing how amazing this dish tastes. Knowing that even in my ravenous state I don’t have the capacity to eat this entire dish, I quickly isolate the components that will be the focus of my attack – 1) The conch. Dear Key West – please STOP frying this. Yes, your signature fritters are good, but sans deep frying, conch is one of the best creatures from the sea I’ve ever had. 2) The fish. A local fish, white and flaky that falls from the skeleton (sans bones, gracias) in the most delicious fashion. 3) The pork – fall off the bone, flavorful – only to be eaten with hands, gnawing at it to get every last bit *interesting aside, the islanders only eat pork from the States – they aren’t fans of the Colombian swine. 4) Everything else – the plantain and yucca make the top of the list, and there is a dumpling that I want to eat all of, but strategy dictates that carbs will inhibit my goal to eat as much of this as my tiny tummy will handle. Just when I think it can’t get any better, I’m asked if I like spicy (YES) and handed a pepper sauce that ups the ante to mind blowing. I made myself absolutely MISERABLE trying to eat as much of this as I could. Although I wasn’t able to finish it, I’d still say my dad and Marky would have been proud that all that remained was half a dumpling and two Irish potatoes.

Satiated and sun worn, we headed back to the accoms for showers and a wardrobe change. I have a lengthy convo with Latam after a survey of the local wifi proved to be insufficient for a Monday client meeting. Once my flight is rebooked, we head to the main beach walk. As we walked along, I found myself with a sense of deja vu. My surrounding reminded me of my time spent with Ariela in Koh Samui. Or with Duff in Gili. Kiwi in Krabi. Even back to my pre RY days in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and St. Croix. I began to wonder if this cookie cutter island experience was by design. Had someone scripted what a beach feel was, patented the color scheme, filled it with white plastic chairs, stuck some palm trees in the ground (always at least one sideways) and sold it to every tourist destination? A fully functioning island experience, just insert your own music! Whatever the implementation method, this place is vibrant and beautiful, and as we walk the promenade, a warm Caribbean breeze blows in from the sea giving my lions mane an island wind blown look that I’m not opposed to. We settle in for a beer and talk about travel. Juan asks for advice, as someone who would like to see the world. My only advice to give: Do it.

Saturday morning I wake up to a feeling… an odd one only to be described as my skin BEGGING for a day not exposed to the Caribbean rays, but day two is White Wata, or as I like to call it, BOAT DAY! I concede to the adornment of sunscreen, a usual afterthought in my life, and despite the protests of my dermis, we head out. After some breakfast at a local cafe where I horribly mispronounce “revultos” {scrambled} we’re picked up on island time {read, 45 minutes after planned} and head to the marina. Our vessel properly loaded with sub wings, snorkels, and {of course} whiskey and beer, we head out into the Caribbean blue. History first, we cruise by San Andres’s only port before heading to the mangroves. On our way, we pass a graveyard of shipwrecked boats, just sitting in the water, no one caring to remove them. It’s eerily majestic, and Juan tells us that they are narco boats that the government has left to deteriorate on their own. Into the mangroves we go, and Juancho recounts their importance for the eco system and the economy, as the fish and shellfish feed on the algae that grows on the roots. We grab our snorkels and head in search of sea life – I’m looking for lobsters {er, dinner}, but they must know my intentions, because we can’t seem to find any. Lobsters – 1 Pino – 0. I’ll get you next time…..

Onto the White Wata {Criolla}, a breathtaking area of the ocean where the coral reef produced an island of white sand about three feet into the water that reflects the clearest aqua water you can imagine. It’s sub wing time, but my shoulder is still nagging from Lisbon-New Zealand-Cordoba and most recently attempted pull up at Casa en el Agua, so I pass on this adventure and play photog for Cata and Juan. As we’re slowly treading through the water, I look over and there’s this random guy swimming through the ocean – no boat in sight, and we are pretty far off shore. Juancho tells me he’s conch hunting, and his crazy ass had absolutely swam in from shore, with nothing but a snorkel and mask. He tosses one up to the boat, and overshoots his landing – before I can say go, Juan Pablo has dived off the boat after it, surfacing a few moments later with a victorious grab.

After everyone has had their dolphin like experience, we park the boat and hop in for some snorkeling. I dive off the boat sans snorkel, so I swim back to the boat so Juan can toss me a setup. These waters are intense, but I consider myself a strong person, and I’ve faced rough seas a few times this year. Note about a snorkeling mask – put it on before getting in the water. Note about snorkeling in rough waters – use flippers. I’m getting pounded by waves at I try to get set up, and Juan Pablo swims over to help me – something even my stubborn self accepts. Once I’m ready to go, I start swimming towards calmer waters, but I’m already out of breath from my adorning adventure. I tell myself it’s ok, just swim slowly and take some deep breaths, but the waves are crashing over my snorkel, making this difficult. I consider its time to go back to the boat, but I have a destination in mind, and well, like I said, I’m stubborn. It’s not long before I briefly consider the possibility that I might drown out here, as I’m terribly winded and making no progress. About that time, all three Juans are waving Cata and I in, with Juan Pablo sticking close by as we head back to the boat. Yep, those waters were rougher than any of us suspected, which makes me feel better about my own struggle. And let’s be honest, it was easy to push the bounds of my limits knowing full well I was never in any real danger with the boat and boys nearby. Although I have probably once again scared my stepmother. Sorry Bettejo.

It’s time for another island meal, so we pull up to Johnny Cay, anchor off and wade to shore. Lunch is served up at a Rasta run hut, and I have immediate order envy – my shrimp rice was delicious, but the island fish the boys were tearing into looked so much better. We’d been watching the storm clouds roll in for a bit now, and the sky opened up halfway through lunch. We trudged back to the boat, and slowly headed out in the rough waters to yet another abandoned ship – this one a tanker sitting on a reef that divided the rough seas from the calmer waters inside the reef. A quick jaunt over to Rose Cay, but when the sky opens up this time, it’s dumping buckets, so once it lets up, we call it a day and head to shore.

After and absurdly long sun nap (seriously why does this orb take so much outta me?), Juan, Cata and I head to La Regatta for dinner, a restaurant perched on the dock beside the marina. I’m beside myself with wine joy when I see a Sancerre on the menu, and it pairs beautifully with the fish I ordered. *Happy girl*. On our walk home, we run into the boys headed out for the night, so we decide to join and end up at Coco Loco, one of the three or four clubs on the island. Everyone told me the music in Latin America was an acquired taste and it has taken this moment to to make me realize its true. A bottle of whiskey is ordered and we dance to the Latin beats… but I know I’m at home when the beat slows and a remix of Sweet Dreams vibrates across the crowd.

The next morning my alarm blares way too early and I can feel the night before pulsating in my temples. I rouse from my super soft bed with super soft sheets to throw my bag together for our departure. We’re scheduled to fly out at 11:11, and by way of island time, we arrive at the airport at 10:35, and still make it to our flight with a few moments to spare despite Juan being placed on the standby list.

I’m not ready for Bogota… the cold, the rain… but I land in manageable temperatures, albiet without data. Thank goodness or my developed taxi skills, and its not long before I’m headed back to my Harts.

To quote my beloved Dre, home is where the Harts are, and I’m home. San Andres was an incredible adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I can’t contain the joy at being back where I belong, with my tram by my side. <Insert sappy ending….or don’t>

Specifically yours,

SR

Want to Feel It for yourself? Get in touch with my man Juan here.  Tell him I sent you 🙂

Conceding to the Universe

Hola mi amantes! I’m coming to you today as I soar high in the sky above the Caribbean on my way to San Andres island. This is the third weekend in a row that I’ve jetted off to Caribbean destinations in Colombia – first it was a house in the middle of the ocean, and then a beach hidden deep in the jungle – now its time to live the island life for a few days before heading back to Bogota. But with some time to kill, I thought I’d check in with you with my latest personal discovery in yet another brain dump post.

I used to believe that in order to love my Harts, I needed time away from them _cue solo side trip_. See, in a past life, I was the kind of person who would sacrifice my own well being to make sure that the people I cared about were happy. After being taken advantage of in this respect time and time again, I started to view this as a weakness, and attempted to reinvent myself as someone who didn’t give a fuck about anything but what she wanted. Ahem, this doesn’t work for me {insert Starbucks “toasty marshmallow” reference}. I’m not saying people aren’t capable of change, but once a caring soul, always a caring soul. What I did learn as the number of people that I cared about in my life grew, is that in order to love and care for those around me, I need time away to love me. Surrounded by the group, I allow myself to be swallowed up by the pursuit of their happiness ~individually and collectively ~ and I’m not complaining, I love every minute of it, and it is a much more fulfilling way of life when those around me are constantly recognizing and appreciating me for who I am. What I didn’t realize until I landed in Cartagena is how draining it can still be on me if I let it, and that my happiness {while still mainly derived from the joy of others} requires effort on my part to focus on me and recharge that spirit of giving. So, in order to love my Harts, I need time away to love me.

I’m not big on faith. I have a hard time accepting that there’s a grand master plan out there, or a celestial being is guiding my life, or that my mood is dependent on where Mars is in orbit {cough, control freak, cough}. That said, sometimes the Universe speaks so loudly, I can’t help but give it a little nod and an “ok, ok”. When planning my flight to Cartagena, the launching point for a weekend at Casa en el Agua, I decided to take a few days on the front end for myself ~ a funny notion, considering this was the consensus of at least half the Harts.

When we landed in Bogota, it was gloomy. I was sick. It was cold. Sure, cold is relative, but when my suitcase is loaded for endless summer, 50 degrees and rainy is a bit uncomfortable. It was fine, I told myself, only a few days until I was coastal bound. When making my usual initial grocery run [er, Rappi delivery], I hesitated on a few items I would normally get for the month {mainly the makings of a PBnJ}. I also heavily researched gyms, and hesitantly held off on signing for the month. When I packed for Cartagena, I WAY over packed, a severe deviation from my usual minimalist travel style. All of the above mentioned out of character moves made complete sense the moment we landed in Cartagena. I stepped off the plane, the Caribbean breeze hit my skin, and I knew I > was > home. Month 11 wasn’t meant for me to spend in the mountains of Bogota {which I’m sure is a lovely place rich in experiences}, but rather on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, gazing out at the sparkling waters and recharging my so{u}l<ar> batteries. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to buy a jar of PB. I see you universe.

Cartagena is a beautiful mix of Miami and New Orleans. I had booked a swanky top floor condo in the Miami-esque area of Bocagrande, a peninsula of high rises that overlooked the bright blue waters of the Caribbean. A mere 5 minutes cab ride away is Old City, a walled maze of brightly colored buildings, energetic activity, and a distinct New Orleans vibe, if you replace the jazz with salsa. Less than 24 hours into my trip, I booked my AirBNB for another 10 days.

I didn’t spend the whole time alone. As I previously mentioned, there were other Harts with the same idea I had, so I hung at the pool with Duffs, had lunch dates with Mel, birthday dinners with the crew, a week of the Marky and Noir show featuring jungle treks, beaches, hammocks and _boulders_, and of course, the tramily gathering at Casa en el Agua. But when I was alone, I was never lonely. I slept. I ate clean. I drank lots of water. I took myself out to dinner. I ordered food in and binged on trash TV. I laid by the pool. Caught up with friends. I wrote. I read. I watched every sunset. I worked, long days, that I didn’t mind because I was slaying. I woke up every morning to the sound of the waves crashing and a view of the ocean that put a smile on my face. I started to feel rejuvenated and refreshed, felt my confidence return and my mind start to ease. I missed my Harts, but I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Ok Universe, I get it.

As we begin our descent into San Andres, I have to regrettably say that the time allotted for this brain dump is up. I’m off to more Caribbean adventures and can’t be bothered divulging my inner workings anymore. Until next time Lovers…

Randomly Yours,

SR

Sad you didn’t get any adventure updates? Guess what… pics are UTD