I Spilled My Beer

I was enjoying the view of Korcula from the top of our boat. The stars were out, it was dark, the old city was beautiful. A can of local beer was in my hand, being sipped slowly as the beer gods intended.

This wasn’t my first beer, nor would it be my last, but this beer was just as special as all the others. It had one job in its existence, to get in my belly. And I failed it.

As I toppled over a protrusion on the deck, I tried with all my might to save it. But alas, as I lay there in agony, all I could do was watch the last few drops of golden manna spill out of the can and flow away into the night.

We rushed to the hospital, but upon arrival, was told there was no x-ray machine, and it was a one hour drive to the nearest trauma center in Split. Not wasting any time, we got in a cab and began the journey.

After x-rays, and a consult with a specialist, I was told my arm was broken and would need surgery. “What about my beer?” I asked. They were not amused.

Since that night, it’s been a whirlwind. A drive back to Korcula, some drug fueled sleep on the boat, frantic planning to get the hell out of Croatia were those bastard doctors didn’t even care about my beer, and now I just landed in Prague, where they definitely care about their beer, and their doctors and hospitals are some of the best in Europe.

What I know right now:

  • I have a facture of the humerus
  • It will require an open reduction surgery
  • It will require a minimum 4 day hospital stay and months of recovery
  • The beer didn’t make it

Obviously, this all sucks. The pain has been miserable. Not being able to do things on my own is frustrating. Not yet knowing when surgery will take place or what the outcome will be is nerve wracking.

On the other hand, the positive outpouring has been astounding. One of my friends (Candy) and the boat rep (Peter) went all the way to the hospital in Split with me and back. Candy cut her vacation plans short and took an overnight bus from Dubrovnik to Split wth me. Matt, from another RY tribe took care of the luggage we left in Split and gave us a place to rest after the bus. Then Candy flew with me back to Prague. My fellow Meraki covered the cost of the flight, and another remote (a different Matt) from yet another tribe is putting us up for 10 days in Prague.

Throughout this traumatic experience, the strength, unity, and heart of this entire remote year nation has done everything in its power to make this a better experience.

I’ve been asked so many times “Why are you doing this? It would be do much cheaper on your own.” Well, this is why. This community constantly amazes me, surprises me, downright blows me away.

Thank you to all of you who made this experience suck less for me. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but I know it’ll be fine with you guys by my side.

Peanut Butter

Six months. Six months of new experiences. Six months of brilliance. Six months of torture. Six months of personal breakthroughs. Six months of loneliness. Six months of fun, enlightenment, friendship, and ecstasy. Six months of hardship, anguish, despair, and banality.

That’s a lot of shit right there. I know you’re thinking I’m being dramatic, so I’ll try to explain.

Day 1 in a new city is incredible. It’s incredibly good and it’s incredibly bad. You arrive, tired after a day of travel, and if you’re any friend of mine, also a couple of drinks. You’re tired and you just want to go home and be comfortable, but home is someplace new. If it was a hotel, it would be easier, because hotels all over the world have the same amenities, the same layouts, the same mattresses, the same sheets, the same boring as fuck everything. They’re meant for you to feel at home, at least if you frequent hotels. Instead, you’re in a new apartment. Someone’s home, or former home, or at least a temporary home. There’s no standard layout, no courtesy phone to dial zero by the bedside, no desk near the window, no mini-fridge with pilot bottles of vodka to settle in with (although that’s a business idea RY should consider). Instead, you have to start getting used to the intricacies of a new home, a new culture, right away. What do you mean you can’t flush the toilet paper here? What the fuck is this thing next to the toilet that sprays water straight up (it’s a bidet, by the way) and where’s the towel so you can wipe it off your face (that didn’t happen to me, I swear)? You have to shower in less than three minutes or the water turns to ice? Ugh, someone check me into the Hilton.

Day 2. OK, time to venture out. You go buy the things you need. Soap (how do you say soap in this language?), toothpaste, eggs, bread, yogurt, jelly, peanut butter. Wait, they don’t have peanut butter here. THEY DON’T HAVE PEANUT BUTTER HERE? What kind of backwater, third world, heathen society did you just get into? How can a society survive without peanut butter? And holy shit, they have peanuts! What are they doing with their lives? OK, you’ve gotten past this little snag, they have Nutella. That’ll do for a month. You can survive. Dammit, you don’t understand this currency. The blue bill was a fifty last month, now it’s a five. That green twenty used to be a five-thousand. You look like an idiot, but you figure it out. You grossly overpay. Provisions acquired. You go home. But you’re sure as hell not eating any of that tonight. You just got here, you’re going out to try some new food, new restaurants. This is amazing. You can make chicken this way? What kind of booze is this? Do you care? Nope, keep drinking. Day 2, success.

Day 3. It’s Monday, jackass. Get up, have a Gatorade (you did buy that yesterday, right?), and go to work. Yep, this isn’t vacation, you have to earn your living somehow. Shower, get to the workspace (if that’s your jam), and buckle down, because your boss, while sympathetic and cool, really doesn’t give a shit that you just traveled X-hundred miles or that you’re hungover. You signed up for this voluntarily, get to work, dammit. Lunch time! New places, new experiences, give me all the new flavors! You screwed up the currency again though, probably overpaid. Work more. Dinner time, yay, new places, new experiences, give me all the new flavors again! You’ve almost got a handle on the currency by now, you think to yourself, as a cab driver rips you off.

Day 4. Work again, same lunch experiences. It’s almost like a routine already. Who knew amazing could be routine? City orientation after work, that’ll be fun. Learn about the city, meet the city team, start planning your month, and then get plastered afterwards with your group of the closest, most amazing, most interesting seventy-plus friends you’ve ever had in your life because you have to handle the anxiety of this month and all it has to offer somehow.

Days 5-14. Work. Events. Tons of events. RY does nothing if not keep you busy. There are events RY plans for you. There are events other Remotes plan. Sometimes there are even events you plan. Local experiences, talks, tastings, dinners, drinks, hiking, climbing, surfing, drinking, wandering, sunsetting, picnicing–if you can think it, you can do it somewhere. Except find peanut butter, because fucking peanut butter. Real life doesn’t stop though, but that’s the point of working remotely, really. You wish you could do all those things all the time, but there’s still work, and laundry, and haircuts, and you realize how much money you’re spending on eating out, so you cook a few meals at home. Oh, and you’ve already thrown out half the groceries from Day 2 because you never ate them, because you were busy with events, so you buy new groceries.

Day 15. It’s been two weeks, and you’ve been running around so much with work and events that you haven’t talked to anyone at home since arriving. You call your brother, sister, mom, dad, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever it is you do, really, and you remember how far away you are from them, and how much you miss them, and how much you miss home, and how much you miss pizza, and a cheeseburger, and peanut butter, and working from a real desk, and being able to do laundry the same way every week, and not having to pull up Google Translate to get a haircut. It’s a good thing Day 15 is a Saturday, because working today would seriously suck. But, there’s more events to do, more things to see, more foods to taste, and vistas to absorb. So get off your ass and do it!

Day 16. It’s Sunday. You recover from your hangover from last night, and get brunch. Or maybe you just stay home. A day off. Sleep in. Watch Netflix. Order in with Uber Eats or whatever the local delivery company is in this peanut-butter-less amazing shithole jewel of a city you’ve wound up in. Wow, this is comfortable. Maybe you’ll do this all week.

Days 17-21. OK, you did this all week. Routine has set in. Banality. It’s like you’re used to being in this new city, you don’t even miss peanut butter. You’ve accepted that your clothes come back from the laundromat smelling like coconut, and that you have to take out your bathroom trash regularly so it doesn’t smell like used toilet paper.

Days 22-27. You realize you’re only here for a few more days. You go to the farewell party. You go to all the places you’ve been saying you’ve wanted to go to, but didn’t have time because you were too busy futilely looking for a PB&J on Uber Eats. You recover from a few more hangovers. You check your bank account and sob. How the hell can you spend so much money in a third world, backwater, shithole, amazing, jewel of a city? But who cares? You saw a new city. You experienced it with amazing people. You tasted new foods, and scaled new mountains, and tasted new flavors, and woke up in entirely new beds, and it was fucking fabulous.

Day 28. You pack, take a nap, go out and drink all the local booze you can find because who knows when you’ll get to drink it again. You cry a bit because you’re going to miss the new local friends you’ve made, but you’ll be back, you swear. This has been the best month of your life, except for maybe last month, or possibly next month. Maybe they’ll have peanut butter in the city next month?

Day 29/Day 1. Start over. Repeat 11 times.

“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
― Shannon L. Alder

“Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to break the rules. And we have to discover the sensuality of fear. We need to face it, challenge it, dance with it.”
― Kyra Davis

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes’, otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”
― Ian Fleming

Seventeen Beds

The theme of home segued almost too perfectly into this month, where we arrived in Buenos Aires to see another Remote Year group, Darien, finishing up their year just as we were beginning our sixth month.

Meraki has something of a relationship with Darien. We’ve been following them through Latin America since we started in January, getting hints and tips, learning from their mistakes, and we even got to meet up with a bunch of them at Carnival in Barranquilla. The latter has been related to me as being a fun time. What I can remember of the incident corroborates these reports.

I was lucky enough to change my itinerary and flew into BA a day early, and attended their final farewell party. I left early.

I didn’t leave because of the double power hour, I would totally do that again. It wasn’t because of the crying, the smiling, the hugs, the sharing of their stories throughout the year. It was because it hit me head on that in 7 more months, even less now, this will be me. I’ll be the one crying, smiling, hugging, and recounting stories with my family before getting on a plane and, as much as I don’t want it to be true, never seeing some of them again.

The juxtaposition to last month is poignant. I’ve grown closer to this group of people in 5 months than I thought possible, and here I was witnessing another group, whom I’ve come to love and respect as well, say goodbye.

This entire situation was only made more impactful by a possible itinerary change in our last month. Changing our itinerary could mean that some of our family drop out of the last month. I’m not a fan of the change myself, but after much reflection, the thought of not spending one more month with this family is too heartbreaking to miss. I’ll be cold, I’ll be miserable, I’ll be poor, but I’ll be in Kyoto in December with my Meraki family to see this thing through.

I’m not sure I can do justice to my own emotions right now, so instead, I’ll share someone else’s. From one of the Dariens, to his family. It’s an amazing piece of work. It’s the best example of how to explain what I’ve been feeling and experiencing since January, what I’m feeling now, what I’m going to feel, what I’m experiencing, and what I’m going to experience in the coming months. It articulates so much of what we’re going through. What we’re doing. How we’re growing. Better than I could ever hope to. Thanks for putting this together, Eddie.

Finally, to echo one of my favorite parts of this video:

6 Countries
16 Cities
11 Flights
6 Buses
2 Ferries
1 Rental Car
17 Beds

Home

This month in Remote Year, we Meraki have a theme–Home.

I didn’t think much of this initially. It’s just a theme, and I march to my own beat for the most part, and who really cares about a theme? But throughout the course of the last two weeks, this theme has started to hit, ugh, do I have to say it? Home.

One of our tribe was away all last month. She traveled throughout Northern Peru and then down to Chile, and got to Cordoba a week later than most of us. When I saw her, I didn’t even think about it, I just said “Welcome home.” She was sort of surprised to realize that’s what it felt like. She’s never been to Cordoba before, she’s never seen her apartment before, but coming back to the rest of our tribe, our family, for her, was coming home.

I’ve heard similar from other people who went back “home” to the States for a week or two, that they felt like they were coming home when they rejoined the group.

Naturally, this got me thinking. Where is home for me now? I gave up my apartment. All of my belongings short of a 22kg duffel bag and a backpack with my laptop and other tech items are in a storage unit in Westchester or (thanks Rayna and Aaron) in Cortlandt stuffed in a closet somewhere.

Tonight, some of us got to experience an amazing event. Our city Experience Manager, Coti, set up an opportunity for some of us to go into her friends’ homes, make empenadas, and talk with the family. They opened up their home to us in the most personal way. Friends came by. Bottles of wine and beer were opened and enjoyed. A guitar came out and there was music and singing. An amazing 8-year old girl made drawings for us to take as souvenirs. And the matron of the household fed us (beyond just the empenadas) and gave us home-made (there’s that word again) jam to take with us.

I felt more at home tonight, inside someone else’s home, than I’ve felt in years. More so than when I was “home” in NYC in a lot of ways. And I realized that part of it was who I experienced with, not necessarily where.

Whether I get along with every other Meraki perfectly or not is irrelevant. We’re all on this year-long adventure together, and we’ve all developed a bond with one another that has brought us closer than friends. We use words like “tribe”, or “family”, or my personal favorite–“tramily” to describe ourselves and our relationship. And this month, more than any of the previous four, has shown me how real and how powerful that can be.

Home isn’t where you store your stuff. It isn’t where you lay your head. It isn’t “where the heart is”, to borrow from the cliche. It’s where your friends and family are, or, I guess in my case, tramily.

I know I’ll always have a home in NYC, and in New Orleans, and if I try, many other cities around the world where I have amazing friends. But for now, just this year, my home truly is itinerant. and shit if it isn’t amazing to know that wherever I go this year, so far away from home, I’m still home.

Shout out to my Meraki tramily for making this year so amazing, and to everyone back home, for supporting me while I do this. I’m truly a lucky human.

 

I walked home in the rain

It’s been months since I posted on this blog. Literally 10 weeks, maybe 11, but who’s counting?

I had all sorts of reasons set aside in my head on why I haven’t written. Cuba was complex and confusing. I was busy. There was so much going on in CDMX, Bogota, and Medellin, that I haven’t had time to write.

All lies.

The truth is that Cuba did change me. I had an… experience there. I found out that the people I was traveling with aren’t necessarily the people I want to travel with all the time. Maybe we don’t always want to do the same things when we do these side trips, or even on our primary destinations. And that’s OK, I still love them, and respect them, and cherish them as friends and companions on this journey. And I hope if any of them read this, they understand that they were the catalyst for a metamorphosis inside me.

That weekend, I started to think about what I wanted my trip to be like. What do I want to do this year? What do I want to learn, see, experience?

I was a bit of a homebody in Mexico City. I went out to events here and there, mostly stayed in the area where we all lived. I ventured outside of those areas only when I could find someone willing to go explore new places and see new things.

In Bogota, I ventured out even more. I spent a few days in a hostel in Candaleria with a few others. I did a road trip across half of Colombia to Barranquilla for Carnival with some friends. I (quite literally) dipped my feet in the water while I was at a pool party there but didn’t get in. I had a great time in February, but I was still searching.

Then I got to Medellin. I did a few walking tours. I did a 7-hour, 10-mile hike through Parque Arvi. I was miserable, but I did it and I was happy I did. I did a side trip to Santa Fe that had me climbing up a cliff to sit on top of a bridge. There were no handrails, no netting, no safe way up or down. That same day, we saw a local cemetery, which had been so ravaged by war and poverty that graves were laid open with skeletons visible to visitors like me.

The next week, I did a tour to Guatape, and while I did climb the 740 steps to the top, I didn’t jump off the bridge into the river. I made excuses. The water was green and polluted. I wasn’t in the mood. I didn’t have sunblock to cover my entire body, I forgot to bring a towel, there was no place to change into my bathing suit. But the truth is very simple, I’m embarrassed to get in the water. I’m overweight, I’m not happy with my appearance, so I didn’t want to expose myself to public view, pictures, facebook, instagram. I still had a good day, but it could have been better.

The next weekend, I went to Cartagena. We drank, we partied, we took a boat ride out to a “party island”. I said fuck it, and got in. I got soaked. I drank more. I got sunburned. I drunkenly bought drugs. We came back home and I immediately jumped in the pool, because I was wet anyway, and there was more water. I kept my shirt on because I’m overweight, I’m not happy with my appearance, so I didn’t want to expose myself to public view, pictures, facebook, instagram. I still had a good day, but it could have been even better.

Today, I went to a pub crawl. I met new people. I danced. I danced with some of those new people. I had booze poured down my throat. I went back to a friend’s house and had a long conversation about life.

When it was time to leave, I didn’t take a cab. I walked home in the rain. I don’t know why I wanted to walk home in the rain. I’m overweight, I’m not happy with my appearance, so i don’t want to expose myself to public view, pictures, facebook, instagram. And really, a taxi home would have been about three dollars. But I did it anyway, because while I had a good day, I wanted it to be even better.

I walked home in the rain and I think I found what it is that I’ve been looking for since Cuba. I want to experience everything. I want to find new and interesting ways to have adventures. I may still be overweight and not happy with my appearance, and maybe not want to expose myself to public view, pictures, facebobok, and instagram. But fuck if I’m not going to try to push myself there. Fuck it if I’m not going to walk home in the rain in the city of eternal spring.

Most people will never have the opportunity I have to take this amazing journey across the world. From here on out, I promise to try to do all of it. Every bridge, every leap, every hike, every drop, every jump, every adventure that comes my way. Because really, it was just water. I didn’t melt, I didn’t wither away, I’m here writing on my laptop just minutes after walking home in the rain.

One night in Havana

There’s no easy way to sum up Havana. It’s at once Europe with its huge open plazas and gorgeous parks, beautiful houses with noticeably Spanish architecture, at the same time, 50’s America, with the classic cars, choking exhaust fumes due to the lack of modern catalytic converters, and a safe, community atmosphere, while simultaneously still wreaking of its communist history-limited stores, broken down equipment and hardware that is nigh irreplaceable, even in our spectacular guest house, and a general feeling that everything is limited.
But beyond that, the people we’ve met seem genuinely happy. Everyone from people at restaurants and bars, to the taxi drivers, to random people on the street greeting you with a smile, either unaware or uncaring of the modern world a few miles away in Miami and beyond.

Despite the lack of modern technology to most, Havana is comfortable. People get by with what’s available and use everyday items in unique ways. Want an aquarium? An old bathtub will do. If it’s broken, find a way to fix it. Don’t need that old bidet in the bathroom? Fill it with soil and upcycle it into a planter.

I’m sure I’ll find more examples of Cuban ingenuity as we explore, but day two starts in a few minutes with a tour of old Havana in classic cars. More pictures and stories when I’m back to fast data in Mexico! 

Getting Acclimated

There’s been so much going on that I haven’t had time to post!

New year’s was fun. Had a good time meeting some of the people I’ll be spending the year with, but in the end it was just another new years party. Champagne, dancing, shots, count down at midnight. But everyone I met was amazing and we had a great time.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind. Moved into the apartment, met my January roommate, Chuck, who’s pretty awesome and laid back enough to deal with my dumb ass. Met dozens of other remotes whom I’ll be spending the year with, explored a little, ate a lot, and drank even more.

It’s a work day, so I’m going to get back to it, but I’ll post soon about some of my observations and experiences around the city!

Hello CDMX

TIL:

  • Mexican Doritos are spicier than American Doritos
  • There’s either a 7-11 or Circle K on every block
  • There’s a Starbucks on every block. More than in NYC for sure
  • They have McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Subway, and Chili’s (that last one is just insulting to Mexicans)
  • You can get a lunch including beer and steak for two for $20
  • Whoever is doing the sound testing for tonight’s party outside the hotel window really likes Toto
  • The first person I met doing RY with me is pretty cool

Basically I’m still in NYC except everyone speaks Spanish.

Back at the hotel resting up for NYE. Will update tomorrow on how that went!

Happy New Year everyone, 🎉

And we’re off! 

Today’s the day. I’m writing this while I sit at the airport, waiting for boarding, and I’m still oddly calm. There have been a few moments throughout the day though. A knot in my stomach here, a tear almost welling up there, but overall, still calm. I’m ready for this. I’m ready for what’s next. Let the adventure begin!

But I couldn’t get to this point alone. So many people made it possible for me to get to this point in my life. This isn’t the Oscars, so I won’t go nuts, but a huge thank you to my friends, co-workers, and the executives at Acronym who made this all possible. I hope I can live up to all your expectations this year.

Next post, Mexico! 

Last of the Prep

In a lot of ways, I wish I had gotten this blog set up and ready to go a month ago. So much has happened in December, and even back in November leading up to this week. Maybe I’ll post about what I packed, all the prep, and the people who did amazing things for me in the run-up to this adventure in a future post.

I leave at 1am on the 31st. That’s just a few days away. Even then, I feel like a lot of this has yet to really hit me. A year is a long time. Getting rid of my apartment, moving everything into storage, getting vaccines (and enjoying some not-so-fun side effects) should all be a big deal, but I’m not feeling anxious. No jitters, no butterflies. I’m in a zen-like state. Taking everything in stoic stride. When am I going to feel that “Oh fuck, I’m not going to see anyone for a year!” moment? Seems odd to me. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll be back. Maybe it’s because I know I need to do this, so I have no worries about it.

I’m conscious of the fact that I won’t see everyone for a year, but emotionally, it’s a void.

As for RY. Mexico City is under a week away. New Years in Mexico will be new and exciting. But I’m similarly unaffected by it. Still stoic. Step by step, down my to-do list and checking off things as I complete them.

When this shit finally hits me and I get that pit in my stomach that I’m about to miss everyone, I’ll post again. Until then, back to packing and prep!