Hola from Valencia!

Walked up to the United ticket kiosk at Newark on Saturday to be informed that #1, my flight was not available to be checked in, and #2 I had no flight at all, please speak with a United representative.  Disculpe/Excuse me? Did I somehow book my flight for Sunday and not Saturday? Did I miss an important cancellation email? Did I book my flight for 2017???  <– that’s most likely.  Turns out, my connecting flight in Geneva decided it would depart before I even arrived.  Which is helpful.  So, a layover in Zurich instead and I was on my way to Valencia! (Side note that Spaniards have a lil lisp going on, so it’s pronounced Valenthia by some folks.  Imagine a Spanish Mike Tyson).

Met up with the amazing RY staff and was escorted to some sort of PRINCESS flat in Rusaffa, which is a hipster neighborhood in Valenthia.  Residential with plenty of bars and restaurants and walking distance to the main downtown (but know that everything under an hour is considered walking distance to me).  Our coworking space is approx 20-25 mins depending on how lost I get in transit.

Met the gang and the roomie, hugs and double cheek kisses.  Everyone had the same crazy, exhausted, need-a-cerveza look in their eye, so we accomplished that as a first priority.

Fast forward a bit and I’ve done a graffiti scavenger hunt, had a group workout in a park, organized a weekend beach trip, attempted to speak some Spanish, and managed to make cool friends who figured out Game of Thrones streaming while playing the card game called Kings. Side note that Irish rules are a tad more complex than American.  You’ve been warned.

 

Some NEED TO KNOW Valencia and Spanish tips, should you ever decide to visit (and you really should.  I say that after three days so I really mean it):

  • Agua de Valencia.  Get it. Drink it. Live it. Love it.  Fresh squeezed orange juice, champagne, vodka, and gin.  Heaven.
  • No take-away coffee.  Enjoy with breakfast and bake in an extra 30 minutes before you need to get to work.
  • Speaking of breakfast, this city would do a hobbit proud. Second breakfast is known as almuerzo, and you have that around 11, which is helpful when lunch is at 1:30 or 2pm.
  • Speaking of lunch, they are normally 2 hours, and often 3 courses.  Enjoy.  Don’t leave early, which may be considered rude.
  • Siesta! It’s true! Always thought this was a myth, or at least an exaggeration.  But restaurants and shops close up after lunch and don’t open again until dinner.
  • Speaking of dinner, hope you’re not hungry.  Because dinner is served at 9 or 10pm.  Which isn’t so bad because the sun stays out until about that time anyway.
  • Speaking of FOOD because that’s all that’s been on my mind, everything has been delicious.  Pick anything on the menu and you’re golden.  Still need to get some paella though!!!
  • Coworking spaces are THE BOMB.  I know that’s not unique to Valencia but it’s the first time I’m truly experiencing it. I’m currently sitting at Wayco, which is a funky building with eclectic tables and chairs, has some outdoor space, conference rooms, and a cafe.  You’re sitting next to a videographer and a web developer and they are your new coworkers.  How awesome is that?

 

Everything’s seemed alarmingly normal so far.  No big deal, walking around past towers, cathedrals, and statues, with strangers who are now friends.  I think to sign up for this trip and to actually go through with it, many of us have similar values.  You need to have a strong work ethic to work remotely without distraction.  You have budgeting skills to get you here.  You have a love of exploration and adventure.  You have faith in yourself.  Still, this is a vastly diverse group from all parts of the world.  Everyone has something to teach each other – I am so looking forward to that part.

Viva Valencia!

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A VERY Packed Suitcasey

I can’t name my blog after luggage without a proper packing post!  So here we are.  Two sleeps til Spain!

I normally wear a lot of colors – think neon green pencil skirts – and do not shy away from patterns.  So staying neutral with the ability to mix and match was a challenge!  But I think I threw in enough color to last until I inevitably pick up a few fun pieces abroad.  I’ve tried to research packing tips and ‘clothing capsules’ and trends like that, but found the easiest thing to do was pull out what I wanted, lay it out on a bed or table, and see how everything works together. Very visual and hands-on.

This is not an exhaustive list because (A) I’m still making a few tweaks and (B) I’m not listing out things like mascara.  So imagine this plus a few more things in one checked bag and one backpack.  For one year.  Pray for me. 🙏🏼

THE LIST 

  • 3 shorts
  • 3 blue jeans
  • 1 black jeans
  • 1 black slacks
  • 2 skirts (one black, one patterned)
  • 2 cardigans (one black and one leopard)
  • 1 long sleeve chambray shirt
  • 1 vest
  • 2 leather jackets
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 rain jacket shell
  • 4 neutral tee shirts
  • 1 I ❤ NY tee
  • 3 dressier tank blouses
  • 6 long sleeve shirts
  • 4 layering tank tops
  • 1 crop top heck yes
  • 1 patterned day dress
  • 1 black maxi dress
  • 1 black long sleeved dress
  • 1 nighttime VaVaVoom dress
  • 2 pajama pants
  • 1 nightgown
  • 2 capri workout pants
  • 3 workout/sleep shorts
  • 2 workout tees
  • 4 workout tanks
  • 1 workout long sleeve layer
  • Undies and socks
  • 1 black bra, 1 nude bra, 1 strapless bra
  • 4 bathing suits (mix and match)
  • 1 coverup
  • 2-3 scarves (haven’t decided)
  • Pillowcase
  • Hair towel turban
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Travel towel
  • Purifying water bottle (LifeStraw)
  • Makeup (in Asia a lot of products contain bleach so I needed to stock up)
  • Sunnies
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray w/ DEET
  • All the fun toiletries like wipes and hand sanitizer and pepto bismal for the inevitable dirty bathroom experience
  • First aid kit
  • Malaria pills
  • Altitude sickness meds
  • A few courses of antibiotics
  • Flashlight
  • Spork
  • Sneakers
  • Sperry boat shoes
  • 1 pair athletic flip flops
  • 1 pair gold flip flops
  • Black gladiator sandals
  • Nude wedge (had to have a heel!)
  • Toms
  • Universal adapter
  • USB ethernet converter for laptop
  • Ethernet cable
  • External hard drive
  • Power bank
  • Laptop
  • Kindle
  • Unlocked iphone + extra chargers and headphones
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • New bank account with Charles Schwab (free international ATM use!)
  • International medical insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Vaccines and vaccine booklet (typhoid, yellow fever, re-upped my TDAP, and Japanese encephalitis)
  • Slack
  • Google Translate
  • Dropbox
  • Duolingo

 

All this – under 50 pounds in the checked bag!  Feeling a whole lot more relieved now that this is completed and can focus on being excited for the trip! I have 2 roomies to befriend and 74 other Remotes to meet.  I’ll check back once I’ve touched down in Valencia!

Can a Personal Goal involve mozz sticks?

Did a trial run of packing my duffel and discovered a faulty zipper, and I’m a walking advertisement for Walgreens pharmacy.  But … 8 days to go! #RemoteYear

I spent some time earlier discussing my professional goals for the year, which are mostly HR-related.  But what about the other goals? What about the time spent away from my desk (which, as a reminder, will be a shared workstation with the other 74 remotes I’m traveling with).  What about the time I’m finding a place for coffee and yoga, or the time when I’m hopelessly lost without a map, or the time I am hiking or surfing or salsa dancing?  What about goals for those moments?

Goal #1: I want to explore the nooks and crannies of each city I visit. I’ll do the tourist bits, but I want to eat where the locals eat, spend hours at a cafe for no reason, and make each place my own.  I spent 2 years living in Manhattan and while I appreciated the bright lights of Times Square for what they were, I preferred the small dive bar across from my apartment ( ❤ The Bravest).  I’d like to explore each city in the same way.  Side note: If any of you wander to that part of town, order the mozzarella sticks.  I swear they are heaven.

Goal #2: Freedom from the day-to-day work world of checking email every 5 minutes. My goal is to unplug!

Goal #3: I want to fall in love. With the people, with the food, with the neighborhood, with the wine. I want to find love in each city we visit.

 

“Did that hurt?”  “Yes!”  “Not as much as Japanese Encephalitis.”

One Challenging Customer

Had a WHY THE HELL IS THIS SUCH A PAIN moment at the mall this week, followed by a call to my dad followed by me being labeled a ‘challenging customer’ at Verizon.  So my first week of not working a corporate full-time job is going juuuuuust great.

International phone plans have been a serious dilemma for me (and it seems, for most of my future cohort with Remote Year).  Unlocked phones, SIM cards, data options, and trying to keep the same 908 NJ number that I’ve grown irrationally attached to, coupled with ridiculous customer service from multiple carriers is enough to make your head spin.  And this week, it left me in the food court of a mall crouched down with my hands on my head. Fortunately for you, international vacations less than 90 days come with many cost-effective options for unlimited data and no shenanigans.  But for me, I’m all set. Thanks T Mobile for your medium-caliber hassle, hopefully decent international data, and zero coverage in New Jersey where I currently living.  FaceTime only suckers!

I know I’m going to have many WHY THE HELL IS THIS SUCH A PAIN moments and I won’t be able to call anyone (not because my cell service sucks, which is likely true too, but because I’ll be an ocean away).  Why is it that in times of frustration -mostly technology or car induced, I wish it would be simpler? Why can’t I figure it out right away? Really, I just wish someone would help me.  Someone being dad/mom/boyfriend/haha yeah right boyfriend/friend/butler named Sven.  I envy people who have ‘their person’ that they call in times of need (like when the Dominos app isn’t accepting my debit card).   My ‘person’ this year is me and only me. Relying on myself by myself.  Getting lost in Belgrade or suffering food poisoning in Peru.  Or accidentally-on-purpose ordering 2 cases of Argentinean wine.  Hope I can hack it!

Shoot.  Seriously though can someone help with the Dominos app?  Sven, need ya for a minute buddy.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Big ‘WHY’

June of 2011 I started as the sole human resources representative for my company and now, 5 years later, I am walking away from my HR team, my Operations team, a Vice President title, and coworkers who were my entire community in order to travel the world with Remote Year.  It’s a big piece of my life to leave behind and I want to put into words the reason why I’m leaving — because when I walked out the doors for the last time yesterday, I had to remind myself of that very thing – Why I’m Leaving.

I recently found a scrap of paper from 2009 when I was at a job I didn’t really love and was looking to make a change.  I had brainstormed a list of Things I Would Do If I Didn’t Have to Work.  If I had all the money in the world, how would i occupy myself?  What were my passions?  [Note: this is a very millennial concept but deal with it, I’m a millennial]  #1 on the list was travel.  Travel has been a value for me for years.  Even with a normal full-time gig, I’ve made travel a priority for my budget and vacation time.   In the past 12 months I’ve been to Jamaica, San Antonio, Charleston, Vegas, Bermuda, Nashville, California, Aruba, Florida, & Minnesota, but I’m never satisfied.  Every time I come home from a trip, I start planning my next one.

I’m leaving because I want to travel.  But that’s too easy of an answer, isn’t it?  I’m leaving because I haven’t ever lived more than 3 hours away from the spot I grew up.  I’m leaving because I haven’t been meeting new people and it’s not for lack of trying.  I’m leaving because I’m afraid I only have one skewed perception of the world and find it difficult sometimes to see others points of view.  I’m leaving because that perception may end up hurting me professionally in the long run.  I’m leaving because my personal life isn’t what I want it to be.  I’m leaving because I’ve always been jealous of my brother’s years living abroad.  I’m leaving because I have the opportunity to do so and WHY THE HELL NOT?

I’ve been so satisfied with my role at my current company and I am extremely proud of how hard I’ve worked especially through multiple company acquisitions.  I am proud of my teams and how we were able to motivate and drive each other.  I’m so sad to leave the coworkers who felt like family but I know they’ll continue to flourish even without me sprinting through the hall in heels or my clip art emails.  Shout out to all the hugs and tears yesterday, you know how to make a girl feel loved.

I’m taking this trip because I need to.  Because I’m not scared.  Because I’m confident in my ability to be scrappy and be sure I am consistently employed.    Because I’m also confident in my ability to come back to the states and find another corporate job after the year is over if that’s what’s necessary.  I’m taking this trip to grow and learn and explore and drink wine and let go and have fun and live in and embrace the messiness and chaos that is sure to come with a gypsy life.  Thanks for all of your support.