Castles, Squirt Guns and Group Dynamics

This was our first ‘free’ weekend, meaning there weren’t any major Remote Year-scheduled activities.  Day trippin time!

After an American-style Friday night consisting of beer in red cups at a bar called Red Cup, I woke up Saturday with a bit of a headache to head to Castell de Xativa, which is about 45 minutes away from Valencia by train.  After getting my debit card eaten at an ATM, I boarded the train UH I’M SORRY EXCUSE ME WHAT?  My one lifeline to cash EATEN?  Yep.  I knew I needed 2 debit cards in case this exact scenario happened, but I opened my 2nd account too late and the card was mailed to NJ.  Luckily I have some nice sugar mommas who helped me throughout the weekend (another benefit to traveling companions).  Fast forward to Monday, when my friend Jose translated and helped me get my card back.  Spanish bank ‘Bankia’ = el sucko, Jose = mi mejor amigo.

Friends & Sugar Mommas

I’m not a castle buff yet, but give me time.  Castell de Xativa (pronounced cha-tea-vah) is absolutely gorgeous and built on a hill (a 40 minute uphill walk from the train stop before we started the stairs and ramps to reach the castle summit)    (I’m sore).  Unfortunately there’s not much info throughout the site, so a sign will just say something like “Soldiers Quarters,” or “Latrine.”  I made a wide path avoiding the Latrine.  Because gross.

Caley, Joelle, and I clamored into the room called “Prison” and they spooked me just enough to snap a pic and get the heck outta there.  See below Caley’s creepy possessed-child impression.

After the castle, I headed to a beer nerdz meetup – which broke the gender stereotype by being a group of only girls.  Way to go nerdz!  Drank some yummy brews and turned in early because the next morning, I headed to…..

The Montenajo hot springs!  Well, lukewarm springs.  Alrirght honestly they were quite cold, but it’s been 80 and sunny so the water was refreshing.  Here’s a frameworthy pic of me and the adventure squad.

So we have a group of ~70 people.  How do we get around?  How do we communicate? How do we organize unofficial RY activities and day trips and charter yachts in Greece?  ::SPOILER ALERT, might be going on a yacht in Greece::

Our main form of group communication is a tool called Slack.  I’ve never used it before but the majority of Remotes have (usually in a work environment).  Slack is a communication app on steroids – there are ‘channels’ aka groups based on a specific topic to help organize conversations.  We have professional channels like ones for Excel, Taxes, and Job Seekers, channels for activities like an Adventure channel and Day Trips channel, and ones for fun like Beer Nerdz and Foodies.

Here’s how it works: Someone throws out an idea in the appropriate channel, attempts to plan something, which typically results in 300 messages back and forth.  Plans are made, people join, people drop out, people join again, plans totally change, and somehow we end up at a ridiculously gorgeous spot in Spain.  It’s like herding cats.  Beautiful hilarious cats.

The exception is of course events organized by the Remote Year staff.  They have a good handle on cat wrangling: see below a surprise squirt gun game of capture the flag.


My family and friends back home probably expect me to be organizing many of these events.  I’ve earned myself quite the reputation as a planner; my friend Cat refers to me as the ‘Cruise Director,’ which is both a compliment and also a reminder for me to settle down.  And stop trying to stick to a timeline.  And grab a beer.  And stop pacing.  It’s not that unusual – in my previous job I organized and ran company-wide events and also large incentive trips for top performers.  For example, it was my job to make sure that everyone’s flight information to Bermuda was booked and correct, and that the catamaran was stocked with rum swizzle cocktails or else we’d have a mutiny.  True story.

So it may come as a surprise that I’m not the leader of the pack for trip planning.  Sure I helped organizee a day trip to the beach, but I’m really enjoying being a participant for these events.  Sometimes I think I plan things with the fear that if I don’t plan it, no one else will.  Or someone else may plan a party that sucks, so I might as well plan it and make it awesome.  However, with this cohort I can go more with the flow, and pick and choose events I’d like to help organize.  We’ve got some well-traveled Remotes here with great ideas on adventure, so it’s been nice to hang up my Cruise Director hat for the time being. But it’s still there on the wall in case I need it.

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