Repacking the Suitcase

I went home at the start of July for a bomb wedding and had the opportunity to evaluate the possessions that will stay with me for the rest of my Remote Year journey – unless of course I lose it, break it, or share it.

What I Have Not Used So Far:

  • Sweater
  • Jackets
  • Cold weather clothing of any kind
  • Wedge heels (only wore twice)

What I Rely On:

  • Black maxi dress
  • All of my other shoes
  • Shorts
  • Jeans
  • Patterned tops

My theory in packing was to rely on neutral colors and styles for tops and bottoms.  This, as a theory, makes sense.  I’m wearing the same clothes every other week, so no need to stand out.  However, in practice this does not make me feel cute, attractive, stylish, or fun.  So I’ve swapped my gray, black, and white tops for things with a bit more flair to make me feel GOOD about what I’m wearing.  Because that’s what dressing is all about – to make you feel like a rockstar.

Plus, everyone on this trip is wearing the same clothes over and over.  It’s a non-judgemental group here with Remote Year Magellan, so there is absolutely no reason to be self-conscious about wearing my Oh My God Becky tank top every two weeks.

So, I went through every item in my suitcase (clothes, electronics, tchotchkes) and made hard and fast decisions while holding them a la “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (a great read by the way, if you’re into that sort of thing).  Other items I ditched included my iPad which I never used, the wedge heels, and my hair dryer, curling iron, and straightener.  For those last three, I realized I was wearing my hair wavy every day which is (1) easy, (2) quick, and (3) comfortable — it’s dang hot in a lot of the places I’m going and blasting my face with heat is about the last thing I want to do.  And I reasoned that if I were to ever want to do my hair differently, I have friends who share.

Side note: I’ve used both my spork AND my headlamp in Portugal. I’ll call that a win.


Pile of items left behind. Why did I think I would use a resistance band?!



A Wedding and FOMO

Feeling a whole lotta crazy as I sit here at the airport.  And not just because I’m traveling from Philly to DC to London to Lisbon.

I attended my cousin Caitlin’s wedding to her German man Derek this weekend and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding where every single person was on the dance floor by the second song.  As my uncle put it “This family really needed a wedding.”   From the sick dance moves performed by my 16 year old cousin Mitch, to the ridiculous garter toss, to the moment when my cousins Ryan and Tyler walked their very proud Mama Suzanne down the aisle, to the series where all grandsons twirled my Nana around like she was a ballerina, it was a blast all around.

As Maid of Honor and a self-proclaimed badass, I gave a toast to the newlyweds.  And because I am so proud of Cait and Derek and the way they shared their love with me, I wanted to share my speech with you. 

Welcome!  My name is Casey Carr-Jones and I am Maid of Honor and cousin of the bride.  On behalf of Caitlin and Derek, I’d like to thank you for attending this amazing celebration of their marriage!

I’ve known Caitlin since she was born, and in between the matching outfits and last minute sleepovers, we were fast and close friends.  A lot of my favorite memories with Caitlin are our time spent down the Jersey Shore in Stone Harbor, which is a place where Nana and Grandad have been taking our Moms since they were little.  The building where our families live is about a block away from the local fire department, which as you can imagine is quite busy during the summer with all the fireworks and barbeques.  Anytime someone called in to report a fire, the fire whistle sounded and the entire fleet of firetrucks would whizz off to attend to the fire (in many times would be a false alarm).  

Now little Caitlin had an obsession with anything loud and obnoxious, and she quickly fell in love with the fire station.  Anytime the fire whistle went off, Caitlin would run to the corner, watch the fire trucks head out, and she would chase them to try and spy on the fire.  It doesn’t matter if it was 10am and we had just gotten to the beach, or 5pm during dinner, or even in the middle of the night.  If the whistle went off, she was running.

A lot of her other girl cousins started to join her on these sprints, myself included.  We would run to the fire (or non-fire), spy for a few minutes, and walk back.  It was on these walks that Caitlin and I would share details about the goings-on in our lives.  It was on one of these walks that Caitlin started talking to me about this guy named Derek.  Now, I had heard Derek’s name for several years because they were in the same friend circle, but this time it was a little different, more serious.  A big crush.  And then later that summer, the day they both left to attend separate colleges in fact, they started to date.

I, the well-meaning older cousin, tried to give Caitlin advice.  Don’t do it!  I said.  Definitely don’t go to college with a boyfriend.  It’ll never work out.

Now I ate my words continually during the course of your relationship and I have to say how happy I am that you two fought through a long distance relationship and have grown so much as a couple.

Caitlin, you are my best friend, my confidante and sidekick.  You are so patient, positive, silly, and go-with-the-flow.  You make it so easy to be your friend and you never have a bad word to say about anyone, except maybe Ryan or Tyler.  I am so thrilled that you met Derek and that you decided to spend the rest of your lives together.  Derek, you are so protective and sweet to Caitlin, and it’s almost unbearable how generous the both of you are to others and to eachother.

I know that when Caitlin gets up to do something spontaneous like chasing a fire truck, Derek is the kind of guy who will lace up his sneakers.  And if either of their sirens goes off in a time of need, I know the other will come running.
So I’d like to propose a toast: to Derek and Caitlin, to firetrucks and forever.

And now, airport FOMO has set in.  I mean REALLY set in.  Luckily, I was very busy with weddingness and a Stone Harbor, NJ vacation with my uber-awesome family so I hardly had time to keep up with emails and messages from my fellow Remote Year squad, but now I realize that everyone’s had one extra week.  One more week to bond. One more week to learn about each other. To explore Lisbon.  To take sweet Instagram photos with #nofilter.  I would never have missed this week for the world, but it’s still scary to rejoin a group that I only recently met.  I just hope that I can fit in as well as I *think* I did in Valencia.  Here goes nothing!

San Juan Festival

I spent last night at the San Juan festival on the beach in Valencia, jumping over waves (12 times) and bonfires (7 times) and finishing glasses of wine (300 times) for purity or luck or making a wish (never figured out which one it was).  I’m not sure if I’ve been cleansed and made pure, and my luck is typically correlated with how hard I’m hustling, but I’m all for making wishes.  It seems as though a lot of my wishes have already been granted simply by having the opportunity to do this program.  But why not try for one more, right?

My big wish is to keep feeling the way I feel today.  Not the hungover part, that I can do without (red flag, Mom and Dad!).  But the oh-hell-yes-ness that I’m living.  Ups and downs are inevitable but I’ve been anxiously awaiting the come down, the detox, the withdrawal.  The time when this feels normal, commonplace, boring even.  It’s been 4 weeks and I’m not feeling that way, fortunately.  So come on San Juan, I did the jumps.  You keep me in the air.

Grainy photo with Cait, Sam, and the pink moon

In other news —- right now I have two thoughts:

One is being thankful that even in the mess that is Brexit, I am wildly more informed and interested in it through the people I’ve met here.  Not saying I didn’t pay attention to current events in the states, but this was a big WHY of mine for being here on Remote Year – to continually gain perspectives and broaden my worldview.  And here ya go.  Pay attention folks, something that seemed ridiculious and irrational and impossible just happened.  And could happen again come November.

My second main thought at the moment? How I’m about to DEMOLISH this salad.

A Cinderella Traveler: Finding the Right Shoe

For the love of God, if I get back to the states and see another otherwise respectably dressed woman walk the streets of New York City wearing a fancy dress and bright white running sneakers, I may have to smack her.  There IS such a thing as comfortable flats people!

Proof #1: the fashionable women of Valencia

Proof #2: my current shoe wardrobe

The corporate version of Casey back in the states wears high heeled pumps, leopard print flats, gold glittery sandals, over the knee boots, green suede ballet flats, and more heels. Too snazzy for work, you say?  Never! is my reply.   (I am HR.  I make the rules.)  (Kidding.) (Not kidding.)

The version of Casey who lives out of a suitcase — the version of myself during Remote Year —  and the version I’m quite enjoying — has no such options.  One checked bag, weight limit 50 pounds.  One backpack, weight limit whatever I can physically lift and wear for hours at a time.  (Side note: I’m a baller in that backpack.)

A few things before we proceed.  I understand that some many men need no such variety in shoes, as many of my male colleagues have 2 pairs of shoes and that’s it.  I also understand that some women also have no such need for 7 pairs of shoes. But I do.  I’ve worn every pair so far and each has proven multi-purpose and comfortable.  I’ve prioritized footwear over packing other items because I’m on my feet all day and usually all night (hello parties til 5am.)   (Pro tip: Band Aid Blister Block.  Changed my life.)


Shoe #1: Running Sneaks.  I toyed with the idea of trail running shoes that could double for hiking, but decided as I work out several days a week and may only hike a handful of times on this trip, and so my Nikes would do the job. And they are.

Shoe #2: Black Toms.  My comfy casual walk-all-over-the-city shoes.

Shoe #3: Brown Sperrys. Comfy walk-all-over-the-city shoes that I think I can wear with a dress. Maybe. I’ll see if I can pull it off.

Shoe #4: Black Gladiator Sandals.  Admittedly these won’t last more than another month or two (a year old already) but I don’t mind replacing them. You can’t expect a girl to go a whole year without buying shoes, can you?

Shoe #5: Gold Sandals.  Dressier, match everything, leather and comfortable.

Shoe #6: Beach Flip Flops.  Not good for long periods of time but I can yuck em up pretty good at the beach or the hot springs or if I encounter a questionable shower situation.

Shoe #7: Nude Wedge Heel.  This was the challenge for me.  To bring a heel or not to bring a heel? Bring 2 heels?  I landed on a nude wedge with a 3 inch heel that I wore once and probably not again. These might go home.  No one is more shocked about this than me, but I need to be practical.  I wore the heels at a fancy welcome event where I could have easily worn my gold flat sandals.  I’ll probably pick up a strappy pair in South America for salsa dancing but til then, sayonara

Dear Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad,

You might remember a phone call back in 2013 when I was living and working in NYC.  I think I recall eating a waffle off a food truck, walking to work on a Saturday absolutely in love with my life.  And I had called to tell you just that.

Well, it was way too early in the morning in New Jersey for a call when I started thinking about this, (plus I think a call at this hour would scare you into thinking it was an emergency), but I wanted to let you know that, again:

I am SO happy.  And THANK YOU.

Thank you so much for your unending support.  Thank you for not dismissing this as a phase, or reacting to my acceptance into Remote Year with a dismissive scoff.  I know there’s a fear level when your oldest child is an ocean away, but thank you for not reacting with horror when she first called to say she would be traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia and what do you guys think?  Thank you for supporting my efforts to find remote work, and thank you for believing that I could.  Thank you for letting me move home for a few months before leaving.  Thank you for letting me invade your wine closet.  Thank you for helping me unload the U-Haul and for storing all of my possessions for the year.  Thank you for the phone calls and visits before I knew about Remote Year, when I was feeling a bit lonely and purposeless. Thank you for bringing me up to be curious, confident, and captivated by what the world has to offer.  Thank you for encouraging my independence, always.  Thank you for valuing travel and coming to visit me this year.  And probably most of all: Thank you for not starting your kitchen reno project until after I left.

Love you so much.


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.

Tuna Pizza

I caught a little bit of crap from my sister for not trying rabbit the other day for lunch.  Be adventurous Casey!

Yeah.  Well.  I ate some sort of tuna salad pizza yesterday and you know what?  I didn’t hate it!  Might have had something to do with the bottles of vino that cost 6 euro, can’t say for sure.

This post is going to be as random as tuna pizza.  Ready for it?

  1. We are 4 miles from the beach.

    @ Playa Malvarrosa

  2. Said beach may or may not be topless.
  3. Apparently there is no age limit for opting for toplessness.  You go girl.
  4. I like people who like Game of Thrones.  We’ve got a crew.
  5. Bronn is back!  Hooray!  (that’s a GOT reference and I’m skipping the spoiler alert because if I watched it from Spain, you can watch it within 4 days)
  6. Flamenco is an art form native to Spain that involves singing, guitar playing, hand clapping, finger snapping, and dancing.
  7. Flamenco fucking rocks.
  8. New career path: become a Flamenco dancer.
  9. The key to lunch in Valencia is ordering the daily special, which is a 3 course meal plus a drink for under 10 euro.
  10. The other key to lunch is asking for the bill when dessert comes out.  Otherwise you sit and wait. And wait. And wait.
  11. There’s no need to spend $$ on a gym when you have workout buddies in the park.
  12. Through trying to speak Spanish I realized how much French I’ve retained from high school.  And how unhelpful that is.
  13. Ordering tapas with 30 people can be a challenge.

    Happy birthday Kiran!

  14. Ordering tapas with 30 people is great fun.
  15. Ordering tapas with 30 people doesn’t work if you don’t bring cash.
  16. It’s fun to have roomies again.

    Casey, Cassie, & Gianna pretending to be one of Drumpf’s many wives