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.

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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

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

Launch Weekend

 

Hola!  This blog post comes to you from a rooftop in Valencia, and having finally recovered from a nonstop weekend, I am able to start Monday with a cafe and a smile.

The draw for the Remote Year program to me was the destinations.  After all, the itinerary has us circling the globe!  Other participants valued the connectivity to make telecommuting a possibility.  To some it was the fact that the itinerary and logistics were planned, and all you have to do is follow directions and not miss the ferry.  And some appreciated the value of traveling with a community versus solo.

Sure, traveling with a companion can be easier at times – you can borrow something you forgot, have someone else to take that scenic shot of you looking off into the distance, and someone to walk into a bar with.  But there’s something to be said about connecting over a shared experience.  Here with me are already some of the most fascinating folks I’ve ever met – those advertisements about traveling with ‘interesting people’ didn’t lie.

RY Community Manager, Mere, kicking off Orientation

We kicked off Saturday with orientation where we discussed logistics, including the expectations for our accommodations.  In Valencia, we are spread out across 3 or 4 neighborhoods, all a maximum of 20 minutes walking distance from one of the two co-working spaces.  Our apartments vary in size and decor (mine, as I have mentioned previously, is a princess palace).  Some people have less decorated places with a better view.  One apartment has mirrored walls in the shower, which I consider a great idea but some find creepy.  We’re assigned roommates based on a lifestyle survey we completed before arrival, and room assignments switch with every city.

The survey was very intriguing – and challenging.  Along with asking for our expected work hours, how much we expect to go out and socialize, etc., we also had to rank the following in order of importance: Proximity to city center, natural sunlight, kitchen in apartment, newness of facilities, access to workspace, high speed internet (mid-speed will be available in all spaces), and preference of a big bed (full or queen).  I remember reading it like “I want ALL of those things!”  It was fun to pose the question to my friends back home, because their answers were all different than mine.  “I would definitely want a big bed.” “You’d never use the kitchen!”  Their answers were as diverse as I expect my fellow Remotes’ answers are, and I look forward to see how those preferences change as we evolve.

I don’t exactly remember what order I landed on, but I know proximity to city center was numero uno.  And that’s where I am, in a trendy neighborhood surrounded by other Remotes.  In fact, The Princess Palace also has tons of sunlight, and big beds and a super sweet kitchen.  It’ll be different everywhere (for example, I think we’ll be in a hotel in Vietnam, and my next apartment in Lisbon may have bugs and no light) but that’s what makes it exciting.  I’m particularly stoked for authentic Moroccan living.

Princess Palace

Orientation continued with each of us doing 30 second presentations of who we are(pecha kuchas), and ended with a values workshop.  We had to independently, then in small groups, then in large groups, then as a team, discuss what our top values were for the trip.  There ended up being a lot of overlap with values like Support and Respect, and then some one-offs like Keepin It Real.  I went into this exercise with skepticism (you know, ice breakers have a bad rap) and ended it feeling inspired by the positive yet realistic view I shared with my colleagues.

These are the sort of people I wish I met years ago.  I’ve spent 29 years without knowing you and already in one week you’ve improved my perspective on life and tickled my funny bone while we headed to the L’Umbracle and danced under the stars until midnight…or 3am…or 6am.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?  Well, you’re here now.  Let’s do this thing.

PS if you want to see more pics, check out my instagram @apackedsuitcase_y

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!