Viet Noms!

Blog takeovers are so HANOING!

Ugh Casey, puns are the worst, pho real.

Welcome to my sister Tori who’s assisting me in recapping our week in Hanoi, where we ate our way through the city and lived to tell the tale.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every single thing that went into my mouth that week.  I refuse to tally up exactly how much nem and bia hoi I had, for guilt and sanity reasons.

 

 

Saturday

Bun cuon


Tori’s first meal in Hanoi was lunch, and I took her to a local place that serves Bun cuon, which is a rice crepe filled with pork and mushrooms, topped with crispy onions. My brain was unable to understand what time zone I was in, but my tummy totally understood that this was delicious. 

 

Tiger beer

After walking for about 45 minutes, we enjoyed Vietnam’s finest brew (most percentage alcohol) overlooking the Hoan Kiem lake. Beer is plentiful in Vietnam, but it’s pretty tame if you are the craft IPA type. I happen to enjoy a lighter beer when it’s hot and humid, perfect for winter in Hanoi.

Side note that we played a game called “Try to count to 5 without hearing a horn honk.”  We both lost.

 

Obama Bun Cha


Tori’s first dinner in Asia had to be special, so we visited the spot where Anthony Bourdain took President Obama.  Metal tables, blue plastic chairs, nothing fancy or particularly nice-looking about this place, but they make a decent bun cha.  Broth, noodles, herbs, and grilled pork.  This place is much more expensive than other delicious bun cha spots (dinner was $6 and not $2), but well worth the visit.

BUN CHA!!! I hope I can find you stateside, you delicious bowl of goodness.

 

Hanoi beer


Part of the Obama combo was a local beer called, that’s right, Hanoi Beer. Thanks Obama! Good choice!

 

Ice cream pops


After dinner, we walked back along the lake and into the Night Market.  We saw a person swirling a gigantic metal pot and stopped to see what was inside – ice cream pops!  Strawberry for me, Coconut for Tor. Tip: if you are curious about something in Vietnam, just get it. Especially if there’s a crowd. ESPECIALLY if it’s food.

 

Sunday

Banh Mi, juice, coffee at Banh Mi 25


You can check out my review of a Banh Mi in my other post, but we had some delicious breakfast Tori’s first true morning. Great for a hangover. Probably, I wouldn’t know.

 

Avocado toast at Hanoi Social Club


It’s not a Sunday without Sunday brunch.  Tori and I met up with some of my friends at the Hanoi Social Club, which is a cute expat cafe where we enjoyed a cocktail and avocado toast with cheese, figs, and red onion. I was very jetlagged at this point, but it was so nice to finally meet some other Remotes!

 

Monday

Coconut

On Monday, we took a day trip to Ha Long Bay, and as we checked out a cave we found coconuts for sale!


Oh, remember how I said you should definitely try anything you might be curious about? It is not entirely foolproof. After a walk through a limestone cave, everyone was stopping to get coconuts. You drink the coconut water, then a tiny lady machetes it open for you to enjoy the coconut meat. I joined in, only to discover that coconut water is gross. So, I convinced people to drink mine because I KNEW I was going to love the coconut meat. Nope. It’s bitter and gross. I’ll be sticking to the sweet, shaved coconut of my youth, but at least now I know!

 

Corner bia hoi


After an exceedingly long bus ride back from the bay, we literally stumbled across the street to our corner bia hoi food joint.  I’ve been here about 20 times already this month, so we ordered a plate of nem (fried spring rolls) with a miso dipping sauce and a chicken/veggie stir fry.  And a beer, of course. Nem, all day, every day. Ideally while you sit on a tiny plastic chair and watch the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter.

 

Tuesday

Raw smoothies


Raw is a local juice/smoothie shop (mostly filled with expats) near the office.  A good way to get in some fresh fruit and greens in between the salty goodness of the local cuisine. Also good for a hangover. I assume, again, I wouldn’t know.

 

Bun Bo Nam Bo


My personal favorite.  Noodles, some broth, greens, and beef or pork with crispy onions. Also wins the award for the most fun to say!

 

Vietnamese coffee


Got Tori to try the crack cocaine oops I mean Vietnamese coffee – which is crazy strong coffee with condensed milk.  It’s sugary sweet and caffeinated so obviously Tori liked it. Very yummy, but it didn’t make me loopy like Casey.

 

 

Wednesday

Pho 10


What did you think Tor?

First pho! Certainly not my last, it gives you a great opportunity to perfect your chopstick skills and noodle slurp.

 

Thursday

Thanksgiving

Remote Year held a gigantic potluck in a treehouse for Thanksgiving, because if you’re gonna have a weird Asian style Thanksgiving, may as well go all out in the trees.

 


We ordered in a turkey and gravy, but everyone was responsible for making something of their own.  We got creative, with a no-bake pumpkin pie!  Turned out really well, wish I had gone back for seconds.

 

 

All in all, a delicious trip with happy hearts and tummies.  And that’s all folks!  Cheers.

img_5987

Advertisements

3 Days in Budapest

Last month my brave father visited me while I was living in Serbia.  After exploring Belgrade for a few days, we rented a car and took the A1/M5 north to Budapest, Hungary.

Now first of all, Fun Fact #1 about Budapest is that it’s not pronounced Budapest.  It’s BudaPESHT.  And actually, it’s Buda, and then Pesht, divided by the Danube River.  Buda is where the fortress is, and is more residential.  Pest (keep pronouncing it Pesht in your head though) is the lively part of town, with bars, restaurants, and shopping.  Dad and I got a hotel in the Jewish Quarter of Pest (Pesht) at the Hotel Continental Zara, and this was in a great location for us to get to the main Vorosmarty Square as well as explore the more trendy part of town.

Fun Fact #2 about Budapest is that all roads take you to the river (pretty much), and it’s a very walkable and easily navigated city.  We parked our car with the hotel and didn’t even need to use a taxi or public transportation the whole time.

So, what trouble did Father Phil and I get into during our three days in Hungary?

 

Monday

The drive to Budapest from Belgrade was a bit of an adventure in itself.  After stopping for hot dogs in tube buns (don’t ask) and sitting a while at the border crossing into Hungary, we made it into town and dropped our bags at the hotel.

Our first goal was to explore and find a place to eat dinner.  We wandered into a little bar called Legfelsőbb Beeróság that served 10 craft beers on tap, with dozens of other bottled craft options.  Dad and I enjoyed choosing between beers named Brewsk Willis, Invisible Bikini, and Bigfoot Meggeys.

We wandered a bit more and looked up a highly-rated restaurant nearby for dinner.  We walked in around 8pm and realized that no tables were available!  Dad and I quickly debated and decided any burger joint requiring a reservation on a Monday night had to be amazing.  So we walked to another bar, ordered jalepeno poppers, and went back for our 9pm reservation at Tuning Bar & Burger.

Tuning was absolutely amazing.  Their shtick was to project the cooktop onto the wall so you could watch as your burgers and fries were cooked.  But the food didn’t require such fanfare as it was amazing on its own – we got the Pepper burger with red-pepper sauce, a bacon-wrapped jalapeño pepper, and sriracha aioli.  Nom noms.

Legfelsobb Beerosag

 

 

Tuning Bar & Burger

 

Tuesday

Tuesday morning began with breakfast at the hotel followed by a 2 hour walking tour of the city.  We walked all over Pest (Pesht), across the Chain Bridge to Buda, and explored the Buda Castle.  Afterwards, we were quite exhausted and mildly grumpy in search of food.  So, Daddy and Daughter found a suitable option – Ice cream!  I don’t have pictures of the ridiculous artisinal sundaes (and cappuccinos) (and champagne) we had because they were embarrassingly decadent, but we got to cross off Cafe Gerbeaud off our list of To-Dos.

We had a well-deserved nap, we ate a quick dinner (goulash for Dad and pumpkin soup for me) and boarded our riverboat for a wine cruise on the Danube!

I highly recommend this experience if you ever make it over to Budapest.  We had a 2 hour cruise with live music and were able to enjoy very large samples of 7 different Hungarian wines.  We enjoyed 2 white wines, a rose, 2 red wines, and two dessert wines.  My dad and I, being the wine snobs that we are, thoroughly enjoyed discussing the different flavors and comparing them while we passed the Parliament building and crossed under the many bridges connecting Buda and Pest.

After the wine cruise, we clearly were in the right state of mind to want to try more wine.  We landed at the DiVino Wine Bar, ordered a cheese plate, and got into great conversation with the bartender/sommelier who allowed us to sample some of Hungary’s finest wine (of a much better quality than on the boat).

 

Streets of Budapest

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Chain Bridge

View of Pest from Buda

Dad and I on the River cruise – Parliament building in the background

DiVino

 

 

Wednesday

Wednesday, we walked the city (notice a theme?) and took a tour through the House of Terror, which contains exhibits and memorials about the communist and racist regimes in Hungary.  This museum was very poorly laid out and unfortunately we visited during a local school’s class trip, so while I don’t think we had the full experience, it was a good reminder of the horrors that took place not too long ago.

That evening, we explored the Ruin Pubs.  In Budapest, old, decrepit factories, warehouses, and apartment buildings have turned into a funky and eclectic bar scene.  The building may not have a roof, is covered in graffiti, and filled with an random assortment of furniture and decorations, but that makes for a fun vibe and good time.  Throw in some cheap beer and you’ve got a spot I think a lot of my fellow remotes would enjoy.  I certainly did!

For dinner, I was able to find the nerdiest restaurant possible, AKA one me and my Dad would both enjoy immensely.  The KonyvBar and Restaurant in Budapest (Budapesht) has theme dinners based on a book, and they switch up the book/menu pairing every two weeks.  While we were in town, the selected book was none other than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Although Dad and I refrained from ordering completely off this menu (as it was full of snails and other odd dishes), we really enjoyed the ambiance and found the food to be incredible.

 

So there you have it.  Dad and I ate really well, enjoyed a good amount of Hungarian wine, and thoroughly loved exploring Budapest.  I look forward to our next adventure together!

 

KonyvBar and Restaurant

Ruin Pub

Ruin Pub (Szimpla Kert)

 

 

House of Terror

New Country, New Breakfast

My priorities upon arriving to a new country are as follows:

  1. Unpack
  2. Get google maps set up and drop a pin for my new apartment
  3. Find grocery store and buy breakfast for the following morning: yogurt/fruit/eggs
  4. Find workspace
  5. Find gym

 

Breakfast, as you can see, is towards the top of the list.  I am a breakfast person.  I like breakfast, breakfast likes me.  We get along, we need each other.

I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday evening.  It’s now Tuesday morning my time, and I’ve had a total of 3 breakfasts, which doesn’t add up but that’s okay.

Breakfast in Hanoi is not like breakfast anywhere I’ve been before.  In Spain, we had toast with tomato spread.  Portugal, I basically had wine for breakfast (Whatever. Do you boo boo).  Morocco was croissants and fruit.  Bulgaria was banitsa.  Serbia was pastries and cappuccinos.

Hanoi is all about salty and savory.  The items you’d eat for breakfast you may as well call lunch or dinner, because you can also eat them for lunch or dinner.

 

Exhibit A: Banh Mi


This is a Vietnamese street food sandwich – a baguette with pork or chicken and pickled veggies.  This was my first breakfast in Vietnam, and I was feeling a little odd about such a heavy start to the day so I ordered an egg and cheese banh mi.  DELISH.

 

Exhibit B: Banh Cuon

 

This is a steamed rice roll filled with mushrooms and ground pork, topped with crispy onions with a miso dip.  They make the rolls like a crepe, which is fun to watch.  I wasn’t super confident in this breakfast at first – not the food, but the fact I was eating it at 9am.  Luckily it was very good, but personally I’d rather enjoy this for lunch.  Will be going back.

 

 

Exhibit C: Smoothie


More my speed, happy to find this place on the walk to work.  Spinach, Mango, Banana.

 

Exhibit D: Vietnamese Coffee


This is crack.  Plain and simple.

 

Who knows what I’ll be eating tomorrow, might have to try Pho for breakfast.  Stay tuned.

Practicing Gratitude: Roommate Edition

I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing roommates in my life, and that’s only continuing with a new roomie every month on Remote Year.  Wanted to take the time to share some gratitude for the people I rely on the most.


 

Austin: Thank you for showing me that the less things you have, the less there is to clean up.

Tori: Thanks for essentially being the same person as me so you understand everything, and also for letting me borrow all of your clothes all of the time.

 


Susie: Thank you for teaching me that the best way to power through a tough or boring task is to take small breaks.  In the form of dance parties.

 


 

Ally: Thank you for showing me that a quiet night of laughter on the couch with some Sauvignon blanc and a fuzzy puppy is the most fun you can have all week.


 

Carolyn: Thanks for proving that living with a best friend is in fact the best thing you can do.

 


 

Gianna: Thanks for teaching me to grab life by the balls, at least in the kitchen.

Cassie: Thank you for letting me learn from the way you manage clients by being an incredibly well-spoken badass. And also thanks for your spot-on playlists and playing JT on repeat.

 


 

Kelli: Thank you for reminding me that quiet time to yourself is essential and makes the big events even more fun. And for sharing a partially-broken toilet during our tummy trouble month in Morocco with zero judgment.

 


 

Alison: Thank you for inspiring me with your entrepreneurial spirit – you always bring passion to your work.

 


 

Caitlin: Thanks for teaching me how to use my words to explain what I want, and for taking that freezing 3am walk to the office wrapped in our bed comforters.

 


 

Sammy: Thank you for your perspective on living and loving as defined by you, not by anybody else.

 

Xoxo

Bran Castle

I spent Halloween weekend at Dracula’s Castle in Romania. WHAT EVEN IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.

You may not know this about me (unless you knew my nerdy self in college) but I went though a Victorian lit phase which conveniently coincided with my major.  My junior and senior year at Bucknell I was taking exclusively English and Psychology coursework, and I had a lot of fun combining principles and themes in my term papers.  So here I was, second semester senior year in a 19th Century English class and a Beauty and Attraction Psych course. Out of this combo came my term paper on sexual undertones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  And now I’ve seen his castle.  Boom.

I dug through old emails on the bus ride back from Romania and miraculously found the paper (which I circulated to many friends.  I told you – I’m a nerd).  I had a good read, cringing at some of the wording but also remembering what it felt like to write in an academic manner as my writing now is all business (and blog) oriented. As I continue to expand my portfolio as a content writer, it’s fun to look back and see how my writing has varied over time.

While discussing the history of vampires in said paper, I referenced the country of Serbia.  I laughed out loud reading this – there I was, 22 years old, about to graduate with no specific career plan but a vague interest in HR, and no idea that later in life I would actually be living in Serbia and visiting Romania and Bran Castle.  Gotta love it.

Back to my weekend:

  • Castle ‘tour’ which I’m sure would be better had it not been insanely crowded
  • Giant tent dance party till sunrise
  • We did not make it to sunrise
  • I have GoPro footage that will never see the light of day
  • Unless I am bribed
  • I like beer and chocolate

 

All in all, 24 hours of bus travel for the most unique and memorable Halloween ever. Love this crew.



48 Hours in Sofia

Sofia, Bulgaria deserves to be highlighted as an incredible place to live and visit.  It is beautiful yet affordable, deliciously sweet yet savory, and has an all-around good vibe.  It needs to have songs written about it and be on everyone’s bucket lists.  But to make it kitschy which would take away from the very essence of Bulgaria’s capital, and I’m jealously guarding this place for myself.  Stay away.

 

If you for some reason don’t take my advice, here’s what to do if you have two days in Sofia.

 

Day One

Find a bakery and eat banitsa.  Egg, yogurt, cheese, and butter in between flaky layers of filo dough baked in the oven.  Savory goodness and very traditional.

Banitsa

 

Wander the city.  Sofia is extremely walkable and flat, so walk up to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and go inside (donation-based entrance fee).  Walk a little further south to the Stefan Stambolov monument (in a park), and ponder getting an axe to the head.  Then walk south down to Vitosha Boulevard, the main commercial street in Sofia.  A little touristy but worth seeing, and worth the view of the Vitosha mountain in the background.

Nevsky Cathedral

 

Grab lunch – find a place where you can have a good shopska salad, which is similar to a Greek salad with less olives and using a different type of cheese.

Shopska Salad

 

Take the free walking tour of Sofia with a company called – you guessed it – Free Sofia Tour.

Walking Tour

 

Eat dinner at Lavanda and don’t skip the dessert.

LaVanda

 

Walk a little further down to Hambara, which is technically an event venue in order to sneak around fire regulations, but is really a candlelit bar.  Order a glass of rakia and a local beer.

 

Hambara

Day Two

Grab baklava for breakfast, order a sandwich to-go and take a cab to the Vitosha Mountain.  Ride the gondola up to a hiking trail, explore the mountain, eat your sandwich at the summit, and then enjoy a hot coffee or cold beer at the lodge on the way down.

Hiking glamour shot

 

Take a nap.  Naps are essential. Bonus points if you have a cat.

Naps are for winners

 

Dinner at Nikolas.

Dinner at Nikolas

 

Find an outdoor table at The Cocktail Bar, order a goblet of strawberry rhubarb Gin and Tonic, soak in the Bulgarian night air, and extend your stay.

Goblet

How to Hail a Ride in Mykonos

My favorite part of travel is how whacky situations always seem to work out and make a great story.  But while you’re in them, in the midst of an internal panic, it seems like you’re stuck with no options and no idea what to do.  But you are forced to figure it out.

There’s simply no other way.  You can’t sit down on your suitcase, stranded, and just stay there.  You have to keep moving, find a solution.  Even if the solution seems insane, you do it because you have to.

Let’s walk through the example of my trip from Athens to Mykonos and dissect everything that went wrong (which was everything), and how it’s one of my favorite memories from my adventures in Greece.

Step One: Get to the ferry.

It’s early in the morning and my travel companions Horacio and Phil and I are on the hunt for a taxi to take us from downtown Athens to the ferry port.  We have a 7am high speed ferry that will get us to Mykonos by 10.  We hail a cab pretty easily, and get on the road.  Should take us about 20 minutes to get there, and we’re leaving 60 minutes before departure.  No problem.

20 minutes pass and we’re still on a highway. I pull out my phone and check Google Maps – we have been driving in the opposite direction of the ferry port.  Turns out the driver thought we said airport.  We turn around and speed the rest of the way there, me watching the clock and feeling a tightness in my chest.  We wait in a line for our tickets (pre-purchased but not printed) and watch the clock and miraculously get on the ferry before it departs.

Step Two: Get off the ferry, attempt to walk to Airbnb.

We disembark the ferry (a party of 6 now, meeting up with Alison, Bryant, and Maggie) and realize there are two ferry ports on Mykonos, and we are at the wrong one.

Step Three: Find a cab.  Or not.

There is a line for cabs, and one cab comes every 2-3 minutes or so.  Group begins to get frustrated.

Step Four: Learn about a Sea Bus that could take us to the other ferry port.

Step Five: Spend 5 minutes not making a decision on whether to stay in the taxi line or get on the Sea Bus.  A few false starts.

Step Six: Choose the Sea Bus.

Step Seven: We watch the Sea Bus pull away from the dock as we walk over.

Step Eight: The next one comes in 20 minutes, we buy tickets and wait.

Step Nine: Take the Sea Bus to the other ferry port.

Step Ten: Use the pin from the Airbnb host to walk to location.

Step Eleven: I poorly navigate and get us turned around (remember, we’re carrying luggage as well so every wrong turn is a pain).  Phil takes over and only makes fun of me a little bit.

Step Twelve: We’re wandering around downtown and find the pin, but this doesn’t seem right.  This looks nothing like the pictures and isn’t near the beach as in the website description.  I call the Airbnb Host.

Step Thirteen: No answer.

Step Fourteen: Airbnb host calls back, asks why we don’t have the address.  I explain we are using what was provided, and she says Oh no, that’s where you go to take a taxi to get to the house.  You are nowhere near the house.

Step Fifteen: Walk back to the port in search of taxis (we need 2).

Step Sixteen: There are no taxis at all.  A local mentions there are never many taxis around.

Step Seventeen: Minor panic.  Horacio kindly tells me I’m not a good traveler.  I punch him.

Step Eighteen: See an old man on a scooter with a trailer attached.  Ask if he gives rides.

Step Nineteen: He does.  Also has a friend with a scooter and trailer.  We look at each other, know it’s our only option, and pile in.

Step Twenty: Enjoy the bumpy and reasonably dangerous ride across the island and the views and the breeze, and laugh the whole way.

A Love Letter to My Backpack

Dear Backpack,

I just left you and I miss you.  I dropped you, empty, on the floor, surrounded by what was once inside you: clothes, shoes, plane tickets and restaurant receipts.  I hope you’re not lonely.

I hate to see you empty and deflated in the corner of my room, sometimes doubling as a laundry hamper.  I don’t think that was what you had in mind when I bought you.  When I went to the store three times before choosing you.  You, bright blue, calling to me from across the room.  I looked at a few other packs for show but I knew you were the one.

I think you’re the most yourself when you’re full.  When you’re on my back, in transit.  When I can pack each of your compartments with special items – toothbrush here, electronics in this pocket, passport here.

I think you like to hurt me, hurt my shoulders, pain my back, and even clip parts of my skin when I’m not careful.  But that’s okay, I’m a little rough with you too.  I know I stretch you too thin, pack you too tight, and throw you around as if you don’t matter.

But know that you matter.  Know that you’re keeping me together on long journeys and short, from Morocco to Bulgaria to Greece and our upcoming adventure in Asia.  I’m counting on you to be strong and hold on because I don’t know how I’ll make this trip without you.  You hold everything that matters to me and I can’t and won’t let you leave my side.  See you soon.

Love,

Casey




Questions to Ask Your Traveling Friend

I am fortunate/lucky/brave/bold/wild/crazy enough to have been working remotely and traveling for over three months now.  That in and of itself is a mouthful.  I make things happen to make this work for me every day.  Every day I’m working.

I am blessed with countless friends and family following me along for the ride, and even visiting (Dad’s coming next month!!!).  I’m blogging and sharing on Facebook and posting pictures on Instagram and writing emails and sending texts and enjoying FaceTime phone calls.  As I hit Stop #4 and passed my 100th day of traveling with Remote Year, I realized I still have so much more to say.

I notice sometimes that the conversation with a loved one back home can grind to a halt.  I haven’t seen you face-to-face in months, and our catch-ups may not be very lengthy or deep.  Maybe I’ll tell you about my most recent weekend but we haven’t chatted in six weeks.  Maybe you tell me about your day, but that’s it.  How do you connect on a deeper level?  How do I share the craziness of travel without completely dominating the conversation?  How do I explain what an AMAZING time I’m having without making your life seem dull or ordinary (because I never think that!  Travelers crave routine and home comforts too!).  How do I get you to open up and share with me?

I struggled myself when talking to friends who took side trips to other countries.  How was Stockholm?  It was great!  …… Cool!  …….. Now what do I say?

I started to form a list of questions to help myself and hopefully help all of you who know someone who travels.  It could be a weeklong vacation, or a semester abroad in college, or a permanent life of travel: everyone wants to share.  Here’s what to ask.

  • What was the best food you ate in THIS CITY?
  • What was your favorite moment this week?
  • Tell me about where you stayed.  In a hotel?  Apartment?  With a friend?  Did you like it?
  • Does THIS CITY have a signature drink or food item?  Tell me about it!
  • Tell me one thing that you did and don’t regret.
  • Tell me about the local culture in THIS COUNTRY.  How is it different from back home?
  • What’s the weather like?  Did you pack appropriately?
  • Did you feel like a local or like a tourist while traveling?  Why?
  • Could you ever live there for a long period of time?  Why or why not?
  • Tell me about a time you found peace and quiet.  Where was that?
  • What moment made you feel the most alive?
  • What moment made you wish you were back home?
  • Have you connected with any locals or expats?  Who?
  • Do you recommend me putting that on my bucket list?
  • Do you have pictures you could send me?

 

 

 

I Like to Like Things

Last month I told a fellow Remote Year colleague how excited I was about traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria.  She asked Why did I feel that way?  Any particular reason?

My response?  “I have no idea.  But why the heck wouldn’t I like it?!”

I don’t need to have a reason to like something — sometimes I just assume I will.  My positive disposition takes over – us Carr-Joneses ‘like to like things,’ as my sister Tori put it.

I wrote a blog post before I left for this trip about how I may not tell you about all the sad and sucky parts of this journey.  Partly because those don’t make for good storytelling and partly because I don’t dwell on that stuff, I move forward.  This gets a lot of crap on other blogs – tell it how it is, be raw, be real bullshit.  I am being real.  I haven’t had any freakouts yet.  I’m not homesick (what is home to me anyway?).  I miss my friends and family sometimes but am staying fairly connected via video chats and email.  I don’t get overwhelmed by their absence because I made a decision before I left: I will miss birthdays and weddings and holidays and babies.  I will deal with it, because the tradeoff is moving to a new country every month.   Which is, by the way, freaking incredible.

 

You might be asking yourself, Why is Casey so gosh-darn happy in her blogs?  It can’t be reality.

It is reality – for me.  Not for everyone here, but for me, I am loving it.   This can get me in trouble if I try to force people to feel the same way (working on this one).

 

I’m happy with the big events and I’m happy with the day-to-day routine —- the otherwise normal mediocrity except for the fact that I’m doing all of these things in a new, exciting place.  I spent this past weekend doing work and laundry and buying groceries and shopping for a new white shirt (red wine be damned) and getting an iced cappuccino from Dunkin Donuts and none of that is remarkable except I did it all in Sofia, Bulgaria and I HAVEN’T HAD DUNKIN IN THREE MONTHS AND IT WAS HEAVEN.  And I’m not trying to write a blog about my boring commonplace weekend (except I just did?).

 

I like to like things.  I seek them out.  I go into adventures thinking I already like what I’m about to do.  No, I’ve never done a yoga retreat in Bulgaria BUT I’M SURE I WILL LOVE IT.  Thailand sounds great, I SHOULD GO THERE.  Do I like hiking?  SURE!  LET’S GIVE IT A GO! Do I want to go on a pub crawl?  Well that one should be obvious.

I liked Morocco, and it’s okay to like a place and still be happy to leave it.  I may have not liked getting a bit sick from the water, and maybe it was dirty and hot sometimes and maybe we ate the same food over and over but I still liked it.  I liked my apartment and I liked our coworking space and I liked the medina and the argan oil and the fresh fruit and I liked how much my group bonded by adjusting to a totally new culture.  And I really like Sofia!  In a completely different way.

This particular stop on our itinerary was a dark horse.  It was a place I would never have visited had I not joined Remote Year.  I had no clue what to expect, and as per usual I did a minimal amount of research before arriving.  So I leave the airport and drop my bags in my apartment and start to walk.  As we wander around town to get our bearings and enjoy our first traditional Bulgarian meal, the golden light hit the green and gold domes on the Nevsky cathedral and WHAM – my original theory  “I will like Sofia” came to be.  It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy but I’ll take it either way.

I like to like things.  And I especially like to like things that involve a nice Bulgarian beer.