Music City: Summer 2017

I know it is the fall of 2017, but here is an update on how I spent my Summer. The summer of 2017 was spent living in Nashville, TN. For the most part, it was a great summer. I experienced some hardships and went through some emotionally challenging times, but I learned so much from both my time in Nashville and these things I went through. I will definitely be better for it in the future. This would be my second time living in Nashville. I lived there from 2011-2013, and always had a soft spot in my heart for Music City. The city is growing like crazy and has changed so much from when I last lived there. My first month living there was spent living in an AirBnB, and the remaining time was spent living with roommates in a house. I knew I was only going to be living there temporarily so instead of buying a bed, I bought an air mattress to sleep on for three months. If you have never slept on air mattress for 3 months, I don’t particularly recommend it. It made me appreciate the luxury of a bed though. My roommates were nice guys, we didn’t spend a ton of time together, but the time we did was fun. During my time in Nashville I got to experience some pretty cool things. If you want to read about those things, read below. 

Hans Zimmer Live

I am a huge movie score fan. I have been since I was a kid. I would buy all sorts of soundtracks, and scores from my favorite movies, and my favorite composer was Hans Zimmer. He went out on tour this summer and played his greatest movie score hits live. When I saw he was coming to Nashville when I was there, I had to get a ticket. I splurged a little and got a ticket 5 rows from the stage. The experience was amazing. Live music is always special to me, but to hear the scores from classic movies like The Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Crimson Tide, Interstellar, Pirates of the Caribbean, and so many more, it is such a different experience. It was a beautiful night, and one of the most memorable concerts I have been to.

 

Volunteering with Hospice

When I arrived in Nashville, I started a job search to start my next career path. As I was searching for jobs in the video area one day, I came across a volunteer opportunity with a hospice provider in Nashville. They were looking for a videographer to help great videos with their patients. This would give their patients a chance to tell their stories, and leave memories for their loved ones. This seemed like a great opportunity for me, and so I submitted my information to be able to help. I went through all the steps to become a volunteer and was ready to start my volunteer work. The first project was going to be with a patient who worked for the space program for several years during the space race at Kennedy Space Station. She was in a nursing home in Murfreesboro, TN which is about 45 mins outside of Nashville. My first visit was spent just talking to her and getting to know her. She had two books in her room full of pictures, articles, badges, etc. from her time with the space program. It was like being transported back in time to an amazing point in history. She was a very sweet lady, and spending that afternoon with her was very special. However, she did not want to be on camera much to tell her story, and so I had to figure out a way to honor her wishes, and also pay tribute to her experiences. My next visit would be on a Saturday and I would be joined by a fellow volunteer and we would spend the afternoon reorganizing her collection of photos, news clips, awards, badges, and so much more. I would film this experience and put together a video for her and her family. She was extremely appreciative of it all. Although I only spent a few hours with her, I was deeply moved by her life experience and the appreciation she had for being helped. I would get to do a couple other things in regards to my hospice experience, and all and all they were super positive and showed me how much I enjoy volunteering. I look forward to doing more of it in the near future.

Memorial Video

The country music world was shocked by the loss of a beloved member of a popular country duo. Through a friend of mine in Nashville, I was asked to make the slideshow for his memorial services. All of a sudden, I found myself in the midst of this man’s life. I was given the task to put together a glimpse of his 50 years on this planet. I went through over 800 pictures and videos. I saw a man who was loved, and loved in return. A man who cherished his family, and lit up a room with his smile and energy. A man who was respected on several different levels. We didn’t know each other, but in the time I spent working on this, I felt like I got to know him. I saw a man, who loved his wife, his daughters, his singing partner, his band, his team, and his fellow musicians. A man who loved to give back, and who served as a rock for the family that counted on him. Even in his passing, he was still giving back, and I was the recipient. I was touched by this man’s life in a way that it helped me understand that I need to be better, in a lot of different ways. He showed me how it was done and how quickly it can be taken from you. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this man’s life in this way. I know how much he is missed. I know how hard it must be for his family and friends to have that person here one day, and gone in an instant. I hope they can look through all those pictures and videos and smile and laugh at all the good that man brought to their lives and remember him that way.

Van Morrison Live

I have often said that if I was stranded on a deserted island and had to pick only one artist I could listen to while on said island, it would be Van Morrison. He has been #1 on my concert bucket list for a long time. I knew he was coming to Nashville while I was there, but tickets were super expensive, and I was supposed to be out of town when he was there. My out of town plans changed, and since I was going to be there I had to buy a ticket to the concert. I did, and it was a beautiful September night at the same outdoor venue I saw Hans Zimmer at. It was an amazing show, I thought his voice sounded great, and so did the music, I just wished he would have played longer. It was a great concert and I was really happy to cross that one off my concert bucket list.

Grand Ole Opry

In my previous years in Nashville, I never made it to the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t really know why, but I got an opportunity to do so with some friends there, and I couldn’t pass it up. The headliner was Eric Church, who has been one of my favorite country artists for a long time, so it was even better of a reason to go. I had no idea what I was in for, but it would end up being a really special night. Restless Heart was the first band, they had one song that took me way back to my childhood and sounded good. Next was Charles Esten, who is on the show Nashville. He was really good too, and brought out another person from the show to sing with him on one song, and it was beautiful. Next was Scotty McCreery, Trace Adkins, and a girl named Ashley McBryde whom I had never heard of before. She performed a song that just hit me like a ton of bricks. With what was going on in my life, and who I was with, the song just hit home. All artists were all really good, and played 3 songs each. Eric Church would be the final performer of the night. This was the week after the Las Vegas shooting, and Eric Church had played the festival where it took place on Friday night. One of the victims of the shooting was from Tennessee, and was supposed to be at the Opry that night, but unfortunately he passed away while protecting his wife from bullets. Eric Church came out with just his guitar and played 5 songs. One was one he had written about the incident in Las Vegas, a couple others were his own songs, and he covered the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah. He was clearly shaken by the events in Las Vegas and he came out and entertained in a way that I felt really honored those who had passed away in that horrific incident. It was a special night and I was happy to be with a good friend who could appreciate the night on the same level as me. The video of Eric Church performing the song he wrote is below.

Needtobreathe at the Ryman

One of my favorite bands is a rock band from South Carolina called Needtobreathe. I have seen them live several time, and they are at their best when they are live. They were going to be at the Ryman my last week in Nashville, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see my favorite band at my favorite concert venue. It did not disappoint. They sounded amazing, and played with such energy. Their lyrics speak to me in a way I can’t describe. Sometimes it feels like their songs were written directly based on my life. This was particularly true at this time in my life, and being with a good friend and listening to these songs made for a very special night.

Photography

Being in Nashville this time around, I was more into photography than I was when I lived there before. This allowed me to take more photos than I ever have before. A few of my photos were featured on a couple of Nashville based Instagram feeds, and I was also able to meet some local photographers and met up a few times to go out and shoot with them. It was great to get some shots of Nashville to add to my collection.

Friend Visits in Nashville

Nashville being the great city it is, makes it easy to convince people to come visit. During my time there I was lucky to get a couple visitors. My good friend Perry from Phoenix came in for the USA Soccer game and we had a nice weekend hanging out. That same weekend another friend and his wife came for the soccer game, so it was nice to see them as well. A few of my Remote Year friends came through town as well, so I got to have a meal with a group that was in town and then another friend from Remote Year was in town for a conference and we got to have a nice meal together. It was great to catch up with her, and see what life has been like for her after Remote Year. Towards the end of my time in Nashville my good friends Drew and Beth came for a visit as well. It was great to spend time with them. The Saturday night they were there we went to a famous Bluegrass venue called The Station Inn. I lived across the street from this place for two years and never went, so I was glad to finally cross that off my Nashville list too. 

Time Up In Nashville

My time in Nashville ended, and although it was a challenging time. I was able to make some great memories,  and got to spend time with some really great people. I left Nashville and headed to Iceland and NYC and will be writing about that soon.

Peace and Love.

My First Tom Petty Concert

The first time I saw Tom Petty was August 19, 1999. It was a Thursday night. I was a sophomore in high school. It was my first concert since 1991. It was also the first time I had not gone to a concert with my parents. My best friend Justin and I had both loved Tom Petty and this was going to be our chance to see live, the man who had provided the soundtrack to our youth. This was 1999, we didn’t have the Internet, or cell phones, heck we barely could drive. When tickets went on sale, we had to go to Dillard’s at Paradise Valley Mall, go to the Ticketmaster stand, and get our tickets there in person. The day the tickets went on sale came, and we were at the mall at 9:45AM. We waited outside the doors of that department store. It was a weekday, so there weren’t many other people waiting to go shopping. The doors opened at 10, and we made our way into the store, and walked at a fast pace through the maze of different departments to get to the Ticketmaster booth that was in the back of the store. We had gained another friend who wanted to go, his name was Matt and he worked with us at the golf course. All three of us had saved up $50 to put towards tickets. We got to the counter, and told the lady we would like three tickets to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. She typed in a DOS prompt on her computer, and then placed a map of the arena in front of us. How much do you want to spend? She asked. We told her we had $50 each. She told us we could only get upper level with that amount. We were fine with that. We didn’t really care, we just wanted to be at the show. We nailed down a section in the upper level that was closest to the stage. We paid our cash, and waited patiently for the dot matrix printer to make our tickets. The lady put them in a Ticketmaster envelope and told us to not lose them! We were so excited, we were 16, we had just bought our first concert tickets on our own, and on August 19, 1999, we would be going to America West Arena to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. August couldn’t get here soon enough. Our summer was spent working at Kierland Golf Club, picking up golf balls on the driving range, washing golf carts, and the soundtrack to our shenanigans was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Thursday August 19th, 1999 finally arrived. That day at school couldn’t go any slower. The arms of the clock moved like molasses. Finally, the last bell rang, and I was free. It was the first week of school, so I didn’t have a ton of homework, the little I had, I got done right when I got home. Then it came time to head down to the Arena. Justin was in charge of driving. Our chariot for the night was his Mom’s beige Ford Windstar minivan. As I waited for Justin to arrive I received the typical lecture from Mom and all the reminders that came when I left the house. Wear your seatbelt, be safe, and come home right when the concert ends. I agreed, and watched out my living room window for Justin to arrive. As Justin pulled up, he layed a quick double honk of the horn to let me know he was there. I say goodbye to my Mom, walked out the door and we were on our way. We picked up Matt, made sure we all had our tickets and then got on the 51 and headed south to downtown Phoenix. We parked the minivan and headed into the arena. The Blind Boys of Alabama were the opening act. We were all surprised that they were actually all blind and listened to them sing their hearts out. They ended their set, and it was time for Tom Petty.

The excitement we had for this concert had been building for months. He came out and started the set. I don’t remember the exact setlist, but we stood up and never sat down the whole time. The smell of marijuana rose to our second level seats and we found ourselves singing all the songs that had accompanied so many memories of our lives. I can’t tell you how many times we high-five'd each other. I had never experienced live music like this. I got goosebumps multiple times. I remember clearly the guitar solo during Don’t Come Around Here No More, and the strobe lights going off made the hair on my neck stand up. Live music was my new addiction and this concert was my gateway drug. The concert continued and hit after hit was played. As more time went on, I still had not heard my personal favorite song, Free Fallin. I didn’t think he couldn’t play it, but then as the lights dimmed, and it seemed like the concert was over, I figured I wouldn’t get to hear my favorite song. I hadn’t been to a concert in a long time, and was not particularly familiar with the concept of an encore. When the lights went out and the band exited the stage, I noticed the energy pick up. The crowd was not moving, people were banging their chairs, and I wondered to myself, does this really work? Will he come out and play another song? It seemed like an eternity that we stood there yelling “One More Song” over and over. Then it happened, the moment that will stay with me forever. The lights stayed dimmed. I could see some movement on the stage. All of a sudden a spotlight shined down on the microphone at the center of the stage. There was Tom Petty, guitar in hand. He stood there for a minute, the crowd got more quiet as time went on, and then with two strums of his guitar came the chords so many of us wanted to hear and along with those chords we heard “She’s a good girl”...This was how the concert ended. And I couldn’t have asked for a better live music experience then that. I have been to hundreds of concerts since then, some have been good, some bad, and some have been amazing, but none of them will ever hold a flame to that concert and that moment when Free Fallin was played during the encore.

Tom Petty’s music would continue to be the soundtrack of my life after that and still is to this day. I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself going through a tough time and listening to “Learning To Fly” and how the lyrics “So I’ve started out, for god knows where, I guess I’ll know when I get there” have brought me solace. Or the peace I get when I listen to “Wildflowers”. I could list so many songs and lyrics that feel so much like they are a part of my life and the parts of my life where his music was playing in the background. I am so grateful to have been able to experience Tom Petty live on that August night back in 1999, my love of music would not be what it is today if I had not. Thank you Mr. Petty and Rest in Peace.

Life After Remote Year

As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop in Nashville, TN. The month of July is almost over and that means Remote Year ended two months ago. All my previous blog posts have been about my life on Remote Year, this one is the first about my post Remote Year life.

I arrived back in the USA on Memorial Day. My parents picked me up. I was tired. They were excited to see me and I was excited to see them too. We went to my favorite breakfast spot, and enjoyed each other’s company. They had a bunch of questions. I did my best to answer them. Later that day, my other family members came over to my parents’ house for dinner. It was good to see everyone. I got to meet my nephew who was born in January. I met my brother’s new girlfriend. I saw my niece, who grew like a weed since I last saw her in December. The first day was over and I was exhausted and got a good night’s sleep. I got in Monday, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday hanging out, eating food I had not had for a year and squeezing in a round of golf. The Thursday of that week, would find me back on the road. My Dad, Brother, and I headed to my family's cottage in Michigan to spend a weekend playing golf with family and friends. This is something my family has organized for several years, and something I have participated in for several years in a row, but had to miss last year since I was gone. I would get to see my uncle’s, cousin’s, and friends that I have not seen for a while. This was good for the soul, and was a great first weekend back.

After that weekend, it was time to get back to normal, or whatever that now was. I went into my office and worked. I rented a car. I had dinner with friends. I ate more food I haven’t had in a while. I answered more questions. I hung out with friends. I met my best friends first child. I met my other friends first child. I met my college roommates second child. All in all, 7 of my friends and family had children when I was gone and I got to meet them all upon my return. I slept in guest rooms, and on couches. It was great to see people and catch up. It was also unsettling. I was all over the place. I was both lost and home. I spent a year traveling the world, with people who were up for anything, in places where I never knew what would happen next. Suddenly, that was over, and I was back to the place that I had spent most my life in. The place that drove me to get out of my comfort zone and move to Nashville in 2011, and do Remote Year in 2016. In my head, I had hoped it would change. The people would be different. They would want to do things differently, like my travel mates on Remote Year. They didn’t. I felt like a stranger. At times, even more so than times on Remote Year in foreign countries. This made me not feel like me and had a negative impact on different areas of my life.

I must say, coming back to the United States after Remote Year was a lot harder than I thought. It is a feeling of going through something that very few people have experienced, and then having to try and explain it in some way to people who will never really understand what it is like. I should have known it wouldn’t be easy, but I think I was too caught up in all the emotions that came with such a special year ending. Especially one that contained so many memories, and adventures that some people don’t even get to experience their whole life. I was in a bad place. I had dark thoughts. I knew I needed to do something about it.

Luckily, I had the foresight during the last month of Remote Year that I would need to get out of Arizona. I planned to spend the month of July in Nashville. I booked an Airbnb. The month would be spent evaluating myself, and processing the last year, cutting back on social media, mediating, working out, eating healthy and working on how I want my future to look. I wish I could say that I have everything figured out after 27 days, but I don’t. I have made progress during my time in Nashville. I have done some writing. I don’t have a job yet, but I am trying. I am going to stay here for a couple months. I am going to do some traveling and meet up with some of my Remote Year people. I’m trying to shape my future. I want my future to involve something that will allow me to use my creative skills to help make the people around me and the world better in some way. I don’t know how that looks just yet, it is a work in process, but I need help. I am seeking that help. I need to improve my self-confidence. I have done a good job identifying my weaknesses, but I need more help. The things I am doing are good to do, but they aren’t getting me to the next level. I am hoping to change that. Stay tuned, until next time, peace and love.

 

Argentina

After an amazing trip to Bolivia and a tiny hiccup in our travel to Argentina, I was finally in the country that I would spend the last 2 months of Remote Year in. Month 11 would take place in Córdoba and month 12 would be in Buenos Aires. For this post, I am going to combine month 11 and 12 into one blog. Argentina is a beautiful country and the combination of that and the final months of this amazing journey made the last 8 weeks memorable on several levels.

Horseback Riding in Córdoba Countryside

The first weekend in Córdoba we had our first track event, which was a day trip about an hour and a half outside of Córdoba to do some horseback riding. This would mark the second time I have gone horseback riding on Remote Year and I was stoked that it would be a whole afternoon of it. We met in the morning and there was a large bus for our group, that filled up, and so I got to ride in the car with our guide Cesar and his son Maxi. This made for a great way to practice Spanish and gave Cesar a chance to practice his English. Maxi was 6 years old and mostly spoke Spanish and only knew a few words in English. It was great to talk to him and practice my Spanish. Now Maxi was either funny, or simply couldn’t understand me when I spoke in Spanish because he responded to one of my questions I asked in Spanish, that he didn’t understand English. I blame it on Argentinian Spanish being different than regular Spanish and not my lack of Spanish skills. We chatted throughout the drive and finally arrived at our destination. We all got out, and breathed in the fresh country air. The air was brisk and it was a beautiful fall morning. After a little bit, they brought the horses out and we began the process of getting on them and getting ready to ride. By chance, I got a small horse. When I say small, I mean small, practically a pony. I got on, and realized that if I fell, it wouldn’t hurt too bad, as the ground was not too far from me. Once everyone was ready, we started on the trail and trotted through the mountains. It was relaxing, and peaceful. All the horses were different, so we were all scattered throughout the trail. We went for a while and came to a river pass, where we got off the horses to give them a break and allow us to stretch and explore a little bit. We hung out there, and then got back on the horses and started making our way towards our lunch spot. Our hosts were waiting for us when we arrived for lunch and had made a full feast. In Argentina, they love meat. I somewhat knew this going into my time there, but it wasn’t until I had my first meat meal there, that I got it. We had a great meal, we sat outside, chatted, and took a load off, while the horses did the same. The food was great, and after we ate, we ran around with our friend Maxi. It was now time to get back on the horses and make the trek back. Our guide had decided it was time for me to switch horses as he could see that I looked uncomfortable. My new horse was much bigger, and it was nice to feel like I wasn’t at a child’s birthday party riding a horse. The rest of the trek was great, we trotted a little bit and got back to our starting point. We said goodbye to our awesome leader, who was kind and patient with us the whole time. We got back in the car and made our way back to Córdoba. Maxi was tired this time and fell asleep on the way home. Cesar pulled over a few times and we got to grab a few photos of the countryside. We got back to Córdoba, said our goodbyes to our guides and wrapped up our Sunday.

Club Atlético Belgrano Fútbol Match

I couldn’t go to South America without going to a fútbol game. Luckily, there are some soccer aficionados in my group and we organized a large group to check out a game, with some major help from our city manager Cotí. The game would be between Belgrano and Talleres Córdoba. The game was on a Saturday at 4:30PM. One of the interesting things about this match was that only fans of the home team were allowed. This made it easy as to who we were going to cheer for, which was Belgrano. Like Europe, there is no alcohol served at the game, but you could tell as you were walking in that people were having a good time before the game started. The stadium holds about 28,000 people and there was not an empty seat in the house. The stands are filled with paper, and the fans that sit there, rip the paper and throw it at different times during the game. They also hand out blue trash bags, that people blew up and waved around during the game. I have been to a lot of sporting events in America, and this was unlike anything I have ever seen. Both teams playing were not highly ranked, but the people of Córdoba were very dedicated to their teams and it showed at this game. The opening of the game started with blue smoke bombs being thrown out which filled the air with light blue smoke. The game started and crowd was into it the whole time. The major section of fans had drums, signs, and banners that they would release from the top rows and stretch all the way out across the section. I thought, oh that was a cool thing to do, then it happened several more times, each time with a different sign. As I mentioned, these fans were diehard. During the game, we noticed the attention of the crowd shifting to the stands. We were taken back, as you didn’t think fights would break out amongst fans of the same team, that was a wrong assumption. It turns out there was a fight and one of the men involved was running, trying to get away, the other guy he was fighting with chased him, and as he was trying to climb over the rail to get away, the guy caught up to him, and flipped him over the railing. He must have fell about 25-30 feet, and as it turns out died from the fall. Here is a link to one of the news stories about it: here Other than seeing the guy fall to his death over the railing, it was a fun match and a great way to experience how locals are dedicated to their teams.

Bajada San Jose

One Saturday we met in the morning and made our way to a city bus. We got on the city bus and took it to a neighborhood in Córdoba that was a lower income area. Each Saturday a group called Bajada San Jose brings together the children of the neighborhood, provides them food, helps them with their schoolwork, and organizes activities for them to do. The main activity they focus on is Rugby. They teach the kids the rules of the game, do drills, and try to get them to learn it is something they could play. The kids were all awesome, and welcomed us with open arms. We got there and sat in an open room full of tables, the kids all pulled out their school work and showed us what they were working on. It was another great opportunity to talk in Spanish and they could practice the English they had been taught in school. I sat and talked with a group of kids, and we had a blast. Once that was done, the activities started, and some kids did crafts, some did dancing, and some played Rugby. The people of the neighborhood came over to the field, and I had a talk with a couple of local guys, who asked me a bunch of questions. Luckily, I had some help getting the questions translated. We were there until about 1PM or so, we were told we needed to leave the neighborhood as it gets a little bit dangerous once people start getting up and around in the afternoon. The experience gave me a different outlook on a lot of different things. It was inspiring to see the people of Bajada San José doing all in their power to give the children an opportunity to be a part of something other than the typical activities of their neighborhood.

Easter in Argentina

The Sunday of Easter marked another holiday in which our group would be away from home for. It was decided that we would have an Easter picnic. This was organized by my girlfriend and we did a potluck in the park, played games, threw a Frisbee, and once again enjoyed each other’s company when we couldn’t be home with our families. Like all things with Remote Year, everyone did an awesome job and it was another successful holiday get together.

Bus Ride to Buenos Aires

Before we knew it, it was time to leave Córdoba. As you can read above, I had some great experiences there, but I was ready to leave. My apartment was in a busy party neighborhood, and Wednesday-Saturday from 12AM-6AM there were a few clubs in the area blasting music and I really struggled to sleep and get into my groove there. When it was time to get out of Córdoba, I was ready. Our transportation to Buenos Aires was via bus. The ride was going to be about 10 hours. We got nice buses with reclining seats, and we made our way to the final stop of our amazing journey. The bus ride went quick, I watched some movies, and next thing you know we had made it to Buenos Aires.

Apartment in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires would mark the first month in which we would not have roommates and be in studio apartments. A large amount of people in our group were in a hotel, and I was in another building about 15 mins away from that. My apartment was awesome, and was a place I would like to live in. It was small, but just the right amount of space and was near a lot of awesome restaurants and cafes. It was a great place to call home for the last month and one of my favorite apartments from the whole year.

Bomba Del Tiempo

Our welcome event in Buenos Aires was one that once I heard what it was, got me very excited. We were going to see a drum show called Bomba Del Tiempo. This was a show that was outside and consisted of a bunch of people on stage banging drums. They said no two shows are ever the same.  We got there and there was a ton of people there. The venue was an industrial building and we packed in and watched the show. It was awesome and me being a huge drum fan, it was awesome and one of my favorite welcome events we had on Remote Year.

Sickness in Buenos Aires

The first week in BA, a bug got me and put me down for the count for a few days. I was weak, had a hard time breathing, got a fever, and just didn’t feel good. Maybe it was a year of traveling finally catching up with but it knocked me down for a solid three days. I luckily received some great care from a special lady and by the 4th day, which was a Sunday, I was ready to get back to normal life, and head to a track event in a town called Tigre.

Symphony in Bueno Aires

I have always loved the symphony. I played the violin and piano as a kid and have always been drawn to classical music. I had heard there were some beautiful theaters in Buenos Aires, and so I had the urge to check them out. If you read my last post about Bolivia, I had mentioned my girlfriend and I met another couple while on a walking tour in La Paz. Well, they happened to be in Buenos Aires when we were there, and we decided to catch up with them. We threw out some ideas, and agreed that the symphony would be the activity we would do. I got some tickets, and we met up before and had some red wine, and caught up on their travels since we had last seen them in La Paz, they had some great stories to share. We then headed to the symphony and enjoyed a night of amazing music in a beautiful theater. The theater was an amazing site and all the space was filled with beautiful and detailed décor. The sound was amazing, and it was a great night. We parted ways with our friends, and wished them luck on their last few weeks of travel before they headed back home to London. If you ever get to BA, I highly recommend checking out Teatro Colón, it is a beautiful place.

Sunday in Tigre

Weekends on Remote Year are for Track Events. This event would mark my first and only Track event in Buenos Aires. For this event, we would meet at our workspace and hop on a bus to a city called Tigre. The plan was to take a boat ride, and get to a place where we could do watersports and stuff, but the weather had other plans. A rain storm moved through and we had to decide if we even wanted to go to Tigre or do something else. We decided to do it, and see what would happen when we got there. We took the bus out there, and when we got there, there were some clouds, and it looked ok, but you could see it might rain in the distance. We took a boat ride for about 15 minutes to the spot where we would spend the afternoon. We had lunch, and then shortly after that it started to rain. The rain was a blessing in disguise, as although we didn’t get to do any of the water activities, we just hung out, talked, played games and relaxed as the rain danced on the deck of the restaurant. It was a chill day, and turned out to be a great event even though it didn’t go exactly as planned.

Argentina Polo Day

Does anyone want to spend a day watching, and playing polo, while eating meat, and drinking wine? Is what the Slack post read. How could you not say yes to that? The stage was set and one Saturday while in Buenos Aires we would head to a farm about an hour outside of town and partake in a day of Polo, Food, and Horses. I was not sure what to expect, but I must say the day was amazing and completely exceeded my expectations. We arrived at the farm in the late morning, we were welcomed with homemade empanadas and wine. The empanadas were so fresh, and the best I had tasted in all my time in South America. After hanging out for a bit, we made the walk toward the polo field. This farm was also home to a polo club and they were going to play a match for us. This would give us a chance to see how the game is played and give us some inspiration for when it was our time to play. I had never seen polo in my life, especially live, so I was more than thrilled to see the game going on before my very eyes. After the match, we walked over to the barn, and hung out as the players relaxed after the game. After that, it was time to enjoy the marvelous feast they had prepared for us. It was a wonderful Argentinian meal that consisted of a variety of meats, vegetables, and of course wine. The meal was great, and I was stuffed, and had a full belly and plenty of energy to get on a horse and play a polo match.  We then put on our polo jersey’s, shin guards, and helmets, and made our way back to the polo field. We got on our horses and the match began. It was so much fun, we are a competitive group, and although this was not the fastest paced game, we all had a blast trying to win. We played for over an hour and it made me want to play polo again someday. Around the time we were done playing, it was sunset, so we took off our polo gear, stayed on our horses, and took a sunset ride around the farm. It was peaceful, and beautiful. At one point the way the sun was hitting the autumn trees, it felt like I was in a dream. It was beautiful. I didn’t have my camera with me, but will always remember the way the colors looked on that ride. We took the horses back to the barn, and made it back to the farmhouse, had a nice dessert, and then made our way back to Buenos Aires. One of the guys in our group writes for an online magazine and asked me to take photos for the day to use for an article he would be writing about the day. If you would like to see a professional write about the day and see my photos, you can find the article here. The day was amazing, and if you are ever in Buenos Aires, I can’t recommend this activity enough, you can find their website here.

Bagels of Argentina

You are probably reading that headline and thinking to yourself, Bagels? In Buenos Aires? Yes, bagels. There is an expat from New York, who lives in Buenos Aires. He makes fresh bagels and cream cheese and has a stand Thursday-Sunday. On Friday’s he does Bagel Sandwiches. Friday’s and Sunday’s became bagel days for me. He is awesome, and friendly and changes things up regularly, so you never know what you are going to get. If you are ever in BA, and have a hankering for a bagel check out his Facebook page for his schedule and locations here.

San Telmo/La Boca

One Sunday in Buenos Aires, we made the trek to the San Telmo neighborhood in BA. This is the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, and is home to a huge market on Sunday’s. The market has everything you could imagine, and goes for what seems like miles and miles. We walked through, and there was a ton of people making their way through it as well. After we walked through a big chunk of it, we made our way to a neighborhood called La Boca. This is a neighborhood in BA that is known for its vibrant colors. The day we walked through, there was a big soccer game going on, so the streets were filled with fans, and police in riot gear. The fans were lighting fireworks, drinking, hanging out and banging drums as they stood in the street. It was interesting to see and was evidence how serious they are about their soccer matches. We didn’t spend a ton of time there, but it was still a cool neighborhood to check out in BA.

Farewell Party #1

We have a group of guys in our group who became famous for the amazing party they through in the first week in Prague. They were also responsible for the Finca Fest party in Colombia, and put together one more final fiesta for the group. Most our group elected to arrive in style to the party and we rented limos to get us there. All of the limos were old school limos, and we had five of them, we all got in and made our way through the streets of BA to this party. It was quite the scene and we had a blast during the ride. We got to the party and the guys had went all out. They rented a place, and re-created each city we visited in a different room of the venue. They created passports for everyone, and you had to go around and get them stamped as we re-lived the memories of the past year of travel. A major shout out to those guys for putting together one great final party.

Food of Argentina

Buenos Aires is a great city and has an eclectic variety of food. Cordóba was ok, but in the two places, I ate a lot of food. Argentina is known for its steak and Buenos Aires was home to some of the best steak I have ever eaten in my life. They also have a lot of other good food, and it was a good month for the taste buds, but not so much for the belly, but it was worth it. Instead of writing a lot about the food, I will just let the pictures below do the speaking for me.

Remote Year Farewell Event #2

The final week of Remote Year came so fast. The Monday night of the final week was the night for our official farewell event. This was organized by our leaders, and a few people in our group. This was just for our group, and it was a special night indeed. We met at our workspace and hopped on a bus, and were shuttled to a venue about 45 minutes out of town. The venue was a beautiful house outside the city. We were met with a glass of Champaign, and started the night with a toast and an explanation of what the night was going to entail. We were going to be treated to an amazing dinner with 5 different courses from a famous Argentinian chef. There would be presentations, speeches and one fireside gathering that would move me to tears. The food was amazing, we would move tables after each course, so we could sit with different people throughout the night. Between courses, we would go in the backyard, and watch or listen to a presentation. I made a tribute video for our group, one gentleman who has an amazing way with words, put together a poem and photo slideshow, and our resident filmmaker made an amazing tribute video as well. Feel free to check them out below. After we completed our meal, and our MC for the night gave a wonderful speech, we headed outside and all sat fireside. Our resident guitar guru wrote an original song a few years ago, and he played that song for our group as we all sat around him. The song was perfect for the moment, and it almost seemed as if he had written it just for our group, even though a couple years ago, he would have never known he would be in this place. As I looked around at everyone, I couldn’t help but cry, a year of memories, trials and tribulations, came together one last time. It was a moment that will stay with me for as long as I live. You can find the song here. We then received our Darien yearbook that several people in our group worked tirelessly on and created something will allow us to relive the amazing year forever. The night ended and we hopped on the bus, it was a somber bus ride, and everyone sat skimming through their yearbooks, laughing and reminiscing. A group of us then went out and kept the night going, it was a great night and I am grateful for all the work that was done to make it happen.

Fuerza Bruta

The rest of the week was spent hanging out, and getting in as much time as we could together. One of the activities the group did early in BA was going to a show called Fuerza Bruta. This is a show that incorporates music, dancing, and a clear tarp full of water. I was sick when our group went and was not able to make it, but everyone said it was amazing, so on the Friday of the last week, a group of us made it to the show and got to check it out. I was not sure what to expect, but it was by far one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. The production, the creativity, and the music were amazing. The show starts with a group of people singing on stage and banging drums. That could have been the show and I would have been happy, but then it kept going. They use the whole space, and the crowd must move around while they move the stages around. At one point during the show, they cover the side of the auditorium with a tin foil like sheet, and people are dancing around the walls, moving from side to side. At another point in the show, they lower a clear tarp over the audience, fill it with about a foot of water that moves around and the dancers, perform above the audience while using the tarp as a drum. The show ends with the water spraying the center of the audience, if you want to get wet you can, if you don’t you can stand by the side. I walked away amazed and loved it so much. I know it is an international thing, so if you ever see it advertised, you must go and see it.

One Last Party

The final Friday came and after I went to Fuerza Bruta, we were having one last get together with our crew. We would meet at the house a few of the guys in our group were renting, and would sing songs, give hugs, and say our goodbyes. We got a great final group photo and it was a fun night, and was exactly how I would expect our group to end, with everyone having a blast while laughing, smiling and enjoying each other’s company.

The Last 2 Days

Just like that, it was over. The last day of Remote Year. We had to be out of our apartments at 9AM, and would meet for a brunch and start saying our goodbyes. It would be goodbye after goodbye, and one more goodbye. By the end of the day, a bunch of people were gone while some lingered. I didn’t leave until the next evening so I had one more night and day and had anticipated spending it alone. The night everyone left, I got a text from one of my travel mates, I had expected it to be one last goodbye or a joke as he went to the airport. As it turns out his flight was cancelled, which was unfortunate for him, but fortunate for me as it gave him and I a chance to hang out some more. We grabbed a couple pints at a craft beer bar, and then went and had a nice sushi dinner in a small quaint spot. We reflected on the year and talked about the journey home. The night ended, and I was in my hotel and asleep before midnight, which was just what the doctor ordered before my big travel day the next day. The next day I woke up and headed to the BA bagel stand and got one more before departing. It was amazing as always, and after that a few of us stragglers went and did a little more exploring of Buenos Aires. All the exploring was great, and before we had to head to the airport, we decided to have one last steak before we left. Like all steaks I had in BA, it did not disappoint. After the steak, we grabbed our bags, grabbed an Uber and then it was off to the airport. The two friend’s I was with were both heading to Houston for their layovers so they were on the same flight, and I was on a different flight headed to Atlanta. We got to the airport, and they were in a different terminal. We had planned to grab one last farewell beer, but it didn’t look like it was going to happen. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I got through security and customs in a breeze and started walking through the terminal. The terminal kept getting bigger and bigger, and there was a long walkway that looked like it connected with the other terminal. I sent my friends a message and said for them to let me know where they are and we can try to get that last beer. They didn’t think the terminals connected and we scrapped the idea. I decided that I would have one last beer in their honor. I ordered a beer, made a couple of phone calls, and then suddenly in the distance, I saw my two friends walking through the airport. I stood up, they were looking my way and I could have sworn they saw me, turns out they didn’t. I grabbed my beer and started following them. I had a pretty idea of where they were headed (the bar I had passed on the way to my gate). Sure enough, I was right and as they started to sit down, I came up behind them and shouted a nice surprise to them. We sat down, and had two more celebratory beverages. My flight was starting to board and it was time to say goodbye to them for real this time. This was it, after this I would be on my own, and this would be my last Remote Year goodbye. It was emotional, but I think between my tiredness, and saying so many goodbyes the last few days, I was just numb to it all. I got on my plane and started my trip home.

The Journey Home

The 10-hour flight to Atlanta was easy, I watched a couple movies, rested my eyes the best I could, ate my airline meal, and eventually landed back in the United States for the first time in 6 months. My transition in Atlanta was easy, I went through customs, I was in my home country for once, so the process was easy. I grabbed my bags, put them through the scanners, and then handed them off again for the final leg of my flight back to Phoenix. I walked around the Atlanta airport, and marveled at all the fast food chains I had not seen in a while. It took all my strength to not go to Chick-fil-a for breakfast. I knew I would be going to my favorite breakfast place in Phoenix and didn’t want to spoil my appetite. I would get by on coffee, and airline snacks to hold me over. The time came, and I boarded my plane to Phoenix. The flight was about 3.5 hours and went by fast. I landed, and was back in the very same airport I was in almost a year to the date of when I had left for this journey. My parents were anxiously awaiting my return and greeted me with smiles and hugs upon picking me up on the airport curb. My first day back would be spent eating breakfast at my favorite breakfast place Butterfield’s and then hanging out at my folk’s place, and meeting my new nephew Finn for the first time. And just like that, I was back to “normal” life. I had no idea of the struggles of adjusting to being back in Arizona would bring, but I will save that for another post.  If you would like to see some photos from my time in Argentina, you can check them out at the link below. Thank you for reading.

Bolivia

Since I started Remote Year, I have had my eyes on visiting the Salt Flats in Bolivia. I knew when I was in Peru or Argentina, that would be my best chance. When it came time to organize the trip, it was decided that Peru would be the spot to leave from. Not only would Peru be the leaving spot, but also, I would head there on our transition day instead of heading to Córdoba with the group, which would be a first. 

Salt Flats of Uyuni

I would be accompanied by my girlfriend and we would head to Bolivia the Friday night of our typical Remote Year travel weekend. Our flight was around 10PM and we would flight from Lima to La Paz Bolivia. This trip was one that took some strategic planning. We were going to the Salt Flats and doing it on travel weekend, so we had to have all our luggage with us instead of asking someone to take it for us. So, here is what we did. We got into La Paz at 1AM with all our luggage. We got through the Visa process which required some paperwork, and most importantly $160 in crisp US Dollars. We had a plan to ditch our luggage and only take our backpacks to the Salt Flats. Our flight for the Salt Flats was at 7:10AM so we had some time. We found a cab and explained in Spanish that we would like a ride to our hotel that we would be staying in when we get back to La Paz, drop our bags off there for them to hold for us and come back to the airport. We got in the cab, and took the 45-minute ride to our hotel and dropped off our bags, then got back to the airport around 3:30AM, with a few hours to kill before our flight. We were both tired, and wanted to try and rest our eyes. Low and behold, in the airport there was a place where you could pay for a bed to sleep in. I had never seen anything like this and we quickly decided this would be a great way to rest before our trek into the Salt Flats. We paid the man, and he lead us into a room that had a set of bunk beds in it. I hopped into the top bunk and quickly laid my head down. I had a little bit of a hard time falling asleep but finally did. We let the man know we would be out at 5:30AM and he had to knock hard on our door at that time to wake us up. We got out of there with a little bit of rest and hopped on our flight to Uyuni to start our 3 Day 2 Night trek of the Salt Flats and the area around it. We boarded a little plane, and after about a 45-minute flight we were in Uyuni. The airport is tiny, and has 2 gates. When they take your luggage off the plane, they load it on to a cart, and then manually pull the cart about 100 feet to the gate for you to get it.  We arranged for a cab ride from our tour company and a man was standing there with a sign with our names on it. We headed to the office of Red Planet Expeditions where we would check in for our tour. We got the lowdown on our trek and prepped our stuff. We would leave in about 2 hours from there to start the journey.

The time came, we loaded our stuff in a Toyota Land Cruiser and our group of 15 people took off in three different cars and headed toward our first stop on the trek, an abandoned train graveyard. We got there to find a long line of old trains that looked like they had not been used in a long time. They were covered in graffiti and showed their age by the distinctive layer of rust that covered them all. We took some photos and then got back in the Land Cruisers to make our way towards our lunch spot. We got there and our guides had prepared a simple chicken, vegetable, and pasta lunch for us. I was hungry from all the traveling and it hit the spot. We hung around a little bit, got a tour of a building where they break down the Salt, bag it, and sell it. We got to encounter a few locals, including a little boy and girl who were the keepers of the roadside bathroom. We got back in the Land Cruisers and started our way to the Salt Flats. I started to get more excited, knowing it would not be long before we would reach the Salt Flats.

The drive was about an hour, and we went from dirt roads, surrounded by mountains to slowly getting more and more on to the Salt Flats, as the mountains slowly got further away in the background. The more we drove the more dominant the Salt Flats got and eventually it looked as if we were driving on a frozen pond. It was an amazing site, and as I looked in every direction all I could see for miles and miles was Salt Flats. We continued driving and eventually got to our first stop. This was a chance to get out and just walk on the salt flats, take some awesome perspective photos and see the ground up close. We did a cool video of our group walking in and out of a Pringles can. We continued and got to the one hotel/restaurant that is in the middle of the flats. There was a cool statue there for the big race that occurred there and a large display of flags from all over the world. We were there for a bit and then it was time to make our way towards the reflection part of the flats and as a photo guy, I couldn’t wait. We drove a little more and eventually started to see the ground showing more and more reflection. I was happy to see this, as it is not always there. We got out and did some more photo ops. It was beautiful and I was amazed at how beautiful the reflections were. After a little bit of time there, we were on our way to our next stop.

We drove for a while after the reflections and headed toward a crazy small mountain area in the middle of the flats. We could see it on the horizon as we approached and it was amazing that in this gigantic area of just white salt flats was a small mountainous area, completely covered in Cacti. We got out, and did a nice hike to the top of the range, taking in the scenery, and marveling at the fact that something like this could exist in the middle of the flats. By this time, the day had gone by and it was time to start heading towards the spot where we would watch sunset. We drove another 20 minutes or so and came to a spot where we could watch the sunset. It was a beautiful sunset, and the way the light hit the salt flats and revealed its distinct texture was a sight I will always remember.

Once the sun was down, it was time to head to our resting spot for the night. We drove about 45 minutes, to the hostel we would be staying at. During our drive to this place, there were some heavy areas where the water had built up and it was as if we were driving in a small lake. We made it through all that, and got to our place. The place was nice for being in the middle of nowhere. We got settled, had a nice meal, drank some wine, talked about the day with the people in our group. We had to be up early, and headed to our room that had a gravel floor, and got a good night of sleep.

The next morning, we got up, had some breakfast and then loaded up the Land Cruisers and were on our way for 2 day which was to explore the beautiful land that surrounds the Salt Flats. This would consist of snow capped mountains, deserts, red lagoons, flamingos, hot springs, volcanic areas, and so many other beautiful landscapes. We would drive, stop, drive and stop, each time the terrain was a little different. We got a flat tire along the way and sat and looked a beautiful valley while our guides changed the tire. We spent our lunch sitting on the side of the road eating a great meal overlooking a large lake that had flamingos in it while snow capped mountains served as our backdrop. We drove on, finding ourselves at the Red Lagoon next. I had never seen anything like it, except on my computer as it served as one of the default pictures on my MacBook. It was windy and chilly, and we looked out into the lagoon, watching the flamingos and their funny walk make their way through the water. We got back in the Land Cruisers and headed towards our next stop an active geyser. We got to the geyser, and steam and smoke filled the air, like a rock concert. You could smell the sulfur, and the grey sludge around us was bubbling like something out of a movie. It was an amazing site and makes you wonder about how much is happening underneath Earth’s surface.

The next stop was our hostel for the night. We were told this one was not going to be nice. It wasn't too bad, and we had our typical meal, settled in our rooms, and then made our way to the hot springs that were located about a quarter mile from the hostel. The night air was cold and brisk and the idea of a hot spring sounded lovely. I braved the extremely chilly walk to the spring in only my bathing suit, a shirt and flip flops. I got there, took of my shirt, and flip flops, and made my way to the warm waters. It felt so good. Everyone staying in the surrounding hostels were there, and it was an eclectic mix of accents of people from around the world. The night sky was clear as could be and you could see every single star imaginable. We stayed in there a bit and then made our way back to fall asleep and rest up for the final day.

The morning came and it was time to load up and get on the road back to Uyuni. This would be a long day of driving. We got on our way and stopped in what is called the Dali desert. This is a beautiful area that is said to have influenced some of Salvador Dali's work. We then continued, making a few stops along the way including a lunch stop in a small town that was followed by a walk to a lagoon. We arrived back in Uyuni, said our goodbyes to our guides and walked through the city of Uyuni a little bit. We stumbled upon a pizza joint that was owned by an American from Boston. We got some pies, enjoyed the company of our group and then headed to the small airport. We got on the small plane, for the short flight and made our way back to La Paz. We were greeted at the airport by our hotel transportation and headed there. The next two days in La Paz were for us to explore and explore we did.

La Paz Day 1

The first day in La Paz consisted of catching up on some sleep, having some breakfast, and scheduling an afternoon Walking Tour that would take us to some unique parts of the city. The walking tour met at a restaurant at 2:30PM and would be about 4 hours long. The tour started by us hopping in a mini bus to our first destination. I had seen these mini buses in South America before but was never sure exactly what they were. They are independently owned and operated and each one has a route that they stick to. You can hop on at any point and get off at any point and it is a flat rate, that is very inexpensive. This is how a lot of locals get around and it was cool to experience one and understand how it works. Our first stop was the National Cemetery. This cemetery is in the heart of the city and is where over 200,000 people are laid to rest. The layout is not what you commonly think of a cemetery where people are buried in the ground. Here, the people are stacked in cement mausoleums and the grave sites go up and down and horizontally. The families decorate the graves with mementos that remind them of the person, and colorful flowers. Local artists paint artwork on the walls, and it makes for a truly beautiful place. Our guide said that Bolivians see death differently and try to focus on the celebration of life instead of the mourning of death. He also mentioned that people can take bodies from the cemetery, and put them in their home. They dress them up and it is said to be a way to protect their house. They do this when people stop paying to be in the cemetery. It was unique and a tradition I had never heard of before. Our next stop on the tour was to get on to the Telefrico and take it to another neighborhood in La Paz. The telefrico is a cable car system that is like the subway and people use it to get from spot to spot around town. It is a way for the people who live high up in the city to get home. It is well designed and they are doing more to create more lines to get a lot of different places in the city. The ride we took was to a part of town called El Alta. This is a part of La Paz that overlooks the city. It is home to a huge market that is over 400 blocks long, and is also home to where would go next, the witch market. The Bolivians are very superstitious people and believe in a lot of different things. The Witch Market area of the city is where people go to get things to help them with different aspects of life. This is also an area where you can get your fortune told. I did not get my fortune told, but my girlfriend did, and she was told she was going to die in two years. The fortune teller was quick to add that he could reverse the curse by sacrificing a small llama and performing another ritual for a price. She declined and will take her chances that he was wrong. The witch market was unlike anything I have ever seen and consisted of all sorts of the things that the Bolivians believe help take care of evil spirits and other things. After the witch market, we hopped on another mini bus and made our way back to where we started. We said goodbye to our guide and another couple we had met on our tour asked if we would like to get a drink, and we said yes. We sat down and had a couple drinks and talked about a lot of different things. They were currently on a sabbatical and traveling for a while. They were very nice and we were happy to have met them, and hoped our paths would cross again. The day was over and it was time to get home and rest up as the next day was going to consist of a bike ride down what was called "The Death Road"

The Death Road

The Death Road, you hear that name and you don't think it is something you want to do, but you only live once right? The Death Road is a 40-mile trek that takes you down one of the smallest roads in the world on a mountain bike. You start at 15,260 feet and by the end you are down to 3,900 feet. It is hard, challenging and scary. I was hesitant to do it, but luckily was traveling with someone quite adventurous and whose excitement to do it brushed off on me. The day started by meeting at a restaurant at 7AM. We met our guides, and loaded up on a bus for an hour and a half trip to where we would start. One of the guys from our Salt Trip adventure was also in La Paz and tagged along with us as well. The whole time, the guide did a great job of explaining all that we would be doing and assuring us that all will be well if we stick to what he says. The more he talked, the more fear crept in and the more I wondered if I would die. I had never done mountain biking before and to do my first time in such an extreme manner seemed to to be a little crazy, but I found myself saying the phrase that I had said multiple times before on Remote Year, why not. We got to our starting point, got our gear on, and were given our bikes. We went through all the safety things again. The key thing to remember when doing this was which brake was your front and which was your rear. They specifically instructed us to use the rear break and front brake together. If you use one instead of the other, you run the chance of skidding out, or going over th front of the bike. It was recommended to use 50% on both brakes. It took some practice and memorization to get the brakes down. We then started the trek by doing a Bolivian tradition made up of a drink of theirs, which is ultimately pure alcohol. The first step is to take a shot of it, then you pour some on your bike and then you pour some on the ground to show your respect to Mother Earth or Pacha Mama as the Bolivians refer to her as. We got on our bikes and started. The first 15 miles of the trek are on a concrete road. You are going downhill, going fast, all while traffic is passing you both ways. This part was the scariest to me, and unfortunately early on, someone in our group lost control of their bike and broke their arm. Once we completed the concrete part, it was time to start the actual death road. The death road is 10 feet wide and consists of mostly rocky road. We started this part of the trek and it was indeed scary, and some points you look over the edge and just see the steep side of the cliff. I went a little heavy on the brakes, to make sure I didn't get going to fast and lose control. We stopped several times along the way to make sure everyone was ok, and of course take pictures. As we continued, I got more and more comfortable and found myself enjoying the thrill of riding down the Death Road. Luckily, no one else got hurt and we completed the whole entire trek. The end of the trek took us to a hotel at the bottom and we had celebratory beverages, and ate a nice meal. Once we did all that, we hopped on our bus for the long three-hour trek home. I was exhausted from the full day, but was so happy to have been able to do it. I slept good that night, and the next day, we would head to the airport to make our way back to Argentina to meet back up with our Remote Year family, the world had other plans though.

Travel to Argentina

Due to being too tired from the Death Road the day before, we never checked our flight to make sure everything was good. Well it turns out, things weren't ok, as there was a transportation strike in Argentina and our flight was cancelled. We didn't realize this until we went to check in. Luckily, we both can understand a basic amount of Spanish and the lady at the desk that spoke all Spanish to us, was able to explain our options to us. At first, she was just trying to brush us off and get us to Buenos Aires, and then was going to make us figure out our own way to Córdoba. Luckily, we asked several questions, and talked through it and she could eventually get us on flights to Córdoba, but not without stopping in Santiago, Chile first. We would fly to Santiago first and then would not be able to get a flight to Buenos Aires until the next morning, and then from there we would get a flight to Córdoba. Luckily, both of us are calm, and we could make the best of it all. We got to Santiago, got a room at the Holiday Inn right outside the airport, so we were going to be good to when we needed to be at the airport at 2AM for our 430AM flight to Buenos Aires. It all worked out, and we got to Córdoba, just a day late. This concluded this side trip to Bolivia. It was an amazing adventure filled with so many amazing experiences and memories that will stay with me forever. If you ever get the chance to get to Bolivia, especially the Salt Flats, I highly recommend it. If you would like to see some more pictures from my time in Bolivia. Please click the image below. Thanks for reading!

Machu Picchu & Inca Trail

The setting for Month 10 of Remote Year was Lima, Peru and when in Peru, you drink Pisco Sours and go to Machu Picchu, right? The answer is Yes and in the middle of my time in Lima a group of me and my travel mates got on a flight to Cusco, Peru where we would embark on a 4 Day 3 Night trek on the Inca Trail. Here is the story of our Inca Trail journey! We used a company called Alpaca Expeditions for our hike. They were awesome and did a great job. I highly recommend them if you are looking to hike the Inca Trail. 

Cusco

Cusco is the city you fly into to get to Machu Picchu. It is a classic South American town equipped with a square in the city center surrounded by huge churches. We got to Cusco two days before our start of our hike to get acclimated to the elevation. The elevation of Cusco is 11,152 feet, which is the highest I have been at it in my life. Upon arrival, you could feel the elevation, and it was going to take some getting used to. Cusco is a cool city, we stayed in an AirBnB that overlooked the city square and a school that seemed to have recess ALL day. During our time there, we hung out, ate, and just rested up for the trek we were going to embark on. The night before we were scheduled to leave the company we were using had an orientation that would go over the trip and give us a rundown of the 4 days on the Inca Trail. We went through the information and found out that the next morning we would need to be in the city center at 4AM to get on our shuttle. We got back to our AirBnB, packed and tried to get a few hours of sleep in before that 3:30AM wake up call.

Inca Trail - Day 1

4AM came quick and we loaded up our gear into a bus and headed towards the trailhead. The bus ride was about an hour and half away. Upon arrival to the trail head, which is known as Km 82 we found our group of porters (more on them later) setting up and loading all the gear. We were prepared a simple breakfast, got our bags sorted out and then made our way to the entrance. You must have a permit to get on the trail, which must be purchased quite a bit in advance, you also must show your passport to prove your identity. Once we got through that process, we were on our way. Our total time hiking for Day 1 was going to be about 6.5 hours. Our starting elevation was 8923 feet and we would be hiking up to 10,829 feet by the end of the day. The start of the hike was mostly flat and easy. We passed through small villages and soaked in all the beautiful sites around us. A little way in we stopped at our first Inca ruin which was called Llactapata. This was cool to see and was a great taste of the sites to come in the next few days. After spending some time at the ruin, we were back on the trail and shortly after that stopped for lunch. This would be our first prepared meal of the trip and to be honest I didn’t really have any expectations for the food on the trip. As we sat down and the food started coming out, I was taken back by the spread that was laid out before me. We have chicken ceviche, fresh vegetables, and rice. The first meal was amazing, and was a great taste of what was to come. After lunch, we had about 2 hours until we reached our campsite for the night. The hike was beautiful, not too difficult and just as the sun started to go down, we made it to our home for the night. The porters had our tents set up and we settled in. The night consisted of spending a bit of time being introduced to our porters, having tea, drinking coffee, playing cards and ending with a nice big meal before we got in our tents for the night. Our wakeup call the next morning was 5AM and Day 2 was going to be the longest and most challenging day of the trek.

The Porters

I have mentioned the porters a few times in my Day 1 summary. The porters the men responsible for hauling all the gear from spot to spot on the trail. They are a crucial part of this trek and we had a group of 22 men with us. The porters carry 50 pounds of gear on their back and go up and down the same trail we do. It is an amazing site to see, and I have a large amount of respect for them and all the work they do. These men are local to the area and were of Quechua decent, which is an indigenous group to the area. The language they spoke was Quechuan, which was completely different from Spanish. These men were local farmers and the job of Porter was a way they supported their family. Their main drink for energy was Chicha. This was a fermented drink that was a corn based beverage.  One night one, our trek leader introduced each porter to our group. The porters have different jobs, some help with the cooking, one is responsible for setting up and taking down the toilet, and others focus on setting up all the tents. My hat goes off to them and I can’t thank them enough for all they did for us to make this trek such a memorable experience.

Inca Trail - Day 2

The hard day it was called. They warned us about this day several times. It was going to be the day in which we would be at 10,829 feet and climb to 13,779 feet, then we would go back down to 11,700 feet, and climb back up to 13,123 feet, and then back down to 11,800 feet to our campsite for the night. Even knowing this day was going to be hard, you really have no idea what to expect from it, and all I can say is that it was hard. I wish I could say I didn’t struggle, but unfortunately that was not the case. The altitude and the steepness made for some tough moments. The first part of the day was the hardest, and quite frankly, by the time we reached our highest point, I was exhausted, but with 4 hours down and 6 to go, there was no other option but to keep going. One thing that has always helped me during strenuous physical activities is music. Luckily, I had headphones with me and a playlist that I could go to for an extra boost. It is amazing the power music can have on your psyche. With the sound of music blasting in my ears, I made it through the challenging part, and after 6 hours total, we made it to our lunch spot. We were served another amazing meal, rested up for a bit and then were on our way to the last 4 hours of the day. The second part of Day 2 was challenging as well, but we got to see some amazing sites and before we knew it, we were at our campsite for the night. We were all exhausted from the day, and enjoyed a nice meal, played some cards and relaxed. As our guide was explaining to us our plan for Day 3, he mentioned that if you hear any noises in the middle of the night to just ignore them. He seemed casual about it, and then tried to move on to another topic. We are a curious group and couldn’t help but ask what kinds of noises we may be hearing. He said, you know animals, and stuff and was acting weird. We pressured him a bit and asked him to tell us more. It turns out, the area our campsite has a little bit of history of ghosts and he proceeded to tell us a story of a guide who was sleeping in a tent by himself and was somehow dragged out of his tent in the middle of the night. As it turned out, I was the one who was going to be in a tent by myself that night and although I am not particularly a believer in ghosts, it was in my head. The dinner wrapped up and we played some cards and it was time to go to bed. I got into my tent, laid down, put my headphones in and proceeded to try and get some sleep. It was a long day and I was tired, so I didn’t think I would have a hard time falling asleep. This was true, and at some point, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by a strange noise coming from outside. It was an animal of some sort, and you could tell it was moving because the sound was coming from a different spot every time. I couldn’t tell you what the animal was, or what it was doing, but it eventually stopped, and silence fell upon me once again. I had trouble sleeping, and fell in and out of sleep a few times, as the thoughts of ghosts and strange animals danced in my head. The next morning came and I was still in my tent and the number of ghost sightings in my life stayed at 0. It was time for Day 3, which was our easy day.

Soundtrack to the Hard Day

Inca Trail - Day 3

5:30AM came quickly and Day 3 was upon us. Day 3 was labeled the “Easy Day” and we would be spending most of the day going downhill. We started at 12,073 feet and would be going down to 8,792 feet. Obviously, going downhill is easier than going uphill to a certain extent. Downhill can be tough, especially when you don’t have the most ideal shoes on, and it is a tad bit slippery. The day was easy indeed, but proved to be a challenge for me and my slick bottom shoes. The day was great, and was going to be our shortest day, only 5 hours. We continued the hike and saw some beautiful sites along the way including more ruins and llamas. We came to a stopping point on the hike and our guide gave us a run-down of how the people of the land use the leaves of the trees as arrows for hunting. He then gave us a demonstration and showed us how to do it ourselves. After the five hours of hiking, we made it to our camp. The camp was great, and was near a large ruin known as Wiñay Wayna. After we got settled in the camp, and hung out for a bit, we made the 10-minute trek to the ruins. This was an amazing ruin and was huge. We were lucky to get a break in the clouds and get some sunshine and even a rainbow. The view of the Andes mountains was breathtaking. Since we were close to camp, we could take our time at this site and explore it. We did that and spent a couple hours there. We hiked to a nearby waterfall, and then sat and watched the beautiful sky against the mountains as the sunset around us. It was a relaxing and beautiful spot. Night 3 would be our last night together, and our final dinner on the trek. Our chef managed to make a cake and we had another delicious meal, and enjoyed our time together. At the close of the night, we would gather around all the porters, and present them with our gift to them, our tips. One of the guys in our group who gained the nickname of Moses due to his long beard, created the 10 commandments of hiking the Inca Trail. He would state one, and our guide would translate it to the porters. A few of them, got some smiles, and some you could tell they didn’t understand. At the closing, we shook hands, hugged, and said our thanks. It was a great way to end the day, and once again, I can’t express my gratitude enough for the porters.

Inca Trail - Day 4

Day 4, the final day and the day when we would reach Machu Picchu. Day 4 came with the earliest wakeup call of the trek. We were told we needed to leave camp at 3:30AM. 3:30AM? Yes, that early. Why do you ask? Well, apparently, the gates for Machu Picchu open at 5:30AM and to be the first ones in and beat the traffic, you must get to the front of the line. The starting point was a short walk from our camp, so we left at 330AM and were the third group to make it there. We sat down on a bench over a canopy and then watched as people upon people started showing up. It started raining and everyone was trying to get under the canopy and it was quite the scene. I ate some food, chatted with my friends, and just relaxed. Before I knew, 5:30AM was upon us and it was time to start. The whole focus of the morning and getting there early was to get to the Sun Gate and watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. We rushed out the gate and it felt like we were going at a running pace. It was crazy. The time to get to the Sun Gate was about 45 mins. We made it, and unfortunately, like a lot of our trek, it was cloudy and foggy and we couldn’t see much. After that, it was another hour to Machu Picchu. We made the trek and made our way to the infamous spot at Machu Picchu where you see everyone get their photo taken. Unfortunately, the clouds and fog were still lingering and we couldn’t see much. We headed down to the entrance and found a café to sit at and have a celebratory beverage and wait to see if the rain would stop and the clouds would break. We sat around for about an hour and a half. It appeared to stop raining and we decided it was time to start our tour of Machu Picchu. Our guides lead us in and started giving us a talk about Machu Picchu. To be right in the mix of it and hearing the stories was amazing to think about all the history that took place in the very spot we were sitting. After we walked around a little bit, the time had come for a group of us who elected to hike Huayna Picchu to head that way and start that. Huayna Picchu is the infamous mountain you see in a lot of pictures of Machu Picchu. I wasn’t sure what I would be getting into with this hike, and after trekking for four days, this would end up being the most challenging part of the trip. My legs were tired, the hike was challenging, and my energy level was low. However, when faced with a challenge, you must pull through. I got separated from the group and was on my own. As I started up, I got to the first steep part, and found a man throwing up in the middle of the trail. As I continued up, it kept getting more and more challenging and narrow. At one point, I came to a very thin part of stairs and found myself on my hands and knees climbing up. After a little bit longer, I was on the top. The view was amazing, and couldn’t help but stop and take in the beauty that surrounded me. My friends were on top, taking pictures, and enjoying the view as well. As hard as it was, I could not have asked for a more memorable way to end an amazing adventure. Once we got down and spent a little more time walking around the ruins of Machu Picchu, it was time to leave the ruins. We hopped on a shuttle which would take us to the town of Aguas Callientes. Here, we would have lunch, and then board our train back to around where we started. The train ride was beautiful as we moved throughout the mountains. We played cards, drank some celebratory beverages and laughed about the memories of the trek. We then came back to around where we started and hopped on our shuttle to take us back to Cusco. The shuttle ride was peaceful and it seemed as if everyone was tired and reflecting on what we had just gone through together.  Our bond with our guides was strong, they were awesome, and the phrase Green Machine and Champions was a regular chant of ours. We yelled those chants a couple more times and then said our goodbyes and went our own ways. We made it back to our AirBnB, showered for the first time in a few days, and headed out to a group dinner. We laughed and talked about the trek and the night ended. The next day, we got up and headed back to Lima. This was one of my favorite side trips of my Remote Year journey. The group of guys that I went with were awesome, and we all shared an experience that I know will stay with us for our whole lives. Green Machine for life.

If you would like to see some more photos from the trek, check out the gallery below, thanks for reading!

Lima

Month Number 10 - Lima, Peru

The first double digit month of Remote Year was month 10 in Lima, Peru. Lima is the capital of Peru, and sits on the Pacific Coast of Peru. Although it is on the water, the beaches are not sandy, but consist of rocks instead of sand. Our neighborhood in Lima was called Miraflores, which is the touristy area of the town. I lived in a big building right in the heart of the city. I enjoyed my time in Lima, and below are some of the highlights from the month there.

Pisco Tour

Pisco is a brandy like drink that is produced in the winemaking regions of Peru. The infamous drink you have probably heard of is a Pisco Sour. One Saturday our group took a tour out to the countryside and toured a Pisco factory and learned all about the process. It is a unique tasting drink on its own, and I decided I prefer it in a Pisco Sour. It was cool to see how it is made and the process that goes into making the drink that is infamous in Peru.

Slack Lining

Another one of our events this month was slack lining by the ocean. This was cool and was something I had never done before. Our instructor was awesome and tied up the slack line between two trees and gave us the low down on how to Slack Line. It is quite hard and was fun to watch everyone in the group give it a try. I need more practice.

Central Restaurant

One of my favorite experiences in Lima was going to a restaurant called Central. Central is the #4 restaurant in the world! I am sure I have not eaten at a restaurant that is in the top 10,000, so this was a big deal indeed. The concept of the restaurant is to take you on a journey through the different regions and altitudes of Peru. We did a tasting menu that consisted of 11 courses. Each course represented a different altitude and region of Peru. You start at the bottom, sea level and work your way up. Each dish was unlike anything I have ever tasted before. The flavors and presentation of the items were incredible. There is a great episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix that showcases the restaurant and the owner. The tasting menu accompanied by various wines was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if you are in Lima and want to have a truly unique dining experience, you should go to Central.

Day Trip to Pucusana

One of our weekend events in Lima was to take a trip out to the fisherman’s town of Pucusana. This was about an hour or so outside of Lima. From there, we got into a Peque Peque which is a traditional fisherman’s boat. We took the boat out to ocean where we went off the coast about 100 yards. From there we saw Sea Lions, Pelicans, and all sorts of other birds. We anchored down and spent the afternoon swimming, hanging out, and fishing the old-fashioned way, with just a string and a hook. I caught 2 fish! After we were done, we headed back to the harbor where we had a fresh Ceviche lunch which was delicious. It was an awesome event and a cool way to see a different part of Lima.

Walking Around Lima

Lima is a big city. There is some beautiful scenery there. One of my favorite things was to watch the sunset by the Lighthouse. Each night the sunset was beautiful and it was great to see sunsets on the water again. Near the Lighthouse is a cool park where there is a lot of grassy areas, and a famous sculpture called El Beso which translates to the kiss. This is in El Parque Del Amor near the coast in Lima. The neighborhood of Barranco is another cool place to hang out. There is a square, restaurants, and a lot of awesome street art. The historic district of Lima is also another part of town that has several cool buildings and sits near the river. In any of these areas you can find a Pisco Sour, or Chifa (Peruvian Chinese Food). Lima is a cool city, it is very loud, as people are constantly honking their horns, and the traffic is crazy. I enjoyed the activities in Lima, and liked being close to the water. One of my favorite memories from the month was heading to Machu Picchu. This trip was quite the adventure and will get a blog post of its own.

Thank you for reading, if you would like to see more pictures from Lima, check out my Lima gallery below!

Medellín

Medellín was an amazing, busy, and exciting month for me. I did a wide variety of activities, and got to explore several different places outside of Medellín while doing some cool stuff within the city as well. On this post, I am going to highlight all the exciting things I did while in Medellín for 5 weeks

Week 1

The first week consisted of the usual activities we do when getting to a new city. This typically consists of exploring, eating, getting unpacked, and working, Medellín was no exception. Our welcome event was at a local restaurant/bar. We were entertained by a traditional Colombian quartet. After the event, a group of our Remotes hosted a roast of two Remotes who were leaving our group, the results were several funny jokes and a lot of laughs, it was a great event. The first week we had a Tienda Crawl, which consisted of visiting two different Tiendas, where locals hang out and drink and eat. We got a feel for what a local typically does on a weekend night. The end of the Tienda crawl took us to a beer festival where we found a great band and finished the night with some live music. The first week also consisted of venturing to a different part of the city, where it is less touristy. A travel mate of mine and I headed south of Medellín via metro and grabbed a nice local meal and walked around to try and get the local feel. The first week went by fast and was over before I knew it.

Cartagena

I love the water and the beach. Being in Medellín, we were a 45-minute flight from the coast of Colombia. If I am going to work from anywhere, why not work from a beach. I met my girlfriend there and we got ourselves a nice AirBnB by the water. Cartagena is a great city, there is a great historic wall in the city center, and is full of history. We walked around the city, the night life is vibrant, the streets are full of dancers, vendors and musicians. The food is amazing, and the sunsets are beautiful. The beaches are ok, they were not my favorite, but still being near the water was a great feeling. We found ourselves eating fresh seafood each night, including a spot that the infamous Anthony Bourdainand featured on his show.

To change things up a little, we decided when we were there, to check out a beach house that a few people in our group had been to. The name of the place was Blue Apple Beach house. The Beach House is a 30-minute boat ride from Cartagena and is small boutique hotel with only 6 rooms, a pool that faces the ocean, and a full restaurant and bar. We arrived in the afternoon and worked while we ate a lunch. Once done with work, we relaxed by the pool, swam, and took in the easy-going atmosphere. When it was time for sunset, we walked down to the beach and enjoyed the sun setting on the Caribbean Sea. The room we stayed in had a patio with a hammock, a nice large bed, and the bathroom/shower was located outside. At night, we walked the short distance to the restaurant and had a great dinner accompanied by a beautiful ocean breeze. It was peaceful, and the sounds of the ocean sang us to sleep. The next day, we hung out at the beach house, and relaxed by the pool, until it was time to catch our boat back to Cartagena. We arrived back to Cartagena in time to for sunset, and spent our Saturday night watching the sunset, eating a nice dinner, and taking in the hustle and bustle of Cartagena one last time. The next day we checked out, and flew the short flight back to Medellín.

Colombian Fruit Tasting

One of the cool things about Remote Year is that we have Track Events. Prior to getting to a city, you pick a track, which consists of different activities focusing on a theme. This gives us an opportunity to learn about local culture in a variety of ways. One of my favorite track events in Medellín was one about the fruits of Colombia. When we were in Bogotá I was mesmerized when walking through the market at all the fruits I didn’t recognize. This event gave me a chance to see and try all those fruits I had seen prior. Some of them were good, some not so good. It was great to try these and have a better understanding of the fruits of Colombia. I will miss not being able to get some of these when I am back in the United States.

Finca Fest

 What do you do on a Saturday in Colombia? You get a finca, and have a party. What is a finca you ask? Finca translates to estate from Spanish to English. It is a piece of land in a rural area that consists of a building that is near a plantation or woodland. Our group knows how to throw a party, and this was no exception. Our group got together, and showcased all the talented people traveling with us. The finca had a pool, and a large grass area. We had live music, stand-up comedy, and DJ music. A group of guys in our group put together a band and rocked the house. They called themselves the Con Mucho Gustos, and my buddy Sean got his hands on an electric guitar and rocked out. The other guys killed it as well. If they ever make it big, I hope they will consider me to be their go to Photojournalist. our resident DJ did what he does best and played some dance hits. We also saw the debut DJ Tube Top which was two girls in our group Dj'ing from a playlist. They crushed it as well. As far as I know the finca was still there when we left, so that is good. It was a blast and a great all day fest with our group and then some.

Paragliding

 The Sunday after Finca Fest, I got a message on my phone that someone in a group that was going Paragliding had backed out and a spot was open. I was bummed when I didn’t get in the group earlier in the week, so I was happy to see this message pop up. I had never gone paragliding and was happy to be able to have the chance to do it. We met up and headed to the mountains about 45 minutes outside of Medellín. We hiked up a hill and got to an area where there was a huge grass area where you could see people running and taking off into the sky and floating via parachute over Medellín. We waited a little bit and then the time came for my turn. I walked up to the hill, got strapped on to another guy, and the next thing I know we are running towards the edge of the hill. We kept running until suddenly I was running through air, my feet weren’t touching the ground, and we were off. My stomach sank a little and I was filled with the sensation as if I was floating. The glide lasted 20 minutes and we floated above the mountains and you could look down and see Medellín below. It was amazing. I had gone skydiving before, and paragliding feels a lot like the parachuting aspect of skydiving. All you hear is the sound of the wind, and it is extremely peaceful. We made our way back to landing zone, and had a gentle touch down. It was such a great experience and I felt so lucky to have been able to do it.

Jardin

Myself and two other remotes embarked on a road trip south of Medellín. We rented a car. Renting a car in Colombia is quite the experience. There is a ton of forms to fill out, and I thought they were going to ask for a blood and urine sample, but luckily, they didn’t. Luckily my travelmates handled all of that, I just volunteered to do the easy part, the driving. Once we got the car, we were on our way and I found myself behind the wheel on the crazy streets of Medellín. As the journey started, the car seemed to not have much power, even by pushing the pedal all the way to the floor. It was a tiny car, and I assumed that was the reason. At one point, I look to the emergency break section of the car, and ask my fellow passengers if the emergency break was engaged. As it turns out, it was pulled half way, we took it off and were on our way, with a little bit more power to our tiny little car. Our first stop was the city of Jardin. Jardin is a small city, surrounded by mountains, and like most time South American cities has a town square located in the center. We stayed at a cool chalet on the edge of town. We walked around the town, took a cable car up to one of the mountains, hiked down the mountain, and then sat in the square and watched the town come to life as the sun started to set. As we were sitting in the square, we were near a church. Inside the church, a funeral was taking place. The church was filled with people honoring the life of the person inside. Outside the church a group of children were playing soccer. I could not help but notice the symbolism in front of me. It was an alpha/omega type moment of life. The children representing the beginning and the funeral representing the end. After sitting in the square, we enjoyed a nice dinner while a rain storm moved in, we then walked back to our chalet. My bedroom had a large door that opened to the greenery outside, and I opened the doors falling asleep with a cool breeze, and being serenaded by crickets. The next morning, we woke up, grabbed some breakfast and were on our way to our next stop.

Salento

Our next stop was the city of Salento which was going to be a 5-hour drive from Jardin. We got on the road, and made our way through the twists and turns we encountered on the highways of Colombia. On the way to Salento, we were driving through the countryside and came across a peacock sitting in a tree over the center of the road. Our drive took us through the city of Pereira around rush hour, and as the driver I got a taste of driving in South America, in a big city during traffic. Once through Pereira we made it to Salento, and made it to our AirBnB which was located on the outskirts of Salento. The path to our place was a rocky road. We found the place and pulled in to find the great house that we would be staying at for the next two days. The house was located on the top of a hill, and was owned by a French gentleman who retired to the Colombian countryside. It was a beautiful spot, surrounded by animals, and we had a great view of Salento. We worked from the outside patio and watched the sunset. Our first night we headed into town and found a restaurant to grab a bite. The food was good, but we were entertained by a girl singing and a guy playing the guitar. The girls voice was spectacular. She was singing all the hits, and it was nice to sit and enjoy live music. The night ended, and we headed back to our place. The next day, we woke up and our host had a nice breakfast prepared for us while we sat on the patio, did some work, enjoyed breakfast and listened to the rain. Our plan for the day was to do a hike, and once the rain stopped we headed towards the Palm Tree Valley. The hike deserves its own section, so see below for more on that. We woke up the next day, enjoyed some breakfast, worked a little, and then headed to a coffee plantation tour before we headed out of Salento. The coffee plantation tour was a bust, and the guide talked too much, and we learned a little bit, and we had to cut it short and make our way back to Medellín. There is a lot of things to do in Salento, and I could see myself going back there again someday.

Valle De Cocora

On our 2nd day in Salento, we made our way to Valle De Cocora which translates to Palm Tree Valley. This is a valley that is home to a large amount of Quindío Wax Palm Trees. It is a mountainous range, and there are a couple hikes to explore the valley. There are two options when hiking the valley. There is a 2-hour hike and a 5-hour hike. We got there later in the day due to the rain and didn’t think we would be able to get the 5-hour hike in. We started the 2-hour hike, and ended up just going and going and kind of by accident ended up on the 5 hour hike. It was a gorgeous hike, filled with water, beautiful palms, and a hummingbird sanctuary. It was a challenging hike and at the end, we were tired, but glad we could do the long hike as we got to see a lot more than we would have on the 2-hour hike. It is a beautiful area and I highly recommend it.

Walking Tour Medellín

There is a great walking tour in Medellín. The tour is 4 hours in length and takes you through the parts of the city that you don’t normally see. It was a great way to hear about the history of Medellín and how the city has transformed so much from all the things that have gone on there. The city is an interesting place, and living in the touristy part of it, we didn’t get to see it all and this tour allowed that to happen. Walking tours have been a great way to see cities and get information that you don’t usually hear in all the cities I have been to and I highly recommend them if you visit a new city.

Guatapé

About an hour and a half outside of Medellín is a city called Guatapé. Guatapé is home to El Peñon de Guatapé. This a cool attraction to do when in Medellín and to do this we went with a company called Van Por Colombia https://vanporcolombia.jimdo.com This company picks you up in an old-school van, and takes you on a journey to Guatapé. The first stop is to the owner’s farm house in the countryside where you enjoy a nice breakfast and jump on his trampoline. He then takes the crew back towards Guatapé. The group we had was made up of two vans and a group of people loaded up on the roof of the front van for the ride through the countryside until we got to the main road. Once we got to the main road, we drove for a little bit until we came to a bridge. The van pulled off to the side and proceeded to let us know we could jump off the bridge and swim for a while. We did that and it was awesome. I jumped off cliffs in Croatia and this was similar, but still a scary/exciting feeling. After we hung out there for a little bit, we loaded back up in the van and headed toward the rock in Guatapé. Once we got to rock, it was time to get out and conquer the 750ish steps to the top. The rock is 1,263 feet tall, and once at the top, you get some amazing views of the lakes that surround the area. It is beautiful at the top and was cool to see the view from there. While we were making our way to the top of the rock, our host was busy making us a nice meal out of the back of the van. The food was amazing and we sat in the grass and ate the delicious food that was prepared for us. The next stop was the city of Guatapé. Of course, there was a town square with a church and the buildings were bold and bright colors. A lot of the buildings were decorated on the outside with different symbols said to represent something important to the person who occupied the building. After hanging out in the city for an hour or so we made our way back to the Van and started back towards Medellín. On the way back we stopped at a lookout point over the city and saw Medellín from above and it was beautiful. We were then dropped off and our day was done. It was an awesome adventure and if you are going to make your way to Guatapé, I suggest doing it in a van.

Last Week in Medellín

The last week in Medellín was filled with a lot of work, as I put a final push on getting my company's website updated. A few of us have a supper club and we meet up for dinner in each city and we did this during our last week. We checked out a great restaurant called Carmen. We had our farewell event at a restaurant called La Mayoria which served us traditional Colombian food, and at the end of dinner had a horse show in which the horses dance in the restaurant. It was unlike anything I have seen in my life. The next day we had to leave Medellín. On the way to the airport we stopped at a horse farm and got to do some horseback riding before we took off and head to city # 10 Lima, Peru.

9 months down, three more to go, thank you for reading!

Bogotá

Travel Day

On December 31st, 2016, my alarm went off at 3AM to get me up for our 7AM flight from Mexico City to Bogota. I was sad to leave Mexico City as I loved it very much, but was happy to be starting the South American leg of our journey. The travel from CDMX to Colombia was seamless, and we arrived in Bogota the afternoon of 12/31. This would mark our first day in Bogota, our first day in South America and the last day of 2016. Being New Year's Eve, I couldn’t help but reflect on the year. 2016 was a great year with a lot of ups and downs, but all and all was a great year and I was still in awe that I would be ringing in the New Year in Bogota, Colombia. Below you will find my favorite things about my time in Bogota.

New Year's Eve

One of the advantages to being on Remote Year is that the amazing people that work for Remote Year do a helluva job planning events. This was the case for NYE. We knew for a while what our plans were going to be for NYE, which was great. After getting in to Bogota on New Year’s Eve, the last thing you want to worry about is planning something for New Year’s. An event had been planned for us at a place called Andres Carne de Res. This was a gigantic restaurant with live dancing, great food, and it was full of people ringing in the new year. It was about 35-45 minutes away from where we were staying in Bogota. We all met at a park, hopped on some buses and set out for the night. Upon arriving, the place immediately had an energy to it. The décor, the atmosphere, the food, and the music were just pulsing. We got a bunch of different tables, sat down, and were served a variety of Colombian food. There was live dancing, and it seemed like a place that a lot of locals were at. The night was fun, and our group of Remotes rang in 2017 with each other and a bunch of Colombians.

Parque El Virrey

The New Year’s festivities came and went and after catching up on some sleep, I woke up the next day for my first full day in Bogota. When you are on Remote Year, that first full day is always a lot of fun. When you arrive from travel day, you are always tired, sometimes it is night, and you don’t get the whole feel of the area you are staying. The first full day is made for exploring. I stepped outside my apartment and started my wandering. We had met at a park by my apartment to depart for New Year’s and that was my first stop as it looked awesome, but I couldn’t really see it at night. The park was everything I could have imagined and more. It was enormous, and full of life. It had walking paths, running paths, workout areas, tall trees, beautiful green grass, and seemed to be the epicenter for locals to enjoy their free time. I walked through the park for a long time, soaking in the new city and checking out all that it has to offer. This park would become a place I would frequent during my time in Bogota.

Monserrate

Monserrate is a lookout point at the top of Bogota. You take a cable car to the top and get to view the whole entire city. It is beautiful, and the views from up there are spectacular. There are several things to see at the top, a church, several restaurants, and a little market to walk through. There is nothing like being on top of a mountain to look down on a city and see how truly big it is.

Graffiti Tour

There is a ton of street art in Bogota. I wouldn’t say there is as much as Valencia, but it is close. Bogota offers a Street Graffiti tour that goes through the history and showcases the various art that is painted on the city walls. The tour starts in the downtown area and walks through several neighborhoods. There is some amazing work out there, and it was great to hear the stories behind the art and the various messages contained in the art.

Botero Museum

I know I have probably seen Botero’s work at some point in my life, but it wasn’t until I got to Colombia that I feel in love with his unique style. Botero’s style is somewhat simple, but the look is unique. His style is to take his subject and paint them in a round kind of way. Examples are in the pictures below. He is a Colombian artist and the museum is located in downtown Bogota. It is definitely worth the free admission to the museum to check it out. There is also a gift shop in there if you feel inclined to get a tshirt, like I did.

SenderoQuebrada La Vieja Hike

Hiking trails in Colombia are unique. The SenderoQuebrada La trail is one that we did one weekday morning. The reason they are unique is that they are only open in the morning, and you must be down by 9AM. I was told the reasoning for this was due to the amount of robberies they had on the trails. Thieves would wait in the bushes and rob people as they hiked up. They now have police throughout the trail to prevent that from happening, but couldn’t have police there all day, so they stop it at a certain time. It was a fun hike, you go through jungle like terrain, also pine trees, and then have a nice view of Bogota. The view is better on a clear day, it was a tad cloudy when we went. Thank you to Bogota’s finest for keeping us safe.

Volunteering with Tu Sirves

Tu Sirves is an organization in Bogota that organizes various volunteer activities. Remote Year partnered with them to organize a trip to a local prison in which we would visit with prisoners and talk with them. This was such an eye-opening experience. We met at the bus station in the morning and took the bus to the stop closest to the jail. The jail was about an hour bus ride out of town. We got off the bus and we weren't in our normal part of town that we were used to. We were told to make sure not to have anything in our hands, as it would most likely get stolen. Once we arrived at the jail, we had to go through several security measures before we could get in. This involved being searched, having our fingerprints taken, and making sure that all our belongings we brought were left behind. We were accompanied by a staff member at the jail. I have been in prisons before, but I had never been this close to inmates. We walked through, and surprisingly people were friendly and a lot of people said hello. We were then given a tour of the various workshops they have for the inmates to work on stuff. The first stop was the woodworking shop. Several inmates were in there and working on various projects. There were some cool things, and the inmates were proud to be able to show off their work to us. One of the inmates even gave one of us a gift, a wooden car he had made and painted. It was truly amazing to see, and really got my head turning about how the prison system could be different to help inmates become better, and not just be locked away. The next area we visited was the painting area. This was not as busy as the woodshop area, but there were some cool things happening there, and was also where some of the items made in the wood shop were being painted. One of the inmates showed us how he painted flowers, and explained that he just taught himself, by looking at, and reading art books. One interesting tidbit was that the inmates had to get their art supplies from their family. The family would drop the stuff off, and then the inmate would have to buy the stuff for a minimal fee. The inmates were able to sell their art and therefore had a way to make money. It was an interesting approach to say the least. After the painting workshop, we went to the leather/sewing workshop where several inmates were making wallets, purses, and sewing clothes. Once again, it was great to see inmates being able to build and develop skills that could help them in the future if they were to get out of prison. After the tour of the workshops, we made our way to the courtyard where we would meet inmates and spend about 45 minutes talking to them. We were given training before our visit, and went over the exercise that we would be doing with the inmates. The section we were in was the drug section. This was where inmates who were caught with various drug violations were held. There were a variety of ages, races, and nationalities amongst us. We started our time by doing a dance, to break the ice and get everyone comfortable. It was a lot of fun, and helped the inmates become more comfortable. We then broke off into groups, and spent our time talking with each other. It was an amazing experience to be able to understand where they were coming from. The exercise we did was to list people we have hurt, and people who have hurt us. It is an interesting exercise and was good to hear the inmates open up on how the actions that landed them in prison affected others. There was a language barrier at times, but I was still able to pick up on things. The visit ended, we went back to our lives, and they back to theirs. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the visit, but it opened my eyes and my heart to another world that I would have never sought out in my past life. If you are ever in Bogota and are looking for volunteer opportunities, consider Tu Sirves, they are a great group of folks, who love what they do and helping others.

Coffee Tasting

Colombia is known for its coffee, this is no surprise. Being in Colombia allows for you to really understand the process of how coffee is made. I did this by taking part in a coffee tasting. The tasting was hosted by one of only 25 coffee sippers in Colombia. To get to this level, you have to understand coffee and pass a series of tests that take place over the course of a week. Our host had done that and so we were in good hands when it came to learning about coffee. We were taught about the whole entire process, how the plants grow, and how it ends up in your coffee cup in the morning. It is something that I never knew much about, and to hear about how it is all done is truly fascinating to me. We learned the process, then started the tasting aspect. We tried three different types of coffee, while our host gave us all the things to look, taste, and smell for. After that, we then talked about and tried the different ways that coffee can be made. We made coffee in a French Press, an arrow press, a Chemex, and a regular coffee maker. It was amazing to taste the differences. The experience ended with me leaving with a much higher appreciation for the drink that I have most every morning.

Cave Exploring in Suesca

One Saturday, we got on a bus and drove about 2 hours outside of Bogotá to a town called Suesca. This is a tiny town and is home to a bunch of farms, and is surrounded by beautiful trees and hills. We met our guides upon arrival, and they proceeded to take us on walk. We would walk through all sorts of terrain, cross a bridge over a river, and eventually ended up at some caves. Once at the caves, we put on helmets and headlights and started making our way in. It was incredible and challenging. We crawled in and out of caves that in the past were used as prisons. It was hard, claustrophobic, and painful, but ended up being one of my favorite day trips of Remote Year. I made a video to highlight it, you can see what it was like by watching.

Making A Short Film

One Saturday a fellow Remote and I set out on a mission. The mission was to make a video for a Vimeo weekend challenge. We brainstormed ideas and came up with a few different ones. After a little more deliberating, we finalized our plan and made a short film. We didn't win the challenge, but we had a great time making it. Below is the final result of a little Saturday afternoon movie making.

 

Food and Restaurants

Colombian food is interesting. It is a lot of meat, plantains, veggies, and a corn thing called an Arepa. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favorite food country. Bogota has a great food scene and I did my best to discover as much as I could. There are some great restaurants and places to eat in Bogota, and I definitely did my best to check as many places out as possible.

Until Next Time Bogotá

All and all I enjoyed my time in Bogota. It was a challenging month for several different reasons which allowed me to reflect on a lot of things. Another exciting that happened this month was the birth of my nephew Finn. Finn is my first nephew. I have three nieces, so it is nice to have a boy in the mix now. It was hard to be away for this moment. My little brother and I are close and I would have loved to be there for him as he became a father for the first time, but I count the days until I get to meet and hold Finn in person. As for me, I am doing well. The dominant question as time keeps ticking away on Remote Year is “What are you doing after RY?” I don’t have an answer right now. I have a few ideas in mind that will hopefully lead to more clarity soon. Until then, I have so much to accomplish and will keep doing so. Thank you for reading. The next update will be about Medellin, which has a nickname of the “City of Eternal Spring” stay tuned, adios!

CDMX

Oh Mexico!!

Month #7 of Remote Year was spent in Mexico City. Our move from Spain to Mexico City marked our return to North America, and also meant we were now in similar time zones as home, which made so many things much easier. 

Travel Day

Travel Day from Spain to Mexico was easy. Although it was a long day, it went smooth. We left from Valencia, had a layover in Madrid, and from Madrid hopped a red-eye to Mexico City to arrive there bright and early. It was definitely our longest travel day distance and time wise but I thought it was great.

 

Mexico Digs

In Mexico, we were in a neighborhood called Roma Norte. Our apartment was in a great spot and my roommate for the month was my good buddy Sean. We lived right near a park that was home to many dog walkers, and we were about a 7 minute walk to our workspace. The apartment was great, and had one of the best kitchens I had on Remote Year. It also had a great TV set up with cable, which allowed me to watch Sunday Night Football in Spanish.

Workplace

Our workplace for the month was called Publico. It was a great workspace and the location we were at specifically had just recently opened. It had a great rooftop and plenty of great areas to work in. It was close to home, close to great food, and had a nice modern feel to it. It was definitely one of my favorite workspaces on Remote Year. 

Food

Mexico City was my favorite food city in all of Remote Year. Bold statement, yes it is, but it is true. I have had some amazing food on this adventure, don't get me wrong, but the food in Mexico was near and dear to my heart and stomach. Why is that? Well, it is Mexico, my favorite type of food is Mexican food, so maybe that is why, but ultimately there were so many things to like about the food in Mexico. Number one, is the taste. Everything was authentic, fresh, and served with a smile. Number two, is the price. One of my favorite meals that I ate several times due to the proximity of our work space was a place called Los Guisaditos. At Los Guisaditos I could get an order of Chicken Enchiladas, and a drink for 4 dollars. This was not a small individual plate of enchiladas, this was a huge plate of 3 enchiladas that were amazing, and it only cost 3 dollars! This was the case in most places in Mexico City. I could get a great Huevos Rancheros breakfast for 3-4 dollars. The price is right in Mexico City when it comes to food. Reason number 3, is the variety, sure Taco places are everywhere, but each one did it's own thing or had some sort of specialty. I found myself not eating the same places very much, cause there was always something new to try. Reason number 4, the breakfast options were out of this world. I love breakfast food, and Mexico City did not disappoint, I found myself eating several different amazing breakfast places during my time there.  All and all the food in Mexico City is worth the trip alone, and for the prices, you can't help but eat out, as it is cheaper than cooking for yourself most of the time. The food I ate in Mexico City, will stay with me for a long time.

Mexico City

Mexico City is a GIGANTIC city. The metropolitan area of Mexico City has a population of about 21 million people. The neighborhood we lived in did not feel that crowded, but it when you ventured just a few miles away, you could definitely get the sense of how big the city is. There is a ton of parks, museums, stores, and sites to see in Mexico City. The Anthropology Museum was one of my favorite museums I have been to. Mexico City is not as easy on the eyes as the European cities we have been to, but it was different in its own way, and I really liked that. Mexico City is a great place, and I will definitely be back there, and can't recommend it enough.

The People

I have always had a large amount of admiration and respect for the Mexican culture. After spending some time in Mexico City that has been solidified and the people of Mexico will always have a special place in my heart. They are kind, hard-working, generous, and thoughtful people and I am grateful to have been able to spend the amount of time I did there.

A Trip Back to the United States

Being in Mexico was also the closest I would be to the United States since leaving on this journey last year. It also just so happened that one of my life long friends was getting married in New York, which was a wedding I wouldn't miss for the world, so I decided to head back to Arizona for a few days before the wedding to see my family, and then fly to NYC for the wedding festivities. To be honest, it was strange being back in the states after being on this journey for 7 or so months. I have come so accustomed to not being able to speak the language, or not knowing how to get somewhere, and just overall being out of my comfort zone. Coming back to the states for a week, and not having to worry about any of that, definitely seemed weird. It was really good to spend time with my parents, and talk with them. I am close with my parents, they are two people whom I love dearly and I cherish the time we get to spend together. I was able to get out to my favorite golf course in Phoenix, and spend the day with Dad and little brother playing golf, which was exactly what the doctor ordered. I also got to see some friends, eat at some of my favorite AZ places, and enjoy the beauty that is AZ in December. Although it was a very short trip there, it was nice to see people, but was a great reminder of why I needed to leave AZ and set out on this journey to see the world. The next stop on my trip back to the states was NYC. I have only been to NYC twice before, so this would be my third and best trip thus far. There is just something magical about NYC in December, that makes you just feel good inside. My time there was spent catching up with friends, seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, and watching my good friend marry the love of his life in a beautiful ceremony, followed by an amazing reception in the Rainbow Room. One of the other things I was able to do while in NYC was to go to the 9/11 memorial. If you have never been, I can't recommend it enough. It was an amazing tribute to that fateful day, and is a place that I feel every American should visit. My time in the US went by really fast, and before I knew it, I was back on a flight to Mexico City to join back up with my Remote Year family.