A Day In Normandy

D-DAy: Through My Lens

In August I visited Normandy, France and the site of the D-Day Invasion. I feel it is my duty as a citizen of the world to understand the history that we have experienced and share that with the world in any way I can. My means of sharing is through my camera and the pictures I take. I hope to honor all the lives lost and impacted by this historic event through pictures. I hope to give those who may not have the ability to visit this area a chance to see this location to appreciate and understand all that happened here in the summer of 1944.

Euro Trip 2018: Part Deux

The month of July was going to spent in Split, Croatia. I was excited for this month for multiple reasons. The month did not disappoint and was a month full of my new catch phrase “No Bad Days”.

Remote Year Darien Reunion - Part Two

Croatia would bring me back together with several of my friends from my Remote Year Darien group. It was great to spend time together again, especially since our reunion in June seemed to go by too fast. We had lunches, and dinners. We celebrated birthdays. We went rafting. We reunited with our Broatia Captain Bruno. It was great to spend time with them all and make more memories together.

Day Trip to Hvar

Hvar is an island near Split. It is about an hour ferry ride away. One Sunday a group of us made the trek over there to spend the day. We started by going to a restaurant to have Burritos. One thing I always miss when traveling is Mexican food. This burrito helped me fill that void. After Burritos we walked around Hvar, and ended up sitting by the ocean all day. We talked, swam, and just soaked up the sun. Hvar has some crazy signs on the sidewalks, and they are quite comical. To see what I am talking about, check out the pics below. On the ferry ride home, we sat at the front as the sun started going down. As the ride continued, I found myself looking at an amazing sunset as we moved across the Adriatic back to Split. It was the perfect ending to a great day.

World Cup 2018

When planning this trip, I was excited to know I would be in Europe for the World Cup. Europe takes its football (Soccer to us American folk) very seriously. People watch games in masses and it is quite a spectacle. When I arrived in Croatia, it was exciting that they were still in the World Cup and I had no inclination that they would go as far as they did. It started with one game, and they won that game. Then they won the next, and the next, and before you know it, they were playing in the World Cup final. To be in Croatia during all of this, was truly special. We would mostly watch the games at the Fan Zone in a park outside the Old Town of Split. One game we watched at a local restaurant with a bunch of Croatians. The people of Croatia were so excited. There were two Remote City managers who were both Croatian and it was so cool to see their excitement firsthand as they watched their country play in the most prestigious football tournament in the world and go as far as they did. In the end, they did not win, but you would not have known it. After the final game, the people celebrated as if they won. All of the major cities welcomed home the team with large parties. It was so cool to be there for, and will be a memory that I will always remember.

Remote Year Ohana

I was not sure what to expect when joining a Remote Year group. Would they be open to outsiders? I was excited to meet new people, and experience Remote Year a different way from how I did it. I definitely did that, and then some. It was a great month in their presence. The group was super friendly, very welcoming, and I made some great connections with the people of the group. They were inclusive, and I truly felt like a member of their group the whole month. Their were a couple of times we watched the sunrise after a night out. We did some night swimming in the Adriatic. We did acts of kindness for others in the Old Town. We celebrated birthdays, ate homemade meals, did Q&A’s, laughed, mini bowled, had deep conversations, and much more. Thank you to all of them for being so friendly and welcoming. We also had a great workspace, which was right on the water. It was great to take a break from doing things and walk by the sea and take it in. Split was one of my favorite Remote Year cities.

Remote Year Track Events

One of the amazing things that come with being a Remote Year participant are the local events they put on in each city. These are called Tracks. They are events that are geared towards blending the Remotes with locals. I had some amazing experiences during my Remote Year, so I was excited to experience tracks again when in Croatia and of course they didn’t disappoint. My first track was going to a local shipyard in Croatia. This shipyard is the largest in Croatia and we got an insider tour into all that goes on with building some of the big boats you see out on the water. It was awesome to see first hand and our guide was super passionate about sharing it all with us. My second event was going to a local brewery. This brewery was the first craft brewery in Split. It was a super fascinating story to see how they started, and how they continue to grow and compete with all the big name beers in Croatia. We also got to have a few samples directly from the source. My next track event was a trip to a fish farm on the island of Solta. This was another awesome experience. We were met by our host Igor, who showed every aspect of his fish farm, and cooked us a homemade meal that consisted of fresh fish, of course. The fish were cooked whole, and we ate them that way. After the meal, we then swam out to the fish farm, and swam with the fish. The particular part we were in had 18,000 or so fish in it. Also, during this event, we were visited by a guest who is working to help locals battle the tourism industry and explained the damage tourism can have on the country. It was a fascinating day all around. The track events in Croatia did not disappoint at all.

Vis

The last time I was in Croatia, I spent a day in Vis and loved it. When I was there I saw my favorite sunset of all time. I made a vow that if I ever returned to Croatia, I would go back to Vis. Well, I did it. A couple of my friends had planned a trip there. I had some work to do, so I could only join for the tail end of the trip, and it was still awesome. They met me at the ferry station with their scooters. I hopped on and we cruised around the island. We stopped at a beach, had a beer, and then got back the scooters and headed to the town we were staying in. We hung by the beach and killed some time. We had a special dinner reservation that evening. The restaurant we were going to was the same restaurant I went to when I was last there and the place where I tried Octopus for the first time. It made me fall in love with Octopus and I have rarely had Octopus after that without thinking of this place. I was worried, was it going to be the same? It was perfect the first time. I worried if I was ruining that experience by going again? These were the questions that popped in my head. Our ride picked us up right on time. We hopped in, the driver did not speak english, and just smiled at us. He pointed to a blank CD he had, and gave us a look asking if we wanted to listen to it. We said yes with excitement, full of anticipation, and wondering what the blank CD had on it. It was full of classic rock, and we rocked out as we made our way to restaurant. We arrived, got our table, and ironically, had the same waiter from when I was there before. You have to place your order ahead of time at this place, as they need several hours to prep what they call Peka. Peka is meat and vegetables cooked in a bell shaped pot on a grill. It slow cooks for several hours. We ordered an Octopus and Lamb Peka. They arrived at our table, they removed the covers, and revealed them to us. They smelled amazing, and looked just like I remembered. It then came time to take that first bite. I moved the fork towards my mouth, and when I took that first taste, a rush of memories came back and it was just like I remembered it. We took our time. We enjoyed the meal, some Croatian wine, dessert, and ended the meal with a Turkish coffee. It was perfect. We then spent the rest of the night at a beach side bar, watching the moon set on the Adriatic. The next day we got up and headed back to Split. It was another successful trip to Vis. I hope to go back again someday.

A Month Comes to An End

As they say, all good things must come to an end. As time ticked on, this was the case for my time in Croatia. Remote Year does a farewell event at the end of each month. It is a nice way to reflect on the month, and celebrate being in a place for a month. I always liked them, but they were particularly bittersweet in places that I loved as you knew it would be time to move on. Those same feelings were present this time, but it was different because I would not be moving on with this group. The farewell event was on a rooftop with a beautiful view of the city. It was great to chat with the group and spend a little bit more time with them. We would then move the party to a place called Fabrique which was a place I frequented during my time in Split and made some really great memories there. The last night was spent having dinner with my roommate. The next day I got on a train, and headed to Zagreb, Croatia. I was feeling a little under the weather, and it progressively got worse. My second day in Zagreb, I had a fever, and my throat was painfully sore. I stayed in bed all day, hoping it was just my body telling me to slow it down. I wasn’t getting any better, and noticed some large white spots on my tonsils, which is usually an indicator of an infection or strep, and I knew I needed to go to a doctor. I have travel insurance and they recommended a place near me that spoke English. I tried to call them to make an appointment but could not get through. It was only a 15 minute walk away, so I decided to just go there in person and see if they could get me in. They were booked up and I had to wait until the next day to see a doctor. This was the day my friend Dan was getting into Zagreb, and the next day we were set to get on a train in the afternoon to head to Slovenia. I made an appointment for the next day, got some antibiotics, and was feeling better by the first night in Slovenia. It is a weird feeling being sick and alone in a foreign country. It makes you appreciate having people in your life that look over you when you don’t feel well, but it also teaches you that you just have to fight through things on your own sometimes. The month ended on that note, and the next part of my journey would begin on a train from Croatia to Slovenia. The rest of the summer was a hell of an adventure, and I look forward to sharing that in my next post.

Thank you so much for reading!

Euro Trip 2018: Part One

In the Spring of 2018 I decided I was going to spend my summer in Europe. The reason was mainly due to two events, a reunion with my Remote Year group in Prague, and my friend’s wedding in France in August. On June 1st, I left Phoenix and headed to NYC to spend the weekend in the Big Apple and see a good friend before heading off to Europe for the summer. My Europe itinerary that I had planned consisted of Ireland for 10 days, Prague for a week, then I was going to kill 10 days in a couple places before heading to Split for the month of July to use my Remote Year citizen perks. I ended up choosing Malta and Rome for those 10 days. The month of June took me to 4 different countries, and was an amazing adventure on a lot of different levels.

IRELAND

I went to Ireland in November of 2016, and fell in love with it in only the 4 days I spent there. I knew it was a place that I would have to go back to and spend more time. When I was in Iceland in 2017, I met an Irish girl in a restaurant, and she would end up serving as my tour guide for this trip and she did an amazing job. The trip would take us to a lot of different places in Ireland. And once again, Ireland did not disappoint. It is such a beautiful country, and the people are some of the most friendly I have met in all of my travels. I got some amazing pictures, and drone footage. If you haven’t been to Ireland, please try to get there. It is such a beautiful place. Some of the highlights of my trip to Ireland WERE: THE Wild Atlantic Way, Baltimore Beacon, Guinness Storehouse, Cape Clear Island, Howth, Wicklow, Mizen Head, a Haim concert at Olympia Theater, and all places in between!

PRAGUE

After Ireland I headed to Prague to reunite with my Remote Year group. We ended just over a year ago, and Prague was where we started our amazing journey about two years ago. We had a great turnout, and it was great to see everyone. It was a lot of fun, and definitely helped me come to some personal realizations about a few different topics I had been dealing with. I was able to get Steak Tartare again, which I had for the first time in Prague and it was so good. I am not sure if Steak Tartare anywhere else will live up to Prague Tartare. The last night consisted of having dinner with a group of people who I really love spending time with. We laughed a ton, and it was the perfect way to end the reunion. After my time in Prague, I was exhausted, and ready to get some alone time in.

MALTA

I am not really sure how I ended up in Malta. It was never on my radar when this trip started, but I knew that with my alone time, and I wanted to be somewhere near water. Malta came up in conversation in Ireland, and I decided that would be the place. I was not sure what to expect,  and it ended up being a great week. I walked a lot, and by a lot, I mean I took 103,810 steps, and walked 53.89 miles during my time in Malta. I found myself taking pictures, and sometimes I would go by the water, and lay down. One afternoon, after a lot of walking around, I laid down my backpack, used it as a pillow and just took a quick nap with the sound of the Mediterranean serving as my soundtrack. I did a day trip to the Blue Lagoon. I was on a big boat, and we went out to the Blue Lagoon. We dropped anchor and swam in the beautiful blue water. We then took the boat over to Gozo which is another island in Malta. I walked around there for a little bit, then found myself at a coffee shop, sipping a coffee while I wrote in my journal. One day, I took the city bus to the city of Mdina. This is an old city, which was the capital of the island during the medieval era. The city is a walled city. It was beautiful to walk around. I then took a cab to Golden Bay, a popular beach in the North East part of Malta. I hung out on the beach, had lunch, took pictures, walked around, and just soaked in the sun. I then hopped on the city bus and took that back to Valletta where I was staying. I really enjoyed my time in Malta. It is an old city, and the architecture is very unique. It was the perfect place to spend alone time, and clear my head a bit.

ROME

My next stop after Malta was Rome. I have always wanted to go to Rome for as long as I can remember. I have heard so many good things, and it did not disappoint. I took an Uber from the airport, and had a very friendly driver who gave me the in’s and out’s of Rome. I then arrived at my place. I stayed in a small studio apartment near the Vatican. It was a perfect location and close to all the places I wanted to see. The first afternoon, I just walked around to get a feel for the city. If you are ever in Rome, be careful when walking through the streets, as cars do NOT stop for pedestrians at all. After walking around for a while, I was tired, and hungry. I was wandering through my neighborhood, and came across a burrito place. I know this is probably sacrilegious, but I was just craving something other than pizza or pasta. This burrito hit the spot and gave me my Mexican food fix. My second day in Rome, I took a tour of the Colosseum. I have wanted to visit it since I was a kid, and it was great to check that one off. The tour took us through the Colosseum and the areas around it. It was an awesome tour and a great way to see the 2000ish year old building. The next day I woke up and did a tour of the Vatican. This was really cool. Vatican City is its own country, and there are some cool little tidbits that I learned about during the tour. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to see the Sistine Chapel.  Hearing the stories about how Michelangelo went about it were unique, and fascinating. After the Sistine Chapel we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica. I had only seen it from the outside at this point, but once you go inside, it such an amazing site, and it is much bigger than it look from the outside. The only disappointing part of the tour was that I didn’t see the Pope. For my last night in Rome, I scheduled a night photography tour. This tour was put on by a local filmmaker. He picked me up at midnight and for the next three and a half hours, we would drive around to all the popular sites of Rome, and take pictures. At this time of day, no one is around, so it was so cool to see these places empty when they are usually full of people during the day. I got some great pictures and had some great chats with my tour guide. The next day, I packed up and made my way to Split, Croatia.

Thanks for reading, peace and love!

The Road Trip

In April of 2018 two buddies, and I embarked on a month long journey in an RV. We didn’t have an exact itinerary planned out, but we had an idea of where we wanted to go and we would figure it out along the way. We completed the trip and us three men survived a month of living in the close confines of a 30 foot long RV. If you ever want to rent an RV, I highly recommend Cruise America. They have a ton of options and a nice selection of RV’s that can help you take the journey of a lifetime. They did not pay me to say that, I promise.

The Stats

States = 4 (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico)

Miles Driven = 3,017. The equivalent of driving from San Diego, California to Salem, Massachusetts and a tad further.

Miles Hiked = 118.6

National Parks Visited = 9 (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Zion)

RV Parks Stayed In = 12

Laughs = Too many to count

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The Places

Driving 3017 miles, we covered a lot of ground. We had a lot to see, and we did exactly that. I could go into a lot of detail about the journey, but I will just let the pictures below tell the story of the amazing things we saw.

The Team

Dave - Dave is a jack of all trades. He is super smart, he is a musician, I.T. guru, has a quick wit and has a positive, easy going outlook on life that makes living in an RV with him for a month super easy. My respect and admiration for Dave grew as we traveled on this journey together.

Rob - Rob has traveled all over the world. He has a great sense of adventure. He is quick with a joke, and a great song from Australia. He is funny, super smart, and very easy going. Rob is easy to be around, making him also an ideal candidate to live in an RV with for a month. Rob was the catalyst for getting this trip started and I will forever be grateful for that.

Chris - Me. I would be good to speak in a random accent, and would make sure to regularly ask one of my fellow travel mates if they thought they were bettah than me. My need to have somewhat of a plan and be organized led to the self proclaimed nickname of Logistics Guy.

We all met during Remote Year. We traveled the world together, and even took a few trips together, but none of our worldly travels would prepare us for a month in the close confines of the RV. That sounds more dramatic than it really is, and wasn’t that bad at all.

The Food

Our RV had a full kitchen, and we took advantage of it during this journey. We would stop at grocery stores and stock up on the necessities we would need to provide us sustenance. The essentials for the trip were pretty simple: Burgers, Sausages, Pot Pies, Avocados, Salsa, Chips, Frozen Vegetables, Muesli (AKA Granola, AKA the most boring breakfast ever, just kidding guys, I loved it) Fruit, Peanuts, Clif Bars, Greek Yogurt, instant coffee and most importantly Beer. Obviously we would try to eat in the RV as much as possible to be economically smart, but sometimes after days of eating all of the above, we would have a treat yo self moment, and hit up a restaurant near where we were staying.

The RV

Bessy ended up being the name of our RV. She was a beast of a vehicle. She had a V10 engine, was 30 feet long, and about 12 feet wide. The wind would rock her like a kite in a hurricane, and her turning radius proved to be tight at times. We had a kitchen, a kitchen table area, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a shower. The couch in the kitchen table area folded into a bed, and the area above the driving area had a bed as well. All and all Bessy was very comfortable, and served us well throughout the journey.

The End

We said goodbye to Rob in Albuquerque, then Dave and I hit the road back to Arizona. We returned the RV in one piece, and got a pleasant surprise from the lady at Cruise America about how clean it was. In a flash, the trip was over. If you ever are looking to hit the road and explore the beauty of the American Southwest, or any part of the country for that matter, I can’t recommend an RV enough. It is your home, and it is a great way to cover a lot of ground while having everything you need within reach. If I ever have a family someday, I look forward to driving an RV to visit my other family members at Christmas time and getting this license plate.

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Thanks for reading. Peace and Love!

Iceland

If you would like to see the footage I got from my time in iceland, check out the video below. You can read about the journey below!

A Childhood Dream

When I was a kid, I was a huge GI Joe Fan. Little did I know that a GI Joe episode would introduce me to the Northern Lights. In the episode, Cobra creates a weapon that pulls down the Northern Lights to melt the ice caps and flood the world. Obviously, they didn’t think about global warming, and save themselves the time. As a kid, I was in awe that something like the Northern Lights existed and from there I was hooked and wanted to always see them. Senior Year of High School, the movie Frequency came out. Frequency is a classic movie in which the Northern Lights allow a man from the past to talk to his son in the future, and they go on an adventure to right the wrongs of the past. It is one of Dennis Quaid’s best movies. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Between Frequency, GI Joe, and my own curiosity, I knew one day I had to see the Northern Lights. Fast forward to 2017, and that dream finally came true.

I found my way to Iceland through a photography workshop. The workshop was put on by a photographer I follow on social media. He is from Tucson, AZ and his name is Sean Parker. If you would like to check out his amazing work, you can find A LINK TO HIS WEBSITE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLOG, ALONG WITH MY OTHER INSTRUCTOR THOR. When I was on Remote Year in 2016-2017, the travel bug bit me, and so did the photography bug. When I found this workshop, I knew I had to do it. In August, I booked it and at the end of October, I would depart Nashville, make a quick stop in Boston, and then fly to Reykjavik for a week in the beautiful country of Iceland. This blog post tells the tale of my journey.

Arriving In Iceland

I left Nashville on Friday October 20th. I had lived the summer in Nashville, and it was bittersweet to leave. I flew to Boston. I stayed the night Boston, and the next day, I explored Boston a little bit, until it was time to head to the airport and fly to Iceland. I got on the plane, and made the flight over the pond to Iceland. I dozed off here and there, but didn’t sleep much. I landed in Reykjavik around 6:30 AM. The line at Customs was long and I made my way through it in about 30 mins. The airport is about 45 mins outside the city. Since it is so far out, they have a bus service which is much more cost effective than a cab. You get on the bus, drive for a while, and then stop at a bus station, switch to a smaller bus, and then the smaller bus takes you to a stop near your hotel. I got to my hotel around 9:30 AM, and our photography group was not going to meet until 6:30PM that night. I was exhausted. I went into the lobby of the hotel, and they had a room full of couches. I plopped down on one of them, laid my head back, and the next thing I know it was 11:30 AM. Out of curiosity I checked in with the front desk and my room was actually ready. I got the key and headed up and rested a little more. After a little bit of rest, I got up and decided to explore the streets of Reykjavik. It was a brisk, cloudy day. I wandered the streets, took some photos and tried to get a lay of the land. I stopped in a cafe, had myself a couple of pints, and then headed back to the hotel to get ready to meet the people I would be traveling with for the next week!

The only thing I knew about my group was that it seemed like mostly women based on the couple emails we got from the instructors. This turned out to be true and I was the only male student in the group. We were all staying at the same hotel and met at the hotel restaurant for a welcome dinner. We all sat together, and our instructors Sean and Thor were there to give us the lowdown on the week. We ate dinner, got to know each other, and talked about photography. The instructor Sean and I stayed and had one more beer after dinner. It was nice to talk to him one on one and get some insight into his life as a professional photographer. The night ended and I went to bed, and got ready for the early morning wake up call to hit the road and start the week of taking photographs in Iceland.

Day 2

I got up on Monday morning, and hopped in my small shower. The shower was a little tricky, but once I figured it out, I started to smell the scent of sulfur. It was weird, and after completing my shower, I did a little google search to find out if that was a thing. As it turns out, it was. The water comes from hot springs, and it smells of sulfur. I packed up my stuff, and headed down to the lobby and met up with the group. We loaded up our chariot and our instructor Thor who was from Iceland, got us on the road. Thor was the other instructor, he was born in Iceland, and is also a super talented photographer, and knows a ton about Iceland and photography. I was comfortable with his knowledge from the get go. On the way, we stopped at a camera shop as a few people needed to ge some gear. I had to pick up a filter to help with my waterfall photos. I got what I needed and we were on our way. As we got out of the city, the beautiful Icelandic countryside started to show itself. I have always enjoyed drives, and this was no exception. The beautiful scenery outside my window provided for a view that I could very well get used to for the next week. We stopped at a waterfall, and got some great shots of the rainbow that was created by the mist. After the waterfalls, we got back on the road. We would stop at various places along the way. Several of the stops were along the beaches of Iceland. The beaches in Iceland are beautiful black sand beaches. Apparently some show called Game of Thrones has been filmed there. The rocks were beautiful. There was a mist and it just felt surreal. We got some great shots. We got to our hotel, which was very nice, and got a good night's rest as the next day was going to be a long day because we were going to wake up for sunrise, and then stay up late for the northern lights.

Day 3

Wake up call was early and we headed to the black sand beach to catch the sunrise. It was a cloudy morning, so we didn’t get any good shots of the sun, but it was still an amazing site to see. The power of the waves was surreal to me. I couldn’t believe how powerful they were. They would come up on the shore, and had the sense that they could pull you from the beach and take you out into the water with no problem. Apparently this has happened to tourists who didn’t read the warning signs. We got back on the road, and did more driving, we drove a lot. It was more time to put the headphones on, listen to music, and just take in the beautiful sites that were showing up outside my window. We settled in to our next hotel, and then headed to a glacier lagoon for sunset. This is a lagoon in which chunks of glaciers that are breaking off wash in and out of this lagoon area with the tide. It is beautiful and the sunset produced one of my favorite photos from the trip. I also got to fly my drone around and get some beautiful overhead shots of this amazing lagoon. After sunset, we went back to the hotel, had a wonderful dinner, and then we were going to head out to see the Northern Lights. I was so excited. The moment I was waiting for was almost here. You never know what you are going to get with the Northern Lights, so I tried not to get my hopes up too much in case we didn’t get to see them. We drove about 45 mins to a glacier. We got out of the car, and you could already start to see the lights appearing overhead. My heart raced and I was overcome with excitement. Everyone was excited, and everyone was rushing to get their camera gear out. We had a short hike to the base of the glacier and set up our cameras. Once our tripods were up, the lights came to life. Our instructors Sean and Thor were helping us getting set up and instructing us on settings for our cameras. I took all the information and the lights were getting more active and more bright. I had to step away from my camera for a few minutes and just soak in the site of the Northern Lights. I moved away from the group and just looked up. I was in awe. The movement, the colors, everything about the lights was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. The lights danced gracefully across the sky. It was like they were choreographed. They were in sync, and it was a site that will forever stay with me. After taking some time to soak in the moment, I made it back to my camera and started to get shots of the lights. We were extremely lucky and had a night that was pretty clear, and the lights were stunning. I got some great shots, and after about an hour and a half the lights disappeared and we made the short hike back to our car, and headed back to the hotel. I sat in the car, still in awe from the site of the Northern Lights. We got back to the hotel, and I went to bed. I slept in peace knowing I had crossed off something major on My Before I Am 6 Feet Deep list.

Day 4

I woke up after seeing the Northern Lights and felt so good about seeing them. We had a nice breakfast, and we all were so excited to talk about what we saw the night before. After breakfast, we got back on the road, and headed to where we would spend the day, making some stops along the way. It was a beautiful day, the sky was blue, and clouds moved through the sky gracefully. We stopped at an area where a volcano erupted years ago, and the lava hardened and the beautiful green moss grew over the rocks. The roadside was beautiful as it had been the whole time. I continued to be in awe as I looked out the window. Our spot for the afternoon was going to be a beautiful beach, with a beautiful mountain coastline, and sparkling black sand. I got some great photos, and also got to get the drone up and got some video of the beautiful beach and ocean. After the sunset, we headed to a local town and had a wonderful dinner. When we were on the beach, I had an incident in which the water came in a little higher than I thought and my socks got soaking wet. During dinner I headed to a gas station hoping they would be selling socks. Luckily, they were, and if you have never been to Iceland, things can be a little expensive. Let’s just say this was a $23/pair of socks, but they were thick, and dry, and my feet felt amazing after replacing my wet socks, with these nice dry ones. Next up, we headed back to the same beach we were at earlier to see the Northern Lights for the second night in a row. This was going to be a completely different background than the night before. We set up in a small tide pool. This would allow us to take pics with the lights reflecting in the water. The lights took a little longer to show up this time, and as time passed, they showed up more and more. We were looking at a set of mountains, and as the lights got stronger, you could see lights get brighter behind the mountains. It looked like a city was coming to life, but it was just the lights. The lights started coming from two different directions, and we got some great shots. The stars were beautiful, and I loved being able to see a clear starry night accompanied with the Northern Lights. We got about an hour and a half of a show. It was beautiful. The night ended, and we headed back to the hotel.

Day 5

I slept good, and was extremely grateful to be able to see the Northern Lights two nights in a row. We got up pretty early on this day as we were going to catch the Sunrise on the ice beach. The ice beach is a black sand beach where chunks of glaciers wash up on shore. You never really know what you are going to get with the ice beach. Some days it could be empty, some days, it could be full and hard to walk on. Once again, luck was on our side, and we had a beach full of ice chunks. Our instructors were very diligent about explaining to us the logistics of the ice beach. As I mentioned earlier, the waves in Iceland are super strong. This is definitely true at the ice beach, and the waves can move the chunks in a heartbeat, and if you are standing, a wave can go by, and bring a chunk right at you from either side. Our instructors have said the ice beach is where they have seen the most cameras damaged. Luckily, we listened to them, and didn’t have any incidents, but there were some close calls. The sunrise was beautiful and we got some great shots of the sun hitting the pieces of glaciers. The sun, the black sand, and the chunks of glaciers, made for some beautiful shots. After the ice beach, we headed to another glacier lagoon. This one had a beautiful mountain backdrop and it was a perfectly clear day. We spent a little bit of time there, and I got the drone up as well. After that, we headed back to the hotel, did some photo editing classes, and hung out. For sunset, we headed back to the ice beach, but went to a different side of the beach. It was another beautiful sunset, and we got some great shots of the ice chunks on the beach. There was a pinkness to the sky, and a crescent moon lingering as well. It was cold, and the wind was picking up. We headed back to the hotel and had a nice dinner. It was an early night, so I got back to my room and started looking at some of the photos from the week and then headed to bed.

Day 6

The wind storm that was moving in was no joke and the speed of the wind got up to 108 MPH. Due to the strength of the wind, it was too risky to drive. We were going to have to wait it out at our hotel. This created a great opportunity for our instructors to spend some time helping us with some photo editing. We went through different techniques and the information was very valuable to help get the photos we had taken from the week developed and looking as sharp as possible. We spent the day working on that, and finally a little later in the day, the wind died down and we were able to head to out. We headed back to the glacier where we watched the Northern Lights the first time. It was so amazing to see what it looked like in daylight. This is a very popular spot where several films were shot. One of the most famous movies shot here was Interstellar. The sunset was overshadowed by cloud cover, but we still got some great shots, and I was able to get the drone up as well. We headed out of that spot and headed to our hotel for the night.  We got there just in time for dinner. We had a nice meal and then discussed our plan for our last day. I couldn’t believe how fast the week went, but here it was the eve of the last day of the workshop. We left dinner, I got a nice nights rest to be up for our sunrise trek.

Day 7

The last day of the workshop arrived. We woke up for sunrise. We headed to a cool area in which a little city overlooks the ocean. In this little town is a church on a hill. There are some great shots you can get from the church as the backdrop is either the ocean or mountains. With the sun rising, we got some great shots. There were also some horses in the distance and we got some great shots of them as well. We headed back to hotel for a quick breakfast, then packed up our stuff and got on the road to head back towards Reykjavik. We would make a few stops along the way. We stopped for lunch, and then made our way to a couple of really cool waterfalls. The first one required a small hike, but it was beautiful and I got the drone up to get some really cool shots of the waterfall with both my camera and the drone. The next one was off the beaten path, and we had to do a little off roading to get there. It was a beautiful day, and we were lucky to see the clear blue sky, and the waterfalls were no joke in the beauty department. Our last stop would be a waterfall that our instructors would tell us not to take our cameras to as we were going to be directly in front of the waterfall and were going to get very wet. I did have a GoPro with me so I put that in my pocket to get some shots. We made the short walk to the waterfall and stood in front it and got soaking wet. It was a beautiful site and a great last stop for the trip. We headed back to the car, and made our trek back to Reykjavik. The bus was quiet, as I think everyone was both tired, and sad that our journey was coming to an end. I put on my headphones, and reflected on our week while listening to some tunes. We made it back to Reykjavik and got dropped off near our hotel for the night. We dropped our stuff off, took a nice hot sulfur shower, and then headed to the same spot where we had our welcome dinner and wrapped up the week. It was a great meal, we shared memories, and laughs from the week. After dinner, we walked around a little bit, some of us stopped and had a celebratory beverage. Myself and one of the instructors stayed out to get a feel for the nightlife of Reykjavik and met up with a few of his local friends there. It was Halloween weekend so everyone was dressed up. It was a fun night out, I headed back to the hotel to get some rest for day of travel the next day.

Departure Day

I woke up that Sunday. I was exhausted. It was a long week. I had to be out of the room by the normal check out time, and got all my stuff together. I had enough time to grab breakfast before needing to get on the bus for the airport. I wandered outside my hotel and came across a nice breakfast spot that looked perfect. This would be an interesting breakfast indeed. I sat next to a couple of girls from Ireland who were on holiday for the weekend. Across from us at the bar was a Russian man, who had a few to many drinks, and was trying to take a selfie of himself while stumbling throughout the bar. He got a couple warnings, but after yelling out a few words, he was asked to leave. I ordered pancakes. I was starving and was excited to get a plate full of pancakes in my belly. Unfortunately, the pancakes were pretty much 4 silver dollar pancakes and not tremendously filling. I had been talking to the nice Irish girls sitting next to me, and one saw my disappointment in the lack of pancakes I received and offered me one of her sausages that was left over. Of course, I took her up on it. They went on their way, and in my head, I had thought, those Irish gals were super nice, like all other Irish people I have met in my life. I finished up my breakfast and then headed to the bus stop. I made the journey to the airport. And soon I would be on my way back to the states. As I was getting through Security, I looked to my left and saw a good friend of my brothers next to me. Our families both were from the same part of Arizona and he knew several of my brothers. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and it was a pleasant surprise to run into someone you know at the airport in Iceland. All went smooth at the airport, and I made my way back to the states. I stayed in Boston for the night, and the next day headed to New York City to spend a week. AFter NYC I went back to Phoenix to spend the holidays with family and friends. 2017 was an amazing and challenging year and I am excited for what 2018 has in store as i begin a new chapter of life!

Happy New Year. See you in 2018. Peace and Love!

Please check out My iceland Instructors on their websites below:

Sean Parker - www.sean-parker.com

THOR Jonsson - www.thor-photography.com

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.