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

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.

Lima

Month Number 10 - Lima, Peru

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

Pisco Tour

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

Slack Lining

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

Central Restaurant

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

Day Trip to Pucusana

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

Walking Around Lima

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

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

Spain

Spain

Half Way There

Remote Year is officially half way over. Although it has always been the case that each day that passes brings us one day closer to the end, there is something weird about the feeling the halfway point brings, knowing each day that passes means there is less time on the trip then there has been on the trip. I don't know if that makes sense, but after month 2, you say to yourself ok, 10 to go. Now that month 6 has wrapped up, there is 6 months to go, it just feels weird. 

The scene for month 6 was Valencia, Spain. Valencia is significantly different from Morocco. From the moment we arrived and on the drive to our apartment, I fell in love with the city. I remember looking out the window and a feeling of excitement overtook me as I couldn't wait to explore the streets. We were in a land where the language was Spanish, one that I could understand on a basic level. The streets were filled with beautiful churches, old style buildings, and of course Tapas restaurants. As I looked out the window, like a kid gazing at Christmas lights from a car, I knew I was going to love this place.

Accommodations

 My living situation this month was great. I was in the middle of the beautiful Placa De La Reina, in a 3-bedroom apartment with two roommates, one of whom was my roommate in Prague and who I get along great with. My other roommate was someone who I have hung out with, but never lived with, so it was great to get to know him a little bit more, however we both had various schedules, and the time we spent together felt limited. Our apartment was spacious, with a ton of glass windows, and a gigantic living room area. The apartment also came with two giant pillows with wheels on them, which is something I have never seen, but won't rule out owning in my post Remote Year life. Let’s just say the said pillows with wheels made for some comical moments, that I will leave off the interwebs. 

Valencia

Valencia is a beautiful city that is walkable and easy to navigate. It has a huge park that runs through the city that is great for bike riding, walking, or getting in a TRX workout during a workday. The beach is a 30 minute bike ride away, and although it was a tad chilly this month, I made my way to the water twice. If you haven't been to Spain, or have only been to the major cities of Barcelona and Madrid, I highly recommend Valencia. It has a nice feel to it and I could see myself living there,if the opportunity ever arose. 

Workspace

We had three different workspaces this month, I spent a majority of my time at the one closest to my apartment called Wayco. It was a great spot, with lots of space, and a cafe that serves up a mean ham and cheese sandwich. The lunches of Morocco will forever hold a special place in my heart, but I am always a fan of a workspace that has easy access to food.

Ireland Trip

When in Spain, you got to Ireland, right? Well, I did. A couple of my travel pals needed to get out of dodge for Schengen reasons and a trip to Ireland was their destination choice, so I decided to tag along. I always wanted to go to Ireland, and I am so glad I spent time there, but realized I want to go back. The trip to Ireland consisted of two days in Dublin, a night on the Dingle Peninsula, a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, a night in the city of Ennis, which is a sister city to my hometown of Phoenix. The countryside of Ireland is beautiful, it is full of hills, green grass and in this case with it being November, trees full of leaves changing color. The trip to Ireland also introduced me to my first time driving a car on the opposite side. At first, we were going to get a manual transmission car, and be on the opposite of the road, but we opted for an Automatic. One thing at a time, you know? My first time driving on the opposite side of the road was a challenge indeed. It is just weird. It was also my first time driving in 6 months, which isn't that big of a deal, but when you are on the opposite side of things, it just messes with your mind. My stretch of the drive was about 3 hours. It consisted of tiny country roads, rain, sleet, darkness, and minimal street lights. The trip was a blast and the memories made with my buddies will stay with me forever. I look forward to when I can go back to Ireland and spend more time there.

Weekend in Barcelona

From Ireland, we flew to Barcelona and spent a weekend there. Barcelona is a great city; it is huge and had a more crowded and touristy vibe to it then Valencia. We had some great meals, visited the forever under construction Segrada Familia Cathedral, and met up with a group of fellow remotes. The weekend was a blast and I was glad to have seen Barcelona. I took the bus from Barcelona back to Valencia and it was a beautiful drive through the Spanish countryside. 

My First Birthday Abroad

I turned 34 in Spain. There are two crazy things in that sentence, one, I am 34 years old, and I celebrated my birthday in Spain. I would have never in my life imagined I would be living in Spain when I turned 34. My birthday was very special. I was treated like a king, thanks to a very special lady. My day started with a French Toast breakfast, then I was surprised with a video that consisted of a bunch of friends and family from the states sending me birthday wishes. I then went and played a round of golf with one of my favorite fellow remotes. The night ended with a Mexican food dinner, and meeting up with a group of remotes to have drinks at a pub. It was an amazing birthday abroad, and I thank everyone here who made it very special.

My First Thanksgiving Abroad

My birthday was Monday, and on Thursday was Thanksgiving. This would mark the first time in my life I haven't been in Arizona for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I decided I would try and make it as special as possible for all of us who would not be able to be home for the holiday. Our Remote Year group is an amazing and talented bunch, I have said that numerous times, and the Thanksgiving we put together proved that even further. It all started with me reaching out on our communication platform Slack to see if anyone would be interested in celebrating Thanksgiving and of course the response was more than I would have ever thought. Next thing you know, we have a sign-up sheet of what people were going to bring, and I was working with one of our fearless leaders to secure a location to do it. After trying several places to host our group, we couldn't nail down a location and the idea to do it in my giant living room popped in my head. We agreed that would be best, we rented some tables and chairs, and everyone was working on what they would be bringing to our Thanksgiving feast. The afternoon before Thanksgiving a few of us headed to the Market where they have a bunch of shops, stands and butchers. We found one turkey at one stand, and decided we needed two and found another. The turkeys came complete with their heads on, and so we had the butcher take care of that for us. This was not your frozen Butterball turkey that you get in the states, this was fresh, still having a head, and feathers in it. We now had our two birds, and a solid plan on how we were going to cook them using our limited resources. Thanksgiving morning came around and we were ready to start preparing for the day. We got the bird ready, made stuffing, got the tables and chairs set up and by 4PM, my doorbell was ringing with the first guests arriving. Everyone that came brought something different to the table, we had stuffing, potatoes, Mac and Cheese, Salad, Desserts, Appetizers, and of course our two turkey's. All and all, we had 40 people over, and it was an amazing meal and one of my favorite Thanksgiving feasts of all time. We even had some leftovers to last us through the weekend. The amazing thing about this story is how we all came together to make something out of nothing. We didn't have a huge refrigerator, so we filled our bath tub with ice and filled it with beer. We didn't have turkey basters so we used a cupcake frosting dispenser. We had to cook the second turkey at a different apartment and walk it over when it was done. We could have very easily done nothing, but we all made the most of what we had, and the result was an amazing meal. Thank you to everyone who helped and made the day so special.