I Figured My Life Out

Haha, jk, that will never happen. I do have big news about future life plans, but let me tell you a little story first.

An accidental occurrence

When I signed up to travel the world for 12 months with a group of strangers, the Remote Year itinerary did not include London, England. The original destination for June 2016 was Istanbul, Turkey, but due to civil unrest in the area, we were rerouted to one of the most expensive cities in the world. Ouch.

So we make it to London, get settled into The Collective co-work / co-live way outside of the city center, and quickly learn how to use the Tube subway system. One benefit of traveling with a group this size is constant recommendations for cool bars and restaurants. The talk of week 1 was a pretty exclusive gin bar in the Shoreditch neighborhood. I love me a good gin martini so Laura and I head over one Saturday evening. Obviously, we weren’t thinking because we didn’t have reservations and couldn’t get in. Darn.

Ok, we’re flexible – what else is around here? That place was too fancy anyway. We step back out into the street and immediately spot a craft beer joint called BrewDog. Brew-who? What-dog? This place is either going to be epic or we need to call PETA asap…

We walk through the front doors into what I can only imagine heaven is like. Amazing craft beer. Enthusiastic staff. Trendy design. Epic food menu. Lots and lots of beards and flannel. As usual, I had a ton of questions for the bartender; but this time they were happy to answer/educate and give me 1 million beer tasters while I decided upon a nice, safe IPA that I would have probably gotten anyway. Laura and I spent the rest of our evening trying delicious new beers. “One of each, please!”

Throughout the month, I hit up another 3 BrewDog locations that were all equally amazing but had a personality of their own. I talked to bartenders, customers, and investors. I read their books. I invested myself. I was hooked.

A long time coming

I worked in the craft beer industry for 6 years in my early 20’s, then graduated from The University of Texas McCombs Business School and was told to get a “real job.” I did and it was fine. I learned a few major lessons: the value I can really bring to a company, how to hire and manage a team, and that I don’t want to work behind a desk in an office full time. Three years was plenty and I left to travel the world.

One of my major goals this year was to uncover my “true passion” or whatever that means. I did a lot of soul-searching, coaching sessions, and even some psychedelics (don’t tell my mom). When asked the question “what would you do if money was not an object?” my honest answer is that I would eat and drink and travel with my friends. I’d also volunteer with and donate to causes I care about – I’m not a monster. Let’s be honest, all of my time and money now go to restaurants and bars.

When I learned of BrewDog six months ago, they had 30+ locations across the UK (and a few international) but did not have a US presence yet. As the fangirl I’d become, I was one of the first to know when they announced their new state-of-the-art brewery in Columbus, Ohio and when they opened the job board.

So what next?

In my last post, I promised to tell you the scoop on my plans after RY. Drum roll please…I’ve accepted a position as Assistant Manager at the flagship USA BrewDog brewery and brewpub in Columbus, Ohio. Laura, myself and little Bingo dog will be moving to Columbus to start a life together and follow our dreams. Neither of us has actually BEEN to Columbus, but according to the internet and good friends, it’s a pretty cool up-and-coming artist town.

Training starts February 3rd at the brewery so things are moving pretty quickly. If this year of rapid travel has prepared me for anything, this is it. I’m taking a huge plunge but I just know in my heart that it’s going to work out perfectly and I can’t wait to get started. The last time I was so sure of something, it was the decision to come on RY and that turned out better than I could have ever imagined. Here we go!

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BrewDog Basics:

  • BrewDog Website
  • Started in Scotland in 2007 and now has over 650 employees
  • Ranked Fastest Growing Company in Scotland and also listed in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 as the fastest growing food and drink company in the UK.

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More info on BrewDog TV, Equity for Punks, and radical marketing campaigns coming in a future post. Keep an eye out!

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All the feels

There are 18 days left in Remote Year. Umm, what?! How did that happen? How did the last year FLY by? How was last year simultaneously the shortest and longest year of my life?

I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself and the world, but what IS it? What did I really learn and how will it affect my future?  Note that this is my “Remote Year isn’t actually over yet and I’m sure everything will change in 3 months” draft.

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My New Family

I cannot say enough about the incredibly smart, adventurous, freakin’ hilarious, and open-minded people I’ve grown so close to. The stories are never ending and the things I’ve learned from them have had a life-long impact. I’ll try and not be annoying with “One time, on Remote Year…” but I can’t make any promises.

More than that, I met the love of my life and we spent the last year traveling the world and setting an incredible foundation for years to come. Want to talk about seeing someone at their best and worst? Try missing flights, not speaking the language, ambiguous job statuses, weird beds, constantly being lost, packing and moving far away every 30 days, and lots and lots of poops. If we can handle the poops, we can handle anything 💪. Plus, how many relationships start out with 75 mutual friends for life?

Takeaway: The people I surround myself with shape so much about myself so I need to go find a group of passionate smarty-pants’

Connection with Austin and the meaning of Home

The first new months I was terribly homesick for the place I’ve called home for 28 years. I wasn’t sure how I would adjust to life outside of my familiar routine of tacos and dive bars. Turns out the whole world likes tacos, so that’s cool.

I learned that home isn’t necessarily a place but a comfortable state of mind. I learned that I miss gardening, my pup Bingo, dinner parties, house projects, knowing where things are, more than 7 options in my closet, and Target. God, I miss Target.

Takeaway: The things that I miss can be found anywhere in the world and Austin is not the only option anymore, as long as I have this girl. *cues ominous music about future life plans*

Success as a Digital Nomad

I’m well-aware that what I’m about to say is taboo in the digital nomad community so please don’t fire me, RY. This year taught me that I’m a terrible remote employee and even worse at being self-employed. Who wants to work on a stinky website when you can go SEE EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW?!

What I did learn is that I thrive working on a physical team. I like seeing work friends every day. I enjoy small talk at the water cooler (said no one ever). I’m happy to wake up early, dress nice, show up and perform well. So what if I have a commute? I can crush audiobooks and enjoy the time to think about the meaning of life or beer or something.

Takeaway: I’m ready to settle down back into a work routine with people I connect with every day. Travel will always be a huge priority but probably in smaller doses going forward. It took this year to learn that about myself.

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Overall, this year has been the most transformative time of my entire life. It’s taken a while, but I’ve grown to love myself more and come to accept who I am and what I can offer this world. I can proudly say I’m a real adult now – just look at the hair!

So what’s next? TBD for the most part. Keep an eye out here for updates when I figure it out myself… Cheers!

Europe Catch Up

Where have I been the past 4 months, you ask? Just over here enjoying every minute of this crazy year and definitely not writing enough blog posts…

Europe was beautiful and familiar. We had most of the luxuries of home with a slight foreign twist. Example A: Paprika flavored Pringles on every corner store shelf. Why?

So here we go with a breakdown of all 4 Europe months!

London, United Kingdom

Living/Coworking: We lived in a hip and weirdly creepy co-work/co-live building called The Collective. The rooms were brand new and spotless but super tiny – the shower was so small that shaving your legs became an Olympic-level challenge. The building was pretty far outside of the city which was a little bit limiting, but we still managed to have a great experience in the city.

Highlights:

  • Stonehenge
  • Tons of museums
  • Amsterdam side trip – all of the amazing food and beer you can find in one place!
  • Cutting all my hair off
  • London Pride parade – my first Pride spent with my boo and 15+ besties
  • Brexit – random timing to be witness to this historic event

Prague, Czech Republic

Likely my favorite month on RY yet. We had the perfect mix of an appropriate living situation, unique coworking space, fantastic weather, and low cost of living.

Living: Huge, clean, airy apartments with closets and a new bath tub! What more could we ask for?! Shoutout to my great roommates Lauren and Carol who made me crepes all the time.

Coworking: K10 Coworking is an old Danish Embassy building turned coworking space and a total gem. There was a personal chef and huge backyard space that was perfect for group lunches in the grass every day.

Highlights:

  • Chesky Krumlov side trip – old UNESCO World Heritage site that takes over a small city filled with relaxed vibes and rafting down the lazy river. And a Bone Church on the way
  • $2 beer
  • Getting back to nature after a month in a huge city
  • Berlin Pride side trip – shortly following, my second Pride also with my boo and 10+ besties. Berlin knows how to have fun…

Belgrade, Serbia

Living: The first month that Laura and I officially live together. Awwww <3! Our apartment was cute and well designed with an old squeaky wood floor. It reminded me of some of my past houses in Austin.

Coworking: Pop-up Coworking space associated with SmartOffice. Honestly, our apartment was far and uphill, so I didn’t go more than once or twice for RY events.

Highlights:

  • Sziget Music Fest in Budapest – 7 days of live music and festival life. Epic but exhausting. Would do again
  • Cooking at home again
  • Beautiful women everywhere – I would have never pegged Serbia for having some of the most gorgeous women in the world
  • Passing the PMP – I spent most of Prague studying and took the exam Aug 11. Passed with an almost-perfect score. Woot!

Split, Croatia

Living: Our apartment bedroom was weird and hot, so we moved the mattress into the living room and made a fort which we lived in most of the month. #notanadultyet

Coworking: WIP (Work In Progress) is the first ever RY sponsored coworking space, and we got to help design it and be the first group to test it out. Just 50 meters from the beach, the modern space was a treat to work from all month.

Highlights:

  • Niraj’s birthday weekend – 2 days, 1 night island hopping across the Dalmatian coast with 25+ besties
  • Sam and Justin’s visit – so great to see 2 of my favorite people and introduce them to the digital nomad lifestyle
  • Starting  Compact PMP – while studying for the PMP myself, I found that there wasn’t a great outline of only the necessary material so I made my own and I’m now helping others pass, too!
  • Epic views everywhere you look
  • Oktoberfest in Germany and MY BIRTHDAY! – Checked this off my bucket list in the most epic way possible. Will likely go down as my favorite weekend of all of RY. 26 people in a 4 bedroom/2 bath apartment. I didn’t snore!
  • That time we had to be rescued with bikes on a boat to make it back to the ferry on time. Such an unplanned adventure but those are usually the best kind 🙂

We like to joke that life on Remote Year happens at a 3x the rate of life back home and writing this blog post has put that into perspective. I have done, seen, and experienced more in the last 8 months than I ever thought was possible. Travel is the best teacher and I don’t plan to stop learning anytime soon.

Month 3: La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia is never somewhere I would have thought to go on my own. It’s a city built atop a 12,000 ft mountain and has the most incredible views. It’s also known for leveling gringos with altitude sickness, but thankfully I was fine. Of the cities we’ve lived in so far, La Paz has easily been the least Western and most foreign, which I loved.

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The True Cost of Voting Absentee

As a lifelong American, I wholeheartedly believe that it is our civic duty to vote in as many elections as possible. As a member of Remote Year, I will be voting absentee for the first time in the 2016 Presidential election. At home, I am a registered voter with Travis County in Austin, Texas and have not missed a major election in a decade. I knew that this year would be no different and I would submit my ballot regardless of the process – famous last words.

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Month 2: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Let’s start with “No, I’m not dead. Please stop asking.” Turns out Buenos Aires (BA) is a super badass city with an un-doable amount of stuff to do, but I’m trying to get it all in.

Highlights

  • Fuerza Bruta – this insane interactive live show with water, confetti, a running man, gunshots, and ceiling acrobats. I’m going back again this weekend if that says anything.
  • Lollapalooza Argentina – you can’t escape a C3 event, even across the globe. Got to see Die Antwoord, Mumford and Sons, Odessa, Zeds Dead, Florence and the Machine, Kaskade, and Alabama Shakes. Rolling 40 people deep makes you feel like a rockstar. Moshing with 12 year olds makes you feel like a washed up rockstar.
  • Recoleta Cemetery – seriously the most gorgeous cemetery I have ever seen. I’ve always been oddly obsessed with how different societies immortalize the dead. Argentina is winning.
  • El Tigre – day trip by train to a sleepy little city only accessible by boat. Like, the school bus is a boat. Really cool Chinatown, river ferry tour, PUPPIES(!!!), and giant bubbles.

Lowlights

  • Being sick – the first 4 days here I had a 102+ fever, chills/sweats, 2 trips to the doctor, and a shot in the butt. Weee!
  • Becoming Nocturnal – You think NYC is the city that never sleeps?! I guarantee BA has them beat. Clubs don’t open until 1am and it’s extremely common to watch the sunrise multiple days in a row. Now you guys know I’m an old grandma and can’t hang that late, but the lifestyle has rubbed off on me some.
  • Bad Wifi – how am I supposed to watch my novelas?! Jk, the streaming isn’t great but I shouldn’t be watching TV anyway, right?

Hotels

This month, our group of 75 is split up between 5 or so apart-hotels which is exactly what it sounds like = part hotel, part apartment. (Side note- I physically cannot type “part” without adding then deleting the y at the end. Great habits, Jessie). 

I’m in Byblos and my lovely little roomie is DJ TJ. This is cribs tour last month but you can anticipate this month’s coming soon and see the apartment for yourself. It’s really nice compared to The Austral (affectionately called the Asshole) in Montevideo. We have a balcony with a view, kitchen, and real pillows!

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Workspace

The workspace this month, La Maquinita, is no Sinergia from last month, but it’s a very nice, clean, bright place to work. The coffee machine is baller and is hands-down the best feature of the place. It’s louder than I would prefer and this has kept some remotes to working from home or cute local cafes. When no one is there the wifi is awesome. Bye Felicia!

More on actual *coughworkcough* in an upcoming post…

2 Wheels

I got a free, kickass bicycle that FOLDS into a travel case. It was born in Japan and made the long journey across the Pacific with our fearless leader Jesse Gross (shoutout!) Turns out he actually hates riding bikes and we have the whole same-name thing going, which has really worked out for me. I plan to keep this baby with me as long as possible and maybe, just maybe, make it all the way back to the US. Wish me luck!

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Overall, I’m still having a great time and learning so much about myself and the world. We’re headed out to La Paz, Bolivia this coming Sunday but I just have a feeling I’ll be back to Buenos Aires one day. Seriously, the Reciprocity Fee is $160 for 10 years and you know how much I like to get a good bang for my buck! 🙂

Thoughts on Paper

Wow, what a month! It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and I’ve been so busy I can’t even think, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m finally ready to write down some public thoughts for you lovely people since things are starting to slow down and get into a normal routine. I’m drinking less and running more – score!

Sidenote: In the last 2 weeks I potentially broke my toe and overcame a bacterial infection with pretty serious cough. Totally fine now so don’t tell my mom!

The Program

Far and away the best part of Remote Year are my fellow Remotes. I am honored to be part of this smart, thoughtful, inspiring, dedicated group of people. And boy is everyone good looking! The RY staff did an incredible job of hand picking each of us (not to toot my own horn…toot toot!). My heart could just explode thinking about everyone!

We have all sorts of awesome cultural, language, volunteer, and group activities. Imagine going to work like normal, but having awesome plans every night and weekend that you can pick and choose from. Many are organized by RY as official events and we’re also encouraged to set up group activities ourselves.

I Promise We Work!

Well, not my favorite topic at the moment. One of my goals of RY is to become financially self-sufficient and work for myself on my own terms. Turns out that’s not as easy as it sounds. The saving grace is that I have a few months to work it out and that I’m surrounded by brilliant people who want to help.

Our workspace this month is a dream. Sinergia is leading the coworking movement in Uruguay and is an open and vibrant place to be productive. The staff hosts pub crawls, movie nights, and networking events each month to help all members get to know each other and feel comfortable collaborating.

I’m also part of the Battuta Incubator entrepreneur group, which is designed to meet once a week throughout the whole year and act as:

  1. a check-in on projects we’re working on individually
  2. an opportunity to network and collaborate on new projects with dreamers, builders, and do’ers
  3. a platform for activities and speakers aimed at increasing our skillzzzo

Montevideo

Montevideo is such an unusual place once you get past the surface. The main quirk is the hours this city runs on. A typical Friday for a Uruguayan may start with work at 9/10 am, head home to relax after work, go out for dinner at 11pm and the bars around 1am. This old lady can’t hang, man. Also, the majority of shops and restaurants are closed on the weekends. I wish I knew why but really I’m just so confused and hungry on Sundays.

Yes, Montevideo is on the beach but don’t be fooled. Our closest beach is Playa Ramirez and the brown water is a product of the Río de la Plata merging with the South Atlantic Ocean, creating brackish water. The residents do swim here but I’ve yet to see a Remote take the plunge. Instead, we head up the coast every weekend to beaches further from the river in Punta del Este or Cabo Palonio.

There is much more to say about this interesting city, but I’ll leave it to the brilliant Hannah Wolper on this one.


Long story short, I’m having the time of my life and feel, for the first time in a long time, that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  I know that everything will fall into place if I just keep doing what I’m doing and grow a little each day.

I miss Austin a lot and I miss my friends and family even more. Skipping SXSW this year is killing me but I’m putting together an #honorarySXSW next month in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Keep a look out for those shenanigans.

Love you guys!