Halfway Through the Beautiful Chaos

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Six different apartments, six coworking spaces, six cities, four countries, two continents, all in six months with 75 people. Life has been a true whirlwind of change and excitement and newness. Each month I’ve settled in a new city, exploring its cafes and traditional street food, marveling at centuries-old architecture and color, finding swanky hipster bars and speakeasies, hiking and adventuring in nature, meeting passionate locals and listening to their fascinating stories. No day or moment is the same. And still, even after six months of this, I still feel like I’m holding a snow globe in the palm of my hands wondrously staring at myself as I journey through the year – and when I give it a shake, I’m suddenly settled in a new place. It’s become a chaotic yet harmonious life that I never want to end. I’m eager for more, but I’m also so full – full of curiosity, growth, empathy, and love.

Month six of Remote Year brought us to Buenos Aires or the ‘New York of South America’. June marked the start of the winter season in the big city – which is more like fall if you’re from the U.S. east coast with temps in the 50’s – and we were greeted with windy streets and tall trees shedding the last of their amber-colored leaves. My accommodation for the month was a small studio apartment (in a former hotel) with a small kitchenette and a cozy California king bed that was perfect to warm up in.

Similar to New York, Buenos Aires has countless places to explore – parks, restaurants, nightlife, markets, themed-bars and more. We lived in the creative and trendy barrio Palermo SoHo, and I quickly fell in love with the look and feel of the neighborhood.

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As most wine lovers know, Argentina is the holy grail of fine vino, especially Malbec and other red varieties. I enjoyed a couple wine tastings while in BA – my favorite was at Il Posto Mercato where I tasted some of the best wines I’ve ever had, and learned all about the flavors of Argentinian vino from our local friend and wine master, Tomasz (see this cool video recap of the tasting).

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I ventured out of the Palermo area a few times to explore other historical and cultural neighborhoods in the city. With bright buildings and murals, I enjoyed the vibrant barrio of La Boca the most – a working-class community that used to be the home of shipyards as it is situated at the mouth of the Riachuelo river. The main lure of La Boca is Caminito, a colorful artists’ street near the water.

La Boca

A few of the other areas worth exploring are Recoleta and San Telmo. Recoleta, BA’s upscale historical district, is home to the famous La Recoleta Cemetary – a massive cemetery that feels like the size of a small town, and is the final resting place of Eva Peron, former first lady of Argentina (1946-1952) who played a powerful role in Argentina’s women’s suffrage movement and improving the lives of the poor. San Telmo is the oldest barrio in all of BA, and is a great place to stroll through for cute markets, live music, antique shops, and cafes.

Recoleta Cemetary

San Telmo

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On the last day before leaving, I knocked the last few must-sees off of my Buenos Aires list – Palacio Barolo, the Obelisk, and El Ateneo Grand Splendid – the largest bookstore in the city. Not only was it our last day in BA, but also the last one in Latin America, and after six months of connecting with all of the places and its people, I became a little devastated that the time had come to leave. Heading to Europe for the next three months of Remote Year meant no more speaking Spanish, no more empanadas, no more late nights dancing to reggaeton, and a bunch of other little things that made us all fall in love with the culture of each city and country.

The Obelisk

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El Ateneo Grand Splendid

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I went home that night and blasted Despacito (aka the Meraki anthem) on repeat with a glass of my cheap Malbec in hand while I packed up my two bags. I scrolled through the hundreds of photos I’d taken throughout the year and read my old blogs, letting myself feel every emotion and reflecting on all the growth I’ve had in only six months. I sat in the middle of my bed and wrote one last journal entry, and reminded myself that I would come back to this beautiful place many, many times in the future. This was just another bittersweet “see ya later.”

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We’re now more than halfway through our month in the wonderful city of Prague! Will be sharing deets soon. 😉

 

Xoxo, 

Ash

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The Breakthrough

The view from our Córdoba coworking space.

For you wonderful souls who’ve been awaiting updates on my travel journey, I’ve finally preserved some special time to share what’s been going on in recent weeks (I also went on a really cool writer’s retreat this past weekend in the Argentinian countryside and couldn’t avoid writing this any longer).

So, alas, here we are – enjoyyy.

Month five of Remote Year brought me to Córdoba, Argentina just as the country entered its brisk winter season. With temperatures in the low 50’s, dreary streets filled with stray dog sh*t, and locals that initially struck me as unwelcoming, I was ready for May to be over before giving the city a fair chance.

Family and friends from home often envision my year abroad as a blissful fantasy where “normal” life problems are put on pause. They think my days are filled with adventure sports, dining at top-rated Trip Advisor restaurants, and snapping perfect Instagram photos – and while some days do feel like I’m in a fantasy world, so many days are not. Our Remote Year program leaders warned us that the extreme elation we had been feeling since January would soon turn into a mid-year reality check for most of the group, leaving us questioning why we were doing this, if we were truly fulfilling our purpose, and if we even really knew what our purpose was.

It’s hard to put into real words the things I was feeling last month. More often than not I felt lonely, overly anxious, and a deep sadness where I could’ve burst into tears at any second. For me, it had little to do with questioning my life purpose and more to do with a dark period of growth and detachment I needed to finally face. I didn’t fully blame Córdoba for my melancholy spirit, but the gloom of the city couldn’t have matched my mood any better. Here’s what played a bigger part: one of my best friends from home who began Remote Year with me headed back to the U.S. at the end of April on very short notice; I had stopped receiving frequent check-in calls from home and felt forgotten about; and a confusing 5-year relationship-turned-friendship that I had held onto by its very last strings finally went sour. I became fragile. The girl who was always so strong and constantly holding it together for everyone around her was crumbling.

If there’s one thing I’ve mastered, it’s the art of distracting myself on more emotional days by drowning myself in work – so it was perfect when I was hit with a heavy project load for my job last month. I enjoyed the stress of it. It hushed all of the negative noise going on in my conscious mind. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t…and many afternoons I’d leave our coworking space to go sit in my cold apartment bedroom and let the depression take over. My mind would spin in nonstop circles and it consumed every ounce of my energy, leaving me appetite-less and antisocial.

After about three weeks of this, I decided I couldn’t waste any more of my precious time in this weird, unhappy head space. I’m entirely too grateful and humbled by the opportunities given to me this year, who was I to self-sabotage these moments that I’ll never get back? I began to slowly pull myself out of the funk I had been in – daily morning meditations and writing down positive affirmations were my saving grace. Oh, and finally letting go.

For our last weekend in Córdoba, about 20 of us went on a one-night camping trip in the hills to enjoy nature, cook up an authentic asado, and simply recharge. We stopped about midway through the mountainous ride to our cabin for a photo-op from the perfect vantage point overlooking the vast, cascading valleys. While perched on the edge of the mountain taking it all in, the universe suddenly spoke to me…God spoke to me. I was reassured that I’d be okay. For the ten minutes spent admiring the deep, low valleys in front of us, I was reminded to appreciate my own lows. And in this calm moment, a new energy entered me as I shed all of the heaviness that had been exhausting my mind and body. I left it all right there on that mountainside, and I’d never felt so free.

I hit an unexpected spiritual breakthrough during our month in Cordoba, and on the day we took a 10-hour bus ride to our next city, Buenos Aires, I let go of all the anchors that were holding me hostage for year and years.

I learned to quiet my stubborn ego, which was too prideful to let my emotions take over, and two important notes were added my list of positive affirmations — 1.) Take all the time you need to just feel, but be weary of energy you allow to consume you; 2.) Prioritize self-love, self-healing, and be open to rediscovering you and your happiness. Your future self will thank you endlessly.

Now! To recap the memorable moments + places I did experience in May (it wasn’t all shitty), I have some photo galleries to share:

Horseback riding in the Sierras

A day at ‘Cabezas de Tormenta‘ (a local creative co-living house)

Favorite Cordoba cafe ‘Almacen de Meriendas

A visit to Proyecto Caraya Monkey Sanctuary

Some gorgeous sunset shots from our camping trip

 

Xoxo, 

Ash