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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Taking the Leap

January 1, 2017 marked the first day of a new year and a new life venture for me – I hopped on a 6 a.m. Southwest Airlines flight at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (still feeling a little boozy from cognac shots with my papa the night before) and headed to Mexico City, where I would anxiously arrive about seven hours later after a brief pit stop in Houston, Texas.

On this day, I began my 12-month journey with a group of 80 other digital nomads in a program called Remote Year. Moving, living and adjusting to a new “home” each month, our travels would stretch across 4 continents, 10 countries and 12 cities throughout the year. As a girl who has never left the DC-MD-VA area for more than a two weeks at a time, committing to Remote Year struck as both enthralling and terrifying.

Despite my love for people, I’m known to be pretty introverted and prefer to be around large groups only every now and then – but I would now be learning dozens of new names, faces, and 30-second long biographies of those I would be spending the next 365 days with – people who would become friends, and eventually family. I knew from the start that Remote Year would be a challenge as well as a growth experience in its most organic form.

My luggage consisted of layers of both clothes and overwhelming emotion – excitement, joy, determination, fear, anticipation, and a little uncertainty. One of my bags weighed in 2.8 pounds over the airline weight max, but taking out a couple pairs of jeans was enough to bring it back within the limit. I’d like to believe those two-and-a-half pounds were really shed once I took a deep breath, exhaling the nervousness that had built itself up in my chest.

My flight touched down in my new city around 1:30 p.m. – my luggage, however, did not. After a mini heart attack I was reassured that my bags would arrive in the evening, and I eventually retrieved them the next morning. In a way, I think the universe was reminding me to pack light for this year-long journey, and to let go of a lifetime of over planning and worry-filled doubt…I listened.

It only took a week for me to fall in love with Mexico City – the intricate architecture, the genuine character, the local fresh foods – all of its little details captivate you and overwhelm you at the very same time. Once I fully settled into an old apartment that would be home for next 28-days, I delved into my neighborhood with curious eyes and an open mind. The past week has felt like a month’s worth of time, maybe even more. But I’m loving every second, and my longing for the year ahead has only grown.

Here are bits and pieces from my time in Mexico City thus far, all captured on my iPhone 7.

The Streets

The buildings and homes here are full of color, unique style and just the right amount of detail. Even a quick walk to your destination is satisfying as the streets (especially in my neighborhood, La Condesa) evoke an energetic vibe.

The Eats

One of the best things about traveling is experiencing all the vibrant flavors and being a foodie, or just pretending to be one. Yum!

I had a delicious vegan lunch at Los Loosers with some fellow remotes last week. The owner, Mariana, opened the trendy vegan bike delivery service in 2011 and it became the first vegan-only restaurant in Mexico City. For lunch we enjoyed spicy mushroom, olive and yucca tacos (shown above), a side of fresh avocado with roasted tomato salsa, and a refreshing cucumber, ginger and chia drink – aaamazing.

El Pescadito ordering line

El Pescadito is a fast-casual seafood taco spot about 10 minutes from our apartment in La Condesa. We were lucky enough not to wait in a long line, and got to see our food made fresh in front of us in what seemed to be a wok-fryer. You can then dress your tacos in all the toppings you want at what they call a “salad bar”. Perfect place for a quick lunch.

Here are more foodie photos of the meals I’ve been enjoying in CDMX:

The Architecture

The buildings in Mexico City will leave you in awe with their detail and carefully crafted design. I’ve spent some free time wandering around and observing places like the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the Chapultepec Castle and the Secretariat of Public Education, which features beautiful murals painted by Diego Rivera in the 1920’s.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, opened 1813
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Historic CDMX
Inside Chapultepec Castle
City wide view from Chapultepec Castle
Secretariat of Public Education

Diego Rivera, 1924
Diego Rivera, 1926

I’ll be sure to post more from my time in la cuidad de Mexico throughout the rest of January, adios!

Xoxo,

Ash