6 months, 6 thoughts: The Remote Year halfway point
Prague’s Žižkov Television Tower is one of the ugliest buildings in the world, but views from the top are stunning. A few of us were enjoying lunch there when a friend said something that scared the shit out of me.
We had been talking about the halfway point. As I write this from our workspace in Belgrade, Serbia, we’re halfway through Remote Year: Eurotrip — and halfway through Remote Year, period.
It’s hard to think about the end. How will it feel to leave this strange/wonderful RY bubble and fly home? To ease back into a life I left to chase adventure? To not do those things and travel solo instead?
“You know when you come back from a vacation and you wake up at home, in your bed, and it seems like everything you did was forever ago? And you can’t believe it really happened?”
Yes. I know this feeling so well and hate it: thinking my trip was a dream; trying to remember it while returning to the mundanity of normal life. Then it hit me: someday Remote Year will be that distant memory. Someday I’ll wake up and this new normal will feel a million miles away.
I choked on my weird Czech potatoes.
Of course I know it’s going to end. That doesn’t mean I’ve thought about it.
After our lunch, I thought about that post-vacation feeling a lot. It was time for a reality check: Am I getting everything I wanted out of this experience? Has it changed me at all? Why am I still here? What are my goals for the next 6 months?
These were big questions and answering them was hard. But they made me realize my goals, habits, values and perspective have changed during 6 months on the road. This is how:
Travel has become a background challenge
One of my goals for this year was to get comfortable being uncomfortable and turn challenges into learning opportunities. The thing is, obstacles never go away. There are always new streets to navigate, cultural norms to adopt, languages to learn.
Now these challenges are part of my normal and I’ve started to add more: hiking the Inca Trail, running a half marathon in Ireland, skydiving. Later this year I’ll plan a solo trip and run my first foreign marathon in Thailand. AAAAAH.
Non-professional development is as important as my job.
In New York, your job is the first thing people ask about after they learn your name — sometimes before then. Here, it’s different. You’re not defined by your job. The things you love outside work do matter and they’re part of who you are.
Keeping hobbies on the road is hard. These days, I do my best to make time for blogging, running, photography, and learning the history of wherever I find myself. Maybe I’ll add surfing or Cambodian cuisine in the months ahead.
Lazy days are healthy
Last Sunday I woke up at noon and barely did anything all day. I took multiple naps, ate a sandwich, called my mom. I painted my toenails. I read. It was glorious.
I feel guilty bumming around with a new city outside and one month to see it. But realistically, this lifestyle is exhilarating and exhausting and sometimes I need a burrito and a book. Otherwise, burnout is inevitable.
My travel family. You guys rock.
Know what’s super crazy? Meeting 70 strangers and jumping headfirst into a life-changing year. Travel is challenging in itself, but we’re also trying to make friends and keep in touch with loved ones and plan side trips and hold down jobs while not pulling out our hair and sometimes it’s insane.
Being at the halfway point is bittersweet because by now, the people who were once strangers have become family. We get the struggles, the highs and lows of this whirlwind experience. We’re there for each other.
Like recently, when I dropped my phone in a toilet in Prague. Ten minutes after I reached out to our group, one Cousteau offered a loaner and another offered to bring back a replacement from the US. Y’all are the best.
I’m not sure I can go back to my old life — or if I want to
One of the reasons I’m here is because my NYC life was an awkward fit. This was hard to accept. Growing up outside New York, I had always planned to live and work in the city. One year in, I realized I wanted more: to see more, experience more, travel more. I’ll always love Manhattan but I’m not sure we’re soulmates.
Will this change by the time I leave Vietnam in March? I’m still not sure.
If Remote Year has taught me anything, it’s that there’s more to life outside the northeastern US. It’s a bittersweet feeling. My family and friends are all there and I miss them every day (hi guys!). At the same time, I’m happier outside the soul-sucking grind of city life. Travel has brought out the best version of myself and I’m not sure where she should settle yet.
So maybe I’ll bounce around the US to see more of my own country. Maybe I’ll stick around Asia or head down to Australia. Maybe I’ll go back to Europe. It’s too early to tell, but right now I like not knowing.
Change is constant and I’m not done yet
More challenges and adventures await us in Serbia, Croatia, and Asia. I keep rereading this quote by Anthony Bourdain as we venture into the second half of Remote Year:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”