Ms. Minji during our final sunset on Easter Island.

Month Twelve of Remote Year: Chile

Our grand finale.

Cassie Matias
May 24, 2017 · 8 min read

Our final month, the month of May, brought my group to Santiago, Chile. It’s a city known for its earthquakes, being hugged by the Andes mountains to the east and of course for its wine. It was my first time to not only Santiago, but to the country itself. During any other month I would’ve explored so much, but as it turns out the city for month twelve of any RY group is pretty much just background noise. Santiago is lovely, but my head and heart have been preoccupied with so much else these last four weeks.

This transition back home is hard. Perhaps just as hard, if not more so, than what it took for me to leave in the first place a year ago. It’s hard to clearly articulate what has happened not only to me, but within me, during this year abroad. It feels like a wild dream. And I know that there are so many questions that will be asked by those who haven’t experienced this time alongside me. So I’ll do my best to anticipate the suspected ones and give you answers here.

What was your favorite place?

Please don’t ask me this. It’s nearly impossible for me to tell you what city or country or continent or rural part of the world that I loved most. Month one in Valencia, Spain was my first new home in over 8 years and was where I’d meet my fellow RY crew for the first time. We’d have Game of Thrones parties at my apartment, eat paella all day long, drink cheap wine and wander the cobblestone streets of our first European country. Month three in Rabat, Morocco was where I felt like our remote year was officially beginning because we were finally out of our comfort zones. And where I’d live with three people that would ultimately become such a strong influence on the rest of my year. Month six in Hanoi, Vietnam brought me to southeast Asia for the first time as well as to the midway point in our year. I fell in love with a beautiful new part of the world that excited every part of my life and brought refreshing vibrancy to my every day. Month seven took me to 4 continents including Antarctica and Australia, accomplishing a lifelong goal; month eight landed me in Australia again as well as New Zealand for one of the absolute best trips of my life. And month ten in Brazil damn near broke me, but also showed me every day since just how supportive and loving humans can be to those they care about. You see, there’s no way I can choose a favorite place. It’s just not that easy. Instead, ask me to share some stories about a favorite activity or craziest mistake that led me down a wild path. It’ll be a better conversation for the both of us.

Are you excited to be heading home?

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m unsure, I’m scared, I’m so sad, I’m happy, I’m tired, like really tired, but I’m also ready. Ready is the better descriptor for how I feel. Because I understand that in order for me to head home, it means that this year has to come to an end. And with this being (so far) the greatest year of my life, saying that it has to be over is an incredibly tough thing to accept. I’m ready to see my friends, to be back in my own apartment, to visit my Brooklyn neighborhood shops, to catch up with those I’ve missed so much, to share what I’ve learned. I’m ready for all of that and I’m ready to hit the pause button for a little while. But I’m not ready to say goodbye to everything I’ve loved these last twelve months. It’ll take me some time to figure out how to blend both sides of this life together, but I’ll work on it. Somehow.

So you must be ready to settle down now that this travel stuff is out of your system, right?

First of all, I’ll never stop traveling. One of the things I’ve learned this year is that the world is so large, but also so small at the same time. It feels scary, it looks scary, but it’s all within reach. I now find the world so much more accessible than I ever did before, so no. I won’t ever stop exploring this great big place. Second, I don’t know what’s in my future. I also don’t know if I subscribe to the classic definition of “settling down” and I don’t know what’s in store. I’m returning home, leaving some things up in the air, and seeing where the cards fall in the next few months. I’m okay with that ambiguity, more than I ever was before Remote Year. So no, I don’t plan to buy property, have kids or get married anytime soon. And that’s okay.

Would you ever do this again?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve loved the absolute sense of (privileged) freedom I’ve been able to enjoy this last year, but I also want some time in the same place. I don’t want to live out of a suitcase, I want to clean my own toilet, I want to know what’s in my kitchen, I want to understand how the washer and dryer work on the first try, and I still want adventure. I could see myself living this life again at a slower pace, but not for a while.

What’re some interesting factoids about your year abroad?

Glad you asked. I just happened to keep a running tally of a bunch of stuff. After some Googling, I found out that the Earth is 24,874 miles around at the equator, and the distance from the Earth to the moon is 238,900 miles. That means, based on my math, I’ve gone around the planet 4.4 times and traveled about halfway to the moon this year alone.

Miles traveled this year: ~109,457
Total cities visited this year: 45
Average number of cities per month: 3.8
Total countries visited this year: 25
Total continents visited this year: 7
Total Medium post views: 21,583
Average monthly Medium post views: 1,962
Total Instagram photos: 270
Average monthly Instagram photos: 22.5
Beds I’ve slept in: 54
Number of new tattoos in foreign countries: 4
Number of countries I’ve hiked in: 11
Weirdest mode of transportation: camels
Grossest thing eaten: sheep testicles in Thailand (thanks, Phillie)
Cheapest meal: Pho bo in Hanoi on the sidewalk
Most expensive meal: the final dinner on Easter Island
Largest bar tab: the final night on Easter Island
Number of times I was ICED: 2
Number of times I ICED others: 17 (mostly Dylan)
Number of regrets: 0
Most outside-of-comfort-zone event: acting in a murder mystery (twice)
Biggest learning from the year: life is an unknown, so roll with it
Second biggest learning from the year: plan less, live more
Third biggest learning from the year: truth is the most valuable currency

And finally, to my Magellans: to the people who have rode the course of this year-long wild ride right alongside me. You have made this year more than I ever thought it could be when I first put down that $5,000 down payment in January 2016.

There are no words to articulate every feeling I have towards you all, no way to accurately express how deeply I will miss those that I have bonded with, and it is impossible for me to tell you how much I appreciate everything we’ve done together, big and small. But what I can say is that I’m proud. Of myself, of you all, of us. We did it, we survived (sometimes barely), and we found our way to the end. Whether you stayed with the group the whole way through or departed early, it ultimately doesn’t matter because you took the leap in the first place. And because we all leapt, we should all recognize the strength and risk in that.

I was forced to grow up very quickly at a very young age. I had to learn how to care for myself and I had to learn the hard way what it meant to not only live, but to thrive. I was dealt a pretty difficult hand in life, one that’s made me tough and independent and sometimes cold. Along the way I picked up people that would eventually be my own carefully curated family of weirdos and misfits. People who I could rely on, be loyal to, and confide in. But really, I still depended on me and me alone to survive.

If at any point during this year I gave you shit or messed with you, it was because I knew we were on the same level and we could be friends. If at any point during this year I took a side trip with you, it was because I enjoyed your company and wanted to learn more about your life. If at any point during this year I confided in you and asked for honest advice, it was because I trusted you and valued your opinion. If at any point during this year I let my walls fall down around you, it was because you made me feel safe. If at any point during this year I cried in front of you, it was because I cared enough about you to let that side of me show. If at any point during this year I told you I loved you, I meant it with all my heart and soul.

Thank you Elke, Mere, Rose, Becca, Ryan, Twee, Sara, Bryant, Phil, Kav, Logan, Immaculate, Casey, Nathan, Chris, Kelli, Joelle, Josh, Martine, Jose, Gor, Dana, Kyron, Marc, Sam, Maggie, Paul, Saritha, Caitlin, Elodie, Calea, JY, Luke, Anne, Patrick, Merlijn, Clare, Jeanna, Jason, Danielle, Mei, Horacio, Rick, Johanna, Alison, Rosa, Ethan, Selen, Gianna, Deb, Pam, Lee, Meghan, Jill, Samantha, Anh, Richard, Kim, Kiran, Ryan, Svetlana, Amanda, Jess, Dylan, Minji and Phillie for showing me that this all doesn’t have to be done alone anymore. Thank you for taking my breath away. Thank you for having my back. Thank you for keeping me humble. Thank you all for simply being you.

I’ll see you on the other side. Until next time.

Go Remote

Musings from the the global Remote Year community and…

Go Remote

Musings from the the global Remote Year community and beyond. Inspiration and resources for location-independent professionals.

Cassie Matias

Written by

Digital product design consultant in NYC. Member of the Remote Year alumni crew. ±

Go Remote

Musings from the the global Remote Year community and beyond. Inspiration and resources for location-independent professionals.