Travel

My first week as a remote worker

Bello, Antioquia

It’s Friday! I completed my first week of remote work, here in Bello, Antioquia, Colombia and it flew by in the blink of an eye. I’m visiting my father who retired here just over one year ago. I jotted down some of the really awesome things about working from the comfort of my temporary home.

(+) The Pros

  1. I can eat whenever I want. Fatties unite! It’s more about having the kitchen right here, since I love to cook, and this way, I can keep it 100 and healthy.
  2. Along those lines, I can stick to my Paleo lifestyle diet better, no office cakes or bagels to avoid! Yes, I’m complaining about free food at the regular office; I’m Silicon Valley startup spoiled.
  3. I am getting so much work done, I can’t believe it! Apart from meetings, most “support” work can technically be done on your own time. I’ve enjoyed getting a few hours head start before my PST peers are up. Then, after I clear my emails, I can make a nice breakfast and be back online by the time my California friends are getting into work.
  4. It’s easy to pick my clothes out in the morning and stay organized. This really has to do with minimalism. I packed only one “backpacker” bag and the limited outfit choice is liberating.

(-) The cons

  1. I’m in a small town and I don’t know what to do with myself on a Friday night. I’ve already read two books and I just got here less than a week ago. While, so far, so good, I think this lifestyle could get lonely, especially so far out of the “main town.” I’m about 1 hour away, which isn’t realistic on evenings. We’ll see how I do during my first weekend, starting tomorrow!
  2. I’ve already been hit with WiFi connectivity issues. Luckily, things went smoothly over email and Slack, which we use to chat, but it wasn’t strong enough for my many video calls. I’ll have to come up with a backup plan, like a second internet service, or even my ridiculously expensive hotspot from AT&T. Think of alternatives if you can. Sadly for me, I don’t have the luxury of running over to a cafe since I’m technically not even in Medellín proper. No public WiFi here!
  3. My workout routine is suffering. It pains me to think I’m going on over a week of no exercise. Being a crossfit girl, the idea of doing “body weight stuff” at home, sounds boring. I know it’s better than nothing, but I’m going to look into alternatives like swimming very soon. If it comes to looking like a fool at the local kid’s park, so be it.
  4. Any new experience is scary. Even going for a run seems risky. New paths, new country; I might get lost. On the plus side, speaking the language will help me on this front.

Loving the flexibility of this life so far and  hopefully, I will learn as I go!

Digital Nomad-ism. I’m going remote for 3 months.

I celebrated my 1 year anniversary with Athos in February and around that time, I worked up the courage to ask for something I’ve been dreaming of, a break from the Silicon Valley bubble. I set a date in my calendar to pitch a “work from home” arrangement. I tried to make excuses when the date approached, shutting myself down before even attempting, but in the end, I promised myself TO JUST ASK.  pabloI came with a simple proposal and plan:

Responsibilities: My goal is still to meet all of my current responsibilities on the Customer Advocacy team. Most of my work (~85%) is easily done over email like Zendesk tickets, live chat, and social media replies.

What I will need from my team

– Getting dialed into meetings & calls.
– “Onsite buddy” to loop me into relevant meetings.

Expectations:
• Full availability on Slack, email, and the usual channels to get in touch during the work day. Happy to stick to PST or whatever you all prefer.
• Strong wifi for Zendesk, phone calls, Google Hangouts, etc.
• I have also found a nearby co-working space (if I need a quite place for calls), and a local Crossfit box to stay on top of testing the app regularly.
• Will continue regular reporting.

Besides being hit by the wanderlust bug, there is a big personal piece to this. I want to spend some quality time with my dad, who I haven’t gotten to see more than a few days at a time for a major portion of my life. My mom is a huge part of my identity, and I’d like to have that same bond with my dad as I grow older. Face-to-face is a big part of this for me and I don’t want to let the chance pass me by.

I’m happy to say, asking for what I wanted paid off and I’m leaving for Medellín, Colombia this Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be sticking to the same ol’ 9-5, so it’s no vacation, but I’m excited to explore a new area for a nice chunk of time. Slow traveling appeals to me as moving city-to-city is not only a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t give you a chance to make deep connections nor get too immersed in day-to-day life of the region. I have my eyes set on joining a local Crossfit box, eating like the locals do, and traveling to the sights on weekends.

See you in September, California. I can’t wait to document my Medellín living!

My Two Week Itinerary for Vietnam

Jet lag is a real thing. I just returned from a two-week adventure in Vietnam and it’s tough adjusting to the time here in San Francisco, especially after crossing the international date line. The whole “going back in time” thing boggles my mind, but alas, more insomnia to write about the journey while the memories are fresh. Similar to my trip to Roatan, Honduras, I didn’t know much about my destination before buying my plane ticket. I love bánh mì sandwiches and pho soup, so I was sold on the promises of cheap, delicious food alone.

Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich

Vegetarian pho soup for $1.50 USD

While a lot of folks explore Vietnam from South (Ho Chi Minh City) to North (Hanoi), it worked out cheaper for me to do it the other way around. I’ve heard that if you are traveling solo, you have a better chance of making friends in Ho Chi Minh City (so you may find some folks to share the journey with), but I actually met tons of folks at my hostel in Hanoi too, so whatever way works best for you; go for it.

Keep in mind, we flew from spot to spot, to maximize time. This wouldn’t work on train or bus in this time frame.

Days 1-3 Hanoi

I’d heard from some people that Hanoi isn’t worth spending much time in, but I’m really happy I stayed a solid chunk of time there. You already know I love to eat, and I enjoyed the Hanoi street food scene so much!

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, so it’s really the heart of all the political happenings. My first impression was that it was crazy busy, full of motorcycle chaos, which I later found out was nothing compared to Ho Chi Minh City! It was a good training ground for “how to cross the road in Vietnam.” Pro tip: Walk slow & steady and the traffic will magically veer around you. I almost felt like even with my eyes closed I might have been okay… but don’t try that.

Where I stayed: Hanoi’s Backpacker’s Hostel- Downtown. I’m not much of a hostel gal myself, mostly because I have outgrown a lot of the “party” side of it, but I loved this spot. They offered free breakfast (eggs) each morning, and free-beer-o’clock at 5PMs each day, which was a nice way to meet fellow travelers.

Downtown Hanoi Backpacker's Hostel
Highlights:

  • FOOD TOUR, FOOD TOUR, FOOD TOUR. There are plenty of food tours to choose from, but I went with the top-rated one on Trip Advisor, Hanoi Street Food Tour. Our tour guide was sweet and the food was on point. One of the highlights of the entire trip.
  • Hoàn Kiếm Lake.

Vietnamese street food

Vietnamese pancakes

Vietnamese street food

Vietnamese yogurt with fruit and coconut cream

Hoàn Kiếm Lake
IMG_4262 IMG_4290

Hanoi just a few hours drive from my top spot on the entire journey, up next….!

Days 3-5 Halong Bay

Yes, this UNESCO World Heritage site lives up to the hype. I almost didn’t book this because it was December, and I thought it would be cold. We lucked out; it was wonderful, but even if it had been freezing, it would have been a total fail not to come and see this. Just do it!

Where I stayed: There are many tour operators that offer “cruises” in Halong Bay, mostly 1 or 2 night options. We chose the Glory Cruise, for 1 night only, and it was awesome. Just do your research on this one; check reviews and don’t skimp out on the cheapest one. You get what you pay for in this case.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam water village

Halong Bay sunset water villageHalong Bay, Vietnam sunset

Day 5

One more night in Hanoi. This was a day of transition; driving back from Halong Bay to Hanoi (our tour operator did the driving). We got one more night to rest up before our flight the next morning.

Days 6-10 Hoi An

This dreamy coastal town is romantic to the max. It’s slower paced and we were lucky enough to visit during the lantern festival. I wasn’t expecting to love the beach here, but An Bang was relaxing and warm in December!

Where I stayed: La Residencia. The most expensive splurge this trip; but worth it for the upgrades and perfect location.

Highlights:

  • Walk around the Old Town.
  • Lucked out and went during the Lantern Festival.
  • Signed up for a cooking class! We choose My Grandmother’s home cooking, out of town and in a little village, to get a different look.

girl drinking papaya juice

vietnamese cooking seasonings

Green papaya salad

 

Lantern festival Hoi An, Vietnam

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Lantern festival Hoi An, VietnamIMG_4571IMG_4543

Days 10-13 Phu Quoc

I found this place by searching for “warm places in Vietnam in December.” I knew we were going in winter, and that the further south, the warmer it would get. Well, I got to live out my beach bum dream here in the warm turquoise waters in the Gulf of Thailand.

2015-12-27 13.11.15-2

Where I stayed: Bauhina Resort. Wow, wow, wow; we loved it. It was luxury on a budget.

Highlight: Sao Beach. It made me sad to see the garbage; it’s true that there is rubbish all around, but it’s mostly kept to the corners. I still loved it here; the water was warm and clear.

Days 13-15 Ho Chi Minh City

We finished the trip off in the busy city. The traffic was like nothing I had ever seen before. I got the worst allergies of my life here (with all the smog) but props to my killer charades skills for getting me some medicine. I just acted out a sneeze, to the pharmacist. Thank you “Heads up” for training me well.

Where I stayed: An Airbnb room in the heart of District 1; walking distance or a quick taxi to most sights.

Highlights:

  • War Remnants Museum.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels.
  • Bringing in 2016 on the rooftop of OMG Rooftop Bar; got an incredible view of the fireworks!

War Remnants Museum Cu Chi Tunnels

Have more time?

Some other options include Nha Trang (which I hear is paradise), Hue, and the Mekong Delta.

Halloween in New Orleans, or “Nawlins” as they call it.

I just got back from my longest break since I started managing customer advocacy at Athos. It was just five short days but it was nice precursor to the long winter trip I have planned. A taste at what leaving the email queue in the hands of someone else entirely. Well, success, nothing blew up and things moved along nicely without me. Being on the front lines, it’s scary to step back and relax but luckily, I work with a great team!

For the first time since my crazy UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista days, I wore THREE different costumes. While the rest of the world sees Halloween as a one day event, the lovely people of New Orleans and Isla Vista have something in common. They know it’s best to dress up as many days as possible! They also both LOVE good party, and my favorite part was the live music everywhere. While Bourbon Street was worth a look, we spent most of our time on Frenchman Street, which had more of a local vibe.

halloween

 

 

My second-favorite part was the awesome food. It felt SO GOOD to eat anything and everything after successfully eating clean for the last seven weeks of my life.

  • I had wonderful gluten free fried seafood from Casamento’s Restaurant. This place is awesome because it’s not the hipster kind of gluten free place, but more-so authentic, accidentally gluten-free as they’ve made the batter with cornmeal from the beginning.
  • We stopped by the outdoor market in the French quarter for a Muffaleta on gluten-free bread and crab cakes.
  • I devoured a Banana’s Foster at Brennan’s, where it was originally concocted during a food competition.
  • I ate beignets, French donuts, at Cafe Du Monde all by my lonesome since those are NOT gluten-free but my friend is 🙂

donut_time

We also ventured off for a swap tour and I even held a sweet baby alligator. I am happy to be back but really proud I took care of myself by checking off “TAKE A BREAK WITH A FRIEND” off of this handy Community Manager’s Self-Care Checklist. Now to get back to exercising and eating right!

swamp

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