With a little help from my friends…

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of Half the World Away.

On today’s show, I will be interviewing some guests from a much raved about little program called Remote Year. They are certainly a loud and lively bunch of Americans, so let’s get some guests on!

Please welcome Angela Sandall, Molly Falco, Andrew Fezza and Jessica Schlauderaff.

Ladies and gent, welcome, thanks for being here.

Molly, let me start with you. Can you tell the audience a little about yourself.

Trying to figure out who I am is half the reason I’m on this trip, so thanks for that existential crisis. On a base level, though, I’m Molly, and I’m from New York City by way of Connecticut.

And Jess, Angela what about you both?

Jessica Schlauderaff. Tall, pale, and obsessed with all types of potatoes. I’m from all over the Midwestern part of the US, but most recently Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Hi, I’m Angela and I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I am an actor, singer, professional marketer and mildly obsessed with balsamic vinegar. I’m 5’3” on a good day. I really really really like Star Wars, I’m a Blackhawks fan and can belt to C5. I think I’m hilarious and my friends think I’m ridiculous and I’m known for my weird faces.

So, Andrew or Fez as you’re known, why did you decide to join the program and travel the world with 74 strangers?

For me it was a combination of wanting to see EVERYTHING and perfect timing. I also wanted a fresh start and couldn’t get myself to pick a destination or people that were flexible enough to travel for extended periods so instead I thought travel with like minded people.

Angela, you mentioned to me you needed a shock to the system, can you elaborate?

Sure, well everyone has their reasons for NOT doing something. In high school I was “too young,” in college I was “too busy” and now – after graduation and as a working professional – the time just “isn’t right.” Travel is expensive, I can’t take that much time off work, we’ll do it when we’re older… the excuses are endless. I don’t want to proceed in life under the assumption that I’ll take that trip eventually or that I’ll travel once I have more savings or that I’ll even be ALIVE in a few years. How dare I assume that the universe will afford me that luxury? Icicles fall from skyscrapers and impale people all the time! Freak accidents really happen! I could spontaneously combust!

I needed to unstick myself. There’s comfort in consistency – I had a full-time job and an amazing set of friends and a five-year plan. I felt myself stagnating and following some sort of prescribed course that was expected of me and in my heart of hearts I knew that I wasn’t psychologically ready for it. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be – I needed to be plucked from my every day so that I could continue to grow and learn and adapt.

I’m sure a lot of people on this trip can relate to that.

Jess, what about you? What made you pack up and leave?

I moved around a lot growing up, so I kind of feel like I was groomed to be nomadic. I get antsy if I live in one place for too long, probably not healthy, but don’t think about it too hard! So, I started applying for new jobs and looking at new cities to move to when I discovered a program that let me keep my same job at my same company but explore 12 different cities with a bunch of strangers. And not the crazy type of strangers, these strangers want to be my friend almost as much as I want to be their friend.

Well you guys have been in Prague now for just over 4 weeks. What have you found yourself overdosing on? Molly?

Anyone whose answer isn’t ‘beer’ is lying to you. I’ve had more Czech pilsners than my body cares to remember. Other than alcohol, though, I’d have to say togetherness. Everyone here is amazing and it’s hard to say no when people want to hang out, but I’m an introvert and need alone time to charge my batteries. I’ve definitely overdosed on people, but kind of in a good way. Kind of in a step out of your comfort zone and into the fun zone way. But also in an “I’m gonna sit in my bed and watch Czechflix alone today” kind of way.

And would you agree Angela?

Yes, beer – sweet baby Jesus I have had SO MUCH BEER. When it’s cheaper than water it’s tough to pass up, and also wait staff will just BRING it to you without even asking and then you’re like “well I guess I better drink this because it was put in front of me and I don’t want to offend the entire Czech Republic.”

So basically you have been drunk since arriving here and are possibly close to dehydration. Grand.

As I mentioned, it’s been 4 weeks since you all arrived, what have you regretted not packing? Fez?

Pens. Are you serious I hear you all say. But yes. I brought my camera. I brought a 1995 NBA All Star game jersey. I brought a disco themed speedo but I forgot pens?! I love to read and write and somehow within all those waking hours I still can’t get myself to go out and grab pens. Maybe a hardcover book or two as well.

Wow. Of all the things, pens. You know there are stores in Prague that can help you out right?

Molly, what about you?

Easy – A French press. I’ve adapted to the consumption of instant coffee but the transition hasn’t been painless and I would do unspeakable things to get a real cup of coffee. Not an Americano. Not an espresso. A goddamn brewed cup of coffee. Packing a single serve french press could have solved all my problems. I may still pick one up, if I can negotiate space for it in my bag.

And you Jess?

A few more shirts and leggings, I hate paying for  and doing laundry.

So when I found out I was going to globetrotting, one of the first thing that popped into my mind was “how I will I maintain my eyebrows?”. Weirdly though the same thought ran through the minds of my sister and mum. What was I going to do?! I would have to do them myself and the struggle is now very much real. So my last question, what is the one thing you will miss this year? Angela, you first.

My best friend and I used to cook together most nights – I miss having a fully stocked kitchen replete with weird kitchen gadgets like a dumpling folder and pizza stone. I miss the air fryer and the sense of adventure in “what are we going to cook tonight?”. I’ll adapt to having a limited kitchen and maybe I’ll pick up some cooking-for-one skills along the way but those meals are what I miss most right now.

And Molly, what about you?

Going to Whole Foods. Seriously, I haven’t seen anything made out of kale in weeks and it’s freaking me out. It’s definitely possible to eat healthy food in Prague, but it’s also much easier to eat some of their local delicacies, like fried cheese. I miss walking into a grocery store and having a million whole grain, nutrient rich, bougie-ass items to choose from.

Jess, Fez?

I miss the luxury of Target. Having a store with almost EVERYTHING you might need in one place. It’s so hard to figure out where things are sold here.

Homemade baked food. I was spoiled at home for 8 days before leaving and I’m already craving all the cookies and cakes that Momma Fez somehow made magically appear all week long.

 

Well thank you guys for being here and sharing with everyone a little bit about yourselves. I’m sure the viewership will appreciate it!

And I hope you spend the next year perfecting your Australian accents because quite frankly they need some work!

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So many LOL’s at sunrise with Angela.

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And just as many at sunset. These guys… Molly, Jess, Kevin, Me and Angela. (L to R)

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Boats, boats, boats! Me, Emma, Kelly, Fez and Angela. (L to R)

If you fancy knowing a little bit more about these great people, you can read their blogs here, here and here.

IG: @halftheworldaway.co

Episode 4: The one where we hiked a mountain.

Last night as my friend Jess and I were headed home, ice cream in hand, I had agreed to go with her on a hike up the Czech Republics highest mountain. We were to meet outside the flat at 8am and take a train, a bus and another bus, 2.5 hours north east of Prague to the bottom on Snezka Mountain. The weather looked a little iffy but we had wet weather gear and it was only rain. Oh how wrong we were. The rain came along with its friends Hail, Thunder and Lightning. We were in for a right treat. Barely 30 minutes in and they arrived in full force and didn’t leave for a good 45 minutes, possibly longer.

After the first 10 minutes our shoes were soaked through but THANK GOD for waterproof jackets! It was turning out to be les miserables but on we marched and the higher we got it started to clear.

There was one silver lining with all this hiking, it leaves you alone with your thoughts and makes it ever so slightly easier to while away the minutes by letting your mind wander. So wander it did and for some reason I was taken back to something which happened to me before I left for this trip.

Shortly before I had to start packing up my life into boxes and bags to get to the North, I was told by someone that I was “cold and heartless for leaving”. I told them to fuck off as I certainly didn’t need that sort of negativity in the lead up to my departure. I was later given an apology but the damage was done, the words were spoken and could not be taken back. The friendship was changed as I now knew how this person felt, I was cold and heartless for moving overseas and not thinking about how it would affect them. Well to be honest, I wasn’t thinking about them. I was the one moving overseas, they weren’t.

I don’t know why but those words made me feel angry and annoyed and quite frankly it was a mean thing to say because I’m not those things. As I was schlepping it up the mountain I realised I shouldn’t have been angry or annoyed because it had nothing to do with me, it was all them and they were just being selfish. I was going away because I needed to get away from Sydney for a while. I need to be striving towards something and not settled somewhere I no longer wanted to be. I wanted to get out and it was a decision I made with my family and for myself. I wasn’t thinking about other people expect my family and they were more than happy for me to go.

As I walked, I thought about why I’m doing this trip and it’s because I need to awake something inside of me. Something in my soul needs to be moved and I want to be shaken up so this year I will be. Our group have spoken about getting outside people’s comfort zones and as cliched as that sounds, it’s very true. I have packed up and moved half way around the world to live, travel, work with 74 other people for a whole year. If that’s not a good start then I don’t know what is. It might not work out the way I hope but at least I know I tried because the alternative of being still and unmoved in Sydney is not an option, at least not right now. This is my escape for a little while, so I say this to that person who felt the need to make my trip all about them, let me escape. Let me do this for me because I’m not doing it for anyone else. Let me be a little bit selfish and go and do me for the next year. You concentrate on doing you.

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Poland. Views for days.

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We made it.

Prague | Where beer is cheaper than water and other such learnings.

Czech me out (ha!). I’ve arrived and survived my first week with my new family.

This whole Remote Year thing is actually real, there’s no turning back now. Upon arriving at Prague International Airport my delightful welcome wagon were in the arrivals hall excitedly waiting. After weeks of Facebook posts and emails they are no longer robots but actual human people. And so are the 50+ new friends I have made in the last five weeks!

After my short flight from the motherland, I along with five new pals were taken to our flat, which is AMAZING. It completely exceeded all my expectations. Anyone looking at coming to Prague really should stay here, it’s great! Luckily for me I was in much better shape than many of my fellow travellers. Not only was I less tired than most, but thankfully I had all my bags. Some people three days in, still had not received their second bag because it was literally lost somewhere in the world. Eventually the luggage gods found them and sent them to Prague. Note to self, always pack a spare t-shirt and pair of undies in your hand luggage lest your bag goes missing. Otherwise you will find yourself wearing other people’s “I completed Tough Mudder” tees.

Right, so in order to stay awake on our first afternoon/evening, we did what all tourists in Prague do, drink beer. It didn’t take long to realise that the city is cheap, so cheap in fact beer is cheaper than water. If you’re travelling on the cheap here, know that beer is very filling and often referred to by locals as Liquid Bread. We eventually made our way to the beer garden in the park where a good 25 people or so from our group had settled into. It was definitely overwhelming telling all these people a brief summary on who you were and where you came from. Someone should have given us cool name badges or something. The true test now will be how long it takes to remember everyone’s names. Names are one thing but placing them to a face will be another. I like to think I have a good memory when it comes to names so this will be my Everest.

Our workspace, K10 Coworking used to be the old Dutch Embassy and has since been converted into an uber cool shared workspace. It’s an amazing building with its very own panic room downstairs. Apparently it can only fit up to 5 people so that will prove difficult should the need arise.

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Other fun facts that were learnt this week include:

These delicious mouth watering creations are NOT a Czech traditional dessert. They were invented about 6 years ago and not in 1923 as the signage would have you believe. I did not care as it was the best thing ever!

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It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day everyday in Prague as the word for ‘hello’ is “Ahoj”. Pronounced “Ahoy” our group of 75 are walking around town talking like pirates.

On the flip side, every time we say thank you it sounds like we are insulting our hosts. The word for ‘thank you’ is “Dekuji”. Pronounced “Dick-wee”, it provides us with a nervous laugh every time we say it as it just doesn’t feel right. Most of the group have now enrolled into survival Czech lessons this week as a result of our mispronunciation.

I’m 99% convinced that all 75 of us are still slightly overwhelmed and scared and nervous about each other and what this year will bring. I am much more comforted by this as it’s not just me who is getting out of their comfort zone. That said, week one has been filled with new friends, lots of laughs, plenty of beer, annoyingly for me a cold and to top it off a paddling pool, dance party in the courtyard of the Czech Apple offices. Not a shabby start if you ask me!