The Teflon Tourist

“I think we lost him,” we said to each other to as we hid from our tour guide atop a pyramid.

Day 341:  Don’t even think about telling me an interesting historical fact that lends perspective to the spot on which I’m standing. I beg you to give that impossible-to-resist discounted Bucket-List landmark or event ticket to someone else, and please don’t dare to invite me to dine, make indigenous artwork or attend a lecture with fascinating people who are happy to see me and answer all my questions.

I really appreciate it, but I just can’t absorb one more new thing. I am The Teflon Tourist: all interesting information, activities and events slide right off me.

I am cooked.

Summertime and the Living is Easy

The view from my Medellin apartment

Medellin, Colombia

Yes – I am alive!!

Thank you to everyone who has been asking when my next post will come out and apologies for my natural procrastination that has delayed it.

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been doing this crazy trip for so long and have simply gotten the hang of running around, or if it’s that each Latin American city isn’t as different from each other the way each European and African city I lived in for the first six month are, or if it’s combo of both, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve plateaued the past three and a half months — hence, my lack of blog posts.

At first I found this calm deeply disappointing, as if the thrill was gone, so I did a lot to fight it, but recently I’ve found an appreciation for the simple ‘living’ part of this trip and not just the excitement of ‘traveling.’

This plateau really started two months ago, in the middle of our Cordoba, Argentina stay. I’d had a great weekend with Barbara, Matt and Jimena in Mendoza and a fab weekend in the country with fifteen friends celebrating the 40th birthday of my BFF, Emily.  But with two and a half weeks left before the next move, I got super antsy. I felt like I would be wasting precious travel time sitting in this boring city.  So, I booked a solo trip to Chile.

It’s not that I’d been dying to visit Chile – I’d honestly never considered it before that month – but ever since we got to this continent and started the second half of our journey, we’ve all been talking about what we’re going to do at the end of Remote Year, so I felt the clock ticking and the pressure to DO something.

So, in less than eighteen hours from booking this trip, I arrived in Santiago. Within thirty minutes of checking into my hotel, I remembered that I hate solo travel. It’s lonely and I alway feel lost. Ya, I know, boo hoo, poor me.

Regardless, I went to all the places, saw all the things and finally met up with friends who were visiting the city on the morning of day four.

The Virgin Mary atop San Christobal Hill – Santiago, Chile
Palacia de La Moneda (the Presidential Palace) – Santiago, Chile
The changing of the guards – Santiago, Chile

That afternoon, I traveled to the port city of Valparaiso.  Two friends, Katie and Chris,  joined me the next day and we stayed in a funky hotel made of shipping containers. Again, we went to all the places and saw all the things. Exhausted, I flew back to Cordoba to pack and move with the group to Lima two days later.

View from my hotel room – Valparaiso, Chile
The Winebox Hotel – Valparaiso, Chile
Sitting in a ‘tree’ in the most graffitied city in the world – Valparaiso, Chile

*Just an aside: I love group travel days when all fifty of us transitions from one city to another! It’s always a massive pain in the ass getting packed and moved out by 9am on a Saturday morning and super disconcerting arriving late that night in the dark at your mysterious new apartment with selected-for-you new  roommates, but the in-between is super fun! Often, it’s the only time I see certain members of our group as we tend to scatter throughout each city. But on the last Saturday of every month, we gather at an airport, catch up, drink too much in the lounge and on the flight — occasionally getting cut-off by humorless flight attendants — laugh and reconnect. It’s juvenile and I just love it!

Ok, back to Lima. Lima is cool. It’s surprisingly the most cosmopolitan, American-like city we’ve lived in so far, with an outdoor mall set into the cliffside overlooking the Pacific, complete with a Banana Republic, Gap, TGI Fridays and a Chili’s. My apartment was modern and my roommates, Bridget and Tora (both Aussies) are good friends of mine. It was also the month of my birthday! But it felt very similar to to Buenos Aires, which lovely, but kinda repetitive.

As I was turning an unremarkable 51, I was feeling the slow slide to serious middle-age with nothing to look forward to. So, I decided to turn it around. I threw myself a “Reverse Quinceneara” where I pivoted and began making my way back to 15! With the help of my Latina friend, Jimena, I rented this beeeeeauuuutiful dress for $35, got myself a dashing escort by the name of Rufus Peabody, donned this sparkling tiara, danced with every boy in the room and had a freaking blast

The morning after.

Oh – I also went to Machu Picchu and drove quads around Peru’s Sacred Valley with Emily, Barbara and Bridget (from left to right).  That trip rocked!

An Aussie (Bridget), a German (Barbara) and two Yanks (Emily and me) trekked 15 whole feet to Machu Picchu!
Macchu Picchu!
And drove quads through the Sacred Valley!

It is now month #10 of the trip and month #4 in Latin America. We’re in Medellin, Colombia where the jungle (and yes, the drugs) are all around. So much so that guys we met were given a gram of cocaine by their landlord as an apology for their simple plumbing issue — like that was normal!  I guess I’ll be thinking twice before thanking someone with a basket of mini muffins in Medellin.

Narcotics aside, this is a beautiful city with a dark history that it’s working really hard to overcome. In spite of people like me writing things like the previous paragraph, they are doing a really good job of it. The place is booming! The people are friendly and very grateful for the recent influx of tourism.

It’s still a bit more of the same, but this time, instead of frantically running towards someplace else because I feel I should, this is the first month I don’t have a side trip planned. Honestly, there’s nowhere I’m dying to go from here — and I’m weirdly happy about staying put for a month. I’m realizing that there may be something to be said for visiting a series of similar cities after all, as I’m finally getting comfortable with the ‘living’ part of this adventure.

My apartment actually feels like home, so I feel less pressure to be running around the city. l I finally have working wifi in the living room so I’m not camping in my bedroom just to be online. It is open and airy and — though I’ve luckily had this every month so far — my roommates, Emily, John and Julia, are awesome.  A lot of the time we simply hang out watching The Amazing Race, drinking wine and eating McDonalds on our terrace with a fab view of Medellin. Then, John and Julia (both age 28) go out partying and Emily and I go to bed by 11:30!

I’ve also integrated into the local community more than I have previously by taking two weeks of daily Spanish classes at a local language school. For five hours a day I’m with people I’m not traveling with, which is new and strange. My classmates are from all over: Dubai, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them.

Getting my studying on at the Toucan Spanish School.
Class field trip to el mercado to try out our Spanish in the real world. I got an avocado.

Unfortunately, just like home, I’ve had some painful dental issues which have made me housebound for a few days, but just like home, I have a regular dentist who I see more than some of my travel mates.

So, ya, it’s summertime and the ‘living’ part of this journey has materialized and it’s surprisingly easy.

Check in with me next month to see if I still feel the same!

Till next time,


Loren’s HotFlashes:

Loren’s HotFlash #1:  It may be worth a trip to Latin America for medical and dental services as they are waaaaaaay less pricey than the US.  My friend, Megan, broke her leg in three places and needed surgery with an overnight hospital stay. Total price: $3,000 USD.  I got a dental implant, surgery on another tooth and 2 crowns. Total price: $2,500 USD.  Ka-Ching!

Loren’s HotFlash #2:  Unless you are a true foodie, the fancy, unidentifiable, ‘adventurous’ food at famous restaurants is a waste of $150+ per person. The meal I had at Central in Lima (#4 restaurant in the world) was fun and interesting, but seventeen courses of bite-sized ground ants and fish scales served in papaya foam and artisanal dirt from the Andes just isn’t worth it for someone like me who, if given her choice, would eat $2 dirty-water dogs (hot dogs from NYC street vendors) for lunch and $11.99 platters of fried bar food with Happy Hour cocktails six out of seven nights of the week.

Fried piranha skin! Kinda taste like fishy chips.
I have no earthly idea what this is.
… or this

Loren’s HotFlash #3:  Solo travel is great if you are happy with hostel life where you meet lots of new people or if you really enjoy alone time. Otherwise, it can be uncomfortable and lonely.  I’m just too old for hostels and, frankly, I’m out of deep thoughts, so all that ‘me time’ in a strange city simply leaves me feeling vulnerable, conspicuous and untethered in a way I never do being alone in my home city.

Loren’s HotFlash #4: There’s no whining in group travel! Though solo travel can be weird, group travel with the wrong people can be a disaster, so chose your crew carefully!  I’m soooo lucky to have always selected easy travel mates because the stories I’ve heard from others who have not are enough to make me want to stay home. If you’re the whiner (as I sometimes heard myself becoming at certain points: i.e. not being able to breath while walking home in Cusco), check yourself unless you want your travel companions to push you off Machu Picchu, or at least, never invite you on their trips again.

# # #

It may as well be 1983

The 8th Month Slump

Cordoba, Argentina

I just don’t know if I can get it up this month.

Another city. Another quirky apartment (above). Another neighborhood to negotiate in another language I don’t speak. Another nasty store clerk. Another round of cultural landmarks of which I’ll probably only visit half. Another list of “must” restaurants, one of which I might eat at (and only if someone else arranges it). Another set of hot bars and clubs that I’ll definitely never stay up late enough to visit. Then, ultimately, another round of packing and doing it all over again.

I’ve hit the 8th Month Slump. I dunno if this is a real #RemoteYear thing, but the sizzle of living out a full season of House Hunters International is starting to fizzle and apathy is slowly sneaking into my psyche.

Or it may be that after the unique charm of each European city and the danger and strangeness of Africa, that the quiet comfort of Argentina has felt too much like NYC — only in the Twilight Zone where everyone in your neighborhood speaks Spanish and you don’t actually know them.

Last month Buenos Aires felt like SoHo and this month, Cordoba feels like the East Village — only not. It’s too familiar to be exciting, but it’s not familiar enough to be satisfying. Maybe it’s just boring.

Or, worst of all, maybe my bar for not being bored by regular life stuff is now so high that I’ll never be able to live a normal life again.

Shit. Houston, we (may) have a problem.

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Holy Shitballs – What a Week!

Disclaimer: There are no pictures with this post. The reason why will become evident 3/4 of the way through.

After 2 months in Africa, experiencing wonders from the Sahara Desert, the Atlas mountains and the bustling Medina in Morocco, to skydiving, a safari, swimming with wild penguins and swilling vino at countless wineries in South Africa, four of us decided on one last adventure before departing the continent: an exotic beach vacation in Zanzibar, cuz, you know, we need a vacation.

“Where the hell is Zanzibar?” you ask. I did. Well, it’s off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa and a pain in the arse to get to, it turns out.

So, loaded up with nearly all of our luggage for the year (fellow Remote Year traveller, Leo, took my big-ass, overweight suitcase directly to Buenos Aires for me) – consisting of 12 bags totalling nearly 300 lbs., we set off from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where we would catch the last ferry to the tropical paradise of Zanzibar in time for a late afternoon swim.


All was fab till we landed in the hot and chaotic Dar es Salaam airport, where we were faced with purchasing $100 visas to enter the country. We knew about this (though told they were $50), but we didn’t know that credit cards don’t work and there is no way to get cash. Luckily, I had just enough USD on me and Coco adorably had $400 in birthday money from her grandmother in her luggage.  Thanks, Nana!

By now we’ve missed the last ferry and have to take a plane costing $77 a piece. Credit cards still don’t work, the ATMs gave us each about $45 (plus $5 transaction fees) before they all ran out of cash. Somehow, we cobbled together enough Tanzanian Shillings, leftover USD from Nana, South African Rand, spare Croatian Kuna, Moroccan Mad and Bulgarian Lev to buy four tickets on the 5:30 flight.

There is no 5:30 flight.

And our bags are overweight which requires an ever-changing amount of money required to get them on, so it’s back to a new ATM for more money plus fees.

At 7:00, we finally board the most horrific-smelling flight – a cross between rotting fish and intense BO that slaps you in the face and makes your eyes water – for the longest 15-minute flight on record.

Because we are five hours late to arrive, we need to rearrange our hotel pickup at the airport. No go. Not until the last second before boarding does someone answer the phone at the ZanZest resort and confirm a car will be waiting.

Once we arrive and get in the taxi, I realize that I had tweeted our situation and reservation name at the hotel, but that neither the car nor the driver displays any hotel branding and that anyone could have responded to my tweet.

For the next hour, I’m 30% certain that I’ve orchestrated our own kidnapping and silently debate telling the girls. I decide against it as there is nothing we can do and suffer in silence. I’ll tell them when we’re shackled to a cinderblock wall and they wonder how we got there.

We were not kidnapped.

We proceed to spend a glorious, rustic, makeup-free and braless five days in exotic and unique Zanzibar!

Time to go. We’ve arranged for Rama, our taxi driver, to pick us up at 2:00 for the 4:00 ferry – the last of the day and the only one that will enable us to catch our 6am flight the next morning.  At 1:30 I ask David, the resort owner, for the bill and hand him my credit card. No go. The WiFi, not surprisingly, isn’t working. I offer him 9 different ways to pay this bill, and each time he says, “not possible.” He’ll only take cash, which truly is “not possible” to get in time for us to make the ferry or in the amount needed from any ATM on that side of the island.

Commence 5-way yelling, threats to call the police to have us arrested as we try to depart, leaving an actual credit card behind for them to run when the WiFi returns. We get in the cab, tell the driver to go and David blocks our way with his body and threats of arrest. Finally realizing he has no options, he relents and takes the card and we speed to the ferry, arriving in the chaotic port town a mere 10 minutes before departure.

We still need to buy tickets – another no-credit card/ATM fee sitch – unload and haul our 300lbs of luggage the several blocks to wherever the ferry is docked.  Porters materialize out of the ether but won’t unload our luggage till the three girls buying the tickets arrive at the van where I’m waiting.

I see Emily first, tearing down the alley waving the tickets, sweating profusely, boobs bouncing everywhere as she decided against a bra for our leisurely ferry ride, while Coco and I opted for our bikini tops under gauzy blouses. Katie and Coco are right behind her.

I yell, “go!” and the porters start throwing our bags on a flatbed cart and, like the last 3 minutes of The Amazing Race, we all RUN through the streets, dodging cars, vendors, pedestrians and the occasional large animal while the ferry horn signals its imminent departure. We each have the wrong tickets and passports, the porters are demanding money at every juncture, we’re frazzled, sweating and a little panicked. With one minute to spare we manage to get through all the checkpoints, put money in every outstretched hand and plop into our seats for the 2-hour ride back to Dar es Salaam, where we will be met by a driver who will take us to our hotel where we’ll spend the night before our flight to Johannesburg.

Not so fast.

On the other end, one guy in a 1985 Chevy Impala parked many blocks from the ferry –  of course – meets us. There is no way we are going to fit all our stuff in this small car. For the next 45 minutes, he confers with another driver, stares at us in silence, while the Impala remains parked next to a truck with a speaker on the roof blaring high-pitched children’s music that sets my teeth on edge.

It is finally determined that for $5 more we can use a van. Awesome. We load our stuff and head to the hotel as the sun sets.

We drive through increasingly dangerous neighborhoods. The pavement gives way to bumpy dirt roads, electricity becomes scarce, shoeless people roam the darkness and the driver tells Katie to put her cell phone out of sight, as the windows are down since there is no AC and it’s hot.

We take a left and stop. We’ve arrived at our hotel: An abandoned building under construction on a nearly unlit side street. I immediately state that we are not staying here. Emily insists on seeing the room. She is clearly delusional. We walk in and, yes, it’s all under construction: cinderblocks, 2x4s, buckets, no electricity, no guests, no staff, NOTHING.

Emily again insists on seeing the room which is at the top of a rickety staircase. Katie and I follow incredulously as Coco stays in the van with the luggage. We walk into the room that has NO WALLS! It is just a straight drop down into what will, one day, be an atrium. Curtains cover the missing door and walls and cellophane-wrapped light fixture with a single bulb hangs from the ceiling over 2 randomly placed beds. Did I mention there is no door and no walls? Everything about this place is super dangerous. If we don’t fall to our deaths in the dark, the odds are great of getting robbed or worse in our al fresco hotel room in the hood.

“We’re not staying here,” I state.

“I just need to shower and send a few emails,” Emily responds deliriously. Does she really think there’s WiFi?

“EMILY!” I shout, which seems to break her spell.

“Um, ya. We’re out of here,” she finally conceded.

We get back into the hot van and head to the airport which is about 30 minutes away where we know we will be safe.

Optimistically, we decide to look for an airport hotel online. At a stoplight, just as I’m calculating the distance from the Doubletree to the International terminal, a hand shoots through the window of the cab and snatches my phone from my hand! The hand’s owner jumps on the back of a motorbike and disappears into traffic. The whole incident took less than 5 seconds, leaving the four of us stunned and the driver completely unfazed. He didn’t even flinch.

As the reality of my stolen phone sets in (as well as my crashed computer – I forgot to mention that I’ve now been plunged into a tech blackout, making accessing any pictures for this post “not possible,”) we make our way towards the sanctuary of the airport.

That’s when the storm sets in. Not just any storm, but an African storm with rains that blind the driver and lightening that cracks the sky.  It’s so hot that the windows instantly fog and Katie, in the front seat, keeps wiping the windshield so the driver has a tiny bit of visibility. We crack the windows to let out the heat, but let in the driving rain.

The rain we wished for in Cape Town to solve the water crisis and allow us to take longer than 90 second showers is visiting us in the very last place we want it.

We’re driving in quiet, sweaty tension when we hear it:  Ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk. We have a freaking flat tire!!!!

We pull off the busy road into the mud. The rain has subsided but lightening still flashes. A steady stream of men walk and ride motorbikes by our disabled car, alerting us to the truly vulnerable situation we are in. As obvious tourists with means, stranded on the side of a road in an impoverished city, we are sitting ducks. We know it and we are scared in a whole new way, but we keep our cool.

We stay slumped in the car and tuck our heads, trying to make ourselves as invisible as possible and drop a location pin from Coco’s cellphone to our Program Leader, Sara, so she’ll know where to begin looking for us when we go missing. Just in case. Sorry to panic you, Sara!!!!!

Nearly an hour later, our poor, poor, poor cab driver has the tire changed and finally drops us at the airport. Nobody has ever been happier to see us leave!

We spend the next eight hours on the rows of metal chairs that make up the seating in the hot, stark, singular room of the airport check-in terminal before, blessedly, boarding our 6:00am flight to Johannesburg where we FINALLY shower and change in the comfort and safety of the Star Alliance lounge.

Next adventure: Buenos Aires!

Now for Loren’s HotFlashes

Loren’s HotFlash #1: Cash is King! Always carry cash outside the US and have a stash of USD as it is desirable in many places and exchangeable everywhere. Even in Europe, many establishments won’t accept credit cards and in Africa and South America, even fewer places do. ATMs are sometimes hard to find and transaction fees are exorbitant, so take out a lot of money at once to save on fees: $10 a pop in Buenos Aires for instance. ProTip: Open a Charles Schwab checking account as it charges no fees for foreign ATM withdrawals.

Loren’s HotFlash #2: Always give yourself much more time than you think you need for travel and transactions. This is true in Europe and even more so in South America and Africa. NOBODY is in any hurry to get you where you’re going, to sell you what you want to buy or bring you what you ask for. As someone who always cuts it close, this has been a hard practice for me to adopt, but I’m getting there.

Loren’s HotFlash #3: Pack a backup cellphone! Thank God for my cracked old iPhone 5 that I was able to charge up and pop an Argentinian SIM card into after my phone was jacked! It ain’t perfect, but it does the job.

Till next time from some place far, far away,




Suicide Blonde: The battle for blonde, brows, bikini waxes & antibiotics

Warning: This superficial post will only be of interest to women and Armond, my most fabulous hairstylist.

THE HONEST TRUTH: It takes a lot of fake to look (and feel) this natural at 50 – even if I don’t look a lot my truly natural self – scroll down to see the evolution.

IMG_3008                                                                                                           2017 (50 yrs old) – blonde is the ONLY way to keep the grey at bay. And, who’s kidding who? It ROCKS!

600254_10201270341511629_1121861605_n                                        1991 (24 years old) – We must have all used the same box of L’Oreal Burgundy hair color.

                                                                                                           1983 (16 yrs old) in costume for a school play – my boobs were not really that pointy.

fullsizeoutput_fd                                                                                     1971 (4 years old) – The last time I was truly natural!

Even so, I’ve always considered myself pretty low maintenance, but 4 months on the road has revealed to me just how reliant I am on a squad I’ve taken for granted to maintain my regular upkeep of blond, botox, brows, bronze, bikini line, not to mention antibiotics for the annual bout of tonsillitis and how suicidally frustrating it is to try – and many times fail – to find these services in a new country every month.

On just the hair front, it first went wrong with the Bleach Bomb in Prague that Salon #1 lowered on my carefully curated golden locks that had me immediately screaming, “Wash it out! Wash it out now!” before running out the door to a trusted Toni & Guy Salon.  It continued in Sofia, Bulgaria with the persimmon-colored root & highlight job that left me looking like I had 2 months of Ronald McDonald’s growth, warranting a return visit and an explanation that, in the US, we like our highlights to start AT the root, not 2 inches away. Though confused by my displeasure, they were very accommodating.

Along the way there have been waxes that made me cry, manicures that didn’t even aim for the nail, and one Thai massage that I – and the masseuse – really wish I’d left my underwear on for. Who knew they bent you like that??

On a more serious note, getting really sick while traveling is scary. I developed tonsillitis and and ear infection in Lisbon — Oh, did I forget to mention I lived in Lisbon for the month of November? Shit, I am so bad at keeping up with this blog — just before traveling to Hamburg, Germany to visit friends for Thanksgiving. While there, I visited their doctor who looked at my infected ear and blurt out, “ew,” before giving me a host of unpronounceable, German prescriptions.

After spending 4 full days comatose on their couch, I was well enough to fly back to Lisbon where my ear infection returned just before my move to Sofia, Bulgaria – Oh, did I forget to mention that I lived in Sofia for the month of December? Shit, I am so, so bad at keeping up with this blog!

Scared to fly in this condition, I found a Portuguese doctor who gave me more unpronounceable, Portuguese prescriptions and I was well enough to fly out.

Safely ensconced in cold, dreary and really unfriendly Sofia (sorry, but it’s the truth), I got really sick again. This time, I was sent to the hospital. Oh ya, I went to a Bulgarian hospital three, unnerving, frustrating times –  they kept telling me to leave, that the doctor wasn’t there when I could see him walking around – before giving me another round of unpronounceable, Bulgarian, prescriptions for what had turned into a bacterial infection. Ya gross.


I was so sick on my first visit that I tried to get into the back of an ambulance thinking it was a taxi – in my defense, they are both yellow – before getting into a cab with a driver who kept yelling at me for not speaking Bulgarian.

*Note: Taxi drivers in Sofia come from a special place in hell. They take you where you’re actually going about 60% of the time if they deign to take you at all. More on this later.

Finally cured, I now face the next, most harrowing of beauty procedures: Botox abroad!

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes. EEEEEK.

Till next time here are a few LOREN’S HOTFLASHES:

LOREN’S HOTFLASH #1: Read salon reviews of travelers – I find TripAdvisor to be pretty reliable – as they will have similar expectations for service and results as opposed to the locals who may have a different aesthetic.

LOREN’S HOTFLASH #2: Don’t be put-off by nasty medical receptionists. Every receptionist I encountered looked at me like I’d insulted their mother before, begrudgingly, processing me through. Just stare back at them till they crack and let you see the doctor for the appointment you made.

LOREN’S HOTFLASH #3: Use the photo function of Google Translate app to translate medicine instructions. Simply focus your screen on the text and it will transcribe any language into English. This was super helpful for figuring out which medicine was for day and night and the dosages.

LOREN’S HOTFLASH #4: Expect everything to take forever. In Prague, my mani/pedi took 3 hours. In Lisbon, my wax took 45 minutes. No joke. I spent hours in waiting rooms with crying children (I kinda think I was referred to a Bulgarian pediatrician, but I’ll never know for sure.) In any case, don’t expect to accomplish much more on the morning or afternoon of any appointment.

Czech Yo Self Before You Wreck Yourself – Reflections On My First 2 Months As A Middle-Aged Digital Nomad

Prague, Czech Republic

As fab as many of my adventures were during my 5 weeks in Split, I also experienced some low moments. Friends who received my freaked out texts about forming an extraction team after one particularly long, harrowing and intense orientation meeting at the end of Week 1 can attest to this.

These times bring up the question that people naturally ask: why am I even doing this trip? Many assume it’s an “Eat, Pray, Love” journey — it’s not. I freaking hated that book and thew it in the garbage after suffering through it for a book club), or an escape from my real life — it’s not. My life is rich and wonderful. It is also not a self-exploration/learning-about-myself endeavor. I’m 50 years old; I know all about me.

So why am I doing this when there are so many challenges? Because I CAN! An opportunity for excitement, fun and adventure fell into my lap and I grabbed it! It’s quite simple.

That said, checking into the Czech Republic in Month 2 has actually reinforced some fundamental truths about myself that I need to keep in mind over the next 10 months to keep myself in check. Ok, I’ve officially beaten that pun to death.

1. I’m a city girl. Split is a relaxing and stunning waterside location, perfect for vacation, but it felt isolating as a home for me by the end of Week 3.  With the exception of the beautiful, but touristy, Old City that one can only wander so many times, the row of nearly identical beach bars in which to drink wine and eat pizza, burgers or salads and our super-cool co-working space, there was really no place to go that had the background buzz that I need.

This beach life was perfection for many in our group and I thought it would be for me, but I quickly became restless. Perhaps because it was the end of the season, but many times it felt like we were the only 55 people in the world with the exception of the waiters and salty checkout clerk at the local Tommy’s supermarket with whom I had a tense relationship (I never did figure out how to weigh fruit according to their hieroglyphics code).

This location has serious relationship-building advantages, so I can see why Remote Year uses it as the first stop and it was, indeed, helpful for getting acquainted with so many new people. But I quickly longed for coffee shops, stores and strangers.

2. I’m just not a great team/group/club-ritual participant and I don’t have to be. In the 3rd grade, I almost got kicked out of The Girl Scouts because I wouldn’t walk over a symbolic bridge in the “Flying Up” Ceremony from Brownies to Girl Scouts, feeling it forced and indoctrinating. My parents have never had to worry about me joining a cult.

Therefore, when I found myself immersed in an entire calendar of bonding activities, lingo and traditions for the month and the year ahead, all designed to make this bunch of strangers an immediate “Tramily,” a Remote Year term for “traveling family,” I almost booked a flight home.

After letting friends talk me off the ledge by reminding me that I didn’t actually have to attend all (or any) of these bonding/sharing/pop-psychology “New Normal” personal and professional-growth events led by a 35 year-old man in a baby blue onesie and a straw cowboy hat (yes, you read that right), I relaxed.

I do love that most everyone else finds value and fun in these activities, but as I stated earlier, as a middle-aged woman with a 16 year-old business under my belt, I’m pretty much grown, both personally and professionally. That said, I do plan to attend more of the social and cultural activities that, so far, are all really well done, and I’m a little disappointed in myself for missing  several along the way, such as this one at the John Lennon Wall.

But moving forward, I will be skipping the bonding/sharing/self-help/growth/leadership sessions.

Clearly, I’m still the 8 year-old Girl Scout skeptic and I’m ok with that.

3. I need real friends and real connections. The realization that this isn’t a vacation and I’m not going home to my comfort zone and the people who populate it in a few weeks was startling. It would jump out at me unexpectedly and rattle me for a few minutes every few days.  I was surprised that I wasn’t more chill about these spells to be honest, but the combination of feeling simultaneously untethered/lonely and a little trapped in this high-intensity life with 55 people who you’re told are your ‘t/family,’ but are really just friendly strangers, was unnerving.

Then there was the niggling question of whether I was simply too old for this whole thing, as everyone else (average age 31) seemed to be bonding and adapting more easily and naturally than I was. Along the way I found out that most people were experiencing some uncertainty about their place in the group and and whether they’d made the right choice as this trip was turning out to be more difficult than they anticipated.

But what most of them had that helped their transition was something I did not: a commonality based on age and stage of life. They are at similar points in their careers, are beginning the arduous wedding circuit, enjoy hiking, biking and regular workouts (that was NEVER me anyway, let’s be honest) and form bonds with each other during late night partying, something I used to love but really am too old to do more than once in a while now.

Soon none of this mattered.

By virtue of my living situation – I hit the roommate lottery 2 months in a row –  and a concerted effort to begin seeking out people with whom I felt a connection, I now have several great friendships and am in the process of making new ones with other like-minded people in the group.  I’m taking my time and naturally developing rewarding relationships in a relaxed, more comfortable way.

I am growing more content as life in Prague more closely resembles my normal life, something I thought I didn’t want when I embarked on this journey of fun and excitement, but have discovered it is something that I really do need and deeply appreciate.

So, in short, I gratefully Czeched Myself Before I Wrecked Myself.

Until next time, here are a few Loren’s HotFlashes:

Loren’s HotFlash #1: Czech merchants always want cash and exact change, at that. Also, they are in no hurry to actually sell you what they’re offering.  Patience is a must.

Loren’s HotFlash #2: You’re not a loser for staying inside and watching Netflix all damn day every once in a while.  Fun is only fun if you are fresh enough to enjoy it.

Loren’s HotFlash #3: A Kitchen Dance Party with friends is ALWAYS the right choice when faced with an evening plan dilemma. Skip the club, grab some wine, some friends, some sweats, crank up the tunes and dance your asses off! You’ll never regret it.




It Takes Two (tries) To Make A Thing Go Right

Split, Croatia

“Everything needs to be done twice” became the wry motto Emily and I adopted as we traveled this past week along the Adriatic. From ancient walled city to ancient walled city we ran into metaphorical walls at every turn —  regardless of signage, websites or verbalized, personalized directions.

Take 1
Take 2







From where to buy tickets for the ferry/bus/site (not here, over there); to when the ferry/bus/tour starts (not now, later); to which direction to walk in to find our Airbnb/restaurant/hotel/tour (not right, left); to taking money out of the ATM cuz the 500 Serbian dinar ($5 US) I withdrew from my first visit to the ATM wasn’t enough to pay the angry cab driver who — of course — dropped me at the wrong location; to which hotel is mine (not this one, the one across the street with the same name); to which cafe table to sit at (nope, that one is reserved  — even though there are no reservations taken. P.S. we refused to move, causing the waiter to have a hissy which was totally worth it to see the sunset over Dubrovnik. And it was funny!); to every turn of every key in every lock…

All actions needed to be performed at least twice to be gotten right.

It’s frustrating and exhausting and, eventually, without even realizing it, just the norm. I’m not sure when the shift happened, when I went from irritated to accepting of every thwarted first attempt, but I’m grateful the calm finally descended on me or else I don’t think I’d be able to survive this year.

Though I’ve traveled quite a bit and am accustomed to the delays, mix-ups and snafus that are common, I’ve never done it at such a frenzied pace or by the seat of my pants — booking the next set of accommodations and transportation just days, sometime only hours, before departing and hoping things go mostly right.

And, with the exception of having to do every little thing twice, the first leg of our trip did go, mostly, right.

Friday/Saturday – Dubrovnik:  Despite being really sick (Emily now calls me L’il Sneezy) and sleeping on the worst mattresses outside of the Town of Bedrock, we walked along the top of City Walls of Dubrovnik, sipped cocktails at our controversial, non-reserved table at the non-reservation-taking cafe while watching the sun set behind cliff-jumpers, visited the green market and oldest Sephardic Synagogue in the world, heard too much about Game of Thrones (I don’t watch, but I may have to start) and hopped a very hot bus to Montenegro.

  • Travel Tip for Dubrovnik: Despite what the tourist office says, you DO need a ticket before ascending the wall walk. You can’t buy it at the top. The office is behind a tree. Of course it is.










Saturday/Sunday/Monday – Montenegro: In magical Montenegro I felt like I fell into a Fellini film. Our apartment on the second floor of an ancient building opened onto Museum Square below. Teaming with visitors during the day, the entire Old City of Kotor clears out. The locals left behind gather at cafes tucked into nooks and crannies to listen to live music or, in the case of the cafe outside my window, to enjoy a Three Stooges movie projected onto the side of an historical building as scores of stray cats casually roam the city. We had one fabulous and one terrible meal. I think I got suckered into buying a too-expensive blue opal ring ring. Whatever. It’s pretty and I like it.

  • Travel Tip for Montengro: Do NOT order the breakfast sandwich at the Harbor Pub across from the church in the picture below. Its a piece of dry chicken and gnarly bacon on dry, white toast. It’s almost not food.


From there we parted ways. Emily left for Oktoberfest in Munich and I breezily booked a $175 flight to Athens with a 22-hour layover in Belgrade, Serbia where I intended to pop into the city to see the sites before heading to Greece where I’d tour the Acropolis and other ancient landmarks, then ferry to Mykonos for a few days before jaunting back to Split.

This is where things — and by thing, I mean I — began to go off the rails.

Monday/Tuesday – Belgrade: Serbia sucked. From the confusion over the currency to pay the angry cab driver, requiring 2 trips to the ATM, who dropped me off at a dark, creepy, construction zone while indicating that my unpronounceable hotel was “over there,” — only to try to check into the wrong one “over there” with the same name as the one I was booked at — to the handful of creepy men hanging out in the lobby, to the handle of my hotel room door having deep scratches on both sides making me wonder if someone had tried to get in our out, or both, I was freaked. Hey, at least it had a state-of-the-art hair dryer!

I FaceTimed a friend,  wrote a wigged-out Facebook post that worried a lot of people, drank the only 2 mini bottles of wine in the mini fridge, watched Gilmore Girls on my computer on Netflix (never underestimate the soothing effect of a visit to Stars Hollow!), took an Ambien and went to sleep.

The truth is — I felt really vulnerable. It hit me that I stood out like the physically vulnerable tourist that I am, traveling solo in a dark, confusing former war zone. This was a new, really uncomfortable and scary feeling for me. I hated it.

The next morning I discovered I was just on a shitty corner in a nice neighborhood 2 blocks from the historic Church of Saint Sava. I spent the day walking the city, seeing the sites: The Belgrade Fortress,  Republic SquareSkadarlija, and eating 2 foot-long sausages.  It was fine, but I was soured on Serbia. That afternoon, I gratefully got into the cab of a really nice driver and went to the airport.

  • Travel Tip for Belgrade: Skip it. Yeah, I’m bitter.



Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday – Athens: In Athens, the cab driver dropped me at the wrong hotel (of course) with the second worst mattress outside of the Town of Bedrock (the Balkans really need to get a Sleepy’s) in a room where the electricity kept going out. Thank god I brought my phone into the bathroom! After 2 tries (of course) I figured out the electricity (you gotta leave the keycard in the little slotty thing) and headed out for dinner.

The next day, I did Athens! I love this city! Everything there is to photograph and say about it has already been photographed and said, so I’ll just tell you 2 important things you may not know:

  • Travel Tips for Athens:
  1. The H&M in Athens is way nicer than any other H&M I’ve ever been in. It’s nicer than even Bloomingdales in NYC. Not nicer than Saks, but definitely nicer than Bloomies.
  2. Cut & Blow on Lekka does a fab blowout for only 16 Euros (and they gave me a trim for free after seeing my sad split ends)!
H&M cuz is ain’t all about high-brow culture


Completely satisfied and happy with my day and my hair, I returned to my hotel to make seemingly simple travel arrangements to Mykonos for the next day before going to dinner.

I’d been warned that accommodations are hard to find, so that morning, before sightseeing, I looking online, consulted an actual travel agent and ultimately returned for a second time (of course) to my computer and booked 4 nights at a nice Airbnb at $105/night.

What I had not been warned about is that you can’t get back from Mykonos to Split in under 3 days for less than $1,000 and with fewer than 2-3 layovers. WTF???? Theoretically, this should only be a 3-hour direct flight!


Add on another day to get to Athens from Mykonos and the fact that all of these  have overnight layovers requiring at least 2 more hotel stays.. Insane!

I spent the the next 3.5 maddening hours trying to make this work out before realizing that it was impossible unless I wanted to spend an exorbitant amount of time and money. So much for breezy.

Reluctantly, I booked the only direct and affordable flight from Athens to Split for $375, leaving the next afternoon, ultimately forfeiting my entire Airbnb payment, but cutting my losses on the additional time and money that I couldn’t afford to spend.

Thursday – Athens/Split: Disappointed and totally worn out, but grateful for the good times I’d had and the new calm I acquired about how many tries it takes to get anything done while traveling, I returned to my apartment in Split.

ANNOUNCEMENT! Here I’d like to introduce a new feature called, “Loren’s HotFlash,” (previously called “Travel Tips”) that are nuggets of information about my travels that might be useful for other Middle-Aged Digital Nomads!

As I have some catching up to do, I’m wrapping this puppy up with 6 HotFlashes for you!:

  • Loren’s HotFlash #1: Just cuz you can get there doesn’t mean you can get back. A little research goes a long way.
  • Loren’s HotFlash #2: You really do get comfortable with being uncomfortable, uncertain and just plain wrong.
  • Loren’s HotFlash #3: Don’t be freaked out about going for a drink alone. Nobody is going to hit on you or look at you weirdly. The truth is, they’re not looking at you at all. Even the cutest of us middle-aged women is invisible in a bar occupied by even 2 millennials in tank tops.
  • Loren’s HotFlash #4: The cheesy touristy Hop On Hop Off busses are totally worth it. They give you a great perspective of a new city and, again, nobody is looking at you!
  • Loren’s HotFlash #5: As I mentioned, all the mattresses in this part of the world blow. Gather every blanket you can from the closets and the other bed to create a padding to avoid hip and shoulder bruises from sleeping on your side on, what is commonly referred to, as cobblestone. NOTE: I covered this with the top sheet from the other bed so I didn’t have to actually lie on these blankets (who knows when they’ve been washed last. Ewww).

Loren’s HotFlash #6: In addition to It Taking Two (tries) To Make A Thing Go Right while traveling, for me It Takes Two People To Make A Thing Be Fun.

I’ll travel solo again, for sure, but I now know that sharing the experience with someone else makes it much more enjoyable. I mean, who am I going to point out all the stupid t-shirts to with non-nonsensical phrases on them if I’m alone? That’s no fun at all.

Cheers for now!


PS – Time for a little dance break! I love this song!

Black Coffee in Bed

Split, Croatia

It has been an ugly 13-day battle, but I think I am emerging the winner in the now legendary (just ask my roommate, Emily), Loren vs. Morning Coffee war.

It all started an hour after I arrived in Split and realized there was no coffeemaker in the apartment — and the nearest cafe is 700-825 steps away (thanks steps-counter app thingy) depending on whether you take the shortcut. Either way, it requires putting on pants, which is something I’m just not willing to do regularly before my morning coffee.

Over the past week, I’ve been preparing to make that first cup, secure in the knowledge that an available coffeemaker would appear in my path. One day I bought a bag of coffee. Another day I bought milk and sugar, but alas, still no coffeemaker was anywhere to be found.

My obsession with having morning coffee in my new home grew in relation to my desperation to establish just a hint of a normal routine necessary for me to feel grounded, settled and myself in this new life which is fun, but oh-so frenzied. I mean, c’mon, how freaking hard could it be to make coffee in the morning? I’m setting my bar preeeeeetty low here.

After a solid week of searching, asking around, ultimately putting on pants and walking 700-825 steps down the hill to the cafe on the beach each morning,  I headed to my last resort – a mall. In an Uber. Which just seemed weird.

So, last Sunday, which I dubbed “See Nobody I Know Sunday” as the intense group environment was starting to wear me down (more on that later), I waded through store after store that offered me nothing but the Cadillacs of coffeemakers, all unsuitable for my nomadic lifestyle. Finally, I spotted this little darling tucked in the back of a shelf strewn with random household stuff at a grocery story.

How adorable is she?!?!

Well, as anyone with children (not me) will tell you, anything that small and cute is hiding a darkness — a deep reserve of difficulty and drama just waiting to strike when you need her to be compliant the most. Like that kid having a fit on the floor of the grocery store who is never mine. But now she is.

Game on, little lady.

Morning #1:  How the hell does this thing work? The directions are about as descriptive as, “fill base with water, add coffee to the basket, place on stove till done, pour.” But, how much coffee? How much water? How high a heat? How long do you cook it for? WTF????? I’m the girl with champagne glasses and an ice bucket stored in my oven at home – you can’t make me guess this stuff.

Before you ask, Google is no help at all because all entries discuss a version of this little stove percolator that has a clear bulb to look at to make such determinations as when it’s done. Mine is opaque. I can’t see a damn thing.

I fill it to the top with water, stuff it full of coffee, put it on the highest heat, hear it boil, watch steam roll out and burn the crap out of a cup that is about 10x too strong. In defiance, I drink it anyway.  It’s gross.

Morning #2: I take the opposite approach. I fill it moderately with water, put two scoops of coffee in the basket, place it on a low heat and stand there wondering what and when something is supposed to happen. Yesterday, I heard boiling and saw steam, which at least indicated something was going on in there. Today, nothing. I finally figure if yesterday’s coffee was demonstrably wrong, then today’s, must be right. Wrong. It’s light brown, tepid water. In defiance, I drink it anyway. It’s gross.

Morning #3: I’m pissed and more than a little desperate. I just want to drink a freaking cup of coffee in my pjs in my apartment while reading The New York Times! Why is this so freaking hard?

I need a new approach, so I do the thing I always do last when it’s the thing I really should do first – I ask for help. Emily, a great cook, helps figure out how much water, how much coffee (I was pretty right on my second try) and what temperature to cook it on (I was waaaaay wrong on both my tries). It’s the right color, the right temperature. I put in too much sugar.  In defiance, I drink it anyway. It’s gross.

Tomorrow I’ll try again. And I’ll ask for help more often.

At least now I now have a “ground”ing morning routine. And I don’t have to put on pants.

Week 1 Recap: Lost in Emotion

Split, Croatia

I’m no sap, but I’ve cried more in the past 7 days than in the past 7 years and, quite frankly, I’m over me.

I guess I’m not dead inside after all. Who knew?

I figured there would be logistical challenges and there were. What began with the expectation of packing one checked bag under 50 pounds and one carry-on backpack quickly swelled to one 60-pound bag ($55 overage charge) a second checked, 32-pound bag ($125 charge) and 2 carry-ons. I spent the entire flight praying my apartment has an elevator. It does, but you first have to climb a long flight of stairs to reach the lobby. Soooo, not that helpful.

Thanks to my Remote Year fellow traveler and new friend, Rufus, for helping me push my bags through the airport and RY City Team Member, Mate, for carrying these monsters up the stairs.

More importantly, what I woefully underestimated were the wild emotional swings that result from jet lag, meeting and trying to connect individually with 55 friendly strangers you’ll be doing everything with for the next year but whose names you can’t remember today, being aware that you’re the oldest member of this group, nightly parties that get you to bed between 2:00am-4:00am, severe sleep deprivation, a regular work week but with a 6-hour time difference and the shocking realization that you are not going home at the end of 2 weeks which instantly makes you miss your people and your place in the world with an intensity you’ve never felt before. Oh and Aunt Flo. Ya, thanks lady. Fab timing as always. See you in Prague.

But between the high highs and the low lows of the past 7 days a sketch of this new, communal, nomadic life is beginning to form and it’s looking pretty good. I think I’m gonna like it here.

My new room with a view.

And what a view it is, too!

Oh, did I mention that my office is across the street from the beach?


Cheers! xo

Total Eclipse of My Heart

Monday, August 21st – My roof deck!

What a fabulous night! Thank you to everyone – all 45 of you – who came out (and some who stayed out till 3am) to celebrate my departure.

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night – thanks Mother Nature for the Solar Eclipse – and for even more beautiful friends.

A special shoutout to Carolyn who made (secretly in my oven) this incredible cake that took 2 days. She even called in sick to finish it.

More later