What to Expect on Remote Year? My First Month in Cape Town

Remote Year Reflections: Month One

Reflections from my first month on Remote Year in Cape Town, South Africa

Hey hey, ya’ll.

Dayyyy-um. I feel like I haven’t had a moment to stop and catch my breath lately — much less catch up with all of you! What’s new in your world?

traffic in marrakech

It’s been challenging to write or share much of anything over the past few weeks because there is just so. much. happening. At all times!

Not a bad thing, of course.

Yesterday, I was joking with our program leader, Jen, that publishing a blog post while on Remote Year is a lot like trying to cross the street in Marrakech (where we’re living at the moment) — as you can see above — rare does there seem to be an easy opportunity to do so.

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But today’s post is a long one, as a result — and I have so, so much to tell you about Remote Year, my travels overall and everything in between.

It’s been about eight weeks since I left Chicago to embark on a fourth-month journey with Remote Year. I remember feeling excited but anxious — ready, but not.

If that makes sense.

I’m still working through a post on my “Remote Year tipping point,” but in short: Last summer, it had become clear that something wasn’t right and I needed a change — I didn’t like the trajectory my life was on.

Today’s post is dedicated to my first month on Remote Year — in Cape Town — and how the experience has impacted me from the very moment that I stepped off the plane.

I should note two things, quickly: (1) If you’ve never hear of Remote Year, I introduced it in this post — you can learn more about it here. And (2), this is intended to be more of a reflective post rather than FAQ-centric, which I’ll do in a follow-up post. Feel free to send me your Remote Year questions here.

Here we go…


THE PEOPLE

My program, Remote Year “Kuungana,” is a group of 58 individuals of all ages and walks of life — Canadian, American, Australian and Korean, to name a few. None of us knew one other prior to embarking on this four-month experience abroad together; but right from the get-go, we clicked.

I met most of the crew over New Year’s Eve — and what I remember most is how bonded and connected I’d felt to each of them before even saying a simple “Hello.”

Not once — not a once — did anyone ask each other “What do you do?” that weekend. It was all about who you are, what you’re working through, and why you’re on Remote Year.

How refreshing, I remember thinking — especially since I found myself going through a job-related identity crisis not too long ago.

I’ll dive into this a bit deeper after my One Mone RY reflections; but that in and of itself is a good explanation of the type of people you meet on Remote Year, I think.

remote year recap cape town


THE IMPACT

I know this is vague, but I am happy. Really, truly, happy — most days. Not every day is peachy fuckin’ keen, right? (And I’ve heard from many of you that it appears as such in my photos — thank you!)

I have mentioned this to you in previous blog posts, but I felt stuck most of the last year — like I’d been aimlessly floundering ever since SoulCycle, admittedly. But on Remote Year (or in life in general now, really); I’m more relaxed, grounded and self-aware than I have been in a very, very long time.

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Part of that is me forcing myself out of a certain environment and away from some unproductive habits I’d developed — another part of it is the travel.

Travel energizes me like no other — and Remote Year has only amplified that. Reason being:

I’m surrounded by a group of people who all maintain a similar mindset: To see the world, grow as a community, experience new things and get some shit done while doing it.

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Surprisingly (to me), one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing here is developing a routine.

Bo-ring, I know. But that is how much I felt like I was floundering back home, in all honesty. But it’s been a flexible routine that makes feel motivated, inspired, disciplined, creative and, well, free.

I guess I never realized just how must I miss having co-workers. And going to an office.

I get up early (although I do still snooze like nobody’s business — ha). I go to our co-working space to get shit done almost daily. I grocery shop, exercise and eat healthily. I’m social, outgoing, open to new experiences but also more aware of my own needs. I’m dating, even!

(… The Cape Town men — we’ll get to that.)

It’s hard to put into words what the experience itself has been like, but I’ll try — and I only found it fitting to do so through a love letter to the city that helped me find my footing from the get-go this year…

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Dear Cape Town,

I landed at your airport just before midnight on Dec. 30, 2018, and and by sunrise the next morning we were head-over-heels in love.

I knew that would be the case… My first home abroad.

My favorite thing about you, I think, is that you’re a choose-your-own-adventure kind of gal.

You invited me to sunrise hikes, beach volleyball, networking soirees and road trips along your winding coast. (I’m still not over how gorgeous Chapman’s Peak is!) But you also gave me plenty of dive bars, karaoke lounges, late nights and — on occasion — a few awkward mornings…

And well, hey — those make for a hell of a good story.


You gave me expanded cultural awareness, a renewed sense of gratitude, a hole in my wallet and a damn good time. You increased my independence, dissolved some bad habits, tested my values and matured my morals.

You thrust me into your world so unapologetically that I actually forgot to call my parents on a number of occasions. (Sorry, Mom and Dad. I love you!)

Real talk, though: You’ve forced me into a perpetual cycle of change and adaptation and growth and acceptance. It was exhausting, to be honest, but I learned how to handle it. It was almost like you told me “to hell with your jet-lag!” right from the get-go.

what to expect blogger traveling with remote year recap cape town

You pushed me to hike up Lion’s Head mountain when I hadn’t worked out in months. You brought me to Stellenbosch and showed me your many, many wineries. You gave me bronzed skin that can only be obtained through that southern hemisphere sunshine.

Oh, and without fail, you cured my hangovers with the coldest ocean water I’ve ever set foot in. I have goosebumps thinking about it.

You allowed me to challenge a narrative that I couldn’t seem to get unstuck from…

lion's head mountain hike cape town remote year travel blogger

And even on my worst days, you — and the people you introduced me to — forced me back up onto my feet.

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In such a short amount of time (four weeks!), your rooftops, bars, stores, and street corners had become paint-splattered with so many memories.

That local bar, Village Idiot, will never just be that local bar — it’s where you introduced me to some amazing new friends.

The infamous Table Mountain, which became freakin’ focal point of my backyard (below). SoCal, the club where I was confident enough to hop behind the DJ booth. And Bootlegger, the coffee shop we’d frequent after (1) discovering almond milk on the menu and (2) befriending Teagan, one of the servers—one of yours, a Capetonian.

doing remote year what to expect in cape town

And oh, God. Your Capetonians! WTF.

How is it that they exude such an unpretentious coolness? It’s just so effortless — nonchalant, even. And the men — from my experience, they’re genuinely so kind, open-minded and good-hearted. (Handsome, as well — holy shit.)

Keen to make this a permanent thing, eh?

(I mastered your local dialect from the start, too. Aren’t you proud?)

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In just a few short weeks, it became clear to see why they call you the Mother City — you made me feel safe. Loved.

You took me under your wing when I needed it the most. You taught me boundaries — often times, the hard way — as well as ownership and accountability.

You nudged me into understand that healing isn’t linear. That vulnerability is where the freedom lies — and leaning into it isn’t comfortable, but it’s courageous. And worth it — albeit a lot of work.

You re-ignited the creative spark that I worried might be lost for good.

remote year cape town side trips safari kuungana kruger national park_2

Most importantly, you gave me 58 new lekkar friends that I now regard as much more than that. These people — they’ve become my family; my anchor in a sea of chaos.

And for that — Among Other Things, Cape Town — I fucking love you.

Thank you for bringing me back to life, for showing me how to find my edge — even with where I am at now — and for teaching me to let the rest go.

Because life is too short to be angry at yourself for being human.

Until next time,
Hallie x

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To be continued…

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