Last minute trip around Italy

I’ve been living in Ljubljana, Slovenia for the last month. The city, country, and people are fantastic! It’s also in such a convenient location for visiting other countries and cities as well. In a discussion with my family, I was telling them how close Venice, Italy is to Ljubljana – roughly around 2.5 hours by car- and my mom mentioned that she wished she could go to Italy. Well, why not? There is not going to be a much better time than when I’m living so close! We booked her flights later that night a week before she would be coming to visit. Surprisingly the flight was about $900 from Baltimore to Venice and from Ljubljana back to Baltimore. My sister has been interning at Hershey and this gave them the opportunity to visit her on her way to the Baltimore Airport.

Here was our ambitious itinerary:

Venice – 2 Days
Florence – 2 Days
Torino – 1 Day
Milan – 2 Days
Lake Como – 1 Day
Verona – 1 Day
Ljubljana, Slovenia – 2 Days

Over the next few days I will be posting some of our recommendations and pictures from the trip to Italy. It was extremely hot during this trip. It didn’t rain and was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny every day.

Until then, enjoy some of our pictures below. 🙂
https://flic.kr/p/vuRPHB
Florence 🙂

https://flic.kr/p/vN9jUk
Torino, Italy

https://flic.kr/p/vVMbz8
Lake Como

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Prague Culture: Final Review

Prague has such a rich and long history and culture. I definitely recommend looking at this quick overview of the history of the Czech Republic to learn a little bit more.

Being a major city in Eastern Europe, there is a lot going on in Prague from art to music to theatre, etc. I was able to experience quite a bit while I was there for a month.

Art

The art throughout Prague varies greatly from medieval to contemporary art. I was able to make it to the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art and enjoyed it, however, I don’t feel that it provided the diversity and organization of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (or maybe I was just missing my neighboring museum).

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Here are a few additional pictures of my favorite art from the city:

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Music

There are concerts all of the time ranging from Electronic Dance Music to Jazz. I was surprised by the Jazz scene in Prague actually, I wasn’t expecting it to be so abundant throughout the city. We were able to attend the alt-J concert at Zlute lazne by the river. If you get the opportunity to go see a concert there, I definitely recommend it.

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Opera

When I was there, I was lucky enough to get in contact with an awesome couple who work at Prague Opera. I took a couple of lessons with them and had such a fun time improving my technique and musicality. I was their first English speaking student which was an interesting challenge. I really enjoyed working with them and was very sad to leave after only two lessons.

Prague Culture Update

They were kind enough to set me up with a very nice studio to practice. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place to review their suggestions and continue to work through difficult pieces.

Prague Culture Update

I was also able to see one of my Prague voice teachers at the National Theatre in La traviata. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never seen the opera before, just bits and pieces in classes at BG. I loved the show, and certainly hope to be a part of it someday.

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

I can only hope that I make similar connections in future cities and countries!

Theatre

The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ) was all over the city in June. PQ is the “largest scenography event in the world”. The amount of interesting events was a little overwhelming and I wish that I was able to see more of the festival. I loved that this was going on in the city while I was there!

Prague Culture Update

Additionally, I was able to attend a show at the Black Light Theatre company. It was certainly entertaining, but felt a little touristy and maybe a bit overpriced at about $25. However, if you want a short, funny evening in the style of Charlie Chaplin you’ll enjoy it!

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

ARCHITECTURE

The architecture of Prague is beautiful. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the overwhelming amount of old world architecture had me more interested in the more contemporary and out of the ordinary options.

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Prague Culture Update

Prague was fantastic and so far Ljubljana, Slovenia has far exceeded my expectations. Although, having never heard of Ljubljana before I was accepted into Remote Year, I can’t say that my expectations were particularly high. 🙂

One of the participants on the trip put together a really great video summing up our time in Prague. Check it out here: Remote Year Month 1 

PragueGroupFinal

Up Next:

– Planning a last minute tour of Italy

– First look at Ljubljana

Observations from an Outsider

The following are some observations I had about life in Prague. I didn’t want to forget these observations and thought that they would also be interesting to share.

1. Women wear tan tights/stockings with anything including under jeans, with open toed shoes, etc.

2. Dogs are often not on leashes. They just walk obediently next to their owners. Most of the time they don’t even recognize that you are walking by! They are also allowed into most coffee shops and restaurants.

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3. At almost all restaurants/cafes/coffee shops you are expected to find a seat and sit down, and they will come to you to take your order. Even when it seems like you might order at the counter. This doesn’t apply for fast food chains (KFC, Starbucks, etc).

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4. Cars are parked strategically up onto the sidewalk on narrow streets.

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5. You can recognize an American by how loud they are in public. Most of the locals speak much quieter even in larger groups. Americans are just loud.

6. Often when you want a park bench to sit down on, you will find an abundance of benches!

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7. Just about everyone speaks English.

8. People wear comfortable flat shoes all of the time. Even at bars and clubs it is very rare to see anyone in stilettos or heels. This would be completely impractical due to the walking on cobblestone streets.

9. Beer is acceptable to drink at just about any time of the day and drinking is a huge part of the culture.

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10. The food is not the healthiest. Traditional Czech food consists of meat and bread. I found myself craving fresh vegetables and fruit. It takes some investigating to find great and healthy local spots.

11. Smoking is very common and is acceptable in bars, clubs, and even some restaurants. Just be careful or you and your clothes will smell like smoke for the entire day.

12. The architecture is beautiful everywhere. I found myself being more attracted to the modern/contemporary buildings and restaurants because it was unique.

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Today is my last day in Prague and I absolutely adored the city. I’m certainly sad to leave, but excited to see what Ljubljana is all about. 🙂

Working Remotely from Prague

My biggest observation after working remotely in Prague for two and a half weeks is that I constantly feel like I’m always and never working at the same time. The following has been a typical day for me in Prague.

  • 7:00 AM – Work for two hours
  • 9:00 AM – Eat breakfast
  • 10:00 AM – Work for two hours
  • 12:00 PM – Eat lunch/sight-see/go to yoga
  • 3:00 PM – Work for four hours
  • 7:00 PM – Eat dinner / attend an event
  • 11:00 PM – Work for one hour

I end up doing just as much work as I would back in the Twin Cities but because I have the opportunity to leave my desk it feels like I’m not working as long. I really enjoy being able to break up working with other activities. It also helps that I’m in a different time zone and people aren’t waiting for my reply or looking to IM me about an issue. I have even found that I will do work on the weekends while I’m sitting in a coffee shop or café. I don’t see this as a problem; to me it’s not about ‘work/life balance’ but more about work/life integration. Some involved with Remote Year have had an even easier transition than I have, but there are some that still struggle and are required to continue working in EST. We all realize that when we get to South East Asia things will get a bit difficult.

In a discussion this morning over breakfast, we were discussing the challenges of working remotely on the other side of the world. We are likely to have a more difficult time just due to the fact that we are not able to be in person for key meetings and decisions. The cost to fly back for a meeting is just too high in most cases. I really can’t see many of us getting the opportunity to fly back and forth often. The relationships you make when interacting in person just are not as easily achieved over the phone and through email. This is certainly a big challenge and it will be interesting to see how we each handle it and what best practices and lessons learned will be gained.

Working in Prague

Since Eaton is a global company, we have many company locations where I will be throughout the year. I had the great opportunity of visiting our Eaton European Innovation Center (EEIC) during my time in Prague. This location just recently opened and houses engineering for all of the business groups at Eaton. For those who are unfamiliar with our corporate structure, we are split into 4 main categories electrical, hydraulics, vehicle, and aerospace. The EEIC provides an environment for all of the business groups to work together with the hopes of continuing to create innovative and collaborative ideas. Since the facility was new, it was very nice and modern, but I was most impressed with the people and work culture. The employees were young and enthusiastic and seemed very passionate about their work. It was certainly inspiring for me to meet those I was able to when I was there. Next month, I plan to visit one of our plants in Italy. This should be a very different experience as it is a much older manufacturing facility.

Working in Prague

Working in Prague

Working in Prague

As a group within Remote Year we are working from Locus Workspace. Locus has two different locations in the city and our group is split up between each. Both have a great environment for working and collaborating. I’m stationed at the Locus – Krakovska space but was able to quickly visit Slezka the other day. We are able to take advantage of the great wifi, amenities and events at each space. I really appreciated the Czech Culture session that occurred my first day in Prague!

Working in Prague

Working in Prague

Working in Prague

It’s also amazing how easy it is to stay connected with people over the internet. My family seemed to think that I was never going to talk to them or provide them updates but with all of the options now to use data/wifi I can be just as much connected to everyone as I was back home. The following are the tools I have been using to stay connected at work:

Working in Prague

Business Tools:

– Plantronics Headset – Since I’m in a co-working space and make many calls for work, this has been pretty key in the quality of my phone calls. It hasn’t been necessary but has certainly made everything easier for me.

– ATT Connect Web Conferencing Tools – This is an Eaton standard and is not anything new to this trip. Luckily, I can call my ATT Connect number over Skype for free since it is an (866) number. I can also use the VOIP option to utilize my headset and PC audio.

– Cisco Jabber – I currently have this installed on my computer to connect my PC with my phone in the US and allows me to call other individuals for work as needed. This is certainly the least used as I am mainly in meetings over ATT Connect, but has certainly been useful.
To sum it up: I enjoy this work style but wish that I was able to have at least the occasional in person contact with those I work with.

Up Next:

The Culture of Prague

First experiences in Prague

“What are you most excited for?” has been the most frequent question I received as I embarked on this yearlong adventure with Remote Year. To be honest, I am really excited to go to every location; they all have their interesting and unique characteristics. I have been the most excited to meet and travel with 75 other individuals that are innovative, adventurous, and courageous. We have all turned our lives upside down to go on a trip around the world. After my first few introductions with other participants, I realized how lucky I was to have the full support of my company, Eaton Corporation. Many others have found or are still looking for work as a freelancer or with various startups.

Even though some of the participants are still struggling to find a steady job, everyone is very positive. The “vibe” of everyone in the program is fantastic and so far we have meshed very well. With 75 people you can always count on at least a few others to be interested in similar activities.  I am really excited for all of us to grow into a family and leave the program with very strong global connections.

Just a few observations and comments about Prague:

  1. Things are quite a bit cheaper in Prague than they are in the US. Especially when you stay out of the touristy areas. It was a bit confusing at first and felt a bit like I was paying with monopoly money. You quickly understand the exchange rate and are able to roughly translate the cost of an item. Currently the exchange rate is:  1.00 USD = 24.0472 CZK
  2. Americans can be really loud and that is easily identified in the Czech Republic. It certainly hasn’t helped that we have often been going places in large groups.
  3. The cobblestone streets take some getting used to. Make sure you don’t wear shoes with very thin soles for the first few days. I wore a pair of Anthropologie and Steve Madden Oxfords the first two days; my feet are still suffering. They are cute shoes of course but I wasn’t used to walking in this environment for so long.

Accommodations

Many people have been asking about the housing situation for Remote Year.  No we are not staying in hostels. No we do not have to share rooms. We are not in college anymore and the team at Remote Year has been doing a good job making that distinction. Although, it does feel a bit like college orientation/ summer camp at times. It would probably be a bit strange if it did not feel this way.

I could not be happier with my hotel in Prague. I’m staying at the King Charles Boutique Residence. It has excellent reviews on travel booking sites. I have been thoroughly impressed.

  1. The rooms and bathrooms are really large. There is an abundance of space!
  2. Also, as this is a hotel, I get my room cleaned daily. I could definitely get used to this.
  3. We have free breakfast. Yes, I said FREE!
  4. The location is a bit out of the way, but that makes me like it even more. The tram station is right across the street, or I can walk to most places in between 10 – 20 minutes.

Food

Food in Prague is great. Traditional Czech food is very hearty! It is certainly not diet food. Here are a few of my favorite traditional meals.

– Goulash – A thick beef stew with dumplings
https://flic.kr/p/uWAELc

– Beef and Cream – Beef sirloin with dumplings and vegetable cream sauce
https://flic.kr/p/uDJqVm

Coffee Shops

Many of you know that I LOVE finding new coffee shops! Here are a few I have enjoyed so far.

Kaldi Fresh Coffee Bar – Just opened in May and is right by my hotel.
https://flic.kr/p/tZg5Sb

Ouky Douky Coffee – Cool vibe!
https://flic.kr/p/uDNq3k

Bistro Proti Proudu – Very interesting interior design!
https://flic.kr/p/uWxxRB

EMA Espresso Bar – Great coffee! No wifi unfortunately…
https://flic.kr/p/uWgree

La Boheme Cafe – Gorgeous coffee shop in Prague 3!
https://flic.kr/p/uTXqWj

Group Activities

There have been many group activities planned since I’ve been here. Some have been planned by the Remote Year team and others just by a group of interested individuals. There really are too many experiences to talk about but the following have been highlights.

Hiking up Sněžka

It was fantastic hiking to the top of Sněžka which is at 1603 meters. Sněžka is the highest point in the Czech Republic and borders Poland. Trips like these always result in some great conversation and relationship building as well.

Women’s NighT

The group is made up of about a 50/50 split male and female. It is really inspiring to be surrounded by so many successful and intelligent women. We had a lovely evening tasting chocolate at Choco Cafe.

Garden Photo Shoot

There are so many amazingly beautiful places in Prague. We happened to come across a lovely garden and decided to have our own personal photo shoot. 🙂 This was taken in Vrtbovská zahrada.

Sincerely,

Cassie

Upcoming Posts:

– Working Remotely – Workspaces and Communication

– Prague Culture – Visual and Performing Art

Hello World! Goodbye Minneapolis!

I’m going to travel around the world for an entire year! This is something I had always planned I would do; of course I had assumed I wouldn’t have the opportunity until I retired. Somehow everything aligned and I was able to participate in Remote Year while continuing to work for Eaton Corporation . This opportunity really came at a perfect time for me. I have just completed a two year rotational program at Eaton called the IT Development Program. I will be visiting 11 countries in 12 months with about 75 other professionals.

Here is our itinerary:

Prague, Czech Republic – June 2015
Ljubljana, Slovenia – July 2015
Dubrovnik, Croatia – August 2015
Istanbul, Turkey – September 2015
Penang, Malaysia – October 2015
Ko Tao, Thailand – November 2015
Hanoi, Vietnam – December 2015
Kyoto, Japan – January 2016
Buenos Aires, Argentina – February 2016
Mendoza, Argentina – March 2016
Santiago, Chile – April 2016
Lima, Peru – May 2016

I’m planning to provide periodic updates of my experience, lessons learned, and observations about every 1 – 2 weeks.

To learn more about the trip check out the following articles about my trip with Remote Year!

Washington Post

CNN Money

Moving into Storage

  • My apartment lease and car lease were both complete mid-June so this worked out perfectly. I’m sure that this was more difficult for others who needed to find a subleaser, break a lease, or sell a car. I really loved the location of apartment and I was sad to leave.

Minneapolis

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Loved this car. Goodbye Beautiful!

  • Since I graduated from BGSU 2 years ago, I really don’t have a ton of furniture or ‘things’ to store. I decided to choose a 5×7 storage unit in Minneapolis. Due to the size, I donated my bed and couch. These were inexpensive and would have cost me more to store them. I’ll just buy new when I return.

Packing

– No, I did not take all of these shoes. I ended up taking 5 carefully selected pairs.

Moving into my storage unit.

Booking Travel Details

  • Visas – Since I’m going to a few locations that require a travel visa, I worked with remote year and the appropriate process to get this taken care of. We needed visas for Turkey and Vietnam. The process for Turkey was very simple as it can all be taken care of online. The Vietnamese visa process took a bit longer as I had to send my passport to the embassy in Washington DC. All included some sort of fee.
    • Flight to Prague – I spent a lot of time looking at many different flight options from Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) to Prague. There really were no cheap options. I decided to try to say a few hundred dollars by booking with multiple airlines to get there. This ended up with me sitting in the JFK airport for over 8 hours and confusing everyone at Norwegian airlines due to the multiple flights I had booked. Now, I’m in Prague still waiting for my luggage to arrive.
      • In the future, I will definitely pay more for the convenience of a simpler travel plan and I highly advise others to do the same!

Packing

      • I decided to go with the REVO Twist 25″ from Macy’s. It ended up being only $100 when I used a gift card and some other coupons. It held up very well throughout the trip. Hopefully when the airport returns my luggage, I will be able to confirm that it is still in great shape.
      • Packing wasn’t as difficult as I had initially assumed. I picked out the clothes that I really like to wear, the electronic equipment that I would need to work remotely, and the necessary toiletries. This initially ended up being 55 lbs, but I got rid of a few things and ended up with 46 lbs.

Saying Goodbye

    • It was difficult saying good bye to my friends, family and the community I had grown to love. With technology and all of the ways to stay connected, I can hopefully share what it’s like living and working abroad in all of the countries. I’m planning to return to Ohio for my sisters graduation from college and the holidays, but it might end up being a bit too pricey and difficult as I will be in Vietnam at the time.
    • I am very sad to leave the Twin Cities community as I was very involved. I’ll be missing the TEDxMinneapolis event on July 31st and a few performances.

Singing Abroad

  • Most who know me, know that I’m a singer and singing is a key and important part of my life. One of the major reasons I was considering not going on the trip was due to the fact that I had a few shows lined up in the Twin Cities and was starting to create a great network for myself there. For any performer who hasn’t been to the Twin Cities or is unfamiliar with their support for the arts, I highly suggest you check it out. I was so impressed with the community, amount of companies, and the high caliber performances.
  • I spent a lot of time discussing this with my current voice teacher and past mentors. Although, I may not be able to be in any theatre or opera performances this year, I do plan to schedule coaching session as I go. I already have my first scheduled in Prague! I’ll plan to write a post about continued training and performance on the road later.

Up Next

  • First look at Prague where I’m staying, where I’m working and what I’m doing.

**Leave your comments below and let me know if you would like to know more about any aspect of my trip! **