Adventure Month; aka La Paz

After Buenos Aires, our heads still spinning from everything going on, our Cousteau tribe packed up and shipped off to La Paz, Bolivia. Let me tell you, it was a shock to just about everyone’s systems.

I really had no idea what to expect from La Paz. All I had heard was that I wouldn’t be able to breath and that there were lots of cool things around to visit. I have to say, both of those assessments were correct.
2016-05-02 18.00.21La Paz as a city is beautiful. You’re essentially in a bowl, so you can see all the homes around you and at night the city lights up like stars. Walking around though, even just to the office or up a set of stairs, would get you winded. I’m a runner, and I tried running and rarely could go a mile straight without stopping to walk. After Buenos Aires, though, the sunny sky and warm weather was welcomed, and most of us were happy, at least for the first few days.

Then the sickness started. I’m pretty sure at least 90% of our group was brought down to their knees by either altitude sickness, food poisoning or some combination of the two. One of our Remotes chronicled the experience quite appropriately with this hilarious video. Yes, it was that bad.

But, that didn’t stop most of us. One of the perks of La Paz is that it’s located perfectly to reach some of the most amazing ride trips and excursions, and we took full advantage of that. The first trip that we went on was a Remote Year planned excursion we dubbed, “Adventure Weekend.” After terrifyingly making my way down Death Road on seemingly unsteady mountain bikes, a group of ten of us continued on to a small town local town where we managed to find the one club, or bar, rather, in the town and proceeded to have a grand ol’ time.2016-05-07 10.07.40

The next day, we woke up early and went white water rafting. To one side of us was authentic jungle terrain and then up above were coca fields as far as the eye could see. As a side note, most of the coca leaves harvested are used for cocaine, surprise! After a snack, our group went on the largest zipline I’ve ever seen. Then we had another delicious meal including one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had, and continued our terrifyingly bumpy ride home. Mr. Smiles, our driver, only nearly killed us like a handful of times, too.

That following week, a group of three of us decided we hadn’t had enough adventure just yet. So after getting back Sunday night, we took off Tuesday morning for Isla del Sol, located on Lake Titicaca. To get there, we took a bus, that mid-way had to be floated across a river while we were boated, and then another ferry boat to the island itself. We made a pit stop in Copacabana, the coastal town where you ferry to get to the island and had some of the best Mexican food I had found in all of South America. When we arrived at the island though, well, there are really no words to describe how beautiful it was. The blue was piercing, and the locals were wearing traditional bright colored clothing that accented the beautiful coastline. We roamed around the island, had some terrible pizza and wine, hiked the next day, briefly, and concluded our trip with some beers on the beach. It wasn’t the full island hike that we had initially planned, but it was an amazing trip nonetheless.

2016-05-12 10.08.13After two back-to-back trips, I decided it was time to stay in La Paz for a weekend. A group of us decided to go to Chacaltaya and Valley de la Luna and do some city exploring. The following week was Remote Nation, which meant we had to save up our energy.

Remote Nation and the subsequent impromptu extended vacation in Lima almost deserves its own post. We were positioned only a few blocks away from the coast, which meant amazing running for the days I could gather myself and get out of bed. The first big group event that we had was a happy hour at a coastal restaurant, which was supposed to be followed by big family dinners. Naturally, our group didn’t make the dinner, but we did thoroughly enjoy some delicious sushi at the bar. That night we went out to one of the local clubs and made the most of our night. The next day, there was the actual conference component of the weekend. There were a variety of panels and workshops run by different members of Remote Year. The session I attended, which was called Storytellers, was run by one of our very own RY3 members, which was great to see. That night, we had a collective dinner sponsored by Remote Year and then moved over to the club next door. We ended up loving the city so much that Lindsay and I extended our trip so we could enjoy some more ocean-side ceviche and city lovin’. But, the trip eventually came to an end, much to her dismay, and we had to head back to La Paz.2016-05-28 15.33.46

As if we hadn’t had enough that month, Lindsay, Kirsten, Mo, Jeff and I took off for a couple days on the Salar de Uyuni. We went the same weekend as the Remote Year group, but decided we wanted our own adventure. The first day was a bit of a hassle with an overnight bus and then some issues with our reservation, but eventually we were on our way out onto the immense salt flats and a couple days without any connectivity. The first stop was the salt mine, then the flag field and then we proceeded out to do our series of miniature people photoshoots. I have to say, I was quite a fan of mine on the whiskey bottle. After that, we went to Cactus Island, an ironic name considering it’s location and my being from Arizona. After that, we caught the sunset for one more creative photoshoot and then headed to our salt hotel. Yes, the entire thing was made of salt; walls, floor, tables, the whole nine yards. The next day we woke up early for breakfast and then over to hike one of the mountains in the Salt Flats. It was brutal, but the view was amazing. After that, it was time to head back to town and back to La Paz.

Already exhausted from travel and all the activities from the month, but no less motivated to get out of La Paz and move onto Cusco, Lindsay and I decided to venture off on our own and head to Peru early. And boy was that an adventure.

Other items worth noting are: Food poisoning from sushi, the green line, El Alto, cholita wrestling, Route 36, Café Urbano, Vietnamese place, Copacabana, the gym we never used, coca leaves and tea, all the ceviche in Lima, surfing in Lima, the Digital Marketing Conference that I spoke at (and didn’t freak out, woo!), speeding throug lots of Harry Potter

Continue Reading

The Whirlwind; aka Buenos Aires

So, where have I been since my last update on some date, a long, long time ago? After our first month in Cordoba, we moved onto the cloudy but wonderful city of Buenos Aires for the month of April, and then onto the highest capital in the world, La Paz, for the month of May. Then, we moved onto Cusco, Peru, for our fourth month where we also hit the exciting 100 days of Remote Year milestone and the end of our time in South America.

monte fitz roy trekOur month in Buenos Aires, Argentina kicked off with, what I would say, a very appropriate party weekend beginning with Fuerza Bruta, an amazing show of dancing, music, lights and all sorts of optical illusions. We were living in Byblos, one of the nicer living accommodations that we’ve had on the trip and working out of the local co-working space called La Maquinita Co.

About a week into our time in Buenos Aires, a group of four of us took off for an adventure in Patagonia. The group
was, at the time, sort of a random crew, but we went for it and had an amazing time. We roamed around Patagonia drinking, eating, exploring, hiking and playing mass quantities of euchre. We rented a car in El Calafate, and after admiring Perito Moreno Glacier, we roamed down to El Chaltén where we hiked up to Monte Fitz Roy and experienced snow, rain, high winds and extreme heat all in one eight-hour hike. We topped off the trip with some glacier trekking and a sunrise hike before heading back to Buenos Aires.

mojoOnce we got back from Patagonia, it seemed like the month was almost gone. During the last couple weeks, a group of us went to the town of El Tigre and volunteered to help paint and clean a local school. In order to reach the school, we had to take a boat through the canals that navigated this entirely island-based community. By the end of it, we were covered in paint and feeling all warm and fuzzy having helped out the local community.

Other things worth noting for the month in Buenos Aires include, in no particular order: runs down to Plaza España, the crazy beautiful Cementerio de la Recoleta, Ninina; also known as our home for most of the month, El Ateneo Libreria, amazing graffiti, Adam’s run in with the local graffiti artist Mojo, closed door dinners, La Boca, getting my phone stolen, sunrises on the Byblos patios, the botanical gardens, the mass quantities of golden retrievers for some reason, the insufferable amount of rain and clouds, delicious crepes, terrorizing people in Byblos, David being terrorized by a scorpion in Byblos, Lindsay and I living together in Byblos, subsequently a couple unnecessary all-nighters, the closing party, Club 69 insanity, getting absolutely drenched on a bike tour, seemingly not being able to use card anywhere or ever find an ATM, an embarrassing number of hangovers and getting to know everyone even better, and making amazing friends along the way.

Continue Reading

7 Traits of the Argentinian Entreprenuerial Community

One of the most exciting opportunities Remote Year offers is direct access to the heart of the entrepreneurial communities in each of the cities we visit. We work out of local incubators and co-working spaces, we mingle with locals and hear from other entrepreneurs, allowing us to really get to know the scene.

For someone whose passion is helping entrepreneurs and building communities, this is an incredibly exciting and unique opportunity. So yes, I’m in heaven.

The first community we’re exploring on this year-long journey is Córdoba, Argentina, a city bursting with entrepreneurial energy and potential. Since arriving here only three short weeks ago, I’ve talked with a number of people actively working to grow and support the community.
BCB0153F-A141-42C5-84E0-B549166E0844Maria Elena Provensal
was one of the first people I met. She manages the programs at Incutex, the company builder and co-working space we’re based out of this month. She’s been actively supporting and growing the local startup scene over the last few years. We had a chance to talk and she shared her thoughts with me about the problems and opportunities Córdoba’s entrepreneurial community faces.

Victor Mochkofsky is another local activist we met early on, and I’m not sure how else to say it, but he’s a doll. He was born in Córdoba, studied here, moved to the States and worked there for a number of years and then realized his passion was community and people, so he moved back to Argentina. He reminds me of an Argentinian Jonathan Cottrell. Someone who loves their community more than words, and will do just about anything to see it flourish.

These are just two of the wonderful people I’ve met during my time so far here in Córdoba. From them, as well as other influencers and local entrepreneurs, I’ve been able to highlight eight interesting factoids about the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole.

  1. The entrepreneurial bug has been planted, but only really since 2012. This is crazy to me, to see the growth over only four short years. Incutex just started their fourth program, and they’re one of the largest players in the local scene. Despite or possibly because of the newness of the entrepreneurial community, there’s an energy and excitement that’s palpable. People want to help each other succeed.
  2. The largest first round investment by only Argentinian investors was 1 million dollars in Gi FlyBike, a company that is current in the company builder program at Incutex. This was incredible to me when we frequently hear about large multi-million dollar investments in the U.S., but it’s also a sign of growth and potential for startups coming out of Argentina in the global ecosystem.2016-03-16 13.20.20
  3. There are limited mentors with lean startup knowledge to provide the necessary guidance to up and coming entrepreneurs. The majority of the mentors locally have big business experience, but not the ‘build, measure, learn, pivot’ experience. This was one problem that Maria mentioned, which stuck with me. Without effective mentorship, the learning curve for the current entrepreneurs is steep, and slows the collective growth within the community.
  4. There’s a huge number of small business owners who don’t realize they’re actually entrepreneurs. While this is true around the world, it sticks out especially here. On every corner you’ll see another small café or kiosko. If you were to talk to any of these owners, they would likely not self-identify as entrepreneurs, but they are. They’re the blood, sweat and tears that go into the small business community and make cities into homes and communities.
  5. Startup Weekend has had a huge impact on the growth in Córdoba. For me, this hits close to home due to the impact that Startup Weekend and more recently Startup Week had on my involvement in the entrepreneurial world. The minute I heard from Juan Gabriel Goiriz, another of our local contacts, that he had attended a number of Startup Weekends, I lit up. Maria also attended a Startup Weekend which her team ended up winning. Both Maria and Gabi told me, along with lots of other local networking opportunities, bring people together and support the ecosystem’s growth and awareness.
  6. There’s a government program called Emprenden Industria that allows big businesses to forego taxes and instead invest that money in locally vetted entrepreneurs. This is huge. To have government support behind a community’s desire to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem will definitely help speed up the growth and supplement the limited local funding.
  7. The emphasis on building a team over an idea is just as important here as it is in other places in the world. When I talked with Maria, she told me that the growth in numbers of applicants for the Incutex has grown from 60 the first year, 160 the second year, 250 the third year and 400 this last round. That means that more time and energy has to go into the vetting process of deciding on who will be accepted. At the end of the day, it’s the team above the idea or anything else that they look for. One concept that crosses even language barriers.

I’m fully aware that this is only a bird’s eye view of the local scene. I know there are many more niche components to the ecosystem. That being said, I do feel as though we learned a lot from the local entrepreneurs and have a better idea of what the concept of ‘being an entrepreneur’ is like outside of the U.S., and also what people outside of the U.S. think about our concept of entrepreneurship.

Either way, I know I’ll continue to learn and grow from my experiences with other local entrepreneurs around the world. Hopefully, I’ll even be able to swing by a Startup Weekend or Startup Week event to make this year complete, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

With love, Paige

Continue Reading

Oh hey, I thought I was an extrovert.

We’ve officially passed the two week mark of our Remote Year adventure. For me, it feels like we’ve been here a month. There’s this weird time-warp that happens when you’re traveling. Days seem like weeks and weeks seem like months. You experience so many new things so often, it’s hard to really wrap your mind around it all.

IMG_0470Not only are our senses overwhelmed from being in a new country, our unique group dynamics can be somewhat overwhelming, too. One interesting part of this is the difference, or lack there of, between how introverts and extroverts experience and perceive those dynamics.

For those who know me well, there would be no hesitation if asked if I was an extrovert or introvert. A good friend of mine who co-runs the podcast When Meyers Met Briggs is adamant that my Meyers Briggs is ESTJ, pegging me a full-blown extrovert.

Despite that, I’ve found myself at a loss for words or feeling anxious in social settings more often than not.

2016-03-12 20.55.19The last two weeks have proven that despite my extroverted nature, I have a tendency towards introversion when it comes to meeting and getting to know new people. This is proof that there’s definitely a spectrum of extroversion and introversion, especially when you’re thrown into a social gauntlet with 75 other people with varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. But I guess that’s what this is all about then, isn’t it?

For me, a large part of this trip is really figuring out who I am for myself, as opposed to who people have always wanted me to be. Pushing myself out of my normal everyday routine, with the same people as I’ve been around for years, really forces me to do that.

Personal introspection aside, Córdoba, Argentina is amazing.

Don’t be mistaken, my normal extroverted nature has come out more than once, even in my mostly-functional Spanish after a drink or two. We’ve gone to a local gallery opening, an amazing Joris Voorn concert at La Fabrica until 8 am, frolicking through the fields of El Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito and the most amazing 7-course meal at El Papagayo.

2016-03-13 12.02.35

Well, those are the thoughts of the week. For daily updates and pictures of my my travels, be sure to follow me on Instagram at @MissSoucie!

With love, Paige

Continue Reading

Córdoba: A Culture of Happiness

To finish off the first week here in Córdoba, our wonderful team leaders, Travis and Samantha (aka Tramantha, the masterminds behind #RY3), planned an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt through our new city. Armed with pretty aggressive hangovers from the previous night’s festivities, our teams of six set out to explore, find and pose in front of some of Córdoba’s must-see spots.12705506_532541176927460_6600493757155704362_n

We started at La Cañada stream, trekked over to The First Church of Argentina, posed as a rock band in front of The Cathedral of Córdoba, hung with Córdoba’s national hero, passed by The Cablido de Córdoba, then made our way to the park where we nommed some choripán after popping champagne at the local ferris wheel.

As we walked through the city, we kept commenting on how empty the streets were, a highly uncommon occurrence in this bustling university town. The minute we arrived at the park we realized why downtown had been desolate. It seemed like every single person in the city had come out to enjoy the beautiful Sunday with friends and family.

12524329_532541336927444_5076522964145653181_nNow, I feel there’s a need to preface this is no normal park. It’s like, the ultimate park.

Imagine an amusement park, pool, zoo, food trucks, running paths, workout machines and restaurants all in one, sprawled out amongst beautiful trees, lakes and scenery. That’s Sarmiento Park.

Families and friends alike were lounging in the grass or just strolling through the park. There were little groups of easels for kids to paint on, a small group practicing aerial skills and more kicking around soccer balls or playing frisbee.

Despite the park’s level of awesomeness, to me this highlighted one of the most amazing qualities of more specifically Latin cultures. There’s an emphasis on being present and embracing the simple things in life. It’s about enjoying, appreciating and loving those around you.

It’s about the culture of happiness. 

I know I’m guilty of not being entirely present or appreciating the small things in life. As we were sitting in the park at the end of our Amazing Race, I already felt antsy, like I needed to go, move, do. One of my big goals for this year is to really learn how to be present and appreciate life for what it is at any given moment. Because honestly, that’s all we’ve got.

So, here’s to ditching the hustle and bustle and enjoying some choripán, friends and a Sunday in the park.

IMG_0388

With love, Paige

Continue Reading

My 1 Word for #RY3? Adventure.

Only a short 12 hours after finishing up one of the biggest passion projects I’ve ever worked on, PHX Startup Week, I boarded a plane for Córdoba, Argentina to join the third cohort of Remote Year.

The timing of everything couldn’t have worked out better, a tell-tale sign this was what I was meant to do. 48 hours after boarding my first of four flights, I’m settled (mostly) into my new home, working out of the Incutex co-working space and letting the wonder and magic of being in another country while doing what I love set in.

To introduce us to our new home, the Remote Year team welcomed us with some general information about our city, served us some less-than-tasty fernando, a local drink and had us each share our a word to represent this experience.

There were a number of words you’d expect like grateful, excited, happy and thankful. While all of those also apply for me, one in particular came to mind. What was my word?

Adventure.

For me this year represents the opportunity to explore, experience and get out of my comfort zone, while helping and learning about entrepreneurs around the world.

Some of the characteristics of Córdoba that pop out at me so far include; clothing is definitely a form of expression, you’ll see a wide variety throughout the generations; the ‘defensive’ driving technique is widely accepted as the norm and stoplights are mere suggestions for drivers and pedestrians alike; while most people speak Spanish, locals are friendly to those who mumble through the American version of spanglish; there are lots of stray (and adorable) dogs; you can find cafe con leche and croissants on every corner; when it rains, it comes down in buckets adding to the slightly brutal 100% level of humidity; you’ll see a wide variety of architecture on every street; oh, and there’s sushi, a definite victory for this girl.

So, as a quick introduction to my world in Argentina, here are a few pictures…

From my apartment.

IMG_0259

Inside the co-working space.

IMG_0260

Along my running path.

IMG_0268

So, that’s the quick update. Stay tuned for more updates on our Argentinian adventures!

With love, Paige

Continue Reading

Navigating the World of Volunteer Event Management

Event planning is a 5 billion dollar industry. It’s a beast, with lots of specialties and niches. One that I’ve become intimately familiar with over the last few years is the volunteer event planning niche. This experience came in the form of House of Genius, Startup Weekend and on a larger scale, PHX Startup Week. All of these events are entirely fueled by local volunteers.

When money and financial incentives are taken off the table, expectations and standards shift – everything is easier once you admit to that. However, getting the right people onboard can still the event the quality and volunteer dedication it deserves. As with anything, there are pros and cons.

Here are nine steps to successfully navigating the volunteer event management space:

  1. Define your event purpose. By clarifying the ‘why’ behind your event, you’ll be able to attract like-minded people to support you on your journey. When people aren’t being paid for work, especially over an extended period of time, they’ll need a sense of fulfillment to keep them committed and prevent burnout.
  2. Manage your event like a business. This means moving conversations and to-do’s from your inbox to project and event management tools. For example, use Basecamp or Asana for task management, Sched for schedule management and SignUpGenius or Slotted for volunteer or session registration.
  3. Outline clear role responsibilities. This is crucial. Don’t just say, “We need help. Join us!” This is setting yourself up for failure. With larger-scale or ongoing volunteer support, it’s important to be honest about the time commitment and pros and cons of taking on a specific role or task. That way, your team members can’t say, “Well I didn’t realize…”, because you clearly defined it at the on-set.people-party-dancing-music
  4. Perfect your pitch. Normally with volunteer events, unless you’re incredibly lucky or have a corporate sugar daddy, you’ll need to raise money. You’ll likely always be on the hunt for additional funding, so make sure you understand your external value proposition. While the fluffy feel-good stuff is great, most sponsors need to understand the real ROI from events to rationalize contributions.
  5. Set realistic expectations for yourself. At the end of the day, none of your volunteers really owe you anything. I’ve had a number of volunteers disappear off the face of the planet, only to resurface months later with exciting news about a new (paid) venture or opportunity. While frustrating, I get it. Usually, volunteer work helps open up future job opportunities. However exciting, you’ll likely be down a volunteer and scrambling to try to find a replacement. Mentally prepare for the worst case scenario and have a backup plan to support it.
  6. Show appreciation. For those who do stick around and put in the blood, sweat and tears, show your appreciation. Again, they owe you and your event nothing. It’s important to recognize those who do go above and beyond and help bring together a masterpiece, just out of the goodness of their heart.
  7. Accept your MVP. Even when building a paid product, it’s important to understand your limitations as opposed to pushing for those few small tweaks. When you’re working with a group of volunteers, this reality becomes even more important. Not only that, but is striving for perfection really the best use of their volunteered time?
  8. Be cautious when engaging your network. While you might feel passionately about your volunteer efforts, it’s important not to push it on your network and exhaust your resources. When you do reach out for support, be specific with your ask and generous with your thanks.
  9. Treat volunteer recruiting like hiring. Look at experience, check references and vet (formally or informally) before adding new team members to your team. One weak link when there’s so much responsibility can really impact the overall experience for the organizing team as well as the end result.

While volunteer events lack a more formalized sense of commitment, in my experience, the passion and sense of internal dedication is so much higher. In my experience, the community development and relationships created outweigh the lack of financial compensation.

At the end of the inaugural PHX Startup Week, an organizing member asked me how I thought something so large could be sustained in years to come. At the time, I didn’t know if it could. Now, almost a year later, I know that it can be sustained, so long as there are people in the community who continue to believe in our mission to connect, cultivate and celebrate the Arizona entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Continue Reading

12 Months, 11 Countries & 1 Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

static1.squarespaceEver since I ran off to Girl Scout camp for two weeks when I was eight years old, I’ve loved traveling. I continued to travel throughout the years and I even had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain for a year in college.

My love of travel can only be rivaled by my love of working remotely and the flexible lifestyle it provides. It was this passion that led me to start planning a solo 3-month trip around Southeast Asia. During my research, I stumbled across the program
Remote Year, which immediately piqued my interest.

Remote Year is a new program that takes a group of people who can work remotely to travel the world for a year. The first program, which started June 1, 2015, had an average traveler age of 30 with people from 15 different countries. Each month, the group lives in a new country with single-occupancy rooms and a shared working space. As a plus, I’ve heard there’s also stellar internet access.Cordoba

After doing some research into Remote Year and this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I knew I had to apply. Fast-forward a couple months, and I’m excited to say that come February 27, 2016, I’ll be joining the third cohort of Remote Year participants! It will no doubt be an amazing year of travel, exploration and personal growth. Our first stop is Córdoba, Argentina.

So what does that mean for my life here and what will I be doing for my remote work? I feel fortunate to work with an amazing company, Hopscratch, which I will continue to work with while I’m traveling. Sadly, I’ll be leaving some of my local Phoenix responsibilities, but I’ll be helping share the #yesphx word around the world during my travels.

So, let the countdown begin and stay tuned for more updates! To take a look at the itinerary for the 2016 cohort, appropriately named Cousteau after the explorer Jacques Cousteau, visit the Remote Year website.

For a quick look at some of stops, you can also take a look at the map below!

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 3.57.46 PM

Continue Reading
1 2 3 9