What is your favorite city?

What is your favorite city?

I think if you ask anyone on Remote Year, this is the question they get asked the most and it is also the most hated. Ranking the cities that you live in is extremely hard and often it comes down to aspects that are hard to describe to anyone else. I have taken the tactic of talking about a Top 3 without a specific order. For me, I can fairly easily say Mexico City, Sofia and Prague are my favorites.

As I near the end of my year, part way through month 11, I have decided to rank and explain the rankings as best as possible as a way to look back on the year overall. However, rather than pinning Europe (plus Morocco) and Latin America against each other, I am going to pick the order on each and talk about them separately, as my experience in each was extremely different. I know Morocco is not in the European continent but since it was apart of our European 6 months and it practically connects to Spain (via Gibraltar Straight), I am grouping it in.

First, how the regions differ from my Remote Year perspective.

View from Charles Bridge (Prague)

Europe: Before Remote Year, I was a little worried about Europe. When Americans think about traveling abroad, I feel like they automatically go to Europe. The cities on the Remote Year itinerary allow you to see parts of that Europe but also explore beyond the typical Europe that people travel to. As a traveler, I love going on the path less traveled and because of this, have stayed away from Europe when possible in my prior travels. Needless to say, after my 6 months in Europe, I will be returning as often as I can.

So what changed my mind? First, the cities we went to. Each city was enticing and although several of them land on people’s list, they are not the go-to’s in Europe. This allows you to begin to understand European culture more than when you go to the London’s and Paris’ of the world, though they have their own unique culture as well. What you will see from my rankings is that, in general, the more East the cities, the more I enjoyed them. This, I think speaks to the above.

Finally, European lifestyle is much more laid back than American. I believe that there are two parts to this. First, Europeans just move slower, in a good way. They do not have as much urgency. This can be seen through cultural phenomenons like siestas or just spending a few days in almost any European city. Second, while I was in Europe, I was working on East Coast US time. This meant that my workday started between 2–4PM everyday throughout the 6 months. I could write an ode to the productivity that you can accomplish working 3PM-12AM. Ultimately, you feel more fulfilled overall, because you are able to do something personal each day. Some days it is exploring which I found to be productive, and other times you need to be more low-key. I did everything from 3–4 hour hike to visiting a museum to walking around a city to sleeping in and giving myself a morning alone. Once it was time to work, I had already had almost a full day of personally fulfilling things and was able to concentrate better and be more productive. The hours I were working sounded awful to most of my colleagues but ultimately left me feeling more productive and invigorated for the next day.

View from Chapultepec Park (Mexico City — CDMX)

Latin America: Prior to Remote Year, I had been to in Mexico, Central American and South America but had only gone as far as Colombia. Because of this, I had most of a full continent to explore and not so many expectations. My trip to Colombia, the December before I started Remote Year was actually when I decided to start traveling. In the fall, my job had completely changed and I still really enjoyed the overall job but I was not feeling as fulfilled and struggling to find my place. While in Cartagena just before New Years, I had decided that in 2017, I would go abroad to work. At the time, I had thought I would change offices and move to a new city. However, when I found Remote Year, I knew that was the way I needed to go about my travels abroad. Colombia, itself, the first time I went was an interesting experience. I had loved Cartagena and its unique colonial beach scene but had not particularly enjoyed Bogota. However, the trip was a great intro into what was to come for me in South America.

What I found in South America is that all the people are extremely friendly in almost every place we go. Even beyond that, the culture is so unique and robust throughout the continent and region (all of Latin America). Though each country has its nuances they are all rooted in cultures that predate most of the US and that portion of the culture, though at times pushed to the side, is deeply rooted in their lifestyle.

Latin American is full of extremely large cities with 3 of our destinations have over 8MM people, in comparison to the hundreds of thousands to 2MM people in the European cities. At times this can make a city a little harder to experience and at other times this can enhance the experience. Ultimately, with these large cities, we were able to learn a lot about a small area (usually the one we were living in) rather than the full city.

Finally, being back on US time zones makes it so that most people started to work more conventional 9–5 hours. This, I think, changed the experience in Latin America greatly and put a lot more stress on the weekends. Because of all the above, in general, I found Latin America to be less fulfilling than Europe. For me, this may have also been in part due to changes in my work life as well as wear and tear of travel. However, I believe I have given a fairly accurate overview of each region to now go down into the specifics.

Vistosha Street (Sofia)

Top Pick:

Europe: Sofia

Imagine a picturesque city that is sprinkled with gorgeous old school domes between hipster cafes, buildings and parks. This is Sofia, Bulgaria.

Sofia is a super livable city that is easy to get around. It is surrounded by easily accessible hiking area and contains the remnants of Soviet culture. The combination of the cafes, culture and nature give you the feeling that you are in a foreign place while allowing you to stay comfortable. The food is fresh and healthy. The city has a vibe that is laid back and buzzing at the same time. Overall, it is the perfect destination to feel comfortable while pushing your comfort zone.

Latin America: Mexico City

Mexico City was the only city going into Remote Year that I was not sure if I was going to go to. It gets a lot of press for being unsafe but I did not really experience that while there. You should be aware of yourself and your belongings while there but many parts of the city are extremely safe.

Each neighborhood has its own vibe allowing you to move a short distance to get a completely different vibe. The world’s largest city park fills the center of the city. To its south, lies Condesa and La Roma (home to RY apartments and co-working space), a hipster and vibrant area with plenty of food options from coffee spots to brunch to street tacos. To the north of the park is Polanco, the Beverly Hills of CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) with higher end shopping, restaurants and people watching. The old historical district is a short ways away to the east with older churches and buildings, great for walking around. CDMX is home to more museums than you can think of from the Frida Kahlo house in Coyocan further south from the central area of the city to the museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park (the largest city park). Whether you are looking for art, culture or anything in between, you can find a museum. The pure variety of options for any-day makes it a truly unique city to visit. CDMX is affordable, diverse AND THE FOOD IS OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Muy Guemes Galeria (Cordoba)

2nd Choice:

Europe: Prague

Prague is extremely popular for a reason. The gorgeous old architecture mixed with the vibrant modern day city culture is everything that you picture in a European city. Prague is easily accessible with one of the best public transit systems in the world. The old town square and castle are also an easy walk from most of the newer areas in the city that you may be working. It is an incredibly diverse city that has all types of cuisine (and the food overall is great), places to go out and people.

I have only ever been to Prague during November/December. The Christmas Markets that sprinkle the city are magnetic. There is mulled wine galore and a beautiful creation called Trdelnik which is pastry dough wrapped around a wooden stick and cooked like rotisserie chicken then rolled in sugar and often Nutella is put inside the hollow cylinder (after being taken off the stick). These markets are a joy to walk through and make the cold bearable while adding to the city’s feel.

P.S. Beer is cheaper than water in Prague

Latin America: Cordoba

This is the city that I currently have been. I was able to rank it after less than 24 hours here. Overall, it has a charm/vibe that is akin to Sofia and elements of Mexico City so how can I not love it. The city is riddled with small parks and also has a large park that I still need to explore. It has boutique shops, cafes and restaurants throughout the Nueva Cordoba and Guemes area where Remote Year is housed and works. Specifically, in Guemes, there are a bunch of Galerias that are essentially alleyways with shops, bars and restaurants inside (see a picture above). Every weekend there are fairs of arts & crafts along with other festivals all over. It has nature that is accessible. Oh, and the wine is amazing.

Croatian Sunset (Split)

3rd Choice:

Europe: Split

A small but beautiful beachside city. This is a huge port for the islands of Croatia. The views and accessibility to great side trips is bar-none. The list includes but is not limited to: Zagreb, Hvar/other islands, Slovenia (Lake Bled and Ljubljana), Bosnia (Saravejo & Mostar), Dubrovnik & Montenegro (Kotor) among many other options.

In November (possibly all the time) food options are very limited. The city was fairly dead when we got there and Hvar along with the other nearby islands were practically closed, if not already. Despite this, the sunsets were out of this world. EVERYDAY.

Latin America: Lima

This city feels remarkably like Los Angeles. Situated right beside the ocean, the beach can be felt deep into the city. Miraflores is the area that RY lives and works and it feels safe and is totally walkable. There are plenty of cafes and parks to walk through including a Pre-Incan ruins. The old city is cute and european but was not well kept and only deserves a few hours. The areas closest to the water is where I stayed for the most part between Miraflores and Barranco. The city has tons of great food, specifically ceviche, and many high end restaurants. I really enjoyed the city overall but there is so much to see in Peru itself that my time in the city itself was limited. Lima is a great anchor for any other destination in Peru.

View from Castelo de S. Jorge (Lisbon)

4th Choice:

I want to preface by saying both of these are great cities that I enjoyed a lot but did not stand out in comparison to the cities above. Also they were both in close 2nd to the 3rd place choices and on any day could have been alternated with the two cities directly above.

Europe: Lisbon

A bustling city that has plenty to see and do. Lisbon is probably put lower on the list than it should be but it was the first month of my trip and most of the month is a blur because of the excitement of starting this journey.

LX Factory and downtown were amazing areas and very easy to walk around. LX Factory is a more up-and-coming warehouse district with lots of art right by the water. Just south of it was the old city/downtown with lots of old architecture, some great graffiti and restaurants/bars. I believe RY now is situated closer to these areas, when we were there we were a little further, partially leading to the ranking.

Portugal overall is a beautiful city. Porto is the home of Port wine that is super quaint and beautiful with the whole city around a river bend (on both sides). Algarve and Lagos down south are amazing beach areas equipped with party boats and amazing views. Needless to say, Lisbon and Portugal are on my list of places to return to.

Latin America: Medellin

Walking down a street in Medellin, in between the concrete jungle, one could find actual green jungle with very herbaceous parks or even small rivers or creeks that were surrounded by trees. The neighborhood of El Poblado where we lived and worked was riddled with small cafes and cute restaurants to go to. The area was easily walkable and felt extremely safe, especially considering the discourse in Medellin’s recent past. The area did not match a lot of the other parts of Medellin and at time almost felt like an expat safe-haven. When going outside of the El Poblado area, there were poor areas that more closely looked like some of the images we have seen of Medellin in the news like Comuna 13 which was filled with amazing graffiti or the historic downtown equipped with a plaza full of Botero statues and old school European architecture. The combination of the hip El Poblado area that was easy to walk around with these more authentic areas and easy access to great nature make Medellin a truly unique city with a lot to offer. There is no surprise that it is becoming more popular for expats and tourists alike.

City of Arts & Sciences (Valencia)

5th Choice:

Europe: Valencia

Again, it is not that I did not like Valencia but rather that most of the other cities were more memorable.

A temperate city with a classic Spanish downtown. Next to the downtown is a long park that is created in the bed of a diverted river, fully equipped with bridges that stand over the park. Further down on the park is the City of Arts & Sciences, a new-age modern set of buildings (seen above). The stark contrast between the old classic downtown and City of Arts & Sciences really defines the feel of Valencia with odd combination of old and new that works. Valencia is a very typical Spanish city in terms of culture and feel.

Latin America: Not including as I have not been to Buenos Aires yet and do not want to rate it prematurely. Post will be edited

Hassan Tower (Rabat)

Last Place:

Europe: Rabat

A scene out of Aladdin is what I first pictured when thinking about going to Morocco. Rabat is the financial capital of Morocco and contains all the mystic of Fes and Marrakech without as much of the hustle. The same medinas with windy alleys and vendors galore exist. However, Rabat is not the typical Morocco destination. It does not have quite as much going on as the other cities visited. Rabat was a great city to use as a hub for the rest of Morocco but did not have a lot going on inside the city itself and left you really searching outside the city to see more. This is also one of the reasons I liked Rabat because it really forced me to see Morocco and check off all the major attractions of Morocco from the Sahara desert to the Atlas Mountains to Chefchaouen to Fes and Marrakech.

The main negative I have on the city is that nothing was really accessible. Getting from the co-working space home or home to places in the city took planning and cars, something that was only occasionally needed in all other cities.

Latin America: Bogota

The almost 9 million people of Bogota is felt in the sprawling city. While areas like El Chico Norte (where we stayed), La Candelaria (downtown) and Usaquen are easy to get around when within any of them, getting between them is difficult and the traffic is one of the worst I have ever seen and I grew up in LA. This almost forces you to stay in one area and not explore as much as one would want. Beyond this, Bogota is 8.6K feet(2.6K meters)above sea level, leaving me short of breathe and energy.

El Chico Norte is a very pleasing area that has everything you could need, nice apartments, restaurants and bars. Usaquen is a cute more artist area with some of the better resturants and cafes in Bogota. Finally, La Candelaria is the historic downtown and is full of some of the best graffiti in the world as well as a church accessible by cable car or tram with great views of the city. Each has its unique charm.

Note: All photos were taken by me, though many are the typical ones you see for each country.

Source: Medium:Remote Working
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