Recently I’ve taken a four-month break off of travel to settle into a comfortable life in a quiet town. It’s been nice, mostly.
I do miss packing and unpacking the bags. I miss tossing away ripped up socks, giving away paperback books, and moving what’s left of my big shampoo into a small little shampoo thingy.
Some things are essential to have packed and ready to grab when I’m on the road. I will not include the obvious things like a camera, computer, passport, etc. These following are the little home run hitters that are easy to forget about, but always needed:
1. DENTAL FLOSS
I like to eat. I like to eat meat. I like eating late. My teeth are spaced fairly far apart from laughing too much. Stuff gets in there and I need to get it out. I’ve often been wandering … Read More »
If you want to experience the true life of a place, experience it like a local: get an apartment in a true neighborhood. Wake up to the sounds of street vendors and garbage trucks. Be recognized with a smile by your local noodle-slinger.
If a city strikes your fancy, rent an apartment for a month and stick around for awhile.
Another advantage of worldwide Internet networking is that it allows us to exchange short-term apartments without going through an agent or company. Check the New York City craigslist sublet page and you’ll find plenty of Parisians happy to exchange their Left Bank apartment for a little temporary stepping stone on the Upper West Side. Though apartment exchanges are rare in Asia, there are plenty of expats and locals alike who will be vacating their adobe and happy to have someone trustworthy in … Read More »
Every year I find myself in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week. It’s inevitable, and always enjoyable.
Angkor Wat is, along with Bagan in Myanmar, one of the two most spectacular temple sites in Asia, if not the world. I’ve come back again and again with friends, or by myself. Although lately I barely spend time in the temples of Angkor Wat, I love the cafe and bar scene of nearby Siem Reap, a charming little French colonial town adjacent to Angkor that now serves as the tourist-amenity center of the region. Though a tourist town, it’s far from a tourist trap. There is something about the clear blue sky, slow clouds and that long twilight that I love here. And, there’s the drinks.
Pub Street is famous here. It is the center of Siem Reap and the fulcrum of activity in … Read More »
“a place around the bend where he could jump off”
Created during a time (1959-1964) when American television seemed eerily clean and domestic, The Twilight Zone challenged viewers to examine a possibility of uncertainty beyond the comforts and assumptions of contemporary life. It was my favorite thing on TV. One episode in particular always stuck with me- A Stop at Willoughby. It brings up questions. How could such a ‘successful’ man working in a New York tower and living in an upscale suburb be so miserable? Why would he dream of escaping to a sleepy village where the streets have no name and the children wear overalls and go fishing?
A STOP AT WILLOUGHBY is the story of an advertising executive named Gart. Gart feels endless pressure from his pugnacious boss and his minion-like coworkers at his New York City office during … Read More »
In March of 2012, I was nearly finished with a 3-week journey moving west through the Visayas region of The Philippines. Visayas is famous for beach and diving destinations. I have never been very interested in beaches, so I was focused on the cities of Cebu, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Iloilo and Kalibo. I did, however, have a beach destination as my final stop before flying out of the country. That beach was the most famous beach in all of The Philippines- Boracay. I was all by my sad self during these weeks in the Philippines. I’d met people here and there along the way, but I didn’t join a backpacker caravan or fall in love. So, how is it traveling to Boracay alone, anyway?
Often beach destinations entice travelers of impossibly clear turquoise waters bookended by eternal sunrises and sunsets. So often, … Read More »
Highway 50 is one of those generous, eternal American roads that goes from coast to coast (nearly). It begins in Sacramento, California and ends in Ocean City, Maryland, spanning over 3,000 miles in the process. It’s most isolated, most desolate stretch passes through the heart of Nevada’s nearly-uninhabited desert moonscape. One section of the highway is particularly mysterious. Should a driver attempt to make it from Carson City, NV to central Utah, the route will beckon past lonely brothels, ghost towns, vintage casinos, sand, dust and endless blue skies. It’s the most desolate part of the continental United States and traversing it by car takes a certain commitment and endurance. It is 381 miles from Carson City to Great Basin National Park. This is Nevada’s Route 50, a stretch of asphalt that Life Magazine famously declared America’s Loneliest Road.
I made … Read More »
I grew up in 1980s America. I remember the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Scotland in 1988. I remember the Challenger space shuttle disintegrating over the Atlantic Ocean in 1986. I remember that airplane crashes just seemed to be on the news regularly, giving me an irrational fear of flying that I still have today.
It’s encouraging to know:
Airplane accidents occur at a rate of: 1 crash for every 1,200,000 flights.
The dark part of our imagination tells us that no one can survive a plane crash. This is wrong. 95.7% of people involved in a plane crash survive, actually. Even in the most tragic and serious of airplane crashes, over half of the passengers survive.
So, what can you do to increase your chances of survival? First, pick the right seat to sit in.
SIT IN AN EMERGENCY EXIT ROW, … Read More »
Some travel destinations are tied to beer. Think: Munich, Milwaukee, Dublin, Sapporo. The seaside city of Qingdao, on China’s northeast Shandong coast is forever bound to it’s local brew, Tsingtao Beer, which is now one of the most-consumed beers in the world.
When traveling to new cities, visiting a beer brewery is consistently one of my favorite activities.
Bill and I, along with our friends Hye Mi and the Shameless Traveler, recently had the chance to visit the Tsingtao Brewery Museum in Qingdao, China. It was one of our “sober” activities during the week of the Qingdao Beer Festival. We get credit for a cultural destination, even if it’s filled with beer.
Qingdao is perhaps the most beer-soaked city I’ve ever been to. Throughout the year, and especially in summer, the old streets of colonial Qingdao are lined with informal sidewalk ‘cafes’ serving … Read More »
“They make one of the finest sights in the world, being exquisitely finished, splendid and costly. When illuminated by the sun they are especially brilliant and can be seen from the great distance’
-Marco Polo, upon visiting Bagan’s temples in the 13th Century
Cambodia’s more-iconic Angkor Wat complex may be the most famous of the Hindu / Buddhist temples, but many (including myself) would argue that the temples of Bagan, in central Myanmar, are the most spectacular to visit. While Angkor Wat has increasingly become a saturated tourist hotspot over the last 20 years, Bagan is still comparatively untouched.
With Myanmar finally opening up to tourism, this is going to soon change. Bagan will become the next Angkor Wat and you will not be able to experience it in solitude. Go now before the Chang Beer tanktops take over.
I’d heard great things about … Read More »
Beer festivals generally conjure up images of clangy, repetitive oompah bands, sausages, vaulted beer halls, and busty beer maids. In America we have our share of beer festivals, but they tend to be small caricatures of European festivals. I was surprised to find out that China actually does the beer festival pretty well, albeit with skewered, mysterious meats instead of sausages; and shirtless, busty men instead of busty waitresses.
The largest beer festival in the world is Octoberfest in Munich, Germany. The largest beer festival in Asia is The Qingdao International Beer Festival.
Qingdao is the home of the plentiful and cheap Tsingdao beer, which was founded by Germans when the city was under German control in the late 1800s. It’s an amazing seaside city, a great place to visit any time of year and an even better place to visit in … Read More »
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