To get to Tulum you'll most likely fly in to Cancun Airport. The tourism agencies at the airport will bombard you with brochures, coupons, and other to-good-to-be-true offers. It can be overwhelming at times and many of the "deals" come with strings attached so be prepared to firmly decline their pitches and stick to your plan. Cancun is overcrowded and overdeveloped so we recommend getting out of the city quickly. Tulum is just over an hour from the airport by car. A one way cab ride from the airport will cost $60-$70 (USD). For the cost of a round trip cab ride, you can rent your own car and have the flexibility and convenience of a car for the duration of your trip. Driving in this part of Mexico is easy and safe. Just watch out for the incredible amount of random speed bumps that dot the roads. You'll know they're coming when you see this sign:
greet them and chat a bit in their language. That simple gesture goes a long way to enhancing your travel experience.
In Part Two, we'll talk about lodging and then hit the beautiful beaches of Tulum.
Very cool, original travel stories. Check it out!
Oddly enough, it's a pretty good time to be an American tourist right now (unless you're in Greece or Thailand). Thanks to the dark cloud of debt issues that surround the Euro, now might be the best time in a long time to take your dollars on a trip to Europe. Compared to even just six months ago, you'll get more bang for your buck on food, lodging, transportation, and shopping.
Head over to XE and check the current exchange rate.
P.S. - If your looking for more bargains, I hear Iceland is lovely this time of year...
Fascinating article by Jonah Lehrer on how your mind responds to travel.
"When we escape from the place we spend most of our time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas we'd previously suppressed. We start thinking about obscure possibilities that never would have occurred to us if we'd stayed back on the farm."
Read the full article here.
I'm always looking for ways to save money on travel. NPR just did a story on the rising homeless population in Hawaii due in large part to the state's generous, taxpayer funded homeless assistance program. I hate to say this but after reading the article, it kind of sounds like a good deal.
"...full health care benefits and more for just $3 a day...chopped beef steak with vegetables, mashed potatoes, bread, a fresh apple and cake... Gary Phillips...was homeless in San Diego for years, but is now earning cash from Hawaii's 5-cent redemption program for plastic bottles and aluminum cans. 'I recycle here,' he says. 'I make money doing that.' Some days, over $40, he says. And he sleeps at the IHS shelter for $3 a day, with three free meals, $200 worth of food stamps and the state's free health care program. 'I went to the dentist today, and I had a tooth pulled,' Phillips says. 'It cost me nothing.'"
But it appears the gig is up.
"Connie Mitchell says the resource drain caused by newly arrived single male transients is getting more acute. She says Hawaiian lawmakers need to develop policies to address this problem. 'I think that we really need to begin to look at who's really homeless — not by choice and by misfortune — and who's really homeless by choice, and have a different solution for the two different populations.'"
Maybe we could meet in the middle.
Read the full article here, and while your at NPR.org, why not make a small donation to one of the best sources of unbiased news in the world.
Film, book, and music festivals are a great way to travel. SXSW in Austin, TX; Sundance in Park City Utah; Primavera Sound in Barcelona; Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans; Cannes Film Festival in (where else?) Cannes, France - to mention just a few.
It's not just the festivals that brim with activity and excitement. The host cities ramp up the fun during festival dates too. Schedule a few dates on either side of the event and make the most of your time away.
Land, Air, and See will be taking our own advice by visiting this year's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, June 10-13, in Manchester, TN.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
I'm inspired by this article I found called, "Why It’s Not Crazy for Working Professionals to Quit Their Jobs and Travel the World." We are persuaded to believe that our lives should play out like this:
1.Graduate high school
2.Go to college
3.Start your career
5.Buy a house
7.Watch them grow up
8.Send them off to college, then to start their careers
9.Become a grandparent
10.Retire, travel, and enjoy life
It's an assembly line mentality applied to human life. This article clears up the old-fashioned misconception that you can't move step 10 up a bit on the 'ol required adult life duties list. And who knows, if you go ahead and go for it, maybe you can just ditch the traditional adult life checklist all together and do your own thing.
Read it now, here.
Insightful and comical article from the Economist. An excerpt:
"You can manage for a week out of a laptop bag, so long as you fold your shirts neatly. It is good to have one with three compartments as it is embarrassing if you have to rummage for a pen and notebook at a meeting and find your dirty laundry emerging from the bag. The bag itself should ideally cost nothing—the kind given out at conferences are ideal, especially the World Economic Forum ones.
Reading material: a photocopy of a good poem, preferably in Russian or some other foreign language that you have to think hard about, folded in the wallet just in case you are stuck with no electronic or other diversion."
Full article here.
I saw a hitchhiker on my way to work today. A lot of people look at hitchhikers and immediately (and often times mistakenly) think bum, hippie, addict, serial killer. But today I saw in this man freedom, courage, and adventure. I thought back to stories of my relatives who during the Great Depression took to the rails as professional hobos, looking for work in a new town and "seeing America right" on their way. I thought back to articles I've read about how hitchhiking culture is promoted in Hawaii, The Netherlands, and New Zealand. Then came thoughts of Jack Kerouac, Chris McCandless, even Kilgore Trout. There is a romance to hitchhiking. An unpredictable, caution-to-the-wind way of traveling that can't be rivaled by any cruise line, tour package, or resort stay. Could the falling dollar and poor economic situation force a shift back to the days when hitching a ride or hopping a train was more of a necessity? I have yet to venture in to the world of hitchhiking but it's on my list. In the meantime, I'm going to read lifelong hitcher Irv Thomas' account of a life on the road, Derelict Days. You can preview the book here on Amazon.
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” - Robert Louis Stevenson
Land, Air, and See is issuing its first official travel warning:
Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to sing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in a Philippine karaoke bar.
Karaoke bars across the Philippines are removing the song from their roster due what are being called the "'My Way' Killings." In the last ten years there have been over a dozen people murdered while singing, what we would have to assume to be, terrible renditions of the song. This is especially troubling to me because when I'm at a karaoke joint that doesn't have "Luck Be a Lady," "My Way" is my second choice.
I could see this happening over Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." but not over 'Ol Blue Eyes.
In case you think this is a joke, check out The Guardian's coverage of it here.
International visitors are welcome on the Trail and are often an important source of labor, considering the short-term nature of the work. Overseas visitors wishing to work in Australia simply require a Working Visa which can be obtained from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
I'm in the running for $100.00 in cold, hard, slowly depreciating United States currency. My story, The Kiwi Drug Dealer and the Serbian Hooker, which appeared on the blog you are currently reading was chosen for a travel writing contest by the fine folks at XtremeTravelStories.com. I'm up against some pretty good stories so head over to the site, check out my competition, and vote accordingly (you can grade my story on the 1 through 5 stars system at the top of the page, 5 being the highest and most desirable star you could give me).
I'll post the results of the contest when it wraps up.
Click here to check out a short audio slideshow, an ode to the vintage camper, from travel filmmaker/writer Allison Otto.
A bad hotel can ruin a good trip. TripAdvisor has compiled a list of the Ten Dirtiest Hotels in the U.S. based on user reviews. If you can stomach it, click the links to each hotel and read horror stories like this one (mind the spelling):
"This hotel is like in a horrible horror movie! I have never seen a hotel like this. We arriverd in the room and immidietly a urine smell was getting over us. We opened the window, but we could not close it anymore. The carpet was verry dirty and had strange spots on it. That nite I could not sleep. Everytime the smell was waking me up. The bed was the a nightmare. It smelled to urine and had strange spots. There were bedbugs in it. I catcht one and showed it the next morning to the lady of the reception. She was not nice to me and told me: Maybe in your country it is not normal to have bugs in bed, but in our (original) country it is, so I don't know why you are complaining.
We wanted our money back. We already paid with the creditcard. She gave us an undecipherable form from to refund of our costs and promised we get our money back from the creditcard. She had no cash to refund she told us. She was angry we din not trust here. We were right. When we came home there were no refund, but the amount of money was taken from our creditcardaccount. We contact the creditcardcompany and eventualy we get our money back.
We left to a very nice motel near San Fransisco and there I washed all my clothes, because I was afraid I take the bedbugs or other bugs home. When I got my T- Shirt where I slept in from the plastic back, there was a terrible smell of urine on it. So the smell in the hotel came from the bed, where some one had urinated on, I think.
SO WARNING: DO NOT STAY IN THIS HOTEL!!! IT IS DANGEROUS FOR YOUR HEALTH!!
Whether you are a fan of the TV series LOST or not, you have to admire the clever marketing tactics of its creators and writers. To fuel the flames of anticipation for tomorrow night's season premiere, travel search engine site KAYAK made a one way trip on Oceanic Flight 815 from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, California available in search results. Here's what the flight details look like:
Molly and I had been walking the damp streets of London all day and decided it was time for a well deserved pint. We found a crowded corner pub in Earl's Court and quickly ducked in out of the rain. The room was wall-to-wall with people but we quickly snagged a newly vacant high-top table and two stools in the center of the floor. We ordered our pints and leaned in over the table to discuss the events of our day. On all sides of us were more high-top tables and stools, all smashed together in an uncomfortable, claustrophobic cluster. Next to us sat a real bruiser of a guy. Muscular, with a tattered All Blacks rugby jersey, shaved head, and one swollen black eye. In our peripheral vision we could see that he was eavesdropping on our conversation. We leaned a little closer to each other and continued talking. He craned his neck in our direction. We leaned in further. He slid his stool over and was now perpendicular to our table. Molly and I, with our foreheads almost touching at this point, turned to acknowledge him. Smiling, he set his beer down on our table. A table barely big enough for two glasses of beer and four elbows. A table now breaking all the rules of size and space with three glasses of beer and six elbows.
"Hey Mates! Where you from?" he asked in a thick, possibly Australian accent. He was smiling even wider and revealing a few broken teeth.
I hesitated, wondering if we were in for some sort of trouble. He looked back and forth between Molly and me, waiting for our answer. Impatiently he guessed, "I bet you're from the United States!"
"Um, yeah. Yeah, we are," I replied cautiously. He looked satisfied with our answer and pleased that his first assumption was correct. He tilted his stool back and enjoyed his triumphant moment of accurate guesswork. Molly and I attempted to lean back in and pick up our coversation where we left off but a burst of energy struck this guy and he thrust his head in between ours before we could close the gap of private conversation.
"I'm Charlie, from New Zealand," he announced as he offered an open palm for a friendly handshake.
"Jonathan." Hand shake.
"Molly." Hand shake.
"What brings you youngsters here? You on holiday?" he asked.
"Yeah. We're here in London for a few days and then we're heading to France," Molly explained.
"How long you going to be in ol' France? Two, three weeks?" Charlie wondered.
"No. We only have eleven days for our whole vacation. We'll be in France for maybe five or six days and we are hoping to stop in Dublin on our way back to the United States," I said.
Charlie sprayed his beer out of his mouth and on to the floor. "You've got to be f***in' kidding me! Why are you cramming everything in to such a small f***in' holiday?"
We seemed to have hit a nerve here. I explained that typically in the United States we only have two weeks of vacation every year, three if you're lucky, and this was our one big trip for the year.
"Two weeks?! Two f***in' weeks? Really? That's it?" asked Charlie, gradually calming a bit from his intial outburst.
I felt slightly insulted. A little embarassed. So in a skeptical tone I asked, "Well, Charlie, how much vacation time do you get in New Zealand?"
"Four to six weeks for the average bloke. But I have a system of my own. Work six months, travel six months."
"How do you afford to do that?" Molly asked.
"I don't keep a car or a flat. I work for six months, hard yakka, save all my money, and then pick a place and settle in for a while. Been doing it for almost thirty years now."
"Where all have you traveled?" I asked.
"All over Europe, South America, Africa. Oh, Singapore! I had some good times in Singapore just pissin' about. You want to see the most beautiful red sunsets? Spend some time on the beaches of Singapore. One time I lived in a little shack on the beach there. Drank beer and fished all day. I had a little scooter that I would ride into town to get food and supplies.You can live there for practically nothing. If you start to run out of money you can teach the local blokes English for a couple of hours a day and make enough to stick around for a while longer."
Charlie was showing a soft, almost romantic side as he talked about Singapore. I looked at Molly and could tell that we were both starting to like this guy.
I asked Charlie, "What kind of work do you during the six months that you are actually working?"
He searched for an answer. "Um...construction," he said unconvincingly.
"Really?" I questioned.
"Well, no. Not actually. I do a little bit of odd job stuff. Just enough to afford a plane ticket to Columbia." He reached both of his arms out, pulled us in under his wings, and whispered discreetly, "I move drugs from here to there."
We tried to not to look too shocked. I'm not sure we did such a good job hiding our surprise. Now all these thoughts were racing through my mind. How did he get that black eye? I assumed it was from playing rugby but maybe it was a drug deal gone bad. Is he dealing drugs in London? Is that why he's here? Is he going to try to bring us into his scheme? Will we be accomplices? Does he have a gun?
Charlie must have sensed our nervousness because he sat up straight and said, "I'm just here in London visiting a friend for a while. I'm on holiday too."
"Oh...that's...nice," Molly and I said simulataneously.
"Look, here comes my friend now," Charlie said as he pointed across to the room to a middle-aged blonde lady maneuvering through the crowd with two full glasses of beer. She approached our table and set a beer down in front of Charlie. "This is Natalia. Natalia, meet Molly and Jonathan. They are here on holiday from the United States."
"Hello," she said in a thick Eastern European accent as she nodded politely.
"Natalia is from Serbia. She used to be a f***in' prostitute! That's how we met," Charlie said as he laughed happily.
As uncomfortable as Charlie's no-secrets-at-this-table approach to conversation was, I had to appreciate that he just saved us the embarassment of having to ask Natalia what she did for a living.
"I don't do so much anymore," Natalia made sure to add in slightly broken English. "When I was young girl, Serbia was dangerous place. My family was so poor. I came here because I want better life. It's not better life here. Things so expensive and it hard to make good wages."
As Natalia told her story I looked closely at her face. The deep creases and lines of a hard life where dusted over with lots of makeup. In her eyes was a sweet sadness. She continued, "I miss Serbia. I miss my family. I have not many friends." When she mentioned that she didn't have many friends she put her arm around Charlie as if to assure him that she counted him as one of her few actual friends.
The mood of the conversation was getting too solemn for Charlie so he brought up the subject of his travels again. "I spent a lot of time in your United States in the 80s. Have you guys heard of Escobar?"
"Pablo Escobar?" I asked.
"Yeah! Pablo Escobar! I worked for his operation. The Americans loved the cocaine. I would travel with shipments and help with distribution. When my work was done, I would get paid and then usually just stay in the country for a while. Miami! That's a great f***in' city!"
We were at a loss for words. Charlie was not. "Things were good until the United States got serious about the War on Drugs. In the late 90s they really came down hard on Columbia and business has been tough ever since. It's easier to transport and sell in places like Thailand and Mexico now."
We didn't have much to offer at this point of the conversation. Neither did Natalia. Clearly, Charlie was the only globetrotting drug trafficker at this table.
Charlie turned to Natalia and said, "You know, these two here only get two weeks of holiday." Natalia looked at us with pity in her eyes. "What a shame," she said. After all she had been through in her life, she felt bad for us because of our limited quantity of vacation days. Go figure.
We told Charlie and Natalia about how much we love to travel. How even with the challenge of shortened vacation time, travel has opened our eyes to new possibilities and helped us meet so many unique and interesting people, present company not excluded. They agreed with our sentiments and shared wildly beautiful stories from their own personal adventures. Here we were, two twenty-somethings from the United States, a Kiwi drug smuggler, and a Serbian hooker, all finding some common ground and enjoying each others' company.
After a few more stories from Charlie and Natalia, and a couple more beers, it was time for Molly and I to head back to our hotel. As we stood up to leave we thanked the couple for a memorable evening. Natalia approached and gave us each a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. Charlie gave Molly a hug and then stepped sideways and placed himself firmly in front of me. He grabbed the back of my head and pulled me toward him so that our foreheads were touching. He looked intently in to my eyes and I could see that he was beginning to get misty-eyed. His voice was shaky when he said slowly, "You have the ability to do whatever you want. Take your wife and go see the world, brother!" He quickly embraced me and gave me the kind of hug usually reserved for long-time comrades. As we exited the pub we turned back and Charlie and Natalia were standing side by side, watching us leave. They offered one last wave goodbye. Molly and I floated back to the hotel, high off the pleasant fumes of the experience.
One of our travel goals is to buy a camper, leave everything behind, and tour North America for an indefinite period of time. During the process in which we were drafting just how we would go about doing this we came across The Wanderlusters, a young couple that was already living our dream. They gave us even more inspiration and practical ideas on how to make it work. We have a few other places we want to visit and a few tasks we need to accomplish before we embark on this type of journey. Until then, pictures like this will keep us motivated...
Turn on the black light, toss a Pink Floyd record on, and watch this satellite-based video of global flight patterns. Pay special attention to how the flights correspond to the way the sun moves over the earth.
We had some friends over for drinks last night and got into a discussion about the perception of the 48 Continental United States through the eyes of a life-long New Yorker. Everyone around our table had just spent some time in New York City and noticed that many New Yorkers have very little understanding of how the rest of the country is laid out on the map. Granted, they have a pretty decent comprehension of the upper East Coast. Pennsylvania is close. California is all the way to the left. Ohio, Idaho, and Texas are all in the middle somewhere. Is Las Vegas a state? You can drive to Hawaii, right?
New Yorkers, prepare to have your minds blown as Senator Al Franken draws the entire US map freehand.