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Top 10 Most Beautiful Underrated Caribbean Islands


The Caribbean is too-often associated with simply being a destination of family cruises, where one is taken out into the ocean on a big boat, dumped onto a tourist-friendly block of an island and swooped back up twelve hours for another jaunt to the next location. The truth is, the Caribbean offers many islands that are worth the flight and hotel expense not only because of the impeccable weather, but variety of rich, cultured experiences available on virtually every island. Especially great is the remote nature of these islands as off-the-beaten path destinations for quiet vacations.

Additionally, this beautiful expanse of islands is mistakenly summed up by thinking of a few locations only – Jamaica, Bahamas and Aruba being those that stand out when individuals and couples search for the best islands in the Caribbean. Fortunately, there is so much more to be seen and experienced out of the 28 island nations in the Caribbean, as well as the more than 7,000 individual islands! There are a million reasons to travel to the Caribbean, but here are some of our favorite under the radar locations and why we think you should go!

Curaçao

Part of the sister islands that make the ABC islands (along with Bonaire and Aruba), Curacao boasts incredible beach-fronts, crystal-clear water and some of the best and most affordable resorts in the Caribbean. Part touristic, part untouched, Curacao has something in mind for the beach-goer and party-goer, including some of the most stunning vistas in the Caribbean as well as a thriving nightlife in downtown Willemstad, the capital. Lastly, the ABCs are technically removed from the hurricane belt, making weather a nearly non-factor year-round for the gorgeous utopia.

Perhaps the most truly differentiating things on the island to experience is the shipwreck on Klein Curacao, a small island just off the mainland. Curacao is, in fact, a hot-bed of shipwreck activity with several notable locations to dive or snorkel around shipwrecks such as the Superior Producer, which went down in 1978.

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic

Most come to the Dominican Republic for Punta Cana, the coastal city littered with all-you-can-eat packages and Caribbean tourists who want to be in the Caribbean without actually being in the Caribbean. However, Bayahibe offers a truer and less stale experience than Punta cana. Take advantage of the locally-prepared seafood dishes and scuba diving by day, and the numerous, thriving and vibrant live music establishments by night. Kviar Show Disco & Casino Bayahibe is a favorite place that doubles as a location to dance the night away, have some drinks, and risk a few bucks on the blackjack table.

Bonaire

 

There are countless reasons to visit Bonaire, and its not only our favorite place in the Caribbean, but arguably our favorite place in the world. Small, unspoiled and untouched, Bonaire is a water-lover’s dream, featuring some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, as well as a vibrant nightlife and excellent cultural experiences.

Make sure to visit Klein Bonaire, a small swath of land directly opposing the primary tourists’ area in the capital of Kralendijk, where daily boats will take you on a short ride to experience a completely unfettered snorkeling experience. Don’t forget to take your own food and drink, however, because Klein is completely uninhabited. Bonaire is ridiculously romantic, and absolutely perfect as a Caribbean get-away for couples!

Nevis

Nevis is small. Very small, at only 36 square miles. However, what the tiny island lacks in size it makes up for in richness. There is simply so much to do in this idyllic paradise, including volcano exploration, hiking, camping, snorkeling and diving – to name a few.

Additionally, Nevis doubles as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, 18th century American statesman and the 1st Treasury Secretary in national history. Hamilton is honored throughout the island, including a casual trip through the now-museum that sits at the site of his birthplace. You’ll have to fly from Miami into into neighboring St. Kitts to reach Nevis, but the extra layover is absolutely worth it.

Grenada

Grenada is rolling and stunning, although often overlooked in favor of many of its neighbors. It is possibly one of the most unspoiled islands in the West Indies, and retains original colonial charm as well as a casual atmosphere and amazing food. St. George, the island nation’s capital, is a cultural landmark full of historic museums and inviting people.

The Coyaba Beach Resort is the place to stay, as it includes reasonable prices, beautiful rooms and one of the best restaurants on the island – the Arawakabana

Saba

Saba is the smallest Dutch-Caribbean island, and certainly one of the most beautiful. Called the “Unspoiled Queen”, the island houses less than two-thousand residents, making it an ideal choice for those looking to truly disappear off the grid.

In addition, Saba has some of the highest elevation in the Caribbean, making it the perfect location for hiking and mountain biking, at more than 1,200 feet in elevation. The lifestyle on Saba is different from much of the Caribbean – slow and old-fashioned with little nightlife, even with the emergence of an ecotourism industry in the last few decades.

Tobago

Just north of Venezuela sits Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost country in the Caribbean. Trinidad is unquestionably the bigger brother of the two, being larger, more industrialized and more acclimated to tourism, but Tobago offers much. Low-key and unspoiled, there are a few resorts in Tobago such as the Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort where the ocean is warm year-round, completely calm and untampered. Additionally, Le Grand Courlan is a perfect couples resort because of its adults-only policy!

Tobago is scenically stunning due to a natural feature most Caribbean islands lack in volume – bays. Tobago has numerous well-known bays that are ideal for boating, diving or simply swimming. What’s better is that many of these are away from what few “touristy” areas there are, while remaining perfectly safe.

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are stunning visually and even more interesting historically, as a remaining location where the infamous pirate Blackbeard allegedly hid his treasure – estimated at more than $14 million according to record. Accessible through the Grand Cayman, these islands offer superb adventures for scuba divers, cliff divers and windsurfers.

Legend has it that Blackbeard’s treasure is hidden along an area of rocky shoal that outlines the beautiful Cayman Brac. This shoal reaches high and vast, attracting rock climbers and hikers in addition to the already-present divers and treasure hunters! Beyond the shoal lie vast caves scattered along the coastline where small amount of gold, silver and jewels have been found over the years!

Barbados

Barbados is a natural wonder, complete with beautiful, scenic nature that is perfect for calm, casual walks throughout the island. Botanical gardens, forest trails and caves are virtually everywhere, making Barbados a perfect off-the-grid location to reconnect with nature. Harrison’s Cave is a wonderful location for a truly unique Caribbean experience, and afterward you could east to the stunning Bathsheba Beach or to the south, where the Mount Gay Rum distillery has been in operation since 1703.

On Barbados’ Platinum Coast, the calm water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling or simply doing nothing.  For culinary enthusiast, the coastal fishing town of Oistons is ideal to try your hand at fry fishing with locals and familiarizing yourself with authentic Caribbean cuisine!

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

If you visit Puerto Rico, and you should, make sure to take a small ferry over to Vieques Island, a small and quiet paradise filled with lavish resorts, mangroves, wildlife and picturesque beaches. The Vieques Wildlife National Refuge is a must-see feature of this island, as it retains much of the natural Puerto Rican wildlife to be left undisturbed and protected.

Just eight miles east of the mainland Puerto Rico, Vieques features some of the most beautiful black-sand beaches in the Caribbean, as well as Bahía Bioluminiscente. Also called “Bio Bays”, these are bodies of water that contain millions of micro-organisms, called “dinoflagellates”, that glow in the dark for a second when agitated. It is a rare, natural wonder that you can easily experience while visiting Puerto Rico. Have your camera ready!

There’s more to the Caribbean than cruises or Jamaica. With an area so moving, so beautiful and so vast, the numbers of island nations are far more varied than most imagine and offer myriad unique experiences for anyone willing to take a chance. Often, these more “out of the way” locations are the ones that will simply amaze you with things you never imagined, food you never tasted and the kind of people you could only meet far from the general eye of tourism. Take a step away from the places you know, venture further, and experience all the Caribbean has to offer.

 

 

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How to Succeed as a Traveling Couple


I was having an interesting conversation recently with an acquaintance of mine, a guy about my age who has been with his wife for about four years, and asked me “how do you still get along while you travel?” The question struck me strangely, perhaps because I really don’t often consider the status of “getting along” or “not getting along” in terms of our relationship – we’re together. Always will be. Win, lose or draw, good day or bad, it’s us. There’s only one state of “permanence”, I suppose, and we stay present in that when we travel. And, as the quote says, “the couple that travels together stays together”.

I had to think about the question for a moment because Tracy and I don’t really consider our relationship in those exact terms, so I had to ask him to expound. “Well, just being around each other for weeks at a time. Doing everything together. Never being out of eyesight or earshot… how do you do it?”

I was a little saddened by the question when I understood what he was driving at, but also understand it’s a question that’s probably fairly normal to most people. There was a realization that some couples may struggle to get along more when they travel, but it’s our experience together over ten years and many trips that have helped us to learn how to do so. I gave my friend a moderately well though-out explanation of what I thought before moving on, but the question hasn’t left me for a few days. I thought “maybe this is a real problem for every couple… maybe we had the same problem once and just figured it out?”

It seemed like something worth writing about.

We do have ten years together, and while I don’t think we have it all “figured out”, our disagreements are normally pretty short in nature, pretty silly, and we move past them without too much time wasted. I thought of the first few times we traveled together, however, and I suppose the reality did strike me that we did, in fact, have to learn to travel together. Travel is fun and travel is expansive, but sometimes it can be challenging and force you out of your comfort zone in ways that compel you to admit that you have the capability of improving. Especially when you travel with the one you love.

So, after ten years and twenty countries together, we were able to come up with a list of a few things we remember that help us survive (and even thrive)  as a traveling couple!

The Couple That Travels Together, Stays Together

This may seem obvious, and it is. Really obvious.

Pick the right person to be with.

Does this mean you’ll never fight? Yeah, right. Does this mean you’ll never disagree? Not a chance. However, there should be a basic respect and interest in one another, as well as commonality that will enable you to travel with each other. If you don’t have this, forget traveling, you probably shouldn’t even be together. Harsh truth? Maybe. Truth, none-the-less? We believe so. We’ve all been in relationships where we didn’t have anything in common with the other person, and we actually place the “love of travel” right along the questions of religion and children when being in a relationship. If one person loves travel and the other could care less? One will either have a sense of unrequited wanderlust or the other will feel dragged through life paying for trips they don’t want to go on.

Find someone that loves to travel as much as you do.

Assume Positive Intent

So, you picked the right one? Here’s a secret – you’re still going to have disagreements. Travel doesn’t change that – it can, in fact, enhance it. The biggest travel tip for any couple is to “assume positive intent.”

After a twelve-hour flight, expect each other to be less energetic, less understanding and less patient than normal. This is absolutely human nature, and something you should both expect from one another.

You’re going to be tired sometimes. Jet lag is a nightmare to your state of mind, so allow for some adjustment. You’re going to be curt with each other at some point on your trip if you get a little lost or something doesn’t go according to plan. Don’t make it the end of the world, don’t make it more negative than it is, and don’t expect the worst in the other person because they’re a human with human feelings and prone to the same bouts of unsolicited grumpiness that you also exhibit.

Instead, assume that the other person loves you and means well. Assume that, if something offensive was done or said, that it wasn’t done maliciously. Don’t look for reasons to stoke the fire. Assume positive intent and ask the same in return.

Compromise

It goes without saying that every relationship requires compromise to work, but it’s especially important when traveling together. After all, travel opens up possibilities and gives you myriad things you can do together. Isn’t it wise to make sure that each of you gets to do the things that matter most?

Tracy and I feel like this is something we’ve learned well over the years, and an area where we needed improvement – and luckily have! Much of our planning prior to trips comes with the idea in mind of picking “me-things” and “you-things” to make sure we each give and take in our experiences, but what you find is that even the “you-things” are enjoyable and help you out of your comfort zone!

For example, we wouldn’t even travel today if Tracy didn’t help me get over my fear of flying. Early in our relationship, we established a give-and-take that included me working on my fear so we could enjoy traveling together. Once out of my comfort zone, I was able to experience the deep love I also had for travel, but could never express!

Over time, it’s amazing how many of your interests will begin to meld if you remember to meet in the middle when it comes to picking excursions and even picking places to visit.

Communication

One thing that makes compromise impossible is a lack of communication. After all, how can you compromise with each other when you don’t know what the other person wants? It’s important to ask and be an active participant in listening to what your partner wants to do. Furthermore, understand why.

For Tracy, I couldn’t properly appreciate her love of the United Kingdom without understanding her fascination with her family heritage, and she could say the same about me and Scandinavia (Skol!). Understanding the “why” behind the “what” is an old sales tactic, but it’s really best used in a relationship – especially for traveling couples!

You should set expectations while being flexible. For example, if one of you really has a bucket-list item that isn’t shared by the other person, it’s pertinent to make sure that happens – for each of you. Decide what those important things to each other are, and show understanding by making sure they happen when you travel.

Give Space

While the point of traveling together is to be together, there should be times where you do your own thing – if even just for a few minutes at a time. I’ll give a few different examples.

In Lima, I found myself more jet-lagged than usual after a five hour flight. Really wanting to do nothing but rest, Tracy decided to venture out for a few hours (it was still daylight in a safe area close to the hotel, nothing crazy), shop, and get familiar with the area around the hotel. By the time she got back, I was rested and ready for dinner, and from that point on we were synced. Had I pushed and gone out, my exhaustion probably would’ve only gotten worse, crankiness may have ensued and we could’ve had a disagreement because of it.

On a smaller scale, don’t stay attached to the hip in markets and walking around in general. For example, while in the flower markets in Amsterdam, Tracy would walk off while I did the same, and generally say “let’s meet back here in 20.” You can do everything generally the same without doing everything exactly the same and allow each other a little breathing space.

Embrace Doing Nothing

Couples can feel a lot of pressure to do more than what is necessary when they travel. Sometimes what’s really nice is just to do absolutely nothing together – especially while you’re adjusting from jet-lag.

What’s funny is that, many years after having gone on certain trips, Tracy and I still talk about the times we did nothing. Right alongside our conversations of the Rialto Bridge and Machu Picchu is the time we arrived in Vienna with overcast, chilly weather, took a four-hour nap, woke up and went to get a beer. Don’t let each other feel the pressure to overextend – enjoy the relaxation.

Accept The Disagreements That Do Happen

Following all of this advice for couples who travel, you’re still going to have disagreements from time to time. This occurs in relationships, no matter if you’re traveling or not.

It’s easy to get frustrated when this happens, and the frustration can lead to a lack of listening, lack of understanding and ultimately a longer argument. Just accept that disagreements exist and realize them for what they are – normal.

Instead of concentrating on being right or “winning” a disagreement (no one ever does, by the way) concentrate on understanding, listening, communicating and understanding why you traveled together in the first place – for the love of travel.

 

 

 

 

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8 Hours in Paris: A Raw Review


It is no longer Hemingway’s Paris.

No longer that romanticized epoch of clinking champagne glasses and Can-Can Girls, backlit with the swirling of sweet cigars and bawdy revelry. Where the beauty drifted, we don’t know; perhaps to the fate of time and erosion, or perhaps to the city’s reliance on old paradigms that just don’t work with the present population. The Paris we experienced in person was much different than that of the misty, lovelorn images dreamed of in well-worn novels.  To us, it presented itself as a self-righteous, spoiled  stepchild of what it once was –  tattered, rude, and disconcerting.

To Tell the Truth

This is not one of those cheeky, double-speak reviews of Paris which ends up praising the beauty and uniqueness of the city in the end. I have to be honest.  Furthermore, if you plan on traveling to Paris’ tourist attractions for a day via the Eurostar or into the train station at the Gare du Nord in general, as many do, you need to know what to expect if you want to feel safe and enjoy yourself, even if just for a few hours.

I know there are millions who have different experiences in this city, but as a first time visitor (as many people are) it’s important to depict a personal and real picture so other first-timers can be prepared for the shadows they may find  within the City of Lights!

Our Paris Experience

Our main goal during our excursion was to fit in as many attractions as possible in the handful of hours we had in the heart of the city. So, to be fair, we were not out to see the quaint tree-lined outskirts or the coffee houses neatly tucked away in distant and charming arrondissements. We went with purpose due to the short amount of hours we had available, expecting the tourist experience like so many others: art, history, a walk along the Seine and a few glasses of red wine. What we found involved all those things, but in an unexpected way.

An unexpected view of the Eiffel Tower.

Arriving mid-morning at the Gare du Nord on the train from London, we stepped off into a sea of pedestrians, to be expected. Despite the crowds, we managed to find what we thought would be our way around the city – the ticket machine for the Metro. Having very few Euro coins and mostly bills, we were disappointed to find that this antiquated kiosk accepted only the former after waiting in a long line behind similarly-minded visitors. After exchanging some money, we purchased two Metro tickets. We should’ve just saved our exchanged coins.

Quick Note: the Gare du Nord, like many other places in the city, charges you to use the restroom once you arrive, so keep a pocketful of Euro coins handy for this purpose as well.

The Metro itself was, to be honest, one of the most crowded and sardine-can like looking undergrounds we’ve ever experienced. Even past what would be considered rush hour, around 11am, people packed themselves like cattle into unkempt, graffiti-littered train cars and shuffled off to whichever destination they chose. After the general push and pull of the crowd as well as the lack of helpful signage (we both speak enough French to get around… it was the confusing directional signage much more than the language), we actually abandoned our plan to join the masses moving to and fro in the underground and walked out of the main station gate instead, hoping to traverse the city by foot like we’d done so many times in other major cities.

Walking the Streets

For our first experience on the Parisian boulevards outside the Gare du Nord, we were greeted by what I can only assume were two eight-year-old children holding clipboards, aggressively asking us to sign up and pledge “money for the deaf”. When we politely refused and turned to move on, not only did they reach for Justin’s back pocket (we knew to keep our documents in our waist packs instead), but after finding nothing to steal, they screamed and berated us as we walked down the street in search of the Paris Opera house. Apparently, the laws in the city allow for those who are underage to get away with stealing, panhandling, and the like, with very little recourse. Be forewarned!

Quick Note: Carry your passports, money, train tickets and any other documents in a waist pack that is tucked under your shirt in the front. Pickpocketing is so rampant in Paris that there are even signs warning you to be aware of it at the entrance to the Louvre.

Don’t keep personal items in your pockets anywhere in Paris – not even at the Louvre!

Our first stop (after walking briskly through the eerie and abandoned Stalingrad area of Paris) ended up being the Galeries Lafayette, a strikingly beautiful indoor mall where we stumbled upon a quaint restaurant we decided should be our first official stopping point. And having just been mildly assaulted by the wallet-grabbing kids, we thought a drink or two might help temper our initial experience!

We were greeted warmly by the host and seated by the window overlooking the street, which was a welcome reprieve from our newly formed expectations of the day. The food was excellent as was the wine. Excellent perhaps in quality, but also in it’s warming presence against the din and dirt of the downtown. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we spoke in French while ordering (and while the restaurant was not at all busy), the waiter was clearly tired of foreign visitors and did no more than he had to in order to attend to our table until we paid the check. Luckily the food made up for it! We split a well-made ravioli dish and had a few glasses of wine before heading back out into the mean streets.

Quick Note: If you’re from the U.S., you’re probably used to tipping 15-20% on top of the overall tab. We still tip in Europe but one to three Euros is the norm, unless you’re at a less casual restaurant, where 5% of the tab is customary. No matter what, if your service is good, make sure to tip as much you feel is appropriate!

Smile to savor not being pick-pocketed!

I was hoping our next walk down the boulevard towards the beautiful Opera National de Paris would alleviate my trepidation, but unfortunately it was just another shockingly unpleasant view of the once beautiful heart of Paris. During a very busy time of day on the main thoroughfare across from the Galleria, a homeless man sat on the sidewalk asking for money with his bags, a blanket, as well as a cat and a small dog positioned next to him, sleeping. Obviously, in any major city we face the reality of the less fortunate and those who find themselves without means for food and shelter, it’s a universal truth and one that we try to help, if and when we can. The problem in this particular instance was, the animals on the street next to this man were real, but clearly not alive.

I honestly debated whether or not to write about this, because as an animal lover it disturbed me so much that conjuring up the memory makes me cringe (to say the very least) and hope that what I saw was an illusion, but we both saw it, and unfortunately, it was not. I cannot understand any society that allows this disgusting display, and especially one that purports itself to be as “cosmopolitan” as Paris. We walked on before I lost my lunch.

Having put that behind us, for the moment, we happened upon the intended location of the Paris Opera House, a beautiful structure, to be sure. There was a smattering of people sitting along the steps to the entry, and a lot of good photo ops, but we weren’t able to find a way to actually tour the building. Our first time being there, I’m sure it was user error, admittedly, but we were time-crunched and wanted to see the typical tourist sites at the time.

Our only repose of the day – the hop-on hop-off.

After pausing on the Opera steps, we luckily found one of the many hop-on-hop-off bus tours that had a stop just across the street.  Running to catch it (you can pay for the ticket on the bus itself, no need to go online), we dodged the mad rush of traffic to get on board. This was our saving grace for the day!

Quick Tip: The hop-on-hop-off buses in Paris pick up and leave from many destinations around the heart of the city. Find one that’s best for you and take advantage of the convenience! It picks up about every 15 minutes from each destination so you’re able to go at your own pace.

This city-wide bus tour takes you to the main points of Paris. One of our first stops was the Carousel next to the Eiffel Tower. The city and river views on the drive there are beautiful, and the Carousel itself is a relic that reminds you of those festive Parisian Can-Can days now gone. Being there in winter had it’s downsides, however, and we stayed on the bus for this particular attraction to avoid frostbite (not really, but it was very blustery).

The next main attraction was the quintessential Eiffel Tower itself. It’s an impressive structure, eternally beautiful for it’s lines and history, and personally surprising for it’s stunning deep copper-red color –  one I’ve never seen correctly depicted in pictures! During the summer months I’d wager that the experience of simply sitting on the lawn beneath it with a baguette and a bottle of wine is worth the price of a ticket to Paris, but in the winter… it looks nice enough from afar! Taking a tour of it involves many hours spent in line, also, so that wasn’t in the cards for us. But, just to view it against the backdrop of the winter sky was an experience in and of itself.

To get that Eiffel Tower experience as best we could given our time in the city, we jumped off the tour bus momentarily to brave the sleet and rain and capture it’s stature in modern history on film. The romance of that moment was abruptly interrupted, unfortunately.

The Eiffel Tower is still a sight to behold, despite the surroundings.

When it was time to leave for the next stop on our tour bus, Justin was already seated, but as I attempted to step back into the bus, the driver shut the door on my arm and started to drive off. Luckily, Justin – as well as the other passengers – alerted him to the problem and he stopped to open the door so I wasn’t dragged down the road. Yikes. In hindsight this is a funny memory for me, though a bit unsettling at the time! Make sure you alert the driver thoroughly before you hop back on!

On to the Louvre!

The next hop-off for us started at the famous Pont des Arts, down the street from the Louvre, which is the location of the famous “Love Locks”, where locals and visitors alike attach locks to the structure of the bridge’s side grate. Now defunct due to safety reasons, we were able to see the massive and touching display first hand before we made our way to the Louvre.

While massive and well-known, if you’re trying to find The Louvre as a first time visitor by walking down the main road you may find yourself confused, as it it’s famous main entryway sits in the center of the square and is hidden from view if walking from the Love Locks bridge. On the walk there we decided to stop a local and ask (in French) which direction the Louvre was, and ended up pleasantly surprised with his genial and friendly response; his helpful demeanor brightened up our day despite the drizzle. Maybe it just goes to show that if you look for the light in Paris you’ll end up finding it!

The Louvre museum itself has a breathtaking entry. After our travails of the day it was a welcome sight to crest the corner of the structure and see those triangular glass domes beckoning us to enter.  For only twelve Euros, you can experience not only the Mona Lisa, but the Venus de Milo, one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture.

The statue, casually roped off to the public, is so close you’ll feel like you’re viewing an antiquity in it’s original time. The Mona Lisa, while the most famous, is actually much smaller than most people expect! Restricted behind glass and a railing barrier (understandably), this painting is still a beautiful sight. In addition to these most famous works, the Louvre’s treasures are immeasurable, and the absolute highlight of our day in the city.

Quick Note: Expect large crowds in the Louvre as well as long lines at the facilities in the museum. I normally wouldn’t mention this particular aspect of a museum experience, but if you’re a new visitor, it’s important to know that the restrooms there are not (how do I put this…) modern. There are myriad visitors from tours and buses and the Louvre does not have adequate restrooms when it’s busy, especially for women. Just a quick tip!

Saying hello to the tiny Mona Lisa

 

After we’d toured the Louvre, we had to catch our bus back to the Gare du Nord for our train back to London. The hop-on-hop-off  tour we’d used wasn’t arriving on time for some reason, so we decided to catch a local bus back to the train station as he was departing from the roundabout of the Louvre. Luckily, the driver was extremely congenial and saw us running after the bus! He stopped to pick us up as he left for the next destination, much to our relief, and, for less than eight Euros, we were able to make it back to the station downtown in a clean bus with friendly people.

During the ride to the station we sat by the window, and despite the rain, the impromptu tour of downtown Paris was mesmerizing and peaceful for the first time, the streetlights bouncing nicely off the building facades and rain soaked pavement as we meandered and bounced along the bustling roads.

Our Last Glass of Wine in Paris

Next to the Gare du Nord was a French-themed restaurant offering a full menu including crepes and wine, the typical expectations of a visitor for the first time, like us. We were understandably hungry at that point and looking to balm our wounds with a glass of vin, so we ventured in. The service was impeccable and graciously accommodating.  At the end of a long day it was a welcome change – a friendly server and a window side table tucked into a quaint corner. We ordered food and several glasses of wine before beginning our journey back. Our ham and cheese crepe was hearty and warm, and we had some house red wine to start out – of course! The wait staff was considerate and understandably used to tourists, speaking English as well as French. And, despite being busy that evening, they offered to take our picture for us (several of them, to make sure it was good enough) to document the end to our very long day!

8 hours in Paris drives one to drink.

Where Impression Turns to Hope

The quiet, the rain, the lights against the umbrellas in the street. The hope is that this city is more than a tiny Mona Lisa and a plate of tasty but hastily made crepes now that the recipe has been lost to time and waste.

The warm seat in a café, looking through the mist and midnight of what now yearns to become what once was. The hopeful glance through a tour bus window is now the Moveable Feast that the new Paris has lost.

There is much that Paris has yet to recall and reclaim. It may never move the same way as it did when artists flooded the bars and feathered brothels, but to ignore it’s original brilliance is, at the end of the day, folly. To pretend that the rose-colored-glasses-ideals through which we once viewed Paris aren’t rooted in truth and clutched to the heart is a fallacy.

It will remain la vie en rose, but when will the pink light return?

 

 

 

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Beautiful Bonaire: The Best Kept Caribbean Secret


Bonaire is truly an undiscovered diamond in, well, a seascape of so many beautiful diamonds. However, Bonaire is unique in that it remains a sort of untouched paradise in an over-saturated world.

The least traveled of the ABC islands (which Bonaire makes up along with Aruba and Curacao), it lies just quietly north of Venezuela in the Caribbean. This small island oasis is a snorkeling and diving paradise, as well as one of the most genial and heartwarming places I’ve ever been.

This particular part of the tropical world holds many wonders, a vast and impressive expanse of ocean that entices travelers from around the globe. The secrets in it’s history are both ancient and new, so it’s no surprise that included among the crystal clear waters sits a snorkeling and diving paradise you might not have even heard about; an island so close to Aruba you could reach it by air in less than 30 minutes and Curacao in about 15!

This land of white sand and orange-gold sunsets has a special place in my heart. As a child my grandparents were missionaries on Bonaire, volunteering at the still-operational Trans World Radio studios. I was blessed to spend a few holidays in Bonaire as well as experience my first solo international trip to visit them from my home in the Northeast US when I was thirteen years old.

Since then, Bonaire has thankfully not changed too much. This island retains it’s peace, it’s familiarity, and it’s warmth. The years may pass, but the culture and the soul of the people never seem to be affected by the seemingly ongoing stress of the world at large.

Beauty and the Beaches

Bonaire has long been a hub for professional divers as well as Dutch vacationers, its clear waters and laid back attitude boast an appealing attraction for discerning adventurers from all over the globe, while still remaining a virtual secret to the majority of travelers.

As part of the ABC Islands and the Leeward Antilles (formerly the Netherland Antilles), Bonaire has for decades had the luxury of sitting largely untouched by rampant tourism. Only 24 miles long, Bonaire sits as the top rated snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean. This ongoing oceanic tranquility is carefully maintained by both private and governmental protection of the reefs, keeping Bonaire a paradise since 1979.

There are many beautiful stretches of white sandy beach to choose from, almost all ideal for snorkeling or diving, with the exception of the north side of the island where the waves and currents are enough to knock you off your feet in an instant!

Sorobon Beach

Located in the southeast of the island, Sorobon Beach is a beautiful location for snorkeling and swimming, as well as just relaxing in the sun. One of the best beaches in the Caribbean, here you can kick back with a tropical cocktail and watch the world-class windsurfers who often hit the waves at Sorobon.

Also located here is the Sorobon Beach Resort and the famous and fun Hang Out Beach Bar, a much-loved Bonaire establishment for good times since 1988.

Bachelor’s Beach

This small stretch of white sandy beach is located in the Belnem district, conveniently located just south of the airport. Sitting at the bottom of a short 10 foot cliff, you can park just next to the top of the stairs and make your way down to this intimate and charming spot. This stretch is, like so many Bonaire beaches, perfect for snorkeling and diving.

The steps are just off the road and simple, and a quick descent to the water. The locals advise you just to watch your footing on the last of the steps where the ocean spray may have made it’s mark!

Te Amo Beach

This is one of the favorites of the Bonairean locals, a great place to spend time relaxing in every sense of the word – get a tan, take a swim, and then have a cook out! Like so many other Bonaire beaches, the sea life is abundant and beautiful, and only a snorkel away from the shore. During certain times of the day there is a local favorite stopping by – the Kite City food truck, which serves delicious fresh fish dishes!

Donkey Beach

Bonaire is a unique island in so many ways – one of which is the proliferation of wild donkeys that roam the local (as well as the wild) areas. Although this beach may be a bit of a misnomer, it’s a local favorite, a breathtaking spot for all things swimming and snorkeling.

This locale is ideal for both new visitors and frequent beach goers alike, as the weekends become a lively local spot with music, family fun and an atmosphere of good vibes!

Klein Bonaire (No Name Beach)

In addition to the popular beach spots on the main island, Klein Bonaire is a small, uninhabited island just 15 minutes away. The fastest way to get to Klein Bonaire from Kralendijk is by water taxi via Caribe Watersport, located at the Eden Resort Beach area directly across from Klein Bonaire, itself. On Klein Bonaire’s uninhabited shores you’ll find yourself at “No Name Beach”, a stretch of unbelievably soft, white sand and it’s signature blue waters gently lapping the shore. Make sure to bring your own snorkel gear (rentals are available at the resort as well!), because this beach is ideal for snorkelers of all skill levels as the shallows are easily navigable and the water is calm. No Name Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Bonaire, and one that will bring you the type of seclusion you’re looking for.

Make sure to also bring along a bag of water and snacks, however, because Klein Bonaire is uninhabited in every sense of the word! There are no drinking fountains or vendors, so pack whatever you think you’ll need from the mainland. Luckily it’s only a fifteen minute boat ride each way and the taxis travel to and from every couple hours. On the beach, there is a small pavilion area where you can catch some shade while not in the water or sunbathing, but keep that sunblock handy!

Buddy Dive Resort

This particular area is one of our favorites, despite the lack of sandy sunbathing areas. Buddy Dive has some of the most amazing snorkel and scuba areas we’ve seen on the island. There is a pool area and many beautiful places to relax.

In addition to the beauty, you can rent a waterproof camera for the day, swim to your heart’s content, and then they’ll give you a disc of every picture you took! The variety of fish in this particular spot is breathtaking once you put that mask on and start out down the ladder into the crystal clear water.

One addition to this spot is the restaurant, which offers amazing, fresh food, and you can sit overlooking the water. You may even have an iguana visitor or two looking for a fresh tomato or lettuce scrap. You’re encouraged not to feed them, but don’t worry – they’re very friendly! We snuck a few scraps to our reptile lunch companion a couple times!

Transportation Tips

The beauty of Bonaire also lies in the fact that it’s simplicity only adds to the tranquility. There are just two main roads on the island, one North and one South, which makes for easy navigation if you choose to rent a car from the airport while you’re there, though it isn’t necessary considering the proximity of every eventual activity you’ll be interested in.

Despite the lack of public transportation systems, taxis are very inexpensive and run by the always friendly and largely English-speaking locals. On our last visit we had the pleasure of taxiing around the island many times with Victor, a wonderful conversationalist and friend to everyone at our resort!

If you’re looking for more wind in your hair during your daily escapes, make sure to take a chance to pedal around the island via bicycle, both standard and all-terrain are available, or explore at a faster pace on an electric bike. Check out Scooters Bonaire or Bonaire Eco Cycling to rent your two-wheeled transportation for the day. Bonaire encourages this eco-friendly mode of travel by providing free charging ports in Sorobon, Rincon, and the Wilhelmina square in Kralendijk.

Sun to Sunset on the Island

Beyond the sea life and snorkeling, the island has much to entice any traveler looking for leisure, including beautiful resorts like Eden and Buddy Dive, both within minutes of the late nights of downtown Kralendijk (a fun and festive city so far off the beaten path that spellcheck can’t yet discern it’s name!).

All of Bonaire’s tranquil resorts, as well as the bustling and friendly downtown, cater to relaxation, ambiance and beauty, as well as excitement. At any moment you can find yourself drinking a Pina Colada in the pure definition of paradise, worlds away from any worries, woes, or car payments!

For nightlife in Bonaire, you won’t have to travel too far if you’re staying at one of the beautiful resorts just down the road from downtown. The most enjoyable weekend nightlife we’ve found is at Spice Beach Club, which is part of the waterfront Eden Resort. Offering delicious food as well as very reasonably priced cocktails, Spice lights up the Caribbean-facing cabanas every Friday night with live music, lights, and a genial party atmosphere that guarantees you’ll make at least 10 new friends after just a couple mojitos!

For dance enthusiasts, there are many options to move to the beat of your choosing, including Little Havana, Karel’s Beach Bar, and the Plaza Resort Bonaire which hosts Latin night every Saturday evening. With just a quick registration, the Plaza Resort also offers a free salsa workshop from 6 to 7 pm, after which you can dance with the best of them! If dancing isn’t your thing, head on over to the casino at Divi Flamingo, where you can also test your skills at the tables and slots, open late every night except Sunday. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Bonaire for even just a long weekend!

While in Bonaire, also make sure to have a few (or a lot!) of their local favorite, Amstel’s Bright beer. A refreshing addition to the beach and sun, Bright is served everywhere and is reasonably priced! In addition to this signature brew, lift a glass of the island’s newly created and brewed “Bonaire Blond”, a light and spicy citrus brew made with locally grown ingredients!

All in all, the nightlife in Bonaire is exciting, fun, and open till the wee hours of the night, maybe even long after you planned on turning in!

Salt Flats and Flamingos

A very unique aspect of this island is that, despite it’s minuscule size and uninhabitable wilderness, there lies one of the world’s only Flamingo Sanctuaries. The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary stands as a breeding ground for the beautiful pink bird, a key area due to the salt flats where they make their nests.

The sanctuary is off-limits to visitors, but while in the area (especially near Pink Beach) you’d be hard pressed not to witness a flock flying overhead. Bonaire’s flamingos hold the special distinction of being some of the pinkest in the world due to their diet, which is rife with red carotene!

Also, keep watch as they fly over, unlike their stunning upper feathers, their beauty is fully seen from beneath where the contrast of their ink-black wings can be appreciated as they fly overhead.

Bonaire’s Lasting Allure

There are so many things that can be said, described, photographed and remembered about this beautiful island. If you get the chance to see it, take it all in! From the warmth and friendliness of the people, to the fresh food, to the sheer beauty of the land and all the Caribbean sea has to offer, there may be no such unique experience to be had in this world.

Untouched for decades, it will remain so, which is just one more endearing and heartwarming quality about this astounding and life changing destination.

 

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Where Do Couples Eat in Fort Lauderdale?


We’re fortunate enough to live in a place that, even when we’re not on the road, feels a lot like vacationing. Tracy and I moved to Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, and have since been amazed at the sheer depth of things there are to do in the Venice of America, as it’s called.

Fort Lauderdale isn’t a large city, with only around 200,000 residents in what is considered “proper” Fort Lauderdale. One really does need to make the distinction, as rarely is done, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. It’s essentially two different planets. The food, the attractions and the cities themselves are different enough to necessitate separating Fort Lauderdale out from Miami in a food-focused post. There are, of course, plenty of reasons we travel, but Fort Lauderdale is a great place to call home when you can’t, and there’s plenty of things to do.

With that being said, Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist attraction in the U.S., and you can’t cover all of it in one post. The beautiful beaches, hot climate and vibrant atmosphere attract visitors from not only the rest of the U.S, but South America, Europe and throughout Asia as well. It is as diverse a place as there is in the United States for tourism, and its deep culinary underbelly reflects much of that.

Given the depths of all there is to experience, we’ve tried to gather as much information to give you a great start the next time you find yourself along Las Olas and A1A, looking for a place to fill you up that won’t break the bank!

Southport Raw Bar

Intracoastal view from the back deck of Southport Raw Bar

Type: Seafood

It’s first on our list for a reason.

Southport Raw Bar is a Fort Lauderdale landmark that has its beginnings in the early 1970’s, and has seemingly grown alongside the city. At the time, Fort Lauderdale was primarily an undeveloped beach town aside from the notoriety it had gained by being featured in the 1960 movie Where The Boys Are. Now, both are synonymous with “island-life” in South Florida.

When company or family comes to town, the first stop is Southport, one of the best seafood restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. With outdoor seating facing the Intracoastal waterway, some of the freshest seafood catch you can find in the Southern U.S. and cheap beer specials, you can come, fill up, slam a couple of pops and just get away for a while.

The service is friendly, the food is great, and the prices are some of the more affordable along the beach considering the quality of the experience. We highly recommend as a place that is sure to get you in the beach-mood.

Gilbert’s 17th St. Grill

Havarti-stuffed burger? On a date? Yes, actually!

Type: Grill

Gilbert’s isn’t just burger joint, it’s the burger joint.

Family-owned for more than forty years, Gilbert’s boasts a small menu that’s heavy on taste, including a selection of more than ten different hand-crafted burgers, grill platters with beef, fish and chicken as well as excellent salads and desserts.

However, don’t sleep on the sides at Gilbert’s. Get the legendary sweet potato fries to go with the blue cheese stuffed burger for a truly transcendental experience!

Looking to keep it thin for your fun in the sun? Gilbert’s offers plenty of lighter-fare options to keep you from feeling beached on the beach!

Wild Sea

An excellent spot for great seafood and a glass wine.

Type: Seafood/Fine dining

Why include a “fine dining” establishment in a post about where to eat on a budget? Wild Sea offers a first-class experience at third-class prices, with one of the most creative seafood menus in all of Fort Lauderdale. The menu is stunning, and you can get a great meal for under $20 per person.

If you know your seafood, I mean really know, Wild Sea offers great catch options outside of the norm such as Monkfish and Wahoo. The decor is elegant, the inside is cozy and warm while also feeling exclusive and providing the background setting for a great date night.

Tap 42

“Tap” is a great spot to meet with friends or have a great cocktail.

Type: Gastropub

Tap 42 is a newer Fort Lauderdale invention that is off-the-rails popular. A place for 30-somethings to both see and be seen, Tap 42 is most popular as a brunch location that gets busy early and stays that way.

Complete with bottomless drink menus both Saturday and Sunday, the brunch features American-based fare with flair, such as Chicago-Style Steak and Eggs and the “Hangover,” a colossus of a meal consisting of Turkey Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, White Cheddar and Maple Hollandaise between a French Toast Challah Bun!

Located just down the street from Las Olas and on the edge of downtown Fort Lauderdale, “Tap”, as its called locally, has also spread to neighboring areas in Boca Raton and Miami for those just outside of Lauderdale limits. Go hungry, stay long and take a cab. Trust me.

Il Mulino

You probably want this.

Type: Italian

Mention Italian food in Fort Lauderdale, and Il Mulino is bound to come up. Located on N Federal Highway next to one of our favorite theaters, The Gateway Theater, Il Mulino serves classic Italian dishes in a warm and inviting setting.

I, quite honestly, have a very hard time recommending what to get at Il Mulino. Why? Everything is outstanding. You want pizza in Fort Lauderdale? The good stuff they make in the old country? Go to Il Mulino. You want pasta? Il Mulino. Flatbread Rustico? Il Mulino.

Just go to Il Mulino, the best Italian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Moonlite Diner

If you romanticize the 1950s like we do, sometimes nothing is more quaint and fun than an American classic – diners.

Type: Diner

Tracy and I are absolute suckers for diners. Put one in an Airstream bus or other silvery, shiny exterior mimicking an Airstream, and we go fully unglued into nostalgia for a time forgotten in America. Fort Lauderdale is like any city – it needs a great diner.

Don’t get fancy, just stay with the diner classics for a cool, romantic experience and a taste of Americana – split a chocolate shake, for example. Two straws, please!

Perhaps you and your love need a base-coat after a fun night out? You can’t go wrong with off-the-griddle hash-browns and a couple of eggs, sunny-side up!

Galanga

Tom Kha Gai? Yes, please.

Type: Thai Fusion

Galanga is a Thai-Sushi location in the Wilton Manors area in northern Fort Lauderdale, about 2 miles from downtown and only 3 miles west of the coast. We frequent here when we need an international fix, as Galanga serves up one of the best Red Curry dishes in all of South Florida.

The interior is soft and ambient, providing an ideal mood-setting spot that is incredibly relaxing. Best of all? Two entrees and a bottle of wine will get you out the door for under $40!

This is absolutely one of our favorite places in Fort Lauderdale, and it comes highly recommended.

Shuck n’ Dive

The Fried Green Tomatoes are excellent.

Type: Cajun

Shuck n’ Dive serves up Louisiana Cajun like no one else in Fort Lauderdale, including nightly specials coming both in plates and bottles! Shuck is a place we go to often when we’re looking for a relaxing outdoor setting where we can have a casual conversation or possibly take in a ballgame. Cajun may not sound like the ideal centerpiece for a date night, but it absolutely is.

The popular Cajun classics are on point – from Jambalaya to Crawfish, and we’ve probably eaten our body weight in oysters here. Very cool, very laid-back spot that’s great to pass a few hours and down a few buckets.

Nuevo’s Cubano’s

When is a Cubano ever a bad idea?

Type: Cuban

Want authentic Cuban? Want a real Cubano? Guava Pastelito? Empanada? Come here as soon as your plane lands and get the best Cubano in Fort Lauderdale.

Nuevo’s Cubano’s is a local fixture that stands on its own in a city full of great Hispanic food and tradition. Nuevo’s is exactly how you want a place to look when having one of the best sandwiches you’ve ever had – small, roadside, tight parking, fast service, cheap (under $10) and delicious.

With the location only three miles from the beach, it’s a great spot to sit down for a day-break, maybe even split a meal (they’re filling) and head to the beach. Wash it all down with a delicious Cuban Coffee for the road, and off you go!

Tom Jenkins BBQ

Type: BBQ

You can smell it when you drive by. It’s as though the scents reach into your car, grab the wheel, and pull you in. It’s good. It’s really good, and (as un-beachy as BBQ may be) you’ll do yourself a service to get the good stuff anywhere you can, anytime you can.

Tom Jenkins is by far the best BBQ in Fort Lauderdale, but that isn’t a disservice to the rest of the BBQ joints in the city because Jenkins is the best BBQ restaurant in most cities.

Listen, is BBQ a romantic food? No, of course not. But it’s a great way to find out if you have the right one with you. “You don’t like BBQ? Maybe I don’t like you.” There’s possibly no better love than someone that can help you take down a pound of brisket – let’s be honest.

Homemade food. Homemade sauce. Do it.

The Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown is possibly the best brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale.

Type: Brunch

Unquestionably a top-five brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale, The Foxy Brown is a personal favorite. It’s a place that feels somehow less than Floridian, and more in line with what one would experience in a Charlestonian breakfast or brunch. It has a bit of Southern Charm that is equal parts relaxing, delicious and intoxicating.

The small, warm environment includes a somewhat secluded seating area outdoors, and generally is full after about 10am on the weekends. They have an excellent choice of frittatas and benedicts, but I’m partial to the Hangar Steak Hash- a lead cut with 2 eggs and a chimichurri hollandaise that is somewhere lighter than it should be, and so good. A place where Tracy likes to go traditional, try the Patty Melt as well – it did, after all, inspire the rest of the menu!

La Bamba

Type: Latin

More of a fusion restaurant than purely Mexican, intertwining with classic Spanish dishes, La Bamba is a great location for couples looking to have a few margaritas and unwind.

A small, comfortable and traditional restaurant, the lines at La Bamba are often long – with good reason. Worth the wait? Without question. The traditional Ropa Vieja is outstanding, and I highly recommend the Costillas de Puerco – two seasoned pork chops topped with sauteed onions served with white rice, black beans and fried ripe plantains.

Date Night Special: Mod Wine Lounge & The Gateway Theater

Type: Neighboring establishments – Wine Bar & traditional 1950s movie theater

One of our favorite date night plans involves two neighboring locations.

Start your night at Mod with a bottle of wine and charcuterie plate, perhaps mixing in an elegant country pate in a quaint, beautiful bar with a 1960s flair. Reasonably priced given the quality, we’ve loved going to Mod and sitting outside on yet another impeccable Fort Lauderdale night and watching the city go by. Frank and Chad are the owners, and if you have an opportunity to speak with these two you’ll fall in love with their love for wine, for providing a first-class experience, and their sheer kindness and hospitality.

After you’re finished, walk the ten steps next door to the Gateway Theater, a traditional movie theater opened in 1951 that is as much Fort Lauderdale as the beach, itself. The Gateway hearkens back to a pre-AMC homogenized era where theaters had a sense of character while offering films not commonly shown in your run-of-the-mill chain theaters, including art films and foreign new releases not available anywhere else!

It’s easy for us to pick out a few of the best, ones that we’ve frequented and loved, but it’s hard to go wrong in Fort Lauderdale. With the ocean as your backdrop, the sound of the gulls as your soundtrack and the smell of salt and fresh catch in the air, it’s easy to find the right choice.

 

 

 

 

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Why Travel?


“Why?”

It’s a question we’ve gotten often, either in regard to why we’re going to a specific place or why we travel as much as we can, in general. It’s a question I don’t understand, from a mindset that I do. “Why?”

For us, travel is less of a decision and much more of a compulsion. The oddness of travel is that the more you do so, the more you want to do it. The more you travel, the more you feel connected through being absolutely unplugged. It’s dichotomous. The more you travel, the more adventurous and comfortable with going off the beaten path you become. It begins to transform your wants. It builds on itself. You start with one place, one trip, then you want to travel the world.

We understand the mindset of the unknown, where a desire to travel isn’t present because one hasn’t done it before. However, the question of “why?” now corresponds to “why breathe?” or “why eat food?” to us. It’s as though someone is asking to get rhetorical about something very commonsensical to us.  It’s understandable.

Why travel? To get stuck in the middle of cool situations.

“Why travel?” I’ll explain it like this. Before you travel, you may have the illusion that you are who you are, complete, wholly, and fully defined in the boundaries where you live with the people you know. When you travel, you realize that the real you, who you are meant to be and the best version of yourself, is scattered across the world in a million pieces waiting to be discovered. As you pick up the pieces, as you venture, you add these pieces back to your nature and become whole again. It’s as though, at birth, the world says “your challenge is to find the rest of yourself.” Every place and every person holds a piece.

We get the “why?” question often because of the seeming scariness of the world, but believe us: it isn’t that terrifying to travel. The vast majority of the world, even in places you think would be sketchy or frightening, really isn’t. Most people want what you want – happiness and peace. They’ll offer that to you if that’s what you’re looking for, so long as you offer it in return. Give memories, get memories. Give love, get love. Give kind-heartedness, get kind-heartedness. It’s really a simple philosophy.

So, the question of “why?” is one we understand, but one we don’t really understand. Why travel the world? It’s as though someone is describing something to us that we’ve never seen before. I can picture it, I can even come pretty close to exacting in my mind what it really looks like, but I haven’t been there.

It’s important, however, to understand that this is a real question to people who have either never realized the desire to travel, or have had fear override that desire. If you have the desire but lack the funds, maybe you don’t know that there are inexpensive ways to travel? Maybe fear and the assumption that it’ll never be for you has kept you thinking that travel is for rich or well-to-do people? I can assure you it isn’t.

Travel is a priority. Some people go to the doctor for regular check-ups, and fear the worst if they don’t. I haven’t seen the inside of a doctor’s office in nearly a decade, but I feel the same about travel. I can’t not. I know that there’s more of me to meet, and more of you. I know there’s a great, big world, so big that I find it hard to believe I was destined to experience only a minute fraction of it. Have you ever felt that way? If so, then maybe you’re closer than you think.

Early morning over Barcelona

People say we fear the unknown, but I actually feel like we fear our desire of the unknown. I think we, as a species, are obsessed with the unknown but feel it taboo to admit it. There’s a reason why the Travel Channel rakes in cash and food trucks with bizarre, international combinations have lines wrapping around the block. We all want a taste of the unfamiliar, just to see what it’s like to feel like we can experience something out of the ordinary, so we can experience something outside of ourselves. Why do people pony up cash for lottery tickets by the billions? Is it the money, or what the money represents – total freedom, total access to do “whatever the hell I want”.

In other words, to break free of the constraints of normalcy.

Why? Are we engineered that way? Inside of our prescribed, civil lives are we actually rebels looking for a way, any way, to break free of tradition and consistency? I think we are.

Recently, when discussing with someone that we were going to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, we were asked “why do you want to go there?” This wasn’t said quizzically. It was said with a level of bewilderment, almost to the point of being angered by confusion. “Why do you want to go there?” Sure, I get the misconception that all of Mexico is riddled with gang activity, and much of it is, but have you ever seen Chichen Itza? Have you ever seen Tulum? Do you know what happened there? What can we learn about us there? What can we learn about ourselves? Sorry, I’ll climb over broken glass to get to a place like that. We love traveling the world because of the overwhelming impulse to see more, to be more and to feel more.

El Castillo at Chicken Itza (Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico)

 

“Why?” is less of a function of understanding than it is a judgment, unfortunately. “Why?” is often a question stemming from a cold-war era philosophy, stuck in rhetoric, that assumes if you’re in any way worldly that you can’t possibly love where you live. That you’re a dissenter. It’s a response you often get from the overly-patriotic who wonder “why would you ever go anywhere other than America?” Quite simply, I’m a citizen of the U.S. by paper. By a decision that was made, long before my chunky fanny came corkscrewing out, that lines would be draw “here” and “here” and we’ll name it “this”. That’s what a country is. That’s what nationality is.

No, I’m first-most a citizen of the world. I have no lines I won’t cross. Everyone is my countryman.

“Why?” travel? It’s like asking “why live?” I don’t know really, because I wake up and find myself alive? Because I wake up and find myself breathing? Travel feels nature. It is natural. It’s more than natural – it’s nature itself. It’s my nature. It’s your nature. We’re seekers. We’re explorers.

We’re the species of Vikings and Columbus, of Vespucci and Magellan. We’ve traveled to space! We all want that. We all are that – misfit explorers making the best of it on a spinning marble that could fly off into outer-space like some interstellar frisbee at any point.

“Why?” is a function of discovery, in of itself. Sometimes “why” really means “why”. As in “I want to know”. Tell me why this means so much to you. Tell me why it should mean so much to me. The love of travel is infectious, which is why we all, at the very least, question it. Tell someone about the best vacation you’ve ever been on, and I promise your passion will come across, showing absolutely and definitely who you are at your innermost core, and they will respond with admiration. Travel is good for you, and has innumerable benefits. It creates a new, purposeful you that comes across vividly. They will respond with love. Furthermore, they’ll want to go, too!

Why are you at your best when you even talk about travel? Why is travel important? Because it is your nature, and the explanation of it is like the explanation of an impossible equation or the listening-to of a great symphony – your passion will seep out of you. It’s detailed. It’s elegant. It’s passionate. It’s truthful. It’s wise and mysterious. It’s you, and it’s everyone who isn’t  you.

So, “why” travel? Because, at it’s very nature, it’s all there is to do.