New blog design, new trips planned…come on 2013!

My poor neglected blog. Back from Nicaragua for only 7 months and I’ve been a total slacker in posting anything on here but there are reasons for that, namely:

FINALLY PLANNING FOR THE RTW TRIP! ONLY 9 MONTHS TO GO!

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Everybody everybody! It’s happening!

Most of my interwebs time has been spent researching destinations, visas, ticket prices, innoculations, colorful Hawaiian shirts to wear…the essentials of course. SE Asia will be the first area to feel my wrath (and by wrath I mean excitement and domination of their street food carts and beaches) and I cannot wait to step off the plane in Bangkok. I should probably get a ticket first though as they tend to refuse entry at airport security if you don’t have one…bastards. However before the big trip there are plans for Vegas, and a couple week jaunt to Costa Rica in May.

Secondly I’m working on a complete redesign of the blog. It’s going to look sexy. You will want to make copious amounts of love to it….in the form of Facebook likes and retweets, and loads of comments. Seriously though it’s taking a decent amount of work to get the new blog hosted, designed just the way I want and working on content so when that thing goes live you can jump on it, like Charlie Sheen on a giant bed of cocaine. I’ve got a lot to learn about the travel blogging process, taking/editing good photos and all of the other things that make a travel blog visually appealing and entertaining.

I’ll be sure to hassle let you know when the new Travels Without Pants is ready to be unveiled and I sincerely hope that you check it out, pass it on if you like it and ask me as many questions on my entries as you desire.

One more thing.

#inappropriatehashtag

Aventura Nueva Viene!

It seems like forever since the last trip abroad even though it’s been barely a year. Truth be told I get itchy feet almost immediately when arriving back home, the hyper-reality of short term jaunts abroad does give you a bit of a high. The last trip taken was to Panama and Colombia, both fantastic places to visit, both of which I’d return to. Almost everyone we met expressed shock that we hadn’t gone or weren’t going to Bocas Del Toro so I feel I have to put it on the list, and due to a super bad heat rash that kept me inside during the daytime for almost the entire visit to Cartagena I’m definitely going back there.

This year we’re going to Nicaragua. I didn’t really know very much about Nica until researching for our trip, I was a kid during the Iran Contra business and back then I was as interested in politics and foreign policy as I am now in the goings on of the Jersey Shore crew. Needless to say the 80’s are over and from all accounts Nicaragua is a budget friendly (and mostly safe) place to visit and I’m looking forward to the adventure. The reactions I get when telling people we’re going to Nicaragua range from “Oh yeah, my ex cousin’s brother went there and loved it” to the “Aren’t you guys afraid of getting kidnapped or something”.  I live in Richmond, VA which just 7 years ago was listed at the 5th most dangerous city in the US and the 12th most dangerous metropolitan area. Nicaragua has changed since the revolution and democracy in the 90’s and while it still may not be Disneyland suffice it to say I still occasionally hear gunshots and people get robbed in my neighborhood and I don’t even live in the “bad” section so… it can be sketchy anywhere and I’m looking forward to visiting Nicaragua to see what the truth on the ground is.

This will be the first trip to a third world country and the first where I haven’t tried to plan out every last detail. This trip could go really well or the loose planning method may not turn out to be such a hot idea, but as with any travel you never know until you go! I’ve only got the transport from the airport and our first three nights lodging booked. Due to the tight time restrictions we’re limited to 2-3 destinations. Currently selected are the Spanish colonial city of Granada, the Isla de Ometepe and the river town of El Castillo.  I imagine Granada will be a bit like Cartagena, Colombia architecturally however with that slightly rundown charm Central/South American cities have. I’m mostly excited about Isla De Ometepe however the river trip up to El Castillo looks really cool and it’s a decidedly less touristy place to soak up the real flavor of rural Nicaragua.

So what is there to do in Nicaragua? The city of Granada boasts some of the best preserved Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas, so I expect there will be quite a lot of wandering around the city, eating from street vendors and soaking in the sights.  With six main churches and the fort of La Polvora I expect to fill a couple days quite nicely. On Isla de Ometepe there’s hikes up the active volcano, kayaking, renting motorbikes or bicycles to explore the island with and taking time in to just relax at one of the hostel/bars on the lake. As for El Castillo, it looks like an extremely low key destination, probably the place to wind down the trip and take stock of life, the universe and everything. Getting there will definitely be most of the adventure so whether it’s by ferry, chicken bus, river boat, puddle jumper or combination of all you can be sure I’ll be writing about it.

Vamos!

Love Affair – Day 21 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

When we travel, our senses are heightened. We feel more alive and we’re more free to do things we might not at home. We can be who we want. There’s an air of urgency to everything we do – we know our time here, in this place, and with these people, is limited. If we want to do something, we have to do it now. It’s no wonder then that many travelers have relationships on the road. Tell us about a “special someone” you met while traveling. 

Everyone has heard of hostel hook ups, it’s part of the fun of traveling when you’re single. There’s no sense of anything other than the present, there’s no expectations or chances to get to know someone quite well enough for them to really get on your nerves in only the way someone you really know can. It’s icing on the travel cake to be wandering around a city foreign to the both of you feeling that “new love” feeling, even though it’s fleeting and in many cases doesn’t last more than a few days or couple weeks at most.

I don’t think I’ll talk about any of that. Instead I’ll talk about the “special someone” who, being in her own relationship with someone she met traveling, said a few simple lines that always stuck with me regarding traveling.

It was my friend Jessica’s and my last night in London on our two week trip to England and Ireland. She had a crush on an Irish guy at the hostel and was spending quite a lot of time on the couch being smitten and I was somewhat left to my own devices in the common area. At some point I started a conversation with a girl who just happened to be from the same state we were. The usual “how long have you been traveling, what has your favorite place” type of travel questions were traded and after telling her that it was our last night, I asked when she was leaving and she said “well……my flight was yesterday but I decided not to get on it. I’ve got this Scottish boyfriend here and I’m going to see how that works out.”  To me that was amazing, I had never thought before that you even had the option of not getting back on the flight you were booked on. Now I know better of course but at the time that option blew me away and every trip I wonder…what if I didn’t get on the plane back? It’s nice to know that someday that could happen and it comforts me to think of that. She probably doesn’t even know the effect that simple statement made and doesn’t remember me I’m sure, but she’s more of a special someone to me than the Danish girl I spent two days with wandering around London.

Drink – Day 20 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Just as the cuisine of a place reveals clues about its culture and history, so does its signature local drink. What’s the best drink you had on the road, and did the drink have any connection to the place where you drank it or the people you drank with?

I always make it a point to try to local booze, Pisco Sours in Peru, Vana Tallinn in Estonia, Slivovice in Czech Republic, and the list goes on. This is outside of the fantastic beers I’ve had in places like Germany, Belgium, etc. I’ve found that a culture that doesn’t have it’s own drink and ways of imbibing is a culture where I’ll be going to bed very early and possibly bored. Now that’s not to say that the only thing to do while traveling but let’s face it for some people (myself included) it helps overcome shyness a bit and provides a readily available social atmosphere.

One of the best drinks I’ve had on the road was in Brugges, Belgium. I should clarify by saying this was the best beer I’ve had while traveling. My friend and I had stopped at a canal side restaurant for brunch and ordered their local weissbeer. I wish I could describe it in a way other than amazing. It was balanced with the right amount of spice, carbonation and clarity that every sip was like the first. So much so that before our food even came we were on to a second half liter, that’s how easy these went down. Needless to say after brunch we spent the rest of the afternoon tipsily walking around Brugges’ canals and immensely enjoying the kind of peace that comes with a full belly, beautiful surroundings and the right amount of a tasty local adult beverage.

Spirit – Day 19 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Some places have the power to make even the most die-hard agnostic reconsider their position. Have you ever been in a place where you felt more alive or more connected to nature, the universe, or a higher power than anywhere else?

I would have to say, cliche as it that watching the sun come up over Macchupichu and viewing the ruins high in the Andes with the first light of morning was one of those breathtaking experiences that made me wonder at the nature of ourselves as human beings and if they would have been able to accomplish what they did had they no belief that in a higher power.

Another example that I can think of as being close to nature was a little closer to nature than I wanted to be. We were in Belize and had taken a snorkling trip to swim with nurse sharks, sting rays etc. Once we got to experience that thrill we were left to swim around the reef and see whatever we could. It was pretty wild, we saw barracuda, clown fish and a sea turtle which I kept following to a more secluded part of the reef. There weren’t too many fish in that section so I figured that I’d swim back toward the boat. That’s when I saw a grey shape slowly approaching in the distance. It’s hard to say how far away it was, maybe 75 feet or so until I realized that there was a shark swimming towards me, and not one of the it’s okay to swim with these guys kind of sharks. This was some sort of reef shark, the kind that would make me end up on one of the Shark Week specials on the Discovery Channel. There was nothing I could do but watch as it kept swimming towards me, my stomach had the same feeling you do on a rollercoaster before it takes the huge drop. It’s sad to think that my last words would have been “oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit…”. I’ve never been more relieved than when the shark veered and went behind the reef. I swam as calmly as I could back to the boat and let my pulse slow. That my friends, is what I call being close to nature.

Budget – Day 18 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher of lower than for others What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for?

Budget is key for me, so much so that I’ll choose a destination based on whether it’s more budget friendly than another spot. Yes, we could go to Barcelona…..or we could spend half the money and go to Colombia instead! This is such a weird thing with me that I’ll pick a price point before I even start looking for tickets sometimes. I’m almost OCD with finding budget friendly options. There are definintely limits to this though. While I’m very interested in taking the 9 hour bus ride that only costs $8 sometimes it’s better to opt for the $60 one hour flight.

Typically the lowest expense items on the budget is food. Rarely are there meals at restaurants, most of the time it’s cooking at the hostel or street food. I’d rather go hungry than pay what I would at home for a meal especially if I’m somewhere that’s not in a “tourist” part of town. I’m the guy that will haggle for a taxi or take the local bus even it it might not be quite as efficient. Aside from being part of the adventure how can you refuse an hour and a half bus ride for $1.75!?

What I am willing to pay more for are the occasional splurges on private accomodations or even resort style lodging to take a break from the 10 bed dorms and crowded hostel kitchens with half broken cookery. Most of my travel budget expenses come from taking the various tours and excursions, especially if I’ve never done/seen them before. $60 for ziplining, yes I’ll pay for that. $75 to swim with nurse sharks and sting rays AND it includes rum punch…uh, hell yes I’ll pay for that. I’ll also spend money on flights if there isn’t time for the bus or train. As much as I love the previous options when I’m traveling with limited time the money spent to get somewhere sooner is definitely worth it.

I’ve never found that being very budget conscious has ever stopped me from doing the things I really wanted to do or taken away from the trip in any way. Even if the accommodations are less than luxurious or the food may be just something to fill your belly or the bus ride leaves you with a sore neck and new appreciation for guard rails it all works out to make a good story. To me there’s nothing exciting about staying a four star resorts and eating in fancy restaurants. Give me a good hostel meal with strangers, a drink with one of the local Couchsurfing hosts or any of the other myriad situations you find yourself in when traveling on a budget. I’ll take those every time.

Passion – Day 17 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

It’s easy to be passionate about travel, but does that passion permeate the rest of your life? Do you live and work with passion? Why or why not?

I wish I could say that I did live my life with the same passion that I have for traveling. I work a job that while most of the time I don’t hate it, more often than not I don’t ever wake up looking forward to going in. It’s a well paying job with a good company and for someone who didn’t finish college I have a pretty good situation so it almost seems arrogant to throw that away cause I’m not passionate about it. To be honest I’m not sure what I’d do for work that I’d be passionate about. I also DJ at a nightclub and while I like it, and it’s fun and I do look forward to going it I don’t know that I’d say it’s my passion.

To me passion implies something you have to do, something you can’t imagine your life without, something you think about almost every day and all other events are just precursors to the time when you can indulge your passion. I like a lot of things, music, dancing, playing instruments, reading for example but maybe it’s sad to say that non of those things are a passion per se, not at least the way most people would thing of it. While I can’t imagine not doing any of those things in the course of my life I can go months without dancing or playing guitar and not feel like I’m missing something.

I wish I could find a passion, I used to have a lot of it when I was in high school, when I had the time to do nothing but the things that I was interested and I guess I’ve fallen into the grown up trap of a good job, a mortgage and moderate responsibility. I’m hoping that somehow on the RTW trip that I’ll be doing something will happen, something will spark. That’s not my reason for taking the trip, I’m not one of those people who are running from something or trying to find myself but who knows, maybe on the road I’ll rediscover what I somehow lost along the way from 16 until now.