Posts Tagged With: gringo travel

Lucha Libre training in Oaxaca, Mexico!

You know how when you go to some places, people like to tell you “don’t drink the water”? Well nobody ever advised me not to drink the mescal with scorpions floating at the bottom. So I did. On a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico – along with my tag team partner “El Gran Queso” – the Gringo With A Green Bag had a no-holds-barred experience in the excitingly cultured city of Oaxaca! Once the mask comes out, it’s game ON! Check out how it all went down right here…

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Puerto Rico – “Isla Del Encanto” – Sunsets

Puerto Rico sunset 01(Aguada)

One of several things you are guaranteed to find on the island of Puerto Rico (besides delightfully potent and colorful rum concoctions, fried pockets of meat-stuffed plantains at every turn and the infectious beat of Caribbean rhythms that can force even the gringoest of gringos to break into a Carmen Miranda-like hip shuffle) is an epic sunset. In order to find the best ones, however, you must leave the tourist-mousetrap of San Juan (which does offer up some rather enticing bait) and head towards the western end of the island where the final footprints of day slowly fade away behind the dreamy Pacific. Sunsets on a tropical island always seem more enjoyable than those viewed from anywhere else. They just do. Several theories here:  1) It could be the consistently dramatic island skies, which are typically filled with swirling and color-bending clouds that hover above the ocean like seagulls in search of surface appetizers, reflecting the lovely golden and pastel hues of the “magic hour”. 2) The calmness and serenity of being on a landmass surrounded by water and fringed with photogenic palms, isolated from the rest of the world and so far away from the monotonies of the “normal” life back home, which forced you to buy that ticket in the first place. 3) Feeling like you are in a privileged place at the perfect moment in time while all of your friends back home are sitting at a desk counting the tic-tocs until they can leave behind the office grind and dive into the not-so-flowing stream of rush hour traffic. 4) You’ve just consumed your fourth Piña Colada or Mai Tai, and everything you witness is “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”. Yeah, fruity drinks injected with alcohol do have that effect on me sometimes. The only downside of that is being able to properly focus your camera or iphone as the Earth beneath you begins to spin double-time. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that Puerto Rico offers up sunsets that can rival those found anywhere around the world. On a stage that has been set to provide much drama, beauty and inspiration to all those who come out to watch…the sunsets of Puerto Rico have played a praiseworthy role.

Puerto Rico sunset 02(Vieques)

Puerto Rico sunset 03(Rincon)

Puerto Rico sunset 04(Rincon)

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Happy Holidays mis amigos!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season! Cheers to happiness, health and many adventures…Salud!

– DJ

GWAGB-holidays

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Puerto Rico – Isla Del Encanto – waterfalls

As promised, I must honor my word and bring you the best of the best from last month’s Puerto Rico adventure! I found so much beauty and diversity all throughout the island, I don’t really know where to start. So I’ll just spin the jog wheel on the mouse and see where the cursor lands. (Spinning…done) This secluded waterfall (near the town of San Sebastián) was found as a result of Doing Your Homework Before You Travel. It’s a bit of an effort to get here, but that’s the whole idea, verdad? I mean, yeah…you can take the easier roads to some of the more accessible falls right off the highway (à la Maui’s Road to Hana, where you don’t even have to leave your vehicle…but good luck getting a decent photo without navigating your lens through the human traffic jam)…or you can get your numb-from-the-car-ride buttocks off the path, trek through a Jurassic Park-like environment, get some mud on the shoes, donate to the local mosquito blood drive and reward yourself with a spectacular slice of nature that can be quietly enjoyed in the company of a very few other lucky travelers, or even alone, if you time it right. The falls were pristine and the dip in the natural pool was a (testicle-shrinkingly) perfect way to spend the afternoon. Did I mention the water was cold?

Puerto Rico - waterfalls

Puerto Rico - waterfalls 02

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Doing Your Homework Before You Travel

Question: How much would it suck to finally arrive after a brutal 8-hour bus ride to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal on a Saturday night (read all about it here), only to be told that the tours don’t operate on Sundays or Mondays, and you’ve already booked your flight out of town on Tuesday morning? Answer: LOTS! Yes, we’ve all been there one way or another. Travel experiences we’d like to just put on an Etch-A-Sketch and shake the hell out of until they are erased forever. I always say, my most successful and enjoyable trips have ALWAYS been a result of a good amount of research and preparation. For me personally, that means making the weekly visits to the book store in the months leading up to my trip.

book store

My travels always begin long before I even arrive at the airport. They begin the very day I decide where I’m going to go (and they kick into high gear right after that nerve-wracking click on the airfare “purchase” button). At that point, my focus shifts to all things related to that place…its culture, people, local customs and etiquette, native foods, road conditions, weather, where to buy Tums, etc….all the logistics of getting acquainted with and getting around in a place that is totally unfamiliar to me. I treat it like my homework…do the reading and take good notes! There are many resources available to us to help us do our homework before we travel. Book stores, such as Barnes & Noble (where I have logged hundreds of hours while consuming superfluous amounts of steaming Starbucks lattes), have a healthy supply of travel books, magazines, guides and maps for most countries around the globe. The internet is perhaps the most valuable resource out there. On-line travel sites such as TripAdvisor.com and VirtualToursit.com are essential for me because you can access forums, read reviews and communicate directly with people who actually live in, or are natives of your chosen destination, or those who have recently traveled there (the locals are always your best resource). This is very important if you want that “insider” information that isn’t available to you in a publication. Also, it’s the best way to get current information, such as prices, tours and bus schedules, or whether or not a particular hotel or restaurant is still in business. (Not to mention info about that little tucked away slice of paradise that only the locals can guide you to!) People always love to share information about their homeland and travel experiences and the forums are great ways to get the inside scoop from those who are familiar with the area you are intending to visit. Just make sure you’re not reading an outdated forum from 2005, or you might end up arriving at a former restaurant that has been replaced by a neon-lit strip club (though some may consider that a good score).

travel homework

In addition to being a travel, football and mint chocolate junkie, I am a total research junkie. I want to feel like I’ve already been to the place I’m going and know exactly where to go before I even get there. I admit, I get a little over-zealous with the studying and memorization of topographical maps, but it totally helps when you’re trying to figure out practical travel times and distances. A little preparation before you get underway can go a long way to help you avoid the pitfalls of an ill-prepared vacation (like applying for your passport or Visa last minute and having to nervously wait by your mailbox for your travel docs to arrive just days before your flight. Yeah…been there! You have no idea how much discontent you can have for the post office until you experience your entire vacation being held hostage by the mailman!) Map out your itinerary and learn as much you can about everything you are planning to do during your visit. By doing this, you’ve already removed 50% of the stress that is typically experienced by travelers: inconvenience. This is the benefit of doing your homework before you travel!

Now, if you’ll excuse me…it’s time to go suck down a Butter Pecan Latte and read a few more books on Puerto Rico…and listen to some Tito Puente. Salud!

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Puttin’ down roots

I foresee rum in my future…

#GWAGB

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The last #FotoFriday of Summer ’14

Hope you guys had a great one! 

(image: Jericoacoara, Brazil)

Jericoacoara

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GWAGB on INSTAGRAM

Follow all the adventures (and dinner plates) on Instagram!

D.James_GringoWithAGreenBag

GWAGB_Instagram

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Fresh off the spool…hammock shopping in Mexico

I love seeing this portrait of a local Mayan woman putting the finishing touches on a beautiful hand-crafted hammock for me. I drove around Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula for several days looking for a traditional homemade “hamaca” that I could bring back to my parents. Not that it was on their wish list or anything, or that they would ever use it. All they ever ask for is either a magnet or some sea salt. But I once bought them a rug in Morocco that was most likely manufactured in Taiwan (it had to be, it was way too cheap), so I was aiming for a little redemption here. Besides, the origin of the hammock dates back over 1000 years and is credited to the Maya. If anyone knows how to weave a proper hammock, it’s these people. So, with a few inquiries to the locals, a kind villager directed me to the town of Tekit, where I was told to look for the “blue house”. (That’s how directions work in this part of the world. No addresses, just colors.)

Tekit

After erroneously knocking on the door of the first blue house I saw, I ended up finding the right “casa azul”, as I saw this woman carefully crafting a lovely, tropical-colored 10-footer that was hanging in her workshop. I don’t know if I was just craving Skittles or what, but this rainbow of intricately woven fibers caught my eye immediately. Major score! Now, there’s a difference between “homemade” and “handmade”. Handmade just means it was made by someone’s hands. Factory workers in China make “handmade” items all the time. Doesn’t mean it was made by a local artist, or that it isn’t a replica. Burgers at McDonald’s are handmade. They’re crap. “Homemade” is exactly what it says it is…you get it from someone’s home, sprinkled with love and genuine family-coated TLC. It’s like grandma’s banana bread. Always best to get it straight from the source. (If you get a homemade item in Spain it may come sprinkled with the scent of cigarettes. But hey, I’d much rather have an aesthetically inferior item of authenticity over a polished replica any day, albeit tobacco-tainted.) Nothing more discontenting than getting excited about purchasing that local Peruvian alpaca scarf, only to find the all-too-familiar “Made in Indonesia” tag sticking out from the bottom (unless you’re actually in Indonesia – but even then, alpacas in Indonesia?).

I didn’t even negotiate the price, which is common practice down in Mexico. I was so happy to be getting an authentic item of the finest local quality and variety, directly from the artist (who’s ancestors invented the thing). To me, this is the equivalent of a gallery curator being handed a Rembrandt from the man himself. Authenticity is at the core of “real world” life experiences. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll hear me preach about it often. Can a brother get an “amen” up in here? I could have saved some valuable time and energy and bought a hammock from any of the numerous roadside tourist souvenir shops I passed along the way to Tekit, but I’ve grown weary of the typical (and universal) salesman’s pitch of “100% authentic”, “handmade”, “indigenous”, “local artisan” – blah, blah, blah. If you pay a lot of money to go somewhere or purchase something, you want it to be legit. It’s an investment in great experiences, great memories or a product you will be totally satisfied with. After all, that’s what travel is really all about. If you don’t care about having a true experience, cancel that trip to Paris and take your butt to Las Vegas. You can visit Paris, New York, Rio and Venice all in the same day for a fraction of the price (unless you get sucked into that stupid Wheel of Fortune slot machine at the Rio. I emptied my wallet on that rigged-ass money-guzzler. To this day, I still curse at the sight of Pat Sajak every time I see him on TV.)

Only thing left for me to do now is to teach my mom how to lay in a hammock without flipping over like a sunscreen-slicked fat kid jumping on a wet intertube at the community pool. I never get tired of seeing that though. 🙂

Tekit 02

Of course, I gotta give a shout out to the kind gentleman who pointed me in the direction of the “blue house”. He wasn’t selling his hammock that day. Hope he got a commission though, or a plate of whatever she was cooking up in the kitchen that afternoon.

Yucatan, Mexico

 

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