Category Archives: Globe-Trotting

As business consultants on the road and life-long travel enthusiasts Atticus and Holden discuss their adventures as they explore the world.

2 Cheap and Delicious Meals in New York City

1. 53rd & 6th Halal Cart
The 53rd & 6th Halal Cart in New York City is the most popular and from my experience the most delicious food cart in the country. For about $5 you can get a gigantic portion of Indian style lamb, beef, or chicken with rice and pita.

I must have visited this food cart at least 3 times (ok more like 10). If you are looking for something that is equal parts cheap, quick, and tasty look no further. In fact, skip the gourmet meal and just eat street food. We spent $100 to eat dinner at Bobby Flay’s restaurant one night and would have rather had the Halal cart lamb any day of the week!

Street food will be a much more authentic NYC experience anyways. Your wallet and stomach will thank me.

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2. 2 Bros Pizza
If you are looking for an authentic slice of NYC style pie, that is also cheap, check out 2 bros pizza. You can find a 2 bros pizza almost anywhere in NYC so they are quite convenient and the taste/service is pretty consistent, but the most popular location is in East Village (between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave).

The slices of pizza cost you around $1 and are the size of a large infant. I challenge you to find a larger portion of food for less anywhere in NYC. There was a 2 bros pizza on the way to the subway from my hotel so I ended up grabbing a couple slices of $1 pizza more than a few times.

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7 Tips to Navigate Nightlife in Tokyo, Japan

If you are in Tokyo for the first time I think it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s crowded, you are basically illiterate, and for the most part you don’t know the “rules”. That shouldn’t stop you from having a good time though. Overall, Tokyo and its people are pretty laid back and ready to have a good time. So here are a few tips that should help you successfully navigate Tokyo’s nightlife.

1. Public Transportation Stops at 11:00pm
If you are relying on public transportation to get around in Tokyo be aware that trains stop running around 11:00pm. That means you have to make a critical decision when you are going out. Do you party all night long or leave at 11:00pm?

I chose to party all night long twice while I was in Japan. Both times I was afraid that by 3am I would be regretting my decision and begging to pay a cab $100 to take me home to my nice warm bed. That didn’t happen though. The energy is so high, the clubs so crowded, and the drinks so delicious that before you know it you will have time traveled to morning.

Pulling an all-nighter is a rite of passage when it comes to nightlife in Tokyo so if you are planning a visit – plan to stay out all night at least once. It’s worth the experience.

2. People speak English
If you don’t speak Japanese, don’t worry. Almost everyone speaks at least some English. Most people are probably fluent.

If you need directions, want to start a conversation, or are just feeling chatting don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. Just be polite.

3. Roppongi
Roppongi is known as the clubbing district around Tokyo. If you are planning to pull that all-nighter this is a great place to do it. Choosing a place to go isn’t hard either, just look for the crowd and go.

4. English Friendly Bars
If you are feeling a little skittish about going to a random bar there are several “English Friendly” pub style bars floating around. The most popular of those bars is probably the HUB.

The HUB is modeled after a British drinking pub. You will find a lot of English speakers from around the world as well as a decent drink selection and bar tenders that are completely fluent in English.

I dropped by and was delighted to find the range of countries represented. There were people from all around Europe and the US hanging out – which was awesome.

5. Avoid Nigerians
There isn’t much crime in Japan, but there are one group of people that like to pray on tourists. Nigerians. They are easy to spot as they will be the only black guys bugging you on the streets of Tokyo. If they try to talk to you just say “no thanks” and walk away.

There are a lot of horror stories about these guys ripping tourists off and stealing from them. I assume these are probably the same Nigerians that spam your email.

6. Smut Culture
Japanese culture is very conservative, but smutty. You will find a wide variety of sex shops, “massage” parlors, and peep shows as you walk through the city. I did not personally partake in any of these activities, but overall most of these establishments, while creepy, seem completely safe. Use your judgement.

7. The Pregame
One thing I had no idea about in Tokyo is that you can drink on the streets. You can go right in a convenient store and grab and alcoholic beverage and enjoy while walking to the next bar.

Since Japan is so expensive we found that having a few drinks before arriving at the bars was a great way to keep our bank accounts happy. If you are wondering what to buy try a Chuahai.

A Chuahai is about 10% alcohol, but tastes a lot like carbonated lemonade. Beware – these things are a lot more powerful than they look/taste.

Exploring Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico is quite literally the place of legends. When I told friends and collegues I was planning a trip across the border during my stay in San Diego responses ranged from “You’re going to get your head chopped off” to “They have the best hookers on the planet!”.

Tijuana Border

The same information was presented on the internet. There were two extremes – brave travelers singing the praises of wild Tijuana or conservative vacationers giving dire warnings of entering the third world. So – if you are considering a trip to Tijuana here are a few pieces of advice I learned during my stay.

1. Getting From San Diego to Tijuana

The good news is getting from San Diego to Tijuana is simple and inexpensive. For around $5 you can easily get from the airport to the border. Simply take the 992 (bus) to America Plaza Station. At America Plaza take the Blue line (Trolley) to the border. The last stop is San Ysidro transit station. You can walk across the border from there – just follow the Mexicans across the border. (Airport to Border = 1 hour commute)

Getting across the border is as easy as walking across. There is no one there checking paperwork or so much as guarding the entrance. However; to get back across you will need your US passport. (We’ll talk more about that later.)

2. You’re in Tijuana. Now What?

Once you’re in Tijuana you can find almost anything in this world that your heart desires. That’s both good and bad. You can purchase a women for the night, gorge yourself on cheap tacos and $2 beers, or simply enjoy the Mexican culture and buy a few trinkets from the local shops. Depending on the kind of entertainment you’re looking for – the night is yours.

Negotiating: Please buy my Shit!

No matter what you want to do plan on people soliciting you at every turn. Remember – you are a gringo. You are they kind of person that comes across the border and buys stuff. You buy trinkets, you buy food, you buy alcohol, and you have US dollars in your pocket. These shop owners and local business people will hound you relentlessly in effort to part you from your all-mighty dollar. This isn’t a bad thing just know how to deal with it.

One trick of the trade is be sure to negotiate prices. It doesn’t matter if you are buying a trinket in a shop or haggling entrance prices at a club. I found that if you are at a shop aim for 60% their asking price. Be prepared to walk away and negotiations will almost always be in your favor.

Water and Air Quality

Do not drink the water unless you want to shit yourself for the next few days. Any water that goes in your mouth should be from a bottle – this includes brushing your teeth, washing your food, and ice. When in doubt don’t eat or drink anything suspect.

Also, the air quality is horrible. For some reason the people of Central and South America refuse to keep a car with a cadalytic converter. Mexicans seem to remove this part like it’s cancer. For this reason people with asthma or allergies might want to pack an inhaler.

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Women, Drugs, and Nightlife

Everything you’ve heard about Tijuana is true. Hookers are cheap, strippers are cheaper, and the beer is almost free. My advice – stick to the beer.

However, since you aren’t going to use my advice here’s some information. The strippers in Tijuana are much more forward than those in America. $5 is likely to get you more than you expected and touching seems to be encouraged. If you go to a strip club expect to be continuously solicited, groped, and harassed by naked Latin women.

Beer should cost you about $2 a piece and Tequilla around $3. If you are paying more than that find another place. Settle on prices for EVERYTHING in advance – this will help you avoid the Gringo tax. If you can, try to pay for each drink as you go or do a really good job of keeping up with your tab. A common scheme is to over charge drunken Gringos at the end of the night.

Avoid hookers and drugs. Nothing good can come from that. Most stories of murder and robberies involve some combination of these two things.

Getting Around

Pretty much everything you want to do in Tijuana is within walking distance. If you must take a cab do not use the guys immediately across the border. Use a random cab in the city (which are everywhere) – they are substantially cheaper. As with everything settle on a price beforehand. Almost everyone speaks English, but this isn’t guaranteed. Learn a few words of Spanish before you go. 

3. Getting Back to the U.S.

Now that you are sufficiently hung over and undoubtedly filthy from a night of legend-making you probably want to come home. What you probably don’t realize is that the U.S./Tijuana border is the busiest border on the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people cross DAILY! Wait times can range from 1 – 3 hours so plan accordingly. (Mornings are usually busiest)

To get back in the country you will need a U.S. passport. Border control will ask you a few questions, check your identification and you’re home free.

Hint: If the line is really long there are guys offering to expedite your trip to the front of the line for $5. They will lead you to a van and take you to the front. Mexican border authorities, who are apparently in on the scheme, will move you to the express lane. I used this option one morning when the line was unmanageable and it took about 30 minutes to cross the border (instead of 3 hours). Please use this option with caution and always be mindful who you are getting in a van with.

Once you get back across the border you can take the Trolley right back to San Diego. The trip takes about 45 minutes and cost $2.50.

Tijuana

Big Government Part 2: The Thought Police

Nintey percent (90%) of all media we consume is controlled by six corporations. Six. These media outlets have the ability to manipulate the thoughts and opinions of the public, disseminate information, and frame situations and news items to fit their perspective agenda. There is evidence is happening.

The 2012 Election

In 2012 I closely followed media statistics and how they were effecting the presidential race.

One of the best sources of raw data was the Pew Research Center for media. The data was pretty clear and I found a few points worth noting.

1. During the Republican primaries Mitt Romney received debate time than any other candidate (50% more per debate than the 2nd most time, and twice as much as everyone else per debate)
2. During the Republican primaries Mitt Romney received more media coverage than any other candidate.
3. After the Republican primaries Barrack Obama immediately received more coverage than Mitt Romney. (almost twice as much)
4. Media and communication companies donated almost three as much to Obama as Romney.

In the end Obama won the election by a landslide. I wonder how much influence the volume and positive portrayal of Obama in the media had to do with voter’s opinion?

The Media Pushes Agenda

The media pushes an agenda for political purpose. This is no clearer than with the recent events and trial that is taking place surrounding the Benghazi consulate attack. While I will not focus on my personal opinion of what happened there I would like to focus on the media’s treatment of the event.

Conservative media (i.e., Fox News) is in outrage. They point out that orders for military personnel to stand down were given twice. This lead to the death of four Americans. After the event the white house issued a false statement saying that it was a riot inisiated by a YouTube video slamming Islam. It has recently been revealed that those talking points were manufactured and that key officials were ordered not to cooperate with the investigation. All this happening, Conservatives point out, only 2 months prior to Obama’s election.

Left wingers (i.e., MSNBC, ABC) say that this is a non-event that is being amplified by conservatives in a careful ploy to attack the Obama administration and, more specifically, Hilary Clinton.

So why are the two sides so far apart on an issue? The answer is obvious: Each side has their own Political Agenda. So why do we let media outlets get away with it during election time? And is it fair that media presents opinions as fact? I don’t think it is.

Media Interest, Advertising, and Corporate Ties

The problem isn’t with media sharing an opinion though. The problem is that popular media has a direct conflict of interest when it comes to presenting balanced and honest news. Why? Because the worst violators write their paycheck!

This is how it happens: ABC advertiser writes a million dollar check to XYZ media. Three months later XYZ media comes across a story where ABC advertiser was poisoning patients with bad pharmaceutics. ABC advertiser threatens to pull its million dollar advertising contract if XYZ media runs the story. Thus, XYZ media smiles and turns the other way. In fact, if ABC agrees to make that check 2 million dollars they will even put a positive spin on it. So in the end – the media company gets rich and the rest of us are fucked. This happens everyday.

If you don’t believe me ask yourself if you recognize any of these: The Stock Act, Monsanto Protection Act, CISPA, or National Security Letters, just to name a few.

My Point?

Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

Featured image photo credit.

This is New Orleans

How is it that the guys can love a dirty disgusting city so much? As you drive into the God-forsaken town you immediately notice how dirty it is. The streets are lined with houses that should have been condemned and bulldozed years ago after hurricane Katrina.

There is a contrast – a distinct smell of tourist piss and vomit on many corners of the French Quarter, but a block over a tear may come to your eye from amazement of all the local culture and art.

NOLA

Many parts of the town reek of tourist hell. Areas like Bourbon Street are so dirty and disgusting that the city has to literally wash the streets with soap and water every mornting – what else can they do when every tourist takes a giant metaphorical (sometimes literal) dump on the city in an alcohol induced rage until 4am before finally packing their bags and heading home?

I think that’s all part of the glorious dichotomy that is NOLA. It’s dirty, grimy, trashy, largely broken, touristy, but amazing. We still love New Orleans like almost no other place – and you should too!

It really is a unique experience to walk down a street and witness a full-grown man singing his heart out like no one but God himself is listening. Then there are the local bakeries and eateries – the local bakers and cooks gossiping in a southern/Cajun twang making it uniquely New Orleans. Everyone loves their craft and the tourist just pass through on their way to Bourbon street sometimes giving little recognition.

It’s the bartender who has lived in the city his entire life and can handle anything a drunken tourist can throw his way. It’s the artist that should have their art in a museum, but sells it on the street because that’s just what they do. It’s the conglomerate of artists, tourists, and a city of poverty and opportunity all living and working together – one barely acknowledging the other’s existence.

Tips to Avoid being just another tourist

I won’t lie or pretend that drinking, enjoying the sites, and gawking at street performers isn’t all part of the experience, but there are a few things you can do to make your trip to NOLA all the more satisfying – and maybe even absorbing a little extra culture along the way.

1. Absorb the local art

The local art may be my single favorite part of New Orleans. I may even go as far as to say that the French quarter and surrounding area might be the most artistic place in the United States per square foot. If you are a smart tourist you will kindly purchase an authentic piece of street art (for pennies compared to department store prices)!

The best place to buy an authentic piece of street art is off Jackson square. There are literally dozens of people sitting around selling their works. The best part is that most of the art is extremely affordable and high quality.

Helpful tip: generally, avoid the art shops off Royal Street. The art is essentially the same as what is in Jackson square, but with “you didn’t buy it on the street” prices. Most of the shops commission the local artists to put their work in the shops anyways. So it really is the same thing, just in a setting for rich people with too much cash.

2. Street Performers

Maybe this tip is a little cliché and not a best kept secret, but the street performers during the day on Royal Street are amazing. If you are lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of a wedding procession coming through too.

Royal Street is expensive, so keep your cash in hand and spend it a little further out like on Frenchmen St. where the atmosphere is a bit more authentic and affordable.

3. Find some Authentic NOLA style cuisine

For a place with such good food I don’t think I have ever had such a hard time finding a decent restaurant. Most of the places around the French quarter come right out of tourist trap hell with tourist trap prices to boot. In general, avoid most of them.

A good rule of thumb is the further you get from Bourbon Street the more authentic and less expensive the food becomes. Shane and I found a couple of great restaurants on Frenchman street called Maison, and The Praline Connection, and another across the river in Algiers called the Dry Dock Cafe (take the free fairy across the river).

4. Get Wasted, Responsibly

If you came to New Orleans to party – you came to the right place. Sheer supply and demand has driven prices down on drinks. You can generally get a “Huge Ass Beer”, Hurricane, or hand grenade almost anywhere. Don’t forget to try a Bloody Mary and the local beer too. If you are looking to party, of course the best place to do that is on Bourbon Street.

Be prepared, however, for belligerence, nudity, vomit, and crowds. This is not a street that you would like to take your family to – not at any time or any day. There are a plethora of strip clubs, intoxicated tourists, and women willing to expose their breast for the mere cost of a string of beads. If you aren’t looking to binge drink or if you are looking for the “real” New Orleans – then you probably want to stay clear of Bourbon Street. You have been forewarned!

Travel Inspires

The space is what I loved. Acres of green land perfectly manicured by nature. A dense forest and green pastures then an opening where a Georgian style mansion stood. There was peace.

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There was real quiet. The kind of quiet that you actually notice. Only the sound of a few birds and the wind. No car horns, no hum of technology, just quiet. I could imagine myself in a quiet study with the windows open and a fresh cup of coffee. Maybe I would be reading or writing something myself. I would relax with a fire going and take a look outside the window for inspiration.

I felt the same way in Guatemala. On top of the mountain staring down at the coffee plantation and small villages below. Only a few small houses were this high. A modest brick home with two bedrooms and a rustic kitchen and a beautiful garden. In the distance a few dormant volcanoes. Here too the people are in no rush and the escape of the constant hum of civilization is gone. One thing I notice – the dark. The dark is deeper than at home. Sleep follows easier because of it.

When I return home from places like these I always have ideas of getting away for good. This time, when we returned from Ireland, I made up my mind I would buy 20 acres in South Georgia. Twenty acres away from anyone where I could build a modest cabin in the center of my own land. My own land where I could sit in my own little study, filled with old books, souvenirs from travels, and freshly ground coffee.

“That’s what I’ll do,” I tell myself. “I’ll move away from it all.” Maybe that’s my favorite part about travel – the inspiration. Maybe I will have that cabin and study one day.

That Dive Bar in Antigua, Guatemala

I remember walking in Cafe No Se. I instantly knew I had found something special. Something not quite Guatemalan, but certainly perfect for Antigua. At the entrance sat several expats discussing what must have been something philosophical – it just looked too important.

One guy at about age 50 worked at the book store next door and sported a long ponytail. I coincidentally remembered him from earlier in the day as I was browsing the local shops. He couldn’t have looked more relaxed if he tried and that was the same thing I remember thinking when I saw him in the bookstore earlier that day.

The bartender was several years sober and didn’t touch a drop of alcohol. While he made drinks for the rest of us he quietly sipped on coffee and complained about the “gringo bar” next door. Something about the way he sipped his coffee made him seem wiser than the rest of us. His almost perfect English made me nearly forget I was in Guatemala until he would shout a few words in Spanish to patrons entering the bar.

Here and there sits graffiti and signatures carved on the walls made by past and present customers who want to leave their mark. No one seems to mind and certainly not enough to ask anyone to stop. You sit at the rustic little bar for an hour or two and once you have become reasonably intoxicated and stupid enough the bartender suggest you try a few shots of ilegal Mezcal. Mezcal is a tequila-ish liquor that the bar employees claim to be the grandfather of tequila. It goes down like poison, but by the time they offer it to you it’s too late to say no anyways.

Perhaps the best part of the entire bar is closing out your tab. After a long night of drinking and conversation I fully expected to be robbed of what little dignity I had left with a giant bar tab, but that’s when you realize – you are in Guatemala and have been paying Central America prices. I close out my tab at about $40 (US) and escape with enough money to buy a cup of coffee in the morning.

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Lebanese Cuisine in Vancouver

One thing many cities in the United States seem to be missing is really good middle-eastern cuisine. Canada, however, has plenty.  I had the lamb plate with greek salad, potatos, hummus, and rice. $8 and delicious.

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Exploring San Francisco

A recent business excursion took me to the wonderful city of San Francisco. This was my first trip to the west coast, and I leaped at the chance to mix a little business with pleasure and fly my beautiful wife out to enjoy a few days with me in one of America’s greatest treasures.

Like all endeavors I undertake, I decided to take a little less touristy, little more ‘road less traveled’ approach to exploring the city. The decision paid us back in spades! So read on as we explore the great city that is San Francisco!

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Eat the Street Food:

If you are on a budget (or you just like great food on the cheap) try out the street food in Fisherman’s Wharf. You can find great street food everywhere. My favorite spot is located on Taylor Street and Jefferson Street. For $15, my wife and I dined on fried calamari and possibly, the best Lobster-Bisk my pallet has ever feasted upon. If you do not enjoy seafood, there are easily a dozen other vendors nearby selling everything from Argentinean Burgers to old-fashioned hot dogs.

Grab a spot at any one of the public benches all around the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Most provide a great view of the ocean, which also makes for a nice sun-set view at dinner.

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Share a Beer with Someone Interesting:

San Francisco has a great nightlife, but you can drink anywhere. The great thing about San Fran is you are certain to encounter people from a variety of countries and backgrounds. I ventured to a touristy (but cool) little bar near Union Square called Gold Dust Lounge. The prices were reasonable and it had a pretty good vibe. I met a French Canadian couple from Quebec and talked about everything from healthcare to camping. They introduced us to the CANADA (a 12 shot drinking marathon). We still keep in touch today.

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Visit the Local Markets:

If you want to mingle with the people of San Francisco visit the Market. Everything was organic and grown locally. I can honestly say that San Francisco had some of the most beautiful produce I have ever laid eyes on. The selection of fruits and vegetables reminded us more of art than food. There were also a ton of FREE snacks and samples.

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Experience the Local Art and Music:

There is no need to pay for a concert or visit a museum to experience the vibrant art and music scene. There are several places to view extraordinary art for FREE. Check out some of the galleries that sell art. The galleries are open to the public and carry works from a variety of artist including Picasso, Salvador Dali, and many locals. If you are not into museums check out the street artists. The local artists were extremely talented and ready to create pieces for you on the fly for a fraction of what pieces offered at the local galleries cost. My wife and I try to purchase custom street art almost everywhere we travel; they make for great reminders of your trips and wonderful keepsakes for the home.

Street musicians were also common. Some were incredibly talented (and some were drunks) and love an audience so feel free to crowd around and enjoy. It also makes a good opportunity to enjoy some street food with a few tunes. Many of these artists make a living off performing for crowds, so if you are feeling generous, tip.

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Check out Alcatraz:

It may be the obvious choice, but I want to reiterate that visiting Alcatraz Island is worth the trip. Here are a couple of tips:

Remember only one fairy boat has rights to transport people to Alcatraz, so be sure you deal with them.
BOOK EARLY! The Alcatraz cruises often fill up months ahead of time. If you want a night tour book even earlier.

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Go to the top of the hill:

If you have ever been to San Fran you know exactly what I am talking about. The hills there seem like mountains when you are walking them. The inclines require athletic ability to manage (you can do it!), but when you get to the top it presents a unique photo opportunity and possibly the most beautiful views in San Fran. Make the trip to the top of the roads around San Francisco Bay and snap a picture.

Chinatown:

A picture is worth 1000 words.

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