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.

Nashville, TN – The Music City (Alternatively: The Cowboy Boots and Neon Signs City)

I visited Nashville, Tennessee over labor day with my wife.  I’ve always known it was a town famous for country music and cowboy boots – but somehow I didn’t get the memo about the non-stop party. The nightlife was better than expected, the food was classically southern, and the music is country.

Nashville 1

There was a lot of good food. Especially the fried chicken at Hattie B’s toward West End.

Nashville 2

The Downtown area includes horse and buggy rides, cowboy-style bars, neon signs, and plenty of alcohol.

Nashville 3

When you get away from the bars – Nashville is also quiet and beautiful.

Nashville 4

There is no shortage of folk music and street performers.

Nashville 5

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That Dive Bar in Puerto Rico

I love dive bars. I seek them out. Something about a place most tourist avoid, a place that doesn’t serve mojitos just because it’s too much damn trouble to make, and tequila on the rocks is the house special just feels right. El Batey in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is that place.

El Batey

El Batey is pretty rustic. By rustic I mean the place basically consist of four walls and a bar. It’s perfect. The day I chose to visit I was lucky enough to be one of two patrons. The other guy at the bar was a white guy in his mid-70s. He was former Navy and also just happened to own the place. After a few beers I worked up the courage to swap a few stories and find out how the hell a 70 year old white guy came to own the coolest bar in San Juan.

It turns out he was stationed in Puerto Rico while serving in the Navy. He was a weather man – which according to him was the easiest job in the world.

“Its the same everyday. It’ll rain a little in the morning, clear up, and be sunny and 80s the rest of the day. Some days I didn’t even do anything – I just foretasted the usual. I even won a damn medal for being the most accurate weather guy in the Navy.”

After the Navy he opened the bar and never left.

If you find yourself in San Juan, Puerto Rico count yourself lucky and head over to El Batey for a long afternoon and night. Just sit back, enjoy the good conversation, and relax. The drink specials are Corona, a Margarita, or anything the bartender can concoct without a blender. El Batey is definitely the best dive bar in Puerto Rico.

Location:
Calle de Cristo 101
San Juan, PR 00901

How to get from the Airport in Guatemala City to Antigua

If you are headed to Antigua, Guatemala you have to fly into Guatemala City. Guatemala City isn’t exactly a tourist oasis and most people find it a little dirty and mildly dangerous. My personal advice, if you aren’t familiar with Central America, is to avoid the city and head directly to Antigua upon arrive in Guatemala. Since there is no airport in Antigua you will have to catch a ride to Antigua. Not to worry though Antigua is less than an hour drive from Guatemala City.

Getting to Antigua

The best way to get to Antigua from Guatemala City is by pre-arranging transportation before you arrive. There are a variety of reputable tour companies that can set you up with transportation and will be waiting for you when you arrive in Guatemala City. At only $10 per person most people find this option the easiest, safest, and most hassle free. This is the option I use when I visit Antigua and see little reason (unless you are up for adventure) to use any other method.

I usually pre-arrange my ride to Antigua via the folks at Around Antigua. You have to communicate via email, but they are always very helpful in setting something up for me (including tours, transportation, advice about locations, etc.).

Chicken Buses

The cheapest and probably most dangerous (and perhaps most fun) way to get from Guatemala City to Antigua is via the Chicken Buses. The Chicken Buses are typical American style school buses that have been painted and decorated in true Central American style. The bus drivers are reckless, robberies have been known to occur, and you will be stuffed in with the locals – but if you want true Guatemalan culture – a chicken bus is it.

I do not recommend taking a chicken bus if you are afraid of getting lost in Guatemala or if you will be carrying a lot of luggage or valuables. Tourists with a lot of luggage and who aren’t fluent in Spanish are prime targets for jerks looking for someone to take advantage of. The chicken buses can be fun and they are pretty reliable, but use them at your own discretion.

Outside the Airport – What I wish I had Known

One thing you have to realize when you arrive in Guatemala City is that you are in the third world. People think you are rich and by their standards you probably are. They want to perform services for your for cash. Some people want to take advantage of you too, but most people just want to perform a service.

When you exit the airport – even if you are just waiting for your ride – you will encounter a variety of people. When my wife and I exited the airport there were kids begging to shine my shoes, there were men who looked like they worked for the airport (but didn’t) offering me their cell phone to call my ride (for a tip), and there were about 100 other folks standing around doing this and that.

I had been in Central America before so it didn’t bother me, but it was a first for my wife. I had warned her about what she might expect, but it still made her a little nervous so just be aware of what you might see. My advice is to just stick to yourself, politely decline offers, and catch your ride. I actually enjoy the experience as a reminder that I’m not in the States anymore.

Guatemala is AWESOME

If Guatemala City seems a little rough don’t worry because overall Guatemala is an amazing place. It is the only place my wife and I have ever traveled to where she literally begged me to move to. Honestly we both fell in love with Antigua. You will too. Some people have visited and literally never returned – it’s just that kind of place.

Resources:

Tours and Information

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.

halal

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.

2 bros pizza

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.