travel

The Truth About Third World Travel

I recently discovered the site Wait But Why and am hooked.

For each post, Tim Urban, the site’s sole writer and illustrator, delves into a topic—like How to Pick Your Life Partner, or Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy—in such a hilarious, honest, intelligent and insightful way. I’ll find myself reading and laughing out loud and exclaiming, “That’s awesome—and so true!!!”

Take, for example, this post, “Traveling to the Third World Is Great and Also It Sucks.”

As Urban describes it:

You know that upsetting person who posts pictures on Facebook of themselves doing some delicious- or beautiful- or wild-looking activity in somewhere like Tanzania or India or Peru? And even though they’re posting for their own purposes as part of a skillful weave of Image Crafting and Jealousy Inducing, it makes you yearn anyway as you sit there in whatever shitty life you’ve chosen for yourself?

The thing you need to remember is that they did some careful cropping on the photo—they cropped out the misery. Misery is a government requirement when you visit a country like Tanzania or India or Peru and your body is totally unaccustomed to the ecosystem, but that’s easy to forget when you’re not there.

So it’s not that your upsetting friend isn’t having a great time—they are—but beneath their shit-eating open-jaw delighted smile and upward-extended arms grasping into the succulent mist of a waterfall, just a couple feet down are aching, blistered feet, malaria-ridden-mosquito bitten legs, and some gurgling diarrhea nightmare.

He then goes into detail about why third world trips are so amazing but also so miserable—in a very logical way.

I have to agree 100%!

Most of my favorite trips have been to third world countries. And while they were life-changing and pretty fabulous overall, there was a fair share of misery involved.

Like:

  • Peeing all over my jeans because I wasn’t accustomed to using a drop toilet. (China)
  • Staying in a hotel that lacked heat and hot water in winter, in the middle of a dessert. I was so frozen I didn’t even want to wash my hands after going to the bathroom. (Bolivia)
  • Having to use the buddy system to walk home after dark due to the risk of violent crime. (Guatemala)
  • Getting so tossed around in rough water while snorkeling that I actually threw up. (Nicaragua)
  • Taking icy showers with no water pressure in poorly heated hotels/homes. (Almost every third world country)
  • Not being able to flush toilet paper. (Almost every third world country)

I almost feel like an ass writing all those out, because it shows just how lucky we are. You don’t often think of flushing toilet paper as an amazing luxury. Or browsing in a shop without being an easy target for persistent store owners.

salesman-1 salesman-2

So yes, third world trips are fantastic. But I don’t believe anyone who says there’s not discomfort and misery involved!

(Images by Tim Urban via Wait But Why)

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A Free Library on the Beach

You know how much I love the beach.

And you know how much I love shelves that facilitate free book-sharing.

So it’s no surprise that I love this: beach-library-albena books-libraryThe Beach Library is located in front of Hotel Kaliakra in Albena, Bulgaria, a resort area on the Black Sea. It has more than 6,000 books in 15 languages. German architect Herman Kompernas designed it so visitors could easily share and enjoy books while on vacation. A nice touch: the shelves are weather-proof.

Now that’s my kind of beach. Can I go there, now?

(Image via Goodreads)

A Weekend in Indianapolis

I spent last weekend in Indianapolis.

Random, right?!

Well, not so much considering that my good friend Lindsay grew up there, and recently moved back.

During a recent phone chat, she threw out the idea of me spending a weekend there.

I hadn’t seen her in years. (Since that time I visited her in Chicago.) I’d never been to Indianapolis before. And I vaguely remembered the NY Times featuring it as one of their top 2014 destinations, thanks to a network of new bike trails. Plus, I could count all my visits to the midwest on one hand.

Within a day, I’d booked a flight to Indy.

I had a great time catching up with Lindsay, staying in her gorgeous apartment and grilling with her family. She also gave me a sweet tour of the city, highlighting all the cute places and up-and-coming areas.

On the evening of my arrival, we had dinner at Plow & Anchor, a restaurant the focuses on seafood and seasonal produce. (I loved the mackerel crudo with pickled strawberries.)

Afterwards, we walked down Massachusetts Avenue, a main drag with restaurants and shops. A mural of Kurt Vonnegurt, an Indianapolis native, overlooked the street.

Kurt Vonnegut | nycexpeditionist.com

Lots of people were out, dining al fresco and enjoying the hot weather, which was nice to see. I did a double take when several beer bikes went by—I didn’t know those existed outside of London. Lindsay attested that they’re super-popular in Indy. Who knew?!

We spent the next day walking around Broad Ripple, a part of town that was once known for its bar scene, but is evolving. The Monon Trail, a path that’s part of Indy’s new hiking/biking network, runs through it, and we strolled along.

Monon Trail, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

I loved stumbling along this cute hotel

Hotel Broad Ripple, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

…and an old railway car alongside the path.

Monon Trail, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

We walked among the sculpture garden at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

My favorite piece: this whimsical house!

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Public Greens, an awesome cafeteria-style eatery.

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

They actually grow their own produce along the trail.

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

The following day, we drove through Fountain Square, an up-and-coming ‘hood—but because it was a Sunday morning, most places were closed. (Except for Milktooth, currently one of the hottest restaurants in town, which was overflowing with brunchers.)

We also strolled along the Canal Walk, another leafy trail alongside a manmade canal. Unfortunately, the gondolas weren’t out at that time!

Indy is definitely a city in the midst of change. Everywhere we went, we saw tons of fancy new condos going up. Though who will be living there remains to be seen. The city felt pretty quiet for most of the weekend, and Lindsay hadn’t heard of any new incentives to draw more residents to the city.

But who knows? Maybe all the new greenspaces, trails and growing food and drink scene will lure more people to the city. I’m definitely glad I got to see it now. And I’m curious about what it’ll look like in a few years.

Retro Airline Ads

This is one coffee table book I’d love to have: Airline Visual Identity 1945-1975, by Matthias C. Huhne.

The 400+ page tome, broken down by airline, features ads from the golden age of flying.

Many of them exude a retro glamour scarcely associated with flying, these days:

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

While others are cringe-worthy in how un-PC they are, by today’s standards:

Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975

Yiiiiiiikes!

The book has a hefty price tag ($400!) so I’m doubtful that it’ll end up on my coffee table any time soon. But if you’re interested in seeing more interior pages, check them out here.

(Images via Callisto Publishers)

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

I know. “The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.” Yawn. Sounds really exciting, right?

But take a look at it!

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

It’s a bridge that becomes an underwater tunnel, and then goes back to being a bridge again while still in the water.

Pretty amazing, huh?

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is located about three hours from DC. It was built to give travelers an easier way to get across the bay from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the rest of the state. When the structure opened in 1964, after four years of construction, it was hailed as “one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world,” according to the Washington Post.

I agree. And I’m clearly not the only one who thinks it’s so cool! The bridge-tunnel even has its own Facebook page with more than 5,000 fans, where you can see some amazing photos.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Other cool bridge-tunnels to check out: the Oresund, which connects Sweden to Denmark, and the Monitor-Merrimac, also in Virginia.

(Images via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel)

More Amazing Aerial Photos

And while we’re on the subject of awesome aerial photos, check out the Daily Overview.

The project, founded by NYC-based Benjamin Grant, was inspired by the Overview Effect:

This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once.

Grant strives to give viewers that same feeling by showcasing thought-provoking aerials of places around the world where people have affected the landscape.

The images are beautiful and often astounding—and they really do make you think. A few of my favorite recent images include the Istanbul Shipyard…

Istanbul Shipyard via the Daily Overview

…Kuala Lumpur’s palm tree plantations…

Kuala Lumpur's palm tree plantations via the Daily Overview

…California’s Roseville Yard…

Roseville Yard via the Daily Overview

…and Lollapalooza in Chicago.

Lollapalooza via the Daily Overview

Check out the Daily Overview’s site or follow them on Instagram for even more images.

(Images via the Daily Overview)

Four Days in Coastal Maine

When I was up north last month, for the Maine Coast Bosom Buddy Relay, the race was clearly the highlight of the trip. But I also had a great time exploring the stretch of coast from Kennebunkport to Portland.

Since the race was in Biddeford, I wanted to stay somewhere nearby. After a bit of searching online, I came across a little beach cottage for rent in Saco, a neighboring town.

Eiderdown Cottage, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

While it wasn’t big or fancy, it worked well for our purposes. It had two bedrooms and an enclosed porch that served as a third, which more than accommodated five of us.

Plus, it was on the same block as the beach! And luckily, the weather was in the 80s for two of our four days, which gave us some much-appreciated sun time.

Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

The Saco/Biddeford area also had some great food:

Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery: I love trying new breweries, and this was our first stop when we arrived in Maine. We sat outside and had beers and a late lunch.

The Portland Pie Co., which has some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten outside of NYC. It was so good, we had it three times (!!!) in four days: for dinner the first night we were in Maine; at the race, where each finisher received a slice; and the day we were heading back to NYC! I highly recommend a veggie-laden pie with the beer crust.

Biscuits & Company, another restaurant that we visited multiple times. It’s a bright, airy cafe that specializes in its namesake. We had breakfast there the day before the race—delicious biscuit sandwiches that were crispy and salty on the outside, and rich and soft on the inside. And on Sunday after the race, we went back for Mother’s Day brunch.

Biscuits & Company, Biddeford, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Huot’s Seafood Restaurant: Hunt, the caretaker of our cottage, highly recommended this place, just a quick drive away. We went for dinner the evening after our race and the place was packed! The restaurant is larger and nicer than it looks from the outside, and once the food came, we could see why it was so popular. I loved the clam chowder and every bit of my whole lobster.

Huot's, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Huot's, Saco, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Portland and Cape Elizabeth
The day before the race, we drove into Portland for the sole purpose of going to Lululemon. (Yeah, I know!) I needed running pants and a wicking shirt. Plus, I’d never been to Portland.

I could easily see the appeal of the city. It’s small, walkable and has a cute downtown with stone streets. We picked up my running gear at Lulu, and then spent a few hours exploring the nearby streets. We loved Sherman’s bookstore; the Coastal Maine Popcorn Co., a place that sells popcorn in every flavor; and the Holy Donut, which features potato doughnuts. Of course, we had to try the chocolate sea salt one.

From there, we drove to Cape Elizabeth.

We grabbed lunch at the Lobster Shack.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

It has the look and location of your classic New England joint: perched on a rocky shore, and decorated to the brim with fishing paraphernalia.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Yet, the lobster rolls, though pretty, didn’t blow us away.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

But watching the waves crash against the shore outside the restaurant, afterwards, made the trip worth it.

Lobster Shack, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we drove north to Portland Head Light, a beautiful lighthouse in pristine condition. I’ll admit, as we were walking up to it, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh yes—this is what a Maine lighthouse is supposed to look like!”

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Kennebunk
After the race, despite the free pizza and beer at the end, we wanted a proper celebratory seafood lunch. We opted for the Clam Shack, in Kennebunkport, which had just reopened for the season.

This was my favorite lobster roll of the trip. The meat was so fresh and sweet.

The Clam Shack, Kennebunkport, Maine | nycexpeditionist.com

Kennebunkport is a cute little tourist town, but by the time we’d finished lunch, we were zonked—getting up early for the race caught up with us. We were too tired to explore, but we mustered up enough energy to go to Rococo, an amazing ice cream parlor with flavors like goat cheese and blackberry chambord swirl, honey vanilla and whoopie pie.

It was worth it—as was running a road race just to have a good excuse to travel!