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Surviving Bolivia’s Death Road

2010 July 22

Imagine you’re barreling down a 10ft wide road at 20mph. The road, instead of smooth asphalt, is composed of loose gravel and rocks. On your right are sheer cliffs that go up several thousand feet. On your left, are sheer cliffs that go down several thousand feet. Some parts of the road are covered in water from trickling waterfalls. And every once in a while, after turning a blind corner, you’ll be fortunate enough to find yourself head-on with an oncoming truck. Oh yea, I forgot to mention, you’re riding a freaking bike.

The standard picture of the Death Road, yes I have one too.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the infamous “Death Road”.

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San Francisco, Presented in Technicolor

2010 July 20

In a couple of days, it will mark my one year anniversary of living in San Francisco. When I graduated college, I wanted to live/work in one of three cities: SF, NYC or London. Fortunately, I got myself a job in SF and have been here since.

When we settle down, we sometimes forget just how awesome and beautiful our home can be. I’ve found that pretending to be a tourist gives you a new perspective and lets you really appreciate your home town.

I’ve taken quite a few pictures over the past year and here are some of my best. So without further adieu, here’s a little taste of San Francisco:

Near Union Square

Looking down a street near Union Square.

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Forget Backpacking Europe, the World is Your Oyster

2010 July 14

Eurotrip? Fuggedaboutit.

Ahhh Europe…the land of churches, crazy nights and virgin backpacking experiences. It’s the quintessential study abroad/post-college summer romp; a whirlwind tour resulting in countless “When I was in Europe…” stories and fond, but sometimes hazy, memories. Seeing the coliseum in Rome, partying till the break of dawn in Barcelona, standing in awe of the Swiss Alps: I’m not going to lie, it was all pretty freaking awesome.

There is no doubt that Europe is an amazing continent. But sometimes people get lost in the allure of Europe and forget that the world is a big place with a lot of other amazing countries. In our 20’s, we’ll get several periods of transition, whether it be finishing school or starting a new job. Those opportunities come few and far between in our lifetimes. A lot of people use that time to backpack around Europe.

I say don’t do it. Use that time and go somewhere else. Here are five reasons why:

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Facing an Uncomfortable Reality: Beggars

2010 July 9

You’re walking down the street and you see a man sitting on the ground. He’s holding a sign with a cup out front. A moment of panic hits you. Do you walk past him or stop? Make eye contact or not? Say something or nothing?

Everyone has run into these situations while at home and backpacking (especially in third world places like Southeast Asia and South America). It always makes us slightly uncomfortable as we try to figure out what exactly to do.  Often, the judgement call is tough to make. Seeing someone in that state can depress the hell out of you and we’ve all seen Slumdog Millionaire (if you haven’t, go see it) and witnessed what they do with the beggar kids. But on the other hand, you never know what that money is going to be used for or even who it’s ultimately going to. read more…

A Tale of Two Countries

2010 July 5

They say Vietnam is one of those countries where you either love it or hate it. By the end of my two-week stay, I was definitely leaning towards the latter.

Vietnam was right in the middle of my Southeast Asia trip. I arrived in Chau Doc via boat from Phnom Penh and in a spur-of-the-moment decision, decided to head to Phu Quoc island. From there, I would make my way north, stopping in Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An and finally Hanoi. Although I have a lot of fond memories, the overriding theme of Vietnam was one of growing frustration.

A carefree moment in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

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Taking It Easy While Backpacking

2010 June 25

For those of you heading off for your backpacking adventures this summer, I want you to listen to this song:

Slow ride, take it easy. Slow ride, take it easy.

Hear that? Take it eaaaaaaasyyyyyyy.

Our everyday lives are hectic and fast-paced. Much too often, people think this is the way to go backpacking. A perfect example is the classic post-college Europe trip: an ambitious plan that attempts to cover 10 countries in 2 weeks while seeing every single church, castle and museum along the way. These are the type of trips where people spend more time on a bus than on their feet while the countries, cities and sights in front of them end up becoming a blurred mess.

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Haggling Tips for the Common Backpacker

2010 June 22

Knowing how to haggle when backpacking abroad is a very important skill to have. Unfortunately, living in America has left us ill prepared. I’m willing to bet that the majority of people living in the US don’t know to haggle. It’s no fault of our own because we live in a society where the prices are always set. Think about it, you don’t go into Starbucks and ask the cashier for a discount on your coffee, nor do you go to Safeway and haggle down the price of lettuce.

About the only times that haggling does occur in the States are when we buy big-ticket items (cars, houses, TVs, mattresses, jewelry, etc.) or when we deal with second-hand sales. But even then people might be hesitant or shy about it just because we never do it/don’t know how.

But if you’re thinking of backpacking, you need to learn the art of haggling. Places like Southeast Asia, South America, China, India (or really any place outside of the States and Western Europe) often view us as walking ATMs. It’s unfortunate but it’s something we have to deal with. As such, backpackers are often subjected to ridiculously over-inflated prices and let’s face it, no one likes getting ripped off. It sucks, it bruises your ego and you feel like an idiot when you realize how much you overpaid.

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