Hello there, dear reader.
I know I’ve been off the grid for a while, but just thought I’d pop in to let you know that: Yes. I’m still alive. And no, I haven’t abandoned the blog. But I have intentionally taken some time away from it to work on and begin planning a couple of other pursuits.
One of these pursuits, I’m really excited about. I will be writing / blogging for Beer Connoisseur Magazine. One of my work colleagues who’s also working on the magazine extended the invitation for me to chat with Lynn Davis, the founder of Beer Connoisseur Magazine. After we talked, they agreed to let me write a blog all about my experiences in becoming a beer connoisseur. Is that a perfect gig or what? Drink beer. Write. Repeat. Love it! This magazine is going to be an excellent addition to the growing culture beer geeks and aficionados. The online version of the magazine launches in June. If you want to keep up with the progress outside of me telling you, check out Beer Connoisseur Magazine on Facebook and on Twitter. And keep your eyes on http://www.beerconnoisseur.com
Since starting the blog over a year ago, I’ve had other great opportunities like this one come up, and I’ve met some really cool people, many of whom actually dig my writing. It feels good when that happens. It feels even better when I can leverage those experiences and contacts to write more often and in different capacities.
A few weeks ago I read my horoscope in Creative Loafing. I’m not big on daily horoscopes, but I always like reading Free Will Astrology in the Loaf. It’s very creatively written, and always makes me smile or ponder. Here’s what I read that day:
You’re trying to look relaxed even though you have one foot on a dock and one foot on a boat as the boat pulls away. How should we interpret this scene? Here’s what I think: It seems likely that at any minute now you will have to commit yourself to either the dock, the boat, or the water.
A very poignant message that made me stop for a second and think. I sort of am in this in-between place of wanting to succeed at the full-time gig, but also wanting to succeed at writing. Which is why I decided to take some time and really give thought to what I want to do with this blogging/writing thing long term. Plus, birthdays are always a good time for self-reflection and goal-setting, pace changing and the like. Oh, I did mention that Friday was my birthday right? Please forward along cash, credit, adult beverages, and well wishes as you see fit.
Yep, it’s the official start of Year 32 for me. Not the most exciting of milestones. But it does mean I’m only one year away from being the same age Jesus was when he blew up. So, if I’m using JC as my role model, between now and next May I have to learn how to: walk on water, turn water into wine (Or beer. For research purposes, you know), raise the dead, heal the sick, make the blind see, and recruit me a down-ass crew of diehards. I’m hoping I’ll also learn how to spot a hater from a mile away, so I won’t have to deal with that messy betrayal and crucifixion bit. Yep, it’s going to be a busy time for the empire.
Good thing is, I’m writing you from day 3 of a 6-day Mexican vacation, so I’m already resting up in preparation for the year ahead. I’ll be writing about the trip and posting pictures after I return, but I thought I’d share some travel planning tools that I’ve found to be very useful for this and other vacations. If you’re a frequent traveler, a lot of these might be old news to you, but quite a few people I’ve spoken with hadn’t heard of them, so I thought it was still worth sharing.
First, A Word on My Travel Style
I’m a little bit more adventurous than a lot of folks, but not completely. I like to get a taste of the local culture, food, and people, so I’m okay with being in places that are a little off the beaten path. I prefer not to stay in all-inclusives (Jamaica being an exception), or extremely touristy areas. I often try to get in multiple destinations in a single trip, if they’re reasonably close together. My idea of a vacation is getting away from what my everyday experience is like, not going to someplace that is almost exactly like my everyday experience.
Pricing Flights, Hotels, Packages
Whenever I decide to travel somewhere, I spend a lot of time on the Internets price-hunting, and comparing different deals on different sites. I’m not a bottom basement bargain traveler, though. I’ll pay a little extra if a place is really unique, or it’s a special occasion. Or to know my exact flight time and hotel name before I purchase. Here are the sites I relied on heavily for this trip:
Trip Advisor – the reviews on this site are absolutely indispensable if you want to know the real deal on any number of hotels and vacation destinations. Opinions from real people will give you the details that the hotel websites simply won’t.
Beachdestinations.com – lots of reasonably priced vacation packages to different beach destinations, arranged by region. Their sister site, europeandestinations.com offers the same types of packages for Europe.
Expedia – tried and true. Especially good for comparison price checking on hotels.
Getting to Know the Area
Once I decided to go to Mexico, I narrowed down which areas I’d be interested in. On the list was: Cabo, Manzanillo, Oaxaca, and the Mayan Riviera on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Flights to Cabo and Oaxaca were kinda steep, and Manzanillo seemed a little too laid-back and quiet. I finally settled on the Mayan Riviera because it seemed to offer the best of both worlds. As a compromise with the beau, I decided on 2 days at an all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen, and the rest of the time in nearby Tulum – which has a get away from it all, beach-bum kind of vibe and is close to a major ecological preserve. Here’s where I went to help make that decision:
Uncle Sam’s Advice
2 days after I booked my flight, swine flu. Great timing. I immediately added the following site to my list, which I’d also checked beforehand to make sure I wouldn’t end up getting shot by drug lords.
US Travel Advisory
Speaking the Language
I’m decent at Spanish, My vocab is a bit better than basic, and I can fake a good accent. I really enjoy getting to practice when I travel, it makes for some memorable moments and is part of the overall adventure, as evidenced by last year’s trip to Panama. Radio Lingua publishes free podcast lessons for Spanish and many other languages. The lessons are arranged by type of situation (e.g., driving, eating out, etc.), which I like, because I can select the situations where my vocab is weaker. Easy to carry along on my mp3 player, for listening on the plane and in the car. One funny thing about these podcasts is that the ‘teachers’ are Scottish. It’s funny as hell hearing a Scottish person speak Spanish. So even if I retain nothing, it was free entertainment. Check them out here.
Oh, and given the swine flu situation, I made sure that I had the following key phrases memorized:
I am sick
Donde esta la hospital?
Where is the hospital?
Donde puedo comprar una mascara quirurgica?
Where can I buy a surgical mask?
Perdona me, Senor. Pero si no cobres tu boca, voy a cortarte.
Excuse me sir, but if you don’t cover your mouth, I am going to cut you.
Si voy a morir, quiero morir a la playa.
If I’m going to die, I want to die at the beach.
Of course, the travel advisory has been rolled back, so I most likely won’t need any of these phrases.
I got my merit badge on packing smart during my days as a road warrior consultant. The basics haven’t lapsed, but there were a few things in the following article on Dumb Little Man explaining tips on packing smart that I hadn’t considered before, namely:
If you’re traveling with a partner, discuss your joint luggage strategy
Tuck a written list of toiletries in your bag.
Head over to Dumb Little Man to see the other tips.
That’s all for now kids. Talk to you soon.