Thursday, January 02, 2014
If you haven't noticed, it's been a good while since I've posted an update here. That's because much of the blogging activity is happening over on Tumblr. I'm still debating whether or not to make a full transition (including domain name) but for now, please visit follow-eric.tumblr.com for all the latest.
Monday, October 07, 2013
It's that time of year again. Time for hot air balloonists from around the world to descend on Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta.
As a local, it's always a mark of shame when I can't make it out to one of the nine days the fiesta is in operation. This year I didn't want to let that happen.
So I made plans with a friend to go out bright and early this morning. And by bright and early, I really mean dark and early. We were out on the field by 5:30 a.m., before the big crowds and before the sun had a chance to rise.
We wanted to catch the Dawn Patrol--the first set of balloons that take off before the sun comes up. They give other balloonists an idea of where the winds might take them that morning and make for a spectacular sight in the starry sky.
After the Dawn Patrol has lifted off, it's time for everyone else to prepare for the Mass Ascension. As a kid, the name always made me think of some religious service you might find scheduled at a Catholic church. As an adult I realize the Mass Ascension really does resemble a religious experience, with hundreds of balloons decorating the cathedral of the sky like stained glass.
One of the unique aspects of the Balloon Fiesta is the freedom everyone has to walk around the field as the balloonists unravel and inflate in preparation for liftoff. It brings out the kid in everyone.
If you've never been to a fiesta, even if you live in another state, you have to go. And if you're a local who can't find the time to go, make the time. It's worth it. Absolutely worth it.
More info: balloonfiesta.com
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
If I were in San Juan this week instead of a couple weeks ago, I wouldn't have had the chance to visit what turned out to be one of my favorite sites.
That's because the effects of the shutdown of the United States government extend all the way to the small island of Puerto Rico, where the National Park Service maintains two of Old San Juan's most impressive sites: Castillo de San Cristóbal and Castillo Felipe del Morro.
Today they are cerrados--closed--because of the shutdown. And that means people won't get to see some of the best vistas of Old San Juan.
And history buffs won't get to see how the Spanish defended against the first attacks by the English in 1595 or where the first shots of World War I were fired on behalf of the United States in 1915.
And visitors like me wouldn't get the chance to explore the multi-level historic sites and all the interesting nooks and crannies along the way.
It bums me out that people in San Juan right now won't have the chance to visit either site today. Of course, my hope is for a speedy return to normal operations as soon as possible.
Want more info on the history of each site? That's what Wikipedia is for.
Castillo de San Cristóbal
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Here's a story from my first night in San Juan.
"That's how I found myself filming an impromptu music video on the pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 3 a.m., with people I had met maybe six hours earlier."
It was my first night in Puerto Rico. I had arrived around midday, settled into my hostel, and had already done a good bit of exploring and eating. Thanks to jet lag and an afternoon nap in my windowless but well air-conditioned hostel room, I found myself wide awake even as night came. Unable to sleep inside the confines of what I'm pretty sure was originally a laundry room or utility closet, I decided to slip on my flip-flops, grab a book, and head out to one of the hostel's common areas.
There I found a small gaggle of fellow travelers. They were loud and boisterous, discussing topics like the importance of love and negligible value of marriage.
Indian accents mingled with European accents with an unclear origin (Serbian, I would later learn). In fact, there were no Americans to be seen or heard until a group of three stopped by, left, and returned with fresh rations of rum.
I was still thumbing through my copy of Vagabonding, an insightful book by Rolf Potts on the subject of long-term travel, when I came across a section on adventure.
The key in all of this is to trust chance, and to steer it in such a way that you’re always learning from it. Dare yourself to do simple things you normally wouldn’t consider—whether this means exploring a random canyon, taking up an invitation to dine with a stranger, or just stopping all activity to experience a moment more fully. These are the kinds of humble choices—each of them as bold as bungee jumping—that lead not only to new discoveries but to an uncommon feeling of hard-won joy.For me, daring myself to something simple meant interacting with people I didn't know. I can hide it well but I'm incredibly shy around new people. I'm not as bad as I once was, and encounters like this have certainly helped me build more confidence.
So when the Americans asked if I wanted to join them for drinks and cards, I readily accepted.
The night unfolded with quick introductions. I met Frances and Jessica, who went to college together in California, and Matt, originally from California, currently living in Austin. Matt was also traveling solo in Puerto Rico and it was reassuring to know I wasn't the only one crazy enough to venture out on my own.
We played brisca, an Italian card game, popular in the Northern Mediterranean and, for whatever reason, Puerto Rico. It took us hours to get through a single game, in large part because of the hilarious antics of Frances and Jessica, a comedic duo who were the best kind of crazy.
It was their last night in Puerto Rico and they wanted to go out with a bang. Unfortunately, nothing is open at 2 a.m. in the middle of the week in Old San Juan. Undeterred, we chose to go out exploring anyway. I left to my room to swap my flip-flops for walking shoes and when I came back, I was a little shocked at what I found.
All three of them were performing a rendition of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. It was as hilarious as it sounds. And I would call it ridiculous if it weren't at least a little poignant.
When's it my turn?After they concluded their performance on the balcony, we ventured out on the streets. We passed by a dozen or so slumbering homeless men, ran into some bar employees just as they were closing up shop, and made it out to the pier where the ritzy cruise ships would come to dock.
Wouldn't I love, love to explore that world up above?
While we stared out over the dark waters, Frances and Jessica revealed their little musical secret--they were part of a singing duo and needed some footage for a little music video they wanted to put together.
Before I knew it, we had cameras out, framing shots as they lip-synced one of their original songs.
That's how I found myself filming an impromptu music video on the pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 3 a.m., with people I had met maybe six hours earlier.
And by the time I got back to my little windowless utility closet and turned out the lights, I found myself filing away the memories with a goofy grin on my face, knowing I had already made my trip to Puerto Rico all worthwhile.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
When I tell people about my upcoming travel plans, I get a very common response. It usually goes something likes this.
Me: I'm going to Puerto Rico!It's inevitable. Whenever I tell someone about my plans to travel, they immediately want to know with whom I'm traveling. And they're always surprised when I say I'm going solo.
Them: That's cool. With who?
Me: I'm going by myself.
Them: Really? That's crazy.
The same thing happened when I told my friends I was going to New York City. At first, I tried to convince other friends to drop everything in their schedule and go with me, but I soon realized how futile my efforts were. So this time around, I booked my flight and hostel without announcing it to any friends. I told one person about my plans before I clicked book now.
It was more liberating this way. I felt the same way while wandering the streets of New York. I didn't have any particular agenda so I was free to pick and choose what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go without having to give consideration to anybody else.
Maybe it's selfish. Maybe it's self-centered. But I believe solo travel is a perfectly viable option for some people. Don't believe me? Here's proof from a variety of sites I've been scouring for solo travel tips.
- Single Travel: Tips for Going Solo from IndependentTraveler.com
- Ten Tips for Surviving Solo Travel from RoughGuides.com
- How To: Travel Alone from AskMen.com
- 20 tips for solo travellers from HostelWorld.com
Thursday, September 12, 2013
For those who have been following my blog over the years, you'll know the term Blogathon is nothing new. But this is a new breed of Blogathon and future excursions will be centered around travel and exploration. I've been working up my list of places I'd like to visit all over the United States and eventually the world. It might seem a little crazy but then again, I might just be crazy enough to pull it off.
Now let me see if I can answer some of the questions you might be thinking in your head right now...
It's just me, myself, and I. I'm not sure why this surprises so many people. Solo travel isn't anything new. In fact, there are plenty of advantages to going it alone. It's easier to plan your time and navigate around a city. I'll admit, it makes me a little nervous to be alone. It's not that I'm all that concerned about safety, it's just that I enjoy the company of others and being alone in a new city can be a little daunting. Then again, I traveled to NYC on my own and loved it so I'm going forward with a boost of optimism.
When are you going?
I catch a JetBlue redeye to NYC on Tuesday, September 17th where I'll connect to a morning flight headed to San Juan. I should finally arrive at my hostel on Wednesday around midday. I'll then have until Saturday the 21st to explore the city before I have to return.
Where are you going?
I'll be staying at a hostel in the middle of Old San Juan. It'll put me within walking distance of just about everything in the area.
What will you be doing?
I'll be doing what I always do: exploring the local and sharing the personal. I don't have an itinerary or agenda. I have a few restaurants I want to try and sights to see but I'm not setting anything in stone until I arrive. I'm sure I'll eat plenty plenty of plantain dishes and relax on the beach at some point but I won't really know until I'm there.
Why are you doing this?
That's a good question. I'm doing it for a few reasons. The biggest reason is because I'm falling in love with travel. It's been a slow process. Between my trips to El Paso and California and NYC, I've been developing a taste for exploration in new cities. I still keep to the same practices of eating and shopping exclusively at local businesses just like I do here in Albuquerque. But it's prime time for me to grow my world a little bigger. Or a lot bigger. I'm in my twenties, I'm in a favorable position, and I have the opportunity to get out and see the world. Of course I'm going to take advantage of it.
I think Puerto Rico will make a great kickoff to this new brand of Blogathon. It's about as far away as I can travel without needing a passport and it'll be all new territory for me.
I hope you're as excited about it as I am because you're my virtual guests. I hope you'll join me for the adventure online. Remember, it's called Follow Eric so make sure you're connected through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If I have dependable access to Wi-Fi out there, I'm hoping to share daily videos on YouTube so make sure you're also subscribed to my channel.
Here, I'll try to make it even easier for you...
Alright now that you're fully connected, any more questions? Comments?
Thursday, September 05, 2013
My flight is booked and I've reserved a room at a hostel in the middle of Old San Juan. That's it.
Luckily, I don't need a passport or vaccinations and my phone should still work the same as it does in the states. So really, there's very little prep work to do.
However, I did make one small purchase ahead of my departure. I bought a waterproof bag for my phone.
It makes me nervous as heck but the reviews were really good and I did my own testing with a paper towel inside the pouch and it stayed dry underwater so I think I'm willing to trust my phone in it now. My main reason for getting it is so I don't have to leave my phone behind when I venture out into the ocean when I'm spending time on the beach.
It also means the possibility of some pics and video while out on the water. In fact, I'm also toying with the idea of daily videos while in Puerto Rico so this option could come in handy.
What do you think? Would you be interested in video updates from my trip? Let me know in the comments. You can also take a second to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you'll be among the first to know when a video goes live.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
MTT works with food trucks around the country to design and create unique t-shirts that represent the heart and soul of each truck. Now MTT is opening up to food truck fanatics like myself to create shirts that all lovers of mobile cuisine can appreciate. We've cooked up a few designs and I'm happy to announce that they're now available for you to buy and wear! Take your pick from these designs.
Now that you've picked out your favorite design, head over to the MTT store and buy some.
Q: Which is your favorite design? Leave a comment below...