Posts Tagged With: Ecuador

For Americans Considering A Move to Canada (If Donald Trump Becomes President)

If you are praying that Donald Trump isn't elected President of the United States and your prayers fail, no need to move to Canada. Come join these folks in Bangkok, Thailand, and pray he doesn't turn the world upside down

If you are praying that Donald Trump isn’t elected President of the United States and your prayers fail, no need to move to Canada. Come join these folks in Bangkok, Thailand, and pray for the world. Maybe make and offering. 🙂

 

So much talk from Americans about leaving the United States should Donald Trump become president. Canada appears to be where all these disgruntled Americans will be headed en masse, aiming straight for the northern border where hopefully “The Donald” will be too distracted building his “Great Wall” on the southern border and waging war with the world that he won’t notice the grand exodus to the north.

Canadians, of course, are not relishing this notion of Americans flocking like ants across the border to spend the next four years. They’d rather their pesky cousins stay home. Such is the relationship between Americans and Canadians. It’s best described as siblings who care about each other but can only stand the sight of each other for so much time. At least that’s the point of view of many Canadians. Have you listened to Canadian talk radio lately? 🙂

My fellow Americans,  there are hundreds of countries in this world, be more adventurous! Canada is the lazy way out and so Vietnam-era. If you are going to leave the good old U.S. of A. for four years, at least try to live it up! Canada is safe harbor. Try the expanse of the ocean, a desert’s endless stretch, a mountain full of hope, a placid beach or big waves. Plop down in a developing country and maybe do your bit to help it develop. Teach English. Learn a different culture, another language. Injoy. That’s not a misspelling: Injoy. Let joy come from within. And unleash it. Forget Canada! Make this hiatus worth your while. And use it to let the rest of the world know we’re not all like Donald Trump. Not sold? Okay, how about this: It’s freakin’ freezing in  Canada. You might as well move to Alaska. At least you’d still be in the U.S.A. and not run the risk of returning to the U.S. attaching “eh” to the end of every sentence.

“how’d you like that ice cream, eh?”

Having traveled to more than 100 countries in the course of my lifetime, I’m in a good position to offer alternatives to Canada to all Americans considering escaping the U.S. while “The Donald” is wrecking it and making an even bigger mess of the world.

I’ve spent weeks and in some cases months in these places. I know them firsthand. They’ve been carefully chosen to satisfy all types of individuals and lifestyles. And they’re all better infinitely better than twiddling your thumb while you’re freezing your butt off in Canada. Did you know it snows in Canada even in the summer? Okay, no it doesn’t, that was a last-ditch effort to have you choose, say, Singapore. Never been there, but I hear it’s nice.

And alright, maybe none of these offerings are better than Canada, but you will certainly be better off choosing one of them if you want those four years to go by fast. Remember time flies when you’re having fun.

Besides, since you’ll be away for at least four years, unless “The Donald” is impeach within the first week in office for something he said or more likely did, location is everything. All these alternative countries to Canada have also been chosen based on neighboring countries. So if you by chance get bored with the country you’re in, you can travel to neighboring countries to mix things up, get back your mojo.

Alright, let’s do this. Here are my 10 alternatives countries for Americans ready to move to Canada to escape President Trump.

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  1. Medellin, Colombia: The weather is always perfect, the it’s the home of Botero, the beer is cheap, the food is great, the city has a nice vibe, the people are super friendly and welcoming and the party zone is one of the best in all of South America. Okay, I hear the groans: Isn’t Colombia dangerous? Doesn’t Medellin have a drug cartel named after it? Wasn’t this the kingdom of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar? Won’t I get shot or blown to bits upon arrival? No, yes, yes, no. Let me say this for the record. Colombia is not the same country you heard or read about on the news. Yes, there are still pockets of danger, but you know where they are and you have no business going there unless you know somebody who lives there or you are going to score some coke – highly not recommended! Stay within bounds of the city, ask locals, hang with locals, they know the deal. Medellin also has great shopping malls. Word of caution to the wannabe players: if you see a stunning woman – there are many – well put together, built of shall we say, some plastic, in a nightclub or bar, do not approach. Stand back and observe first. Make sure she’s not there with her sugar daddy kingpin, otherwise you will find yourself in a world of hurting. You’ve been warned, player. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia

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  2. Zürich, Switzerland: I once traveled from the United States to Zürich just to buy a watch I saw in a magazine. The watch was not yet available in the U.S. Yes, those were the days I could hop on a plane on a whim and go anywhere my heart desired. After my mission was accomplished, I stuck around Zürich for a few days and fell in love with the city. Diverse, friendly, hip, happening, great vibes. I hear you still groaning: It’s damn expensive! Yes, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries on Earth. While there I tried not to pay attention to my bill. But one day, I took a peek at how much one beer I was drinking cost, and almost fell off my bar stool: $10 for one beer! What had I just ordered, brew imported from the ends of the Earth? Anyway, Switzerland is an amazingly beautiful country, especially if you love the outdoors. And those Alps! You can’t beat them for scenic beauty. It’s a small country, so it’s easy to get around. Great place to spend for years. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT:  Austria, France, Italy, Germany

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  3. Cuenca, Ecuador: Worried about your inability to speak Spanish? Don’t worry, there are so many “gringos” living here that English is the unofficial second language. Just about every turn I took in Cuenca I bumped into Americans speaking English or very bad Spanish. Most of them are retirees. Who knew that Cuenca was such a big draw for U.S. retirees? They live well here on their pensions. And because there are so many Americans, many businesses have clerks on hand that speak English. I didn’t particularly care for this side of Cuenca. After all, I had left the United States and I felt like I was on an unending tour with so many Americans around. On the positive, you won’t have any shortage of people ready and able to give you tips and directions in English. Beyond this, Cuenca is a cool city, with Inca ruins and great restaurants. It has a nightlife as well. Lots of hostels full of backpackers. I enjoyed Cuenca. You will, too. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Peru, Colombia, Galapagos

  4.  Wroclaw, Poland: Yes, there’s Warsaw, the capital and financial center. And Krakow. And even Gdansk, which I absolutely loved, especially its Old Town in winter. But Wroclaw, once part of Germany, is such a cool town, with its centuries old buildings that the Germans spared during World War II. Its town squares and bars and restaurants, the city teems with people from all around the world. Not a bad place to spend your next four years. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Norway

  5. Lagos, Portugal: You’d rather spend the next four years forgetting Donald Trump even exists? This is your great escape. Breathtaking beaches, mild winters, sizzling summers that attract party people looking for fun, but also families on holiday. Lagos is it! The town shuts down in winter, with a few businesses remaining open year-round, but come March the place begins to come alive. Careful here. You might become one of those people who came to Lagos for a weekend visit and stayed 10 years and counting. Which might be a good thing should Trump get reelected to a second 4-year term. You must go to Nah Nah Bah restaurant if you love burgers. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Spain, Morocco, Italy

  6. Santorini, Greece: Athens has the antiquities but it lacks a soul and it definitely lacks friendly people. Worst experience I’ve had anywhere. But get out of Athens and get to the islands and it’s night and day. The people outside of Athens are super friendly, welcoming and helpful. Santorini is amazing, overlooking the bluest waters of the Mediterranean. With Greece’s recent economic woes, things are even cheaper. Greece is all about relaxing and “The Donald” will be far from your mind on Santorini, as you sit on one of its narrow streets sipping coffee in the morning or beer at night. Or beer in the morning and coffee at night. Santorini is where I intend some day to drop out of society and chill for the rest of my days. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel

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  7. Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Ecuador, again. Such as small country with so much. By the way, I also LOVED Montanita. If you are a hippie or you just want to know what it’s like to be a hippie, Vilcabamba and Montanita are for you. Vilcabamba is where the Inca royalty came to play and relax. It was their retreat. Lots of trails to explore. The pace in Vilcabamba is extremely slow, so if its wild excitement you are looking for, look elsewhere. then again, it’s a great place to tune out from what “The Donald” is doing to the rest of the world, like ending it. Oh yah, like Cuenca, you will come across a fair share of Americans and Canadians, so you won’t feel bad about skipping Canada. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Chile

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  8. Bangkok, Thailand: If hot tropical weather, dirt cheap living, spicy food, best street food ever is what you need, look no further than Bangkok. This is a good place to sort of drop out and escape four years of Donald Trump. Enough here to hold your attention. Best way to get around is by riverboat. Lots of temples and Buddhas everywhere. Many similarities to China except freer, more open society. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, China

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  9. Berlin, Germany: So much history, a rich art scene, Berlin is popping. It’s my favorite city in Germany, although Cologne and Hamburg are cool, too. Check out the remnants of the Berlin Wall. Check out the public toilet that is now a burger joint. Just check it out. Every turn you take in Berlin will remind you of why you left the U.S. – “The Donald”, of course. Say no to fascism, right? Drawback: You will have to learn German. Oh, you might be able to get away with not speaking German for a while, but not for four years. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Denmark, Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Poland

  10. Fiji: The ultimate middle digit to “The Donald” – a tropical island where you can lounge in a hammock by the ocean, live in a wooden house built over the ocean, eating fresh seafood all day and drinking coconut milk. Indulge with tropical cocktails. Walk around topless all the time. Be king or queen in paradise. Live it up. You can check after four years to see if “The Donald” will be handed four more years in the White House. And if that’s the case, smile as you contemplate staying on 4 more years! Yes! Four more years. Life is good. NEIGHBORS TO VISIT: Hopefully none

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Lost Of His Kind

Lost Of His Kind

Lonesome George, gone but soon forgotten?

For years, his species was thought to be extinct. Then on Pinta Island in the island chain of Galapagos, there he was, roaming the place alone.
Scientist immediately identified him as a Pinta Island Tortoise, and searched the island for more. Sadly, he was the only one, a male who came to be known as Lonesome George.
On Sunday, June 24, 2012, after more than 100 years on this Earth, Lonesome George died. He was found dead by his keeper, the very same man who discovered him on Pinta Island in 1972. Lonesome George lived at the Charles Darwin Research Station, where he spent his days in a pen.
Travelers from around the world by the thousands would flock to Galapagos to have a look at George. I was fortunate to be among them last summer when I visited the Galapagos, hands down one of my favorite places on Earth.
George’s death, which was announced by the research center on Twitter, shocked the nation of Ecuador, despite his advanced years – more than 100. News of his death slowly trickled out from the island. I learned about his death through Facebook postings from friends in Ecuador and Galapagos itselt. Certainly it’s a lost for the country, but it’s a bigger loss for humankind, as another animal species has gone extinct.
Sadly, there will never be another Lonesome George.

Oh, but if only…

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Mistakes, I Made A Few

Her backpack: Indigenous woman in Cotopaxi, Ecuador, several thousand feet above sea level where oxygen is hardly plentiful. And she manages to still smile

“Has it been a year?” a friend asked, as I stood in his dining room in Miami. “Yes, I’ve been gone exactly a year,” I replied, feeling somewhat uncertain myself.

It was hard to believe that a year ago last month  I left the United States for Colombia, where I started this great global adventure. Hard to believe how much ground I covered by road and how many people I met along the way. How many lives I touched and how many lives touched mine. I am not the same person that left the United States last February. I am changed, for the better, I think. I know more about South America and South Americans. I’ve seen more. I’ve learned a thing or two about tolerance, and above all, patience. You have to be an extremely patient traveling for a year in the Third World. You must adjust to all sorts of situations and customs.

I bit my tongue – mostly – when someone tried to lecture me about the evils of the United States. I listened and nodded and sometimes even agreed with the disagreeable.

South America was great in so many ways. I am now back in the United States. In Miami, to be exact, nursing an injured knee, the result of a tumble in Chile.

My backpack: Compared to what she's carrying above, maybe I should quit whining... 🙂

The knee seemed to bounced back to health, but as I started to make my way across Argentina and Uruguay, with a backpack that seemed to weigh more with every step, the pain returned. So after limping around Montevideo for a while, I hopped online onto the American Airlines website and booked a flight to Miami. The plan: see a doctor about the knee, take it easy and start anew in Europe.  That was the plan. This month, my doctors have had a thing or two to say about that. After X-rays, physical therapy for up to three months has been ordered. I start April 9. Not exactly the way I had hoped things would turn out, but also not as bad as it could have been. No need for surgery, for instance. That’s good news. Bad news, I am in Miami instead of Brazil, which I had to skip to deal with the knee. No worries, new plan is Brazil has been appended to 2013, but more likely early 2014 given my detour.

Meanwhile in Miami, I’ve had time to reflect on the year that was.  What I did, what I would do differently. And with this entry, I hope you, dear future traveler, will learn from my mistakes. I list a few:

1. The Backpack: Mistake number one. I bought the biggest one on the market – 91 liters – but nobody told me that amount of weight is nearly impossible to carry fully loaded, uphill, up stairs, for long periods, especially for a man who weighs 170 puny pounds. (My weight at the start of my trip was more than 190 pounds, at times closing in on 200 pounds).

But I carried two backpacks, so there! 🙂
In Santiago, Chile.

Some might say I don’t have to fill the backpack with the kitchen sink, but another unforeseen problem with a pack that size is it has to have a certain amount of stuff in it, otherwise the fasteners won’t close properly. So then you are forced to load up with stuff you really shouldn’t be carrying. So my advice is buy a backpack built to carry the minimum you will need on the trip, not the maximum. You may find yourself wearing the same clothes more often, but your legs, spine and shoulders will thank you for it.

2. The Fights: So the stranger learns I’m American and I get one of two reactions – love or hate. The United States is not the most popular nation on Earth. That has been made very clear to me across South America, with one individual after another laying into me about Iraq, Guantanamo, American imperialism, 9-11, on and on. From Colombia all the way down to Argentina, I heard from individuals who really believe that the United States government blew up the World Trade Center and crashed planes into the Pentagon as a pretext to attack Iraq.  Really? These conspiracy theorists were fed this story line by conspiracy theorists in the United States. So I can’t really fault their ignorance.

Sometimes I would allow people to go on and on and have their say. Sometimes I would challenge their assertions. And that more often than not was a mistake. People form their own opinions and they won’t change it no matter how much rational reasoning you try to impart. So my attempts to set the record straight often ended in disagreement. Henceforth, I will just shut up and smile.

3. Voices Inside My Head!: As most of you know, I’ve been couch surfing my way around the world. It’s been amazing, but not always smooth sailing. And it’s been those times when I didn’t listen to that voice in my head that said “go to a hostel or a hotel”. When traveling in a strange land, go with your gut! It’s nature’s way of alerting you that something is amiss, perhaps even dangerous. The times I ignored that little voice inside my head I ran smack into trouble and had a bad experience. Nothing major, just unpleasant. When the voice told me to find someplace else to stay, I should have listened. When it told me not to attempt to go down that canyon, I should have listened. When it told me….well, you get the idea.

Knee Issues: Herein may have lay part of the stressed knee problem! Not enough leg room on some buses in South America for people more than five feet tall!
Two-plus hours on a bus - in this position - to Santa Marta, Colombia

4. Tentative – I bought a tent for this trip and it was one of the things I ended up shipping back to the United States because I was carrying way too much. I should have kept the tent! Housing is important and that tent would have come in handy throughout South America. I had used it only a couple of times and thought I would not use it again. Wrong! So many places that allow camping and it would have been great to have it and awake in some beautiful spots. The  tent stays with me on the rest of the journey.

5. Thanks For The Advice: When you travel you will run in to people who have advice as to where and where not to go. What to see and what to skip. Opinions, opinions, opinions. But it’s your trip and if you have your heart set on someplace, do not allow others to dissuade you. Do your own research and decided for yourself if it’s worth it. A couple of times, against my better judgment, I skipped a couple of places then heard from others that those places were phenomenal. For instance, I am hearing from some that the Egyptian Pyramids are a bore. No amount of criticism of the pyramids will keep me out of Egypt. I will draw my own conclusions about the pyramids.

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