Posts Tagged With: travel

World Travel Opens Minds

GUEST BLOGGER: ROB GREELEY

 

If your car starts making a pinging and a grinding sound every time you accelerate, and you know something is definitely wrong and could become worse, would you ask your neighbor who has been a mechanic for 10 years to take a look at it, or would you ask your other neighbor who is a brain surgeon to look at it?

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Now it doesn’t mean that your brain surgeon neighbor isn’t extremely intelligent, but there is a good chance that he knows nothing about cars. So naturally, we would want to take advice from someone who may know more about the subject at hand. Make sense? Ok…follow me now…

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As someone who has had the good fortune to travel and meet people from around the world, I would venture to say that a large majority of my inner circle of friends are from other countries. I can assure you citizens from around the world have to jump through many hoops, just to obtain a visitors visa, and even more hoops for a temporary or permanent residency. The cost alone is prohibitive for millions of people who would love to visit our beautiful country. In order to even apply for a visa, there is usually a large application fee ranging from $300 and up, and if their application is denied, which most of them are, that money is non-refundable, and the applicant knows that upfront, which deters many from even applying.

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The U.S. government does not have a policy of “do you want to come live here in the land of opportunity? You do? Well then come on in.” There has always been a lengthy vetting process, which explains our many years without an organized terrorist attack. And…the “what about San Bernadino” examples are blown WAY out of proportion. There are people murdered every day in America, by Americans. There always has been and there always will be. Letting someone buy a gun who has had an extensive background check does not guarantee that this person won’t at some time in the future decide to take the lives of others (regardless of where they are from) and we’ve seen this time and time again. Neither will extreme vetting. Ask yourself this: If a recent immigrant from Israel shot up a mall, do you think for one second that Israel would fall into this ban? You know they wouldn’t. Nor would Spain, or Italy, or Germany, or France. Why? Because every day when Americans kill other Americans, we don’t stop and say “OK…what is this guys heritage? Where is he from? Let’s add his country of origin to the list. The media on both sides of the aisle cherry pick examples for their side.

robgRob chilling in Brazil in 2016

I hear all of the time “if these people are going to come to our country and live in our country, they need to learn the goddamn language.” I used to say that myself when I was younger. It’s amazing how world travel is such a wonderful educational experience. Over 8 million American non military citizens live outside of the United States. And yes, they live in Iran, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Yemen. But we don’t call them immigrants, we call them “expatriates” or “expats”.

Here is what I know about expats: They tend to live in areas of a foreign city with other expats (just like foreigners do here in the U.S.) And if they wore jeans with holes in them, flip flops, and tank tops here in the U.S., that’s exactly what they wear in the country that they are living. They don’t change how they dress or try to conform to that countries attire. And while some of them take the time to learn the language of the country they are living, many do not, because they are surrounded in a community of English-speaking expats, so there is no real need to learn that language (sound familiar?).

Maybe they are just too old to want to learn another language. Maybe they tried and they’re just not quick at picking up a second language. So if Americans are allowed to dress the way they always have, pray the way they always have, speak the language they always have while living in these other countries, why do we insist that immigrants living in our communities change these things? These countries are not intimidated about allowing Americans to live in their communities…fearing that their people will begin wearing holes in their jeans etc… We think it’s so cool that Europeans speak multiple languages, but cry at the thought of learning a second language in our own country. Europeans learn multiple languages so they can communicate easily with their neighboring countries and members from those countries living and working in their country, as so they can go and work and live in those neighboring countries.

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I have many Muslim friends, so let me tell you a little bit about them. They love to drink coffee in the mornings just like we do. They like to watch Big Bang Theory just like we do. They get excited over a BOGO just like we do. They like to go to the beach just like we do. They love to go to the movie theater just like we do. They love to take their families to the park just like we do. They cram for their exams just like we do. They love to scroll through Facebook and upload photos of their dinner just like we do. They love to drink craft beers just like we do. They get sad when they see wrong in the world, just like we do. And here’s another thing – they get angry and upset with terrorist activities – anywhere in the world, just like we do. I’ve lived with Muslims, I’ve drank with them, I’ve worked with them, I’ve traveled with them. They are not trying to change us or our way of life.

I feel pretty confident that those Americans who feel so strong about keeping them out of our country have never had a Muslim friend or even as much as had a conversation with one, and have never seen a visa application to enter the U.S., or the extreme lines at our airports at customs and immigration as visitors from around the world are interrogated for sometimes hours as they enter our country, and fall victim to the unrealistic fear that they are here and determined to change our way of life, when nothing could be further from the truth.

So take it from someone who knows a little about the subject matter. Take a little time to educate yourself, and those around you. Both side of the political aisle play us against each other…but knowledge is power, and the truth will set you free.

Rob Greeley has traveled extensively. 

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China: Hutong Cooking

It was a lovely day in April, so why not go get lost in the seemingly unending network of hutongs – the traditional Chinese neighborhoods – in Beijing, China. As I strolled through these labyrinths of narrow streets and alleys with their hidden courtyards surrounded by apartments, it was evident that food was central to life here. No need to travel far eat. On just about every street corner in this neighborhood, there was cooking on the streets, even at restaurants, the kitchens were essentially outside, enticing would-be diners.

Here, fried dough and steam buns stuffed with pork and spices. Like so many places around the world, China is all about food. Eating is central to everything families do, an activity that bonds people. “Family style” eating has been part of Chinese culture for centuries. Lots of dishes come out and everybody shares.

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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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