President Trump’s travel ban targets citizens and refugees of Muslim majority nations, sparking protests at airports across the country as well as the seemingly continuous one outside of the White House. Then Sher of SherSheGoes.com joins Without A Path to talk about her passions of fashion and scuba diving. She was also recently in Cuba during the mourning period of Fidel Castro and offers her thoughts on what increased tourism will mean for the isolated island.
Laura‘s fresh off a trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico and Joe’s off to Honduras next week. But first, Laura and Joe look back on the string of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Ankara, Istanbul and Pakistan, and discuss how these tragedies may dissuade people from traveling, but also, how statistics show it’s very unlikely you’ll be a victim of a terrorist incident. On a happier note, Laura shares thoughts on a recent Cleveland staycation.
U.S. Americans are flocking to Cuba, but you still can’t go for purely tourist reasons. Laura of Far Flung Travels shares her experience of spending five days in Cuba, including the conversations she had with people throughout the island. Then, Joe and Laura talk about carbon emissions from travel, namely flying in light of a recent YES! Magazine and Grist article from climate scientist Peter Kalmus, who lays out his reasoning for quitting flying. Should we be flying at all? Is the auto industry a bigger culprit? Should my job not exist? Without A Path gets deep!
Laura Watilo Blake of Far-Flung Travels co-hosts this episode of Without A Path to talk tech in travel. Joe also asks Laura about what she’s doing to prepare for travel in Cuba, and Laura asks Joe about his recent travels to Japan and a snowy Alaska.
Author Melanie Furlong-Riesgo joins Joe from her Halifax, Canada home to share her story of chaos in the Czech Republic, meeting her Cuban husband abroad, and escaping back to Canada. She’s also a first-time author with the release of The Last Honest Man In Havana based on stories from her husband’s family and Cuba in the 1980s.
Carol Cain, the award-winning travel and photography blogger of Girl Gone Travel, chats with Joe about her career in travel writing, getting more diversity in the field and some of her most memorable experiences around the globe. This chat was recorded in the Floridian Ballroom in the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center where Carol gave the keynote address to open the 2015 North American TBEX Convention.
The other night my wife and I watched Anthony Bourdain’s season finale to Parts Unknown set in Jamaica. In the episode, there are a couple of memorable scenes in which Bourdain converses with locals regarding their country’s tourism sector. Namely they discuss how much of Jamaica’s pristine coastline has been handed over to private resorts. One woman points out the tragic irony that it’s getting to the point that Jamaicans cannot enjoy Jamaican beaches. Continue Reading →
The day was a bust. We were halfway through our trip to Puerto Rico and Melanie and I had spent hours trying to find the alleged beaches of Fajardo to no avail. We followed windy roads, the instructions of our hotel, and could only find luxury resorts promising pools bunkered off from the rest of the town.
Though on a side note we did seemingly make a local Fajardeños’ day by attempting to converse in Spanish.
“¿Dónde está la playa?”
“Do you know where the beach is?” Melanie asked. The man, an older looking Puerto Rican probably in his 40’s, looked apologetic. He called out to his friend down the road, asking if he spoke English.
The man shrugged, prompting me to try out my four-year dormant Spanish.
“Dónde está la playa?”
His smile beamed from ear-to-ear. I began to wonder if I actually told him he just won the lottery.
“¿La playa?” he asked with excitement. “¡Sí, sí!”
He turned, pointing north and began to rattle in Spanish what I could only surmise were directions. Lost in his excitement of finding a gringo tourist attempting to speak Spanish, the man mistook a simple question for fluency.
We spent the next few minutes pointing north with the man in a poor attempt to feign comprehension.
“Oh, sí,” I repeated who knows how many times, nodding my head in a lie.
Finally, he returned the nod to signify the end of our conversation, his smile not letting up for a moment.
“Feliz Navidad,” I said with a wave.
“Oh!” he shrieked. Now I’m really thinking I told him he won the lottery. “Merry Christmas!” he muttered in broken English.
It was my first successful conversation in Spanish… In that we both walked away smiling. Unfortunately, it did not leave us on the shores of a picturesque oceanfront. Instead, we wandered aimlessly a few moments longer before giving up and returning to the hotel.
Determined, we tried again the following day, armed with new directions from another member of the Fajardo Inn staff. Again, we drove past resorts that were becoming annoyingly familiar. We decided to continue driving north on 987, Carretera Cabezas de San Juan, assuming we would eventually hit the ocean.
Alas, we did. But instead of finding paradise, we found what looked to be the equivalent of a beach graveyard.
Seemingly thousands of feet of derelict parking lots sat empty. Broken chain-link fences and fallen coconuts laid scattered around the area as if a tropical storm hit the night before.
“This is not what we were promised!” Melanie and I were thinking. It was that moment all tourists are guilty of — overvaluing the importance of our own joy trip over any concern for an area that looked badly hit by… something.
Eventually, the road turned into a neighborhood thoroughfare of sorts, at which point we decided to park and head toward what seemed to be remnants of a beach. Through yet another chain-link fence, the kind that usually signifies “danger,” there was indeed sand and water. But it lacked the vibrancy or even cleanliness we had been promised by one-off reviews on travel websites.
At this point, our humanity finally caught up with us and we began to feel a little compassion and concern for the area.
Still, we decided to soak up every last drop of this beach. It took us two days and a culturally mangled conversation to find this supposed “gem,” so we damn-well were going to make it a gem out of the experience.
We trekked along the shoreline, walking carefully to avoid stepping on or tripping over driftwood, of which there was no shortage of. The sun was out, so there was at least that, and the balmy 70-some-degree temperature was still the envy of family and friends freezing their stones off back home in Cleveland.
With all the coconuts lying around, we decided to see if we couldn’t make like Tom Hanks in Cast Away and crack one open for a drink. I found what seemed to be a large one and hammered away at it like a mentally challenged caveman. No milk for us.
Next, I thought it would be fun to play a little coconut baseball. We’d use driftwood for a baseball bat, and there was plenty of tiny coconuts to step in as baseballs.
Melanie offered to pitch first.
“Step back a little bit more,” I warned her as I went through my batting routine. Like riding a bicycle, the batting routine sticks with you for life. Mine, of course, looks infinitely more awesome in my head than I’m sure it does in reality.
“Ready?” She asked.
“Further! I don’t know where I’m going to hit it,” I shouted back as I wrapped my fingers tightly around the bat, picturing a runner on third in the bottom of the ninth of a tied ball game.
“Go for it!”
Melanie kindly lobbed the coconut over the middle of the plate. I swung, I imagined, with the might of Babe Ruth calling his shot. I felt the connection — that moment in time where life pauses and you can feel the ball resting right on the sweet spot of the bat. The connection was perfect. I knew this was coming hot off the bat.
I finished the follow through of my swing. Everything was in slow motion, like Robert Redford in The Natural. I crushed that coconut.
“Why’s Melanie on the ground?” I thought to myself as I snapped back to reality.
“You hit me in the head!” she shrieked, her body motionless on the beach.
I ran over to her side thinking I’d have quite the story to tell her parents from a Fajardo hospital.
Luckily, it turns out Melanie’s head is solid enough to take a line drive coconut without much trouble.
“I told you to step back further!” I said as I helped her up. Not exactly the words she was looking for.
Suffice it to say, coconut baseball was finished.
Throughout the afternoon we had noticed a handful of people, tourist-looking, walking up to the beach. Following the coconut incident, we also noticed that these people weren’t on the beach.
“Where did they go?” we wondered.
Before packing up for the day, we decided to follow along the shoreline to see if we had been missing something. Eventually we came to a sign posted in front of the woods, warning us that if you follow the path into the woods, you do so at your own risk. It was the kind of ominous sign that, depending on the type of person you are, begs you to find out what’s going on.
Without much thought, as most of my stories happen, we shuffled into the woods following what seemed to be a moderately traveled path. Tiny lizards dashed across the way with every step. We marched onward for what seemed to be at least a mile without anything particularly interesting coming up.
“Let’s give it another 10 minutes,” we agreed.
Remarkably on cue, we found an old sign, the kind you typically see on a highway, noting that Playa Colora was just up ahead. Moments later we stepped out of the woods onto the sandy paradise we had promised ourselves we’d find.
Indescribable blue waters as calm as a koala (they’re calm, right?) were as far as the eye could see. It was a place rivaled only by Playa Flamenco in Culebra. Those tourists we had seen before were all here, but it was hardly overrun with people. 10 or so max. It was a small enough number that we could still pretend that this was our beach.
The experience was made all the more enjoyable because of the trek we had to take in order to find it. Travelers always want to find something new or different in a place. We felt confident that most who fly to Puerto Rico probably stay locked up in their hotel to stay surrounded by their own. Their only Puerto Rican experience is the ubiquitous sun.
But standing on the rocky coast of Playa Colora, in a tree pose for some reason, it felt like we had found something even few natives get to see for themselves. We were Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, wide-eyed and thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience that will be difficult to match.
Except, of course, without the creepy second half of the movie.