This week we are taking a break from publishing any content so that we can spend time with our family. Please check back next Friday, as we publish our look back over 2021 and a sneak peak into what is coming in 2022.
Andrea and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
The notes for this story were gathered in September of 2019. A time that seems so long ago as the experiences and people met for this story were curated during a pre-pandemic world. But, I along with so many others had know idea just how much our world was about to change.
In an effort to do some housekeeping on all of the places I put notes and ideas for stories, I began sifting through a myriad of journals, scraps of paper, and electronic notes. In doing so I came across my musings about Chicago and decided to resurrect this story for you. I hope you enjoy.
I have had the privilege of visiting Chicago several times and let me say, every time I am completely blown away. This is an amazing city brimming with fantastic food, a great but somewhat hidden craft beer scene, fantastic bars, beautiful parks and literally some of the nicest people I have met while traveling in a large major US city.
For me, and perhaps many others, my perception of Chicago was hot dogs with bright green relish, deep dish pizzas, and the Ell. But let me tell you, this city has so much more to offer to someone who chooses to visit.
And while this city is chock full of amazing food (seriously need to try the Italian Hot Beef sandwich from Al’s), great beers, impressive museums, gorgeous parks, and wonderful public art, the one thing that stood out for me in what is one of the largest US cities, are the people. Everyone is genuinely friendly.
So it is this friendliness, coupled with some amazing beers and bacon that I want to share with you a place that I believe embodies all things Chicago.
The Centennial Bar is nestled just off the corner of North LaSalle Drive and Superior Street. This local establishment focuses its efforts on craft beer and high quality food. Having visited twice during our time in Chicago, the Centennial came to embody what is for me a complete representation of all the wonderful things that are Chicago. Great people, great beer, and great food. Like all good discoveries, we stumbled upon this place in the never-ending quest for new beers and unique foods.
The Centennial is carved into a beautiful 4 story building that dates back to 1888 and welcomes the thirsty visitor with an exposed wood, brick and metal design that perfectly complement each other to create a welcome and relaxing vibe in which to enjoy one of the many rotating craft beers on tap or in the bottle. And if you are hungry, the food is of exceptional quality and what one would expect of a gastropub all while not being pretentious, just delicious.
Chris, the bar manager of Centennial who is just as passionate about great beers as I am and is ready and willing to help take you on your journey into delicious beers. If you are new to craft beer, Chris has an ability to help you dial in your flavors and taste to help you choose the best beers to suit your palate.
While Nikki is the kind of great server that has the gift of making you feel comfortable and welcome. Within just a few moments of meeting her we were all talking like friends. Hailing from the west coast, she has made Chicago her home as she pursues her educational endeavors. Also, if she, or anyone suggest that you order the house smoked bacon, do yourself favor and order the bacon. It really is that good and is great as a side to some of the many delicious beers available.
The genuineness of both Chris and Nikki truly embody the spirit of Chicago. So the next time you find yourself in the windy city, stop by Centennial and have a pint or two. You never know, you might just make some new friends. At the least, you will have some great beer and delicious food.
Our stories, and the experiences that write them would not be what they are without the people we meet on our journeys. These once strangers act as the all important thread that holds the tapestry of our experiences together. Without the people that we meet, our travel experiences seem to be more mundane. The great food is no longer an experience, just lunch. The amazing art and architecture, just a painting or mural that we barely notice in or on a building. You see it is the people that we meet that create the connection for us to these things and allow us to truly enjoy them.
As I have procrastinated on releasing this story, I know that Chris has moved on professionally, yet continues to stay in touch with the good people of the Centennial. While on the other hand, I’m not sure if Nikki is still working there or not, but because they both were such an integral part in our experience I have left them in the narrative.
Until next time, wishing everyone peace and good vibes.
It is no secret that I love Costa Rica and because of this I get a lot of questions about the country. What are the people like? What kind of food is there? What is it like to drive there? But mostly, I get the question, why did I choose this as “the place” that I want to move to and live in as an ex-pat (which by the way I dislike the term ex-pat, but more on that later in another story)?
When I respond, I caution the listener that their question is a loaded one and will, on my part, elicit a very detailed response that has some facts but mostly my own opinions which have been formed after having lived in and spent time in Costa Rica, both as a child and now as an adult who owns a home here. Usually, after about 10 minutes the person is either ready to go and visit or they are now regretting their question as I wax poetically on and on about the marvels that are Costa Rica. So, in an effort to answer some questions and satiate the curiosity of a few, I am going to try and distill down the reasons why I love this country in its entirety.
People are the Patches that Make Up the Quilt of a Country
I suppose, for me anyway the people have to be one of my favorite reasons for loving a place. Getting to know “the locals” as I have heard it referred to many times is a great place to start, and I highly encourage travelers or those looking to move to Costa Rica to start by befriending the people that live in the area. When a person chooses to open themselves up and become vulnerable by allowing the people of the country to be a part of their life, then their experience completely changes. Soon you will find yourself learning the places to go for everything, from the best food to the best place to see the sunset, the “locals” will embrace you with open arms if you let them. Andrea and I have made so many friends in Jaco and truly our experience here would not be the same without these amazing people in our life. We have had the privilege to get to know many people and I could write about any of them, but the two that I want to introduce you to are Adrian and Geudy, these two truly embody the ideals and spirit of Costa Rica. We have known Adrian and Geudy for almost 2 years now and we would not have the local connections and feeling of home without them. They along with Luis Torres and Melanie McAlister, Laura, Sabrina and Jaz, Ozkar, Nahuel, and so many others have invited us into there world and community with open arms and Andrea and I are thankful everyday that they are our friends who have become like family.
If People are the Patches, then the Food is the Insulation in the Quilt of the Country
The food in Costa Rica is amazing. From the traditional casados and gallo pinto to the fusion of flavors from the immigrants over the years, the food that makes up Costa Rica is absolutely worth experiencing. My favorite way to try new food places is to find where the locals congregate and simply walk in and sit down. Is it a bit daunting to do it this way? Yes. Do people stare at you and wonder what you are doing? Sometimes. But this formula has never failed me and I am always rewarded with the most delicious food. Case in point. Near our home we have a small soda, Soda Puntu. It is quintessentially local and serves traditional foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On my latest visit, I decided that it was not worth buying groceries and cooking at home since I was only going to be there for a short time. Instead, I would patronize the restaurants, bars, and small groceries in my neighborhood, Quebrada Seca. Upon sitting down, it was pretty clear I was the only one NOT fluent in Spanish. But it didn’t stop me from ordering with a smile on my face. Soon, a gentleman sat down next to me and struck up a conversation about one of the local futbol teams. I explained to him that I could speak a little Spanish, but only if he could talk a bit slower for me. He agreed, and we spent the next hour and half talking the morning away. We learned about each other. We shared stories of family. I was invited to go fishing. In the space of 90 minutes, over food and coffee, I became just a little bit more a part of the community. For those wondering, my coffee and breakfast cost me 2500 colones, approximately $3.90 US.
If People are the Patches and Food is the Insulation, Then the Culture is the Thread of the Quilt that Holds Everything Together
Culture can be a funny thing to understand. It can be strange and sometimes scary. Why does a group of people do things in a way that seem so different to you and I? And to be fair, the culture of Costa Rica cannot be explained in this one blog entry. What I can tell you is that to understand this culture, or any new culture you must first open your heart and mind to new things. Secondly, for Costa Rica, you must understand Pura Vida. And while this phrase has come to define the country and people, I ask you to look beyond the translation, and dig just a bit deeper. When you do this, you will slowly start to unpack what it means to be a part of this amazing country. You see, Pura Vida is more than a slogan on a t-shirt or sticker. It is saying hello and goodbye. It is a response to almost any question. It is a hug and a kiss on the cheek to say hello, you are welcome here. It is what is unique about Costa Rica. It is what makes the place a joy to visit, and for us, a place to call home. Consistently, Costa Rica gets voted one of the happiest places on earth to visit and live. There is a reason for this. The People, The Food, and The Culture are just small pieces in a bigger puzzle that makes up the country of Costa Rica. This is why I have incorporated the words into the name of my blog site and Instagram. I want to always be reminded that I can live Pura Vida anywhere and anytime. As for Andrea and myself, we look forward to getting to know our new home better every day. I invite you to come and see for yourself.
I know that this short entry is not near enough to tell you about the amazing country that is Costa Rica. But, I hope it has at least piqued your curiosity. So, if you have any questions about what it is like to live or visit here, please don’t hesitate to reach out through comments or email.
Also, if you are interested in knowing more about the process of owning property in Costa Rica, I invite you to reach out to my dear friend Melanie McAlister. She is a dual citizen of both Costa Rica and the US and is a real estate agent in the Puntarenas Province area. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear your comments or answer questions about this story or any other stories in my blog.
The Canyon has the ability to make one feel small and sometimes it’s imposing nature can be intimidating. But, when you allow yourself to calm your spirit and breathe in the air and hear what the Canyon says to you through the sounds of the wind in the trees and animals that call it home, you will find yourself refreshed and a feeling of peace and contentment will wash over you.
The Canyon, for me, has a similar spiritual impact as standing in a grand cathedral in Europe although I might argue that the Canyon is more spiritually impactful. Standing at the North Rim and looking out upon this magnificent natural wonder I now understand why this place was so sacred to the original peoples who called this place home.
We have been to the Canyon many times and its grandeur never fails to shake me to my core. It is imposing, beautiful, sometimes scary, but always it is Grand. This park will always be one of my favorites and the North side, while more difficult to reach is now my absolute favorite part of the park. I hope you will have a chance to visit soon.
My recommendation is to travel to the north side in the fall and see the aspens as they put on an amazing display of color. Also, take a moment and find a quiet place to simply listen to what the Canyon says to you. You may just be surprised with what you leave with.
Peace and good vibes to you all 🤙🏼
“We haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on our list.” ~ adapted from Susan Sontag
Today I read that Uruguay a country that I lived in, called home for several years has issued a travel warning for my home country of the United States, and this breaks my heart. I don’t blame the government of Uruguay. Unfortunately we share this planet with some bad people, people like the two individuals who this past week collectively killed 31 humans and injured countless more. Does this mean that for those that want to explore and see the world, they shouldn’t? Read on, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
As a citizen of the United States, I am angry, frustrated, and scared. And my level of hope in humanity seems to diminish more when I read about tragedies like the recent mass shooting. But, these are emotions, emotions that I, as a normal, healthy, reasonable human being can work through. To acknowledge the loss of so many lives this week in my country is vitally important. My heart and prayers go to the families, friends, and survivors of these horrific tragedies. Yet this is a travel blog, and this story will be a travel story.
To me travel is an opportunity for people from one place to go and explore, vacation, and take holiday in a different place. They have the opportunity to fill their social media with 100’s of pictures and check-ins. They can try new foods, hear different languages, and shop in little markets. And it is opportunities like these that are vitally important. They are important because they allow individuals to expand their world and develop a tolerance for others. To see people and places that are supposedly different from their norm, is healthy. The reality is that when we travel and get outside of our norm, we truly begin to grow.
So, I encourage everyone to get out and see a new and different place. Go meet new people, try new foods, explore new spaces. But most importantly, don’t let the emotion of fear guide you. Don’t let fear stop you. There are more good people, than bad. There is more beauty than there is ugly. We deserve to see the good and beautiful. To enjoy it and experience it. You can unlock the positive in humanity by travelling and exploring some place new. And if you are really courageous, share a meal in a new place with someone you don’t know.
Recently, I found myself traveling to one of my favorite American cities, San Antonio, Texas. While I have had the pleasure of visiting San Antonio and the myriad of other cities in the region many times before, it was during this visit that I saw this beautiful city much differently.
Boasting a population of 1.5 million people, San Antonio has much to be proud of, this thriving metropolis that just brushes the southern edge of Texas Hill Country is the seventh most populous city in the US and second in Texas. Founded in 1718 as a Spanish Colony and Mission, the fabric of this city was and still is created from many different nationalities, cultures and languages.
And it is here, where the story really begins. You see, the immigrants and migrants that helped build this city so long ago have left an indelible mark for us. Visitors can see this influence in the naming of streets, food, architecture and much more. But guess, what? Immigrants and migrants alike are still helping to shape the city today and on any given day, you will hear many different languages and be exposed to many different cultures. From street markets to taquerias to bakeries, the vibe of San Antonio is decidedly influenced by the many generations of many different people from different places that call this city home. While walking through the Central Market in San Antonio I recalled what one of my geography professors once said about the phrase melting pot as it refers to immigration/migration and a people becoming the “same”. He said, thinking about the US (or any other place for that matter) as a melting pot was all wrong. Rather, we are more like a stew pot. You see in a stew, all of the individual ingredients work together, in concert to create and complete the dish.
Right now, in many parts of the world there seems to be a war on immigration. It is important to remember that the majority of those immigrating are doing so to find better opportunities. Is the potential there for bad people to come into a country through immigration, sure. But, there is also the potential that I will win the lottery, or be struck by lightening. My ask is this, remember that rarely is anyone from where they are, but that at one time, all of us were immigrants or migrants, going from one place to another, usually in search of a better opportunity. I too, will be migrating one day. As many of you know, it is the dream of my wife and I to live abroad in Costa Rica and points beyond. We choose to do this because we recognize that there is a richness in diversity. There is value in other cultures. There is life beyond the norm of where we are from.
The push and pull for one to migrate is powerful and the reasons can be financial, cultural, social, or simply for love. All of us come from somewhere and are going someplace.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog. This is something that I have wanted to do for a while now, and thanks to the encouragement of my beautiful wife and favorite travel companion as well as several friends, I decided to take the plunge. Here you will find short musing and pictures on my journeys across this glorious planet and occasionally my thoughts and ramblings on life and the impact that travel can have on an individual.
But first, a bit about myself. I am a husband to an amazing woman and my number 1 travel partner, Andrea. Second, I am a dad to 4 great kids. It is my hope that my travels inspire my children to pick up the mantle of travel and to discover what this amazing planet has to offer.
My love for travel unwittingly began as a child when my parents moved to Central and South America to perform missionary work. It is at this moment that I know that the seeds for exploration and discovery were surreptitiously planted in my subconscious. Then at the age of 18, I found myself back in Central America as a part of the US Armed Forces. So you see, my formative years were spent seeing and experiencing so many wonderful places, people, cultures, and food.
But enough about the past. Let’s talk about the present. Today I am an avid traveler and lover of new experiences. My goal when I travel is to try and immerse myself into the local culture by trying new foods, drinks, and local customs. My best travel experiences have been afforded to me when I allow myself to simply get lost within a city. Taking side streets that look interesting and sometimes daunting have led to some of my best meals and pictures.
My hope is that this blog will allow you an opportunity to experience the beautiful art of travel through my writings and camera lens. I truly believe that our planet and the many different people and cultures are connected much more closely than we understand. Yet, the key to that understanding is simple, we must go and experience it for ourselves. And while I know that the cost of travel can be a barrier, I hope that this site provides you with a small glimpse and inspiration into wanting to discover something new for yourself.
My goal for this blog is simple, to give you the reader an opportunity to see the world through my stories and photos. I hope that it will inspire you to book a flight or simply get in your car and go see something new and different.
Peace and good vibes to everyone.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”