Musings on writing and travel…

Festival in San Jose, Costa Rica

The Acknowledgement and Apology

I always tell people that realistic expectations and clear communications will solve 90% of an individual or groups problems. Well this story needs to begin with an apology, first to my readers, and secondly to myself. I failed to follow my own advice as it pertains to my writing.

When I first set out to write about travel, I had the greatest of intentions of publishing a story at least twice a month. Well, here we are seven months into this journey and I have completed six stories. While the stories are abundant in my mind, getting them in print has been much more difficult than I anticipated. So, my apologies.

The upside is that I have been traveling and exploring which only deepens the well of experience from which future stories will be born. I look forward to sharing these past and future experiences with you as I continue to drink from the cup of world travel.

The Corona-Virus and the Fear to Travel

Ugh…double ugh.

All it takes is a quick glance at the latest headlines to know that all of the talking heads and media outlets are doing a fantastic job reporting the spread of Covid-19 also known as Coronavirus. And while this illness is devastating, please don’t allow it to create fear in you and prohibit you from experiencing an adventure through travel. Hear is my unsolicited advice. Keep traveling. But, be smart and intentional in your selection of places to go by researching your destination, don’t just take the advice of today’s headlines. Follow good hygiene practices. Wash your hands. Chances are, you will be fine. Rant over.

Upcoming Adventures

I will be returning to Costa Rica and this time I have the privilege of introducing the country I love to my daughters. I am so excited for this trip that will take place in March 2020. We have a huge surprise for them, and I will be writing about that in an upcoming story. So stay tuned. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @puravidajurnys for photo content and short stories about places I have been and places I am going.

Wrapping it Up with a BIG Thank You

Those closest to me know that I love the written word and I like expressing it for others to read and enjoy. So to those individuals who keep encouraging me to get my stories out there, thank you. You all keep me motivated and inspired to tell of my adventures.

So until next time… Pura Vida!

¡Salud!

To Travel or Not to Travel…That is the Question.

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.

Cheers all.

Migration – The Stitch that Holds the Fabric of Cultural Diversity Together.

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.

Tapas…a love story.

Madrid is a city that provides the traveler every opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture. From paella to tapas and Flamenco to street markets, the opportunity to fall in love with this beautiful city and its people is abundant. Oh the things you will discover when you allow yourself to get lost on the side streets and off beaten paths of Madrid. The city will open up and share with the traveler her secrets and beauty.

It has been two days since arriving in Madrid. The jet lag is subsiding, and our bodies are becoming accustomed to a much different eating schedule.  It is 10:30 pm and we are scheduled to meet a couple who has agreed to show us around the city, and give us the tapas experience that only locals can provide.

Tapas are quintessential Madrid and the tapas bars in this city are too numerous to count. We begin in an area within walking distance of the famous public square, Puerta del Sol. Like many cities, there are those places that cater to the visitor, and then there are those that are favored by the local. It is in these local bars that we were fortunate to find ourselves sharing plates of olives, jamon serrano, anchovies, gulas, shrimp, morcilla, and tortilla de patatas. Of course, we washed all of this wonderful food down with glasses of local beers.

How do small, shareable plates of food that are consumed late into the evening translate into an experience worth writing about? It is in the word shareable. During our time in Spain, we shared tapas with strangers who have now become friends. In so doing, we have made our world a smaller and friendlier place. You see, during those nights we didn’t just share food and drink. We shared with each other our cultures, languages, and even a few jokes. I truly believe that if you want to get to know a place and remove cultural barriers, simply begin by sharing a meal with someone. Now when we return to Spain, we will return knowing that we can reach out and connect with our new found friends for another round of tapas.

So you are ready to travel to Madrid and eat your way across the city. Los Gatos, Cervezas La Fabrica, and La Dolores are all great places to get started. All of these are located minutes from each other and make for a great evening of tapas and beer. Lastly, throw out your hesitations, and simply order what looks good, chances are it will be delicious. Salud to you all, and if you make it there, drop me a comment or a picture of you on your tapas crawl.

“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.”

Mark Twain

London – A Truly Remarkable City

First of all, London is one of those cities everyone should visit. It is a place that seamlessly combines the old and new. And like most metropolises it caries the grit and grime of a busy city, but London’s beauty is unequivocal. There are truly so many things to see and do, and I have always said that if there was a capital city for the world, London would be the one.

London is truly a remarkable city. I had the pleasure of visiting during the Christmas and New Year celebrations and I wanted to share a few things that I think a visitor might consider while visiting London.

First, when traveling, try and walk as many places as you can. And when you can’t walk, take the public transportation options. Generally they are easy to use, affordable, and offer so many new opportunities to explore a city. London is no exception, the tube and bus options are both easy to use. You can read more about how to get and use the #oystercard here. Lastly, don’t forget to #mindthegap and look #right then left before crossing.

Of course when you walk, you are naturally taking the slowest method of transportation. And it is when you walk, that you will truly discover some of the best places. For example, one evening while walking, my wife and I noticed quite a crowd outside a smallish size restaurant. Curiosity got the best of us and we discovered what was quite literally the best fish and chips we have ever had. If you visit London, you must visit the Mayfair Chippy. Get reservations, they are always packed, we just got lucky. 😉

Pubs and Beer, this may be a future post. But for now, pubs and beer in London. The Pub or Public House has been a fixture in London for nearly as long as people have inhabited the city. London offers a wide range of variety for the thirsty traveler. When you are ready for a pint you will find an opportunity on nearly every corner. These pubs vary in that some are definitely catering to the tourist, while others are most certainly local haunts. Pick one and pop in for a pint and possibly a meal. Three pubs that I really enjoyed while visiting London fell squarely in both categories. The first was a little pub tucked away named Victoria’s. This pub located in Paddington offered coziness and quintessential pub vibes. And while it had a mixture of locals and visitors, it truly was a comfortable place with a full selection of #fullerbeers and great food. If you find yourself in London, check out Victoria’s, you won’t be disappointed. The other pub I suggest for a pint is the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, check them out on #tripadvisor. Now due to the historical significance and cool factor, the Cheshire Cheese fits squarely into the touristy vibe I mentioned above. But, let me qualify by saying this, Charles Dickens was known to drink here. It can be tough to get in and get a seat in the original bar area (reservations can be had) as you walk in the front door, but the pub winds itself in and around and up and down, so be patient, find a seat and have a pint. You’ll be glad you did. Towards the end of our trip, we found ourselves exploring the area near and around Parliament. As hunger and thirst rapidly approached we found ourselves staring at the Red Lion Pub on Parliament Street. Now the Fuller’s Brewery owns the current establishment, but a pub has stood at this location since 1434. The food is great (see picture below) and the atmosphere is outstanding. And with the pub’s proximity to many of England’s government offices, you never know who you might be rubbing shoulders with that day.

Pie and Ale Sampler at the Red Lion

Having been founded in 50 AD, London is truly a historical city. And as such, has many amazing things to see and explore. From palaces to pubs and churches to cathedrals, one will not be without an opportunity to experience the historical fabric of the city. And to make this history convenient and accessible, there are a plethora of museums to visit. The most obvious museum I would recommend is the British Museum. Not only is the museum affordable (entrance is free, but they do recommend a £5 donation) it truly gives the visitor an opportunity to explore so many wonderful artifacts from around the world. Checkout the museum’s website for suggestions on what to see based on the amount of time you have. Another recommendation for a visitor to London is to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is truly magnificent. The most current building was consecrated in 1697, survived the Blitz of WWII and has been the site for many historical services (Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married here). Plus if you don’t have claustrophobia and can manage the climb up the 528 winding, sometimes narrow and low steps to the top of the dome, you will have access to some of the most amazing views of the city.

One of my favorite activities while travelling is shopping at street markets, bazaars, or local antique stores. These are great places to pick up little gifts for yourself, or those back home. And one of the best street markets that I have been to is Portobello Road. One can spend hours traversing this approximately 1000 meters of antique shops, street merchants, and clothing stores. And when you are tired, find one of the local pubs I mentioned above and pop in for a pint and a refresh.

If you have been to London, you know one blog story is simply not enough to speak to all of the amazing opportunities that London holds for her visitors. I know that I will be returning many more times to try and discover more amazing adventures in this remarkable city.

River Thames

Remember, go travel and explore. Not only is it good for the soul, but you can truly grow as an individual when you experience other places and other cultures. Get outside of your comfort zone, for when you do, you will find that you grow stronger.

I hope you enjoyed this short write up on London. If so, please consider subscribing below. Cheers!

Collecting Experiences Through Travel

I thought I would write a post today about why I travel. As you read this, I would love for you to consider why you travel, or don’t and comment. I am always curious about what motivates or holds people back when it comes to travel, whether it is international or domestic within your home country.


For me, travel has always been about the excitement of something new and different. What secrets are contained around the next corner, in the new place? You see, as a person whose curiosity knows very few boundaries, I have always been drawn to adventure. When I am looking for a place to explore, I want to hear the stories and find the secrets that are held there. It could be as I explore a street market (be watching for a story on street markets) or sample new foods, or share a beer with a local. (Tip: If you want to find a key to unlock the mysteries of a place, find a local tavern and buy someone a pint. You will be surprised at what you learn about the place, the person, and perhaps yourself.) 

Street Food in Prague, CR
Sampling the above….Yum!

Humans have a propensity to accumulate things, myself included. I know a lot of people who collect a lot of things. From antiques to cars, I even know someone who collects shoes.  But, several years ago (I was probably watching one of my favorite travel shows, most likely Anthony Bourdain) I decided that I wanted to accumulate new experiences through travel. I want to collect all things culture and I want to try all the food, especially street food. I want to meet new people and see the world through their eyes, walk their streets, taste their food, and drink their beer. This is why I travel. I can look back on my photos and I am immediately transported back to the place and can recall the wonderful memories. 


It is for this reason that I have dedicated myself to travel someplace new at least once a year. But Jeff, travel is expensive. Yes, it can be, but like anything else, if you have a plan and are intentional about it, travel can be attainable. For example, I am an avid #airbnb traveler. Rarely do I stay in hotels anymore. If you haven’t used Airbnb, I highly suggest giving it a try. It has proven very reliable for me. For flights, there are so many options now to find affordable domestic and international flights. I always begin my search at #googleflights, it is easy to see prices on their flight calendar. Also, Google Flights allows the individual to watch flights and will notify when there are fare changes. Another flight searching option is  #scottscheapflights. I have used both the paid and free option on Scott’s Cheap Flights and find it very much worthwhile (and affordable) if you are looking for international air travel give it a try and let me know if it works well for you.  A new one that I am going to be looking at is #nextvacay. NextVacay’s slogan is “We’ll find the cheapest flights in the world, so you can have the trip of a lifetime.” Sounds pretty good to me.


Do you have a go-to method for booking travel, if so I would love to hear about it? Please share in the comment section below. Also, click the subscribe button to stay up to date with the latest story.


Remember, travel is a key that will unlock many treasures. It will remind you that the world is a much smaller place where we have more in common with others than you may realize.


Go Explore!

Cheers,

Jeff