AirBnB: The Second B is for Bizarre

Last week, I posted about the best experiences I’ve had so far with AirBnB. This post was prompted by dad calling me to discuss an article in the Buffalo News about the home sharing service. One of the points the article made that my dad was curious about was how guest and host expectations sometimes differ, leading to dissatisfaction. For example, the article mentioned a woman who was annoyed when her guests didn’t want to spend time socializing with her.

With the exception of when I am overseas, I always request an entire home/apartment to myself, rather than a room in someone’s house, because I don’t want to socialize. I’m on my own vacation and want to do my own thing, especially if I am travelling with a romantic partner. And even when booking separate accommodation, I read the description carefully to make sure that my expectations align with those of the host. Most descriptions state clearly how much interaction the host is willing to have with the guests. This is important. I believe that many problems in this world, not just on AirBnB, can be cleared up with better communication. Of course, it’s just as much the guest’s responsibility to understand and accept those terms as it is the host’s to express them. A breakdown can be the fault of either party. Continue reading →

AirBnB: The First B is for Beautiful

My dad gets really excited when when modern, gig/sharing-economy type organizations come to Buffalo, which is my hometown and where he still lives. Years ago, when Buffalo got food trucks, he called right away to let me know. Around the same time, the city was redoing the harbor to make it a place for festivals and a place people want to spend time in general. He thought a combination of those two amenities would make me consider moving back there. Then Buffalo got bicycle sharing and then Uber, and he called me each of those times to let me know how cool Buffalo was becoming. I’m happy for Buffalo. I love that city. But the taxes and lack of good jobs and the snow…oh my god the snow. The gray, miserable, long, icy, humid winters. No. I just can’t.

But I digress.

My dad’s latest report was about AirBnB. It’s been active in Buffalo awhile, but the Buffalo News ran a story over the summer about locals’ good and bad experiences with it. He was certain I had used it before, which I have, and wanted to compare my experiences with what the paper was reporting. And so I thought, why stop with the conversation with my dad? Why not share some of my good and bad experiences here? Continue reading →

A to Z Blog Challenge Recap

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I showcased 26 of my favorite places in the world. I didn’t do nearly as much writing for the challenge as I did in previous years, but I had a lot of fun going down memory lane, and I hope I’ve given some readers ideas about wonderful places to visit. I’ve been to 22 of the 196 countries but didn’t manage to feature them all in this year’s blog challenge because some countries have a lot of places that are special to me. And I was constrained by the alphabet!

Countries I’ve Been to that I Didn’t Mention At All

Spain – While there is no one standout in Spain that would make me go visit, if I had to choose a place I’ve visited to live permanently in, it would be Spain.

France – I’ve only been to Paris and hope to visit the countryside and coasts soon. Continue reading →

(El) Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico (April, 2002)

El Tule

While You Are There: The beauty of Oaxaca city is well known and one could easily spend weeks here and not get bored. It’s a very touristy city, but that’s not always a bad thing. The people watching, architecture, art galleries, and restaurants are worth the trip. Outside Oaxaca, there are plenty of day trips, including one to El Tule to see the widest and one of the oldest trees in the world. Also, the ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla are nearby and are a nice alternative to the more crowded ruins in Mexico. And if you are looking to buy textiles, a trip to Teotitlan is essential. Oh, and don’t forget the petrified waterfall of Hierve el Agua. Just get on a plane already and go to Oaxaca.

Why It’s On My List: It is, perhaps, the most beautiful tree in the world.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

San Juan, Honduras (October or November, 2003)

While You Are There: I don’t think you can go here anymore, sadly. Well, you can go to the town but you can’t have this experience. My memory of this homestay is foggy. I scoured the internet and found nothing, only an article that says the Peace Corps pulled out of Honduras five years ago. What a shame.

Why It’s On My List: This was in a little village in the middle of Honduras. I can’t even remember how my friend and I found out about this budding Peace Corps tourism program, but as soon as we did, we knew we had to go. I remember walking across the town square on a dirt road to get here, very quaint and charming. We stayed with this lovely woman and helped her make breakfast on that built-in fireplace in the morning. Then someone took us out to harvest coffee and we roasted it back at the house and took a bunch home with us. Little did I understand how strong it was! When the hostess made it for us, she knew what she was dealing with. When I made some for myself back at my house in Puerto Cortės, I ended up sweating and shaking uncontrollably for most of the morning. Coffee overdose, big time.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Quehueche Rio and Livingston, Guatemala (October, 2004)

While You Are There: The one must-do is to learn about Garifuna culture. Beyond that, there’s not much to do and that’s the point. Guatemala is often about the bustle of Antigua and viewing Mayan ruins, but when you need to stop, sit in a cafe, and look out at the ocean for awhile, this is your place. Here are some good links to find out more.

http://overyonderlust.com/livingston-guatemala/

http://uncorneredmarket.com/livingston-other-side-of-guatemala/

Why It’s On My List: This is not your mother’s Guatemala, and possibly it’s not worth a special trip. But I was living on the Caribbean coast of Honduras at the time and this was the perfect place to disappear from life for a few days. I ended up going here three times. It was also a good jumping off point for more touristy activities on the Rio Dulce.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Pools of Mud in San Jacinto, Nicaragua (May, 2008)

San Jacinto 1San Jacinto 2

While You Are There: Hang out in León for a few days, see the ruins, go to the beach, go sandboarding, and drink some rum. There’s no shortage of activities in this part of the country. León is easily my favorite place in Nicaragua (although Ometepe is pretty great too!) and this quote from Lonely Planet captures my feelings well:

Intensely political, buzzing with energy and, at times, drop-dead gorgeous (in a crumbling, colonial kind of way), León is what Managua should be – a city of awe-inspiring churches, fabulous art collections, stunning streetscapes, cosmopolitan eateries, fiery intellectualism, and all-week, walk-everywhere, happening nightlife. Many people fall in love with Granada, but most of them leave their heart in León.

Why It’s On My List: Because you feel like you are defying death when you go. You don’t know if the ground beneath your feet is suddenly going to collapse and send you plummeting into a scalding, muddy death. There aren’t exactly closed off, safe walkways like you find in such a place in the States. It’s also on my list simply because I had a great experience staying in León. I made some wonderful friends and the San Jacinto mud pools was one small day trip we took together in the car I had rented. Then we went to a little restaurant nearby and sipped cervezas in the Nicaragua heat. It was a good day.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

(Isla de) Ometepe, Nicaragua (July, 2008)

While You Are There: If you can arrange your trip while there is a festival going on in Altagracia, which we did unintentionally, stay there a night and enjoy it. Otherwise, hop on a long, slow bus ride to Merida and stay at the Hacienda Merida. They can arrange a bunch of activities for you or you can use the bicycles and explore on your own. The dinner buffet is tasty and provides an opportunity to swap stories with fellow travelers; however, food poisoning is possible. And because the rooms, including bathrooms, are open air, when a lot of people get food poisoning, the night air is filled with all sorts of special sounds that aren’t coming from wildlife or the ocean waves.

Why It’s On My List: It’s a “something for everyone” kind of place. If you are going to Nicaragua but don’t have much time to spend, you can go here to enjoy beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, petroglyphs, and wildlife. Plus, you can take a ferry to get there.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico (April, 2002)

Las PozasLas Pozas Xilitla - CopyLas Pozas Xilitla

While You Are There: Bring a sketchbook or a notebook and spend the day being inspired.

Why It’s On My List: The artist describes it as a Garden of Eden and I agree. It’s a surreal, magical, and romantic place that I stumbled across in a guidebook when I lived in Mexico and decided I had to see. Also, I had quite the adventure getting there. My friend and I got on a bus in San Luis Potosi in the early dark morning and then the driver told us to get out deep into a jungle road with no buildings or people in sight. I spoke Spanish well at the time but was certain I hadn’t heard him correctly. I asked again and he insisted, so we hopped off and stood there by the side of the road, in the dark, all alone waiting for guerrillas to kidnap us. Didn’t happen, but the connecting bus did come along after half an hour, true to the first driver’s word. Maybe it’s easier to get to now, but I hope not.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Great Huts, Port Antonio, Jamaica (March, 2015)

Doh! I did not take a single picture while I was there.
But the Great Huts official site has plenty.

While You Are There: It’s another go-away-and-then-have-a-staycation post! The Great Huts offers everything you need in the hotel itself, but there are some nice attractions nearby such as the Blue Lagoon (yes, that Blue Lagoon, not the one in Iceland I mentioned previously), rafting on the Rio Grande, Winnifred Beach, and all the jerk chicken/conch/etc for sale at the end of the road.

Why It’s On My List: It’s nice to have a little isolation for a few days when you are travelling somewhere like Jamaica. I’m not a fan of all-inclusive resorts and separating yourself from the locals, but it does get tiresome when every time you go to the beach you are accosted by people selling you trinkets, hair braiding, marijuana, and sex. A day or two in a place like this is necessary. A private beach and meals onsite is a welcome break. And this place is not a massive resort like the ones in Montego Bay. It’s a boutique resort with delightful amenities and comfortable rooms. If I were the kind to have a destination wedding (or, let’s be honest, a wedding at all), I’d seriously consider renting this whole place out.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.