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Tourism vs. Local Culture: Uros Islands, Lake Tetecaca

Only a few of us foreigners speak Spanish, so when we stop at the Uros Floating Islands, there is some confusion. The locals stay on the boat while the foreigners are ushered onto the crunchy--not entirely solid--reeds that make up the islands. Each layer of reeds becomes cracked and wet each time someone steps on it, forcing the families that live on them to replace each layer every three months to prevent sinking into the freezing cold water. Still, that doesn't stop our boat captain from sitting us down on stacks of rough reeds, because we are going to learn about their way of life come hell or high water.

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Tourism vs. Local Culture: Uros Islands, Lake Tetecaca
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Photo Gallery: Valparaiso

Sometimes the best cities are the ones you can simply wander through. Admittedly, my travel friends and I all felt that this coastal town had more of a western feel than Santiago and so we all felt a piece of home. The many alley ways, colorful houses, intimate artworks, blue vistas, coffee shops, and local breweries all made us feel a relaxed sense of time that was distinctly European.

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Photo Gallery: Valparaiso
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The Strays of Chile

In Santiago the system seemed to work, on the surface at least: almost 2 million homeless dogs were well fed, well-dressed for the weather, and cared for by the government, who issued the vaccines, and by the people, who pet them occassionally. Pure breeds of cocker spaniels, daschunds, retrievers, pugs and more were evenly split between the domesticated pets on leashes, enjoying doggie treats, and those sleeping under bridges, feeding off of scraps.

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A Wine Tour: Vina Cousiño Macul

We saw the old barrels that were used when the winery first opened in 1870, the place where they used to be filled, bottled, and corked by hand, and the new fancy machines that they use now for their premium (as we were constantly reminded) Lota blend. Most impressive was the cellar, where wines used to be kept by the hundreds.

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Santiago on a Budget

It's always easy to spend money, but Santiago makes it really easy not to. Most museums and attractions are free, and there are plenty of cheap food and drink options to ensure that your money is spent well. Here are the things I did in Santiago for cheap.

Santiago on a Budget

Bargaining in Southeast Asia

Since speaking with other travelers, I've found I'm not alone in trying to decipher the morality behind the fine art and skill of bargaining in Southeast Asia.

Here's the dilemma: a tuk-tuk driver tells me that a ride to town is $5.00. I know the locals pay seventy-five cents to a dollar.  Is that fair?  I'm clearly not from a developing country and I'm clearly indulging in a work-free trip, so should I overpay? Its fair to assume that my driver has never taken a vacation in his life.

Bargaining in Southeast Asia

Abroad doesn't move to you.

Most people have the best intentions when moving abroad but they have one misconception: they assume abroad is coming to them, not that they are moving abroad. I've gathered a list of some important realizations you must face before moving to a new country.

Abroad doesn't move to you.

Washington's National Cathedral

My days in our nation's capital are numbered. So, in my final week, I'm headed to all sorts of places. This time I found myself in a church on a Sunday.

Washington's National Cathedral

What true travelers learn on the road

Four valuable lessons on how deciding to leave everything behind to travel got reactions from the professional world were nothing short of inspiring.

To some, the decision to leave your country means you are writing off the clean career path set before you, wasting your hard-earned degree and deciding instead to spend the rest of your life bumming on a beach somewhere. But it's so much more than that.

 

What true travelers learn on the road

Austin, Texas is Weird (SXSW)

It's hard to tell if the appeal of Austin, Texas comes from—or in spite of—the SXSW festival that inundates its city, with philanthropists and opportunists alike looking for the next moment to self-promote their life's work in an overwhelming and crazy week. The main characteristics of the town, (and it is a town, despite its capitol status or the population that boasts almost 1 million) is humble and dusty, like it was partially cleaned off and placed on view for visitors trying to relieve a pang of nostalgia.

Austin, Texas is Weird (SXSW)

Three Days in Miami

Recommendations on how to have a hybrid of local and tourist experiences in Miami, from South Beach to Downtown Miami. 

Three Days in Miami

Why Bucket Lists Stop You From Doing Awesome Things

What does it mean to have been to a place? Many people claim they've "at least been to the airport" in one country or another, using geographical coordinates to check names and places off a mental scorecard. When the goal is to collect names of places, check off monuments or tally the different stamps you acquire in your passport, the purpose of travel is lost. You want to be kissed under the Eiffel Tower, but if that doesn’t happen, is the trip ruined?

Why Bucket Lists Stop You From Doing Awesome Things

If you love a place, let it go.

We all treat cities and places like individuals we have relationships with. Brazil and I have a tenuous relationship--I still haven't forgiven Rio de Janeiro for raining for my entire two weeks there in 2010. You might describe Boston as too boastful, or call Amsterdam a bad-influence like it was a bad ex-boyfriend. Miami is always a great backup to call late at night when you need something crazy but consistent. When you love something, you've got to let it go.

If you love a place, let it go.

La Jolla Cove, with Sea Lions

Two little boys sat playing in the sand on La Jolla beach. They had buckets, which they packed unceremoniously with wet sand before flipping over. The older one, probably a third grader, dictated where each one went. The little one, blonder, would dutifully drag the heavy bucket to the designated spot. Next to them lie a sea lion, passed out and completely unconcerned with the bucket-shaped wall being built slowly around him.

La Jolla Cove, with Sea Lions

Ghost Town: Salton City

The smell hit first, which wasn't surprising. I had looked up reviews of Salton City and every review was the same. "This place is weird. It smells terrible, and there are bones of dead animals littering a beach with a bunch of empty houses nearby. I loved it, and I don't know why."

The story of Salton City is a long and fascinating one. It's a story about humankind's attempts at controlling nature. It's a story of global warming, of pollution, and of abandoned NesQuik. It's an apocalyptic story that involves that flooding of a desert, and water poisoned by nature itself (and, obviously, mankind). The beaches are white only because they are littered with pulverized bones from the past 40 years. The water is only blue because the sky is far enough away from this place to stay healthy and beautiful.

I loved it, and I don't know why.

Ghost Town: Salton City

Ghost Town: Amboy, California

Amboy, as the official tourist website calls it, is "the ghost town that ain't dead yet!". There must be about 10 buildings left, and only 4 people live there (if any). All along the road are mailboxes, dusty and rusted. They lead to nowhere, they belong to nothing. Any mail, if any, that goes through there takes on the desert's version of a message in a bottle. I imagine someone may find it someday and wonder who left it there and why.

Ghost Town: Amboy, California

Alone, Not Lonely: How to Travel Alone

It is hard to travel as an adult, and when you do get time off it can be hard to coordinate with friends and family who also need to balance work responsibilities as well as their own budgets. 

Rather than sit at home, (or pretend to enjoy a "staycation"), you can learn to enjoy to travel solo almost anywhere in the world. There are plenty of reasons why you should, but here are some tips on how to take advantage of your vacation days flying solo...

Alone, Not Lonely: How to Travel Alone