Vacation: Best Thing I Bought All Year
They say you should spend your money on experiences rather than things. I love my things, and I do think they can make experiences better, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve ever reflected as fondly on a dress, shoe or gadget as I have on a night with friends or weekend away. That’s why despite the amazing hair tools, deeply discounted designer shoes and routine simplifying palettes I’ve come across this year the best thing I spent my money on this year was a couple of vacation packages!
This year I was lucky enough to visit SIX cities I’ve never been to and each place gave me the opportunity to try different things, meet new people and make a million new memories!
First there was Salvador de Bahia in the northeast part of Brasil. I got to put my Brasilian Portuguese to the test – I’m better than I thought! – play capoeira with locals and see the Oludum band that was features in Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us video! This was the first time in my life I visited a city outside New York that I could actually see myself living in.
One of my favorite things about Salvador is how culturally rich the city is. We stayed in the beachside section called Barra, but once you get to Pecorinho there’s art, museums, sculptures and music EVERYWHERE – even nightly dance parties with Odulum bands!
Next I headed to Rio de Janeiro where I took in the World Cup opening ceremonies at a Brasilian country club, how many people can say they’ve done that?- asted authentic coxinhas and even got away from the heightened tourism with a tour of their favelas. It’s hard to tell what the real Rio is like, since I was there during peak tourism, but it’s clear that Rio is a great city for kicking back on the beach, dining at nice restaurants or partying – whether that’s in a fancy club or a street party in Lapa.
I took a break for a few months but in October I ended up in New Orleans. Prior to this fall I’d never been west of Detroit so changing time zones but still being in America was a huge deal for me. I can honestly say I’m a fan of the city and can see myself returning there soon. My favorite things about New Orleans? Besides the fact that it’s legal to carry and consume alcohol in the streets I love it’s old world charm, the French market and their seafood.
If you ever find yourself in Nawlins, fast for a week or two so that you are prepared to EAT! Make sure you get beignets at Café du Monde and have brunch at Court of Two Sisters. Drinks aren’t unlimited but the buffet is and trust me, you’ll want to take breaks and fill up!
Two weeks later I found myself in Dallas, and though I was there to celebrate a wedding, I still snuck in time to see the city. Dallas is more than just delicious fried foods the State Fair – they’ve got lots of cheap restaurants and some of the cleanest streets I’ve EVER seen! Bonus, for it to be the ninth most populous city in the nation its pretty easy to get around – everything is about 10 minutes away.
My last trip in 2014 was to sunny San Diego for another wedding! Sure it was December so daily beach visits weren’t on my agenda but I’d take a 66 degree winter over a 26 degree one any day! San Diego reminded me of Bahia – laid back in every way possible with pretty and calm beaches. Though their nightlife isn’t much to brag about, they do have a decent number of bar and nightclub options, especially in the downtown area known as the Gaslamp Quarter.
While in San Diego I found time to drive up to Los Angeles for the day. We only had a few hours so we spent most of it walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame and took advantage of the $33 special to enter the Ripley’s, Hollywood Wax and Guinness Museums. I wish I had more time to see LA, or at least an organized plan of what to do with my short time in the city. On my next visit I’ll have to make time to eat at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, shopping on Rodeo and take the TMZ Tour Bus!
Not only have I experienced new things on my travels but I’ve made new friends on literally each one of these trips. I can now say I’ve got someone to call if I’m ever in Rio, San Francisco, Australia, San Diego, Dallas and Suriname, to name a few ;).
So that’s why plane tickets are the best thing I bought all year. I suggest everyone take any opportunity they have to travel and leave their country at least once in their lifetime. If you plan to travel anytime soon I suggest you do the following:
Make new friends! Even if you’re already traveling in a group with your besties meeting new people can be fun. You can trade experiences as outsiders in the city and sometimes if the bond is strong enough you’ll continue these relationships when you get back home!
EAT local! Who knows when you’ll be back in this city? Take in as much local authentic foods while you can. My only regrets right now are not eating more crawfish and beignets in Nawlins.
Pack lightly! I’m a souvenir junkie, not just the corny kind but cool things like local liquor you can’t find at home. Leave extra space in your suitcase to make sure you can bring all your fun goodies back!
But don’t forget to bring an open mind! Familiarize yourself with basic phrases in the local language, try things you wouldn’t do at home and accept that you’re not going to be able to replicate your everyday routines in this new city. Vacations aren’t supposed to like home – the point is to get away! Don’t be the person that shows up in a new city upset everything isn’t functioning the way it does in your hometown.
Go on tours! I believe in learning SOMETHING about the city you’re in. Take at least one tour where you can learn the history of the region even if you only walk away remembering one fact.
Look into AirBnB! Or any similar program. Staying at hotels is obviously safe, clean and usually convenient but when you rent someone’s home you get the chance to actually see the neighborhood instead of being restricted to the touristy (and over-priced) locations. Grab coffee in the local shops, get your nails done around the way and just learn what its like for the people who really live there.
Do you have any upcoming trips or have you gone anywhere interesting lately? Tell me about it in the comments section!!