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My Three Favorite Places

1. New York City

Beauty at its peak

A survey of Americans asked which city they would most like to live in or around. New York was number 1. The same survey asked which city would be the worst to live in or around. New York was number 1. If you like cities, you love New York. If you don’t like cities, it’s the bottom rung of hell. What sets New York apart from other places I’ve visited is the density. There’s more interesting shit in one block of downtown Manhattan than there is in my entire home town.

Not to mention the skyline. It’s fantastic, especially as seen from Williamsburg or Hoboken.

The public transit system runs 24 hours and it’s significantly cheaper than most other major cities. New York is also one of the most diverse places on the planet. If you speak a language, you’ll find someone in New York to speak it with. If you love to travel, you can live in New York and feel like you’re travelling because people come to you.

The rent may be exorbitant, but the benefits heavily outweigh the costs. There’s a level of vitality in New York that is not to be taken for granted.

2. South Beach

SoBe has one of the best beaches you can hope to find

I like Miami, I love South Beach. The shoreline is beautiful, Italian super cars disrupt the peace, and there’s a fantastic Spanish influence. I thrive in diverse places and South Beach is a meeting spot for people from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Cuba, and more. To a lesser extent you also meet people from Asia and Europe. SoBe is not a well-guarded secret.

While some aspects of South Beach are heavily commercialized (the hotels and shops selling glamorous crap), much of it still retains an authentic South Florida feeling. There are hotels and bars that look like they came out of a Scarface set. Ocean Dr. and the park that runs along the beach is pristine. So long as there isn’t a hurricane, the weather is ideal. I would be happy to spend several years here, learn Spanish, and build a nice life for myself.

3. Berlin 

Berlin is a beautiful blend of old and new

The city is modern, but you frequently encounter historical reminders. Bombed churches, holocaust memorials, and the famous Brandenburg Gate. The metro is affordable (or free if you’re a delinquent American named Sam) and will take you anywhere you need to go. That’s helpful when you need to get to the club, which is a smart move because the club scene is second to none. Berlin has the best techno in the world and you can experience it in a wide range of fascinating spaces.

Not only is the city a wonderful place to exist, but I’ve consistently found Germans to be the most enjoyable people to spend time with. They’re fun, they love to travel, and they make great friends. I get a kick out of Berlin and I warmly look forward to spending many more months there, perfecting my German and listening to techno.

Honorable Mentions

Best cheap place – Kiev

Best beach – Koh Pha-Ngan

Best place to avoid at all costs – Bangkok

Best food – Dubai

Best insanely expensive place – Copenhagen

New York vs. Berlin Nightlife

I used to think the clubs in New York were cool. Then I came to Berlin and found out that I’ve been lied to! The club scene in New York is a joke compared to Berlin. It’s like drinking Franzia for years, then you go to somewhere new, you try real wine and your eyes are opened. That’s how I feel about only just discovering the Berlin club scene at 24. Even though I’ve come to the party late, I plan to make the most of it while I can. Here’s why I enjoy Berlin so much more.

The People Come to Enjoy the Music

Most places you go in New York, you don’t find people there to enjoy the music. People are out to have a good time, have some drinks, have too many drinks, whatever. It’s an expensive riot and loads of fun. But the music is always background noise. In Berlin the music is in the foreground. It’s the focus and it’s appreciated. Berlin is the home of the best electronic music in the world, and I don’t think that fact is lost on the people who go out.

The People Dance

There are a few clubs in New York where people dance. Looking at you, Cielo, Jane and Output. But those places are far outnumbered by the clubs where people stand around, clutching their drinks like a bum clutches a twenty-dollar bill. They glance about with flicking eyes, trying to figure out where the party is. In Berlin people make the party. You dance facing the DJ. Rows of people facing the DJ. It’s actually freaky the first time you see it. Like a bunch of zombies staring at a piece of meat swinging back and forth. But then you get used to it and it seems natural.

The Clubs are Huge

berghain-lineIn New York most clubs are on the small side because space costs $1,000,000,000 per square inch (give or take). Berlin doesn’t have that problem, and what you get is a proliferation of oversized clubs. The most obvious example is Berghain, which rests in an old power station and can hold half of the population of the town that I grew up in. Besides the legendary Berghain, there are plenty of other large clubs containing multiple dance floors. It’s exciting to explore these places, the energy is nearly visible.

Obscene Hours are in Effect

When I first started going to clubs in New York I bemoaned the late closing time. 4am, that’s passed my bedtime. Then I discovered that Output stays open till 6am on the weekends and I thought that was really something. You can go home after sunrise!

And then I came to Berlin. Some example closing times: 10 in the morning, noon, 4 in the afternoon, two days later, never. So should you feel inclined you can party till 6am, walk home with the sunrise, get your 8 hours, shower, then go back to the same club and the party will still be going. Fancy that.

The Fuck You Attitude

New York City is synonymous with wealth. Cash gets you whatever you need. There’s some of that in Berlin, but as far as I can tell it’s a lot less prevalent. People dress down to go to the club. I’ve gotten rejected several times from clubs when I’ve shown up in my best New York clothes. Thinking practically, I made some quick wardrobe readjustments. Black t-shirt with a mysterious hole, my brand new ripped jeans that make me a poser by definition, and a pair of black shoes. Good to go, you get in.

Once inside you’ll find people smoking, which is technically illegal. You may also end up crunching and swaying around on broken glass. Smashing beer bottles on the ground is a way of life. Even though I don’t like all the second hand smoke, I appreciate being in a culture that seems to be casually saying fuck you to civilized living.

What’s New York Got?

le-bainPent house clubs. They’re fun as hell and you get an awesome view of New York City. It’s nifty to have a beer twenty stories on top of Manhattan. And New York has Output, which is marvelous and has a subwoofer the size of a Mini Cooper and funky lighting ideas that make you feel like you’re on a submarine. I can’t say that there’s a whole lot else. When it comes to clubbing, New York is a Volkswagen and Berlin is a Koenigsegg.

All that being said, please leave Berlin alone. It has enough tourists already and I selfishly want the exciting, underground club culture to last as long as possible. Come to New York, we’ve already got one quarter of the Earth’s tourists (approximately), and a few more won’t hurt a thing.

Airbnb vs. Hostels, Which is Better?

Hostels have been around forever, my parents call them Youth Hostels which I think is adorable. Airbnb on the other hand is the newer option. While it definitely has some solid benefits, I think that it’s popularity is a bit over-hyped. So in this short article I’m going to look at the benefits and drawbacks of staying at a hostel or Airbnb, so that it’s easier to make the best decision.

Benefits of Hostels

-It’s so easy to meet people. If you stay in a dorm you’ll probably meet some of the people you’re staying with. And even if you don’t, you can just go to the common area and see what’s happening.

-Dorms are the cheapest option and can make travelling on a budget doable.

-Hostels often have cool benefits like cheap happy hours, free breakfast, free entry to clubs, free walking tours, and other discounts.

Benefits of Airbnb

-You get your own room and you don’t have to worry about a drunk Spanish guy coming in at 3am and aggressively rolling his Rrrrrrsss. This is great if you want to get some solid sleep, or if you’re travelling with someone and you can split the cost of the room.

-If you have the cash and you want to splurge you can rent an entire apartment for a few days. This is something that was difficult to do before Airbnb, especially in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language.

-If you rent a room you’ll get to meet someone who will probably have some good advice about the city.

Drawbacks of Hostels

-Sleeping in a 8 or 10 bed dorm is precarious. Even with ear plugs in you still may be woken up.

-You have to keep track of all your stuff and possibly pay for a locker. If you’re worried about theft, hostels aren’t that secure. That being said, I’ve spent 6 months of my life living in hostels and never had anything but a pair of socks stolen.

-Sometimes the WiFi is crap, especially in South East Asia. Not a big deal if you’re writing emails, definitely a big deal when you’re trying to get work done.

Drawbacks of Airbnb

-It’s expensive! You’ll often end up paying a premium price to get that room for a few days. This is true of longer rentals too. You’ll end up paying plenty more than a roommate normally would.

-Not nearly as easy to meet local people.

-Limited check in times. You can arrive at a hostel at the funniest hours, it doesn’t usually matter. Showing up to your Airbnb at 1am may not be cool.

What’s the Best Choice?

I only use Airbnb are when I’m going to be staying somewhere for more than a week. When that happens it’s nice to have a room where you can leave your stuff laying around. It’s worth the extra money, especially if you’re travelling with someone.

Most of the time though, hostels! They’re fun, they’re social, and they’re cheap. Many of them also have private rooms if you want to pay for them. Regardless of where you choose to stay, make travel a priority. Check out the hostels and Airbnb rooms in your favorite city, make a booking, and start an awesome adventure today.

The 10 Commandments of Hostel Living

I see people break these common sense rules all the time (looking at you Americans!) and it really sucks because it makes everyone’s experience worse. If you’re staying in a dorm you know what you’re getting yourself into, but it’s still disappointing when people aren’t courteous. So with that in mind, here are 10 things that I wish everyone would keep in mind when they stay in a hostel.

Though Shall Not…

1. Come in late and turn the light on

Seriously, this is a no-brainer right? It’s a dorm for people to sleep in, don’t come in at midnight and turn on the large overhead light. I know you just arrived, but use your cellphone or unpack your shit in the hall.

2. Leave your cellphone on

If you’re holding your cellphone in your sausage-link fingers, do you really need a noise to alert you every time you get a new text from your mom?

3. Have a conversation in the middle of the night

I don’t care what language it’s in, having a conversation at 1am in a dorm is not cool.

4. Hook up with people

If you’re planning on having lots of hot hostel sex, get a private. Or use the shower. Nobody wants to wake up at 2am because the person on the bunk underneath them is trying to spawn a new human.

5. Slam the door

Sometimes I think people are retarded. Or they just don’t care? If you come in at 3am and everyone is sleeping, I’ll bet you can find a way to not close the door with the strength of an Olympic athlete.

6. Eat in bed

It’s got to be the Americans right? Who else brings a sandwich and a bag of chips into bed?

7. Snore

I get it, you can’t control it. This is wishful thinking, but I’ll continue to dream.

8. Do this

Bed MonsterSo you’ve studied carpentry and you have a keen interest in the disassembly of beds, that’s swell. I’d be grateful if you could find other constructive outlets to keep you busy though.

9. Get hammered, shitfaced, wasted, pissed, drunk-off-your-ass

If you can do 15 shots of Captain Morgan and still find your way to your bed, more power to you. Some people simply aren’t designed to handle alcohol though, and if you can’t even find your bed that’s a good sign you’ve had too much.

Though Shall….

10. Break every single one of these rules

Seriously, it’s a hostel. People know what to expect when they choose the dorm option. Buy earplugs, listen to music, or get a private room if you can’t deal. Communal living has lots of drawbacks and your sleep schedule tends to suffer, but it’s also really fun. It’s easy to meet people, it’s cheap, and it’s usually a good time. I’ve met lots of awesome friends at hostels and I wouldn’t trade all the missed sleep in the world for that. Check out what the folks at Hostelworld are offering in your favorite city!

I’m Never Going Back to Malaysia

In my twenty-one months abroad I really only visited a single country that I have zero inclination to visit again. That country was Malaysia. If I was struck dead tomorrow I would eternally regret not learning to surf at Bali, taking the Trans-Siberian express, or becoming fluent in German in Berlin. However, I would be fully content with not ever stepping foot in Malaysia again. Here’s why.

Scorched Eyeballs

Red Churches in Malacca Malaysia

No picture will ever be able to capture the intensity of the sun on the baked streets of Malacca

Thailand is hot. Indonesia is really hot. Malaysia is a pizza oven with no off switch. The heat is a physical force which has all the characteristics of a guilty death-row inmate. It’s out of control, strong, and it wants to kill you. Fair enough. I signed up for warm days when I began travelling in Asia. However, there’s something unique about the heat in Malaysia.

Not only does it get you drenched in sweat, but the sun has an unequaled intensity. It hurts the eyeballs to walk outside without sunglasses. My theory is that there’s a large hole in the ozone layer hovering directly above Malaysia, which allows three times more sunlight through. By the time I reached Malaysia 95 degree whether wasn’t a huge deal, and yet I still felt dizzy while walking on the street.

A Lack of Attraction

Indonesia and Thailand are known for their incredible beaches. Cambodia is a Wild-West country where you can do anything and ignore the rule of law. Vietnam is a wonderful country with amazing people and incredible scenery. What does Malaysia have? Lots and lots of palm trees. On my trip from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca I saw 43,589 of them out the window.

Once in Malacca I was able to see most of the main sites in half a day. The rest of my week there I spent reading books, listening to the Tim Ferriss show, and losing several liters of sweat a day. As humans tend to do, I also spent some of that time eating food, which leads me to my next point.

When Will I Learn my Lesson?

The Discovery Cafe in Malacca Malaysia

A healthy distrust of Malaysian food is a good thing

I loved the food in Malaysia the way an alcoholic loves his rum and coke before work. It’s delicious and enjoyable, but it also leaves you with a sinking feeling that you’re killing yourself. The problem is that the food in Malaysia was delicious. Like best thing you’ve ever tasted in your life good. I had a brief chance to become an obese man in a foreign land. Here’s the kick in the stomach though. In the twelve days that I was in Malaysia, I got food poisoning three times. Just by eating I was risking permanent damage to my digestive system.

I wasn’t an off-the-plane tourist either. I had already hardened my stomach with more than four months of street food in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. My body would have taken gold at the imaginary Eat Questionable Food and See What Happens Olympics. But Malaysia was too big a challenge. I spent my last few days there eating nothing but food that would be familiar to some guy from Alabama who was born and raised in a 46 person town.

Three times in twelve days. I would just start to feel better, I would eat something and get sick again. It’s not a lifestyle choice that I would wish for anyone.

Skipping Town

I was thrilled when the day came to go to Singapore. I was at the bus station an hour before I needed to be, and I felt good. I was leaving Malaysia and I had a strong feeling I would never be back. I still feel that way. If I’m ever in a similar situation, instead of taking a bus through that country, I’ll catch a flight straight from Thailand to Singapore or Indonesia. I value my eyeballs, my time, and my digestive system. I’m sure there are other people who have had a blast in Malaysia, but I’m simply not one of them. All hail the indelible Vietnam, the stunning Thailand, and the wild Indonesia!

The 7 Best Cities to Visit in Southeast Asia

Backpacking Southeast Asia was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I started in Hanoi, worked my way through half a dozen countries, and got to experience more cultural quirks than I’d ever conceived of.

This article isn’t about me though, it’s about you. It’s a chance for me to take my experience and share it with you. That way, when you’re trying to decide whether to travel to to south Thailand, or visit the stunning beaches of Bali, you’ll know what the best fit is. At just five months in six countries I’m not an expert. However, even in such a short amount of time you can find out all sort of interesting facts.

Food prices, food quality, scooter rental, hostel prices, gas prices, corruption levels, quality of beaches, attitude of the people, and so much more. Even though Bali was the last country on my Asian tour, I’ll make it the first one to receive some love

1. Bali, Indonesia

A Dirt Bike at Mt. Batur BaliFirst off, this island is huge! I thought Koh Samui was big, but me and my girlfriend drove through around it in only three hours. Bali is more like a 12 hour trip. The advantage of the size is the sheer diversity of the place. In the course of three days I got to visit the base of a large volcano (Mt. Batur), a tourist beach with a life changing sunrise, and a stunning beach, more than a mile long, with only six people on it. I couldn’t have been living better if I had $10,000,000 (the above picture is from the beach I’m speaking of).

Now for the bad. The traffic on Bali is worse than those people who dose themselves with Axe spray in the locker room. If you’re on a scooter (and brave) you can jump around the traffic. If you’re in a taxi, get ready to wait. That being said, all of the roads I encountered were in great condition and you can easily take a scooter almost anywhere. I rented a dirt bike from Bali Bike Rental (they have scooters too) and I highly recommend them.

I stayed at a hostel in Seminyak called Capsule Hostel. Loved it. The location isn’t fantastic, but with comfortable beds and air conditioning, sleeping is a breeze.

Cost of living in Bali: 6/10

2. Hanoi, Vietnam

I didn’t appreciate Hanoi as I should have because it was the first place I went in SEA. Now, after twenty or thirty other cities, I have a totally renewed appreciation for Hanoi. You can get a cheap hostel downtown, everything is walking distance, the people are nice, the beer is cheap, as is the food. You can get a scooter taxi to almost anywhere in the city for $3.

Downside, people consistently hawk you for stuff. Restaurants, stalls, tourist crap. It really starts to get old to have everybody yelling at you as you walk past. The solution is to wear headphones. Of all cities in the SEA, this would be one of my favorites to visit again.

Cost of living in Hanoi 4 /10

3. Pai, Thailand

The Bus ride to PaiNestled up in the mountains, three hours from Chiang Mai, is Pai. This place is paradise! What sets it apart from other cities is that it’s been developed naturally. No ostentatious high rises or condos, none of that shit. Just lots of bungalows, cute restaurants, and mountain views everywhere. You’ll probably want to rent a scooter to get around, but at $2.50 a day you can’t go wrong. Hostel recommendations include Darling, Circus, and The Purple Monkey.

Trying to think about the bad is difficult. I suppose the terrible crowded downtown main street is definitely a minus. Also, it can get chilly at night. So if you’re only packed for tropical weather, you might want to buy a hoodie and some jeans. Another downside is the bus ride to Pai. You’ll take a about a three hour bus around hairpin turns where the driver’s sworn duty is to kill you. Someone people rent scooters and drive from Chiang Mai to Pai. Even as an experienced driver, I would never do this.

Price 3/10

4. Koh Rong, Cambodia

If I had more blog readers I wouldn’t even bring up Koh Rong. This is a small island just off the mainland of Cambodia. It’s heaven. Perks includes no police, no roads, no cars, no scooters, crystal clear beaches, cheap hostels, cheap food, and loads of other crazy cunts who like to drink and play beach volleyball just as much as you do.

Downside, internet can be spotty. All of the affordable hostels don’t have AC, and a mosquito net is a must. That being said, you can read about my experiences drinking Jameson on Koh Rong, and I would instantly trade all inconveniences to go back. If I ever decide that the world is too much, and I want to cop out by drinking myself to death Hunter Thompson style, Koh Rong is where I’ll do it.

Cost of Living 4/10

5. Koh Lanta, Thailand

Sunset at Koh LantaLoved this place. Some of the best beaches and atmosphere. Also, it’s really easy to explore the island on scooter. The roads are all well paved and you can go to the end of the island in less than two hours. Keeping in mind that there are two sides of the island, and you’ll have to decide which side to go up (I vote west side, it’s like driving through a paved jungle. Pro tip here, stay at Sanctuary hostel. It’s right on the beach, the bungalows are great, you have a beautiful private bathroom. The food they cook may be overpriced for Thailand, but it’s delicious. Also, three minutes from a  7/11. Convenience is a law of life.

If you’re into drinking, you’re in luck. There are more bars on the beach than there are cartons of Ben and Jerry’s in a fat ladies freezer. If you want to get to a club farther down the island , Tuk Tuks rarely charge more than $5.

Cost of Living 6/10

6. Singapore, Singapore

The Banana Building in Singapore

I know, a city with the same name as the country. What kind of anarchy is this? A well maintained anarchy. Singapore is a first world country and may pale to London and New York, but it’s still an important financial powerhouse. Everything is modern, with chewing gum being illegal the sidewalks are so clean.

Rumors abound that Singapore is too expensive to have a good time. Yes and no. Look, you can find an awesome hostel like the one I stayed at (Happy Snail Hostel) for about $12 night. From there, a subway ticket is just $1.50 or so one way. Sure, some food costs more than the GDP of Nigeria, but you can also go get chicken and rice for $3. I honestly believe that Singapore is as cheap or as expensive as you make it.

Cost of Living 8/10

7. Mui Ne, Vietnam

Fishing boats in the Bay at Mui NeIf you’re going to explore southeast Asia, you have to hit Mui Ne. In particular, stay at Mui Ne Hills Budget Hostel (which I assure you is anything but a budget place.) They’ve got a great pool, then another. Then there happens to be another one, and if you get curious, you’ll find the fourth one. Three of the four pools have a fantastic view straight to the ocean. You can order two beers and a delicious dinner for less than $5. You can drink in the pool. Everyday there is a volleyball tournament at four.

I met Joanna here, which turned out to be a defining experience in my travels through Southeast Asia. I simply cannot recommend this hostel enough. Or the whole town for that matter. There are dozens of bars directly located on the ocean. You can sit in a chair, sip your Tiger, and hawk a loogie into the South China Sea. In America this privilege would cost $20 a beer. In Vietnam, about $1.50.

Price 4 /10

The Sun, the Sea, The Cheap Beer

After backpacking Asia for five months, I have so much more to say than what I just mentioned. Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Koh Samui, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Nha Trang, Dalat, Saigon, and so on. I just mentioned the places that I enjoyed the most. If you’d like to learn about more SEA, leave me a comment or hit me with a short message.