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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

A Break from Travelling, A Vacation from Blogging

In light of my current lifestyle I’ve decided to take an indefinite break from posting new articles. This blog is devoted to travel and working online, neither of which I’m doing that much of right now. I’m living in New York City, I’ve got a full time job working as a writer and I couldn’t be happier. Every day I look up at the skyscrapers and think how grateful I am to be in my favorite place in the world. Kiev is swell, Miami is beautiful, Berlin is amazing, but there is nowhere in the world like New York. This is why I’m content to stay in one place for a while.

Will I travel again? Without a question. Seeing the rest of Scandinavia is a huge priority and I won’t consider my life complete until I’ve partied in Ibiza. Not to mention South America! But that’s in the future. In the present I’m thrilled to have an amazing job, and I’m reveling in the challenge of making it in New York.

Lessons from Travelling

A. The first thing that sprang to mind is Germans are cool. Whether meeting Germans in Bangkok or London, Kiev or Hanoi, they always struck me as the coolest chaps around. It’s a big part of the reason I’m studying German and why I blew my entire savings account on a month long trip to Berlin in September.

B. You’re capable of overcoming more challenges than you think. If you don’t go with a tour (which I highly recommend not doing), travelling is hard work. You have to buy bus tickets, find your way around, take a taxi, get directions, and function in a place where you don’t know the culture and the people may or may not speak English. However, you learn pretty quick that there’s always a solution to any problem.

C. The world works differently from where you were born and raised. What you consider incredibly strange is remarkably mundane for someone else. In Dubai there are separate compartments on the subway for chicks and dudes. In Hanoi families eat their dinner on the sidewalk while hundreds of people walk by. In Moscow people have an aversion to smiling but it’s OK to smoke on the train.

D. You can’t run away from yourself. As Seneca the Younger put it: “How can you wonder your travels do you no good, when you carry yourself around with you?” Wherever you go, there you are. If I’m in New York and I take a jet to Constantinople, I might feel free for a day or two, but I still check my mental baggage onto the plane with me. The only thing that’s changed is I can’t understand what anyone is saying and I’m out the cost of an overseas ticket. Instead of counting on travel to escape from problems that bother me, I’ve found that it’s better to get them taken care of wherever I already am.

E. People who you meet while travelling tend to continue travelling. For my old college friends, going to NYC for a few days is a big deal. Maybe even Miami for a week, but they rarely do anything “big”. However, I look at my Facebook feed and I see Americans I’ve met overseas and they never seem to be in the same place. Someone is always buying a ticket to somewhere exotic and doing something zany and awesome. This guy is in Australia, that girl is back in Thailand. And so it goes. I’m more likely to meet up with one of these people in Bombay then I am back at home.

F. In spite of the flaws, I like my own country. Americans are culturally retarded, they weigh too much, they’re on the precipice of electing a foul-mouthed liar, and they think that owning a machine gun is as unquestionable a right as breathing. Thankfully many of them don’t ever leave the country, or they might realize that people the world over are laughing at them. It’s frustrating and there is so much I would like to change. And yet America is still my home. I like how friendly people are, I like getting excellent service in a restaurant, I like the amazing pizza, I like having ice in my Coke, and I like the small towns and the big cities and everything in between. Most of all, I like being able to understand the language and know what the fuck is going on. America is flawed, but any country that can produce a place like NYC has got to have some real heart.

G. Finally, I’ve learned that I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. For more than a year now I’ve been living out of my two backpacks. And the longer I do it the more likely I am to keep even less stuff. However, I strive to make sure that what I do keep is only the best shit. I buy $100 jeans because they kick ass, and I have a pair of $200 German headphones that have lasted through the worst conditions imaginable. One day I’ll have a house with a living room and own a kid or two, but the lesson remains: the stuff you own ends up owning you.

And Finally

I’ve been writing for six years now. I write because I enjoy it and it’s better than watching TV. In four years I’ll have been writing for a decade. That’s exciting! And a good idea to close with. If I do post anything again before I start travelling, it will probably be stories. I tend to go through a phase once or twice a year where I get a kick out of writing short stories. Then it fades and I forget all about it and life continues. So until it’s time to scratch the story itch, I’ll leave you with a quote from Tim Ferriss, one my role models and a man whose hand I want to shake.

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do”

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.