Puerto Vallarta

My very first trip outside of the country was to a relatively small tourist town in Mexico called Puerto Vallarta. The city is just outside of Jalisco, near Guadalajara, and is a post-popular escape for travelers who are looking for a slightly affordable, left of center Mexico excursion. Travelling with a few friends, I went for a 4 day absconder.

Puerto Vallarta, the part readily accesible to tourists, has little to offer to the naturalist and outdoorsman. Everything is centered around the many resorts, and the few local ventures that careful tourists would dare sneak off the resort to visit. My friends and I, however, could not help but be enchanted by the golden Mexican sun, and my audacity to explore the city.

We lounged on the beach, drank at the resort, lounged some more, and drank a LOT more. The fun really started when we decided to go on a 4-wheel ATV tour of a local mountain. We scaled up the sheer cliffs with a guide, and rode around for what seemed like hours until we stopped at a tequila distillery for snacks and refreshment. I was covered in golden mud and gasoline fumes by the end of it, pure heaven. The ride through the mountains showed me the lush vegetation that exists in this part of mexico. The plant life grows unabridged and large, similar to something you’d see in a Jurassic Park movie. Its in direct contrast to the town outside of the main resort area of Puerto Vallarta. This was my first exposure to areas that aren’t as developed as the USA, and my inspiration for seeing the unseen whenever I travel to a different place. It forced me to accept that I am priviledged, was uninformed, and had a lot to learn about the way people coexist with or trample over nature in and around the world.

The next day, we rented a Jeep, and drove around Jalisco and Puerto Vallarta at our own leisure. With no set destination in mind, we found ourselves again in the jungle, this time looking for a waterfall that street signs were slowly leading us to. My friend Joshua handled the driving, Brian navigated, and I was awestruck at the local culture ravaged by tourism. So many small shops and smiling faces that grew less frequent as we ventured further out of the bounds of resort-world. I was fascinated by what started to look more and more like normal life in this area; families living together to support each other, lots of consumption of american products, relaxed lifestyles, and an unshakable sense of community.

We soon found the waterfall, snapped a few photos, and made our way back to the resort.

What i’ve left out so far is how unbelievably gay friendly Puerto Vallarta is…and this is coming from someone who’s paranoid and was deeply anxiety ridden at the time of this trip. I almost couldn’t board my flight due to a breakdown, exacerbated by some special brownies, but that’s another story. I felt completely at ease in PVR, but also aware that we were being catered to for our dollar. We found the “gay area” on the beach, which was of course restricted by how much money you could afford to spend there to access it and its treasures. Different bars, resorts, and restaurants own certain parts of the beach, and in the gay friendly area, you had to rent chairs or purchase drinks to sit comfortably in that location. It goes without saying that there seemed to be no local gay people here, just more tourists trying to see and be seen and the hired community facilitating that. The nightlife was above average, but heavily catered towards sex-tourism and raucous college debauchery unfortunately. We found an amazing drag show at a club, and a great dance party at another, but nothing trumps the strip club…of which name I cannot recall. It was a divisive moment for my party, as I wanted to stay and dance around with the guys, but my friends weren’t really having it.

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the blue chairs section

 

 

 

Warrensburg II

Sometimes, the spirit needs a break from the monotony of New York City life, and recourse from the havoc and noise of the urban element. What better escape than to the actual backyard of the city, Warrensburg NY. It’s only 3 hours away, and nestled in the rural woods that are home to bears, beavers, and the mighty Hudson river.

The home we rented had access to several trails through the woods, a mushroom farm, a treehouse, and scenic views of the Hudson river.Other amenities included several patios, and a sun room where I could lay out and sober up before my treks through the wilderness. It was well worth the split cost.

I have broken down the cost of the schoolhouse rental I stayed in, the zipcar I took, and the cost of food and entertainment over this 4 day trip.

zipcar – 225

outfit – 160

food -60

airbnb – 120

Total cost for a quick weekend getaway = 565.

Totally worth it if you ask me, and although you can just as easily spend 500 on a flight to a warm tropical destination, you could pour that money into the local economy and help in sustaining the great American wilderness just outside the door. Plus, in visiting Warrensburg for a wedding celebration, I got an invitation to a free party and nights of fun with friends. Morning hikes through the woods, observing local chipmunks, and relaxing on the grounds of the schoolhouse were priceless.

 

Warrensburg

I was invited to a wedding celebration party in may of 2016, and I couldn’t help but to also seize the opportunity to go hiking in the backwoods of upstate New York. The event location was in Warrensburg; a scenic small town of about 4 thousand people, in the northeastern part of the state. I coordinated with friends who wanted to share an airbnb, rented a car with another, and drove 3 hours to escape the city life for a weekend.

What resulted was a few days of scenic bliss. I got to test out my new gopro hero 4 camera, enjoy some quality hiking and outdoors exploration, and indulge in some glamping fun with really cool people.

 

Hawaii, part iii

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The biggest component to travel for me has always been cost, my journeys have to be budgeted and affordable. I am terrible at managing money, but I am great at winging it and saving a few bucks. I will suffer through long layovers, cheap cabs, inconvenient living arrangements (to an extent), as long as I can get to where i’m going and spend my energy and money at the destination. I want to share how much I spent on my Hawaii trip, in hopes that it will inspire someone who perhaps has never traveled to treat themselves to a life changing experience, without worrying about the anticipated cost.

Flight -590 (kayak)

Lodging -0 (you could estimate approx 200 a night if you rent a room)

Uber -100 (several trips)

Luau -100 (cheaper options)

Sandbar trip contribution -60

Food -300

my total= ~1200 for 1 person for 5 days.

The cost of the trip was heavily augmented by cutting expenses staying with a friend, and being driven primarily by her. I will definitely say, Hawaii isn’t a cheap trip….and this is coming from a New Yorker. It is nearly impossible to avoid inflated costs, as common items found in the mainland USA are shipped to Hawaii, and you have to pay for the convenience of having it available. This total also includes transport to and from airports, and expenses while travelling.

Overall, on a scale of 1-10, i’d rate Hawaii as an 8 for value as a single person travelling. 

The beauty of the natural scenery, the available nightlife and mainstream culture, the ability to saturate yourself in the native culture, and the abundant wildlife and outdoors expeditions make it extremely worthwhile!

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**A quick piece of advice, research is the key to success when travelling. Research the cost incurred, research where you are going, ask people who have been before, …you can never have too much information.

Hawaii, part II

So, in my humble opinion, Hawaii is a MUST see destination for nature enthusiasts. There are miles of natural raw landscapes to take in. Tall tree covered mountains, crystal blue pacific waters with gorgeous sandy beaches, popular trails for hiking, and plenty of picturesque land to inspire you to seize the outdoor day. If you are into nightlife as well, Honolulu has you covered. There are tons of bars, lounges, and clubs that cater mostly to tourists and transplant locals.

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Kamehamehaaaaaaaaaa

I spent the entirety of my trip on the island of Oahu. It’s the most populated, third largest island, and the easiest and cheapest to access for a trip. For a mainland comparison, think of Honolulu and Waikiki as a posh sun drenched open downtown area, surrounded by a mixed appearance suburban area. High end shopping, beautiful people, late 90s styled construction and little evidence of the wild world around it. I used uber to get around this area, and avoided as many tourist traps as I could. The whole area has that “veneer” that I like to avoid. A smooth shiny finish that has scrubbed away local people and wildlife in lieu of commerce and urban expansion, but its a necessary evil i’m guessing. My friends and I partied all night in Honolulu at a few local mega-clubs, names of which I can’t recall. I couldn’t make it to any gay venues, but I got asked on an awesome date while I was there so I thought I’d satisfied that quota. We also spent time at a cigar lounge, had dinner at a few chain restaurants, and brunched at trendy hotspots.

What my fellow outdoor travel enthusiasts should do…

  1. Go to the sandbar! Its a natural wonder and you can rent a pontoon boat to enjoy it. The sandbar is a naturally occurring area on the windward side of Oahu, where the tide recedes back into the pacific ocean and reveals a small submerged island of sand. Its surrounded by water in Kaneohe bay, and becomes the perfect spot for pseudo-isolated relaxation. We brought drinks, food, music, and games to play on the boat. I of course went walking out as far as I could on the sandbar, until the point which I realized I was literally standing at the drop-off for the pacific ocean. It was one of those sobering moments when you realize you are staring into the vast void of something much bigger and more important than you.
  2. Hike Koko Head trail. It’s a steep incline rated as moderately difficult, definitely not for beginners, the out of shape, or faint of heart. There were points at which I was crawling on all fours to scale the mountain. It’s built on top of an old cart transit system that was used to move cargo down the side of the mountain. It resembles train tracks that you use as steps to climb all the way up. I climbed it in the middle of the day in march, and I sweated buckets. Bring water, and definitely some music to push you through the tougher parts. This is the perfect activity for those that want to challenge themselves physically, prefer dynamic engaging cardio, or want to compete against their friends if you go in a group. There is no better feeling than surpassing others on the trail while listening to Formation, and checking out the amazing views around you. The view from the top is an almost unblocked 360 degree view of the entire island, well worth the average 40 minutes to complete the climb. I took an uber to the trail, as it’s kind of far away from where I was staying, and then walked afterwards to a little strip mall and had Korean food with a friend to recover. Perfect early day activity.
  3. Hike Diamond Head trail. This trail is the one you can bring your mom and aunt that like to walk with you. It’s challenging in a few spots, but overall easy. The trail is more manicured, and has rails and concrete steps in spots to help you along the way. It is tourist HEAVY, so brace yourself for some traffic if you go at primetime. It also costs a small fee to hike, as it’s considered a park area. Try to make it there early in the am, so you can catch the sunrise over the ocean.
  4. Go to the North Shore. The beaches in Oahu are abundant, and if you’re like me, there is nothing better than roasting under the sun and getting as dark as humanly possible. We had an acai bowl to start our day, which if you’re also into fitness is a perfect pairing for a protein packed breakfast, and made our way down Kamehameha way to lay out on the banzai pipeline. We saw whales off in the distance, and the water and sky were perfectly picturesque. We also found a more secluded beach and grabbed a fattening lunch of garlic and butter drenched shrimp over rice, and relaxed all day. There were  cliche surfer guys with long sun-bleached hair, and a local celeb taking photos in a line of bathing suits on the beach. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a honeymoon, or just a lazy outdoor afternoon with your mate.
  5. Go to a Luau. This activity is better suited to the culture enthusiasts. When my friend suggested we do this, I was deeply hesitant because I didn’t want to participate in anything that was a mockery of what traditional Hawaiian people do. I preferred to go to a real fire-pit, pig roasting in the earth Luau, or nothing at all. However, the one we went to which was inside a theme park styled activity center, was amazing. They took a great deal of time to describe the Hawaiian tradition, used native Hawaiian actors and actresses, and talked at great length about the history of the islands and how they were settled by different cultures over the course of history. They also spoke about the impact of colonization, and the history of the United States occupying the land.