Category Archives: Destination Details

What’s My Favorite Place I’ve Visited?

Being known as a traveler has its pluses and minuses. One of the minuses in my mind is that I have to answer the dreaded question everyone seems to ask. For those travel addicts like me, you know the one I’m talking about –“what’s your favorite place?” That’s like asking “what’s your favorite place you’ve worked” to someone that has had 25 different jobs over the course of their life — sure, there are some favorites that end up near the top of the list, but it’s not an easy numbered list that can be given without a lengthy explanation; it requires time to explain how they were different. Travel destinations are no different — they are vastly different cultural experiences that satisfy different needs. How do you possibly compare rural Ghana to New York City? The beaches of the Dominican Republic to the skyscrapers of Hong Kong? The rivers of Cambodia to Rome? You can’t.

It seems like I’ve answered this question hundreds of times already, but wanted to clarify so that the next time someone asks, I can send them a link to a blog post.

  1. Santorini, Greece – Those of you that know me know I love Santorini. The summer of 2010 was the best summer I’ve ever had. The island has a way of sucking you in and making you never want to leave. Once you visit, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. It’s actually surprisingly affordable to backpack Santorini (and particularly if you rent an apartment long term).
  2. Cinque Terre, Italy – unbelievably gorgeous and tranquil. Hiking all 5 cities in one day was quite the workout, but well worth it for those in a rush to get to Rome (if going south) or Monaco (if going North).
  3. Interlaken, Switzerland – probably the most gorgeous city I’ve ever seen. Towering mountains surrounding the city, and an amazing backpacker destination right in the center of Switzerland.
  4. Cambodia – The people there genuinely cared about me as an individual, whereas in Thailand and Vietnam, people were helpful and kind but seemed to just be after my money. An amazing rich cultural country with a war torn history that should be high on your list.
  5. Kenya – I’ve posted my thoughts on Kenya already, so read those. In short, it’s just an amazing country with an unbelievably kind local population. My first real visit to Africa was an amazing experience.

My list has changed slightly since I wrote this post in July of 2010 — Barcelona and Hong Kong have been axed from my top five as a result of spending more time in Santorini and backpacking Kenya for a month.

What are your favorite destinations?

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow.com from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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St Lucia, The Caribbean’s Hidden Little Gem

The Caribbean islands are world famous for being exotic, vibrant and full of reggae reggae rhythms! When you visit here be prepared to not ever want to leave, as you will be entranced like so many poor souls before you will its stunning natural beauty and energetic national character.

St Lucia has to be one of the most overlooked Caribbean islands in contrast to its popular neighbors’ Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua. But the island of St Lucia is in a league all its own, and due to its lower profile than its sistering islands it has a lot more unspoilt natural beauty and hidden treasures to offer the more intuitive traveler.

Unlike the other Caribbean Islands St Lucia is more renowned for Jazz than Reggae, and you’ll definitely be able to hear that intoxicating rhythm wherever you go. To sample a real taste of St Lucia’s Jazz delights, you should come to the island when they hold their annual Jazz festivals all throughout the summer seasons. Such events as ‘Jazz on the beach’ and ‘Tea time Jazz’ are acclaimed throughout the global Jazz community and see the likes of the Pantime Steel Band, Luther Francois and the amazing Black Ants Band rock the crowds here to the point of euphoric hysteria! Last year the infamous Shaggy graced the stage of this monumental Jazz scene, who has enjoyed international stardom from hits such as ‘Mr Boombastic’ and ‘You’re my angel’. The St Lucia Jazz festivals also allows amateur musicians to have a go at entertaining the Jazzed up crowds if you so wish to. So if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Jazz musician, get in contact with the main orgainsers before you go, there details can be found on the St Lucia’s Jazz homepage.

St Lucia also holds annual Carnival events in July that have built up such a reputation, it now rivals the world famous Brazilian Carnivals. This is because St Lucia’s Carnivals incorporate many many different cultural forms from all over the world such as art, music, dance, theater and costume, but also with a unique style and touch all their own! Thousands of visitors flock to St Lucia every year for these special events and if you’re a fan of soca and Calypso music you will be in your utopia! They also hold a ‘Carnival Queen’ title, but beware the locals prepare most of the year hoping to win this prestigious honor so the competition is fierce!

If all the above hasn’t persuaded you to come to St Lucia yet, maybe the 19,000 acres of beautiful natural rainforest might tempt you a little more. From heavenly hummingbirds to swooping tree bats and a vast array of mesmerizing tropical plants and flowers, you will be in your element trekking through these magnificent jungles. There are lots of guided tours on offer when you get to St Lucia, all offering a variety of different walks and Jungle activities.

What are you waiting for? Come to St Lucia and have the holiday of a lifetime!

Cost of Renting a Car in Saint Thomas – aka How to Get Raped

If you’re planning to visit Saint Thomas – it’s a good bet that you’ll need a rental car. In fact, after being here for two weeks, I know you will. You literally can’t do much of anything on this island without a car.

What does it cost for a rental car here in Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands? Well,I thought it was only $50 per day, but it turns out we ended up paying about $80 a day because we opted for the insurance (mistake #1).

A $945 bill for less than 10 days? Umm, yea, we got royally raped on that one.

Someone (aka me?) should start a business doing short term car rentals in Saint Thomas. Buy a vehicle for $4,000-5,000, rent it for $500 per month, and pay off the whole car in 8 months. Sounds like a good business idea to me.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow.com from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Cost of a Rental Car in Saint Thomas

Like everything else in Saint Thomas, a rental car is not cheap. We rented a fairly new Ford Fusion similar to this (I forgot to take a photo of our actual car prior to dropping it off this morning) from Budget Rent a Car. How much did it cost? $50 a day roughly. We finally returned the car this morning after 8 days of use (in which we used 3/4 a tank of gas). As you may know, my buddy and I moved here for a couple months about a week ago — and we are certainly glad to have this $50-a-day hole burning in our pocket gone from the drive way.

The jeep below is our new “island beast” for $450 per month. Not quite as luxurious, but certainly worth the trade off to save the extra $1000.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow.com from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Initial Impressions of Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands

View from the balcony of our new place on Donkey Hill

I’ve now been in the US Virgin Islands on the island of Saint Thomas for a little less than a week after having moved down here for a month with my buddy Dan. Both of us were more than ready to get out of the Seattle rain in favor of a tropical climate — so we are now in Saint Thomas living the island life for the 2nd summer in a row, though certainly not quite as relaxing as Santorini last summer given I’m working full time this time around.

We spent the first three nights at the Best Western Carib Beach Resort overlooking Lindberg Bay (I’ll post a few photos in a separate post), and are now renting two rooms in a place on Donkey Hill. Our first task was to find a short term rental so that we could get out of our $179 per night hotel room. Surprisingly, finding a short term rental for the summer proved fairly easy, even with Dan and me being fairly lazy about the process. I did some initial research on vacation home rentals in various places across the web, but in the end, we ended up finding our place on good ol reliable Craigslist. We’re on the top floor of a duplex with a 3 bedrooms upstairs and 2 bedrooms downstairs – I’ll do a separate post with some photos of the home.

As for some initial impressions of the island now that we’re settled in a bit? For starters, Saint Thomas seemed extremely run down the first few days. I know it’s off season and just entering hurricane season, but shops were closed and the city seemed lifeless. I think part of that was due to where we were staying (right near the airport) and that there were no cruise ships in town the first two days. However, we drove through Charlotte Amalie again yesterday and there were three gigantic ships gracing the harbor, and tourists everywhere. As a result, the city was buzzing with activity and shops that were closed a day previously were lively with bodies. The cruise ships being in town also brought the unfortunate addition of traffic jams. Food is ridiculously expensive – a $14 philly cheese steak, $12 DiGornio pizza, $9 breakfast bagel, $80 at the grocery store in one day. Repeat, food is expensive. Remember, expensive food on Saint Thomas. We hit Morningstar Beach for an hour today (didn’t want to burn the 1st day) and the water was unbelievably warm – probably the warmest ocean water I’ve been in anywhere in the world. It’s certainly helpful having a local resident (our landlord) help guide us in the right direction in terms of activities, food, and people. Getting certified for diving is going to cost about $250.

After a few days under our belt, we’re feeling a lot better about the island’s prospects. All in all, I’m a fan and looking forward to an awesome 5 weeks.

Now, back to island life…

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow.com from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Backpacking Through History to Caen, France

France was one country that I dreamed about traveling to ever since I was little and my parents went and left me with my grandparents because I was too young to go. There are a lot of things that you have to take care before traveling abroad such as passports, international travel medical insurance, and the right luggage. Once you have all those figured out you can let the adventure begin. There were many places to backpack to in France, but when I went my favorite spot was Caen. From here you can take a day trip to Omaha Beach where the Allied forces invaded France on June 6 194 (D-day). Standing on Omaha Beach was so surreal and I could just picture the troops arriving in the boats and having to run up the entire beach while looking up at the German army on top of the hill. There are several tips that I would recommend when visiting this historic site.

  1. Time of day: I got to Omaha Beach around 8 am. This is the perfect time to go because the tide is out so you really get the full effect of how far the troops had to run to get to the shore. Plus in the morning it is not so hot.
  2. Pointe du Hoc: It is 4 miles west of Omaha Beach and there are cliffs that are 100 feet tall. This is where the German army stood over the American troops and released fire on thousands of young American soldiers.
  3. The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Sea: American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. This is the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. There are 9,387 white crosses that represent where the soldiers that were killed on D-day were buried. Seeing all the white crosses in line covering 175 acres really puts into perspective how many lives were lost in just one day.

There is a lot to see when visiting France but going to Caen is a must see just for perspective on World War II. The sites and the feeling that I got when I was at Omaha Beach is almost indescribable and is a must see for everyone.

Singapore at Night

Yup, Singapore is on the list. But where isn’t?

Nocturnal – Singapore Timelapse from Edy Sutanto on Vimeo.

[via GoBackpacking]

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow.com from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Ode to Dave

For those travelling to Europe, whether by semester abroad, holiday with family or good old fashioned backpacking there is one place that seems to be synonymous with fun and an expected stop on any itinerary. The Greek Islands, rightly justified in their inevitability they encompass, beauty, relaxation and fun among many other important travel factors.

Of course there is more than one to visit, hence “Islands”, but for most people the place that everyone seems to gravitate towards, including us, is Santorini.

Resting peacefully in the Aegean amongst the Cyclades cluster, its steep cliffs and caldera views reflects captivating beauty and one time chaos brought on by a massive volcanic eruption (that was felt as far away as Crete). But of course, like most places in Europe, a period of great unrest has brought about such a lovely tourist attraction. There are many reasons to visit Santorini: stunning Oia sunsets, colorful beaches, Mythos beer, etc, but this post is dedicated to a particular watering hole/restaurant in the small village of Perrissa Beach.

Atlas; conveniently located directly across the street from Anna’s hostel, this place is a can’t and shouldn’t miss highlight of Santorini. The place itself is nothing elaborate; it resembles your standard in Greek Island décor, but the highlight of this place is the charismatic, often wacky owner Dave.

By day – it’s free wi-fi, Nescafe and chilled out beats in the background. The portions are huge, the food delicious, and the wait staff friendly!

By night – it’s a party! Dave takes it upon himself to DJ, selecting from the thousands of songs he has stacked on several hard drives. Don’t be surprised if someone hands you a free shot or five of Racki, his signature drink. It taste like absolute ass, but I promise it will leave you wobbling. Usually as it gets later, the night gets stranger and if you’re lucky, Dave performs his famous bottle routine!

Anyone who goes there never leaves disappointed. We loved Perrissa and Atlas so much we ended up staying for 5 weeks instead of the 2 nights we originally planned. Go and be well!

Brad Arsenault

Brad is a rockstar. Simple as that.

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Getting a Visa into Ghana Upon Arrival

Getting a Ghana visa upon arrival can be done, but be ready to answer the question “Why did you not get a visa prior to arrival?” My answer was “I didn’t have time”, which I admit was just a lame excuse for being lazy and not going to the Ghana embassy in Nairobi. The Visa cost $150 (as of October 2010). I’d recommend bringing American dollars with you to cover it, but if necessary, you can use the ATM machine at the airport upon arrival to withdraw Ghanaian Citi and exchange that for dollars. However, you might be out of luck if you have Mastercard and not Visa — in all of Ghana (there is an “row of ATMs in the mall”, but not a single Mastercard). In addition to 150 US dollars, bring a letter from an organization or individual sponsor living in Ghana explaining the reason for your visit, a copy of your flight itinerary out of Ghana, and a copy of your bank statement in order to prove you have available funds just to be safe. We didn’t get asked for our bank statements during the visa process, but better safe than sorry.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow.com from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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