Travel

Best/Worst Destinations of The Year

It's been a pretty eventful travel year for me. I've been to France a few times, Argentina, China, England, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Hawaii, and more states around the US. Looking back on the places I've been, there are a few stand outs for me. So here are the best and worst of my 2016 destinations.



Best - Cape Town

My end of the year trip started in the planning stages as a way for me to set foot on my 6th continent, and many people who had traveled to Cape Town, raved about how great it was. As my planning evolved to add Dubai, I personally started to get more excited for Dubai than Cape Town. Dubai is a flashy city and I really could not wait to see all that it had to offer.

Cape Town and Table Mountain

Cape Town and Table Mountain

Once I landed in Cape Town, the whole area won my affection and my focus shifted quickly away from Dubai and back to Cape Town. Downtown Cape Town is nothing to write home about, but the surrounding area is so full of vibrant history, nature, and people, you just can't help but fall in love with it. My driver put it an interesting way, Cape Town has an insect that bites you and does no harm, but once it does you can't help but want to come back. While a funny little tale, it is true on some level, the city and surrounding country are so captivating, you almost immediately realize you'll be back.

The Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and the associated national park is a must see destination. Rarely have I been to a place with so much natural beauty.



Worst - Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires like Cape Town was an effort to grab my 5th continent, but Buenos Aires had quite the opposite effect on me. Landing at the airport, I almost immediately felt uncomfortable, and there are very very few cities that have ever done that to me... honestly it's the only one so far. While my taxi driver was great, the attendant wanted money from me just for showing me where the cars were. We literally walked 200 ft at most... no I don't have any cash for you.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Once we got into the city, it quickly became clear that the name "Paris of South America" was a very poor name. There were a few spots that reminded me of Paris, but for the most part, those buildings that did remind me of Europe were every 7th building or so, the remainder of the buildings looked run down, weathered and in major disrepair. 

Walking the streets, 2 separate people attempted to scam me. Shops were not open on the weekends, the main avenue felt like it was ignored and no one really liked the city in which they lived. 

Eventually I did find a nicer part of the city, but that still left me unimpressed. I found a single art museum I enjoyed, other than that, I left with a sour taste about Argentina and South America in general. The people were rude, and generally unfriendly, quite literally the opposite of what I've found almost any other place in the world. Argentina left me with a desire to visit any other part of the world except South America. Maybe that's a harsh point of view, but I have no desire to go back, much rather go to South Korea again where I felt welcome and had many interesting things to do.

2017

Next year approaches fast and I'm thinking about my next destinations. On top of my list is Hong Kong, I've long wanted to visit what has been described as an amazing city. After that, there are many European countries I have yet to make it to, and I feel the need to focus more on Europe this year.

There are no definite plans in the works yet, but this year will hopefully become bigger than 2016.

Dubai, A Culture At Odds With Itself

Preparing for Dubai last month, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. If I listened to everyone in the US who had never traveled there, they would likely have you believe that I'd explode as soon as I touched down at the airport. On the other hand, people who had actually been to Dubai had made it clear just how fun the city could be. Personally I had no idea which was more true, so i went in cautiously and found an interesting culture, one I feel is quite at odds with itself.



After getting to my hotel, in Dubai, I wanted to know what to expect. In the US, we have a view of the Middle East as requiring certain types of clothing in all situations. Looking this up, I even found travel websites advising me to wear pants at all times and make sure my shoulders were covered. 

There is good reason for this, if you got to the Mall of Dubai's website, it lists exactly this. Knees need to be covered, and shoulders need to be covered. Also it mentions no display of public affection toward one another. Reading through all this, I took the advice to heart and dressed appropriately. Many of these rules stem from the history of the country and the religious background of many citizens. Past culture is driving many rules in Dubai.

On the other hand, Dubai is quickly building to become a global city and for good reason. Dubai's ruler is trying to future proof the city and plan for when the country no longer can subsist on the profits of oil. The vision here is impressive and the city is all the better for that vision in my opinion. Dubai is on the fast track to becoming a tourist destination, more so than the level it has already reached.



There in lies the problem though, creating a globalized city will bring a global audience to your front doors. As these travelers make their way to Dubai, they will inherently bring their culture with them. Much of the world's culture now is unafraid to show skin, have short shorts, tight pants, and outwardly show affection between partners, gay or straight. This is a global culture that is likely to move back in the opposite direction.

When you walk into the Mall of Dubai for the first time, it is immediately obvious that this global culture has landed squarely on Dubai. Men and women alike wear shorts showing knees. Tight pants, low cut tops, and skirts that are very short are in abundance. World culture is alive and thriving in Dubai.

Yet the rules of the Mall still stand that all of these things are not allowed. The world's culture isn't something that anyone can run away from though. The Mall doesn't have 1 or 2 patrons with this type of clothing, it is literally 90% or more of the people in the mall. Security doesn't attempt to curb this trend either, and the new culture looks to be ingraining itself into the United Arab Emirates culture. Locals seem to be adopting these trends more and more.

None of this is bad or good, but it is an interesting perspective I've never gotten before. Let's be up front, no one tried to blow me up, or even approached me with anything remotely negative to say, not even a dirty look. Dubai is a wonderful place to visit, but it does have rules that you should be aware of. The city is in the throws of a major cultural shift from what I have seen, but the old culture still heavily influences laws. Every so often people do get jailed for things we would find to be crazy.

This is why I say that Dubai is at odds with itself. It is changing though and in my eyes it is for the better. I did really enjoy Dubai, I'd certainly return and it might be a place you would enjoy too. 

86,045 Miles... 45 Flights... 25 Airports... 1 Awesome Year

It's been a pretty eventful year in travel for me. 2016 has been the first year that I started to travel like a crazy person, and I loved every second of it.



My travels this year started with a work trip to France, my first time flying with Delta in years. 

Aix En Provence, France

Aix En Provence, France

Soon after, I made my first major miles based flights in business class to Argentina. A lackluster place to visit if I've ever seen one, but some great and not so great flights made for a memorable experience. Not to mention my first time aboard a Boeing 787, the aircraft I helped design right after graduating college.

United 787

United 787

Weeks later I boarded a flight to Hawaii where me and my girlfriend spent a week on vacation. This is where we were engaged, now my fiancee, we fell in love with Hawaii. Returning to Hawaii is a must for us, the islands are someplace everyone should get the chance to visit.

Pololu Valley, Hawaii

Pololu Valley, Hawaii

Another quick trip to France for work.

Then the last minute, spur of the moment flight to Beijing, China. Well as spur of the moment as it could get having to still get a visa from China.

Beijing Forbidden City

Beijing Forbidden City

A few trips back to see family in NY were sprinkled in throughout the year, but the next and biggest trip was my Cape Town and Dubai trip. Having just finished this, it really put a nice finish on the year of travel. 

Downtown Dubai

Downtown Dubai

I have a few more flights to go this year, but mostly short flights to my hometown, and to possibly see a friend in Florida if I have the cash to make that happen. Overall though it has been an awesome year, blowing away all my previous years of travel, I've seen more countries and flown more miles this year than my last 2 years combined.

Next year is coming fast, and I'll be off to the races as soon as I can. There are so many places left to see, and so many I want to revisit. The travel bug has bitten me hard, and I don't think it'll stop any time soon.

6 Continents Down, 1 To Go!

This year was a drive to get the 6 major continents checked off my list, and now that they are, that leaves one remaining, Antarctica. Question is, what is the best way to get there?



I've looked a little a grabbing my 7th continent, but that proposition isn't exactly clear cut, or for that matter, cost effective. Many friends have mentioned methods to get to Antarctica on the cheap, but I've seen no details on these methods yet. If you have a good way that you'd recommend and have tried, let me know.

From what I have seen there are two ways you can get to Antarctica, by plane or by boat, both have their problems. Antarctica has notoriously fast changing weather. This makes plane travel rather tricky, since last minute weather changes can often mean cancelled flights and that may be a thing that cannot be recovered from, something you may need to take a whole other trip to try again with the same chance of cancellation happening. 

Taking a boat is the other option. Antarctic cruises seem far more reliable, but the weather will not leave you alone here either. Waters around Antarctica are extremely rough, the area is know as the Antarctic divergence/convergence zones. These areas are caused by water currents and weather patterns at the polar regions. Interactions between opposing wind patterns and water currents cause stormy seas and extremely rough water. Knowing this in advance is key. I'm leaning toward the boat method myself, but trying to find a cost effective method is difficult.

Many cruises start out in the $10,000 range and go up from there. Cruises often run for 2 weeks, and as such can be a large time investment aside from the major monetary investment.

I am told there are other options. Multiple people have told me about joining scientific exploration crews for lower cost. These boats shuttle science crews to and from Antarctica and often feature lecture series while on board. In my opinion this sounds like paradise. Science lectures and a trip to Antarctica? Yes please!!!! I'm a major science nerd, so while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, this sounds like paradise to me.

Now I just need to find the perfect cruise to join. If anyone has suggestions, please send them my way, I'd love to find a good boat to join for a trip next year if possible.

Uber... My Hero

Up until this most recent trip, I had traveled almost exclusively to cities with a robust subway/metro system that I would be able to use. This always made getting around quite easy and totally under my control of where I go and when, but South Africa lacked this feature and left me the question on how to get around.



Uber easily stepped in to help me out with this. I've long had an Uber account, but when I lived in Philadelphia, there was rarely a need for it, we often walked to restaurants and whatever else we needed to get to. Philadelphia is a very walkable city and often is not in need of taxis or Uber rides. Once I flew to Cape Town though, this became a vital transportation method between the airport and my hotel.

After Cape Town, Uber became a workhorse in Dubai, something I was not expecting. My hotel, The Westin Al Habtoor City, in Dubai, was still finishing construction. Beyond that, the surrounding area was under construction. A new canal was being built and cut off where the old road used to run, the road I was planning on using to get to the hotel from the nearest metro station. There was no longer an easy way to get to the metro from my hotel.

Uber was ready to take on the burden here and get me where I was going. To and from the airport, back and forth between the Dubai Mall and the hotel. Uber got me to see the Burj Khalifa and to the Dubai Mall where I was then able to connect to the metro to other parts oft he city. Occasionally you get a bad driver, but for the most part the drivers were great and got me quickly to my destination and back. 

Uber is the way to go when it comes to foreign travel, when the metro isn't an option. It became my go to, even when I came home. Uber just yesterday was able to get me over to the repair shop so that I could finally get my car back and have full use of it again. Use it when in need, it's far easier than a taxi and I don't have to worry about being scammed by a driver since Uber handles all the transactions.