From South Beach to Savannah in Honor of St. Patrick

So I went to Florida and Atlanta recently and let me tell you something…there is something special about that part of the US. I stayed in a town called Key Largo in the keys, which is about 70 miles south of Miami. Being that it is an island, the way of life there is completely relaxed. On any given day of the week, you can walk into a beachfront bar, my favorite happens to be snappers, order up a dozen mouthwatering oysters with a pint of Yuengling beer and waste away the rest of your day chit-chatting and munching to the rhythmic hum of the salt water breeze blowing through your hair. I mean does it get any better than that? The only drawback about going there in the winter is the high price of lodging as this is high season. But once you get there, everything else is relatively inexpensive.

Next was South Beach and all its Latin flavors. I wasn’t there long as I had other matters to attend to, but the energy on the SOBE strip was primal. All the girls are wearing skimpy bathing suits, and the guys walk with no shirts. Loud music blaring from every direction, the hot sun shining with all its lustful fury, Cuban bar-b-cue and palm trees everywhere! Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? It most certainly was. As I said, I didn’t stay long, but did manage to do a little shopping and had the most amazing Cuban style chicken!
What happened next was a true surprise! First I headed west to Tampa and Orlando after that. Both were nice cities but nothing really special. Orlando has Disney World and Sea World. I drove through both but visited neither as these tourist traps have a way of sucking all your money without you even noticing. Besides I’ve already been to Disneyland and Sea world on the west coast. The real surprise was to be found in Savannah, GA.

Having been driving for 4 hours straight, I was exhausted. Still about 40 miles from my destination of Hilton Head Island, I decided to stop for the night and continue the trip tomorrow. I pulled off the highway and found a random motel and checked in. Hungry, I asked the concierge to point me in the direction of a decent restaurant to which he replied, “just go into downtown, you’ll find something there.” And find something I did. I didn’t realize that it was St. Patrick’s Day and had no idea that Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the US, just behind New York. The river that runs through downtown was died green, massive sections of the downtown were blocked off for live concerts, every bar has crowds spilling out of it…Mayhem! As crazy as it sounds and of course with St. Patty’s Day being a drinking holiday, you’d expect this to be a free-for-all! On the contrary! It was very well organized, nobody was out of control, the environment was friendly and inviting the people were incredibly nice and welcoming. I am not the type to go out by myself. I mean back home, I find it difficult to get take-out alone. But there was something so pleasant about the environment in Savannah, I had absolutely no reservations about being out on the town solo. And Furthermore, I had a great time meeting people, socializing and of course drinking a pint or two in honor of good ole’ St. Patrick! What a night!

Destination South Beach

So you probably have heard of the world famous South Beach, being a destination not just for American travelers but for thrill-seeking party people from around the world. When people think of South Beach three things usually come to mind: beautiful weather, beautiful places and beautiful people.

During the day there is so many things to do it is hard to pick just a few. South Beach boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in the world with soft white sand and pristine blue oceans. After you dry off head to Lincoln road where you can expect to see many people performing at night and shopping that can rival Paris, 5th avenue in New York, and Rodeo Drive in California. Some of the more famous stores on Lincoln Road are D-A-S-H Miami run by Kim, Chloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, GUESS the flagship shop for the Marciano brand of contemporary sportswear, and Base which only plays distinct music from Ibiza. Not much of a shopper, no problem, the Miami City Ballet is a world-class ballet with many programs including favorites such as The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet.

As the sun falls, South Beach comes to life with neon lights and nightclubs opening their doors. SET Miami, which is on Lincoln road, is run by the elite Opium Group and is one of the top clubs in the country. The Opium Group also runs many other nationally acclaimed nightclubs including Mansion, Living Room, Mokai, Cameo, and Club Louis in the W Hotel.

Getting a little tired? Understandable but that should not stop you from staying in the ultra-plush hotels. Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa, Epic Hotel, and the Hilton Bentley Miami are all top-rated choices that you will not be dissatisfied with. Make sure to come back and visit all of us again in South Beach!

Travel to South America – How to Start

You set your mind and you’re ready to travel to South America, a magical place of immense beauty where myth and legend continue to walk hand in hand. I’ve traveled 18 months in South America and can give you some tips on how to prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure.

Common Sense

We all hear the unpleasant stories and South America has a fame of being dangerous. I traveled thousands of miles traversing cities, jungles, islands and mountains. I survived 6 weeks in a street child care center in the favelas of Salvador da Bahía (Brazil) and had the party of a lifetime during carnival. Nothing, I repeat, nothing happened. Use your common sense. Avoid badly lit streets at night and if your sixth sense is giving you the “something is wrong” sign then take a taxi to your destination.

Travel Guide Book

The first thing that you will need is a travel guide book. It will be your best companion in your search for adventure. I can highly recommend Lonely Planet´s South America on a Shoestring
to get you started. The book covers all you need to know to get the most out of your trip and is ideal to plan your journey ahead. I’ve used the guide extensively during my 18 month adventure. They offer excellent separate travel guides of all the countries (besides using the Lonely Planet Shoestring I’ve used their separate travel guides of Peru and Brazil). Their guides are the most popular among backpackers.

Other popular guides are The Rough Guide to South America and the South American Handbook. Ideal, but not practical because you want to travel light, would be to enjoy the adventure with a Lonely Planet and either the Rough Guide or the Handbook.

Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese

The most rewarding thing for me was the fact that you can travel in a huge continent like South America with only 2 languages. Spanish and Portuguese. If you plan to travel just for a few weeks you can invest in a Spanish and/or Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book. English is not widely spoken and even a basic knowledge of Spanish and/or Portuguese makes the trip so much more rewarding (they’re extremely willing to help you, so don’t worry, be happy).

If on the other hand you’re planning to travel for a few months I can highly recommend taking a language course. Ideal would be in a school in South America (I took lessons in Quito, Ecuador, and had a private teacher for $2.50/h).

Walking Shoes

South America’s nature is overwhelming. You’ll walk for many hours day after day. It would be a shame to walk in the footsteps of the Incas with blisters on your feet. My biggest recommendation is to invest in high quality walking shoes with Gore-Tex.

Health Vaccinations

Yellow Fever (if you plan to go to the Amazon Basin), Typhoid (consists of two injections taken 4 weeks apart), Diphtheria-Tetanus, Polio, Cholera (only when necessary), Smallpox
Medical Kit:

Depending on what you plan to do you can include the following:

Antiseptic cream, aspirin, lomotil for diarrhea, antibiotics, throat lozenges, ear and eye drops, antacid tablets, motion sickness medication, alcohol swabs, water purifier, lip salve, foot and groin powder, thermometer (in a case), surgical tape, assorted sticky plasters, gauze, bandages, butterfly closures, scissors and last but not least, first-aid booklet
Note: malaria pills are required in the amazon basin, please be aware that those pills are very strong and you should check with your doctor before departure

Traveling Gear

Backpack:

Obviously a high quality backpack is a must. Choose the type that has different compartments that can be opened separately. Very handy if you need something quickly. Travel as light as possible. A heavy backpack is destined to undermine your traveling pleasure.

Clothing:

Depends on where you go. If it’s the mountains and the jungle, get some quality clothing from home. If it’s the beach, buy your t-shirts there (cheap).
Camping and Climbing Gear:

You can rent camping and climbing material in South America but the quality may be questionable. Always check the material. Bring your own gear if possible. I traveled 18 months with my own tent and various camping utensils.

Photography

Pictures are something personal. Some people just want some snap shots, others want to publish in the National Geographic. All my pictures were taken with a cheap Nikon F50 camera.
I had two zoom lenses, a 35-80 mm. and a 70-210mm. I also dragged a tripod and an excellent flash with me. I used FUJI slides (100 ASA) but you definitely need 200 to 400 ASA if you plan to go to the jungle. A polarize filter enhances the colours tremendously on sunny days.

Conclusion

South America will embrace you with open arms. It’s nature, people and history are overwhelming. With the right preparation and set of mind you’re ready to travel South America and enjoy an unforgettable adventure.