Tag Archives: travel tips

Things Learned After Spending Time in New Zealand

Up until 2009 I had traveled a lot, but it was confined to places all over the United States and Canada, with a little time in Mexico. All of this changed that year when I headed abroad for the first time. In fact I was headed to the other side of the world and New Zealand for an extended period of time.

Auckland skyline from afar in New Zealand

Upon arriving at Auckland Airport I immediately started noticing not just the big differences compared to home in the states, but the small. During that trip and my subsequent time in New Zealand here are some of the things that I have learned:

  • Gotta make sure to look to the right first before crossing the street.
  • Hitchhiking is common a way to get around and a pretty safe one. Picked one up, helping them get from A to B, with a lot of great conversation in-between.
  • To do the above, had to experience driving on the other side of the road. That was the biggest transition.
  • I’m not walking into a convenience store to grab some drinks and snacks, but a dairy.
  • A New Zealand Dairy in Auckland

  • Speaking of dairies, them along with gas stations and in every other place it seems you will find a display case of meat pies ready for consumption. The steak and cheese yum!
  • New Zealand meat pies

  • You want to wash that pie down with a V Energy Drink a.k.a. fuel for more road tripping. Why don’t they carry those outside of NZ and Australia haha?! 🙂 🙂
  • When getting a different kind of fuel, Burger Fuel, the fries you are getting are Kumara, not sweet potato.
  • I’m not grabbing a beer at the restaurant/bar, but a pint. To this day even at home when I want a beer I find myself asking for a pint.
  • When at the restaurant/bar there is no tipping, you don’t give payment to the waiter and there is no seating available at the bar.
  • Continuing on with the food, it’s frites not fries. Oh and can I have some aioli with those! What’s ketchup? People call it tomato sauce.
  • When I visit I am not on a vacation, but on holiday.
  • Here a sheep, there a sheep, everywhere a sheep sheep.
  • More mingling with the New Zealand sheep

  • It’s rugby, rugby, rugby over here. I quickly got drawn in to the All Blacks National rugby union team. Was very excited when they won the 2015 Rugby World Cup in London.
  • The further south you go the colder it gets.
  • It’s January and the sun is out until after 9 pm.
  • I quickly Learned not to not close your eyes when road tripping, the terrain changes fast. We’re in the rain forest, wait the mountains, wait the prairie, wait I see a glacier.
  • It is really as pretty and magical as Lord of the Rings depicts it to be. You never know what lies straight ahead.
  • Heading towards the Franz Glacier in New Zealand

  • I discovered for myself what all the chatter was about involving the Queenstown Fergburger. Delicious.
  • Roundabouts you are starting to see here-and-there in the states, in New Zealand they are just a way of life.
  • I’ve already said it a couple of times in this post, people refer to the US as “The States”.
  • Stay at hostel, not a hotel. Who knows who you’ll meet, where they will be from and what kinds of great memories you will make.
  • Most importantly, everyone is so friendly. I don’t recall ever having a bad interaction with anyone.

It was great learning about, experiencing and seeing the differences between home and somewhere outside North America. I look forward to uncovering more in New Zealand and beyond.

Have you ever been to New Zealand? If so, what are some of the differences you noticed from home?

10 Reasons Why I Keep Going Back to San Francisco

Outside of the home bases, my favorite city to travel to by far is San Francisco. In general the goose bumps appear whenever a trip is on the horizon. When it is a return visit to the “City by the Bay”, goose bumps are an understatement to how I am feeling.

Why do I keep going back to San Francisco you ask? There are ten reasons in particular:

1. The Growing Up Factor. My dad and his side of the family are originally from California and the Bay Area, so there was lot of San Fran summer time growing up. Cable car rides, experiencing my first coffee at The Buena Vista Cafe, watching the sea lions, Giants baseball games, all the fun memories of youth, make me want to go back and experience it over-and-over again.

10 reasons Why I Keep Going Back to San Francisco - Cable Car

Riding a Cable Car down Hyde Street as a kid.

2. The Coffee. San Francisco has one of the best indie coffee shop scenes around. Hanging out to a pour over in the Mission District at Four Barrel or grabbing an espresso shot at the Blue Bottle Kiosk in Hayes Valley, there seems to be a shop popping up on every corner. Each one is in its own little nook of the city. Experiencing the different coffee shops has also been a great way to discover and learn more about the various parts of the city.

3. The Neighborhoods. Speaking of the various parts, San Francisco is home to dozens of neighborhoods. Fisherman’s Wharf is the popular choice among tourists, Union Square is for shoppers, Outer Sunset is where you’ll run into the Pacific Ocean and lots of fog, and Alamo Square is primary residential, but with some of the best views of the skyline and city. I love the fact that each neighborhood has its own story and unique flavor. It feels like you’ve entered a different city or part of world going from one to the next.

10 reasons Why I Keep Going Back to San Francisco - Weather, fog, Outer Sunset neighborhood

Staring out at the Outer and Inner Sunset neighborhoods from The 16th Ave Tiled Steps Project.

4. The International Feel. Walking the streets you’ll hear many conversations, sometimes none of them in English. People from all over the world come to the city to visit and/or set up residency. The Japantown neighborhood is the oldest enclave in the United States. Chinatown is the place I like to go to scope out authentic cuisine, seeing fruits and vegetables at product markets along Stockton Street that I have never tried, or to hop from one touristy gift an antique shop to the next on Grant Avenue.

10 reasons Why I Keep Going  Back to San Francisco - China Town neighborhood

Heading into the Chinatown neighborhood at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.

5. The Walkability. One thing that can be a challenge yet at the same time is strength of the city is its walkability. You face challenges heading off on foot with the drastic elevation changes like on Hyde Street. The chance to experience hidden gems that you would never see taking public transportation is well worth the climbing. I took a short stroll off the beaten path from the tourist friendly Lombard Street and found one of my favorite San Fran views just by walking.

6. The Weather. I’ve always had a fascination with storms, clouds, checking out the local radar maps wherever I am at and waking up to the Weather Channel every day. This city and the surrounding area is a smorgasbord for meteorologists. Along the coast it could be cold, drizzly and foggy, while a few miles inline in the heart of the city there could be blue skies and you would be a t-shirt. You head to the other side of San Francisco Bay and further inland and it could be a hundred degrees in the summer. Waking up in the morning, along with deciding where I want to go for coffee I ask myself, “What kind of weather am I in the mood for today?”

7. The Water. The temperatures you experience in San Francisco are influenced in a big way by how close to are to the Pacific Ocean. The city sits on a peninsula surrounded by the ocean and San Francisco Bay. I love being along water no matter where I am at. Ocean Beach right along the Pacific is always the first place I head to when visiting. Lands End, the Ferry Building, and walking over the Golden Gate Bridge are my other favorite spots to hangout and capture the majestic water views.

10 reasons Why I Keep Going Back to San Francisco - Ocean Beach, Pacific Ocean

Looking out at Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

8. The Terrain. The unpredictable weather can also be attributed to the fact that you go from rugged coastline, to big city and mountains, to the desert in the blink of an eye. I enjoy the fact that you can experience hair-pin turns, palm trees, coastline and flat desert all on one short car ride.

9. The Views. All of the above factors put together create views that are hard to match anywhere else. Staring off into the wavy Pacific, taking a cable car ride, driving up to Twin Peaks or walking up-top Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, I get a bit overwhelmed (in a good way) with the options to capture breathtaking vistas and views.

10 reasons Why I Keep Going Back to San Francisco - skyline from Alamo Square

The skyline from Alamo Square.

10. The Tech. Along with travel, technology has also been a passion of mine since my youth. I actually pay the bills today as a web developer. Just south of the city, sits Silicon Valley, the technological hub of the world. Apple, Google, YouTube, Yahoo, you name a tech company, you will find them headquartered or with a very large presence here. Many companies also setup up shop right in the city. Walk into a coffee shop or casually down the street, sit on a random bench and you’re bound to catch a conversation about a website launch, an IPO or what they think Apple is going to do next. The dot-com heyday may have passed, but there still a buzz in this region. It brings out the geek in me when in town.

What are some reasons why you would want to visit (or return to) San Francisco?

Ten Ideas for taking San Francisco By Foot.

San Francisco is known as one of the more walkable cities in the US. Where ever your shoes take you there is bound to be natural beauty in all directions. Having spent a lot of time walking in The City by the Bay over the years, below are ten ideas for taking San Francisco by foot.

Walk the Golden Gate Bridge. Gravitate to where ten million other walkers, runners, tourists and cyclists go every year and head out onto the open International Orange painted bridge. Foggy or sunny, dawn or dusk, the half-plus mile journey one-way will be a bucket list type experience. If you are there on a sunny day, breathtaking San Francisco skyline and bay views await.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Just beyond the Golden Gate, walk Marin Headlands.. I know technically it’s not San Francisco, but the views of the city and beyond make this a journey worth taking up in the hills. Walk from vista point to vista point. On the nearby trail within the headlands, head out onto the open, steep path towards the still active lighthouse, where the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean come together. Wild landscape awaits.

Marin Headlands, Sausalito, California

Walk an off-the-beaten path neighborhood. Tourists flock to Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown, but places like Inner Sunset continue to be off the radar for non-locals. While roaming head into places like the 22nd & Irving produce and vegetable market. You’ll get a feel for what real life is like in the city and off the tourist track.

Walk up-and-down the Tiled Steps. Continuing on in the Inner Sunset neighborhood and visit the hidden gem, The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project. Walk up and down the 163-step staircase, where each step is mosaic masterpiece created by locals. Grand View Park sits up-top and views of the Sunset District and straight out to the Pacific are in view as you head down. If you’re a runner it’s a great place to test your endurance, as many people will probably go flying up-and-down the stairs as you’re visiting.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project, San Francisco

Walk through and around the Ferry Building. Head to the plaza in the back to check out the bay, watch ferries come-and-go and if you like to people watch. Locals use the ferries to get to-and-from work at rush hour times. Inside shop the marketplace. After walking for a while dine at the numerous cafes and restaurants. Recommended stops are Blue Bottle, Pepples Donuts and Far West Fungi. Three days a week your feet can take you through a local farmers market.

Walk up to the top of Telegraph Hill via the Filbert and Greenwich Steps. Checkout the homes, gardens and greenery as you’re moving along. Once up-top head to the top of Coit Tower to get panoramic, 360 degree views of the city. Rest up and hang out on the grass just behind the tower.

Walk/hike the California Coastal Trail.. Looking for a longer, half-day adventure? Start out anywhere along Ocean Beach with the Pacific Ocean in full view. Walk/hike the 8+ mile trails passing by Point Lobos, Baker Beach and countless park benches and vista points. Lots of stairs, landmarks, hidden gems and the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of your journey awaits. Lands End is a recommended spot to relax and soak in all the views.

Lands End, San Francisco, California, Golden Gate Bridge

Walk Lombard Street, don’t drive down the famous curved road. As you’re heading down or climbing up the famous red bricked road, closely check out the colorful Victoria mansions that line the street. Also capture the beautiful flowers all around and the skyline opportunities that await around the middle. As with most things on this list and in travel, you gain a greater appreciation and see a place more in-depth on foot then you could ever do so in the car.

Lombard Street, San Francisco skyline, California

Walk the Hayes Valley neighborhood with a coffee in hand.. Of course I’m going to work coffee into the list. 🙂 Within Hayes Valley, grab a shot of espresso at the outside Blue Bottle Kiosk and/or a pour over at the Ritual Coffee shipping container and walk the boutique style, tree-lined neighborhood streets. You’re bound to get lost in the moment, getting the feeling of being in a completely different town.

Walk into The Buena Vista. After all that walking outside, walk into the home of the original Irish coffee to unwind. Make sure to grab a seat at the bar so you can see the magic happen. Watch the white-coated bartender’s line up glasses on the bar and make what it seems like dozens of Irish coffees at once. There is latte art, and then there is the art of an Irish coffee!

What other places and neighborhoods in San Francisco would you recommend checking out on foot?

Technology and the Open Road.

I’m out on the open road on a day or long road trip and as they say in golf, “What’s in my (golf) bag?” In this case my technology bag.

There is so much technology out there in regards to phones, apps, social media tools, cameras, tablets, I could go on-and-on. Even with all that is available, I like to keep things pretty basic and light-weight when on the road. A recent day trip to Cleveland, Ohio to coffeehouse hop, work and roam the city will showcase what I use.

I only carry a small camera and phone. My camera is a Canon PowerShot A3300 IS usually set up in Auto or Easy mode with most of the default settings. I play around with flash on or off depending on the time of day and lighting. An extra battery and memory card is always on hand in case the camera is getting a lot of action. 🙂

Canon camera, travel

After the work day ended I walked around the city capturing this autumn, dusk shot with my camera alongside Progressive Field. The historic Terminal Tower is all lit up straight ahead.

Cleveland and Terminal Tower at dusk, Autumn

Photos are captured from my phone as well. In general I don’t mess with photo effects like vignette, vintage and grayscale. I like capturing the shot as seen in front of me. My current phone is a HTC Desire HD Android smartphone. My walking led me to this shot of the Cleveland skyline from Edgewater Park using the Android near sunset.

Cleveland skyline from Edgewater Park using HTC Desire HD Android

In regards to effects, after the photo has been taken is a different story. I’ll add a filter or effect before I post on to a social media app like Instagram because I’ll still have the original. Below is a picture of the skyline at night while on the Hope Memorial Bridge using the Kelvin filter.

Cleveland skyline from Hope Memorial Bridge, dusk

Speaking of Instagram, I started using it like gangbusters as soon as it was available for the Android. What took so long haha?! Coffee, martini and skyline shots seem to highlight my feed.

The work day and Instagram featured Koffee Cafe in the Ohio City neighborhood. Get the Turtle Latte.

Working at Koffie Cafe, Ohio City neighborhood, Cleveland

A trend recently has been for people to combine images into one, creating a collage of sorts. I use Diptic for that purpose, combining several photos from a city, coffeehouse, trip, etc. to highlight what a place has to offer. I then post it to Instagram, among other applications. A college of my evening roaming in The Cleve is below. When visiting make sure to get to the Public Square downtown.

Cleveland, Ohio collage using Diptic, Instagram

On Instagram I’ll also checkout hashtags related to the area I’m in to get an idea on somewhere else to go by seeing the pictures.

I’ll also checkout the hashtags, along with the local Tweetstream, on Twitter to get local ideas on the fly. Checkout hashtag #HappyinCLE. Those that know me know I’m very active on Twitter. I’m always looking to strike up conversations with friends and fellow travelers. I’ll checkout if the place I’m currently at or looking to go to has a Twitter presence and I will reach out.

Another one my offices during the day, as you can see on my Twitter feed, is Phoenix Coffee just outside the city line in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Get the Speedball. You’ll really be energized haha.

Phoenix Coffee, Cleveland Heights, Ohio using Foursquare, Twitter

As you can see above I use Foursquare too. I’ll check-in and post a picture highlighting a place I think other people would like to checkout. I’ll use this app mostly on the road. I’ve passed the local, day-to-day checking in everywhere phase. I don’t think there’s much interest in my grocery shopping habits. 🙂

Once in a while when on the road I’ll post to my own Facebook wall as well as on my fan page, but I usually save that for later on to highlight my recent travel experiences. You have to draw the line somewhere!

A shot from inside Gypsy Beans & Baking Co. in the Gordan Square neighborhood, as well as another from Edgewater Park.

Cleveland shots on Facebook fan page

I also make sure to see places with my own two eyes sans technology, just starring and soaking in everything. Pictures and technology are great, but nothing beats being somewhere in that moment without distraction, enjoying the way people did before smartphones came into the picture.

A tidbit from my youth: I’ve been a walking atlas since I was young, so I rarely use Google Maps, Foursquare maps or GPS to help me find my way. I like the unknown and I always seem to get to my destination.

When I do look for a little guidance I like to be old-fashioned and pull out a state map or the Rand McNally Atlas. Where to now Cleveland?

Rand McNally Ohio map, atlas, Cleveland city map

Checkout how some people navigate in Road Trips: Finding Your Way. That’s my technology story when out on the open road. During my time in Cleveland on this day I was able to post and interact via my smartphone, capture photos and at the same time enjoy everything around me without the technological interruptions. I got lots of work done and of course consumed lots of area brew.

With technology continuously evolving who knows how different this post would be if I wrote it at the end of the year. Perhaps I would have additional technology in my arsenal. You’ll have to see as I will write one then. 🙂 I’m actually on the lookout for a new phone and/or camera as we speak. The day began with some java at Gypsy Beans & Baking Co.

Gypsy Beans and Baking Company, Cleveland, Ohio via Twitter, Foursquare

What do you carry phone, camera and technology-wise during your road trips and travels? What are your social media apps of choice?

What does it mean to be “Out on the open road”?

If you’ve seen a lot of my previous posts you can tell I like road tripping, both the day and long distance variety. My favorite phrase and thing to say when describing such a trip, as you might have guessed, is being “out on the open road”. What has that phrase meant to me and what does it mean now?

It means…

…putting all things and worries aside for a while.

…enjoying the company of others (if with fellow roadtrippers).

…venturing to the unknown, leading to discovery.

Out on the open road. Lake Hawea - New Zealand.

…stopping to get gas every few hours.

…stopping at a service plaza/travel center and grabbing random snacks and beverages.

…while at the service plaza/travel center, grabbing all the travel brochures and magazines available.

Out on the open road. Tilbury, Ontario, Canada service plaza. Out on the open road. Tilbury, Ontario,   Canada service plaza.

…the floor of the car will fill up with the aforementioned empty snack wrappers, beverage bottles, travel brochures and who knows what else.

…radio stations will come and go on the dial.

…the windshield and front of the car will become engrossed in dead bugs.

…can I or can’t talk on the phone while driving where I’m at now?

…you’ll get stopped unexpectedly due to construction or the road will be shut all together.

…you’ll start singing 99 Bottles of Beer, driving other possible travelers crazy.

…if you drive along enough you’ll be in sunny skies, under clouds of all types, the rain, the dark night skies and who knows what else.

…you’ll want to stop and get out of the car ever two seconds to capture a photo.

Out on the open road. Town of Waihi, New Zealand.

…you’ll try to capture photos while driving. Not advisable. Tip: If a passenger on such a trip, snap away!

…you’ll be begging for a gas station, McDonald’s or a rest area at some point because you have to go.

…every mile further you get from home will be another mile you’ll have on the drive back.

…you’ll keep hearing the same Top 40 songs over and over again on the FM dial. Really need Sirius Satellite Radio. 🙂

…lots of tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photos if you’re a social media geek like me. 🙂

…capturing the same photos with your camera and smart phone.

…stopping and doing goofy things in front of state and town welcome-to signs.

…I’m probably tired of saying “it means” haha.

…lots of tolls and parking meter fees if around a big city.

…getting excited watching the mile-to signs going down for a destination, meaning you’re getting closer.

Out on the open road. Heading east on South Island of New Zealand

…lots of Starbucks and/or random coffee house stops for fuel.

…expect the unexpected. Things will never go completely as planned.

Most importantly it means…

…lots more experiences to write about and share with the world and

…meeting great new people along the way and

…you’re traveling!

Gotta go. It’s time for The Adventures of Elatlboy to continue “out on the open road“!

Out on the open road. Southbound I-75 in central Ohio

What else comes to mind when you think (day) road trip?