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The Radio Vagabond
37 minutes | Oct 20, 2021
215 RIO DE JANEIRO: Samba, Singing and Nomads Giving Back
Uma recepção calorosa from Rio de Janeiro My first Sunday morning in Rio gave me the quintessential Brazilian experience: chilling on a packed Copacabana beach listening to traditional samba music performed by a group of local friends sitting around a breakfast table. It didn't seem like these people were an organised band, and they weren't doing it to make money from tips. I just got the feeling that they were doing it for the love of samba. How can you not have a smile on your face when you find yourself experiencing this beauty on the world's most iconic beach only a few minutes’ walk from where you stay? What a city! The night before, I also got to hear some Brazilian samba. I teamed up with a friend of mine, Shannon from Los Angeles, and asked some locals where we could find a unique samba experience. SATURDAY NIGHT SAMBA We were given insiders information on where to find a tiny samba bar known only to locals. When we arrived, we couldn't believe just how authentic this place was. It was a small bar – kinda like a bodega. The band was not on a stage; they were just sitting around a table with their instruments and drinks. The place was packed, and we were standing around their table in a circle. It was a truly unique experience. After the band put down their instruments in favour of their drinks, we stepped outside onto the street and walked a bit until we came across another very local place where they had a karaoke night. It didn't have any windows, so people walking by could hear the not-so-great 'singers' attempting their versions of famous songs. Shannon's face lit up, and with a big smile, she said, "Hey Palle, let's go in and get a drink". The thing is, Shannon "Sangin' Diva" Pearson is a professional singer. She began her professional career at the age of 15, doing studio work around Los Angeles. Over the years, she's had the privilege of sharing the stage as a backing singer for artists like Natalie Cole, George Duke, Stanley Clark, Al Jarreau, Patti Labelle, Chaka Khan, Evelyn Champagne King, Sean "P-diddy" Combs, Kelis, Leona Lewis, Katy Perry, and many others. She's also appeared on TV shows like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel, America's Got Talent, and even How I Met Your Mother. As a solo artist, she's performed all over the world as Sangindiva Shannon. And now this singing diva was about to have her Brazilian debut in a not-so-fancy little karaoke bar in Rio de Janeiro. The people in there had no idea what was about to happen. Shannon was almost jumping in her seat and smiled like a kid in a candy store when she was flipping through the song folder to pick a song. She then went up to the lady controlling the show and pointed at a song. When it was her turn, we all sensed that this was a professional from the second she was handed the microphone. She connected instantly with the sleepy people in the room with her presence. She then belted out a loud "Hello from Los Angeles California!". And then the music started: Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Unlike other karaoke singers, she was not looking at the screen for the lyrics. She was looking at the audience, dancing and spinning around. The people on the street stopped and looked in awe of what was going on. It was like they were looking and thinking, "Wait a minute, didn't Whitney pass away a long time ago?". We ended up staying there for hours, and Shannon kept going back on stage again and again… Check out Shannon's outstanding performance below. https://youtu.be/nZnWVsxriJE ESCADARIA SELARÓN OR SELARÓN STEPS The following day, I met up with Shannon on Copacabana beach, and we were both still high on the musical experience from the night before. We strolled along the beachside, taking in the sights and sounds of this splendid place. We then slowly headed to the next beach over, Ipanema. We found ourselves at the 'hippy market', a lovely little flea market kitted out with artsy items such as musical instruments, brightly coloured shirts, hats, and curiosities. We then headed up to Escadaria Selarón, also known as the Selarón Steps – a world-famous steps attraction in Rio de Janeiro and the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as his "tribute to the Brazilian people". In 1990, Selarón began renovating the steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag. It started as a side-project to his main passion, painting, but it soon became an obsession. He was constantly running out of money for the project, so he sold paintings to fund his work. It was long and exhausting work, but he continued on and eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors. There are 215 steps, measuring 125 metres long, covered in more than 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. It is considered an iconic tourist attraction of Rio de Janeiro, with travellers from across the globe visiting it every day. The steps have been featured in many famous magazines, newspapers, travel shows, documentaries, commercials, and music videos. National Geographic Channel, American Express, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Time and Playboy are just some of the media outlets that have featured the iconic steps. The steps have also been featured in many music videos, such as Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams' Beautiful. Snoop and Pharrell are not here today, but halfway up the steps, we met a young local couple with hip-hop names: Biggie and Dou. They were relaxing at a pop-up bar that was selling the iconic Brazilian drink, Caipirinha. "There are so many amazing things to experience when living in Rio. Us locals are very warm and inviting. The stories are true: we listen to samba and dance every day of our lives. Plus, we give the best warm hugs." I sampled a Brazilian hug from Dou, and they weren't wrong. When I asked about the crime aspect of the city, they said that it is like any city in the world: as locals, there are certain places to avoid at night. Using common sense, they said, is key. Shannon and I ended up having quite a few Caipirinhas. It was a fun weekend with a friend I met on Nomad Cruise 7: a two-week "floating conference at sea" from Spain to Brazil. NOMAD CRUISE I hopped on a cruise ship in Spain with 500 other digital nomads and aspiring entrepreneurs from 42 countries for a two-week networking conference across the Atlantic. I met up with old friends from previous Nomad Cruises and made new friends along the way. On Nomad Cruise 7, I met Tarek Kholoussy, founder of Nomads Giving Back, who has a corporate background in Wall Street. He was working for Goldman Sachs when he decided to get out of the rat race and become a digital nomad. On the cruise, Tarek gave a talk about his journey and goals: one of which was to create a social enterprise. At the end of his talk, he publicly announced the launch of Nomads Giving Back. A few days after we set foot on land, I pulled Tarek aside in a café in Porto de Galinhas on the east coast of Brazil for a chat. This was before I arrived in Rio. DITCHING CORPORATE FOR SOCIAL Tarek told me he always had a passion for social causes thanks to his entrepreneurial heart, but his background had always been corporate. He joined Nomad Cruise to pitch his Nomads Giving Back concept to the nomad community: to inspire nomads and travellers to give back to the communities they visit. From his inspiring talk, he was met with overwhelming support from the nomad community, including the founder of Nomad Cruise, Johannes Voelkner, who suggested they collaborate. "Every digital nomad realises just how amazing our lives are having the opportunity to travel the world and experience things many will never the chance to. And it becomes more meaningful when we are able to engage with local communities we travel to uplift and help develop. The aim is to make this global world feel like a close-knit community helping each other along the way." BACK IN RIO WITH NOMADS GIVING BACK Jumping back to the present in Rio, I met up again with Tarek who found the first project here for Nomads Giving Back. They teamed up with the philanthropic organisation/school Solar Meninos de Luz situated in a favela close to Copacabana. Tarek tells me that the idea for this first NGB-program is inspired by the power of the Nomad Cruise conference, where attendees learn how to improve their digital marketing skills (among many other things). Tarek and the Nomads Giving Back team decided to use some of the funds collected at the fundraising dinner on the ship to create a digital skills program for students who would not otherwise have access to it. Many digital nomads earn their income from digital skills, and Tarek and the team sought to pay it forward by channelling donations to advance digital skill learning among disadvantaged youth here in Rio de Janeiro. Tarek and I caught up again to talk more about the new project. We both realised how fortunate we are to live a nomadic lifestyle and how much we have always wanted to give back to the communities we visit. "Digital nomads are mostly entrepreneurs working light without the backing of large corporations, so we don't have deep pockets. But there are so many other ways we can give back that doesn't require loads of money. Being a nomad is about freedom of choice, and part of that is defining what is important to you. For instance, in one night at the charity dinner on Nomad Cruise 7, we raised thousands of Euros." "Over and above, nomads are volunteering to help with their skills and talents: like the website and branding and business development. This shows the power of the nomad community and the power connecting through the same principles and values." Solar Meninos de Luz has spent nearly 40 years serving their local community. We were given a tour by Manu, a former student of the school and the perfect ambassador for the program. In fact, she came here when she was only three months old. "We have been here for 27 years doing a great job at educating the local community, with a holistic approach. We have 420 students, 115 volunteers, and 113 employees working in the school. We also provide over 1,200 meals every day as students arrive at 7am and leave at 6pm, so we provide 3 meals to each student every day. It is a lot of hard work but we love what we do here." Manu tells us that the school relies on public and private funds and donations to keep the facilities running. We walked around the school and met some of the students. We were then treated to a nativity themed music and dance performance by the students. It was really great and so lovely to see the kids singing and dancing. Then an adult choir came onto the stage and gave an incredible performance. MORE ABOUT SOLAR MENINOS DE LUZ In walking distance from Solar Meninos de Luz is the Copacabana Palace, one of Brazil's biggest and most luxurious hotels. It was the location of a fundraising event I was attending for the project. The luxury of the place is quite the contrast to the favela up the road. But that is both the charm and complexity of this historical city. Solar Meninos de Luz is a philanthropic organisation that promotes education, sports, arts and culture, basic healthcare, and professional training support. It was founded 34 years ago and have assisted over 5,000 locals. Famous Brazilian author Paolo Cohelo who wrote The Alchemist (1988) and The Pilgrimage (1987), among many others, is a major long-time sponsor of the school. He donated his villa, which is now part of the campus and serves as the library. After months of planning, the Digital Skills Program officially launched a few months later. Nomads Giving Back were able to teach things like content marketing, SEO, and Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn Marketing. The 14 students learned how to think strategically, generate their leads, promote their personal brand, effectively use each social media platform, and much more. Upon completion, they were able to implement what they learned to start and grow their own business or better prepare themselves for job opportunities. MIT MASTERCARD BLEV KOPIERET Out of nowhere, I received a call from my bank back in Denmark informing me of suspicious activity on my Mastercard. Apparently, some dick in the USA tried to draw $400 from my account. So, my Mastercard was blocked for security purposes, but thankfully your dapper Danish vagabond travels with a spare Visa, so my samba-licious adventures could continue. I later found out that my card was copied by someone moving close to me with some kind of electronic device that copied all the info of the wireless function on my card. Maybe it happened at the market on Sunday, where I was close to a lot of people. Since then, I've gotten a new wallet where my cards are protected in a metal case. SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN Sugarloaf Mountain is one of Rio's most iconic attractions. It is a beautiful peak that rises 396 meters high and presents a bird's eye view of Rio de Janeiro from the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The cable car trip up is a sensation, and the panoramic views from the peak are absolutely breath-taking. The original cable car was built in 1912 and then rebuilt in the '70s and again in 2008. I planned to meet up with a few digital nomads for a hike on one of the hills. Then, we planned to catch the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain to enjoy the sunset. We made it to the summit just in time to watch the sunset. And boy, was the hike worth it. And as the sun was setting with a stunning view of Rio de Janeiro, it's also time to let the sun go down on this episode. My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See ya. FLASHBACK EPISODES WITH TAREK You should also go back to the archive and listen to the two episodes I recorded with Tarek to learn more about his story. It's genuinely fascinating. SUPPORT SOLAR MENINOS DE LUZ If you would like to help support the continuous education and development of the youth in Rio de Janeiro, visit their website to find out more. SUPPORT NOMADS GIVING BACK Join the community of nomads giving back by visiting their website to find out how you start your giving back journey today. COVID-19 TRAVEL and TOURISM RULES FOR BRAZIL (OCT 2021) This episode was recorded when Brazil was open for travel. For the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations, please visit the Brazilian government's official website. Make sure Brazil is open for tourism before booking your trip.
32 minutes | Oct 13, 2021
214 SRI LANKA - Revisited
SUNRISE ON THE BEACH Welcome to an episode from Sri Lanka. This is a rerun and a mix of two of my episodes from here. I visited the island in 2019, just before the pandemic shot the world (and Sri Lanka) down. Now that everything is slowly opening again, I wanted to remind you of the beauties of this country and its people. As you’re joining us in this episode, we’re staying at a hotel called Pigeon Island Beach Resort at the eastern part of the island. It’s literally on the beach just north of Trincomalee. The next morning I got up at 5 am so I could go to the beach facing east and record a time-lapse as the sun was rising. Much to my dislike, eleven young men were walking into my shot. Then I realized that they were pulling a rope. They were dragging a net full of fish out of the water, and I went over there and helped them pull it for a while. Someone later told me that when tourists do that, they share a few of the fish with the people that have helped them. I didn’t stay to the very end, so I never got my fish, because I needed to go and get ready for the next day of exploring. I want to go back and spend at least a week at Pigeon Island Beach Resort. Especially when I saw that they have a Scuba Diving Centre, and it’s just been too long since I’ve been scuba diving. But the itinerary didn’t give me time for that, so I guess that gives me another reason to come back to Sri Lanka. FACTS ABOUT WHERE WE ARE The highest point in Sri Lanka is Mount Pedro, reaching 2,524 meters above sea level. With over 400 waterfalls, Sri Lanka has perhaps the largest number of waterfalls of any country in the world, in comparison to its size. Bambarakanda Falls is the tallest waterfall in the country, with a height of 263 meters. There are 22 national parks and 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. CONTROLLING BULLS IN A FORREST NEAR HABARANA It was time to head down to Habarana 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Trincomalee. This is where we’re staying tonight and also where we’re going into nature. When we get close to Habarana, we leave the paved road and on a dirt road get to a small clearing in the forest. We about to go deep into the forest on small Bullock Carts. Four people in each cart with two white bulls dragging us. I was in front with the guy steering the cart and controlling the bulls. He had commands for left, right, stop, and go faster. The bulls seemed quite lazy, but he was sitting right behind them, and if he swung his leg just a little bit, he would give them a gentle kick in the balls. And that would make them go fast. Halfway he gave me control of the cart and jumped off. So, there I was, controlling a bullock cart on a dirt road in a forest in Sri Lanka. Now that was a first for me. And no, I didn’t kick any balls. WATCH TOWER AT THE RICE FIELDS We still had a bit of a walk to do before reaching our destination. On the way, we saw a tree hut close to a rice field. This hut is used for keeping guard at night and scaring animals that might away with firecrackers and drums. We crossed the river in a double-paired canoe – kind of a catamaran that they use for fishing. The river wasn’t that wide because it’s dry season right now. In the wet season, the water level will rise a couple of meters and makes the river much wider. We’re heading towards the small village where we will experience a traditional authentic Village Lunch and get a local cooking demonstration. We also go on an elephant safari and see herds of elephants in the wild. And then after a bit more walking, we got to a small house with a grass roof. Inside was a smiling Sri Lankan woman about to cut a coconut in half with a big knife. AUTHENTIC VILLAGE EXPERIENCE I get to taste a bit of the coconut milk, and then she starts grinding the inside of the coconut. She’s using a piece of metal at the end of a stick she’s sitting on. The desiccated coconut falls on a banana leave. It looks so easy, and yet we can see that she was very skillful. She has done this a million times before. Especially after Joanna and Viola from the group tried to do it, we realized that they just didn’t have the same touch. We go outside where there’s a big rock. Here she puts some chili and salt and starts rubbing with another stone the size of a loaf of bread. She adds the desiccated coconut, onion, and lemon, and rubs some more. This coconut paste was scooped back to the banana leave and was to be a little part of the meal that awaits us. This coconut paste was to be a little part of the meal that awaits us. The rice and the chicken drum stick curry had been cooked over a fire outside the hut. And there was so much delicious food on this authentic Sri Lankan buffet that we were eating with our hands. There was so much delicious food on this authentic Sri Lankan buffet that we were eating with our hands. On the way back to the bus, we sailed a bit more in the catamaran canoes, following the river on to a lake. Visiting this small village in the forest, having the authentic Sri Lankan lunch prepared like it’s been done for centuries in a small hut with a grass roof, eating with our hands was truly an experience. ELEPHANT SAFARI But the afternoon was about to get even better: We were going on an elephant safari. For the next couple of hours, we were driving around a big area where close to one hundred elephants were roaming freely – like they are supposed to. We’re in Minneriya National Park, best known for its large herds of Elephants – generally well over 100 elephants at a time nearby area of the Minneriya reservoir. It’s situated in the south-central area of the island and comprises of grasslands, thorny scrubs, and many valuable species of trees. Apart from elephants, species of deer, wild boar, water buffalo, and jackals are some of the wild animals found, along with a variety of avifauna that abounds the park. PALLE ON THE SOAPBOX: DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS If you’ve followed me for a while, and especially heard my episode from Chiang Mai in Thailand, you will know how I feel about elephant riding. You should never ever do that. The elephant back is not built for it, and it’s just plain cruel to do so, in my opinion. A guy from the company that did the village experience and the elephant safari gave me his business card when we were having lunch. I noticed that it said “Elephant Riding” on the card, and I asked one of our guides if this was something they still do. He went and asked him and got back to me and said that they stopped doing this more than a year ago. They just had more business cards. To me, that was a valid explanation, and I understood. I accepted that, so we went on the elephant safari. As I’m editing this episode, I visit this company’s website and see that they still have Elephant Riding on the site. If they have stopped it, and of course I expect that they did, I find it weird that they didn’t remove those pages from the website. That’s why I won’t mention the name of the company here – as I usually would until I know for sure that they have stopped elephant riding. If you go to Sri Lanka – and please do because this is a fantastic country; do the elephant safari, do the village experience, but do your best to make sure that you don’t do it with a company that does elephant riding. Be responsible as a traveler. It might be a cultural thing, and I do respect the Sri Lankan culture and that they have to make money off the tourists, but I simply can’t support something that is cruel to animals. So I would never go riding elephants, I wouldn’t go to bullfighting or go swimming with dolphins (like I did in the Bahamas before I knew better). All this is my own genuine opinion. THE ANCIENT CITY OF POLONNARUWE The next day we start at another place here in Sri Lanka with a name that’s difficult to say but worth visiting. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms. The Chola dynasty first established Polonnaruwa as their capital in the year 993. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological relic cities in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers. And as a fun fact, it was used as a backdrop to the Duran Duran music video Save a Prayer in 1982. It’s a beautiful place that also holds some beautiful statues. SURPRISE AT HOTEL SIGIRIYA The next day we were going to lunch when some surprising turned up in the outskirts of a forest. The lunch was to be had Hotel Sigiriya – with a magnificent view of the iconic Sigiriya rock, that we were going to climb in the afternoon. And boy, were we in for a surprise. First, we stop at the edge of a forest with several tuk-tuks are waiting for us, decorated with flowers and balloons. After a short drive, we get to a luxury hotel and are greeted by local musicians and dancers that take us to the back of the garden, passing the pool area. We are greeted by local musicians and dancers that take us to the back of the garden. Here we could experience how they prepare the traditional food that we were having for lunch. It’s in the style of a traditional Sri Lankan village that we saw earlier. I asked the general manager of the hotel, Suresh, to explain where we are. “We’re in the center of the Cultural Triangle, at Hotel Sigiriya, with a nice pool area, where you can see the Sigiriya Rock while you’re dipping.” He tells me that 90% of people visiting Sri Lanka come to this part of the island, even though it’s not near the coastline. They come for hiking, bird watching, and to see the Sigiriya Rock. Also, it’s quite normal to see elephants crossing the road here. CLIMBING SIGIRIYA ROCK In the afternoon, we were hiking up to the top of Sigiriya Rock – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It holds an ancient rock fortress and is nearly 200 meters (660 ft) high. This unique Rock Fortress or “castle in the sky” is a massive monolith of red stone. It got the name Sigiriya or in English: “Lion Rock” because the entrance to the climb to the summit is reached between the paws of a lion. It was a bit tough but so worth it to get up there. For me, this was the highlight of the day. I felt I was at the rooftop of Sri Lanka, walking around the ruins with an astonishing view as the sun was slowly setting. DISCLAIMER: This trip was made possible by Sri Lanka Tourism, but the content is with my own direction and genuine opinions. LINKS: Sri Lanka Tourism UNESCO about Polonnaruwa Hotel Sigiriya UNESCO about Sigiriya Rock
31 minutes | Oct 7, 2021
213 NEW YORK: Close to Home with Scott Gurian
Hey from The Big Apple I started my adventure in the Big Apple sitting in a park in Brooklyn on a Saturday morning watching small kids and grown-ups playing football – yes, as a European, this is what I call the game where someone kicks a round ball with their feet. I'm waiting to meet up with my friend Scott Gurian. Even though we'd never met prior, we do consider each other friends. Scott is a fellow veteran travel podcaster and one of the best in the business. He's the guy from the Far from Home podcast you must have heard me talk about many times here on the Radio Vagabond travel podcast. Scott planned to spend his Saturday with me in Brooklyn, Queens, and New York showing me around some interesting places in his hood while we chatted and got to know each other. Scott lives in nearby Jersey, just across the Hudson River, so we're Close to Home for Scott today. As we walked over to Scott's car — a nice big new Toyota — I immediately joked that it was very different from the small, old car that played a big part in the first season of his podcast. FAR FROM HOME Scott participated in the Mongol Rally and drove a tiny, beaten out Nissan Micra stick shift across Europe and Asia about five years ago for an epic 18,000 mile (29,000 km). He did this crazy adventure from the UK to Mongolia with his brother and two friends – and after that, he decided to drive back in the same car. The first season of Far from Home is outstanding and got me hooked on the podcast long before we knew each other. I highly recommend listening to it if you haven't already. Also, watch a few clips of his journey to experience the trials and tribulations first-hand. Naturally, he has so many memorable stories and anecdotes from that trip, so I wanted to find out which stand out most in his memory. "Oh, so many. Driving across Iran with my brother and two friends (as Americans and Brits) was amazing; the friendliness of the people was memorable. Also, travelling through 'untouched' countries in central Asia like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, etc., was excellent. Seeing Cappadocia in Turkey with its hot air balloons was also amazing. And, of course, Mongolia is incredible with its vast open spaces and extraordinary scenery. It took us about seven weeks to travel from the UK to Mongolia, so as you can imagine, I have many incredible memories from that trip." Scott wanted to see more of the world, so instead of flying back to Europe (like any sane human would), he decided to drive back to explore more countries and regions, like Siberia in Russia. THROAT SINGING IN SIBERIA In one of the episodes of Season 2, Scott visits the remote south Siberian Republic of Tuva to learn about the traditional instruments and the ancient art of throat singing. He even attempts to throat sing himself! Read more about this visit and see photos and videos here. "Russia is such an enormous country with so many different regions home to vastly different cultures. Tuva was a 12 hour journey out the way to visit and it is so unique. It is close to Mongolia so the Tuvans look very similar to Mongolians." HALLUCINATING ON AYAHUASCA IN PERU In another episode, he meets a medicine man who invited him to attend a hallucinogenic healing ceremony where he drank ayahuasca. All while holding his microphone. Have a listen to the episode by clicking here. CLOSE TO HOME Due to the pandemic, Scott hasn't been able to travel overseas. But he is content as he tells me that living in Jersey, there is a lot of adventure that awaits in and around New York. He started cooking and even home-brewing to keep his itchy travel feet scratched. Scott was due to meet me at AfricaBurn – the South African Burning Man just outside Cape Town when lockdown hit. Scott stayed in Jersey, and I was stuck in Cape Town for a while (so be sure to listen to my Radio Vagabond South African travel adventures). We were supposed to travel a bit of South Africa together, but alas, it was not meant to be. SCOTT GURIAN'S NEW YORK TRAVEL GUIDE One of the cool things about making friends worldwide is that they can show you places you usually wouldn't visit. Because I had visited New York several times before, Scott wanted to take me to places few tourists would know about. Here is a list of Scott's unusual but must-visit places in New York Scott took me to: DUMBO A part of Brooklyn is called DUMBO aka "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass" is a trendy neighbourhood to walk through Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT MUSEUM In an old subway station, you can visit the New York City Transit Museum. Move further down and see some 100-year-old subway cars. WILLIAMSBURG Williamsburg is a hipster neighbourhood that is cool to stroll through. QUEENS MUSEUM OF ART Next to where they hosted the World Fair, you find Queens Museum of Art, where the Panorama is now housed – a scaled model of every borough in the greater New York area in the 1960's. THE CITY RELIQUARY The City Reliquary is a not-for-profit community museum and civic organization located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s really cool and weird – and connects visitors to both the past and present of New York. We walked around Brooklyn for a bit and found the iconic Instagram spot with the bridge in the background. You might remember it from the gangster movie 'Once Upon a Time in America' poster. Then visited a place with a lot of food trucks called Smorgesburg. As far as I know, this word comes from the Danish smørrebrød, and then Americans started saying it like the Swedish Chef from Muppet Show. Unfortunately, we didn't find any Danish smørrebrød at Smorgesburg. Another thing we couldn't find after that was… Scott's car. After a slight ordeal trying to locate his car, we eventually found it after getting help from the police. Even locals can get lost in New York. Go figure :) TAJIKISTAN POLICE Our polite encounter with the NYPD reminded me of Scott's experience with the local police in Tajikistan on his trip. I asked him to talk about his experience. "There is a lot of corruption in central Asian countries like Tajikistan. Our British friends in another Nissan Micra got pulled over by some traffic cops who actually aimed their radar gun at another car, and then tried to say it was them who was speeding. My brother's and I stopped too and heard that they demanded $100 which was a month salary here and crazy. Specially since they weren't speeding. It was clearly a scam, and we didn't want to give in to the bribe/corruption stigma. After a long time, we eventually settled on handing over a bottle of vodka, and we were back on the road." Scott secretly recorded the entire encounter that you can listen to in its entirety in Episode 16 of Far from Home, Season 1. Scott tells about more traffic cop encounters he had in central Asia. Most of the time, the cops were polite and never gave them any unnecessary issues. We exchanged stories about the amazing people we get to meet on the road. Scott paid particular mention to the wonderful Iranian popularity he experienced. Thanks to Scott for taking me around the New York area on a beautiful Saturday. I hope to team up with him soon to do some travelling together and collaborate on future episodes of both our podcasts. My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. NEW YORK FLASHBACKS If you want to listen to more of my travels through New York from previous visits, simply follow the link: The Radio Vagabond Travel Podcast in New York. COVID-19 TRAVEL and TOURISM RULES FOR NEW YORK (OCT 2021) This episode was from the end of August 2021, when New York was open for travel if you (like me) didn't travel to the country from Europe. Please visit New York City's official website for the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations. Make sure New York is open for tourism before booking your trip.
32 minutes | Sep 29, 2021
212 BALI: Expensive Cuppa Cat Poop Coffee
OM SUASTIASTU FROM BALI Before I tell you about drinking the world's most expensive coffee made from beans that have passed through a cat and pooped out, let's kick off this week's episode with an Balinese language lesson. THE RADIO VAGABOND LANGUAGE SCHOOL: BALINESE I always try to learn a few words and phrases when I visit a new place. For today's The Radio Vagabond language school lesson, we'll learn essential Balinese phrases: Hello: Om suastiastu Good morning: Rahajeng semeng My name is Palle: Wastan tiang Palle Thank you: Suksuma I’M IN BALI, BABY Bali is an island province in Indonesia, so obviously, they speak Indonesian, but they also have their own language – Balinese. Despite practising the basics above, I still managed to mess up suksuma (thank you) when I met Putu, our local guide. Luckily for me, Putu was a good guy and didn't make me feel silly. FUN WITH NAMES Putu explained a few funny things regarding people's names on the island of Bali. In general, Balinese people name their children depending on the order they are born, and the names are the same for both males and females: The firstborn child is named Wayan, Putu, or Gede. The second is named Made or Kadek. The third child goes by Nyoman or Komang. And the fourth is named Ketut – like the old wise Balinese man in Eat, Pray, Love (which translates to" little banana") So, what do they call their fifth child, you may ask? Well, they simply start over again and name him or her Wayan, Putu or Gede. Anyway, together with a few friends, we asked Putu (a firstborn) to take us around to some interesting places in Bali. But before we explore, let's learn more about this beautiful island. 7 FACTS ABOUT BALI DIGITAL NOMAD HOTSPOT Bali is a small, well-known beautiful island in Indonesia (Southeast Asia). The capital, Denpasar, is the island's largest city and home to the international airport. But the most well-known Balinese places are probably Ubud (in the centre of the island) and the beach town of Canggu (on the western part of the island). Both are hotspots for digital nomads like me. HINDUISM IN A MUSLIM COUNTRY Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in Muslim-majority Indonesia. 86.9% of the population are devoted to Balinese Hinduism. BALI IS A SMALL ISLAND Bali is 95 miles (153 km) from east to west and only 69 miles (112 km) from north to south. It has a population of 4.3 million people. TOURISM IS VERY IMPORTANT Pre-Covid, they had almost 6.3 million tourists stop by every year. Tourism is the beating heart of their economy, as around 80% of the island's economy depends on tourism. As you can imagine, it's been a tough couple of years for Bali during COVID. The 6.3 million visitors in 2019 dropped to less than 1.1 million in 2020. NEW YEAR'S EVE IS QUIET Unlike almost everywhere else in the world, there are no big parties on New Year's Eve in Bali. The day is called Nyepi, and it's a day of silence and meditation. The whole island shuts down, and no work, travelling, or even noise is allowed. When I heard this, I thought, "What…? That's what I experienced as I (sort of) remember a big New Year's Eve party here". That's because Nyepi is not celebrated on December 31st but mainly in March. BABIES NEVER TOUCH THE GROUND In their first few months, Balinese babies are thought to be connected to the spirits and to stay connected, and they should not touch the ground. When they are about three months old, the infants finally touch the ground, and their family holds a big celebration to mark the occasion. THEY ONLY HAVE TWO SEASONS It's moderate throughout the year, and Bali has only two seasons: the dry season (April to October) and the wet season (October to April). MONKEYING AROUND IN BALI Putu picked us up in Canggu. He had a great sightseeing adventure in store for us, including a visit to the cat poop cafe (well, not really, but kind of). More on this later. On the way to the coffee farm, we passed the cultural centre of the island: Ubud. We drove past the famous Ajuna Statue, which Putu explains is part of the Hindu religion. We talk about how tolerance is a major part of the island culture. We made our way to the famous Ubud Monkey Forest, which is a forest filled with, you guessed it, monkeys. The guidebook tells me not to carry anything in my hand as the cheeky monkeys will likely come and take it from you. I held my podcast microphone and was a bit worried that they would steal it from me and take over this podcast. BALINESE HUMOUR Back in the car, we chatted more about the funny name situation on the island, and Putu decided to tell a joke. Let me set it up: Four people get on a plane. One is from Paris, one is from Denmark, and the other two are from Bali, named Putu and Made. "The Parisian drops her perfume but doesn't mind because there is a lot of perfume in Paris. Then, the Danish drops his chocolate but also doesn't mind because there is a lot of chocolate in Denmark (apparently). Then, Made drops Putu out the window, but doesn't mind because there are many Putu’s in Bali…" I love Balinese humour, even though I don't always totally understand it. Like, when Ketut told a joke to Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love… that Ketut cannot fly on an airplane because Ketut has no teeth. Julia Roberts seemed to get the joke. Somebody, please write to me and explain that joke to me. Speaking of jokes, a few cat poop jokes coming up: COFFEE LUWAK (AKA CAT POOP COFFEE) We eventually made it to the coffee plantation that makes the world's most expensive coffee: Coffee Luwak – or Kopi luwak. It is made from partially digested coffee cherries that have been eaten and pooped out by a shy cat-like creature called the Asian palm civet. Then, hard-working coffee farmers go through the cat poop and dig out the coffee which they use to make Kopi Luwak. No wonder it's the most expensive coffee in the world. At the plantation, we met our female guide, who is probably called Putu or Kadek but goes by the name Monica, who tells us more about how the Luwak Coffee is made. "They eat any kind of coffee bean, as long as the quality is good. They don't chew the bean, so it passes through in its entirety." As she was talking about the process, I couldn't help wondering how in the world they thought of taking coffee beans out of cat poop and use them to make coffee. Even thought, I REALLY want my coffee in the morning, there are limits. "The first time this process was accidentally discovered was in Sumatra in the early 18th Century. The farmers realised that a lot of their coffee beans were disappearing, and they soon found them again in the poop of the Asian palm civets roaming the grounds. The farmers used the poop beans to make coffee and discovered that it had a unique taste thanks to the intervention by the civets." The part of the coffee plantation that is open to the public has a cage with a few Asian palm civets, a beautiful café area with a stunning view, and a few coffee plants. Monica tells us that there is a bigger area outside this part with many more plants and that they harvest every six months. But Luwak Coffee is not seasonal and is available all year round. She then takes us on a tour of the plantation where we ate fresh coffee beans (from the plant, from the plant, I promise…). "We clean the beans three times and then roast them. In the roasting process, the soft skin of the beans burns away, leaving the quality bean. Each roast takes about 45mins per kilogram". PERCOLATED POOP TASTING After we toured the farm, we were served ten small cups of coffee. One of them was the very special and super expensive Luwak Coffee. Is it as good as the price tag indicates? Yes! It was really good... even if the beans had been inside a cat a few hours prior, probably. GET PURIFIED IN HOLY (BUT MAYBE DIRTY) WATER Our next stop was the Hindu Balinese water temple called Tirta Empul Temple – in Balinese: Pura Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul means 'Holy Spring' in Balinese. The temple compound consists of a bathing structure, famous for its spring water that Balinese Hindus consider holy, so they go here for ritual purification. Putu explains: "People come here for healing. There are 14 different water streams, and each has a different function. Like, one is for the heart, the other for the skin, etc. You must go through each water stream in order. Before entering the water, you must pray and bless your body for healing. Once you are in the water, you must give a gift of a flower to the statues." There are so many people lined up to go in the holy water. For most of the time, Tirta Empul is believed to be a source of clean water for ritual bathing. But, according to a report in 2017, authorities were investigating reports of water pollution and health risk at the Tirta Empul Temple. So, if you go in, try not to drink any of the water. Until the next time, my name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you. BALI FLASHBACK If you want to hear more from Bali, go back and listen to episode 184 where I spent a few days at an amazing place called Fivelements Resort. PODCAST RECOMMENDATION If you like this podcast, I'm sure you will love the podcast called Far from Home. It's by Scott Gurian – a New Yorker who travels around the world to some far-away places totally off the beaten path. Like when he went to a wedding in Kazakhstan. Listen here. COVID-19 TRAVEL and TOURISM RULES FOR BALI For the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations, please visit Bali's official tourism website. Make sure Bali is open for tourism before booking your trip.
26 minutes | Sep 24, 2021
211 INTERVIEW: Mark Wolters World
Meet Mark Wolter of the Youtube channel, Wolters World. For 12 years he's been giving us honest travel advice on different places around the world. If you're going somewhere there's a good chance that he's done a few videos from the place. woltersworld.com facebook.com/woltersworld twitter.com/woltersworld
20 minutes | Sep 15, 2021
210 DOMINICA: Smack My Ass and Take Me to Bed
An ass-slapping hello from Dominica Before we kick off this episode, I have a suggestion: Get your headphones on! 3D AUDIO RECORDING If you prefer to read about my awesome adventures here on my travel blog rather than listening to my sultry voice in my travel podcast, that’s awesome. But...you’re kind of missing out on the true Radio Vagabond experience – hear me out... When doing my travel podcast episodes, I try really hard to create an immersive audio experience for the benefit of my loyal listeners. I record a lot of live-action elements and add music, interviews, and diegetic sounds for an up-close and personal listening experience. For example, after reading this blog post I highly recommend you give this episode a listen as I used a special binaural recording technique. It’s also known as 3D recording, so I suggest you put on headphones for this one to get the best experience. Ready? Let’s jump into it. My name is Palle Bo, and this is The Radio Vagabond episode 210. Welcome to Dominica in the Caribbean Sea. HANGING WITH MY BEACHES IN ANTIGUA Before I got to the island of Dominica, I revisited another one of my favourite islands in the region where I spent a week prior – the beautiful Antigua in the island nation Antigua and Barbuda. Since I have already seen every corner of the island known for its 365 beaches, I decided to do a trip around the island on a catamaran ship and see the beaches that way. The trip was amazing. We took a long stop at one of the beaches where we got to snorkel in the corals for a few hours. I absolutely love this place and the people. They are so chill and have a great sense of humour, perfectly encapsulated by our hilarious tour guide. If you haven’t heard the three episodes from the last time I was here, I highly encourage you to go back and listen to them. But not right now because we’re about to arrive in Dominica. DELIGHTFUL DOMINICA When I saw in the cruise itinerary that we were going to visit Dominica, I thought it was the Dominican Republic. But Dominica is not the Dominican Republic – it’s a separate island and independent country over 1,000 km (600 miles) away in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The official name of the country is The Commonwealth of Dominica, but people mostly refer to it simply as Dominica. It was named by Christopher Columbus after the Spanish word for Sunday, the day of the week on which he first spotted it. Our cruise ship docked in the capital city of Roseau, located on the western side of the island. And the island is small: only 47 km (29 miles) from top to bottom and 26 km (16 miles) at its widest. That makes the tiny island only 750 km2 (290 sq miles) in total. Technically, you can drive around the island along most of the coastline in 5-6 hours but driving on the island of Dominica is not for the faint of heart. Of the 780 km (484 miles) of highways in Dominica, nearly half are unpaved. And cars are driven on the left-hand side. I didn’t drive myself. I booked an excursion and went on a bus with local Alvin as our guide. We headed to one of the many stunning waterfalls on the island – Jacko Falls. I got to chat with Alvin which I’ll tell you about, but first let’s learn more about Dominica. 5 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DOMINICA There’s a river for every day of the year While Antigua and Barbuda has one beach for every day of the year, Dominica has over 365 rivers – one river for every day of the year. With so much water running around, it’s no surprise that Dominica is also a dream destination to chase waterfalls. It’s home to the second-largest boiling lake in the world Dominica is home to the second-largest boiling lake in the world after New Zealand. It’s one of the most famous places on the island, especially for hikers. But this is no easy stroll – you’ll need 6 hours to get there and back. There are nine active volcanoes Dominica has nine active volcanoes – the world’s highest concentration! But don’t worry, there hasn’t been a major eruption since 1997 and before that, it was in 1880. So, being a volcanic island, the beaches are black. Two-thirds of Dominica is covered in rainforest Gorgeous tropical rainforests cover over two-thirds of the island. And these rainforests are home to more than 1,000 different plant species – so hiking here is great. The Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed in Dominica Dominica is one of the filming locations used in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. The place where Will Turner and his shipmates are hanging in bone cages (called “Cannibal Island” in the film) is right here in Dominica. As you heard, Dominica is home to endless rivers, waterfalls, rainforests, and volcanoes – and for that, they have earned the nickname ‘the nature isle of the Caribbean’. ALVIN OUR DOMINICAN TOUR GUIDE When we arrived at the stunning Jacko Falls, I took the opportunity to get to know our warm and friendly tour guide, Alvin (“like the chipmunk” he jokes). “This beautiful Jacko Falls is part of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park which is named as a World Heritage Site. We are about 2,000 feet above sea level.” I spoke to Alvin about a study I came across that stated that out of 22 Caribbean islands tracked, Dominica was the least visited by tourists. But this study is from 2008 and this has changed a bit since then. “Yes, back in 2008 not many cruise ships visited Dominica. But since then, a lot has changed thankfully, and we receive many tourists visiting from the cruise ships. In fact, before 2008, banana harvesting, and exporting was Dominica’s main source of wealth. Since then, our tourism industry has overtaken. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing fewer visitors to our island nation”. Everybody on the island has their part to play in terms of keeping our tourism industry the country’s main source of income – the shops, bars, restaurants all come together to make it a magical place. “We are all very appreciative of tourists coming to visit and we all try our best to make their visit as pleasant as possible, so they leave with only the best memories”. THE QUEEN, COMMONWEALTH, AND CRICKET Alvin tells me that Dominica is still part of the Commonwealth, although they got their independence in 1978, so the Queen still features on Dominican currency and the drive on the left side of the road – like they do in Great Britain and most other former British colonies. Their national sport is cricket, too. Speaking of sport, Dominica only had 2 people competing in the Olympics in Tokyo. Dennick Luke in the Men's 800 meters event and Thea LaFond in the Women's triple jump. And no… they did not take home any medals to this tiny island nation. As we drove back to Roseau, we could see the city from above and the fairly new multi-purpose Windsor Park Stadium. It serves as the national stadium and is used mostly for cricket matches. It cost $17 million (€12 million) to build and was paid for by China as a gift to the people of Dominica. DOMINICAN FOOD IS SUPER HEALTHY I noticed that all the restaurants offer such incredible food that is also so healthy. I asked Alvin more about the local cuisine. “Yes, the Dominican diet is very healthy, like most local Caribbean food. We are a great place for vegetarian travellers as most of our dishes are packed with loads of vegetables and greens. We also eat a lot of seafood, a lot more than red meat and pork. That keeps us healthy” But Alvin ended with an important piece of information… “But most importantly, we enjoy a little sip of rum now and then. In Dominica, we don’t call it rum, rather we have a few names for it: “Grandma Medicine” and, my personal favourite, SMACK MY ASS AND TAKE ME TO BED”. I really love this place. SMACK MY ASS TO LIVE LONGER The mix of clean food and ass-smacking clearly has its benefits. Dominica was home to one of the longest-living humans in history. When Elizabeth Pampo passed away in 2003, she was 128 years old and the World’s oldest living person. And almost even more interesting: there were at least 17 other people older than 100 years in Dominica at the time (with 4 of them living very close to Ma Pampo). With a population of only 70,000, Dominica has the highest concentration of people older than 100. Alvin’s own grandmother is one of them. “My grandmother is 105 years old. She is still going strong: she loves to potter in the garden every morning and loves spending time with her family and friends. And gets a shot of rum every day”. VISIT DOMINICA AND MEET ALVIN FOR YOURSELF You can reach Alvin at Hibiscus Eco Tours. You can call them on +1 767-615-8281 or send them an e-mail. When saying goodbye to Alvin, I said that the only bad thing about my visit was that it wasn’t long enough. And I wasn’t even kidding. Dominica really is one of those places where I would have loved to spend some more time. I felt right at home and would love to come back. Soon... After waving off Alvin, we headed back on the cruise ship. For my health, I decided to finish off my Dominican experience at the pool bar with a little sip of rum – or, as I will now forever refer to it as, an ‘ass-smack’ before taking myself to bed. My name is Palle Bo and I gotta keep moving. See you. COVID-19 TRAVEL and TOURISM RULES FOR DOMINICA (SEPT 2021) Is Dominica open for travel? This episode is recorded in August 2021 and Dominica was open for travel. For the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations, please visit their official website. Make sure Dominica is open for tourism before booking your trip. PODCAST RECOMMENDATION If you love listening to The Radio Vagabond, then you will definitely enjoy the travel podcast Far From Home. It is produced by long-time radio producer Scott Gurian who travels around the world to some extreme faraway places.
18 minutes | Sep 11, 2021
209 NEW YORK: Remembering 9/11 Twenty Years Later
It is exactly twenty years after the tragic events in Manhattan, New York. And since I was there a few days before the anniversary and stayed at an Airbnb that was there when the Twin Towers came down, I decided to make a special episode for us all to remember how it affected our worlds.
26 minutes | Sep 10, 2021
207 GUATEMALA: Lake Life, Headless Volcano, and Cooperatives
Buenos días from Guatemala. After getting an Uber from where I lived in Zone 10 to the bus station in Guatemala City, I took a 3.5-hour bus trip headed West to Lake Atitlán. MEETING ANDRÉS As you heard in the interview episode with Siobhan last week, we got to know each other when she was organising the Digital Nomads Beyond 50 online summit, where I was one of the speakers. One of the other speakers was an American writer, Andrés, who has also worked in radio for many years. I met him in real life for the first time in San Lucas Tolimán on the shore of Lake Atitlán. Andrés is writing a book – or should I say a literary project, because it's so much more than just a book. Actually, Andrés likes to call it "the book that is writing him". He's living in San Lucas Tolimán on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Here he runs a small guest house, and when I planned to visit Guatemala, I decided to come and spend some time here. We quickly connected, and I feel I've made a friend for life. ARRIVING IN SAN LUCAS TOLIMÁN San Lucas Tolimán is a small town of 17,000 people. It sits on the south-eastern shore of Lake Atitlán – Lago de Atitlán. There are 11 towns and villages around Lake Atitlan, and the best way to visit them is to get on a small boat. It's cheap and by far the fastest way. A few days later, Siobhan joined the little nomad community in San Lucas on a beautiful Sunday. She arrived by bus from the airport in Guatemala City later in the afternoon. Since she would end up in Panajachel on the other side of the lake, we went to pick her up and decided to make a day of it. Andrés and I decided to take a day trip to visit a few other places on the lake's eastern shore. Together with his dog Catzij (who follows him everywhere), we jumped on a "lancha" – a small boat. BOATING LAKE ATITLÁN The trip was amazing; we saw so many locals enjoying a typical relaxing Sunday by the lake. The water is a little cold, but Andrés tells me there are a few hot baths around the area. Our first stop was San Antonio Palopó, a small town with a few cooperatives that Andrés wanted to show me. The first one was right on the shore where the lancha dropped us off — a chocolate factory where I got to meet Elias, who took me through the whole process. ELIAS & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY "This is where we make love and happiness," says Elias. There are three main regions in Guatemala where the cacao plants are found. He tells me they ferment the white seeds for five days using banana leaves in boxes, creating a natural yeast. This creates 70% alcohol which is illegal in Guatemala (5-12 seeds is like having a tequila shot). Then they sundry the cacao for up to 90 days, after which they roast them for 25mins. Then Elias shows me how to grind the cacao. I ended up buying more than I needed. Some of it was some round chocolate bars with different flavours for making hot chocolate. Really yummy-yummy (as Elias calls it). After the tour, we walked through the city and also went into a small shop with a lot of textiles. This is part of a women's cooperative. Here I met Flor, who is one of these women. FLOR THE GUATEMALAN ARTISAN "16 women are part of the cooperative and each one works on their own product. One family works on the shirts, another on the backpacks, and my family works on the traditional Guatemalan clothing attire," she says. It takes about three weeks to produce one tablecloth using an entire belt loom. Flor tells us about the manufacturing process and the reason why the items they sell cost little. The shop is a bit tucked away in a small street and can be hard to find. So, they also sell their products on markets and in small pop-up shops at the harbour. Flor is such a lovely woman, and it was so interesting to learn more about how they make such stunning garments. SANTA CATARINA PALOPÓ As planned, we caught a pickup truck taxi from San Antonio Palopó to Santa Catarina Palopó. Or as we started calling these two little towns: San Antonio Palle Bo and Santa Catarina Palle Bo. As we were walking through Santa Catarina Palopó, we turned down a small street to the lake and met a little girl in a shop selling something that looked like it could have been made by Flor and the other women in the cooperative. Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen. It sparkles in the sunlight and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes covered with blooming wildflowers. It's in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre Mountain range and sits 1,562 m (5,125 ft) above sea level. From here, you can look across the lake to where we were staying in San Lucas Tolimán, including the three major volcanoes: Volcán Atitlán, Volcán Tolimán, and further out to the right Volcán San Pedro. You can also see a big rock at Cerro de Oro close to San Lucas Tolimán, which Andrés explains the local legend about it being the head of one of the volcanos. "The legend says that there was a fight between the Gods Atitlán and Tolimán, which ended with Atitlán beheading Tolimán. And so this rock at Cerro de Oro is believed to be the decapitated head of Tolimán." PANA-MAZING PANAJACHEL We continued to Panajachel (or just Pana as they call it) situated along the way west and still in the northern part of the lake. Pana is known as a tourist town: it's well-developed with a lot of resources for both locals and expats alike. It has the perfect mix of natural beauty, good prices, easy travel connections, and some of the best shopping in Guatemala. Also, there are plenty of tour agencies offering day trips and tours around the entire lake. It's here in Panajachel we're meeting Siobhan in a few hours. And together, we ask Andrés to tell us the story of how he ended up running an Airbnb guesthouse in San Lucas Tolimán. And since Andrés is a storyteller, we don't have room for that in this episode. The good news is that you'll get the episode with Andrés' story already tomorrow. My name is Palopó, and I gotta keep moving. See you. COVID-19 TRAVEL and TOURISM RULES FOR GUATEMALA AUGUST 2021 For the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations, please visit this website. Make sure Guatemala is open for tourism before booking your trip.
27 minutes | Sep 9, 2021
208 GUATEMALA: American Writer Andrés, Runs a Guesthouse
Welcome back to the second half of my day with Andrés at various places around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. If you haven’t heard the first half, you should go back and listen to that one first. We’re in Panajachel in the northern part of the lake. While waiting for Siobhan to arrive, Andrés and I stopped for a slow lunch in the heart of the town. As it turns out, Siobhan arrived later than expected when it was getting dark, and the last regular lancha/boat had left. But Andrés managed to call someone to pick us up in Pana and take us back to San Lucas. While sitting at the pier waiting for the boat, Andrés told me how he ended up running an Airbnb in Guatemala. GUESTHOUSE IN GUATEMALA “It all began in 1987 when I visited Honduras for the first time at the invitation of a priest who was critical about US policy in Central America. He invited us to protest the USA embassy by pouring blood on the walls as a metaphor for the bloody policies and bloodshed US policies were having on Central America at the time. I was critical of US policy in South and Central America as my uncle was imprisoned and my cousin was killed by Ronald Reagan’s Contras defending the revolution of Nicaragua.” After being involved in another protest the following year in Guatemala, Andrés was caught and deported back to the USA. At a talk in Washington DC, he met Narda, a woman from Honduras who gave a talk. After he returned to Honduras to visit her, a true romance blossomed between them. The two dated long-distance, on and off for 13 years. But just as Andrés was getting into telling me the actual way he ended up in Guatemala, our boat arrived. A DOG’S LIFE We then made our way back to San Lucas Tolimán, and the guesthouse Andrés runs. He calls it Casa Catzij named after his wonderful dog, Catzij. She used to be a street dog but found out that she gets a lot of attention and good food with Andrés. You can take the dog out of the streets, but you can’t really take the street out of the dog. So, she still runs around San Lucas Tolimán on her own, and it seems like everyone in town and around the lake knows her. She joined us on the day trip, and every time we strolled around town, rarely on a leash. One day when we were walking, a friend of André’s was driving by and rolled down the window to say hi. And Catzij knows her too, so she jumped through the window of the car onto her lap in the driver’s seat. And she’s not a small dog. CASA CATZIJ Andrés, Siobhan, Catzij, and I eventually arrived at Casa Catzij where we met Alexa, a guest who regularly lives here for months at a time on each visit. There is a lot of “hygge” here (a Danish word for cosiness famous around the world). Andrés even has the book about hygge on his bookshelf. And together in the living room around the fireplace with a lot of hygge, we sat down to continue the story on how Andrés ended up running a guesthouse in Guatemala. “Unfortunately, my life partner Narda passed away after heart surgery which ended up breaking my heart. But Narda introduced me to my good friend, Chati, who I have known for about 25 years. Chati worked as an administrator for one of the poshest hotels in San Lucas Tolimán. Two years ago, I came here to write with my Goddaughter, Erica. I fell in love with the town, and after returning to California for a bit, I soon found myself back here. Chanti was house hunting and asked me along to look at this place. She wasn’t interested and I wasn’t even looking for a house. But I managed to strike up an agreement with the owner to renovate the house and turn it into an Airbnb.” “PALLE’S PICKUP” FROM GUATEMALA I am so happy that I made some interesting new friends during my stay at Casa Catzij in San Lucas Tolimán at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Meeting Alexa, Siobhan, and Andrés was the best thing that has happened to me for a long time. Andrés’ ability to talk to everyone and immerse himself into the small local community impressed me a lot. When we walked through town, I could see how much the locals like him (and his dog, Catzij). A short walk to the market can take a long time. He is clearly not just an American outsider. He is one of the locals, and that is so inspiring. Obviously, it helps that he’s fluent in Spanish, but even though I’m not, I learned a lot from Andrés. Just a few words in the local language helps. And trying to remember the names of people I meet. VISIT CASA CATZIJ I definitely recommend staying at Casa Catzij and spending some time with Andrés and Catzij if you’re visiting Guatemala. By the way, two tiny kittens also moved into the house when I was there. Go meet them and say hi from me. My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you. - - - - - - - COVID-19 TRAVEL AND TOURISM RULES FOR GUATEMALA AUGUST 2021 For the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations, please visit this website. Make sure Guatemala is open for tourism before booking your trip.
27 minutes | Sep 1, 2021
206 US VIRGIN ISLANDS: Danish and Hamilton History
I boarded the Celebrity Cruise ship, Equinox, on the pier in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with my cabin-roomie, Siobhan – that I featured in the latest episode. My name is Palle Bo. Welcome back to all new episodes of The Radio Vagabond. This is Season 7, episode 206, and today we're going to St. Croix – one of the US Virgin Islands. CRUISING IN A PANDEMIC This episode is recorded just a few days ago, as cruising is starting up again after the pandemic. And they are taking so many precautions for our safety. As we all know (from the beginning of the pandemic), a cruise ship is not the best place to be if there's a Coronavirus outbreak. They require that all passengers are fully vaccinated, and on top of that, we all need to have a Covid test to board. Plus, they are sailing with less than half as many passengers as they have the capacity for. Also, as I mentioned in the latest episode a few days ago, they changed the itinerary, and then at some ports, we're only allowed to leave the ship on port days if we go on one of their excursions. Everything is to prevent any cases of Covid on the ship. So, we're probably relatively safe – and thank God (even though it could make this podcast go viral). WELCOME TO SAINT CROIX As we set foot on land at the first stop on the cruise, we're greeted by local dancers, a DJ, and some guys on stilts. It's a special place for me as a Dane because the US Virgin Islands used to be a part of my home country, Denmark. But let’s start with seven facts about where we are: 1. YOU STILL SEE A BIT OF DENMARK HERE Up until March 1917, they were called the Danish West Indies, and still, there is a lot of Danish history here. Like location names. The street sign in Kings Street also has the Danish name Kongensgade. There's also a Kirkegade (Church Street). Today, I'm visiting Frederiksted and Christiansted – also very typical names for Danish kings. 2. A VERY BIG REAL ESTATE DEAL Denmark sold the islands for 25 million USD in gold (around 554 million USD in current money). Someone might call it "a very big real estate deal"... 3. THE CAPITAL IS NOT ON THE BIGGEST ISLAND St. Croix is the largest of the islands in the territory. But the capital, Charlotte Amalie, is located on St. Thomas. 4. THE LAST VIRGIN Most people know that there are three main US Virgin Islands, but not that many years ago, a fourth was added: tiny Water Island, located off the coast of St. Thomas. And it is tiny – less than one square mile (around two square kilometres), and the USA bought it for a cool $10,000, making it what locals playfully call "The Last Virgin." 5. HALF OF THE POPULATION IS ON SAINT CROIX The population of St. Croix is a bit more than 50,000 – almost half of the populations on the islands. 6. AN ISLAND WITH A LITTLE MOUNTAIN The highest point of St. Croix is Mount Eagle, at 355 meters (1,165 ft). 7. TWO CITIES GAVE IT THE NICKNAME St. Croix's nickname is "Twin City", for its two towns, Frederiksted on the western end (where we dock with the cruise) and the bigger, Christiansted, on the northeast part of the island (where I'm going later today). ONE COFFEE AND TWO CHATS, PLEASE I start my day in Frederiksted, before I go on a tour in Christiansted. I went to a coffee shop for some coffee and better Wi-Fi than what is available on the ship. After walking around the city, I ended up in a place called Polly's at the Pier. I got chatting with the owner, Susan. She tells me that she's from Colorado and came here to the island looking for a warm place to retire. And then she ended up buying the coffee shop in the middle of the pandemic. In my conversation with her, she confirms that there is a thing called "island time" here, and you do get a bit of Island fever. But Susan likes it here and have no plans of leaving anytime soon. We're sitting in the courtyard behind the café with chickens running around us. And there's also a place where you can rent a bicycle. Here I meet Rebecca, who is she's born and raised here. Please have a listen to the episode to hear my conversation with these two women. Then you will also hear my alarm going off in the middle of the last chat – reminding me that it's time for me to get ready to go on the tour to Christiansted. CHRISTIANSTED AND THE TEN-DOLLAR MAN At the beginning of the walking tour, our guide goes into a 2-minute statement given to her by Celebrity Cruises. They asked her to read it to us, and it's all about the things we need to know about how to act when going on a walking tour in Covid-times. And guess what? We need to wash our hands, maintain social distancing, and always wear a mask. You know all the same things we've been hearing 200 million times in the last 18 months… But good to know that they are taking it seriously. OUR HEAVENLY TOURGUIDE Our guide is a slightly older woman with the wonderful name Heavenly Petersen. Yes, her first name is really Heavenly, and the last name is Petersen – which is a unique Danish way of spelling it. She confirms my suspicion that she has Danish ancestors, so I tell her that I'm from Denmark. And much to my surprise, I get no reaction. I was expecting a "wow, really" or "maybe we're related" or just a smile. But nothing. There was no reaction whatsoever – just a "good to meet you, sir" a few seconds later. So, I thought she might not have heard me, and I repeated myself: "My name is Palle, and I am from DENMARK". Again, nothing. I found it funny and slightly weird, and I still thought that she didn't hear it. But a bit later, I find out that she did. When we came to the entrance of the fort Christiansvern, there was a "Skillerhouse" outside. It's a little red human-size house that is uniquely Danish. It's where a soldier can stand in when it rains, and we have them outside the royal castle in Copenhagen, Amalienborg. And as I mention that to Heavenly, she shows me that she did hear that I was "the gentleman from Denmark". MY NAME IS ALEXANDER HAMILTON " How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?" These are words from the famous Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton, and he grew up right here on St. Croix and later became one of the founding fathers of the United States – and got his face is on the ten-dollar bill. We walk inside fort Christiansvern and hear more about this man and his mother, Rachel Faucett Lavien, who spent time in a prison cell here. STORY OF HAMILTON AND HIS MOTHER RACHEL Inside Hamilton's mother's prison cell, which they call Rachel's Room, Heavenly Petersen tells me that Rachel was sent in jail with a push from her, John Michael Lavien, for having "flirtatious ways". But it might have been just a bit more than flirting. While she was married to Lavien, she and another man, Cronenberg, were caught in a bedroom, undressed and (as it said in the court documents) "with more circumstances that sufficiently demonstrated their shameless intercourse and scandalous life." So, this is why Lin-Manuel Miranda refers to Alexander Hamilton as a son of a whore in the hit musical. Both Rachel and Cronenberg ended up in jail for several months for their adultery. Rachel 6 months here in Christiansvern. Once released, Cronenberg was booted off the island and later showed up in St. Thomas. Rachel had to promise that she would go back to her husband and be very nice to him and do everything he told her to do. But she tricked him and left the island to go back to Nevis, another Caribbean Island in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Here she met Scotsman, James Hamilton, and they had two sons when she still was married to Lavien: James Hamilton Jr and one they named Alexander. Lavien asked for a divorce in 1759 when James Jr was six and Alexander was two years old – or maybe four – it's a bit uncertain when exactly he was born. When James Hamilton Sr. heard about her real husband asking for a divorce, he abandoned her. She was alone back here in Christiansted on St. Croix with the two boys, where she supported them by keeping a small store – now knowns as the Hamilton House. But not for long. She contracted yellow fever and died on February 19, 1768, leaving Alexander orphaned at 13 (or 11). NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT So, how does this bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman become one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the ten-dollar face? "He got a lot farther by working a lot harder. By being a lot smarter. By being a self-starter. And by fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter. " Despite only being in his teenage years, he proved capable enough as a trader to be left in charge of the firm for five months while the owner was at sea. He was also an avid reader and later also a writer. He began to desire a life outside St. Croix. So, he was not throwing away his shots. For the rest of the history, go see the Hamilton musical on Broadway in New York… If you can get tickets. MUCH MORE TO DO ON SAINT CROIX THAN JUST HISTORY And if you come to St. Croix, you should go on a historical tour of this place even if you're not Danish. But there are 100 things to do on St. Croix. Adventure, arts and culture, food and drinks, scuba diving and water sports. Click the link and see a list of the 100 things to do. This was what I chose to do in the few hours I was here, but I might come back again and do some of the other 99. My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you.
31 minutes | Aug 30, 2021
205 INTERVIEW: Siobhan is an Unintentional Digital Nomad Beyond 50
Welcome back to all-new episodes of The Radio Vagabond podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed the flashback episodes; I’ve given you this month. But now we’re about to start Season 7 – a season that will be different in so many ways. The next four months, I’ll take you around the globe … to Andorra, Bali, Brazil, Chile, Dominica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jordan, Saint Lucia, Uruguay, a few places in the United States, and then we’ll be in St. Croix – one of the US Virgin Islands in the first one in a few days… That’s a part of a Caribbean Cruise, that I’m on right now – as I’m saying these words. In fact, I’m recording this in the cabin on the good ship, Celebrity Equinox, with a view of the Caribbean Sea. It’s a cabin that I’m sharing with today’s guest. Her name is Siobhan Farr and she’s the “spark originator” aka founder of the summit and community called Digital Nomads Beyond 50. Join her Facebook Group. Enjoy my conversation with her, and at the end of it, you can also hear a bit of my upcoming cruise – that got changed at the last minute.
17 minutes | Aug 28, 2021
FLASHBACK: Belgrade, Serbia
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from Belgrade in Serbia and was recorded in August 2016. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/004-serbia/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
2 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
TRAILER: Season 7 Starts in a Few Days
Next week, we’re back with all new episodes of The Radio Vagabond, as we start Season 7 in a few days – a season that will be different in so many ways. The next four months, I’ll take you around the globe … to Andorra, Bali, Brazil, Chile, Dominica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jordan, Saint Lucia, Uruguay, a few places in the United States, and then we’ll be in St. Croix – one of the US Virgin Islands. As always you will get travel episodes on Wednesdays and then a few interview episodes in the weekends. And in fact, we kick it off already Monday with a special episode where you get to meet my roomy on a Caribbean Cruise. Her name is Siobhan Farr and she’s the “spark originator” aka founder of the summit and community called Digital Nomads Beyond 50.
29 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
FLASHBACK: North Carolina
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from Asheville and Greensboro in North Carolina and was recorded in September 2017. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/091-north-carolina/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
28 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
FLASHBACK: Cap Skirring, Senegal
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from Cap Skirring in Senegal and was recorded in January 2018. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/121-cap-skirring/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
19 minutes | Aug 25, 2021
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from the Philippines and was recorded in October 2016. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/010-philippines-1/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
26 minutes | Aug 24, 2021
FLASHBACK: Antigua & Barbuda
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from Antigua in the Caribbean and was recorded in May 2019. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/130-antigua/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
41 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from Kosovo and was recorded in April 2018. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/174-kosovo-is-a-beautiful-little-country-with-a-lot-of-history/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
33 minutes | Aug 22, 2021
FLASHBACK: Cape Town
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is about the Oscar-winning documentary with Steven “Sugar” and was recorded in January 2018 in Cape Town. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/148-finding-sugar-in-cape-town/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
26 minutes | Aug 21, 2021
FLASHBACK: Abu Dhabi, UAE
While I’m working on the next season, I’m sharing a few flashback episodes of some of my favorite places around the world. This episode is from Abu Dhabi, UAE and was recorded in September 2016. EPISODE LINK: https://www.theradiovagabond.com/007-abu-dhabi/ SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcast.Spotify.Google Podcast. YouTube. Or in any place you listen to audio. Send me a voice message or fill out the form.
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