I love to travel, which shouldn’t come to a surprise if you know me, or if you are on this site. My number one goal in life is to see as many places as I can, while learning about the various cultures around the world, and then taking what I learned back home to share it with others. As much as I’d like to travel full-time and let go of the things that bind me to any one location, I can’t right now. I’m not saying it’s not possible for me, because I have learned from many of my peers in the travel blogging industry that it is possible. I am simply saying that now is not the right time for me. I have financial obligations that need to be met, and the income which my day job provides allows me to finance that adventures that I write about here. Sooner or later, I hope to be more self-sufficient and travel for extended periods of time; but not just yet.
What I like to do is take a 48 hour jaunt. A jaunt is defined as a short excursion or journey for pleasure, and is part of the etymology of this site. I work typical office hours, from Monday through Friday, and this leaves me with the weekends to do what I want to do. I like to travel so often that there is no way that I can request off for all the places that I’d like to go. 90% of the time, I choose to take my 48 hour jaunt.
My 48 hour jaunts usually begin either Friday night or early Saturday morning. If I am going semi-far (like to South America), I try to leave on a red-eye flight Friday night, if one is available. This allows me to make use of one of my favorite mottoes: Do something while you’re doing nothing. I can sleep on the plane (or try) while en route, saving the money I would have spent on a hotel had I flown earlier, and saving my conscious time for my destination. However, if I am going somewhere domestic, or otherwise fairly close (Toronto), I don’t mind schlepping to the airport in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and arriving at my destination before noon.
Either way, I am left with about 36 hours at this point, but this suffices. One advantage of these short trips is that I barely carry anything on me; I have a bag, of course, but it is quite light, and I usually don’t feel the need to drop it off at that night’s hotel. For some reason, as soon as I get outside of the airport, I have an intense hunger. My short time at each place forces me to use several taxis during my stay, and though I am a budget traveler, coming from New York City means that taxis everywhere else are dirt cheap in comparison.
Heading downtown is my usual routine, no matter which city I find myself in. Whether I go to Chicago or Warsaw, “downtown” (or its counterpart) is where I want to be. You see, I love the local scene, the intermingling of the locals on the weekends. Street foods, and any food in general, are readily found “downtown”. After grabbing my brunch, oft times procured from a jury-rigged portable grill made out of a shopping cart, I head further in. Saturdays are great days to be in any city, as there seems to always be more people out and about. Walking up and down the streets and getting lost is not only exciting for me; it is also my mission. Pushing my comfort zone’s boundaries ever outward is my reward.
All the walking sustains quite an appetite, which is another reason why I like walking so much. Not only am I seeing local life, but I am also working up my appetite constantly, enabling me to consume as much local fare that I can manage in those 36 – 48 hours. Food is the best way to learn about another culture. Everyone gets hungry, so it transcends any socioeconomic variances, though the eatery may not. I search for native specialties much like fellow New Yorker Anthony Bourdain; I have a childlike enthusiasm when I find those weird local delights, like Andrew Zimmern. I try not to rile the townspeople up towards an ingestion competition like my other fellow New Yorker, Adam Richman.
As the sun slowly begins to set, I begin my search for the hotel. Sometimes I have prearranged reservations; often times I find one on the fly. When I get to my room, I set everything down, and take a hot shower. A plane ride, no matter how short, always makes me feel like I need a shower, and the walking I had done for the first half of the day confirms it. After I come out, I put on a new change of clothes, and I head out again for the night scene.
Dinner for me usually has me sitting down at a nicer place; though I love the food from the shopping cart grills for breakfast and lunch, my Saturday night dinner is the only one I will have at that destination, so I make the best of it. I like to find that moderately-priced restaurant, something that won’t go against my budget-travel ideals, yet will set my mood up for a night out afterward. Also, if I am going to go out and have a few drinks after dinner, I’d prefer that if I threw up, it was because of the alcohol and not my dinner!
Finishing up, and hopefully not feeling overindulged, I then like to head out and drink a little. These are some of the few times I like being alone, because when I am in a different land, I can concentrate and wrap my head around what really makes that place tick. I love going out with my friends, and when I travel domestically, I usually meet a friend or two before going out. However, when I am traveling abroad, especially in a place where mine isn’t the native tongue, being alone has its perks. I am more inclined to use whatever knowledge of the local language which I possess (the alcohol helps me past any awkward stages). Also, everywhere I’ve went, the people are quick to pick up on the fact that I am a stranger, and are almost always friendly. By the end of the night, I have made new friends and acquaintances, and have memories that I will never forget.
On Sunday mornings, though I only have but half a day left on my short adventure, I like to sleep in and push the limits of my hotel’s checkout time. When I first started going on these jaunts, I would set an alarm and wake up at the crack of dawn to try to maximize my remaining time. Now I feel somewhat seasoned, and I know that this doesn’t work for me, usually. Since my Saturday nights may have had me out well into early Sunday morning, I try to sleep in, because I know that I have a full day ahead of me, followed by a flight home, and then work on Monday morning. So I snooze.
Once I’m up, I shower and pack all my things and check out. My Sunday breakfast/brunch is another time where I usually forego getting a taste of the area’s real cuisine. This is because I am a caffeine junkie, and I need coffee within an hour after I wake up, or my day is ruined. If the hotel offers it, I eat breakfast there. Though hotel breakfasts often cater to traveling tourists and have some food that I would consider “American” (pancakes, potatoes, sausages, bacon, etc.), sometimes I am happily surprised. Once in a while, a hotel get’s it right (in my book); I have had some very traditional fare, and some of the best of it, while eating a hotel brunch. I try to not stay at American hotel chains, because I can hardly expect this to happen there.
When I leave the hotel finally, I once more do the things that I did the night before after leaving the airport. However, I’ve noticed that many cities have a different vibe on Sunday morning compared to Saturday; where there is usually hustle and bustle during daylight hours on Saturday, Sunday’s daytime seems to be the exact opposite, many times. I still enjoy trying to see what I can in the time I have left, but I, too, feel a difference in myself; I am careful to watch my time as the airport beckons increasingly louder.
Red-eye flights are ideal for me on Sunday trips home, as well. I can sleep on the plane and practice once again doing something while I’m doing nothing. Getting back to JFK/LGA/EWR in the early morning on Monday is also a bit of a plus; if I am coming from an international destination, I am met with short lines at Customs in those wee hours; New York has a notoriously bad reputation for lines stretching endlessly in all directions.
Most people tend to go on a vacation, and this isn’t what I do. Normally, coming home and getting back to my desk at my day job is a bit of a getaway from my hectic schedule during one of my jaunts. These short (but sweet!) adventures are not as expensive as you may think. I typically fly somewhere for anywhere between $150 and $400. I eat the street food mostly, and my hotels are usually no more than glorified hostels. Since I live in New York City, I go to regions that are fairly inexpensive from there, such as Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, or South America. Europe’s prices are usually more in all regards, so I save those trips there for longer consecutive days off. These jaunts are not only doable, but they are more fulfilling than any standard weekend at home. Try it sometime; make the most of the free time allotted to you.