Vago Damitio (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook
For me, Ghent was just a day trip from Brussels, but if you want to stay in Ghent, here is a complete list of hotels in Ghent with user reviews and multi site price comparisons. Rafael was kind enough to pick up some maps from a very cool tourist office so the next day I took a shorter train trip to Ghent, a very hip, very cool little town.
Ghent has the coolest wallpaper store in the world. Wow.
Sadly, it rained all day, I woke up with a sore throat, and it seemed there was immense construction going on, as a result of some or all of the above, it seemed that just about everything was closed…maybe because it was Monday. Anyway, I brought my dirty laundry and found a laundrymat, then I explored the Gravensteen castle which had an excellent torture museum. Waterboarding, old school style plus a guillateen which was used for numerous executions. Took a lot of pictures, walked around in the rain with my laundry, felt my flu getting worse, had some Belgian Fries and then headed back to Brussels, hoping that I didn’t have swine flu. I didn’t really care if I had it, but I didn’t want to pass it on to Raphael and his daughters.
Ghent also has the coolest ashtray I’ve ever stuck a butt in.
The last bit of time in Chicago was okay. The Sears Tower had zero visibility and I was sort of museum weary after The Institute of Art so I just walked through the streets of downtown taking pictures.
Chicago is cool on it’s own, but the downtown area feels a lot like New York, without being New York. My new friends Chad and Emjoy told me that you can’t really appreciate Chicago unless you get into the neighborhoods and my buddy Erik has told me about some incredible experiences to be had in Chicago but honestly, it was my fault for not scheduling enough time in this great MidWest City. Of course, one thing to keep in mind – it was COLD. Too cold to enjoy. I have to reserve judgment on this city in terms of having a great time until I can come and spend more time during a nicer time of the year. Still – Chicago has its wonders.
The Federal Reserve Building in Chicago with a nice reflection of some public art called “Flamingo”
I know this though. The architecture is astounding in the city that gave birth to the skyscraper. The Chicago Institute of Art was mind blowing and I’m told that all the rest of the museums are too. I believe it. I found Chicago to be too cold and too fast for my tastes. I know, it was January, but the people seemed cold too. Not nearly as friendly as New Yorkers but maybe I just didn’t understand them.
I spoke with a cab driver who had been driving in Chicago for forty years and he told me that he had never seen business as slow as it currently is. He said that even on New Years, he wasn’t as hectic as he should have been. So, from the ground level, the recession is still being felt. He told me that buses and trains are fuller than ever and his usual customers are saving money on a cab and using public transport instead.
I hunkered down in a Cosi Coffee House and caught up on uploading video and pictures, updating existensis, and answering emails for a few hours while it snowed outside. I looked for something to do online and since I am definitely a movie lover, I decided to go to the Gene Siskel Film Center and catch a movie at 6 before catching my train to Boston at 10.
At that point, I got a call from Erin, the couch surf host I was supposed to have surfed with and I asked her if she wanted to join me for the film. She said yes, so we met up at the theater got some popcorn and a couple of beers and watched a very interesting animated fairy tale called Azur and Asmar.
I admit to being a big fan of fairy tales and since about 1/3 of this one was in Arabic, I enjoyed it all the more. The animation was of the sort that I am not a huge fan of, the sort of computer generated graphics that I really am sort of annoyed by. My Arabic is so rusty that I caught less than 1/3 of what was there, none the less, I did catch some of it. That felt pretty good. I think it will come back pretty quickly. The animation of the set was absolutely astounding. So many geometric patterns and middle eastern motifs. In any event, it was definitely enjoyable even though there was a slight feel of great white hope to it.
After the movie, Erin walked me to Union Station and we searched for a whole foods I thought was in the area without any luck, so I bought three sandwiches for the 24 hour train trip from Potbelly’s. They were damn good sandwiches.
This was by far the worst train I have taken on this trip so far. The seats were not as comfy as the other train seats, the dining car was filled with drunks, one of whom had to be escorted off the train by police because he became so incredibly drunk that he began cussing at the train attendant and heaping verbal abuse on her. The police came on the train at the next stop and he left with them. In the car I was in there was a Jethro type from Missouri who looked more than a little inbred. He sang loudly to himself and stood at the window saying ”Oh my gawd, there ain’t no traffic like this in Missouri. Eight lanes” and other bumpkin phrases. He asked to borrow several people’s cell phones so he could ‘call his ma’ and tried to make friends with me, but I didn’t care to be his friend. You know how sometimes you just know that someone is awful.
I found a seat I liked and a Russian guy sat behind me and began talking loudly on his cell phone. I moved. Not a friendly bunch.
The highlight of the trip was watching a movie my friend Ark had given me called Survive Style 5+. Great film with one of the best endings I’ve ever encountered. It also gave me a chance to ignore the freakshow around me.
I was exhausted after not enough sleep the night before and walking around freezing Chicago all day, admittedly not in the best mood of my trip. The grey sky, grey buildings, and leafless brown scenery didn’t improve things. The trip to Boston from Chicago was drab and ugly and my mood was the same. When we finally arrived in Boston, I was relieved to see evergreens, warm brick buildings, colorful houses, and people that actually took the time to smile.
These were the highlights for me from the Chicago Art Institute…can you name them? Can you name the artist?
I also really thought this native american sculpture of a story teller was spectacular
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all and there might not be a better way to do that than to get aboard a beautiful cruise ship and head to the Caribbean.
A Caribbean cruise is just what you need to unwind and relax on your upcoming holiday. The crystal clear waters of the Caribbean coupled with warm, fragrant breezes and sunny skies set the picture-perfect background for the vacation of a lifetime.
A cruise holiday also gives you the unbelievable opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. As you select the itinerary for your holiday, consider exploring some of these unforgettable attractions with guided tours available through the cruise lines. Do your homework and you will find there are cheap Caribbean holidays available as well as the ultra-luxury ones.
By selecting a cruise itinerary that includes a stop in the Grenadines, you can explore the picturesque island of Mayreau. This is a small, isolated island that is only available via boat. With around 300 inhabitants and located off-the-beaten-path, you can choose from guided tours that include activities like soaking up the sun on pristine, unspoiled beaches like the Salt Whistle Bay beach, snorkelling in the Mopian Reef and scuba diving with the sharks around the Puruni shipwreck.
2) Dunns River Falls
If your cruise ship itinerary takes you to Jamaica, take time to explore the tropical paradise known as Dunn’s River Falls. This world-famous water fall is located in a tropical rain forest just outside of Ocho Rios. The breathtaking beauty of the tropical rain forest is the ideal backdrop for this grand waterfall that measures 55 meters in height and 180 meters in length. It boasts terraced areas with small lagoons that make it ideal for climbing and playing in the water. With a guided tour, you can ascend to the top of the falls in about an hour and a half.
3) Nelson’s Dockyard
If your cruise ship docks in Antigua, you may spend your time exploring attractions like the Galley Bay Beach and Devil’s Bridge, but Nelson’s Dockyard will be a highlight of your time on the island. This is a popular, restored cultural site in beautiful English Harbour that dates back to the late 18th century. Today, Nelson’s Dockyard is home to many shops, restaurants, the Dockyard Museum, Shirley Heights and historic Clarence House. With a guided tour, you can explore this scenic attraction to enjoy the culture of the island while learning more about the island’s rich history.
You may have plans to lounge by the pool of your cruise ship while on your Caribbean cruise holiday, but while at port, make plans to get to know the islands in more detail with a guided tour to these or other attractions. Most ports of call feature multiple tour options that may include outdoor activities, touring historical attractions and more. These varied options give you the flexibility to plan the Caribbean holiday of your dreams with ease.