Here we go again

I was home from Hong Kong last Sunday, worked 60 hours in a matter of days, and now headed to Belgium, Estonia and Latvia. Keep your eyes peeled for some photos and products that will be a part of this trip’s donation package with all proceeds going towards The Women’s Wilderness Institute. See you later, U.S.A.! Sarah

Vietnamese Donation Package available

image If you’re interested in purchasing this donation package from my recent trip to Vietnam, price will start at $45. Send me an email at [email protected] with your offer until Monday, Aug. 18 at 12 p.m. MST. Package includes coconut sweets as well as a handmade bamboo vase and decor from Hanoi, Vietnam. 100 percent of proceeds will go to The Women’s Wilderness Institute. Thanks! -Sarah

Photo Gallery: Hong Kong and Vietnam 2014

Adventures in Central and Northern Vietnam 2014

vietnam5After traveling to South Korea and Malaysia earlier this year, I really didn’t think I would go back to that area of the world for a long time. It’s just so far away and I’m always so exhausted when I get home. However, when one of my best friends – who is a BLAST to travel with and has the same flight benefits as me – recommended we go on a girls trip, I couldn’t refuse. In order to get to Vietnam, we had to fly to Hong Kong, then take a Zed Fare (standby ticket on a regional airline) to Da Nang on Dragon Air. It’s pretty hard to make solid plans when you fly standby, but everything went quite smoothly arriving to our destinations. Our plan was to fly to Da Nang, hang at the beach for a few days, take an overnight train to Hanoi, spend a day at Ha Long Bay, and get as much spa time in between as much as possible. We landed in Da Nang around 6 in the evening, but it took us about an hour to get our visas settled. (If you plan to go to Vietnam, you MUST acquire a visa. You go online and pay about $20 and you will receive an approval letter from the Vietnamese government that you are allowed in the country for 30 days. You will receive the approval letter via email, print it out, take it with a passport photo, and take it with you when you arrive. When you arrive, you give that to immigration and pay $45 in cash to receive your visa.) A group of entitled Italians (I say that because they were extremely obnoxious and one kept kicking Makalina’s seat on the flight to Da Nang) didn’t do research and showed up without the approval letter. There was a lot of hostility and yelling going on in immigration, but we are pretty sure they were sent back to Hong Kong. (Karma, hehe) Once through immigration, we hopped in a taxi and headed to our hotel situated on My Khe Beach. Once settled, we went across the street for some 80 cent beers and called it a night after a few hours. If you go to Da Nang and stay at the beach, expect a very relaxing stay. We didn’t do much partying nor indulge in the nightlife, this was more of a relaxing trip, so we took full advantage of eating well and entertained the idea of going to the spa for a few hours everyday. (You cannot go to Southeast Asia and not go to the spa. It’s very inexpensive and high quality) We stayed at The Starlet hotel right on the beach. They served a great breakfast and it was very clean and quiet at a great price, so I would definitely recommend it. Be sure to check out some temples and take a taxi to see Lady Buddha. She stands high on a mountain, similar to that of Jesus Christo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After spending a few days at the beach, we made quite possibly the worst decision EVER to take an overnight train to Hanoi. It was 16 hours long and the most disgusting experience I have ever encountered across all of my travels. To be fair, I’m 100 percent positive there are worse, unsanitary places (India comes to mind) but so far this takes the cake. We did this because we thought we could see some cool scenery up the coast, but were we wrong! Spend the money and pay for a flight, don’t do it! We arrived in Hanoi at 5 a.m. and had made prior arrangements to take a tour bus at 8 a.m. to see Ha Long Bay. It’s a three hour drive from Hanoi, so an organized tour was really the most convenient option with the little time we had. We arrived at our hotel so early the receptionist had all of the lights out and was sleeping on the couch in the lobby. It took us a few minutes to wake him up. Thankfully, he let us checkin early so we could shower after we likely caught lice from the train, rest for a bit, then get picked up to head to Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay was incredible. Sort of a lover’s paradise hidden away in Northern Vietnam. This is a must-see. If you go on a tour, typically transportation, a boat cruise with lunch, and entrance into one of the caves is included. We stopped in the bay for a bit and decided to go Kayaking and then explored Thien Cung Cave. It was breathtaking. We only had a day to explore Hanoi, and at this point we were pretty drained from all of the train travel and long trek to get to Ha Long Bay, so we spent the day doing some shopping and, you guessed it, went to the spa. I wish we had more time in Vietnam. If I were given the opportunity again, I would probably go back – and that’s something I can’t say about the majority of Asian countries I’ve visited. DON’T TAKE THE TRAIN. 🙂

GDD update…

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted, and I’m sorry for that. If I want to travel as much as I do, I have to make up lost hours at work, so for those of you who don’t speak with me every week, I leave my house at 5:30 a.m. and typically don’t return home from work until 11:30 p.m. and I work these type of hours at least 4-5 times a week. When I’m off for more than 4 days, I’m out of the country. In any case, not sure how this happened because I am so busy, but if you can put it together as to why I haven’t been going on many dates on my last few trips (My recent trip to Vietnam included) it’s because there have been some special changes in my personal life. I don’t want to share much more out of privacy, but that’s that, and I have no desire to throw a wrench into something extremely promising and fulfilling to my happiness. So, GDD is undergoing a bit of a transformation. I’m not sure what it will be, and I’m not sure the direction it will go – but ultimately I’m doing what I love, writing about what I love, and hopefully raising a little money for an organization that does some kick-butt work for young girls and women alike. If you enjoy reading about travel, and curious how I manage to pull off so many whirlwind trips, I invite you to continue reading Global Dating Diaries. Finally, if you’re SINGLE, have a flexible schedule, I am currently in need of some guinea pigs to test the waters in a few more countries. Buddy passes won’t fly themselves. 🙂

Argentina Donation Package auction now open

dpsarah I am pretty excited about this donation package I put together with products from Argentina this last weekend. Although I didn’t have a fun dating story to entertain you with, I think this makes up for it. Price will start at $75.00. 100 percect of proceeds will benefit The Women’s Wilderness Institute. Package includes:
  • Fernet Branco  (This bitter, aromatic spirit is very popular in Buenos Aires and consumed by most Argentines. I recommend you drink with ice cold Coca Cola.)
  • Havana Alfajores (Delicate cookies filled with Dulce de Leche)
  • Jar of Dulce de Leche
  • Bottle of LaGarde Malbec
  • Yerba Mate tea
Bid closes at noon on Friday, June 27, 2014. Send me an email at [email protected] if you’d like to submit an offer. Thanks!

Hey, Buenos Aires, no chamuyes!

Chamuyero Noun 1. (Argentina, colloquial) Charmer, sweet talker, player, jerk. It was a crisp and chilly Saturday afternoon in Buenos Aires on June 21, 2014. Delicate leaves were gently falling off nearby trees as four of us were sitting on an outdoor patio anticipating the Argentina vs. Iran World Cup game. We were all shivering beneath our light sweatshirts, but were quickly comforted with toasty mugs of cafe con leche. This was my first time back to the city in two years, and I finally felt at peace, just at that moment, with people I consider family – unlike the night before…the first day I arrived and was contemplating going out on a date. Buenos Aires beguiles me, but I’m always coming back for more – except when it comes to dating men from the city. If you haven’t read my Disastrous Dating in Buenos Aires post, you might have a better understanding as to why I am not too keen on landing a Latin lover from this area. I arrived with my good friend Nadiana Friday morning. We were welcomed with open arms by an Argentine friend of mine whom I met in Denver – he was extremely hospitable and offered to let us stay in his place while he was away for the weekend for work. In fact, he was so hospitable, he said he had a few friends who would be happy to take me out on a date, but with one warning: “They will try really hard to get into your pants,” he said. He gave me his friend Marcos’ number in case I wanted to get together with his group of friends and test the water and see if I would be interested in going on a first date with one of his friends. I’ve had my fair share of dates with chamuyeros in Buenos Aires, and I really didn’t want to put myself in another position that wreaked similarly to that of Portugal, so I placed a moratorium on any blind dates and took an offer to hang out with a handful of these said men platonically with Nadiana Friday night. Nadiana and I started drinking on our own to get a buzz going and headed over to Marcos’ apartment around midnight. (Pregaming starts around midnight in Buenos Aires, then everyone goes out around 2-3a.m. and typically won’t arrive home until 7 a.m.) Carrying beers, we were the first of the group to show up. We started speaking to Marcos who seemed shocked we spoke Spanish fluently, but he seemed nice at first impression. About 15 minutes later, another friend walked in. I don’t recall his name, nor do I care what it is, but he had that “proud Argentine” stature and I was immediately annoyed at how slimy this guy was. Don’t get me wrong, he was tall and very attactive, but in a creepy ken doll type of way.  When he opened his mouth I immediately wanted to punch him in his face. “Oh, you don’t speak Spanish,” he assumed as he sat down on a chair next to the couch Nadiana and I occupied. We quickly corrected him, but he had this smug little look on his face like he was God’s gift to the planet. The next 10 minutes, we began to receive a lecture regarding how uneducated North Americans are, and how many couldn’t even point out Uruguay on a map. He even went as far to compare North Americans to Chileans, defining our cultures as ones that lack ambition. Being the fiery I-don’t-put-up-with-this-crap woman I am, I decided to give him a little lesson on European geography – asking simple questions where certain countries were located and their capitals. Princess couldn’t even answer one correctly. At this point, about 4 more men had shown up, and the conversation and atmosphere had really turned tense. I’m was already quite certain I would NEVER go on a date with any of these guys; none of them were talking to us nor initiating conversation, so we drank their alcohol and bolted out of that sausage fest faster than a wildfire. We ended up having a great time, finishing the night at some club where we felt like old ladies. We got drunk, laughed, and returned at a decent hour. I’m thankful everything cooled down, literally, the next day while watching the soccer game with close friends. The rest of the trip was full of reuniting with great people, eating delicious food, drinking amazing wine, and not giving a crap about going out with yet another chamuyero from Buenos Aires – who would unsuccessfully get into my pants. <3

GDD Update

ImageIt’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and I’m sorry for that. Here’s the thing about standby travel that my photos and stories abroad don’t document: It’s a colossal pain in the ass. When you work relentlessly on average 60 hours a week with low pay in the scorching heat, one is likely to lose any sense of sanity – especially when you work so hard just to arrive at a failed attempt to travel to an exotic location you’ve been building up.  I am so grateful I have the opportunity to see so much of the world, but it comes with a cost. Quite an exhausting cost in fact.  In any case, I’m back and I’m not giving up on Buenos Aires just yet. I’m [hopefully] boarding a flight to Houston, then connecting to Argentina tonight.  Stay tuned…  S

Disastrous Dating in Buenos Aires, Argentina: 2008 edition

A 20-year-old me in Buenos Aires in 2008.

A 20-year-old me in Buenos Aires in 2008.

In honor of “Throwback Thursday,” I thought I’d share a few quick stories regarding my experiences as a 20-year-old American dating in Buenos Aires. I had moved to Buenos Aires in 2008 for a year to study Spanish. I actually moved there while in a relaitonship for half a century, but the distance really wasn’t on our side and after receiving an “accidental email” from his new secret girlfriend, our courtship had ended, naturally. I was meloncholic for a week or so, but I was in Buenos Aires for crying out loud…have you seen the people this country breeds? I was a pig in a peach orchard drooling over the beautiful men – who didn’t mind a foreign exchange student themselves. If only I had the “run for your life” radar and maturity I do now, but we all have to learned somewhere I suppose. Running from the cops I met a man in my Belgrano neighborhood gym, he was 27 at the time and asked me out for drinks. I had been eyeing him for a few weeks so needless to say I was excited he asked me out. He picked me up from my apartment and we went to a really trendy lounge in San Isidro, a part of the city I didn’t visit frequently because I didn’t have a car, but over time it came to be one of my favorite areas. I remember ordering a Vodka RedBull and the cup was about the size of my head, and as much as I wanted to sip slowly, that just wasn’t going to happen. (Legal drinking age in Argentina is 18, so imagine what your life was like when you turned 21 in the U.S. and you become a temporary alcoholic, that happened to me, but when I was 20 in Buenos Aires) I honestly don’t recall the conversation as this guy was about as bright as a box of rocks, but he was pretty to look at, and at 20 years old on the rebound, who really cared? We wrapped up the night and I was feeling extremely buzzed, but he didn’t seem phased by the alcohol he had consumed and insisted he was OK to drive. He seemed just fine and had about 80 lbs on me, so I assumed he could handle his liquor better than me and we were on our way. About five minutes after entering the freeway, I see blue and red lights flick on to our left. I joke and say, “It’s ok, I have 50 pesos we can use to bribe them.” Police, at least in 2008, were extremely corrupt, so if you had some cash on you, you could typically get out of a ticket pretty quickly. I imagine the going rate for these type of things now is about 300 pesos. Out of nowhere, my date changes gears, and we are now rolling at 150 KPH, but I didn’t read it that way. Because of my hazed view of reality, I thought we were going 150 MPH. I lost my cool, I wanted to get out immediately begging and pleading he just drop me off, when he says, “I can’t get pulled over, I got a DUI last week!” Thankfully, my date’s vehicle was much faster than that of the cops, so we escaped, but for me, not quite unscathed. Thanks, D-bag for giving me a heart attack at the tender age of 20 and making me consider purchasing depends the next time I go on a date. And how are you driving if you got a DUI the week prior!? Moments like this I wish my Bounty Hunter father were around to beat some sense into him. He dropped me off at my place, I changed gyms, and never saw him again. I know, I was an idiot, but I’m alive today to tell the story. Todas son gordas I was at a pub with some friends downtown where I met Mario, a 20-something Porteño who started chatting me up and asked me out on a date the next day. To this day, I really like it when men can get creative with a first date. I understand coffee or drinks is typically the date of choice because who wants to blow $100 on dinner and drinks on a stranger you barely know, but there are still ways to stand out and not spend much money at all. Mario invited me to a free Electronic Art Gallery in Recoletta, one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city that was accessible by subway, so I met him there. We meandered through the interactive gallery for about an hour and he tried to kiss me a total of 12,324 times and I finally gave in and it was the worst tongue-jammed-down-my-throat kiss I have ever had…it gives me nightmares to this day. Before I could escape and go home he suggested  we grab some cheese and wine and a nearby restaurant. I really didn’t want to, but I was hungry and it was still light out – and who can refuse wine? Mario didn’t speak much English, but I was about 6 months into schooling, so I could hold a decent conversation with what I knew. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop him from being a condescending prick when it came to my lack of vocabulary while talking politics – or any other subject for that matter. He would correct EVERY SINGLE MISTAKE I made. I started marathon drinking my wine so I could get the eff out of there and hopefully avoid another repugnant South American lizard kiss. As we were leaving, we walked by Freddo, my favorite ice cream in the world, and Mario asked if I wanted to go back to his place and order some. This made absolutely no sense to me. Well, it did, but I would rather rent a car and drive through the Sudan before going to this guy’s place. The most practical thing for us to do would be to order a cone there and then I can say I’m sick and leave. Our last conversation was an epic moment in my dating history. Looking back, even though I thought differently, I was quite aesthetically appealing when I was 20. Very fit, some curves, but not fat by any standards. Mario told me that Argentina women are known to be the most beautiful women in the world and asked me what I thought about them. I told him I think women all over the world are beautiful in different ways. It’s just like ice cream, everyone has their own flavor. Maybe, just MAYBE I was phishing for a compliment, but I asked him what he thought about American girls. His response: “Todas son gordas.” (They are all fat) The devil’s fire burned through my eyes and instead of risking an assault charge and punching him in the mouth, I shoved my freshly ordered Freddo ice cream cone in his face in front of 20 people and walked out. Being in my late 20’s, I don’t see anything like this transpiring again, but I have this weekend to find out. Let’s see what you got, Buenos Aires.