When you find a few days to spare you must TRAVEL. Not just for great pics to post on social media but to explore this great big world around you! Get a better understanding of the people, the language, the food, the hairstyles, the deep-rooted beliefs and systems of a place that are unfamiliar. Traveling and immersing yourself in a different region or time zone is by our definition one of the best ways to open your eyes to the realities of our world and that maybe you’re not so different from the people across the water. This time, I’m traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico for an Easter getaway.
Next Stop: San Juan, Puerto Rico
When I landed in San Juan my friends and I all began discussing our first meal. Someone said, “I’m not eating Puerto Rican food, I heard it’s not good.” Okay so here’s a mistake I think a lot of newbie travelers make, 1. listening to other people who aren’t locals, 2. Not trying new things. Did you really travel all this way to eat french fries, quesadillas and shrimp scampi? Everyone’s palates and stomachs aren’t as expansive and that’s understandable but how do you know what you don’t like if you’ve never even tried it?
MOFONGO Spanish pronunciation: [moˈfoŋɡo]: A popular Afro-Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked green and fried then mashed with salt, garlic, and oil in a wooden pilón, a kitchen device also known as mortar and pestle.
#Repost @itsjusmorgan with @repostapp ・・・ I thought I needed a Cuban sandwich before I left but then remembered I'm headed to Cuba next month so I should continue to enjoy the Puerto Rican dishes while I'm here. This Camarones en Salsa Criolla from Ropa Viejo has me feeling like I'm back in Louisiana. #CreoleShrimp #AmarillosPlease #SharedCuisines #SharedAncestry #ExtraRiceAndBreadToSopItUp #SanJuan #PuertoRico 😋
Party, Party, PARTY! While it was a ghost town on Good Friday, even Wal-Mart was closed y’all, it was the place to be on Saturday night. We drank lots of rum, very inexpensive drinks btw, and danced the night away. The chicken on a stick brought tears to my eyes at 3:15 am from a street vendor. My favorite part had to be that there were people from 21 years of age to 80. No exaggeration.
El Yunque National Rainforest
On this adventure, we learned to be resilient. The rain would not hold us back, maybe just some road blocks. What a beautiful and lush sight to see. My mom commented on my Facebook post to say she’d been to the same rainforest on her honeymoon. That was pretty cool to know we shared an experience unbeknownst to either of us. The one thing to note, it’s about an hour or so from the metro area and the reception is almost non-existent. One of our Uber drivers actually doubled as a tour guide and walked the trail with us. This was nothing but a BLESSING because we would’ve likely been stuck there once we finished.
Old San Juan
This reminded me a lot of the French Quarters in New Orleans. The colorful buildings, restaurants, and bars at every turn and best of all, lots of places to stop and take “Yes, I’m totally a tourist” pics. We spent some time walking through the area during the day and out to Castillo San Felipe del Morro Fort. At night we returned for more rum and LOTS of dancing with the locals. We stopped at La Factoria, Named a Top 50 Bar in the World and made our way through a maze of connected bars until we reached hip-hop Wednesdays upstairs where we were greeted by a DJ spinning Rihanna tracks. Eventually, we strolled our way over to Senor Frogs where even on a weekday the party was still going at 3 am. Days later we returned for brunch and unlimited mimosas. I’d say passionfruit and coconut mimosas are officially my faves now.
You don’t need a passport
I thought I’d remind our sleepier professionals that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory. Though it’s not around the corner it’s still a part of the U.S., by most means. We learned from locals that Puerto Rico is now vying for Statehood. This would mean that like Hawaii, the territory would be considered a regular state in the US. There’s also a bit of tension among the people now. In a vote, 51%-49% voted against this in wake of the PROMESA Act (Puerto Rican Oversight, Managment, and Economic Stability Act) placed by US congress in 2015 to combat the government-debt crisis. The locals that favor statehood stands strong in their beliefs that this will be a way to revive their beautiful home.
#ExpandYourHorizons #Repost @itsjusmorgan with @repostapp ・・・ After searching for the red, white and blue flag on the door we learned "For many Puerto Ricans, the national flag is a symbol of cultural pride and identity, especially in light of the island's colonial status under the United States’ government. Now, with an artistic tweak, the flag also represents the state of mourning that the island has been experiencing since the US government imposed a federal control board with power over the commonwealth's jurisdiction." (Global voices.org) #SanJuan #PROMESA #ButDontPaintTheFlag #PeroQueNoPintenLaPuerta
Bacardi Rum Factory
Take a historic, factory or mixology tour out at the real Bacardi distillery. Yes, the picture below is real and our bartender was too cool. That frozen drink was the perfect way to end our trip. They have a nice gift shop as well, so if you had too much fun enjoying your trip, you can pick up a few souvenirs so it doesn’t look like you were too selfish.
When traveling to a place you’ve never visited and you don’t know anyone there AND you don’t speak the native language, I highly suggest doing some research before you pack those bags. Anything from shots needed, extra SPF, currency exchange and most important – how safe will you be?
Transportation is probably one of the items that I always get most anxious about when traveling to a new place. I have an itinerary of everything I need to get in before I come back home so how will I get there. Here in the states, we live and die by Uber or Lyft. Uuhhh, don’t always think you have that cheap luxury elsewhere. In Thailand, my group was lucky enough to have a rail system on the 3rd floor of our hotel and Tuk Tuks were cheap. In Puerto Rico we had to walk a 1/4 mile to our Uber driver almost everywhere we went because, similar to NOLA, they are still not loved by the taxi drivers and union that have been around forever. We heard stories about Uber drivers being verbally and physically attacked by taxi drivers. Lucky for us, the worst we saw was a taxi driver getting a little too close to our Uber van and honking his horn while yelling.
10 minutes away
Depending on where you stay in San Juan you’re about 10 minutes from everything. I traveled with a group of eight so splitting fares made this trip pretty cost efficient. We could hit the beach, the mall, Old San Juan and great restaurants all in a day, and on some days we actually did.
Pack bug spray
AND use it! I put it on when we to the rainforest but I didn’t consider it for the day walking adventures or the beach. Mistake! The mosquitoes are absolutely vicious. Weeks later I’m still waiting for these ugly marks from bites left to go away.
One thing I loved about this trip was how laid back everyone was. There was no rushing. There was always plenty of suggestions on things to do and places to see. In the midst of the island’s inner turmoil, the people were still happy and pleasant to be around.
Next month we head to CUBA! I can’t wait to share our experience with you all. Anyone have good tips to share from their visit?