Global Juke Joint: Music to Fly By

As I’m flying tonight from São Paulo to New York, en route to Berlin, I thought I’d re-post a little bit of travlin’ music I culled together last year as a part of the first season of the Fly Brother Podcast. This all-music episode, ‘The City to Sampa,’ takes listeners on a musical journey from the biggest city in the States to the biggest in Brazil. The route might be reversed, but I hope you’ll enjoy the trip nonetheless. Also, you can check out my previous podcasts here, but stay tuned for Season Three of the Fly Brother Podcast, coming in August!

Season 1, Episode 4: Night Flight 121 – The City to Sampa

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In this episode of the Fly Brother Podcast: Night Flight 121 – The City to Sampa

Journey with Fly Brother on an ethereal, all-music flight from “The City” to Sampa – New York to São Paulo – featuring recent and classic house, downtempo, acid jazz, and electro-samba. Whether its to work out, chill out, or make out, this compilation will transport you each time you listen. Download and get lifted.

Playlist:
“Saturday Night Experience” – Jody Watley
“Voodoo Bliss (Aaron Bingle’s Azure Mix)” – Janice hosted by BSG
“Bedtime Story” – Madonna
“Down” – Herbert
“Night Over Manaus” – Boozoo Bajou
“Amazodiac” – Audio Lotion
“Waltz for Koop” – Koop
“My Endless Journey” – Imada
“Samba do Gringo Paulista (Bigga Bush Reconstruction)” – Suba and Bigga Bush
“Playground do Brasil” – Imada
“Love and Happiness (São Benitez Sunset Mix)” – River Ocean f. La India

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Get in a Travlin’ Mood

A true Fly Brother or Sister is restless. He or she cannot stay put in one place for very long, lest neurosis set in. But many aspirants are not yet in the habit of stepping out the front door for anything other than work, personal errands, or picking up the Sunday paper.

With Netflix, broadband, and on-demand cable, there’s no reason to leave home. For many people, being home is comfortable, as it should be. But for many of those same people, the idea of travel, of experiencing something different, is an actual desire that they may not yet know how to turn into a reality. And it’s much easier (and cheaper) to catch an episode of Wild On: Panama than to actually get crunk in Panama (Panamá, that is, not Florida).

Well, I’m here to change all that. You’ve already ordered your passport, but while you’re waiting the six weeks for it to arrive, you can get your minds right and get out of the house!

Honestly, it’s as simple as gassing up the car, breaking out the Rand McNally, and hitting the road.

(This may be a little difficult for car-less folk, but we’ll make the assumption that most of that group lives in the Northeast and has rail and bus access to other cities.)

Day trips are a great way to ease yourself into more extensive travel. There’s much of America to be explored within a couple-hours’ drive of wherever you are. And if the mood strikes and the finances are right, weekend road-trips can always be arranged. Though the more the merrier, even solo soldiers can discover their surroundings and catch the adventure bug.

For day trips, fuel is usually the primary cost factor (“costly” being an understatement these days). But to compensate, stop by a grocery store and stock up on fruit and snacks, or maybe pack a cooler with some lunchmeat and a loaf of bread. It sounds collegiate, but college is where you should have learned how to live lean but still live. You can be grand and get the deli-sliced imported turkey from France to go with your Grey Poupon, but it’s still more fun and less time consuming than wasting hours waiting for food in a restaurant when you should be enjoying the journey (unless, of course, that particular restaurant is a focus of the trip…some folks drive hours just for some Jenkins’ Barbecue in Jacksonville, Florida).

Don’t know where to go? Most large cities in coastal states, even if they aren’t located on beaches themselves, are within a two hour drive of a beach or waterfront area. National and state parks are always excellent bets for nature lovers (the National Park Foundation offers a great $80 twelve-month pass to all US national parks that require an entrance fee…more incentive to get outdoors). Alternative newspapers like the Village Voice, Washington City Paper, or Creative Loafing are loaded with info about places to go in and more importantly out of the immediate vicinity (usually just the print versions, though). Also, most cities and regions of the country have ready-made Internet guides with insight on where to go, where to eat, where to shop, and where to stay. Use an Internet seach engine to find local city guides and tourism websites, as well as other independent sources. Among some of the day tripping websites that caught our eye:

Flee New York can tell you how and why you should get out of the Big Apple. AllAcrossTexas.com has a section that features day trips from all the major Texas cities like Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Day trips around the nation’s capital, Washington DC, are even outlined on the US Senate website in a comprehensive, if not graphically appealing way. ATLiens are blessed with both urban and rural excursions nearby, as covered by the Journal-Constitution‘s day trip page, while Chicagoans can hit up Metra’s “Day Trips” page and not have to shovel their car out until Monday morning. And when it’s not raining in Southern California (they tell me never), check out AllGetaways.com’s LA page.

In fact, Viator and AllGetaways.com have the most comprehensive listing of interesting excursions that I’ve found, covering US and international destinations.

Lastly, if you still need advice on where to go for a day or quick weekend escape, ask around. Surely your friends, neighbors, co-workers, or even strangers might have an idea of something, anything to do that doesn’t involve a remote control.

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!

Growth of a Megacity


São Paulo presents ample opportunities to sate every human desire, from food to finance to fornication, and I love her for that. The videos below offer up images of the world’s biggest underrated city, from its adolescent growth spurt to its mammoth adulthood and accompanying developmental issues. Don’t sleep:

São Paulo, 1943: This propaganda-soaked documentary, produced by the US government in 1943 (when Sampa’s population was a mere 1.3 million), highlights the seeds of industrial development that have served as a blessing and a curse for São Paulo. Despite the film being skewed towards an upper-class, light-skinned Brazil, it’s still fun to see images of the bustling old downtown districts (my favorite parts of the city) in their heyday.

São Paulo 1954: This short film, with unfortunate sound editing (the rockem-sockem instrumental score should have been used to punctuate the footage of traffic and movement, not static skyscrapers), conveys the sense of emerging power and importance of the nascent metropolis.

São Paulo 2008: Featuring the modern metropole of 20 million that I know and love, this short film captures the vibrant realities of SP, good, bad, and ugly. Chaotic, inspirational, tough, profound, crowded, progressive, imposing, impressive, endless.

São Paulo 2009: Part of a National Geographic multi-part series on megacities, this 45-minute documentary features the green revolution taking place in São Paulo and the aspirations to sustainability as good business for Brazil’s financial capital.

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My New Favorite City Guides


Slim and sexy, LUXE City Guides offer compact, useful, humorous insight into the glossy urban sheen that makes world cities shine. Design hotels, avant-garde shopping, and destination restaurants on the right side of cool get described in tight and sassy English, in a handy 21-page foldable tome (or smart phone app), to be used in conjunction with a subway map or a wizened cab driver. Some of the listings may be a bit posh for my humble journalist’s pockets, but most are accessible to well-rounded travelers who appreciate design and comfort, satisfied with sipping on a cocktail at the bar of a stylish hotel and soaking up the ambience, if soaking in a tub upstairs is out of range.

I purchased the Miami guide a few weeks ago just to see how the LUXEuriants handled my former stomping grounds and was pleasantly surprised by the smart overview of the city, the geographic coverage, and how the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables was expertly summed-up in four lines. I also liked the $10 purchase price of the guide. As a traveler who straddles the line between upscale and underground – out of both necessity and cultural curiosity – I could have used a bit more info on accessing the underground music scene, and I noticed the absence of non-Latin ethnic food and cultural listings (and I ain’t talkin’ sushi, neither).

Still, the verve and authority of the writing reeled me in, and even inspired me to participate in the LUXE Guides + Grantourismo Grand Tour competition, in which entrants had to plot out a tour to five of the cities LUXE covers in 100 words or less. I won second place in the second round with this li’l number:

Start off with a little retail therapy in London’s mix-and-match Marylebone district, followed by tea and symphony at the Royal Albert Hall – the Proms are on. Hop across the Pond and, en route to fantastic light-tripping, stop by Brooklyn’s beautifully diverse Fort Greene Park for the free Sunday afternoon soulful house session and a slab of Southern-style barbecued ribs. Next stop: Tokyo, training the taste buds to distinguish between Ginjo-shu and Junmai-shu in a Shibuya sake salon. Swing through Singapore and take a dip in the airport’s rooftop swimming pool as a warm-up for professional relaxing on Phuket’s Kamala Beach.

Whether or not you’re planning a real Grand Tour soon, or just need a bit of armchair inspiration, a LUXE City Guide is an excellent city-slicking companion. And if you’re feeling a wave of creative wanderlust coming on, wander over to Grantourismo and submit your own 100-word Grand Tour. You could win a plush set of LUXE guides all your very own!

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!

Doing the Math

So I'ma need the pull-over, right?

If you hate math, traveling overseas might be somewhat of a headache. You knew the balmy reputation of Jamaica before you booked the ticket, yet you packed a couple of sweaters, just in case, when you read the average temperature was 25 degrees. And you had to do a double-take when you noticed the flight departed at 18 o’clock. What the hell is 18 o’clock, anyway?

The United States is pretty much the oddball when it comes to numerical representations—still using weights and measures descended from the British imperial system (pounds, miles, feet and inches), Fahrenheit for temperature, and a twelve-hour am-pm clock instead of the metric system, centigrade temps, and “military time” used all over the rest of the world.

So to keep you on top of the numbers game when traveling abroad, I’ve provided a couple of handy equations that will give you equivalents for the most commonly required measurements. Yes, this involves addition, subtraction, and sometimes, multiplication and division. You might find a calculator to be especially nifty if you haven’t studied any of these operations since the sixth grade.

· Time: The 12 versus 24-hour clock
This one is easy. Most digital clocks outside of the United States (have you ever seen a traditional clock go past 12?) run on a continuous 24-hour time scheme, as does the US military. This means there’s no 6pm. There’s 18:00. The time between 1:00 and 11:59 is automatically considered morning, just as 12:00 until 12:59 is automatically considered afternoon. Once the clock strikes 13:00, the math part comes in. From every hour until 23:59, you’ll have to subtract 12 from the hour slot (18:00 – 12 = 6:00pm). The midnight hour goes from 0:00 to 0:59. Neat, right?

· Temp: Fahrenheit versus Centigrade
A Uruguayan math teacher taught me this trick. If you’re already overseas and the temperature is something like 32 degrees Centigrade, you simply multiply by two, then add 32 for an approximate temperature in Fahrenheit. So, 32 × 2 = 64 + 32 = 96. Don’t be fooled—water don’t freeze at 32°C. For the reverse, maybe 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you have to subtract 32, then divide by two. So, 32 – 32 = 0 ÷ 0 = 0°C. Brrrrr. (For the exact temperature, use 1.8 instead of 2 to multiply or divide).

· Distance: Miles versus Kilometers
Get your calculators out for this one. One mile equals 1.61 kilometers. That means, if the distance between the airport and the nearest Hilton is 100 miles, it is 161 kilometers away. 100 × 1.61 = 161 (I know, I did an easy one). For the reverse, if a distance is 145 kilometers, then you multiply by 0.62 to get the mileage. 145km × 0.62 = 89.9 miles.

· Altitude: Feet versus Meters
This one’s also for the big brains. One foot equals 0.3 meters. Damn. So someone six feet tall is only 1.8 meters (or 180 centimeters). 1 × 0.3 = 1.8. A meter, however, is 3.28 feet. That means if the altitude of a place is 3,000 meters, you’re actually 9,840 feet into the air. 3,000m × 3.28 = 9,840’.

· Weight: Pounds versus Kilos
For the muscleheads, most gyms overseas have weights in both pounds and kilos, and many of your fellow gym rats can give you approximate conversions. But in Brazil, for instance, the gyms feel like they’re far enough away from the United States that they don’t have to use pounds, and you may end up learning the hard way that 20 kilograms absolutely does not equal 20 pounds. The rough conversion is that one pound is almost half a kilo (actually 0.45), while one kilo is a little more than two pounds (2.21 to be exact). Anyone on a structured workout plan, which can be difficult to maintain while on the road, might need exact conversions, as rough approximations can grow rougher rather quickly. A 20-kilo dumbbell equals 44.2 pounds (20kg × 2.21 = 44.2lb), while a 20-pound dumbbell weighs 9 kilos (20lb × 0.45 = 9kg). Gastronomists can also use this equation for buying rice, grains, vegetables and such at super- and flea markets.

Happy measuring.

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!

A (Not Quite) Three-Hour Tour

Downtown SP, baby.

A few weeks ago, I took a tour of downtown São Paulo and the bohemian ‘hood of Vila Madalena (aka Madville – just coined by yours truly) with one Flavia Liz Di Paolo, professional travel guide. Flavia Liz, full of spunk and moxie and who speaks, like, seven languages, offers personalized tours of São Paulo to small groups, often comprised of visiting dignitaries, celebrities, and other VIPs. Whether you’re into food, fashion, architecture, ecology, or social awareness – she’s one of the only outfits in town that offers tours of the favelas ringing the city – Flavia Liz knows exactly where to take you and exactly what to tell you.

The tour I took with Flavia Liz, along with Nacho (a film producer from Spain) and Pedro (who runs the travel site Sem Destino and filmed us traisping around town), encompassed the school where São Paulo was founded, the cavernous Financial District with the Brazilian stock exchange, humongous cathedrals, and the graffiti-covered Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley). I learned crazy facts like how a historic house gets torn down in the city every ten hours and that there were a hell of a lot of important buildings designed by German architects. Random. But then, I like random facts. So come along with me for a brief tour of my beloved adopted hometown; the video is mostly in Portuguese, aside from my bits, but let the imagery transport you.

And when you’re in town, hit Flavia Liz up for one of her tailor-made tours at flavializ.com. She’s fly.

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!

My Magnificent 7

Fly Brother, before shaving the dome.

Lola of Geotraveler’s Niche and Austin+Kelly of Travellious tagged me last week, inquiring about my seven most meaningful posts. I quickly trolled through the archives and dug up a few missives that I think come closest to expressing the purpose of Fly Brother – encouraging international travel through a multicultural, multicolored lense. Most of them were written in 2009, as I was wrapping up four tenuous years in Colombia and primed to embark on a months-long round-the-world adventure before moving to Brazil. Some of them were written out of mental or emotional paralysis. All of them were written with the hope that at least one person “got” me. I hope you still do.

Please excuse any old/unactive links in the older posts; I’ve not yet completed the conversion from Blogger to WordPress.

1. Your most beautiful post – On Fear, Frustration, and Freedom
I’m still kind of humbled at how the words and sentiments came together in this post, written during one of my many times of uncertainty. I’m honored that readers responded as favorably as they did.

2. Your most popular post – Dark and Lovely on CNN (No, not a commercial for the no-lye relaxer.)
This post continues to get hundreds of hits a day! Must be the collection of TV hotties that keeps it ranking high among Google search results.

3. Your most controversial post – Black Like Me

While the majority of the comments to this post (which garnered the most comments of any on the entire blog) were actually of the supportive variety, the topic – race and identity in Latin America – remains as controversial as ever, hence the need for the post in the first place.

4. Your most helpful post – Packing a Lot of Crap into Two Small Bags
Well…it helped me! ;-)

5. A post whose success surprised you – Fly Brother and the Curse of the Aimless Intellectual
Some of the most resonant posts with readers have been the ones where I basically admitted that I don’t have any more of a clue as to what the hell I’m doing in life as the next person. I’m just more of a risk-taker.

6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved – Get Fly

This was one of my first posts, so I didn’t really have an audience when it debuted. Still, I think recognizing your role as a challenger or confirmer of stereotypes is an important element in being a conscious traveler.

7. The post that you are most proud of – Fly Brother Departures Summer/Fall 2009
The original itinerary of my very first round-the-world trip!

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Sniffing Out the Best Flight Deals

This post is brought to you by Chelle Roberts of BrownGirlsFly and myHabanero.com.

1) The Early Bird Doesn’t Always Get The Juiciest Worm
Most airlines allow you to buy tickets 6 months to a year in advance. But, that far out, prices tend to be pretty high and if you book too soon, you’ll be sure to miss out on some juicy discounts. Over the years, we’ve learned that the travel-booking sweet spot is 3 months to 3 weeks before your desired departure. Within that range, here are a few other things to keep in mind.

• When planning a visit to a popular destination or during peak travel times (think Disney during Christmas break), give yourself more leeway. Airlines typically run sales 3 months out (i.e. Christmas sales often hit in September) and as those seats start filling up, prices will rise sharply during the months that follow.
• For other destinations and times of year, you can afford to wait a little longer. But, remember, all good things do eventually come to an end. At the 21-day mark, discounted fares disappear and prices often skyrocket after that.

While you’re waiting for the sweet spot to hit, be sure to familiarize yourself with the average fares available – how else will you recognize a good fare when you see it? Then, start tracking the fares and when you see a good one, pounce on it! Our favorite tools to help you track fares include:

Airfare Watchdog – sign up for their daily emails detailing the best fares departing from your home and nearby airports. They often share great tips on unpublished sale fares.
Travelocity FareWatcher Plus – sign up for a free account, pick up to 10 cities and receive an email when the fare reaches the price range you’re seeking.
YAPTA – Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant is poised to track fares before and after you book a flight.

2) The Late Bird Can Sometimes Find Yummy Leftovers
Sometimes, last minute decisions are unavoidable. If you find yourself in this situation, all hope is not lost. Empty seats and empty sheets are lost opportunities for travel operators. So, it’s usually better for them to sell a seat or hotel room at a deep discount than it is to leave it empty. If you’re in need of a last minute deal, try these tips:

• Check out the weekend web-only fares published by most airlines on Tuesday or Wednesday each week. You might just find your desired destination on the list. You can even subscribe to their weekly e-mail blasts to stay on top of your options.
• Check out the Smarter Travel Last Minute trip finder. You can search by departure or arrival city, making it easy to consider and compare different paths to your destination.
LastMinute.com offers last minute package deals including airfare, hotel, rental or any combination of the three. If you’ve only be able to find flights outside your price range, visit this site and search for a package combo. You’d be surprised; you can sometimes grab a flight with a weekend-long car rental, cheaper than booking a flight directly with the airlines. To see how this tip has helped us to personally save hundred dollars, check out this post detailing our previous experience with LastMinute.com.

3) The Most Flexible Birdie Wins
Weekend getaways are fabulous. Leave on a Friday afternoon and return early Monday morning. Using only a few hours of vacation time, you can get away for a few days and return refreshed. However, the airlines know that this is exactly what you’re thinking. And, with the exception of a few focused travel sales, these times are inevitably the most expensive options.

If you have some scheduling flexibility, look for the following flights departing and/or returning Tuesday through Thursday, flights departing in the early morning and flights with long layovers. Sometimes the inconvenience can save you a few more dollars.

4) Knock Out Two Birds With One Stone
Make sure you sign up for the airline frequent flier programs. While you won’t see the discounts up front, every trip you take now, will help earn you benefits for a future trip. Think of it as opening a travel savings account. And, as is the case with cash accounts, you just have to commit to it and be diligent about it, and the rewards will come. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more specific recommendations when it comes to frequent flier programs. But, for now, just remember that it’s a necessity.

¡Buen Viaje!
Chelle Roberts, BrownGirlsFly

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!

Ode to Anhangabaú

Image by RaphaelBurn

Anhangabaú. I love how the word forms in my mouth, all mellifluous, open vowels. It’s an indigenous word, Tupi for “water of the bad spirit.” It’s also the name of the subway station where I transfer to the bus and vice-versa, on my way to and from work. ahn-yahn-gah-bah-OO. Almost comical.

The station sits in a valley of the same name, once a pristine, gurgling creek and now a traffic-choked expressway and stretch of landscaped park coursing through downtown São Paulo. It’s connected to the Terminal Bandeira bus station by an overhead walkway that carries harried commuters from bus to subway to bus across six lanes of some of the fastest vehicular traffic on earth. One escalator is almost always broken. People rarely watch where they’re walking. I like listening to Audio Lotion’s Bad Timing when I’m running through the station; it’s like I’m in a movie.

I see a few office workers in gray pinstripe or coordinated high-heels connecting between the two modes of transport, but it’s mostly maids and security guards and construction workers and random old people, some of whom stop at the pharmacy or low-end Nescafé booth inside the station. Of course, the demographics change with the time of day. 10pm finds me sharing the train with working class strivers getting out of their night school classes. Some are taking college courses; others, high school completion.

I wonder how many of them know what the word Anhangabaú means.

Please tweet your comments @FlyBrother, or email me (see About page). And don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook!