Johnny Black

Amsterdam Grachtenbrucken

Coffee really means just coffee

Posted by | Food, Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, The Netherlands, Traveling Tips | 2 Comments

Amsterdam has everything a tourist could want, whether you’re going there to enjoy a relaxing afternoon coffee or see historic places like Anne Frank’s house or the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. There are multiple things to do in Amsterdam ranging from site-seeing and viewing its impressive architecture filled with canals crisscrossing the city to kicking back alongside one of the canals and just enjoying the afternoon. This is also a world-class shopping destination, not to mention Amsterdam is known for its nightlife a.k.a. the red light district where  prostitution is legal and some of the local coffee shops sell small quantities of high grade marijuana (although the current laws are cutting back on tourists being able to purchase bud, since the city is tired of its reputation as a drug haven). Between the coffee shops, the pubs, famous museums and places to go shopping there’ll never be a dull moment during your trip here.

Amsterdam Bike

Amsterdam has been renowned for its liberal drug policy in the past, but as of 2012 the laws have changed so that you are only allowed to frequent the special coffee shops if you are a Dutch resident over the age of 18 who is registered with the club. If you are one to visit one of these coffee shops be sure not to get confused with a normal cafe. The policies are still being rolled into place across the country and a lot of tourists don’t know about the new laws yet, so you may find yourself barred from entry into certain places.

amsterdam coffee shopYou also have your so-called smart shops where they sell dietary supplements and herbal ecstasy and other forms of feel-good pills and plants which are completely natural. It is for this reason that the government has started to ban foreigners from accessing the special coffee shops, because their reputation as a drug haven was starting to attract the wrong type of travelers.

But Amsterdam is also known for having plenty of sick jams, with music venues like Muziekgebouw aaan ‘t IJ which is one of the largest complexes in Europe for all different types of art and music. Although music isn’t the only art showcased at the complex, there are tons of actual art shops ranging from digital snaps to gelatin prints. Plus, this is one of the greenest cities in the world in terms of manual means of getting around, not to mention it’s just better for you as well as the environment. Bicycles are so popular you can actually rent your own bike at places like Rent a Bike, or you can book a guided tour via bicycle through the Yellow Bike Company. (Try finding someone using a bicycle in my part of the world, much less rental shops!)

There is a lot more to Amsterdam than just the liberal views on drugs and prostitution, but the unfortunate reality is that those have been the trendy reasons to go there for so long that they have come to overshadow the beauty of the city, the museums, the food, the culture and the people. With the new policies against foreigners entering the special shops, this trend should start to reverse and Amsterdam can once again emerge as a culture capital of the world, rather than just a haven for potheads and sex addicts.

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brazil-beaches

Coffee, Capoeira, The Amazon and Beyond

Posted by | Brazil, Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 4 Comments

Considered by many to be one of South America’s most beautiful paradise getaways, Brazil covers nearly half of the continent and is the largest nation. My focus while interning for Marginal Boundaries is my dream of traveling to different countries to experience different music cultures and martial arts, and Brazil happens to have both of those all intertwined into one, which also happens to be one of my favorites. Known as Capoeria, it is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music with lightning speed lake sweeps, gravity-defying flips and full contact hits.

capoeiraBrazil is also known for its beautiful beaches, fine cuisine and voluptuous women, not to mention their love for football (although it’s known as soccer here in the U.S.). I have always wanted to  travel  to Brazil and experience the exotic qualities of their country as well as their martial arts, which also include Brazilian Jujitsu. Both Capoeira and Jujitsu include very precise and technical moves, each with a very different origin of music.

The cheapest time to fly to Brazil is from February to May and from August to November. For instance, if you’re flying out of New York to Brazil it should cost around $700 USD as of 2012, although you can find that fares vary per year and can range upwards of double that in the low seasons when not a lot of tourists are traveling (supply = demand). Always remember to blend in with your surroundings so you don’t look like a tourist, which means pack light and acquire some local clothing when you get on the ground; it’ll make you look less obvious, plus you’ll have bragging rights back home in regards to the bargain you got on your clothing.

Beyond the martial arts, there are numerous adventure activities in Brazil, ranging from sightseeing the beautiful waterfalls, wildlife watching or kayaking, snorkeling and surfing. Another good thing to know when grabbing a bite to eat in Brazil is that if you want Coke you better say coca or Coca-Cola because cola means clue in Portuguese. Like Mexico, Brazil has festivals that can last a week or more throughout the year, including the world-famous Carnival. Brazil is also one of the few countries that uses 120 and 244 volt electricity, which means you don’t necessarily need a converter just to charge a cell phone or laptop.

The-Municipality-of-Florianopolis-Brazil-I’d love to live in Brazil for a few months and study one of the martial arts, or maybe hop on an Amazon riverboat and go through a grueling 12-day river cruise. Or maybe just rent a car, since Brazil has the largest road network in Latin America with over 1.6 million kilometers of highway to explore. It’s definetely on my top five places I want to travel to for its musical background,  martial arts, fine cuisine and stunning beaches, and I know from reading the material published here at Marginal Boundaries and over at The Expat Guidebook site as I’ve been coming along in the internship that it has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, as well as one of the strongest economies. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this internship, so I can learn how to be global and start visiting the places I’ve always dreamed about for exploration and new work connections, and Brazil is high on my list!

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Israeli army

Krav Maga – The Deadliest Martial Art in the World

Posted by | Guest Spot, Israel, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 7 Comments

 

Martial arts which happens to be one of my favorite things, and it’s a major inspiration for my travel plans. And, in my opinion, one of the most effective and brutal techniques out there is Krav Maga. This martial art is used by Israeli defense forces, with the word Krav standing for combat, and the word Maga for contact. This unique martial art is derived from street fighting and involves wrestling and grappling, and is meant to end fight as soon as possible by striking the main targets around the groin area, eyes, throat, and joints. In my past I have dabbed in a little bit of everything such as kung fu, tae kwon do, jujitsu and some boxing but out of everything I’ve seen Krav Maga is the most brutal and efficient, while the others are more of an art form with spiritual ties.

Krav Maga consist of lightning fast movements and bone-breaking blows so that their opponent won’t even know what hit them. People with these skills become a deadly force whether it’s with their bare hands or maybe even a weapon that they acquired from their enemy, ranging from a water canteen to a belt to even an unloaded gun or a boot, a knife or even a random thing like a backpack. Whereas other martial arts focus on meditation, chi, focus and rhythmic control over long years of study, Krav Maga is about using everything and anything at hand to quickly and efficiently defend yourself in any given situation.

Krav MagaI’ll be the first to say martial arts is not a game; it can be very dangerous when used the right way and can take a life in extreme settings. Krav Maga in particular teaches you to use every limb of your body to inflict brute force, from elbows and knees or whatever means necessary to defend yourself, including poking the eyes, going for the throat, groin and beyond. Not only is this art known for its self-defense but also the offensive situations, like what to do when someone comes at you with a knife or a gun, and how to either take that weapon from them or break their bones so they can’t continue to try and hurt you.

There are places where you can travel to in Israel and take a 10-day course. You will be taught shirt grabs, hand grabs, what to do in case of an attempted abduction,  plus an array of skills ranging from chokes to weapon attacks and using your elbows, knees, and legs to fight. You also learn how to defend yourself in confined spaces like an elevator or car and the courses also cover hostage situations, VIP protection and protecting yourself from a rape situation. Not only will you learn a great skill but be able to see where biblical battles took place.

It is a dream of mine to travel to Israel and not only to learn the amazing self-defense techniques but to meet the people/culture and history that Israel has. Regardless of what your beliefs are, there has been a lot of history over the years, and while some of it has been fairly violent and bloody, Israel is still a country with a rich and diverse cultural background.

Krav-Maga trainingAlmost everyone gets into a fight at some point in their life and the skills that I have obtained over the years have helped me in several life-threatening situations where my life depended on what actions I took. Proper martial arts training can help save lives, just like CPR and learning how to swim, and you also learn when and when not to use these skills. I advise any person to get involved in martial arts, but especially children because it teaches them discipline and respect and in my eyes that is something not too many people know about these days.

 

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camping

Camping out in the Ozarks

Posted by | camping, Fishing, Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

Hey guys, my post today is about camping in the Ozarks. My last camping trip was at Mill Creek off of Table Rock Lake, which is not only a beautiful destination but also a great place to spend a family vacation or just to get away. As you can see in the photo it’s beautiful scenery with green vegetation, clear water and the wildlife that roams the countryside. When traveling to the beautiful lakes in the Ozarks you have your choice of a big open lake or a snugly little cove in the cut. Myself personally I would prefer the snugly little coves because that’s where the fish will be biting. But then again they also say the deeper the water, the bigger the fish, so it just depends on your preference.

The lake at Mill CreekI suggest camping in the Ozarks to anybody, not just for the scenery, but also because you can talk to anybody you meet and it’s like you have known them your whole life. Some say we are just a bunch of redneck hillbillies but honestly we have all the city amenities just like everyone else. I would say it is smarter to pick a certain season to come visit the Ozarks because we do have crazy weather; it could be snowing one day and 80° the next. But it is a great place to come visit, not to mention Branson, Missouri is a very popular tourist city that is in the same area. For those of you that haven’t heard of that Branson, it’s reputation is built up on the music industry, and it is known as the second Nashville.

Whether it’s visiting to camp out and sit by the fire for relaxation or having a night out on the town and going to see a show from Elvis impersonators to magic or whatever tickles your fancy, I promise you will have a good time and if you’re feeling up for the adventure most of your local campsites allow you to rent jet skis, pontoon boats or your average fishing boat so you and your family are guaranteed a great time. You could also go tubing or throw on the skis and see what it feels like to skate on glass, maybe hit a couple of wakes and pull a couple tricks. Or better yet go back to your campsite after a long eventful day and just relax.

A cove at Mill Creek The pictures you see on this post are directly from Mill Creek in Reed Springs, Missouri. It is a beautiful family-oriented destination that will fulfill your needs for that movie-set camping trip that you have always heard or dreamed about. I’m sure everybody enjoys peaceful camping trip like I do, so next time you’re planning a trip in the Midwest come visit the Ozarks! There are a lot of different lakes in the region, as well as forests and plenty of places to go camping as well as hunting and fishing if you are into that sort of thing, and the people are some of the friendliest you will ever meet.

 

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