A Flying leap for the young and young at heart
Rio is uniquely positioned for hang gliding, offering an accessible takeoff point in the city, a diverse vista of mountains, forest, city, and ocean, and a big strip of beach for landing. A host of pilots share the route, each offering more or less the same services: transport from your accommodation, a brief instruction period, and a roughly half-hour flight in tandem with the professional, most for about $110. Admission to the park itself is about $5. Rather than being an impulsive lark, going hang gliding can be a lengthy process, mostly because of the vagaries of wind and water. During the normally sunny summer month of January, a lingering storm front grounded me and my friend on four consecutive days. We stayed in touch with our pilot by cellphone in hopes of finding an hour of sunshine and favorable wind.
Brazil’s biggest Carnival mixes ‘popcorn’ and peril
Salvador da Bahia’s Carnival has edged out Rio’s for the title of world’s biggest party (certified by Guinness World Records) mostly by dint of its reputation for spontaneity and authenticity. Paradoxically, these two qualities are available to the foreign tourist only with careful planning and a fair amount of cash. Airlines raise prices, and hotels impose in- flexible weeklong ‘‘Carnival packages’’ that begin in late February at roughly quadrupled rates.
An ugly past fading in Birmingham
he past is jumbled on the lot like the yard sale time forgot: rusted iron works, chipped lawn sculpture, old gas pumps, and chrome bath fixtures, sheltered by trees and invaded by creeping vines. The neglect is essentially an act. Everything at the resto-bar The Garage, collected by owner Fritz Woehle, is for sale. Too crowded to be bucolic, the patch comes alive at night. In the daytime, the lunch crowd shares it with stray cats the staff has nicknamed. Built on railroads and iron and scarred by racial violence, Birmingham is seeking to rise out of the ashes of its past and draw young people. Already a haven for recent college grads in tech jobs who are drawn by the residential bang for their buck, Birmingham seems to have decided that the best way forward is by building on what came before. For one, the railroad district is being redeveloped as lofts and art spaces.
Spring-break Jamaica can feel edgy and rough
NEGRIL, Jamaica — The script called for free-for-all partying, Jamaica style, and the student tour package reps were cast as our enablers. It was the final week of the season, and the youngish staff seemed exhausted. But in the first day’s orientation, they still gamely attempted to use the phrases ”hook up” and ”get trashed” as often as possible. After all, we had ostensibly paid to have one of those vacations we would recall in old age as the last stand of crazy youth, assuming we would remember anything after all that ”getting trashed.”
Best-laid plans can go awry, but persistence can pay
Last winter, I wrote here about the potential hazards of the spring-break package. I found that outright fraud was less common than misunderstandings between parties about what the trip included. An addendum: Human error and unforeseen circumstances can derail anyone’s trip, but the usually less experienced and financially more vulnerable student traveler is less likely to complain when something goes wrong, and is thus less likely to be compensated.
Solo and blissful, but there’s a limit
The solo beach vacation is a strange animal: something of a luxury, definitely an eccentricity. This is especially true in one’s cash-strapped youth, when pleasure seeking is usually collective. Post-adolescence, the shores that used to mean wave jumping and sandcastles with family now mean bikini strutting or daredevil water sports with friends. More rarely do they mean spending some time on your own amid the revelers.
The political and practical unite to power young activists’ forum
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The world’s burning issues were being debated down the street, but for the moment, four American activists and artists attending the fifth annual World Social Forum were chilling out. Sipping a coffee at a sidewalk cafe, recent University of Pennsylvania graduate Sarah Gilfillan, 23, paused to think about how to describe living in the forum’s Intercontinental Youth Camp. ”Half the people go to bed early,” she said, ”and the other half . . .” ”. . . go to bed when the other half wakes up,” finished her friend Maija Garcia, 25, a dancer and teacher from New York.
See the world, let it see you
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil The annual World Social Forum is always a circus of identities, and we were no exception. Flown in from around the world by the nonprofit group Babels, which considers language interpreting a political act that enables respect of individual language traditions, we were 500 interpreters among more than 100,000 participants. At night, after the hundreds of panels and debates on world issues had ended, the forum grounds were taken over by samba dancers, Hare Krishna devotees, and opera singers accompanied by guitars.
Breaking with the spring break model
If you’re dreaming of bacchanalia, of teeming clubs and poolside scenes reminiscent of ”Girls Gone Wild,” then you’ll envy Mike Biscardi’s recent Cancun spring break tour package experience.If that doesn’t sound appealing, or if at least some of those names sound like gibberish to you, it could be because the classic sun-and-tequila soaked spring break just isn’t your style.
Keep your spring trip from breaking your spirit or your bank
It occupies a mythic place in the student traveler’s repertoire. That frenzied, privileged week known as Spring Break, during which collegians indulge in sun, shore, and excess, is now an institution.