Thursday, June 28, 2012 Comes to Help Share Rides in the US!

When I was sitting in Berlin, Germany, trying to figure out how to get to Munich in time to meet my buddy for Oktoberfest, I figured a few things out online.

One: because of the timing, a bus ride was going to cost at least US$200.

Two: again, because of the timing, a train would cost nearly double that.

Three: There's this funny little site I can put through Google translate and get a ride in someone's car for 25 euro.

Granted, the ride (pictured above) was barely up to getting us there, and in fact had to be push-started onto the German autobahn (....yes). But it got us there, cheap for the season.

The site was, and it has since spawned several sister sites in more than half a dozen languages across Europe (including the queen's English over at It was one of the first sites I put in my "useful travel links" section at the bottom (which you should check out if you haven't already). But it remained restricted to Europe.

But not for long.

The company is coming to establish itself in America under And while it's partially aimed at simply easing commutes and carbon emissions, I think it has the potential to revolutionize budget travel in the United States.

You see, budget travel in the US is a problem. Major bus lines either make far too many stops to be practical or are restricted to the eastern seaboard (not to mention the seriously sketchy reputation of a certain canine-named carrier). The trains are comfy but expensive and run at laughable speeds and frequencies compared to their counterparts in Europe, developed Asia, Australia, India... pretty much anywhere else with trains. Plane rides are long and expensive, we don't have EasyJet, Ryan Air, Air Asia, or Tiger Airways out here. Even tickets on our discount airlines like Southwest and Jetblue can cost ten times as much as the airlines listed above. And unlike the rest of the world (Europe aside) there's no reward to booking at the last minute on any transportation method. It just gets more and more expensive, requiring passengers to book their tickets more than a month in advance.

Besides-- gas prices be damned-- the real way, culturally, to travel across America, is by car. There is nothing in the world quite like a good, old-fashioned American road trip.

Voila: Pay a driver who's going your way a negotiated amount, meet, ride. And this could be as easy as inviting or RSVPing to a party on Facebook. It's the 21st century answer to hitchhiking.

I'm going to be very excited to watch how this site develops and launches here in the USA.

Monday, June 4, 2012

CouchSurfing Show Coming to TV?

I need to check my couchsurfing messages more often. This was sent to me about a week ago and I only just saw it now:

Hey Joel-
How's it going? My name is ------- and I came across your profile as an experienced New York host while searching around for something specific (which I'll get to in a minute). I'm a New Yorker, born and raised, and have lived in New York (state and/or city) for most of my life. About a year and a half ago I was living in Barcelona for 6 months and came across this phenomenon called 'CouchSurfing'. I signed up, and hosted a couple different people in my time there, as well as met a handful of others.
Anyhow, why am I reaching out to you? I pitched the idea of CouchSurfing as a TV show to a production company in LA, and they love the concept. We signed a contract and are now moving forward with the project. So, our first order of business is casting. We need to find a few hosts that will be the 'stars' of our show. The vision is to have a few different people (or groups of people) welcome strangers from around the world into their homes. New week, new episode, new surfers. The hosts, and their homes, remain the constant for the audience to develop a relationship with. You get the point, I'm sure.
As you're a frequent participant in the CouchSurfing community, I thought that maybe you would be interested in applying, or maybe you know someone you think would be an ideal candidate (ie. 'character'). In any event, if there is any way you can help, I'd greatly appreciate it. You can email me at ----------- if you are interested or would like to discuss further.

Needless to say, I shot off a quick "yes, please!" But even if I don't get to be part of this project, I will certainly be keeping track of it.

EDIT (6/5/12): Just got word back, he wants me to send in a 3 minute video audition. He says "DO NOT be shy.  Show your personality.  We want to get to know you." Time to start planning some shots!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wherever the Wind May

Somehow or other I've got myself a stretch of a few months, starting around June, when I'll have no responsibilities in New York City except to keep my rent paid. Last year I was in a relationship and a couple shows. I don't have those things right now. I could probably get them, but I'm starting to seriously consider other options.

So, what will I do? A few things have sprung to mind:

1) Latin America, I met a few people working in NGOs to help distribute safe drinking water to communities in Central America especially. I'd need to do some research on current safety conditions, but I like the idea of a summer helping poor communities improve their health and free up time they would have spent getting water to help themselves or their communities in other ways. Of the international options, this really has the advantage of cost and distance.

2) Mediation, For probably about the same amount as I'd spend on the trip above, I could enroll in a professional mediation training program.  Mediation seems like a good way to put my skills to use, and if someday I could use them in an international context... professional peacemaker? I kind of like the sound of that. That said, competition is fierce, and people know so little about mediation that I'd need to do some heavy, heavy marketing. Training could happen just about any major city in America. Speaking of which...

3) Epic American Road Trip, Even if I've been around the world, there's a huge swath of America I've never seen. I doubt I'd do this alone, because of the money for fuel, car, etc. It would probably be the most expensive of the options I've got here so far. Also the least resume building. But the most likely to really show me something new.

4) Hollywood Bound, So I've done the starving actor thing in NYC. I'm told there are ten times as many jobs and a hundred times the competition in LA. I've gotten paid to do my thing here onstage and into microphones. What if I spent a couple months seeing what can happen for me in front of a camera? I'd be swapping apartments, and probably figuring out a way into a car of some kind for the short term. No idea how that would work. But it's a possibility.

5) Capital Work, Internships and temp positions in DC? Weather may be absolute hell over the summer, but I've met a couple people who seem to doing things. If nothing else, it's a real resume credit to be used someday, and I can really get the lay of the land when it comes to the "industry."

That's just the first few that have occurred to me. More ideas coming, and I'll certainly be open to suggestions

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm a... Wizpert?

I was just invited to join as a paid expert in Travel. Thank you, Michael Weinberg!

It's an interesting concept. I give them my skype name. People find me on their site as a qualified expert on budget travel. They call me on skype for advice. I'm paid an expert's fee by the minute.

For JTrek readers, friends, and family, this does not mean I am now charging everyone for advice. Just if you find me on Wizpert and don't actually know me. If you're reading this, and you want travel advice, please feel free to contact me, and I will not charge you a dime. I like helping people with travel because it means more people go traveling.

That said, Wizpert looks like an interesting concept, and I'll be curious to see how it plays out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Grilling in Paradise

“ want to buy a fish?” Dexter asked us.


“Like, to cook?”

“Yeah. Where can we get one?”

A surprised smile crept across his face, different from when he had been going through his spiel trying to sell a boat trip to my girlfriend, Dana, and I.

“Wow,” he said, “That’s unusual. You guys aren’t like most tourists! Especially from America...” he trailed off, then gave us specific directions to a place nearby where fishermen sold their catch for the day.

We thanked him and turned our back on what had been, unquestionably the best beach we had found on Tobago. It had taken a bit of a hike to get there, and we’d been drenched by rain twice on the way. But at the end we found white sand and calm turquoise waters on a gentle slope with just the right amount of shade from the nearby palm trees. We even had a rainbow show up for most the afternoon. We didn’t need to look for another beach after that one.

I came for a vacation. Not quite like the adventure or immersion or anything I usually seek out on my on on the road. I was just here to relax. As long as I keep my impact as positive as I can, I’m okay with being a tourist for a few days. But that didn’t mean completely staying in the bubble.

Dana and I walked past the first place the guide had told us about. It was a roadside stand near a wooden fence and corrugated metal roof, in a line of buildings sandwiched between the rainforest and the Caribbean Sea. You could see the boats the fishermen had been using, anchored just on the other side of the beach. The only fish available though, was a large kingfish. We hadn’t brought much cash to the beach, so we passed it up, heading back to our room about half an hour away.

We wrestled with the internet connection for a bit, and Dana found another possible fish market listed online. Between the two of us, my aunt Dane, and my cousin, Joyce, we had decided to rent a car for a couple days. Since we still had it, we thought we’d go check out the market listed in the next town over. I was one of the two listed drivers. Joyce was the other. Since Joyce has been a vegetarian for most of her life, Dana and I were definitely going to be the ones picking up the fish.

It was a simple drive, except for a few minor obstacles. First of all, the cars drive on the left side of the road. The driver sits on the right. I must have turned on the windshield wipers when I meant to signal a turn about a dozen times. The next problem was that the roads, while well paved, tended to be just wide enough for two cars side by side. Which would be fine, if people didn’t park on them. The parking created natural bottlenecks which the locals tended to take the way they took the numerous steep blind corner switchbacks: at about 30 km/hr above the speed limit.

I’m not going to pretend the roads were anywhere near the most dangerous I’ve seen. The drivers were competent, helpful, and calm, for the most part. But among other odd habits, they tended to drive right down the middle of the road unless they had a good reason not to. As it got dark, it started to seem like everyone was using their high beams, making it very hard to see.

So it was with some relief that we spotted a building marked “Mt. Irvine Fish Market” and pulled over to park.

The room inside was made almost entirely of white tile and linoleum, and the metal counter and washing stands were clean with running water at the kind of stations you’d see dishwashers in restaurants in the US, with a big sink and a dangling trigger hose. They had kingfish and mahi mahi. I was hungry, so we picked out a 4.5 lbs shiny mahi mahi. An old man came seemingly out of nowhere to take the order and ask if we wanted it filleted and skinned. We paid a large man in a yellow rubber apron TT$90 for the fish and tipped the man filleting it another TT$10. The fillet was handed to us in a double-wrapped plastic bag.

The complex we were staying in had public grills next to its hot tubs. Dana prepped the fish (well) and I grilled it (...less well). Joyce and Dane contributed their own spicy take on the local chickpeas with rice dish.

While other nights I’d tried local “Sunday Stew” Chicken, the massive curry-filled rotis, Calaloo soup, and a lot of other tasty meals, that meal with the fish was probably my favorite. I felt like we’d earned it.

(Check out Pictures from this Trip)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Next Trip: Tobago

I've been posting tips from time to time, but for the first time since I came back after my big trip, I'll be leaving the country again! I'm just going for a week, but I'll be somewhere I've never been before: Tobago.

Tobago is a Caribbean island, the smaller of the two main islands of the nation Trinidad and Tobago. Located just north of Venezuela, it's an English and Creole speaking country that requires no visas of American nationals staying for less than 90 days.

I leave Saturday morning, with my girlfriend, to meet my aunt and cousin. A little break from the acting life in the Big Apple.

It's beach time.