Whenever we’re traveling and we encounter children, I love to watch David dole out high fives. There’s something so heartwarmingly simple about the gesture, and the childlike enthusiasm with which people respond. Kids especially seem to relish the action, laughing with glee as they try again and again to connect hands. So it was awesome to see an international brand recognize some of that magic and employ it in an ad campaign.

In their new interactive campaign, “Live High Five,” airline KLM uses two interactive, HD video and audio installations set up in New York City (New Amsterdam) and Amsterdam (er…Old Amsterdam?) to give citizens of both cities the chance to win 2 roundtrip tickets to the opposite city. All they have to do is step up, make a new friend, and palm up their best high-five. It’s a the same idea as both Coca-Cola’s “It’s a Small World” soda dispensary and SNCF’s virtual doors—engaging cultures using technology—but for me, what really works for this execution is the use of the high-five, a physical embodiment of success, excitement, and celebration. Being able to capture the essence of those emotions and translate them into positivity towards the brand deserves, well…a high-five.

Roughing It

The Adventure Begins: Turbo, Colombia

If you hate sleeping in hammocks, the San Blas islands are probably not for you. If you hate traveling by boat, the islands are probably not your jam. If you hate drinking games, meeting new people, bonfires, snorkeling, or fine white sand, you are likely going to hate the San Blas islands.

Luckily for you, there’s a destination that is the perfect antithesis of San Blas, and its name is Turbo.

For those going on the San Blas Adventure trip from Colombia to Panama, Turbo will be your first overnight as a group. For those adventuring in reverse, from Panama to Colombia, it will perhaps be your woeful last night. (This applies strictly to those coming from or proceeding on to Cartagena–those taking the bus to or from Medellin will be spared the bleakness of this less than jovial port city). Turbo’s gnarliness cannot be blamed on San Blas Adventures. Though it would be awesome to stay somewhere else that night, no matter how we figured, there was no getting around it. Turbo is literally the last land-stop before we embarked on the boats to the island.

What to expect when traveling through Turbo:

We left Cartagena in the morning, and after a ten-hour van ride that included fording a river (which was actually pretty badass), we arrived at what our guidebook called a “lawless border town.” It was late in the day and raining. San Blas Adventures had provided for our transport and arranged a hostel stay for us, which was good, because at the hour we arrived, no one wanted to go poking around the city. Honestly, it was the only place in Colombia that I felt less than safe.

The hostel we stayed in was Residencia Florida. It was a bleak little place directly across from the waterfront. Luckily, we’d been able to preview the place via this Youtube video on our ride over.

We were expecting moldy walls and bare bulbs, and it delivered! Our group was shown to a series of double bed rooms and bunk bed rooms, each with what could euphemistically be called a semi-private bath. If we’re truth-talking, though, the only thing separating the toilet from the bed was the addition of a slightly translucent and very flimsy shower curtain. If you’re traveling with a loved one or close friend, expect to become closer. If you wound up rooming with a stranger…well, best make friends quickly. The beds were about as comfortable as a stack of flattened cardboard—indeed, we’re pretty sure that’s what composed the mattresses.


There weren’t rooms for all of us at the inn, and we watched with a bit of envy as four of our number got upgraded to the hotel next door. That is…until we learned that the sinks and showers next door spouted dirty brown water when opened. So, to be fair to Residencia Florida, it could have been much worse. (Also in fairness, I didn’t see a single bug in the room, neither cockroach nor bedbug).

Food options were scarce in Turbo, especially for those among us who were vegetarians, who resorted to cheese and tomato crackers from the local mercado. The rest of us attempted different variations of street food: skewers, chorizo and papas fritas, or Hawaiian pizza. Expecting the worst, we were pleasantly surprised at the decency in both price and taste, and by no ill effects after.

It was around dinnertime that our mood took an upswing. Sitting on colorful plastic stools along the sidewalk, we cracked open cheap beers, unleashed our tirade of complaints, and found the laughter in the situation. Over ice-cold Aguilas, we traded stories of horrible drives, less-than-clean hostels, and awkward bathroom experiences. So Turbo, if nothing else, provided a fine bonding experience. And the irony of staying in the armpit of the country before departing for paradise escaped no one. The adventure had begun, and lucky for us, it could only get better from there.

Infograph: SF Neighborhoods by Bikes

Can’t resist sharing this awesome infographic of San Francisco neighborhoods as shown by bikes (designed by Tor Weeks). Shoutout to blogger Jason Evanish for sharing in the first place, and for all of the much appreciated “moving-to-San-Francisco” advice!

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Bikes of SF by Tor Weeks

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Cartagena, Colombia: Door Decor

Cartagena is famous for its beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. Ornately carved woodwork, beautiful balconies, shuttered windows, shining stucco, and brilliant orange-tiled roofs all draw the eye and the camera lens, but my favorite architectural detail had to be the door decor. An unexpected bit of elegance and whimsy, these metal creations added personality and flair to the adobe they fronted and the streets they faced.

Fun and Cheap Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia: A Fun and Cheap Itinerary

While Cartagena is starting to boom as a hotspot Colombian destination (if the plethora of swanky bars and burgeoning boutique hotels in the Walled City are any indication), it’s still quite possible to tour the city as a budget traveler. Here’s a few recommendations for fun and cheap ways to enjoy this beautiful port city.

Brush up on your history

Most of Cartagena’s historical attractions are either free or really cheap. We loved the Museo del Oro, which provided a fascinating glimpse into the history of Colombian gold and the Zenu culture. The exhibits were both in English and Spanish, the gold metalwork was absolutely breathtaking, and best of all, it was heavily air-conditioned. (And also FREE)

Explore the Old City

Cartagena has some of the most beautiful colonial architecture I’ve seen. Bright walls, cobbled streets, and ornate woodwork are just a few of the rich details. Spend an afternoon wandering the alleys and streets of the Old City, ducking into shops and lounging in the squares. But be sure to come back again in the evening, when the streets fill with vendors and performers. Plaza de Bolivar had a cultural dance performance every night we were there—elsewhere in the city bands played, DJ’s spun, and Michael Jackson impersonators did the moonwalk. For those worried about safety, I felt extremely comfortable wandering the streets and squares, although the guidebook expressly stated not to roam the top of the wall after dark.

Take in the sunset

Pop up to the top of the wall about a half hour before sunset and claim a seat in one of the nooks and crannies. Bring a drink (an ice-cold Aguila, a glass of juice, or a bottle of water) and relax as tourists and locals alike gather to catch sight of the sun slipping low above the water.

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This shot doesn’t do the beach a whole lot of justice, but trust me—clean and beautiful.

Skimp on the day trips

If Cartagena is just one stop along the journey, think about saving money by skipping the day trips. We splurged on just one guided excursion—a trip out to the Totumo Volcano—but opted out of other day/overnight trips to the nearby beaches. Other travelers raved about the beauty of Santa Marta, but honestly, I thought the beach at Bocagrande (just a 20-minute walk from our hostel in Getsemani) was the perfect mix of pretty, clean, and not crowded. Plus you can’t beat the view of the Old City as you float in the coastal waves.

Pass an evening like a local

Grab a beer from the local corner store (yes, you can drink in public here) and catch a pick-up football game in Plaza de Trinidad. We spent more than one evening drinking Aguilas, cheering on a passel of seven-years olds, and people-watching. Splurge on some street food (a hotdog with mile-high toppings of cheese, peppers, tomatoes, and sauces was one of our favorites) to round out the night.