Vagabond Tales: Don’t Take Smelly Things Camping Or A Bear Might Eat Your Face

Despite what you might think, this has nothing to do with socks, sweaty shirts or anything else that absorbs bodily smells while out on the trail. All those things are fine.

This is more in reference to things that have a pleasant odor, such as deodorant, toothpaste or even Gold Bond foot powder. Sure, these hygienic amenities will keep your feet dry, teeth clean and armpits wintergreened, but collectively they might have a dire effect for your face, limbs or vital sensitive organs.


Because it’s not only your teeth and pits that love this stuff, but also bears. Forget about pots of honey, leaping salmon, or the half-eaten can of tuna lingering at the bottom of your bag; bears will go for anything with an odor – even your sunscreen.

That being said, is a black bear (all bets are off on grizzlies, they’ll eat you just for fun) going to track you down and eat you because you put on sunscreen while hiking in the backcountry? No. They’re too skittish of people and will run away once you make your presence known.

If, however, you leave these items lingering around a campsite overnight without having them stored in a bear storage bin, there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter some toothy rustling in the middle of the night. I know because I learned this hard way while hiking in the backcountry of California’s Yosemite National Park. And with zero exaggeration, I’m lucky a bear didn’t eat my face.The fracas starts off innocently enough: six guys and four girls go hiking in Yosemite on a late-summer, three-night backpacking trip.

Departing from Tuolomne Meadows, the plan was to camp at Upper Cathedral Lake before making our way down to Half Dome and Yosemite Village below – easy enough.

The problem, however, was that we had more food and toiletries than could fit in the number of bear storage bins we were packing, a dilemma I blame firmly on the women in the group. For some reason, when going feral in the wilderness, men have a desire to revert to Bear Grylls-esque minimalists who wipe with acorns and catch fish with their bare hands. Consequently, we pack light.

Girls, on the other hand (caution: author is the midst of making sweeping generalizations. Tread cautiously), have this strange desire to be something else, which is entirely foreign to the backcountry, the woods or the outdoors in general.

They want to be clean.

This is how we ended up with as many tubes of almond-vanilla-lavender-rosemary scented moisturizing lotion as we did with cans of food. This packing oversight was not fully realized, however, until the sun was disappearing behind the craggy ridges, which rung the lakeside campsite.

Apparently, not all members of the group (cough, cough) had been briefed on the fact that ANYTHING with an odor needed to go in the bear bins, not just the food.

“So the bears can smell my toothpaste?” asked one of our female hikers.

“Yeah, that’s why I put mine in the bear can,” I countered.

“What about my nail polish remover?” chimed in another (really?).

“Isn’t that just alcohol? Why don’t you just bring out everything you have.”

This is how Aisle 17 of your local drug store ended up scattered on the dry grasses of Upper Cathedral Lake. We may as well have just put out a rib-eye steak and called it a night.

“There’s no way we can fit all of this in the bear cans,” I lamented, my dry fingers clutching a plastic bottle of gold bond powder.

“Why don’t we just make a sacrificial bag?” offered another member of the group.


“A sacrificial bag. Let’s take my black daypack and just cram it with all the toiletries that won’t fit in the bear bins.”

Unfortunately, we found ourselves in a meadow devoid of trees from which to hang the bag, and we also found ourselves devoid of rope. Where then, were we ever to put the bag?

As four of the guys had opted to sleep under the stars in the clear – albeit frigid – mountain air, it was decided (in a moment of titanic stupidity) that we would just place the bag by our heads as we slept, seeing as surely no bear would be brazen enough to wander into a cluster of four grown men. The bag was zipped up and placed next to the jacket I was using as a pillow. It sat right between myself and a fellow camper, our respective ears guarding either side of the odiferous satchel.

The stars twinkled brightly in the gaping mountain sky, and the occasional puff of breeze could be felt on my exposed and slightly stubbled cheeks. We were camping in the mountains without a care in the world, and nothing, it felt, could possibly go wrong. Idle chatter switched to soporific pauses, and as a group we partook in a deep slumber, which would last all the way ’til dawn.

With the first rays of light rising over the peaks of the Sierra, my friend Jason was the one to notice it first.

“Dude. Where’s the bag?”

“What?” I mumbled through a half-awake fog. “What bag?”

“The sacrificial bag man. It’s not here.”

Sure enough, a quick check around the sleeping bags and scouring of the immediate perimeter revealed that bag – which was between our heads as we slept – was literally nowhere to be found.

A quick search of the girls’ tent revealed they hadn’t taken it. Another reconnaissance of the area also yielded no results. A regular mountain mystery was quickly in the making, so we decided to widen the search grid. Still, nothing.

Water was boiled, coffee was made, and theories floated through the air faster than the rising of the sun. It wasn’t until a member of the group walked off into an adjacent meadow with a shovel and some toilet paper that any answers would begin to come to light.

“Guys!” he yelled back at the group. “Guys! I found the bag! I found the bag!”

Returning to the group without yet having “done his business,” he lifted the black Jansport high for all of us to see. The first thing that was immediately noticeable was the full length of the zipper dangling limply from the side, and after a blink of the eye it was apparent that the bag was utterly thrashed.

“The first thing I noticed was the Gold Bond bottle lying in the meadow. Check out that tooth mark!”

Sure enough, right there in the center of the yellow Gold Bond Bottle, a large, toothy predator had gauged a pencil-width puncture that now served as a mini-powder volcano when squeezed. Other items such as the toothpaste and deodorant had been similarly mauled, and the wispy black straps of torn backpack cotton fluttered in the first traces of morning breeze.

“You know what this means” stammered one of the girls. “At some point last night there was a bear right next to your head. It could have eaten your face.”

Moral of the story: when camping in the American backcountry, use proper bearproof containers. If you have items that won’t fit in the containers, don’t use them as a pillow. If you do, a bear might actually eat your face.

Want more travel stories? Read the rest of the “Vagabond Tales” over here.

[Photo credits: Heather Ellison, Mike Willis via Flickr, iriskh via Flickr]

Vagabond Tales: Can Travel Writers Take A Normal Vacation?

I know what you’re thinking. Travel writers are always on vacation, so what a silly concept for an article.

Sure, climbing active volcanoes in Chile and staying in castles in Ireland sounds like an enjoyable time, and often times, it is.

But it isn’t exactly a normal vacation.

When others might be bathing on the sundeck of a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef, travel writers instead find themselves interviewing the boat crew on the proper method for dealing with an irukandgi sting, lest they report an inaccuracy on one of the world’s deadliest creatures.

Or, when returning from four days in the Andes after having climbed over Peru’s Salkantay Pass, vacationing members of your tour group are enjoying $10/hour leg massages while you instead find yourself panting in the thin air of Cuzco in an effort to find an Internet connection because the four days in the Andes have left you woefully behind on deadlines.

Then, of course, there’s the electronic merry-go-round of attempting to keep all your gear charged. As the travel world gets sucked deeper into the shrunken screen of a smartphone, so too must travel writers add more tools to their yak hair belt. Writer, photographer, videographer, researcher, coder, Webmaster, blogger, ad sales director, marketer and, of course, social media ninja.

This constant juggle of responsibilities invariably leads to such pleasurable experiences as sifting through the markets of Pulau Bintan looking for a new adapter, clandestinely blogging from a van parked outside of a New Zealand McDonalds (free HotSpot!), buying camera lenses from a questionable Thai gangster in Bangkok and avoiding strange looks as you send emails from inside the airport bathroom because you’re on yet another six hour layover and it’s the only outlet in the whole damn airport.

Exciting? Yes. A vacation? No. Believe it or not, it’s actually a lot of work.

Which is why, on a recent cross-country road trip, I was bound and determined to simply take a normal vacation.

%Gallery-168852%I found, however, that this isn’t exactly easy. You can’t just go cold turkey on travel writing. On the very first day of my road trip in Asheville, North Carolina, I ended up having to sneak away to write about an experience at Bojangles, which was too good to not be told.

Thinking I had gotten it out of my system, the itch struck me again the next evening while grabbing a stout at the Broadway Brewhouse in Nashville.

When most normal people would simply enjoy the beer and figure out which bands they wanted to hear that night, I instead found myself crunching numbers in my head about how many breweries I would have to visit every day to write a book featuring every microbrewery in America (Answer: 5.82).

Similarly, later that night, instead of simply enjoying the music of Nashville’s hopping honky tonks, I instead found myself wracked with guilt for not compiling a “first-timer’s guide to Nashville honky-tonkin.”

And although I did better in Paducah, Kentucky, with only a ten-minute stop to take notes on the history of shipping on the Ohio River, I failed miserably once again about 90 minutes south of St. Louis when I learned about a winery inside of a cave.

“C’mon, it’s only a 15-minute detour,” I pleaded with my wife.

“Yeah, one-way.”

“But I really want to see this.” (Translation: This is the perfect topic for an article.)

And so the notepad came out once again, its tattered edges failing to collect dust in the way I had originally planned. A brief interview here, a few snaps of the camera there, and a sudden urge to a do a ten-part series on the oft-forgotten wine trail of the Ozarks. Sigh.

The problem for writers, I think, lies in our inquisitive nature. Towns on a map are not simply towns on a map; they are places with histories and stories to tell, and to pass by even a single place without uncovering its story is to commit the greatest form of travel sin. Rest and relaxation be damned, I want to learn about this place. And this one. And that one …

This thirst for not only knowledge, but the ability to compile and share that knowledge is not logistically amenable to a 4,300-mile road trip. The logical reality is that you can’t delve into the story of every single place you pass, and unfortunately, places are going to have to be skipped.

Which is why it was so painstakingly difficult to make the decision to pass by the 100th anniversary of the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri in favor of making it to the 100th anniversary of the Wyoming State Fair in the ranching outpost of Douglas, Wyoming.

The deciding factor was that one featured a Dierks Bentley concert and the other one didn’t. Bypassing 900 miles of towns and their associated stories (Lincoln, Nebraska: “What It Means To Be A Cornhusker”, Chimney Rock: “Oregon Trail Icons” and Ogallala, Nebraska: “Towns You Can’t Pronounce And Have No Need To Go To”), I eventually wound up at a KOA campground on the outskirts of Douglas en route to a jam-packed country music concert.

“OK, Kyle,” I told myself. “You’re going to enjoy yourself like a regular traveler for a day. You’re not going to take videos of the concert and post them to your YouTube channel, you’re not going to research the 100-year history of the fair, and despite Douglas having been voted one of the ‘Best 100 small towns in America,’ you aren’t going to write an article detailing the friendly atmosphere of the main street diners where refillable mugs of coffee are still $.75 and ranchers gather for breakfast at 9 a.m. even though they’ve already fixed 12 fences and have been up since 2:45. And whatever you do, you’re not going to research how Douglas is officially known as the home of the ‘jackalope,’ and how hunting permits are sold for the jackalope hunting season, which runs on June 31 from midnight-2 a.m. Got it?”

“You’re also not going to draft quick posts about the happy hour special at Snake River Brewery that features three different types of meat (beef, elk, and buffalo), about where are the best places for encountering buffalo in Yellowstone National Park, or about how the Beartooth Highway was justifiably named by Charles Kuralt as the ‘most beautiful road in America.'”

You won’t do an expose on the Sunday afternoon pig races of Red Lodge, MT, tweet about the best places to stand-up paddle in Seattle, transcribe Lewis and Clark quotes from their famed landing in Long Beach, WA, or take any videos whatsoever while hiking the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park or of touring the wine country of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.”

“You’re just going to put the computer away, put the notepad away, and try to enjoy yourself like an every day tourist. OK? The history of the Modoc Indians and digging in to the hippie/yuppie dichotomy of Mendocino, CA, can wait for another time.”


Want more travel stories? Read the rest of the “Vagabond Tales” over here.

[Photo credits: Heather Ellison]

Vagabond Tales: The Rewarding Adventures Of ‘Genealogy Tourism’

The house pictured above is a very drab house. It’s cold. It’s empty. And no one has lived in it for over 120 years.

Sure, there is a fresh layer of green paint on the door, but that was put there by the neighbors. Why they did that I’m not sure, because this house was abandoned long ago.

This house isn’t anything famous, and it isn’t in a town you’ve ever heard of. This house is in Lecanvy, Ireland, a one-pub village at the base of Croagh Patrick Mountain, 3 1/2 hours from the festive streets of Dublin.

Nevertheless, this house is very important to me, because this was my great-great-grandmother’s house, a woman who’s family one day just decided to leave it all behind and up and leave for America.

Perhaps it’s the rise in popularity of websites such as, but for some reason “genealogy tourism” seems to be on the rise in the world’s most famous “nation of immigrants,” the United States of America. Despite the fact that millions of families took the plunge to move to a foreign land, their children many years down the road have not relinquished the curiosity to learn more about where it is they came from.

I hunted down this house because I happened to be in town, but for many travelers this form of “reverse immigration” seems to be a sector of the travel market that’s broadening in scope.During a recent business breakfast in Hawaii, the conversation – as it frequently does with travel writers – turned to the topic of international exploits. The associate with whom I was sharing eggs and potatoes then decided to regale me with a tale from her recent trip to Sicily.

“I went there,” she explained, “to search for my family. I knew the town they were from, I hoped that some remained, but I had no contacts and really was just hoping for the best.”

Quaffing deeply from a heavily-sugared coffee you could tell from her raised eyebrows that the best part of the story was yet to come.

“For four days I had no luck. Then, on the fifth day, walking through the downtown square I saw a woman who may as well have been my twin. She noticed it too, apparently, as we awkwardly stopped to simply stare at each other. Between her basic English and my poor Italian, we nevertheless determined that she was my second cousin. Word went out amongst her Italian family, and the next weekend we had a gathering of over 50 family members who came from all corners of the country to meet their new family member. It brought me to tears.”

While the Hollywood-script is pulled straight from a Lifetime movie, by virtue of her testimony I guess scenes like this really do happen. Or, on a more commonplace family hunt, what can also happen is you find yourself creeping through an abandoned driveway in the rural hamlets of western Ireland, shivering and wet and failing to encounter any family members at all because they all up and left over a century ago – not exactly as rewarding.

Still, to be able to travel to a foreign land and peer into the history of yourself is a feeling far more rewarding than sharing a famous sight with hundreds of other tourists. Having found this old house (with help from my genealogy-loving aunt), even experiencing this cold moment in the driveway was good enough for me.

That was, until, I knocked on the door of Mr. O’Malley.

Although the occupants of my family’s house – the McEntee’s – had obviously picked up and left some time ago, the manicured lawn of their neighbor, Mr. O’Malley, was evidence that some had opted to stay right here in Ireland.

Going for broke, I figured that if anyone would know anything about the details of my Irish family I figured it may as well be the neighbors. I opened the creaky gate, inhaled deeply, and eventually I rapped three times on the bright red door.

No answer.


Just as I turned to leave it all behind, the bright red door creaked slowly open to the warmth of a cheery old man.

“Allo!” came the Irish brogue, “are ya lost?”

“Umm, no. Actually … this is really strange, but I think my family used to live right next door to you.”

With a pair of squinty eyes and sporting a classic brown cardigan, Mr. O’Malley was wracked with confusion. Who is this weirdly-accented stranger standing on my lawn?

“McEntee was their name” I offered. “Name was McEntee.”

With a delayed flip of the switch an air of recognition coasted across the wrinkles of his face.

“Ah yes,” he stammered. “McEntee.”

“So you know them?” chimed in my sister, a red-haired, fair-skinned, reverse immigrant herself who now lives in the suburbs of Dublin.

“No,” he confided. “I don’t. But when I was a boy in this same house me grandfather told me of the McEntee family who up and left for America. Sailed from the old dock down by the Westport harbor they did. Come inside, let’s make some tea.”

And so it was. I never got to bump into a long lost family member, but I somehow found myself looking at old photographs in the living of room of Mr. O’Malley’s home, a cup of warm tea staving off the chill from the damp outdoors.

We later would stop near Westport harbor, imaging what it would have been like to leave your simple plot of land in Lecanvy behind, sailing westward into the setting sun towards a place you knew otherwise so little about.

Sometimes we travel to learn more about the world, and other times simply to learn more about ourselves. In this case it’s to learn about exactly where we come from, and to walk in the upper branches of the extended family tree.

Have you ever engaged in any genealogy tourism, and if so, were there any great tales of discovery to be told?

Want more travel stories? Read the rest of the “Vagabond Tales” over here.

Vagabond Tales: Averting Death In A French Field

You don’t need to have traveled to France to be familiar with the French concept of laissez-faire.

A phrase, which translates to “let it be” amongst economic scholars, references the way in which governments should, in theory, let an economy take care of itself. “Hands off,” essentially.

Despite being an academic term rooted in economics, many travelers to France might argue that this laissez-faire mentality has permeated everyday French culture in that sometimes it seems the French people simply can’t be bothered with petty concerns.

“Do what you want, I don’t care, it will take care of itself.” That sort of feeling.

Often times American travelers, in turn, wrongly label this as laziness. While the French versus American culture debate will have to wait for a different day, there simply are aspects of French culture that Americans will never understand.

Of course, there are also things that us Americans do that the French view as curious and weird. For example, many French people I know find it inconceivably odd how casually American’s drop the word “love” (as in “OMG I love U” to a casual acquaintance or saying how you “love” someone’s new shirt).

Regardless, I, for one, am a fan of the French laissez-faire. One place I often notice this “couldn’t care less” mentality is whenever I am wine tasting in France. Unlike California’s Napa Valley where wineries have the audacity to ask for $20/person for a tasting, many times at French vineyards there isn’t even a tasting fee at all.On at least four separate occasions I have called into a rural French vineyard where the tasting room attendant had to come in from the fields to offer us a sample of their recent vintages. Despite the obvious added effort of catering to us, the mentality surrounding the free tasting was always the same:

“If you like my wine, you buy it, if you don’t, then leave. I don’t care.”

While this is all well and good with relation to wine tasting, I didn’t realize that this same mentality also applied to wildfires, namely in that they, too, should just take care of themselves. Though I’m sure this is not the actual case with all French wildfires, it sure seemed to be the case one April outside the southern city of Nîmes.

Cruising the rural hinterlands in an aging, red, four-door sedan, the vineyards and fields streaked by against a hazy blue sky as my wife, her expat friend whose car we were driving, and I meandered our way across the southern French countryside.

Not having passed another vehicle for at least 15 minutes, the emptiness of the two-lane road was a welcome relief from the congested and narrow streets of nearby Nîmes. The sun was shining, two bottles of red had already been acquired for evening consumption, and what I can assume were French road trip tunes casually streamed from the stereo.

Life, it seemed, was pretty darn good.

That was, of course, until we happened upon what appeared to be a small wildfire. Burning off to the right of the road, brisk winds whipped the flames into a choking and thick gray smoke. Nevertheless, despite the visible flames on the roadside the smoke appeared to stretch only for 10 yards or so.

Not really sure what to make of the fire burning uncontrolled and unnoticed in the roadside ditch, the decision was made to simply keep driving and get past it before things got out of control.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

Having crawled at 10 mph through the beginnings of the smoke the visibility was suddenly reduced to zero. Without the ability to even see the hood of the car it was impossible to tell if we were driving into oncoming traffic, off the side of the road, or directly into some oncoming flames. A brisk crack to the right side of the road quickly answered the question for us: we had driven into the flames and they were about three feet from the car.

Quick decision. What do you do? Do you:

A: Keep driving
B: Reverse
C: Act like a fool and jump out of the car without your shoes and leave the car to burn, yourself choking violently from the heavy smoke inhalation.

After obviously choosing option C, (I was forced to jump out the back window due to the rear door not working any more), three road-trippers, who 30 seconds ago were on a casual drive, now found themselves standing in an empty French field having parked their car directly in the middle of a fire.

With feet aching from walking barefoot on the hard, plowed earth of the field, my thoughts drifted to whether or not the tires might be melting. I couldn’t tell, of course, because the car was completely consumed by the smoke.

In a moment of snap decision it was decided that I couldn’t just let my friend’s car burn. Grabbing the keys from her I decided I would run down through the field and approach the car from upwind so as to avoid the prolonged smoke inhalation. One hundred yards down the field, however, I encountered a huge irrigation ditch and was forced to turn around.

Just to complicate matters, with the car completely invisible behind the curtain of gray smoke, I turned back to see an enormous agriculture truck driving down the highway in the same lane our car was in – increasing in speed in an apparent effort to shoot through the smoke.

Knowing there was a two-ton metal obstacle in the middle of the smoke, which they couldn’t see, I again took off running across the plowed earth, this time waving my hands and screaming anything and everything that might possibly get the truck’s attention.

Luckily, they saw me and stopped just short of the increasing smoke screen. Amazingly, these words managed to come out of my mouth.

Il y a une voiture à l’intérieur de la fumée!

Whoa. I speak French. Thanks Rosetta Stone!

With the truck drivers now aware that there was a car in the middle of the smoke, they acted in a much more rational manner than we originally did. They rolled up their windows, drove slowly through the smoke (managing to not hit our car, which may or may not have melted tires), and safely emerged on the other side.

Following their lead I raced barefoot and shirtless over the hot asphalt, my T-shirt covering my nose and mouth in the hope I wouldn’t inhale multiple plumes of smoke. I opened the driver’s side door, found that the engine still started, and slowly rolled the car forward on tires, which thankfully had not yet melted.

The entire ordeal took no more than five minutes, but for some reason I felt like we had cheated death at least three times.

With the girls having managed to navigate a way around the irrigation ditch on the far side of the field, we piled everyone back in the sedan, snapped a quick photo to document the moment, and continued on to the nearest village a bit shaken but happy to be on the road again.

Pulling into the first winery that we saw, I alerted the tasting room girl that about three kilometers down the road there was a fire burning in a field with nobody there to put it out.

“Hmm,” she shrugged with a slight glance to the horizon.

“Would you like to try some of the white? I am sure someone will take care of it soon.”

Want more travel stories? Read the rest of the “Vagabond Tales” over here.

Vagabond Tales: Reinventing The Swim-Up Bar

“There’s only one thing wrong with this wave,” quipped John, a 50-something-year-old surfer from Seattle, who, like the rest of us, had come to the Mexican outpost of La Saladita to score some perfect waves, warm weather and oceanfront lobsters and beer.

“It’s too far of paddle to come back in and get a beer.”

Such is the crux of long, perfect waves the world over. A long ride means a long paddle back out to the lineup, a reality, which renders the ability to enjoy a cold drink between waves to be virtually non-existent.

At a place where paddling back out to the lineup takes anywhere from 20-30 minutes – your arms, shoulders and back straining with use the entire time – a quick jaunt to shore for a beverage becomes a multi-hour rest break punctuated by a nap in a hammock.

Here in La Saladita, a user-friendly wave, which pumps out consistently head-high waves seemingly all summer long, you either drink beer on shore, or you go out and surf. There’s no mixing the two, because as John so aptly stated, the beers are just simply too far from the waves.

But they don’t have to be.Forty-five minutes north of the thumping discotecas and high-rise resorts of Ixtapa, La Saladita still exists as a tranquil, palm-fringed fishing village facing westward to the expansive Pacific. Like other coastal outposts in Mexico, however, La Saladita hasn’t been entirely immune from expansion and development.

Looking down the beach from Lourdes beach bar – one of the original dining options up and down La Saladita – a clutch of foreign investment properties poke their heads out from behind the beachfront landscape.

Some have moved here for the remoteness, others, the cheap cost of living and the laidback way of life. Most, however, have moved here for the machine – like consistency of the left point break, which reels down the beach, a fantasy-wave, which leaves surfers enjoying rides measured in minutes, not seconds.

The water is warm (86 degrees), the crowds are mellow and the commute to the surf spot is never more than a stroll down the beach.

One such expat to permanently land at this place is Corky Carroll, the one-time professional surf champion who now runs surf adventure trips to this stretch of coastline. Everyone around here seems to have some sort of Corky story, a foregone conclusion for an icon regarded as the informal mayor of the lineup.

Despite the influx of foreign development, however, La Saladita remains true to its outpost soul. There is only one place in town with Wi-Fi (barely), beers are $1, the lobsters are hours old and the miniscule amount of artificial light created by development does nothing to dampen the blanket of stars.

The sound of waves hitting the shoreline replaces the sound of bass, traffic or salesmen slinging timeshares. This is not the Mexico you see in a travel agent’s window. This is the Mexico you see when you drive down dirt roads.

Nevertheless, for as idyllic and off the grid as La Saladita may be, there is still the pesky issue of the distant beers. Sure, Cancun or Cabo San Lucas may not have the same sense of rural isolation, but they do have swim-up bars.

Anyone who has ever visited a tropical resort destination has seen them. Usually adorned with a faux-waterfall or a thatched roof, traditional bars are placed right inside of the resort swimming pool as a means of helping guests spend their soaking wet money and initiate an evening fraught with bad decisions.

Let’s face it: when alcohol is placed inside of a swimming pool, things such as sobriety and morality usually get thrown to the tropical breeze. But hey, what are vacations for?

After four days of surfing head-high waves and needing to go all the way back to shore for a beer, however, it became apparent that we, too, needed a swim up bar. If the waves had been bigger and the crowds had been heavier (i.e. more than just our group of five friends in the water), the thought of introducing beers into a surf lineup would be dangerous, blasphemous, and borderline disrespectful. But when you’re the only people out there, what’s really to stop you?

With a flurry of activity sourced straight from a rerun of MacGyver, we managed to attain a floating raft, some climbing rope, two extra strength trash bags and an exceptionally large rock. After assembling the rock, rope and bags into a remedial anchoring system, a 30-minute paddle was all it took to secure 22 beers to the inside of the raft and paddle the raft beyond the breaking, head-high surf.

The end result? Well, let’s just say it was a good decision.

Want more travel stories? Read the rest of the “Vagabond Tales” over here.

[Image courtesy of danellesheree on Flickr]