Adventure Day by Patrick Gaggiano
There comes a time in every person's work week, month, busy schedule, that they may feel a need to break the mold. An itch to do something exciting, preferably in a place that is somewhat new and unknown. Maybe a chance to channel one's inner Hemmingway or get in touch with their lost Hunter S. spirit. A rare occasion with a day or two off? A little extra cash found? Time for what I like to call: Adventure Day. It can be done in your current town, a short drive away, or a plane ride across the country, but must consist of three things: little planning, visit places/things you are not yet familiar with and once there, going only off of tips from bartenders, regulars, locals. In a sense, it's the old way- ditching your phone and walking until you see something that peaks your interest, actually talking with people and realizing it's okay to get lost.
The things you can stumble upon on Adventure Days can be quite interesting, whether in your back yard, or a trip to visit some relocated roommates in Puerto Rico. On a Sunday afternoon I booked a flight out of Boston to San Juan: 1) it was surprisingly cheap, 2) I've never been and had a place to crash (I hoped) and 3) it was the dead of winter here. 3:30pm, after finishing up a work shift, I grabbed a beer and a shot, called a cab, and arrived at the airport for my 6am flight.
In Puerto Rico around 10 something, I called my buddies to let them know I was at the airport- and to my good luck- they still were agreeable to have me crash on their couch for the next 48 hours. I had zero Spanish speaking knowledge, my MA ID, credit card, cell phone and whatever cash was in my back pocket. I also had a button down, hat, jeans, and flip flops (my only real planning detail). While fielding a phone call from my parents asking how Boston was (I said we were having quite the heat wave), I headed down the street with a borrowed pair of shorts and introduction to Barrilito Rum. Walking past the beautifully colored houses, we stumbled into our first bar- El Batey. In every way, the place confirmed that, in fact, I was indeed no longer in Boston. The bar was a hole in the wall covered with graffiti from Sharpies, an old man at the bar and a surly looking gent behind it who did not seem in much of a talking mood- all the more perfect in our book. In Old San Juan, no one does straight shots, so after skating by in broken Spanish, we ended up with the town favorite- a Chichaito (anis and white rum), layered, no chill, no shake, in what seemed like a water glass. From there we walked down around the hill and found a sign at Barrachina Restaurant, informing us that, in 1963, the Pina Colada was invented there- interest peaked. Walking past the cages of vibrant parrots everywhere you reach a courtyard bar where bartenders in white tuxedos make your Pina Colada. And you know what? It was actually the best I've ever had- Adventure Day.
From there we wandered down to the water for what might have been the most magnificent sunset I've ever seen. Got a little geography lesson on where Bacardi and such was located, and decided to hit the beach. In the tourist parts of San Juan, you can stumble upon any of the private resort beaches because they assume you are a guest- and after a quick story about how "I left my room key upstairs and didn't want to wake my wife, but had some cash" with the bartender, we had an open line of credit on the plethora of fruit, frozen, and tiki drinks at the resort bar. Adventure Day.
After a defeated fight with the waves, and a quick beach walk- we stumbled upon an amazing looking building right on the water, which turned out to be La Concha casino. Perfect- betting after a long stint on the beach posing as Mr. Doe in a casino where I don't speak the language. I quickly found that when at Puerto Rican casinos, you get free drinks- Medalla Light became my best friend- and in 10oz cans makes it the perfect beer of choice for moving around a lot. In addition, I also got the offer to enjoy many complimentary ham and cheese panninis- dinner was served. Then shots with the bartender friend we made, a big hit on craps (still not sure how that happened) and a dare on who would get a tattoo first- well, let me stop there in case my Mom is reading this.
Adventure Day, traveling to an unknown place, with the only intention of making everyone your friend and become a local for a day. Step out of your element and immerse yourself in the life that is going on around you. To quote Neale Donald Walsch "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." So next time you find yourself with a few days to kill, step out of the box.
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