Cheap Sleeps – Money Stretching Places to Live

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Cheapest Countries

to Live In

We’ve all been there. Sat at work on a spectacularly boring day, gazing out the window and dreaming about moving somewhere less resolutely meh. But it’s one thing dreaming about moving to London, or Paris, or Tokyo, and quite another turning up there, looking at the square feet of space your meager savings will buy and realizing that you haven’t thought this through at all.

 The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. While there are plenty of countries it will likely bankrupt you to move to, there are plenty more where even the most middle-of-the-road foreign income will see you living like a king. Here are 10 countries, gleaned from the annual Cost of Living Indexes published by Numbeo and Expatistan, where it’s cheapest to live in 2017:

10. Mexico

America’s southern neighbor is mainly famous in the north for sombreros, Tex-Mex, and drug violence. But as we revealed in a recent article, there’s so, so much more to the ancient home of the Aztecs than that. Aside from the long history and vibrant culture of Mexico City, there’s some 60-odd indigenous groups speaking a mix of languages, crumbling Aztec ruins, unique traditions from each Mexican state, and coastline galore. Oh, and did we mention it’s very, very cheap?

Numbeo estimates the cost of living in Mexico to be nearly 60% lower than living in the US. Outside the capital, you can rent a 3 bedroom apartment near the center of a city for an average of $480 a month. You can get a meal for two in a decent restaurant for twenty bucks. A transport ticket costs under 40 cents. Someone, get us to Tijuana.

Of course, this is all assuming you’re moving abroad with a US salary or pension. In terms of local purchasing power, Mexico sits somewhere in the middle of the list, meaning a local on the average wage can buy maybe half the stuff a local on the average wage in the US can.

9. Tunisia

It would probably be stretching the limits of acceptable writing to describe Tunisia as the jewel in North Africa’s crown, but we’re gonna do it anyway. The tiny desert nation is home to 10 million, all crammed into a handful of ancient cities that are staggeringly beautiful. This is the place where all the Tatooine scenes were filmed for the first Star Wars, which should give you some idea of how visually-arresting the country is. Then there’s the crazy affordability. The cost of renting a 1 bed apartment in a bustling city center? $160 per month.

On the other hand, Tunisia suffers a downside Mexico doesn’t: it borders Libya. Since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, Libya has been a haven for ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and about a bazillion other crazy rebel groups, all itching to kill Western tourists. In 2015, an armed gunman trained in Libya attacked a five star hotel in Sousse, killing 38, including 30 Brits; making it the deadliest day for UK citizens since the 7/7 London bombings a decade earlier. As a result, the UK Foreign Office now advises against all but essential travel to Tunisia. The US government likewise advises extreme caution when visiting.

8. Moldova

Hands up: who can point to Moldova on a map? Eastern Europe’s least-visited country is a tiny sliver of land sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, and locked in a perpetual war with its pro-Russian population. We don’t mean that metaphorically. Moldova’s eastern flank has been occupied since the early 1990s by an insurgent army who set up their own, autonomous republic known as Transnistria. Although the conflict is “frozen” (no one has been killed in ages), it is still a potential flash point in Europe’s poorest nation.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind Soviet architecture, cold winters, and the possibility of Putin annexing your living room, Moldova has a lot going for it. Aside from being crazy cheap – the cost of living is 62% lower than in the US – it’s one of the biggest wine producing nations on Earth, with over 200 km of tunnels filled with wine buried beneath one monastery. Plus, Chisinau is getting a reputation as one of Europe’s party capitals. Double plus, you get to say you’ve lived in Moldova. How many of your friends can say that? None.

7. Nepal

It’s the country where Everest lives. That’s all you really need to know about Nepal, a fascinating mountain nation that has been wowing travelers ever since they first set eyes on it. Sagarmatha, as the locals call it, is just the biggest of the world class peaks dotting this frozen, high-altitude land, each sheerer and scarier than the last. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also ancient Buddhist temples, mysterious mountain villages, and wild elephants you can ethically ride and oh our God yes, that’s actually a real thing. Shut up and take our money!

Speaking of the $$$, Nepal’s actually kind of an odd one. Numbeo ranks it as a hair more expensive than Mexico, but Expatistan ranks Kathmandu as cheaper than any city in Moldova. So we’re adding it here just to be on the safe side.

However, before you leap on that plane, we should warn you that things aren’t all peachy. In 2015, Kathmandu suffered a horrifying earthquake that killed 10,000 and nearly leveled the city. The damage costs were equivalent to 50% of Nepal’s GDP, and reconstruction is still barely underway. Although locals would doubtless appreciate you adding your tourist dollars to the local economy, it’s perhaps still a bit soon to think about moving permanently.

6. Syria

Yeah. Syria.

We’re not exaggerating when we say Syria was once one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you don’t believe us, check out these pictures. It was a land of mountains and winding rivers and valleys and ancient castles and cities that have been standing since the dawn of time. As the Syrian Tourist Board is currently at pains to point out, a stretch of coast about 120 miles long that has miraculously avoided the fighting remains wonderful. And it’s about 63% cheaper than living in the US, too.

 Of course, even the relatively safe coastline isn’t somewhere you should be heading anytime soon. Since 2011, Syria has been caught up in the deadliest civil war of the century, with an estimated 250,000 being killed and around 4 million being left homeless. ISIS, AL-Qaeda and other groups are fighting Kurdish paramilitaries, Assad’s regime forces, and about 100 other rebel factions as Russian jets scream overhead, dropping bombs. It ain’t a safe place. But even a war as awful as this can’t last forever. Perhaps in another decade or so outsiders will be able to go back in and witness the beauty of the Middle East’s most tragic country.

5. Azerbaijan

You didn’t expect a wealthy petro-state to be on this list, did you? Situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is an oil rich collision of east and west, a place where gigantic glass towers dominate the money-soaked capital, and emerging dictator Ilham Aliyev has made a hobby out of jailing democracy activists. About the size of South Carolina (or Scotland), the ‘Land of Fire’ is both a hyper-expensive Dubai of the Caucasus Region, and a place where you can rent an apartment for less than $150 per month.

So, what’s with this great contrast? Well, you know how New York and California seem to suck in all the money and energy, and London is like Britain’s NYC plus Britain’s Silicon Valley? Baku is like London plus every single other city that isn’t in terminal decline. The rest of the country is basically a rural world of farming sheep and kicking back and eking out an existence on the average wage of $260 a month, an amount that makes $150 for an apartment suddenly look like daylight robbery. Still, at least you get to live in a country that has a place called ‘fire mountain’ that really is a mountain that’s literally on fire.

4. Georgia

If you want all the excitement of living in the Caucasus region, but for some inexplicable reason don’t dig the idea of residing within driving distance of a flaming fire mountain, you could always opt for Georgia. The Christian flipside to Azerbaijan’s Muslim culture, the two neighbors are historic allies, largely due to a mutual dislike of nearby Armenia. The big difference comes with their neighbors to the north. While Azerbaijan and Russia have a cold yet cordial relationship, Georgia got invaded by Putin in 2008.

Since then, the tiny South Ossetia region has been under de-facto Russian control, in a situation kinda like that of Moldova and Transnistria. Only Georgia has the additional headache of another area like that. The unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia declared independence years ago, with Moscow guaranteeing its territorial integrity; meaning Tbilisi actually has control of far less of its 69,000 square kilometer territory than most similarly-sized nations.

On the plus side, Georgia is perfect if you like untouched wilderness, craggy peaks, and little mountain villages lost to time. And if you like your beer to cost 70 cents, which is really the important thing.

3. Pakistan

If you want a (potentially short) life of non-stop excitement, you could do worse than moving to Pakistan. India’s long-term rival, Pakistan is home to Karachi, the world’s most violent megacity, an unrecognized republic controlled by insurgents known as Balochistan, deadly terror groups, armed kidnappers, and the occasional mega-earthquake. It’s also a nuclear state that frequently tries to start wars with another nuclear state (India).

In fact, Pakistan is so fundamentally wild that its government recently issued a decree that all foreigners must stay within a single city unless they hire a security detail and inform the government of their travel plans, in case they wind up with a severe case of death. With advice like that, hearing that an apartment can go for as little as $77 per month likely comes as cold comfort.

Still, if you go happen to go out there, at least you’ll be in one of the prettiest, most historic countries on Earth. Aside from the mountains, there are forts built by the Mughals, old colonial relics from the British days, and some of the grandest Islamic monuments ever built.

2. Ukraine

According to Numbeo, Ukraine is home to the cheapest McDonald’s combo meal in the whole of Europe. You can get a Big Mac, fries and a drink for under $2.50. We’re not gonna say this is a good reason for you to pack your bags and head to Ukraine, but it’s certainly a reason… another being that life in general in Ukraine is 65% cheaper than life in America.

Not that this is much use to the locals. The average salary across the whole nation is under $200 a month. As a result, Ukraine only just misses the bottom 10 countries for local purchasing power, ranking under Zimbabwe, Moldova and El Salvador, and only just higher than Nigeria and Nepal. An average Ukrainian salary will buy you 26% of what an average American salary will buy you. Then there’s the not-quite-frozen conflict in the country’s east, which has killed about 10,000 in nearly three years (once again, as with so many on this list, Russia is involved).

On the other hand, if you can stomach the screaming inequality, unbelievably cold winters and territorial crisis, then Ukraine is almost breathtakingly beautiful. There’s its snatch of haunting mountains in the West, its two great, ancient cities of Lviv and Kiev, and, finally, its ridiculously good-looking citizens. If you need us, we’ll be booking our flights to Kiev.

1. India

This is it, possibly the cheapest country on planet Earth. India has mid-range restaurants where two people can eat world-beating food for under $10. It has taxis that will wait for you for an hour and charge less than a dollar. It has apartments for slightly over $100 per month. In the southern city of Thiruvananthapuram, utilities can cost only twenty bucks a month. With an income of under $1,000 a month, you can live like a freakin’ king.

It’s also, y’know, famously one of the most picturesque nations on Earth. There’s the Taj Mahal, the ancient city of Varanasi, the Himalayas, Raj-era hill towns, creaking old railway lines, the lush, tropical south, and the venerated, epic, eternal Ganges. You’ve got Bollywood, curry, tigers, ancient history, epic gorges, friendly people and a floating temple that is literally made of gold. Plus, Octopussy was set here. Man, we must’ve seen that movie… twice.

 Of course, it ain’t all fun and highly-choreographed dance numbers. There’s shocking inequality, extreme poverty, deadly diseases, sporadic ethnic violence, and the eternal possibility of nuclear war with Pakistan. But is it worth it? You check these pictures and decide for yourself. (The correct answer is ‘yes’.)

Cost of Living Havens

– WIF Economics

WIF New Year’s Resolution Sampler

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Top 10 Simple

New Year’s Resolutions

 I hate to be a New  Years Eve party-pooper, but I thought you should know that approximately  half of you will make New Years resolutions this year, but only 8% of you will  successfully achieve them.

 In the interest of turning these dismal results around, I’ve come up with  some alternative resolutions for you before it’s too late, because I think the  secret to achieving New Years resolutions is to keep them as simple as  possible.

For example, you’ll see several alternatives to the ever-popular resolution  to lose weight (the number one resolution in 2012).  Achieving any one of  at least 4 of the resolutions I’ve listed below could in fact result in weight  loss. Or not. In fact, since the resolutions below are more specific than ‘lose  weight,’ they might actually improve your chances of dropping a few pounds – but  without that heavy load of guilt on your shoulders if you don’t.

Simple, yes. But- unlike the empty calories in those light snack bars I may  have just spared you from consuming- the 10 simple resolutions I’ve selected are  also bursting with life-altering potential. Consider them the ‘super foods’ of  resolutions… super resolutions, in fact.

Here, ranked in order from most challenging to s-o-o-o-o-o simple, is a top 10 list of simple new years resolutions:

10. Show Up

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon  has said “there is an expression among even the most advanced runners that  getting your shoes on is the hardest part of any workout.” As a runner who  belongs to more running Meetups in my city  then the number of runs I’ve actually gone on in the entire year, I can attest  to this.

Furthermore, I think this saying probably applies to any activity requiring  shoes. Strapping shoes on is so difficult that I have ranked it as the most  difficult of my 10 simple resolutions. I dare you to prove me wrong!

Guidelines

To achieve this resolution (i.e. Show Up) you are not merely required to  leave your couch and arrive somewhere else- but you also have to be present. The length of the journey and what you do when you get there  is up to you, but consider this: ‘showing up’ might involve some sort of active  engagement on y0ur part (i.e. learning something, meeting new people,  performing, participating in a lively debate).

Keep it Simple

Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the  door – Kris Kringle, (Santa Claus is Coming to Town)

Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen

9. Listen to the Voices

This year, make a commitment to listen for those voices in your head and  challenge them.

We observe, we tell a story, and then we feel. …Since we and only we are  telling the story, we can take back control of our own emotions by telling a  different story.

These are the claims made in Chapter 6 of Crucial Conversations: Tools for  Talking When Stakes are High (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler). The  chapter proposes that if you “question your feelings and stories,” “look for  other possible explanations,” and “get back to the facts” you can break the  loop. It points out 3 common story themes: 1. the villain, 2. the victim, 3.  helplessness.

Keep It Simple

Try to identify the stories you are listening to in that lightning fast  moment between something you see or hear and your response.

Keep it Up

Try to replace your stories based on the willingness to consider that others  involved are reasonable, rational and decent people.

8. Expense Yourself

Most people who are working one job know exactly how much money they bring  home every month – but how many people know exactly how much money  they really spend? In an ideal world, everyone would balance their personal  books – but in reality, many of us have already crossed into another universe  where the money we use has very little to do with the money we actually  generate…

Just doing this once might blow your mind. You may find yourself taking  leftovers to work for lunch, growing your own vegetables, or cancelling your  cable.

Guidelines

Get all business-like and compare household revenue to expenses.

Keep it Simple

The simplest way to review your spending habits is to look at your bank  account and credit card statements and categorize your purchases. For more  accuracy, you could track your spending (including small cash purchases) for one  month.

Keep It Up

Even better: set a budget based on your actual income and track and manage  your spending from now on, using the envelope  method or free software such as mint.com.

7. Distant Gratification

Take a break from this world of short cuts, fast food, and even shorter  attention spans and plan for some distant gratification. As Tony Robbins  once said, “most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and  underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

Keep It Simple

The simplest examples of this resolution in action: plant a tree or bury a  time capsule in your yard.

Or, consider long-term  goals – – think about how much can be achieved in a year – or 5 years – if a  little bit of progress is made every day. For example you could write a novel  (10 pages a week) or walk 100 miles (45 minutes a week). You might decide to  save for a visit to Chile, learn to play chess, or sponsor  a child in another country- all by making small investments of money or time  stretched out over a long period.

Keep It Up 

Instead of stressing out about a concrete deadline or specific result, focus  on moving forward. Remember Hofstadter’s Law, “It always takes longer than  you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law” (psychcentral.com).  In most cases, it’s best not to check progress until a considerable amount of  time has passed, and don’t beat yourself up – just keep going!

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that  matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

6. Eat Vegetables

The USDA site choosemyplate.gov  describes over 20 ways that vegetables are good for you, including reducing the  risks of birth defects, cancer, kidney stones, heart disease, obesity, type 2  diabetes, bone loss, high blood pressure, constipation, and infection.

Guidelines

Make half your plate fruits  and vegetables, suggests choosemyplate.gov.

Keep it Simple

Even if you just eat one more vegetable than you did in 2012, you’re going to  be successful.

Or, you might try to gradually add more vegetables to your regular weekly  meals – stir spinach into your favorite pasta sauce and stuff those chicken  breasts with asparagus and cheese.

Don’t like vegetables? Invest in a few books and sneak them into smoothies  and meals (Skinny  Smoothies, The Sneaky  Chef).

Keep It Up 

When you are buying groceries make sure fruits and vegetable purchases  reflect your new eating habits (for example, review your shopping cart before  you get in line at the cashier). Or, purchase a share in a CSA  and receive a box of produce from a local farm each week. That way, you will  consistently receive vegetables (and the reminder to eat them) and you will  probably be exposed to some new produce that you might not otherwise pick up at  the store.

Local fresh fruits and vegetables are best, however frozen vegetables are a  nutritious and convenient alternative. Make sure you have some in your freezer  so that you always have some vegetables on hand.

If you are really serious about a veggie heavy diet, restrict meat to dinner  or weekend meals only.

5. Hello, Neighbor

According to an article at psychologytoday.com by Linda Wasmer Andrews, a “study from Umea University in Sweden showed that people who said they trusted  their neighbors were twice as likely as those who didn’t to rate their health as  good.” Plus, “research from Duke University found that people aged 55 to 80 who  were high in interpersonal trust lived longer, on average, over the next 14  years than those who were lower in that quality” (Trust  Your Neighbor, Boost Your Health).

Even the most casual, surface interactions with other members of your  community can lower stress and give you a sense of belonging. If your neighbors  know you, they are much more likely to notice if your house is being robbed or  if you need medical help. You also benefit from sharing local information with  each other (local schools, local events).

Keep it Simple

“Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet  each day.” Jeff Moss, Sesame Street songwriter.

Say hello to people you pass on the street (‘Good Morning,’) and work your  way up to chatting with neighbors, clerks and people waiting in line or waiting  to cross the street).

Keep It Up

Keep it up, and simple greetings will transform into short conversations and  a local network of neighbors.

Attend local community events: block parties, school plays, craft fairs,  theatre productions, live music.

Drop Christmas cards (or cookies!) off at your neighbor’s houses, shovel  someone’s walk or water their plants when they go on vacation, hire a neighbor  kid to mow your lawn.

4. Read the Ingredients

Food manufacturers rely on the general population’s disinterest in the  details when it comes to ingredients. They will use big labels or  official-looking check marks on packaging to advertise products as “low-fat,”  “natural” (an unregulated term), “whole grain,” and “100 calories.”  However, the ingredients  of these products often include artificial colors, flavors, thickeners,  genetically modified foods, and hydrogenated oils to keep costs or calories  down. Critics of these ingredients, including respected health experts, warn  that they can lead to everything from obesity, hyperactivity in children, heart  disease, and cancer (Sofia Layarda, MPH RD, Which  Food Additives to Avoid, healthcastle.org).

Guidelines

In her book Go  UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Gloria Tsang warns  that “highly processed foods are ‘the weakest link’ in any eating plan” and  provides 3 warning signs to look for in a 5 second scan: packaging that features  colorful cartoon characters are usually high in sugar, foods  advertised as fat-free use “thickeners and other artificial ingredients to  simulate the texture of the real thing,” and “look for an ingredient list that’s  not too long and includes ingredients you can actually pronounce.”

Keep it Simple

Read the ingredients on everything you purchase.

Keep it Up

If you commit to reading the ingredients on every purchase it will become a  habit and may eventually inform your choices.

For example, I was surprised to discover liquid sugar listed as the  4th ingredient in a popular whole grain meal for children and MSG in  the canned soups I’ve been eating for my entire life.

If you’re not sure what an ingredient is, Google it when you get home.

Eliminating, or even just reducing, one or two ingredients from your diet can  make a big difference.

3. Make Eye Contact

eye contact

Katrina Onstad writes that “the most potent tool of body language is eye  contact, at least in most Western cultures. Human mothers and infants require  eye contact to bond” and “evolutionary scientists propose that eye  contact came to be the cornerstone of communication because of the ‘cooperative eye hypothesis,’ which suggests that collaboration and cooperation  are optimized when our eyes are locked” (Why are We so Scared of Eye Contact? theglobeandmailcom).

Eye contact improves listening and helps the other person feel really  acknowledged. It is also an increasingly brave social act in an environment  where everyone else on the bus or on the street averts their eyes.

Keep it Simple

Look at people’s eyes and wait for them to do the same.

Keep it Up

Caution: if you make eye contact you might feel empathy, invoke a response  from the other person, or otherwise interact with others.

PS: eye contact should be casual and not make people feel uncomfortable.  Don’t be creepy!

2. Drink Water

According to mayoclinic.com, “every system in your body depends on water” and “even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired”.  In the  video above, Lynn Goldstein, a registered dietician, explains that water is an essential  ingredient for health and that it’s important to drink water BEFORE you are  thirsty – because thirst is often the first symptom of dehydration.

Exercise, climate, and other activities such as breastfeeding will increase  the amount of water needed, so there isn’t one amount that applies to all  people.

Basic Guidelines

The most well known recommendation to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day  is a good place to start.

64oz = ½ US gallon = 2 liters (approximately).

Keep It Simple

You can achieve this resolution by drinking more water than you did in  2012.

Keep It Up 

Consider incorporating one or more of these simple steps into your daily  routine:

1. Each day, drink a 16 oz glass of water first thing in the morning and  before each meal (maybe with a bonus 8 oz before bed just to top up).

2. Carry a water container around with you and use it to measure your  progress towards your target. You can use one 64oz water bottles or plan to fill  up a 1 litre bottle twice during the day, or whatever plan works best for  you.

3. Swap out the other beverages in your daily routine for water or at least  match them up. For example, alternate your coffee or cocktails with glasses of  water.

“Thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water,” so  Mayoclinic.com offers these simple indicators: “clear or light-colored urine  means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals  dehydration”.  You can used these guidelines to figure out how much water  you personally need to drink to remain hydrated and to stay on track. Like the  famous potty slogan says, “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow – go  drink some water.”

1. Hug More

Hugs improve everything from communication and self-esteem to the immune  system, according to Marcus Julian Felicetti’s article 10  Reasons Why We Need at Least 10 Hugs a Day at mindbodygreen.com.

Keep It Simple

If you are uncomfortable at first, just announce your resolution to your  friends – that’s what I did last year, and they hugged me! If  you’re still shy about it you can also practice on stuffed  animals or trees – whatever’s in arm’s reach.  Add a hug into every  greeting and good-bye with bonus spontaneous hugs whenever you feel like it.  Extra hugs for your kids and don’t forget your pets!

Keep it Up

In the same article, Felicetti shares a quote by Virginia Satir, who is  sometimes referred to as the mother of family therapy: “We need four hugs a  day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs  a day for growth”.

This article is a compilation of advice I have gathered over the years – not all my original thoughts – violating  one of my last year’s resolutions about using other people’s material


New Year’s

Resolution Sampler

Amazing Jobs! – Volunteered, Donated and FREE

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Amazing Jobs

People Do

For Free

The very nature of our capitalist society is that, for our labors, we receive monetary compensation. However, some work is unpaid. A breakdown of this unpaid labor might show that most are in the form of internships, where a person provides their services for free with the understanding that they will get paid later. The other big portion of “volunteer” labor would be forced community service, where doing work for free is a punishment for misbehavior.

There are some altruistic people who do unpaid charity work, like working with the less fortunate, but outside of charity people who do work for free are seen as odd, or being exploited somehow. With that in mind, here are 10 surprising jobs people in the world have done completely for free…

10. The Pirate of Massapequa

Two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hyman Strachman was drafted into the Army, serving in an intelligence unit in the Pacific. Being so far from home, he remembered the relief that movie night brought. Fast forward 70 years later and Strachman thought he could provide the same service to the men and women fighting overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. So then at that time, in his early 90s, for free and at his own expense, he started pumping out popular titles of bootleg DVDs. To improve his output he purchased a professional DVD copier and soon he was sending hundreds of DVDs to an Army chaplain, who would gift the pirate DVDs to the troops. His work made him a hero in the military, and until the war wound down in 2013 he pirated over 300,000 discs and sent them overseas.

Since he bought illegal bootleg DVDs off the street and then made hundreds of equally illegal bootleg copies, he was known as the “The Pirate of Massapequa.”His work made him famous and reporters lined up to interview him. While the RIAA went after single mothers and teenagers for bit or renting single songs, they dared not touch Strachman – a 90-something widower and WWII veteran supporting the troops. Even though he was committing a crime, he received many awards for his work and in 2015 Strachman was even honored by a Veterans Appreciation Breakfast hosted by Senator Michael Venditto.

Possibly due to the massive karma he received for his volunteer work, Strachman lived to the ripe old age of 97, dying on February 1, 2017, in his Massapequa, New York nursing home.

9. Maintain Guzzlers

Since the early part of the 20th century, in parched regions through Western America, the government set up water stations. Called guzzlers, these water centers support threatened animal and bird populations. Starting in the desolate parts of Oregon, they spread throughout the west, with 1,600 in Nevada alone.

They are often like larger, concrete versions of a water bottle in a hamster cage, and while some are filled with rainwater many regions are too dry and require top offs by someone who has to haul water deep into remote forests and scrubland. To keep away partying teens and unethical hunters that would camp out and shoot thirsty animals, the locations are kept top secret. Decades ago government funding for the guzzlers dried up, so now local volunteers keep them and the water they provide flowing. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) even has an “Adopt A Guzzler” program.

8. Professional Photographers Hate Him

In the age of smartphones, everyone has a camera. Already in war zones around the world, we can see citizen reports almost as soon as the incident takes place. The job of a paid photographer is changing and on the front lines is Gage Skidmore, a 20-something student who lives with his parents. Priceonomics’ Zachary Crockett calls him the “most prolific photographer you’ve never heard of.” On his Flickr account, he has over 50,000 photos that he has released under Creative Commons. Under Creative Commons, you can do whatever you want with the image, including reproduce it and sell it yourself, as long as you say that Skidmore took the photo (by the way, this feels like a good time to note that the picture used for this entry was taken by Skidmore). His most famous picture, a shot of Trump, is used on Trump’s MAGA web page.

Much like Deadheads who follow the Grateful Dead around America, Skidmore got his start following Ron and Rand Paul around the country. At first, he roped his parents into driving him around snapping shots of the Paul political dynasty. Then his friends and people with the same political beliefs chipped in, but what never changed was that he gave away his professional-grade photos. Along the way, he also took a number of shots of other candidates, further amassing his collection of public domain political photos.

Why does he give away his photos? Skidmore says, “as the Internet has become an integral part of our lives, photographers have had to adapt. Creative Commons is a vehicle that allows my photos to be received by a wide audience … I don’t need to sell my photos in order to have a meal the next day. In the long run, I’ll probably take a more traditional career path in the business world.”

7. Donating Pictures for Wikipedia and the World

Wikipedia thrives because its media, and even the text of every article, is in the public domain – meaning you can use everything on the website for free, with no copyright charges. This is fine for the text, but is telling for the visual images. Each picture has to be either donated to Wikipedia or already in the public domain. This restriction causes the quality to suffer as only very old or amateur, low quality images are copyright-free.

 Evan Amos vowed to change this by, for at least gaming articles, taking professional grade photos of gaming systems. Each of his photos is carefully staged, back-lit, beautifully captured, and then donated to Wikipedia at a high resolution (as you no doubt guessed, the above picture of a Sega Saturn – remember the Sega Saturn? – is one of his). He scours collectors across the country to track down rare, little know gaming consoles like the 1977 Bally Astrocade gaming system, and always donates the resulting pictures to Wikipedia and the world.

6. Man with the Golden Arm

When James Harrison was a young child he had a medical condition and had to get one of his lungs removed. Something happened during that operation, like Peter Parker getting superpowers when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Harrison also received superpowers; not Spidey-sense, but life-saving blood. Harrison’s blood prevents rhesus disease – a disease that kills thousands of babies a year. Known as “The Man with the Golden Arm,” according to the Australian Red Cross blood service, Harrison and his special blood have saved over 2 million babies.

A wise man said that with great power comes great responsibility, and James Harrison believes this, too. He doesn’t charge for his blood or donate it for any sort of profit, instead donating it and his time free. Because, let’s face it… you’re not much of a superhero if you’re basically holding the health of babies for ransom.

5. Amateur Detective Hunts Down Marathon Cheats

To participate in famous running events like the Boston Marathon you need to be consistently fast, famous, or running for thousands of dollars for charity. The status achieved by just running in these races is huge, so there is an entire underground industry of cheaters that get people into these races even though they don’t have the necessary qualifying times.

One way to get into the big marathons is to cheat on qualifying races. By cutting the course or even taking public transportation for part of the race (which, believe it or not, has happened), a runner can cross the finish line with a fast enough time. Another way is bib swapping (the bib being the racing number). You can do this by either buying a faster runner’s number or just paying someone to pretend to be you and run the marathon in your place. The final way would be to just find some way to hack the results and enter a faster time for you. Seen as a victim-less crime, these practices went on for years until people started to take action.

Cincinnati Business analyst Derek Murphy was one of those people. He spends hours tracking cheaters for free, and for the integrity of the sport. He developed an algorithm to investigate people who finished the race much slower than their qualifying time. He then used photos from the race to see if the same people ran both the qualifying race and the marathon. This was how he found that a high school educator had gotten someone to run the qualifying race for her. Eventually, from the 27,167 runners who started the 2015 Boston marathon, Murphy found 47 who cheated on qualifying runs. Of those, 29 were bib swappers, 10 were course cutters, 4 hacked their results, and another 4 got someone to run the race for them.

4. Sverker Johansson: Mr. Ten Percent

Swedish physicist Sverker Johansson is an impressive individual. Not happy with being an expert in one area, he holds multiple degrees including economics, particle physics, linguistics, and civil engineering. He also has a passion for spreading this knowledge and does so through the biggest online respiratory in history: Wikipedia.

Sometimes writing up to 10,000 articles a day, he alone is responsible for about 10% of all the articles on Wikipedia. Now, he isn’t doing this himself; he has developed a team of knowledge spreading bots that create and write the articles for him, but he still spends massive amounts of time supervising his bot army and making sure they stay on task. Which sounds like the origin story of the world’s nerdiest supervillain.

3. Dutch High School Student Creates Maps of the Syrian Conflict

For years the fabric of Syria has been ripped apart by civil war. At first, the media covering the stories pushed the narrative of a large group of rebels fighting the government. The reality on the ground is that there are dozens of groups fighting the government… and each other. Frustrated by this ignorance, Thomas van Linge, at the time a Dutch high school student, started making colorful maps that showed the shifting zones of control between the major Syrian groups. He then published his work on media sharing sites like Twitter for free.

Hours of his time goes into research and creating each map before van Linge posts his images. In an interview with Newsweek, he said he puts in so much time because, “I want to inform people mostly and show people the rebel dynamics in the country … I also want to inform journalists who want to go to the region which regions are definitely no-go zones, which regions are the most dangerous, and also to show strategic developments through time.” The public and the media see the value in his work, and his maps have been used and “cited on news stories in the Huffington Post, Lebanon’s Daily Star and Vox, as well as on the University of Texas at Austin’s website.”

2. Wikipedia Superstars

Wikipedia is probably one of the greatest resources of the modern age. A world of information at your fingertips. How big? Well according to the site itself, “as of 23 October 2017, there are 5,497,372 articles in the English Wikipedia.” With just a handful of paid staff, most of the work goes to editors who volunteer their time and expand the website, check the validity of its content, or more of the hundreds of daily tasks needed to keep the website going. However, the King of Editors is one man: Justin Anthony Knapp (username “koavf”), who was the first to do 1.5 million edits. In an article titled Seven Years, One Million Edits, Zero Dollars: Wikipedia’s Flat Broke Superstar, Knapp was asked why he works for free and he responded, “I’ve never accepted any restitution for my work on Wikipedia—it’s purely voluntary … Editing these projects is relaxing and rewarding—those are both premiums in any prospective job.”

Another Wikipedia editor with a mission is Giraffedata, aka Bryan Henderson. He’s in the top 1,000 editors of Wikipedia for the sole reason of changing what he views as the incorrect usage of  “Comprised of.” Henderson thinks that instead of using “comprised of” people should use “composed of” and so he goes through millions of Wiki pages and changes each instance… one at a time. He doesn’t even use a bot or script. Which is admirable, but man… that seems like taking nitpicking grammar to an entirely new level.

1. Cajun Navy

The United States of America has a mythos surrounding its citizens’ independence and their can-do attitude. Pundits always talk about a golden age when Americans only had themselves and their community to depend on. They went out into the West and built whole towns themselves with little to no government help. Alone in the wilderness, when disaster hit they only had themselves and the community to get the job done. This attitude of coming together in times of disaster has no finer example in the modern age than the Cajun Navy.

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and the surrounding region it also destroyed the local and regional government’s ability to help its citizens. Not waiting for the feds to reach them, people with small boats and local knowledge came to the rescue. Dubbed the Cajun Navy, this grassroots volunteer group used small boats and risked life and limb to pull victims out of the rising water. Now they and their boats are always on hand when disaster hits, deploying as recently as 2017 when Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston.


Amazing Jobs!

– Volunteered, Donated and FREE

Horrific Sea Creatures – Action Video!

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Terrifying

Sea Creatures

That Need

Their Own

Horror Movie

The surface of the Earth is 71% water, that water is home to some amazing and terrifying creatures. Some of these aquatic animals are rarely seen by humans and live in the murky depths of the ocean, while the others live near the surface and are quite dangerous to us. What they all have in common is that they are the stuff of nightmares.

 10. Gulper Eel

Eurypharynx pelecanoides, commonly known as Gulper Eels, are found in tropical and temperate waters around the earthat depths ranging from 165 feet to 1.8 miles. The eels have large mouths, which is where it gets its other name – Pelican Eels. Their large mouth allows the eels to swallow other animals, mostly crustaceans, even if the animal is bigger than the eel itself. The eels aren’t some small creature, either. They are usually about 30 inches long.

While they look pretty intimidating, they aren’t something you should ever worry about encountering because human sightings of them are pretty rare.

9. Dragonfish

Stomiidae is a family of fish that are better known as Dragonfish. There are 290 species, many of which look terrifying. For example, the Black Dragonfish has a striking resemblance to the Xenomorphs in the Alien franchise.

Dragonfish are found in oceans throughout the world, and one of their most notable features, which is found on most species, is its large mouth that’s lined with large fangs. The good news is that the Dragonfish have fairly weak jaws that close slowly. Their fangs are used to hold large prey in place while the jaw closes.

Some Dragonfish have bioluminescent photophores, which are organs that glow, so they are often found in extremely deep water where light doesn’t reach. So basically, don’t worry about encountering one if you’re taking a dip in the ocean. If you do, you have bigger problems to worry about, like the extreme cold and your lungs collapsing.

8. Anglerfish

National Geographic, who loves to show the beauty of the world, calls the Anglerfish “the ugliest animal in the world.” And we don’t disagree with their assessment, because Anglerfish are pretty hideous animals. There are over 200 species of them, and they generally live in the deep waters of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans, sometimes at depths of up to a mile.

In some species, the males and females look and act drastically different from one another. The females have a dorsal spine that sticks out over their head like a fishing rod, which is where they get their name. At the tip of the spine is a luminous organ and this light lures prey close to their gigantic mouths. Their mouths are so big that they can swallow prey twice their size. Often, females are no bigger than a foot long, but some species are up to 3.3 feet long.

The males, on the other hand, are much smaller; they only grow to be a few inches long. You may be thinking that must make for some awkward mating, and you would be absolutely right. What happens is that the males bite the females. Over time, they fuse their faces to the female’s body and that is how he’ll live out the rest of his life. When the female releases her eggs, the male releases his sperm. So not only are Anglerfish ugly, but they’re also clingy. But we’re sure they have great personalities, just so funny, you guys. Give them a chance, you might like them.

7. Sarcastic Fringehead

Sarcastic Fringeheads live in a depth range from 10 to 240 feet off the coast of California. Usually, they live in rocky cervices and shells, and only their head is exposed. The Sarcastic Fringehead has two traits that would be horrifying in a neighbor or a roommate: they are very territorial, and can’t see very well. If an animal, or a human hand, gets too close to their home, the Fringehead will open its mouth really wide and expose it’s fangs, making it look a lot like the Predator. If this doesn’t scare away the potential predator, the Fringehead will attack. Since they don’t have good eyesight, they will attack anything they feel threatened by. This includes animals that are much bigger than them, including humans.

The Fringehead also has one of the most unusual ways in the animal kingdom to settle territorial disputes. If a Fringehead moves into an area where another Fringehead is living, they “mouth wrestle” for the area. This involves them pressing their open mouths against one another, and the fish with the bigger mouth wins the territory. So if you have had to go through some hassle while moving into a new home, you should just be thankful that real estate deals among humans aren’t done in the same way as the Fringeheads. Well, that is, unless you have a gigantic mouth and love kissing strangers aggressively. Man, no wonder Mick Jagger lives so luxuriously.

6. Stargazer

Do you know someone in your life who doesn’t like to wade into the water at a beach because they can’t see the bottom, and don’t want to touch any marine life? Well, do not tell them about the Stargazer fish.

There are 51 species of Stargazers, and their most recognizable feature is that they have eyes on the top of their head. Another unique feature is that they bury themselves in the sand of the ocean floor, and wait to ambush prey. Some species also have traits that trick prey into getting closer. This includes gills that discharge water, which stirs up the sand. The Stargazer’s prey will think that it’s a smaller creature that they eat Then, once it moves in, the Stargazer sucks in the prey.

If the prospect of finding a grotesque face on the floor of the ocean staring up at you wasn’t frightening enough, the Stargazer also has venomous spines near its gills that can generate electric shocks that are about 50 volts. That means if you come across one, do not try to pick it up or step on it. The good news is that you probably won’t come across one, because they usually live in deep parts of the ocean. However, some have been seen in ankle deep water in Virginia Beach.

5. Alligator Gar

There are seven known species of Gar in the world, and the biggest is the Alligator Gar. They are scaly fish that are six feet long and weigh up to 300 pounds. They have a long, flat mouth, similar to an alligator (hence the name), which is full of incredibly sharp teeth. They are found in lakes, bayous, and bays in North and Central America.

While they look vicious and are as big as a large man, there are no confirmed incidents of Alligator Gar attacking humans. However, they do pose another risk to humans besides biting. Their eggs are poisonous if they are ingested. So if someone offers some Alligator Gar caviar at a party, you may want to pass.

4. Great Barracuda

Great Barracudas are found in tropical waters throughout the world, and are large fish that can be over five feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. They have two rows of razor sharp teeth that they use to rip apart larger prey. Another notable trait that makes them frightening is that they move pretty fast: they can reach speeds over 35 miles per hour. For some perspective, the fastest human swimmer, Michael Phelps, only reaches speeds of about 4.4 miles per hour.

Humans being attacked by Great Barracudas are incredibly rare, but it has been known to happen. They are responsible for at least two deaths in the United States, one in 1947 and another in 1957. There was another attack in 1960, where a diver was bit twice and needed 31 stitches to close the wounds. However, beyond that, barracudas generally leave humans alone. We can only assume it’s because they really appreciate Heart recording a bitchin’ song about them.

3. Reef Stonefish

Reef Stonefish live in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, and they get their name because they have camouflage skin that makes them look like reefs or rocks. Often they are just over a foot long, but there are reports of monster ones, about 20 inches long, being found in the wild.

Why the Reef Stonefish appears so high on this list is because they are considered the most poisonous fish in the world. The venom is transmitted by 13 spines in the dorsal fin, so people are usually stung when they accidentally step on one. Before the arrival of Europeans in Australia, there were several deaths caused by the fish. An antivenom was developed in 1959, so no deaths have occurred since then. However, a dozen people are stung every year and the stings are quite painful. The venom has both cardiovascular and neuromuscular toxins, meaning it will affect your muscle and cardiovascular system. Supposedly, the pain is immediate and intense. Some people have asked for limbs to be amputated because the pain got to be so bad. One victim said:

“I got spiked on the finger by a Stonefish in Australia. Never mind a bee sting; Imagine having each knuckle, then the wrist, elbow and shoulder being hit in turn with a sledgehammer over the course of about an hour. Then about an hour later imagine taking a real kicking to both kidneys for about 45 minutes so that you couldn’t stand or straighten up. I was late 20s, pretty fit physically and this was the tiniest of nicks. Got sensation back in my finger after a few days but had recurrent kidney pains periodically for several years afterwards.”

In case that story didn’t make it clear, if you’re in the waters or reefs of Australia, watch where you step.

2. Goliath Tigerfish

With a name that contains the words “Goliath” and “Tiger” you have to know that theGoliath Tigerfish is a sea creature that you don’t want to mess with. The fish is found in several rivers in Africa, and according to locals, they are the only fish that aren’t afraid of crocodiles. Supposedly, they even take bites out of them.

The biggest one ever found was 5 feet long and 154 pounds, but it’s believed that there are larger ones out in the wild. They have 32 jagged, razor-sharp teeth that are up to an inch long and when they bite, they can cut cleanly through prey. They also move quickly and are one of the fastest fish in the rivers.

Besides their speed, they have other senses that help make them fierce hunters. They can sense vibrations in the water, and they have excellent eye sight. They find prey in turbulent waters and since they are strong swimmers, they simply eat the weaker fish that are struggling with the current. Encountering one Goliath Tigerfish sounds terrifyingenough, but it’s even worse because they travel in packs (yeah, we know fish travel in schools, but that’s not as intimidating, OK?).

There are several stories of people being attacked by Goliath Tigerfish, leaving peoplewithout fingers, and in one case, a woman’s Achilles was cut. Another story involves people disappearing after falling off a riverboat. However, none of the attacks have ever been confirmed.

1. Geographic Cone Snail

Geographic Cone Snails are probably the least intimidating looking sea creature on this list, but they are probably the most dangerous. They are found in the reefs of the Indo-Pacific and sport six inch shells that have an intricate brown-and-white pattern.

The snails have teeth, which they fire off like harpoons and are full of a powerful venom called Conotoxin. Once a fish is hit, it becomes instantly paralyzed. The venom is also quite harmful to humans and there is no antivenom. What happens is that the venom spreads, paralyzing the body, including the diaphragm, which stops the person’s breathing. The only treatment for someone stung by a Geographic Cone Snail is to keep them alive and wait for the venom to leave their body. Sometimes this can take several hours… or it can take several weeks. Unfortunately, not everyone lasts that long. In fact, Geographic Cone Snails are responsible for dozens of deaths over the past century.

What’s interesting about the venom is that it’s a unique combination of compounds, and there are proteins in it that may be incredibly effective in pain-killing drugs. Studies have shown that it can be 10,000 times more potent than morphine and doesn’t have any of morphine’s side-effects.


Horrific Sea Creatures

– Action Video!

No Go Zone – Countries to Avoid

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10 Countries

You Should

Never Visit

Travel is a wonderful thing. It broadens your mind, it allows you to explore new horizons, and it can totally end up with you getting super-killed in the nastiest way possible. Yep, despite all you might hear about the awesome benefits you’ll get from going off the tourist track, the truth is that the tourist track is there for a reason: to stop starry-eyed dopes from getting killed. While it’s definitely possible for a seasoned traveler, war correspondent, or international super spy to visit all the following, we strongly suggest that you stay away.

 (Just some a quick note before we start. All these countries are places that would suck for a regular guy or gal to visit at the time of writing in 2017. They might be totally awesome ten years from now, so please don’t take our choices as a lifelong prohibition from visiting. Understood? Great! Then let’s begin with…)

10. Venezuela

If there was a competition for country most-likely to tip into civil war in the near future, the winner would probably be Venezuela. The Latin American socialist state boasts some of the most-spectacular natural wonders on Earth, more history than you can shake a proverbial stick at… and a president who seems hell-bent on driving his nation into the ground.

Soaring inflation has left essentials like medicine, toilet roll and food all but unaffordable. The average Venezuelan lost 19 pounds due to food shortages last year. There are rolling blackouts, paralyzing strikes, and pitched street battles in the capital, Caracas, between protestors and security forces that have killed nearly 40 in 2017 alone. And did we mention the violence? The murder rate is off the charts. As many as 28,875 people may have been homicide victims in 2015, from a population of 31.1 million. That would put modern Venezuela on a footing with Colombia at the height of its drug-fueled civil war.

The list goes on. The US State Department has a hair-raising account of mass-kidnappings, robbery with assault rifles, grenade attacks, and murderous criminal gangs targeting tourists. Despite all this, though, Venezuela’s crisis may yet be solved. If or when it is, one of the most-beautiful nations on Earth will once again be free for the rest of us to visit.

9. North Korea

Perhaps the most-isolated state, North Korea (DPRK) is also the one most-likely to disappear in a cloud of burning ash and nuclear fallout. Since coming to power after his father’s death, rogue dictator Kim Jong Un has tested 3 nuclear devices aimed at freaking out the international community. It has certainly worked. At time of writing, a war of words with the US seems in danger of spiraling into an actual war. One that could get very, very messy.

But let’s ignore all that for a second. Even if no devastating war comes, visiting the DPRK still isn’t one of the greatest ideas. The Kim regime directly profits from all outside visitors. That profit goes towards keeping a network of concentration camps in operation that the UN has called similar to Nazi Germany. Others have said they’re even worse. Crimes by one member of a family can result in everyone being interred, and for their descendants and their descendants’ descendants being worked to death. Tourism helps keep this decadent world ticking over.

Then there’s the issue of personal safety. The DPRK has a habit of arresting US citizensduring politically convenient times (editor’s note: this was written even before a US citizen was detained just this weekend), even when they haven’t committed any crimes. Given what we know about North Korean prisons, maybe it’s better to stay away altogether.

8. El Salvador

Since it overtook Honduras in 2015, El Salvador has had the highest murder rate in the entire world. The pint-sized Central American nation – roughly the size of Wales – has been a killer’s paradise for years. The murder rate in 2016 was 91 killings per 100,000, higher even than in Venezuela. The capital, San Salvador, recorded 137 homicides per 100,000. This was down from a staggering 190 in 2015. By way of comparison, the global average homicide rate is a mere 6.2. In 2015, you were over 200 times more likely to be murdered in El Salvador than you were in somewhere like Great Britain.

Interestingly, as a foreigner, you’re less likely to be targeted than a native. Most violence occurs between street gangs, and kidnappers tend to focus on snatching wealthy Salvadorians rather than gringo backpackers. Hence why we’ve put it way up here at number 8, above countries with demonstrably lower murder rates.

However, don’t let its ranking lull you into a false sense of security. Notorious street gangs like MS-13 have been known to target random buses and brutally slaughter everyone onboard, simply because the vehicle’s owner refused to pay an extortion fee.

7. Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been a basket case for so long now, it’s almost hard to believe it was once a laidback highlight of the “Hippy Trail” between London and Melbourne. Since then, it has become synonymous with bad times and brutality. Even today, 15 years after the fall of the Taliban, this Texas-sized nation of 32.5 million is still the sort of place where you don’t wanna travel without making prior funeral arrangements.

The causes are as familiar as they are depressing. Radical Islamist insurgents and mad warlords are running rampant over huge swathes of the country. The Taliban are experiencing a resurgence. Petty kidnappers are still addicted to the idea of whisking careless visitors away for ransom. In a show of strength, militants recently managed tostorm an Afghan army hospital, slaughtering nearly 40. There are suicide bombings, homicides, and general nastiness galore. Many governments advise against staying in hotels or visiting restaurants in case you end you evening messily splattered across an area the size of a football pitch.

At times, it can seem like peace will never return to Afghanistan. While we’ve no doubt things will one day settle down, that one day could be very far away indeed. Until it arrives, you’ll just have to content yourself with pictures of this tragically beautiful nation.

6. Iraq

Huge swathes of Iraq are still under the control of ISIS’s monstrous caliphate. Even in areas under Iraqi government control, they’ve got a grim track record of attacking and killing hundreds. And you better believe they target foreigners. According to the UK government, non-Iraqis living or working in Baghdad are considered “high value targets.” That means heightened risk of death, kidnapping, or even worse.

To be perfectly frank, traveling to Iraq at this time is more-or-less equivalent to just lying down in a coffin and shouting at people to bury you now. Even the stable, autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan infrequently suffers car bombings and attacks that would be massive news in almost every other country in the world, but barely raise a flicker of an eyebrow there.

 What’s especially heartbreaking about all this is that Iraq was once a paradise. The fertile marshlands between the ancient Euphrates and Tigris rivers are believed to have even been the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. To see it now is to see a region that has fallen a long, long way.

5. Central African Republic (CAR)

OK, this is the point where we move away from ‘the countries you probably shouldn’t visit’, and move onto ‘the countries you should definitely stay away from under any circumstances’. These countries all have no consular assistance for visiting Westerners, and most government websites warn against visiting them even if you absolutely have to. The reason? Extreme violence, or the threat of extreme violence accompanied by a breakdown of the social fabric so total it’d make Iraq look like a tourist’s paradise. First on this list of terror? Central African Republic (CAR).

A nation nearly the size of Texas, CAR is home to a mere 4.9 million people, all of whom are desperate to kill one another. The population is divided between Christian and Muslim communities, both of whom take turns seizing power and trying to eliminate the other. In 2013, it was the Muslims’ turn to persecute (read: kill) the Christians. In response, the Christians formed heavily-armed ‘anti-bakala’ militias and now they’re the ones doing the persecuting. The whole situation is as volatile as a washing machine full of homebrewed nitroglycerin, and just as likely to explode at any moment.

On top of all this, CAR is an extremely-poor, nearly undeveloped country, where getting around is next to impossible and most of the country is covered in impenetrable jungle. So, if everything does ignite while you’re there, getting away is gonna be very difficult indeed.

4. South Sudan

Another country that’s helpfully close-enough in size to Texas to allow easy comparisons, South Sudan is also the world’s newest nation. In 2011, the Christian country split from Muslim Sudan, declared independence and set up a capital in Juba. The wave of optimism this generated barely lasted 24 hours. The new government quickly fractured along ethnic and tribal lines and spiraled into a civil war that killed tens of thousands. Although the war is now over, South Sudan’s peace remains so fragile that traveling there is like wrapping your body in bacon, jumping in a piranha tank, and inviting them to chew.

Militias continue to terrify the country, with rival tribes using rape as a weapon to subdue their enemies. There are natural disasters to contend with, too. A miserable famine has gripped the country since the start of the year, and tens of thousands are at risk of starvation. Things are so bad that the UN has called the famine (along with similar famines in Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria) “the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.” Oh, and if you were to visit, there’s no guarantee you’d be able to leave. Last time a political crisis erupted, the borders were effectively sealed and the Juba airport closed, trapping visitors inside an exploding warzone.

3. Libya

Right, so we’ve now gone beyond the ‘countries you should definitely stay away from under any circumstances’ and entered a section of the list we’re gonna call ‘Jesus, you gotta be kidding me!’ Without exception, these three countries are in the grip of wars that have left no region untouched. Libya is merely the first of them. Once a sweltering north African country known for its stunning Roman ruins, Libya deposed its mad dictator in 2011 and tried to make it as a democracy. Instead, everything went to Hell.

There are at least two rival governments currently operating in the country, backed by different superpowers. An uncountable number of militias and rebel groups roam the countryside. ISIS have carved out a niche for themselves, despite heavy airstrikes against their camps. Terror attacks, skirmishes, and deadly fighting are all just facts of daily life. At least 6,000 have died in the continued fighting since 2014, on top of all those who died in the initial 2011 uprising and its aftermath. Westerners have been kidnapped or killed with impunity. Famously, this included US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the first American ambassador killed in the line of duty in 33 years.

Luckily, though, there are signs that things may be changing in Libya for the better. On May 3, 2017, a diplomatic breakthrough was reached between the rival governments. Hopefully, things in this beleaguered nation will soon be returning to something like normalcy.

2. Yemen

To look at pictures of Yemen’s capital of old Sana’a these days is like looking at a lost tale from the Arabian Nights. Yemen has always been poor, but it used to be justifiably recognized as one of the most picturesque, dream-like places on the planet. It was a land of history, of great, jagged mountains, ancient clifftop ruins, rocky deserts and fertile valleys. Today, though, Yemen is a land of violent rebel groups, uncontrollable disorder, and Saudi airstrikes that have left thousands dead and tens of thousands hideously wounded.

A strip of land below Saudi Arabia, roughly the size of metropolitan France, Yemen has been the focus of an intense bombing campaign by its bigger neighbor since late 2015. Rather than de-escalate the civil war and bring the Islamist rebels to justice, it sent the conflict into overdrive. January 2017 saw the 10,000th victim die, and large tracts of Sana’a’s hypnotic old city reduced to dust amid heavy shelling. With no end to the conflict in sight, Yemen will likely remain off everyone’s travel list for some time to come, which may be for the best. To see the wreck this once-wonderful country has become would be enough to make any visitor’s blood boil.

1. Syria

What other country could it possibly be?

Right now, Syria is the most-dangerous place in the world. If you can go, don’t. If you need to go, don’t. If you’re already there, get out as quickly and as safely as you can. That’s the sort of place we’re talking about here. A country where basic humanity has broken down, and demons now run amok in human form, doing things too terrible for us to even write about. If Hell has a physical manifestation, then it’s probably the frontlines of Syria’s awful conflict.

Since 2011, rebels, regime forces, militias, terror groups, and insane jihadists like ISIS have been murdering one another in a humanitarian black hole that has left between 320,000 and 500,000 dead. Torture, chemical weapons, genocide… you name it, if it exists and it is awful, it can currently be found in Syria.

Perhaps the worst part is there doesn’t seem to be any easy way out. So many international actors are meddling in the Syrian conflict that an easy solution seems impossible. Russia is bombing rebel territory. Turkey is bombing Kurdish positions. France, the US and Britain are bombing ISIS, and the US recently bombed a regime airbase too. Iran and Saudi Arabia are meddling. Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are involved. Maybe one day this intractable mess will be solved, but don’t count on it happening any time soon.


No Go Zone

– Countries to Avoid

Beer Garden Heaven USA – WIF Travel

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THE  BEST

BEER GARDENS

IN AMERICA

Radegast
RADEGAST | COLE SALADINO/THRILLIST
barleygarden
BRILLIANCE PHOTOGRAPHY

BARLEYGARDEN

ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA

A fairly recent addition to the ranks of America’s finest beer gardens, having just opened in April 2017, Barleygarden’s made what could have been a fairly stale suburban outdoor shopping plaza/ mixed use development… legitimately cool? Part of that legitimacy comes from owner Kraig Torres, whose Hop City has been making Atlanta beer drinking craftier for years now, and having big-time local chef/butcher Kevin Ouzts in the kitchen turning out charcuterie-centric grilled cheeses doesn’t hurt, either. Throw in a two-tiered open-air patio and the fact that you can take to-go drinks throughout the development and… maybe the suburbs aren’t so bad?

 

bangers austin
BANGERS

BANGER’S

AUSTIN, TEXAS

With over 100 beers on tap and 30+ house-made sausages, the sprawling, perpetually thronged Banger’s isn’t just one of Austin’s best beer gardens. It’s also one of its best beer bars. And one of its best booze-soaking sausage parties. And its best dog-friendly drinkery. And a great brunch spot. And… look, this is is a must-visit spot no matter how you slice it. But you should be slicing it with a couple hundred other thirsty revelers on a patio lit by hanging lights on a cool Austin night. Oh, it’s also one of the best places to hang out on a cool Austin night. Did we mention that this place rules? Or that they have a fantastic brunch. Or firkin tappings? Or…

Radegast
COLE SALADINO/THRILLIST

RADEGAST

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Now pushing a decade of ably providing Williamsburg residents (and guests) with all the liters of beer, beer-absorbing brats, similarly functioning pretzels and time-passing card games they can possibly handle, Radegast remains a favorite of the neighborhood and, more (or less?) importantly,Thrillist editors. There’s live music daily (which may or may not include an accordion player jovially foot-tapping on your table). There’s a retractable roof ensuring that your biergartening plans remain steadfastly weather-proof. There’s a good time to be had, every time.

VBGB Beer Garden
VBGB BEER HALL & GARDEN

VBGB BEER HALL & GARDEN

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Being located adjacent to the NC Music Factory makes VBGB an essential Charlotte stop if you’re headed to a concert. But even if it was located next to a ferret-breeding center (good lord, no!), this sprawling beer garden would be a must-visit. Beers flow from 30+ local-centric taps into 12-, 18-, and 34-ounce glasses, the latter of which could seriously hinder or help your abilities to play giant Jenga, Connect Four, and chess. But if you really want to channel your inner Maverick, there’s also a five-court volleyball sandbox where you’ll be too busy executing wayward spikes to lament the fact that there’s no Goose (Island) around to help you out.

 

sheffields beer garden
WILL BYINGTON PHOTOGRAPHY

SHEFFIELD’S

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Sheffield’s has evolved as an establishment over the years, evolving from a craft-centric dive to… a craft-centric dive with a BBQ-based menu and a bar-within-the-bar dubbed “Beer School” that has its own tap list. But changes aside, the welcoming beer garden has remained its constant spiritual center (yes, even in the punishing winter). The shade-giving cottonwood trees and vine-covered walls make it feel like you’re enjoying a beer in a friend’s backyard… if your friend happened to have the space to stock some 200 varieties of beer, including 40 on tap. No one has friends like that, which is why Chicago has Sheffield’s.

Park & Field
PARK & FIELD

PARK & FIELD

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

When Park & Field in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in winter 2016, it was abundantly clear that the colder months would just be a prelude to the real debut for the vintage-channeling sports bar, thanks to a simultaneously sprawling and cozy 6,000 square foot patio. OK fine, they didn’t necessarily wait entirely to use that outdoor space, thanks to some fire pits and Adirondack chairs, but beer-garden life is inarguably better when the sun is shining and you’re clutching a cold Half Acre and maybe some s’mores (yes, they still use those fire pits in the summer).

MECKLENBURG GARDENS

CINCINNATI, OHIO

Even tougher than Angela Merkel’s shoulder pads, this historic spot has survived for nearly 150 years — and not without a fight. When Prohibition came a-knockin’, Mecklenburg employed the services of a bootlegging boat to keep its customers hydrated. When it entered a ’60s slump, the management turned the place around into a Mobil (now Forbes) four-star restaurant and got the building on the National Register of Historic Places. And when debt closed its doors in 1982, it patiently waited for the current managers to come along and restore the place to its Bavarian glory. A story like that deserves a liter of Spaten. Lucky you, they’re happy to accommodate.

Truck Yard
TRUCK YARD DALLAS

THE TRUCK YARD

DALLAS, TEXAS

The grand beer garden tradition gets a healthy dose of ‘Murican influences at this 15,000 square foot space, styled with the finest trailer-park decor touches like crappy lawn chairs, spare tires, and scrap metal art. Even better? Food trucks slinging tacos and pizza are parked there every day, so you can go ahead and have another Shiner. Or another Community Mosaic IPA. Or another frozen trash can punch — beer gardens don’t have to be ALL about beer, you guys.

BAVARIAN INN

FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN

Frankenmuth is one of those weird wormholes of a town where most of the city is emulating a place halfway around the globe. But holy shit do they do it right. This is, in fact, a place sandwiched between Lakes Huron and Michigan where the men don lederhosen and the women squeeze into dirndls while carrying enough liters of beer to make a CrossFit enthusiast buckle at the knees… and that’s before they bring out an all-you-can-eat fried-chicken spread. Excessive? You betcha. But when you’re sitting on the humid patio of the massive property’s Schnitzelbank Bier Garten among hundreds of contented people with bellies full of beer and over-salted chicken, nothing else really matters… especially when the live polka band makes the rounds like a lederhosen-clad mariachi band.

The Rathskeller
THE RATHSKELLER

THE RATHSKELLER

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

“Rathskeller” translates to “basement beer hall,” but you’ll just have to overlook that as you resist the taxidermied charm of the moose heads lining the interior walls. The real attraction here’s the outdoor area, loaded with picnic tables and featuring a band shell for live music and plenty of thirsty Hoosiers. The beers are large, the people drinking them are friendly, and heat lamps stand guard to ensure the drinking continues deep into the night, even when the weather’s not ideal… weather seldom keeps a Midwesterner from a beer.

 

beer park vegas
ANTHONY MAIR

BEER PARK

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

You had to figure beer gardens would manifest themselves a bit differently in Vegas. Case in point: This Bud-sponsored, second-story oasis in Vegas. Because it has 100 beers available, including two dozen taps. But you should get bottles, since the tables have built-in ice troughs to keep them cold. The grounds are outfitted with turf. The open-air bar is surrounded by flat-screens. And there’s pool, cornhole, and giant Jenga. It’s like a high-tech biergarten theme park, and it’s incredible.

 

Estabrook Beer Garden
ESTABROOK BEER GARDEN

ESTABROOK BEER GARDEN

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

If you want to visit a quite literal beer garden, we direct you to Estabrook, a spot located in Estabrook Park along the Milwaukee River that’s so legit, it’s out of the public transit’s reach. (The official site recommends arriving by “foot, bicycle, automobile, kayak, or canoe.”) Estabrook prides itself on being a truly public beer garden, so patrons are encouraged to bring their own picnics or even steins. And if you’re not into providing your own food supply, complete the full-on Wisconsin picture and hit up the Friday fish fry.

 

the pharmacy nashville
MIMOSA ARTS

THE PHARMACY BURGER PARLOR & BEER GARDEN

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

Slinging some of Nashville’s best burgers along with a murderers’ row of some of the finest German and Belgian beers available in Nashville, the Pharmacy would be a great bar even before you stumble onto the beer garden. This is a place that takes the “garden” part of that word mighty seriously, with tons of crowded tables shaded by overhanging trees and rows and rows of greenery. And at night, the place takes on an almost ethereal glow under the hanging lights. It’s kind of likeThe Secret Garden, though considering it’s always crowded, we’re guessing that the secret got blown long ago.

 

Bayou Beer Garden
BAYOU BEER GARDEN

BAYOU BEER GARDEN

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Surrounded with palm trees and rocking multiple flat-screens, the sprawling Bayou Beer Garden is like a glorious melding of beachside bar, sports-centric drive-in theater, and raucous New Orleans beer bar all rolled into one. The place rocks 180 global beers to choose from — including 24 rotating taps — that you can pair with everything from amped-up crab-cake bites to Disco Fries loaded with roast beef debris. And if for some reason you wandered into a beer garden with somebody who hates beer, the nearly identical adjoining Bayou Wine Garden helps you split the difference.

 

Prost!
PROST!

PROST!

PORTLAND, OREGON

Portland’s blessed with tons of great beer served at picnic tables. But Prost! has long been the king of local biergartens. It’s not just the fact that the dog-friendly outdoor deck is equipped with its own bar that serves up a wide array of German beers in its proper glassware, though that’s a huge plus. It’s also situated next to a food cart cluster where you’re welcome to go grab a sushi burrito or vegan BBQ if the excellent schnitzel from Prost! doesn’t do the trick. The joint — located on the wildly popular Mississippi drag of Portland hipness — also hosts a glorious Oktoberfest party, and the owners recently bought the entire property and the adjoining cart pod. If you don’t live in Portland, that just sounds like good business. In a neighborhood where beloved businesses are razed daily to make room for condos, it means that the carts — and the biergarten — represent a longtime anchor in a neighborhood whose identity changes with more regularity than this institution’s taps.

 

bohemian beer hall
FLICKR/WALLY GOBETZ

BOHEMIAN HALL & BEER GARDEN

QUEENS, NEW YORK

Established in 1910, this Astoria institution has seen more beer-soaked nights than 35 frat houses combined. The place is owned and managed by a Czech and Slovak community group, and those influences are apparent in dishes like the fried muenster and drafts like Staropramen. Oh, and in the absolutely massive beer garden — the Czechs and Slovaks like beer, in case you haven’t heard.

BIERGARTEN

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

After six years in business, Biergarten has established itself as a big dog in a city that isn’t exactly hurting for great spots to drink beer outside. The extremely limited beer selection (don’t fix what ain’t broken) leans Bavarian, and comes by the liter or half liter. Food’s less traditional, with brats and currywurst holding court next to burgers and pretzel dumplings. And everything here is served up on a massive patio with a lone centerpiece tree holding court over everything from Friday movie nights to raucous happy-hour drinking.

 

Lowry Beer Garden
LOWRY BEER GARDEN

LOWRY BEER GARDEN

DENVER, COLORADO

Sure, this beer garden is situated on the grounds of a former Air Force Base, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sweeping views of an old B-52 bomber (courtesy of the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum next door) from any of the 225 seats outside. Colorado cools off when the sun goes down, but two outdoor fire pits, 16 taps of Colorado’s finest suds – Avery, Odell, and Left Hand among them — and a panoply of “creatively topped” brats and burgers — like the B-52 Bomber with double bacon, mushrooms, onions, and blue cheese — will keep you plenty warm if the beer doesn’t during one of the venue’s many outdoor concerts on a cool summer night.

rhein haus
COURTESY OF RHEIN HAUS

RHEIN HAUS

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Now that lawn darts have been outlawed, bocce ball has become the de facto sport for launching potentially injurious projectiles toward competitors, and it’s the game of choice at this Seattle institution. That mostly goes down at the courts inside this 420-seat beer hall, while the massive outdoor biergarten lets you cool off/calm your pulse after almost being beaned by a wayward ball over German-centric pints in the packed, sunny (well, it’s Seattle, so that’s relative) biergarten. Indoor or out, it’s the perfect collision between German food/drink and Italian sports that you never knew you needed.

 

american fresh beer garden
COURTESY OF AMERICAN FRESH BEER GARDEN

AMERICAN FRESH

SOMERVILLE, MASSACHUSETTS

You don’t necessarily expect to pair a trip to a top-flight beer garden with a trip to Legoland and maybe some sensibly priced khakis from J. Crew, but such is the existence of American Fresh, the cool kid in Somerville’s otherwise somewhat corporate-feeling Assembly Row development. Run by Somerville Brewing Company, it augments plentiful craft drafts with a funky, colorful space flanked by shipping containers supplying merch and sustenance (don’t miss the pretzel). Also, this beer garden’s equipped with a heated tent, and thus impervious to Nor’easters.

 

Dacha
DACHA

DACHA

WASHINGTON, DC

Opened back in 2013 by a couple of Russians with an affinity for German beer (you know, before “Russian” appeared in every fifth news headline), Dacha has become a DC day-drinking must thanks to an airy mural-backed beer garden where you can rest easy knowing you’re in equally good hands if you’re feeling like downing a crisp lager from das boot or helping yourself to something hop heavy. In a similar vein, the menu blends beer garden musts like pretzels that are equal parts large, soft, and delicious with less expected fair like rabbit croquettes and beer-braised goat poutine.


Beer Garden

Heaven USA

– WIF Travel

Post Office Madness – WIF Travel

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Craziest Post Offices

on Earth

(and Beyond)

Going to the post office can be one of the most mundane—and dreaded—items on your to-do list. But if you’ve ever had the chance to visit any of the outposts below, you know that not all post offices are boring. Here are 10 crazy post offices that make mail delivery seem exciting…

 10. Peach Springs and Supai, AZ

The post office in Peach Springs, Arizona isn’t much to look at—just a squat yellow brick building that seems about the right size for a town with a population of just over 1,000 residents. The physical facility is unremarkable, except for one unusual feature—the only walk-in freezer found in a post office in the continental US. Why does it need this? The Peach Springs post office has a very unusual mission—delivering mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon–and that cargo includes a lot of perishable groceries. The tiny town of Supai, populated by a few hundred members of the Havasupai tribal nation, sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Supai has its own tiny post office, and residents and tourists are rely on the USPS to deliver all the provisions that aren’t otherwise available at the bottom of the canyon.

So, after the mail makes the 70-mile trip to the canyon rim from Peach Springs, how does it get down to Supai? Helicopter transport is expensive and unreliable, as choppers can’t fly during periods of high winds. Enter the “mule train,” a caravan of up to 50 horses and mules, guided by intrepid riders, carrying up to 200 pounds each of mail and packages that make the 8-mile trek down to the base of the canyon and then eventually back up, carrying outgoing mail and trash. At least 2 mule trains are operating at any given time, so the mules, horses, and riders are able to rest overnight in the village before making the return trip back up the next day. Mail sent from Supai bears a special postmark, indicating that it traveled by mule train to reach its destination. Despite the inherent difficulty of the journey and the extreme conditions faced by riders and mules, scheduled mail delivery has only been skipped twice since 1999.

9. Inside the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower holds a lot of history within its iconic frame, which was originally constructed for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It also holds shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, a conference room, a replica of Gustave Eiffel’s original office at the top of the tower, and one more surprising facility: a post office, which is found on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower’s south pillar.

While this post office may seem to be a present-day concession to tourists, the Eiffel Tower has had a post office since it has been open to the public (it was, after all, built for an exposition designed to attract visitors from around the world). The original post office wassituated at the top of the tower, where, after riding an elevator, fairgoers could mail postcards from more than 900 feet above ground. Postmarks from the original post office read “Sommet de la Tour Eiffel” (Summit of the Eiffel Tower), or, for less intrepid tourists, after the ground floor post office was added, “1er Etage de la Tour Eiffel” (First floor of the Eiffel Tower) while the contemporary Eiffel Tower post office offers a more generic postmark, which doesn’t specify its less exalted present-day location within the tower.

8. Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

With post offices closing by the hundreds across the globe—including in the US, the UK,South Africa, and Germany—you may find yourself complaining about the inconvenient “trek” to a more distant post office or having to contend with more-limited operating hours in your local branch. However, one post office can put issues of accessibility and availability in perspective—the China Post office located in the Mount Everest Base Camp.

The post office, which is actually more of a post tent, has been present (seasonally) at the Everest Base Camp since 2008. Sitting at 5,300 meters, it’s purported to be the world’s highest post office. However, because of the extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the post office has a rather short operating window—from late April to August each year, when conditions permit a temporary road to open up from base camp to the town of Tingri. This remote outpost operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during those months, not including a noontime break for the post office’s three workers (apparently, there is no altitude at which postal workers will not adhere to their break schedules). There is a markup on the usual postcard rate to compensate for the challenges in transporting mail from the top of the world to its destination—as of 2016, the post office charged about $1.45 USD to mail a postcard to the UK, whereas elsewhere in Nepal, mailing a postcard would cost about $0.30 USD.

7. Underwater (in Vanuatu)

Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, faces a potentially grim future as the result of climate change, with some experts suggesting much of the archipelago could eventually be submerged because of rising sea levels. However, there is one facility in Vanuatu that is already (deliberately) submerged beneath the tides—the world’s only underwater post office, located within Vanuatu’s Hideaway Marine Sanctuary.

The post office sits about 10 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Opening hours are posted on a nearby beach and a special flag is hoisted to float on the surface when the postal workers (wearing scuba equipment) are staffing the post office. The post office has been open since 2003 and several Vanuatu Post staff members received open water dive training to be able to man the location. Divers or snorklers are able to mail special waterproof postcards at the underwater outpost (if snorklers can’t dive down to the post office, staff members will help get the postcard down to the ocean floor). Because the postcards can’t be cancelled using traditional ink, Vanuatu Post developed a special embossing device to cancel the postcards.

6. Aogashima Island, Japan (…on an active volcano)

Why would you put a post office on an active volcano? Even Vanuatu Post (yes, Vanuatu is apparently at the epicenter of postal innovation), only put a postal box on the crater of Mt. Yasur, where visitors can mail letters steps away from molten magma spewing into the air. However, on Japan’s Aogashima Island, there’s really nowhere else to put a post office—the island is a volcano (actually 4 overlapping calderas).
 The population of the isolated island, less than 200 people, are served by a tiny post office which transmits mail to and from mainland Japan (Tokyo is about 200 miles to the south of the island). Life on the island can be described as “sleepy,” with residents (mainly farmers and fishermen) enjoying the slow pace of island life, the beauty, and volcanic hot springs that comprise the island. However, the volcano is still considered active. The last time the volcano erupted (in 1785), about half the island’s inhabitants perished, though modern-day inhabitants have the benefit of a volcano alert system that has been operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency since 2007. As of 2017, no alerts have been issued for the island, meaning that Aogoshima’s population, and its tiny post office, have had no cause to consider moving away from their volcanic outpost.

5. Ny-Alesund, Norway

Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost civilian settlement—an unincorporated town on a peninsula, home to more than 10 scientific research stations that draw scientists from around the world, 30 year-round residents, and as many 120 residents during the summer. It is also the site of the world’s northernmost post office. Whereas the town’s origins are related to mining and expeditions to the North Pole, today, the town’s activity is largely driven by research and tourism. Given that the town now enjoys fiberoptic internet connections to the rest of the world, Ny-Alesund’s tiny post office exists largely to serve tourists, who arrive at the town via cruise ship.

Ny-Alesund has long served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole and, given that it is the most proximate post office to Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop, you might expect that the post office is busy processing letters to Santa from children across the globe. However, Santa’s mail does not pass through Ny-Alesund. Instead, that flood of Christmas correspondence is handled by the United States Post Office in North Pole, Alaska.

4. J.W. Westcott II, Marine Post Office

Even as the US Postal Service makes cutbacks, at least one US post office has found a way to stay afloat… literally. The J.W. Westcott II, a 45-foot mail boat that serves freighters traversing the Detroit River, is the nation’s (and likely the world’s) only floating post office.

The J.W. Westcott Company of Detroit has been conveying messages between merchant sailors, who are often aboard ship for months at a time, and their loved ones since 1874. Mail delivery began in 1895 and the boat has been a registered post office since 1948. The company motto is “mail in the pail,” which literally described how the mail, even today, is often hoisted aboard freighters using a rope and a bucket. The J.W. Westcott II even has its own zip code—48222—and mail delivered to the freighters is to be addressed:

Vessel Name
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222

Like many post offices, the J.W. Westcott has seen a decline in mail volume, as email enables families and friends to stay in touch more immediately, even aboard ship. However, the company, which also delivers for UPS and FedEx, reports that it has seen an increase in package delivery. The company’s contract with the USPS runs to 2021, and the company’s owner sees a long future for his floating post office, pointing out that he has diversified into personnel transportation and that drone technology may never be cost-effective enough to compete in the delivery of low-value bulky goods like paper towels.

3. The Washington Park and Zoo Railway at the Portland Zoo

Today, the idea of a post office on a train may seem like a quirky novelty, and it doesn’t helpthat the only railway left in the US that offers mail service and its own authorized postal cancellation, was originally planned as a “kiddy train” at the zoo and was sited to serve Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Celebration. But while “mail by rail” now seems like an anachronism, it was once the gold standard for express mail delivery in the United States.

From 1862 to 1977, the Railway Post Office (RPO) operated postal cars, which offered mail sorting and cancellation on trains that crisscrossed the country, operating on 794 routes at its peak. However, as mail sorting became an automated task, it was increasingly moved to and from large regional processing centers by truck. While the Washington Park and Zoo Railway offers the only postal car operating in the US on a regular basis, another mail car recently rolled again. The 40th anniversary of the last RPO rail train was celebrated on May 6, 2017 (which is National Train Day, in case you didn’t mark your calendar), with the Northern Pacific #1102, its RPO car (one of only two known to still be in working order) and postmark coming out of retirement for a one-day commemorative mail run.

2. Penguin Post Office, Antarctica

One continent’s most popular tourist attraction is its post office. If you guessed Antarctica, which, despite its abundance of natural beauty, has few other tourist facilities to compete with its tiny post office, you’re right! The so-called “Penguin Post Office” is located on the Antarctic Penninsula at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, making it the world’s most southerly post office.

The post office, which is operated by the UK Heritage Trust on behalf of the government, is open for less than 5 months a year (during the Antarctic summer from November to May). Who uses the post office? While Port Lockroy has thousands of residents, most of them are penguins, so the 70,000 post cards that are sent annually from the office come mostly from the 18,000 or so tourists who arrive every year via cruise ship.

Manning a post office at the bottom of the world, a role that pays $1,700 a month, and involves, as one member of the four-person team staffing the post office put it, “being confined to an island the size of a football pitch,” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, hundreds of applicants have vied for a spot in recent years, perhaps inspired by documentaries on the Penguin Post Office that aired on the BBC and PBS.

1. China Post Space Office aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, 213 miles above Earth

The final post office on our list is out of this world—literally. Established in 2011, the “China Post Space Office,” has two outposts—one on the ground of mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Command and one more than 200 miles above the Earth in the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The post office even has its own zipcode—901001—and a special postmark that reads “Beijing” and “Space” in simplified Chinese.

Mail will be processed through the terrestrial branch, but emails can be routed through a computer aboard the unmanned spacecraft before returning to Earth to be printed out for commemorative mail. While this roundabout virtual space mail may be exciting only to true space aficionados, officials have indicated that future iterations will allow the public to send letters to astronauts and/or allow physical mail to be transported to space before returning to Earth for delivery.


Post Office Madness

– WIF Travel