Category: Site News

foXnoMad’s Got A New Look

foXnoMad logo
You might have noticed this site looks very different today since for the first time in 7 years, I’ve given it a major redesign and a new foXnoMad logo to go with it. I have a lot planned for you in the coming weeks so it seemed only appropriate to freshen up my digital wardrobe. Please let me know what you think of the new style and any bugs you might come across that need ironing out.
It’s hard to specify what the changes are because the look is completely different, although in function, foXnoMad more or less works the same. Comments are sorted by your ratings up or down (the little green and red arrows) to help you navigate the longer discussion threads by putting the most useful comments at the top. You’ll notice the most popular posts are listed to your left, where you’ll also find a powerful search engine for foXnoMad. Mobile versions have also been given a refresh.
Also, regular posts will resume this week (I had taken some time to work behind the scenes on the aforementioned upcoming plans) plus I’ll be announcing a complete travel schedule for the rest of the year. Thank you all for your feedback and support. I hope you like the fox’s shiny new coat.

Journalist Richard McColl Talks About Colombia’s Forgotten City, Mompos

Richard McColl is a freelance journalist and author based in Bogota, Colombia. He is currently pursuing a PhD and also runs a small hotel, La Casa Amarilla, in colonial Mompos. His podcasts “Colombia Calling” can be downloaded on iTunes and Stitcher. After my recent trip to Colombia I was able to catch up with Richard who talks about Mompos, opening a hotel, and how tourism in the country has changed over the past 10 years.
Note: Richard is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to turn his podcast into a magazine, you can learn more about the project and support his campaign here.
richard mccoll
Richard, how did you end up in Colombia?
It seems like a long time ago that I decided to move to Colombia! I moved here full time in 2007 after almost 6 years of freelance writing, guiding and organizing social projects all over Latin America. I had come here to Colombia on a few occasions before, once with the environmental NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to report on the state of the communities on the Pacific Coast and write about the mangroves. It was quite the adventure at a time when this region of Colombia truly was off-limits and I guess I was left with a real feeling of affection towards the people. Something about Colombia always kept drawing me back here and finally after working and traveling in every country in the region, I decided to go about getting my journalist visa and make my move here permanent.
What changes have you noticed in the time you’ve been in Colombia?
Colombia has most definitely changed since I moved here in 2007. There has been a huge increase in tourism. Back in the day, if you saw another foreigner in the street you would stop to chat with them so infrequent was this occurrence, now, you cannot swing a cat without seeing or hearing another gringo in some parts of town! Of course this is a direct result of increased and improved security in many regions of the country… and of course perceived improvements in security. Colombia was an unknown destination for obvious and justifiable reasons, now it seems to be a fashionable destination.
La Casa Amarilla mompos
What type of traveler would Mompos interest most?
Mompos is not for everyone, I’ll be the first to admit this. It is an adventure because it still represents an older and more forgotten Colombia where a colonial town – which still belongs to the locals unlike a city such as Cartagena – maintains its authenticity and atmosphere. If you are interested in architecture, history and nature  – as we are located in the middle of a huge wetland filled with bird-life – then this is the place for you. This is not a destination which will overwhelm you with activities to tick off on a list but if you want to soak up an original feeling, wander through an open-air museum, perhaps shop for locally made jewelry and enjoy somewhere where you feel as if you are the only tourist and a pioneer, then Mompos should be on your list.
Many tourists don’t seem to know about Mompos, why do you think that is?
Mompos doesn’t appeal to everyone nor is it part of the “first wave” of destinations to visit in Colombia. As it is quite far away – which is an attraction for some travelers – can be off-putting. It is still very much a pueblo in that it’s a small town and the tourist infrastructure is in its infancy really. Mompos is not ready for a huge wave of tourism either, it needs to come in measured fashion so as to protect what is here and provide an economic stimulus for the town without being damaging.
la casa amarilla mompos colombia
What are some of the easiest ways to get to Mompos from Bogota and Medellin?
The best way in my opinion is to fly from Bogota or Medellin to the airport of Corozal. From here you can catch a car to Magangue and cross the river to Mompos from there.
Many travelers are often heard saying they want to open a hostel/hotel but few actually do. How did La Casa Amarilla go from idea to reality?

Yes, moving from the chatter about opening an establishment to actually doing so is a big step. In my experience, I actually just bought a wreck of a colonial house before having the idea of opening a hostel. I just wanted to restore a house. It then became evident that in order to do so and to maintain the house the building needed to generate an income since the upkeep of a colonial house in the tropics is expensive. Now, we are no longer a hostel but a very good mid-range hotel with only 10 rooms and catering to people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Also, in Mompos I had to go about changing the idea that people had here of what an international tourist really wanted, there was no real understanding of the market…it has been a long but rewarding process.

How would you recommend someone plan a trip around Colombia, including Mompos on the itinerary?
Colombia is blessed with so much to see and this can also be her downfall. So, it kind of depends on how much time you have and what you want to get out of your trip. If you only have a week or two then my recommendation is to focus on some small areas and to fly in between cities to save time. If you have longer then you have more options open to you.
As there are now direct flights from the U.S. to Cartagena and Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast, the options for discovering some of the north coast are quite ample. You could go to Cartagena for its sophistication, Mompos for forgotten Colombia, up to Santa Marta and Tayrona Park for beaches, beyond into Minca for nature and then circle back to Cartagena for your flight.

Or if you want to head first to Bogota and then go North, then why not follow a colonial route of Colombia. You could go from Bogota to Villa de Leyva, to San Gil and Barichara, on to Mompos and then to Cartagena. This way you cover half of the country. Of course, don’t write off Southern Colombia either. Bogota, San Agustin, the Coffee Zone, Popayan and Cali are well worthwhile too!
Thank you very much Richard for taking the time to share your knowledge about Mompos and traveling in Colombia. You can hear more about what Richard’s advice from all around Colombia on his podcast “Colombia Calling” which you can find on iTunes and Stitcher.

I Started This Blog 10 Years Ago Today

red fox
I can’t believe I just typed out that title. I recalculated it a number of times to make sure I wasn’t adding an extra couple of years but that’s right, 10 years ago on this date I wrote the first foXnoMad post.
A Short History Tale
Back then in 2006, this was a blog I created for a few friends and myself, so we could keep in touch. After a few weeks, I was the only one actually posting – a process that was surprisingly enjoyable. There’s a lot of crap from those early posts and it would have probably continued that way, until someone other than my mother left a comment. After a complete stranger had found foXnoMad (it wasn’t even named that yet) it occurred to me maybe I should put some effort into what I wrote on the Internet.
So I focused on two things I knew and was passionate about: travel and technology. Some time later foXnoMad took off with me following, on a journey that is now a quest to visit every country in the world.
Catching Up With Time
I move around. A lot. Constant motion means I’m continually balancing writing with traveling. Over the years, I had been keeping pace but didn’t have much opportunity to eliminate a pesky to-do list, plus turn some other ideas into reality. Not so much now, over the past 6 months I’ve been (more or less) in one place and in front of a laptop longer than I’ve been in years.
You’ll see the results of this temporary slowdown soon throughout the rest of 2016, most likely while I’m exploring some jungle I shouldn’t be in or testing any rational person’s fear of heights.
A Big Thank You
All of this – my dream to travel the world and write about the places I visit is because you read and support this blog. (Plus the blogger behind it.) I look forward to continuing the trip with you as foXnoMad expands later this year beyond anything I could have imagined in 2006.
Travel smarter,
[Photo by: GDallimore]

A Look Back At The Winners Of The Best City Contest: An Instagram Photo Essay

best city winners instagram foxnomad
The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is an annual occurrence on this site, one I’ve hosted every March since 2009. It gets rolling around early February, when you begin nominating cities, with votes every week to narrow down the selected cities to one best city. Over the past few weeks on my Instagram @foxnomad, account I’ve been taking a look back as I look forward to visiting the 2016 winner, Lisbon.
Best City 2009 – Sydney, Australia

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on May 10, 2016 at 12:24pm PDT

Although The Best City To Visit Travel Tournaments began in 2009, I didn’t make it a tradition of visiting the winning city each year until 2011. However, I did make it to Sydney, which defeated Negril, Jamaica by a single vote, several years later. I still haven’t been to Zermatt, Switzerland, the 2010 winner though.
Best City 2011 – Porto, Portugal

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on Apr 25, 2016 at 4:45am PDT

2011 was the year I began visiting the winning city and the Portuguese voters made my trip to Porto an incredible time. I discovered the heart of Porto beats art, got special access to Harry Potter’s birthplace, and heard the story of Eiffel’s battle of bridges.
Best City 2012 – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on Apr 26, 2016 at 4:03am PDT

The nomination of Sarajevo in 2012 ignited the Best City Travel Tournaments to come. Mentions on local news media, talk shows, I was touched by the passion of the people who brought me to Sarajevo. Saying a place has “a lot of history” is often overused but in such a small area, few can match Sarajevo – including the bridge where World War I bizarrely began.
Best City 2013 – Sibiu, Romania

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on Apr 27, 2016 at 12:25am PDT

A massive social media campaign by Sarajevo’s supporters was thought to be insurmountable, until the Romanians showed up in numbers to the Best City tournaments. Appropriately, the surprisingly optimistic Sibiu whose Christmas market transforms the town, was the first of three Romanian back-to-back wins.
Best City 2014 – Craiova, Romania

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on Apr 28, 2016 at 4:25am PDT

When Craiova, a small industrial city hoping to turn itself into a tourism hub in southwestern Romania won the Best City Travel Tournament in 2014, many who didn’t vote for it were upset. I can easily say that’s because they never made a trip to visit the people who brought me there in the first place. Here’s more of what Craiova looks like, and it may surprise you.
Best City 2015 – Targu Jiu, Romania

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on Apr 29, 2016 at 3:35am PDT

Returning back to Romania was a pleasure, especially to explore a new city in the country. Targu Jiu is a tiny town that lights up during Christmas, with many good places to eat and a strong artistic heritage.
2016 – On To Lisbon
At the end of the 2015 Best City Travel Tournament, many thought the Romanian cities were unstoppable but then, a country with winning experience returned: Portugal. Ending the three-year Romanian streak Lisbon won Best City in 2016. I’m currently making plans to visit later this year to, among other things, donate $1,000 to a local charity in person.
Several things still hold true after a 7 years of best city contests: no city has ever won twice nor has any one person won more than one tournament. Sign up for my free bi-monthly newsletter so you don’t miss best city 2017 but for now, this year is all about Lisbon.
You can find and follow my travels on Instagram @foxnomad and let me know if you have any tips on things I shouldn’t miss in Lisbon in the comments below!

The Romanian Streak Ends: Lisbon, Portugal Wins The 2016 Best City To Visit Travel Tournament

lisbon at night
For the first time in 3 years, the winner of The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is not a Romanian city. Despite Targu Mures moving all the way to the final, Portugal was able to win the competition for the second time ever. Back in 2011, Porto won The Best City contest, and your votes will send me to Lisbon some time this year. Lisbon got a lot of help from Visit Portugal, the country’s official tourism board to counter a great Romanian effort.
best city 2016 bracket
Romania Not Gone
Starting with Sibiu back in 2013, followed by Craiova in 2014, then Targu Jiu last year, Romanians enthusiastically voted their cities the best, sending me to the beautiful country multiple times. I’ll be writing about Targu Jiu in the coming weeks, as well as highlighting why Romania’s wins aren’t so surprising, especially if you’ve been there before. For now though, the Romanian three-in-a-row streak ends and several trends still hold.

  • No city has ever won back to back tournaments.
  • No person has ever won back to back tournaments.
  • No city has ever won twice.
  • Prior to them winning the tournament, I’ve never been to the winning city.
  • //
    Lisbon vs. Targu Mures: The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2016 Championship
    A Prize For Lisbon
    Congratulations to Mira, who originally nominated Lisbon several weeks ago. Back then I announced the person who nominated the winning city would win $500; in addition I would donate $500 to a local charity. Mira’s asked me to use her portion of the prize to contribute to a non-profit she’s selected. I’ll be writing about the organization when I visit Lisbon this year, hopefully to make the $1,000 contribution in person.
    Thank You Everyone
    The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament has grown every year thanks to your nominations, votes, and participation. Your involvement over the past few weeks and every year is greatly appreciated and I look forward to an even bigger contest next year!
    Let me know if you have any suggestions or would like to see any changes to the tournament in the comments below. And if you’ve been to Lisbon or are from there, send me your travel tips too!
    [Top photo by: Lacobrigo]

    Vote Now In The Best City To Visit 2016 Championship: Is It Targu Mures Or Lisbon?

    best city 2016 championship
    Welcome to The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2016 Championship. Both of these cities have been through 4 rounds of your votes, but neither London nor New York City could stop Lisbon or Targu Mures. Romanian cities have won the past 3 tournaments but remember that a big social media push by Porto won them the title Best City in 2011. Although there won’t be a new country named with a Best City this year, for both Targu Mures and Lisbon it would be a first. (And somehow for me too as I’ve never been to either city.)
    How To Vote
    To vote, click your favorite city in the poll below. You’ll be asked for an email address, once you’ve voted, that vote won’t be counted until you click a confirmation link in an email sent to you by Poll Daddy. Neither them or I collect your email address, they’re only used for vote confirmation. You have until Friday, 6pm US EST to vote.
    Those of you reading through email and RSS will have to click-through to this page to vote.

    Lisbon vs. Targu Mures: The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2016 Championship
    Results Announced Next Week
    You won’t see the final results of The Best City To Visit Championship 2016 until I announce the winner on Tuesday, April 12th. Be sure to check back then to see whether your votes name Lisbon or Targu Mures The Best City To Visit in 2016.
    best city 2016 championship bracket
    I’ll be visiting the winning city sometime this year, awarding $500 to the person who originally nominated the city as well as donating $500 to a local charity. Good luck to both Targu Mures and Lisbon!


    About Anil Polat

    foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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