Great Escapes

01.18.14

Best Places to Party Around the World

Vacation is the time to kick back, relax…and have one hell of a party. A new book rounds up the best places to experience a new culture by getting down with the locals.

Researching a book entitled 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Partying Around the World may seem like the most fun job ever. But editor David S. Miller stresses there’s more to it than one might think. He describes the compilation of wild, first-person adventure stories pulled from the community of travel writers that comprise the Matador Network as a “Trojan Horse:” the sensationally-dubbed cover opens to reveal real cultural experiences.

The book’s crazy title gave Miller pause when he was first approached about the project, but he soon realized there was a lot missing in the current travel literature. Most features flaunt the best beaches and sunsets, but they lack details on how visitors can have authentic cultural experiences. “People are just trying to sell the destination,” he says. But he wanted this book to provide readers with “culture and stories you wouldn’t find in every travel book.”

“The whole ethos behind the book is: it doesn’t really matter where you go…even in Antarctica or the middle of the Bolivian salt flats…if you’re the kind of person who isn’t much of risk-taker, this is a time to get out and mix it up,” says Miller.

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Katie Scott Aiton

The crazy stories told in the book, organized into booze—and, occasionally, drug—fueled chapters like “High Elevation” and “Under the Radar,” give readers tips on how to have fully immersive experiences while on vacation. Intertwined among tales of getting “f*cked up” are accounts of how to make real connections with local people who can serve as guides to the region, taking the traveler to the most genuine spots.

Miller’s love of travel was sparked while hiking the Appalachian Trail soon after he graduated from college. Later, he saved up and spent a few years in Latin America, surfing, camping and backpacking. “If you’re a surfer, you don’t just blast out into the break—you find the crew who’s there and [can] tell you what the great stuff is, and a lot of how you meet these people is [by going] to a bar or someplace like that,” he says.

But for the 41-year-old father, partying nowadays is “maybe having some wine when I’m whipping up a meal.” Getting “f*cked up” was never the end goal anyway, he says. “The point to me is not inebriation for inebriation’s sake; the point is traveling and getting into a wave of exuberance, and to not hold back.” The book may not inspire binge-fueled travel in Miller, but it’s added a whole slew of new spots to his travel list and surfaced some old memories. His favorite, from 2000, was a visit to Montañita, Ecuador when the inaccessible coastal spot was, as he describes, “a confluence of beautiful people, no police or authority presence, an ongoing rave,” with music and dancing and very limited connection to the outside world.

Miller hopes 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die, which was churned out in a mere five months, won’t be just another commoditized guide. “It’s more [about] the sense of opening up yourself and not being heads down in your device, and connecting to people face-to-face,” he says. So, turn up your gaze and raise your glass to Miller’s top picks for where to have the greatest party adventures around the globe.

Tokyo, Japan

You don’t just bring your karaoke A-game to Tokyo, but your willingness to dwell in a futuristic world where the referents include horse sashimi, ninja-themed bars, and maid outfits.

Whistler, Canada

The most epic party experiences should be visceral; the terrain itself should play a big role in the story. With the right snow conditions, Whistler is all-time during the day, and then at night turns into a fucking hot mess of beautiful people with goggle tans and Volcom V-necks.

Raglan, New Zealand

Few places in the world allow the level of same-day access to snow and surf as found in the region of Waikato in the North Island. It’s just three hours on state highways from Whakapapa and Turoa, the largest ski area in New Zealand, to Raglan, with its world-class surf breaks. Raglan itself is just a small pastoral town with, as writer Evan Timpy says, “musicians, photographers, environmentalists, and free-thinking itinerants to get wasted with.”

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana

People may just associate Mardi Gras with titty flashing for beads, but there are all kinds of cultural layers, such as the Mardi Gras Indians. Stretching back to at least the mid 1800s, the “Indians” of Mardi Gras pay tribute to Native Americans who helped African Slaves escape the bayou to freedom. If you can’t make if for Mardi Gras, just make it down to New Orleans whenever.

Berlin, Germany

Writer Josh Heller explains, “Everyone has their own version of where to go totally fucking bonkers in Berlin, and each one of these prescriptions is 100 percent right. No matter how early you arrive in town, you’ll hear the thumping bassline of a familiar track. You’ll soon realize that it’s 8:00 a.m. and they’re playing an extended remix of the theme song from Ferris Bueller. This is Berlin.”

Phuket, Thailand

The place where 10-million backpackers have lost their self-respect (hopefully just temporarily). Make the most of Phuket, but after your logic reaches a point where you’re like, “If I just rent a beach chair, someone will bring me a coconut to wash down my Vicodin,” it’s time to leave.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is where everything goes off on a quietly atomic scale: the waves at Ocean Beach, tech startups, next-generation electronic music, and a party culture (ever seen Bay to Breakers?) born of a tolerance decades ahead of the rest of the country. It seems like you can only understand how much it’s like a treasure chest at the bottom of the sea if you really spend time there.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires (and most of Argentina in general) has a culture where socializing comes first. Parties are de la familia, meaning if there’s a big celebration, kids are part of it, and bedtimes are out the window. Thus, kids grow up with a partying stamina, and you’re liable to hurt yourself if you try to keep up. Ease into it.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

I love places that completely subvert people’s expectations. Halifax is actually an insane surf town; you can fly in and be surfing within two hours, and during certain times of year there are tidal bores to paddle and surf. The city has a population of only 400,000, but with more than 5 major universities, the population skews young and boisterous. 

Barcelona, Spain

As writer Sarah Briggs puts it, “Throughout the year, multi-generational party-seekers travel to Barcelona or BCN as cool people abbreviate it, many remaining to embrace the Mediterranean and the opportunity to nap on a daily basis without tan lines or scorn.” ‘Nuff said.

New York City

To me partying in New York always feels like walking in and out of an endless series of doors, each leading to a completely separate, often incongruent universe, and each with limited bathrooms. Every time I’m there I feel simultaneously happy I don’t live there and envious of people who do.

Dublin, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day

Writer Pietro Buzzanca wrote, “If there were a school to learn how to get f*cked up, the headmaster would be Irish. The average Irishman can drink up to two six-packs of Dutch Gold on a quiet Tuesday night while staying in watching a movie, just for the exercise.” Don’t try to keep up with anyone here.

Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest

Journalist Jessica Peter puts it this way: “Guys in little leather shorts and girls with healthy racks squeezed into corseted dresses. Start practicing now: Ein Maß bitte.”

Ibiza, Spain

As Larissa Coleman writes, “In the 1950s, hippies were drawn to Ibiza’s postcard beaches. The rich and famous followed suit. Now, every flip-flop clad backpacker can be spotted shuffling to house music in Space.” Forget you have (or ever had) a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada

This is already on most people’s radars, but it just has to be part of this list. As Josh Johnson writes, “This is the type of scene you could parachute into stark naked and singing the Star Spangled Banner, and upon landing you would be absorbed by the great 50,000-person organism—clothed, fed, and imbibed before your ’chute touched the desert ground.”