Best Way to Enjoy Las Vegas is Via Conference, not Decadence

No bucket list of U.S. cities is complete without Sin City. Its infamous strip of colorfully themed hotels that double as casino mega malls are, depending on your point of view, either an iconic row of breathtaking splendor or the ultimate symbol of Western excess.

Trade shows are a great way to make friends AND soak up the sights.

Trade shows are a great way to make friends AND soak up the sights. From left: NMX attendees Brian Jarvis, Jen Lee Reeves, Tinu Abayomi-Paul and Mona Holmes.

But there’s a reason The Hangover was set in Las Vegas, and even the most disciplined among us can fall prey to its temptations in a state where gambling and prostitution are both legal and aggressively solicited. Want to see Vegas without flattening your pocketbook or your self-respect? Try seeing it during a convention or trade show. Here are four reasons why:

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Belize By Bus

 

If you’re planning a Belize adventure, you may find the most expensive part of getting around this northeastern tip of Central America is, well, getting around. Renting a foreign car or cramming into a puddle jumper plane can run hundreds of dollars and require extensive planning. Looking to un-plan your trip? Try the bus. 

The bus terminal in Belize City.

Belizean buses will look very familiar to the American eye, as they tend to be former American school buses repainted in tropical colors. A mere $10 can take you from one end of the country to another—revealing a rustic panorama that you won’t find via any other mode of transport.

I entered the bus terminal at Belize City with no schedule and no route; only a vague idea of traveling southeast to Placencia (known for its offshore coral reefs that make for spectacular snorkeling & scuba diving), and then west to the Guatemala border in quest of Mayan sites on the other side.

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Of Tweets and Tear Gas

Police turn water canons on demonstrators during a protest in support of labor rights. Photo: Thierry Roge/Reuters

On the same day that demonstrators took to the streets of Brussels to protest a European Union proposal restricting labor rights — packing a plaza with flag-waving union members, police in riot gear, firehoses and tear gas — a group of social media enthusiasts celebrated the annual Twestival 2011 at the nearby Radisson Hotel.

Attending these two events back-to-back, I was struck by the irony. Demonstrators delivered speeches, taunted police and lit industrial-sized firecrackers. Twestival-goers attended presentations, traded business cards and tweeted away. Demonstrators used word-of-mouth — still the oldest and most effective communication — while those at Twestival were busy figuring out how to apply word-of-mouth to a high-tech digital space.

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Live From Brussels!

Brussels makes for a fascinating mix of old and new world. Photo: Brian Jarvis

Entering Europe for the first time not as a tourist but as a resident, I was hit by the thought that must strike many an American abroad: Why didn’t I come here years ago?

I landed in Brussels, Belgium to finish grad school via the Missouri School of Journalism (and a sizable student loan). I also have the honor of traveling/living with nearly two dozen 21- or 20-turning-21-year-olds, but I’ll save that savory subject for another day.

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