Over the past few weeks, I’ve been perusing some of my favorite travel blogs and noticed a bunch of people writing posts featuring the “ABCs of Travel”. I loved reading about We Took the Road Less Traveled‘s list of European adventures as well as Unlocking Kiki‘s obsession with old doors! I can’t wait to try the beers that Beertime with Wagner listed out and I couldn’t agree more with Wandering Walpole‘s food splurges!
Here is my list of the travel ABCs:
A) Age you went on your first international trip: I was 12, and my family moved to Holland for a summer. I threw a huge hissy fit and did not want to go, saying that my parents “were ruining my life” in the typical pre-teen dramatic way. But wound up really enjoying myself while I was there and fell in love with traveling and exploring.
B) Best foreign beer you’ve had and where: Any Belgian beer, especially of the lambic or sour ale variety. Those Belgians sure know how to brew!
C) Cuisine (favorite): I love Indian food, like a lot. Curry, paneer, anything tikka masala or tandoori. YUM!
D) Destinations – favorite, least favorite, and why?
Favorite: I really loved visiting Turkey this past year, and I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to go there. I’m also a huge fan of South America and have loved my experiences in every country there that I’ve been to. It is the place in the world that calls to me.
Least: Honestly, I don’t know if I have a least favorite. I try to appreciate every place for what it is and not judge it compared to other places. Because you really can’t compare them. Beijing is nothing like Paris which is nothing like Cuzco. If I had to say, I guess I didn’t like Cairo at all, but Egypt on the whole was pretty great. And India is challenging and isolating at times, but I felt so impacted by my experiences there, even if it’s not my “favorite”.
E) Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: Taking a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges river in Varnasi. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life. Seeing people washing their clothes and bathing, next to funeral fires and dead bodies floating down the river felt like juxtaposition of traditions. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. You could just feel the power of this place and the energy in the air was palpable.
F) Favorite mode of transportation: Bicycles! No matter where I am, I always try and ride a bicycle. It’s my favorite way to see a city. You just feel so much more in touch with it because you can smell everything, see everything at eye level, and stop whevener and wherever you want. And with some many public bicycle programs around the world now, it’s easier than ever!
G) Greatest feeling while traveling: Absolute freedom and self-control. No one is looking for you or wondering what you’re doing. You’re completely responsible for yourself and your decisions are your own. You are not working around other people or their schedules. You have complete control, and it is one of the most liberating feelings. You are just experiencing the world around you, letting go of the things that worry you or hold you back from yourself.
H) Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to: The Middle East hands down. Egypt specifically. It is sooooo hot! The sun is debilitating.
I) Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: In Greece, our team of staff (or handlers as my dad likes to call them) on the boat were truly spectacular. They really did wait on us hand and foot, and if you even mentioned that you were missing something (let’s say avocados), and poof! The next day they were there. They were so kind and generous with us and our ridiculous requests. I’ve never experienced that level of attention and luxury before or after. It made the trip!
J) Journey that took the longest: Letting go of emotional baggage. Whether it be from a breakup, bad work environment, dissolution of a friendship, or self-imposed pressure, letting go of these constraints is a journey. I’ve experienced it all. And it always takes me so long to release, and the only way I’ve found to really make it happen is by traveling abroad. It always clears my mind and lets me reflect. Plus, I tend to travel solo, so I get a chance to de-tangle my emotions and really get down to the core of what I’m feeling. It’s all part of the journey of life, right?
K) Keepsake from your travels: My passport. It’s so precious to me. This is the best souvenir you can ever have. I love looking at old stamps and visas.
L) Let-down sight, where and why? The pyramids. They’re exactly how they are in pictures, and once you appreciate the size and age of them, there isn’t much else to see or do at the site. Considering its one of the main attractions that brings people to Egypt, I thought they were a bit of a let-down. Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings were much more impressive to me.
M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling: I don’t think there was really one moment, since I’ve been traveling since such a young age. Can I say all of them? Every moment while traveling can change you and remind you why you love it. But I guess if I had to choose just one…. I guess I would say the first time I went to a developing country– Ecuador. I felt so foreign there, so awe-struck by the overt and covert differences. It was the first time that I experienced true empathy. And it reminded me of how important it is to travel and I fell in love with it all over again.
N) Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: Thankfully I didn’t pay for it, but I would say the nicest (or at least most memorable!) was the Castle Hotel Auf Schonburg in Germany. Situated inside a refurbished castle, this hotel is so unique and historical with amazing views of the Rhine Valley. Every room is different and unique. My sisters and I stayed in a turret while my parents had a room in an old dining room!
O) Obsession–what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: Scenery. I love landscape shots! I just want to soak it all up and never forget how beautiful some places are. I wish I was better at portrait photography, because they are so much more engaging than scenery shots.
P) Passport stamps-how many and from where?: In my current passport? I don’t even know. I had to get extra page inserts because it was too full. I would guess around 20 different countries, 10 visas, and probably like 40 stamps (some are duplicates from multiple entries). I really don’t know though.
Q) Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?: The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota. This is one of the weirdest attractions I’ve ever visited. I mean it’s a museum to one specific brand of processed meat! But there are all kinds of displays, factoids and history for you to soak in, and I actually had a ton of fun there! Plus the friendly Midwestern staff make you smile.
R) Really Frightening: where’s one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy? No where. I’ve never felt unsafe abroad. I think that is a huge (and undeserved!) misconception about traveling. If you use common sense, don’t put yourself in bad situations and pay attention to your surroundings, you should never feel unsafe. People are people, and mankind is really all the same. Most people are not out there to get you or scam you. If there’s one thing that traveling has taught me its that 99% of people are good, but its the 1% of bad people that get all the media attention. We should trust our fellow humans. They will give you directions when you’re lost or help you when you don’t know what you’re doing. Some places are more open and friendly than others, but I truly believe in the goodness of people around the world. I’ve never once felt fear while traveling.
S) Splurge-something you have no problem spending money on while traveling: Food and Art. I like both way to much to hold back when I’m abroad! There are so many fun restaurants to try or food carts to stop at. And art…. oh man. I can’t control myself. I just love having a meaningful souvenir handmade by someone in the country I visited. My apartment officially looks like a museum. I have two gallery walls! And it’s still not enough space! My boyfriend is so annoyed every time I get back from a trip because I have to totally rearrange our decor to accommodate my new art pieces.
T) Touristy thing you’ve done: Jumping pictures in front of random monuments or famous sites. I just can’t help myself!
U) Unforgettable travel memory: It’s hard to pick one; I’ve been lucky enough to have so many “once-in-a-lifetime” trips. I guess a few that come to mind are seeing a lion eating a fresh wildebeest kill in Kenya, riding in a rickshaw in the streets of Chennai, reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, camping in the Himalayas, and watching the sunrise in Colca Canyon.
V) Visas-how many and for where?: Same as the passport question, I don’t really know. I think I have about 10 visas in my current passport, and 2 in my last one?
W) Wine–best glass while traveling: Touring the vineyards in Chile. I can’t remember now the exact names of the wines but we toured the Undurraga winery while I was there. And we got essentially a private tour because we were the only English speakers, so our guide gave us sooo many samples. It was awesome!
X) eXcellent view and from where?: I’ve got two favorites. One is Colca Canyon in Peru. Just take my word for it, it’s a must see. I liked it better than the Grand Canyon. And it’s so under-visited. Second is the Himalaya Mountains. Wow. Like seriously, just wow. They are stunning. There are so many nice view points in Nepal, but I especially loved the views we had during a trek in the Annapurna region.
Y) Years spent traveling: Pretty much every year since I was 12, so I guess I’m going on 13 years. More than half my life!
Z) Zealous sports fans and where?: Chile vs Bolivia in the world cup qualifier. I was in Chile at the time and people were going bananas about the game. It was so cool to see so much national pride and excitement for their team to battle it out against their neighbor to the north. I sat with Sam at the bar and just took in all the cheering, shouting and general debauchery.