Greetings Backpackers and Resort Loungers,
I know I am extremely late to this game, but what can I say? December was a busy boozing month, and also I had some shopping and decorating to do. I also wanted to acknowledge that I was tagged by someone to do this (which means at least one person out there likes me, they really, really like me) and that someone is Erin Halvey who writes for one of my favorite blogs A Sense of Place. Her Istanbul pictures are truly gorge and she’s a lover of Guinness so I recommend you check her out.
Without further ado (ado?), I hereby (hereby?) present to you my official ABCs of Travel:
A: Age you went on your first international trip
Actually, I left for my trip around the world exactly 32 days after I turned 21, so essentially, I waited 21 years to be legal and then spent the next four months in places where (read: every other country in the world) the drinking age is 18 (or below). Did you also know that it is shockingly cool in most other places to also carry open containers? Did you know that if you travel around the world eastbound by boat for almost four months and at the end of your trip you stop in Hawaii for fuel that Hawaii is actually American and it’s not cool to carry open containers there? FYI.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
This is a trick question because I’ve never been to Ireland.
C: Cuisine (favorite)
While traveling, at home, every day of my life, it has got to be Mexican food. Brace yourselves for the shock of a lifetime but I did not even know about guacamole until I visited Mexico in 2010. These days, I get the shakes if I go a day without avocado. (I just can’t quit you!)
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why
Favorite: South Africa, because it’s magical. Least favorite: China, because they tricked me with their faux green beans and lack of rice.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”
I just have to throw props to our driver in Ecuador, Francisco, who spoke not a word of English but by the end of driving us up the mountains to the Amazon knew the word “wow.” Because we could not stop saying it.
F: Favorite mode of transportation
I love every mode of transportation! But I assure you, the best people you will meet abroad are taxi drivers. They know everything and are happy to talk to you. While in South Africa we invited our taxi driver to dinner with us (we paid) and we were treated to an hours-long conversation about post-apartheid culture and the future of the country. I have learnt more from my drivers around the world than from any other source.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling
The greatest feeling is when your phone doesn’t get service abroad! To be cut-off from technology is a luxury that I fear future generations will know nothing about, since they’ll all emerge from the womb with iPhones and be birthed with the assistance of some kind of app. It makes me feel like a real human being to coordinate plans in person, or to solve problems with my actual brain.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to
During one Mexican August, my face melted off.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Almost the exact conversation I had with front-desk employee Roberto at Hotel Cielo in Playa del Carmen, Mexico:::
Me: So, what do you guys like to do for fun around here?
Roberto: I like to go to the movies
Me: Oh, have you seen the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie? Leonardo DiCaprio is my pretend husband.
Roberto: I will make you a poster of Leonardo DiCaprio!
(At my insistence he didn’t, but still)
J: Journey that took the longest
Growing up. Seriously. I waited forever to be the snarky mid-20s adult that I am now. Because this version of myself was trapped inside of my childhood self. Only I was not allowed to play with my neighbors who lived across the street because I was literally not allowed to cross the street and instead of being an adult and just crossing the street, I didn’t because I was a kid and I had to follow the rules or I wouldn’t get ice cream.
K: Keepsake from your travels
Are we talking favorite keepsake? Because I bought this beautiful elephant tapestry in Chennai, India that my cat should worry about because I would save that thing before anything else in case of a fire. (Kidding…, I would wrap my cat in the tapestry and then flee the premises)
L: Let-down sight, why and where
Ugh, I want to be let-down by something. But I’m still so enamored by travel and everywhere I go that I cannot be let down. This is actually a blog-post to-be, because I yearn to be the kind of traveler who can feel annoyed by the little things when traveling but instead everything means so much to me to an embarrassing degree that I’m almost on the verge of tears of happiness every minute I’m out there. The only exception is when I was crying tears of pain when I had food poisoning in Ecuador. Goal: to be “oh, pfff, the Eiffel Tower” instead of “OMFG! The Eiffel Tower!”
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
In first grade during lunch in the cafeteria, they had “dance time” on Fridays, which meant they played some innocuous song like “Lollipop, lollipop oooooh lolly lollipop” and you could get up and dance in the aisles of the lunch tables if you so pleased. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like a very good idea to encourage a bunch of 7-year-olds to shake up all the Lunchables they just ate, but that’s BESIDE THE POINT. The point is that I always wanted to get up and dance but I was too shy/embarrassed to. Flash forward twenty or so years and I was in Puerto Rico at a Welcome Reception the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon was throwing for us. What I saw in the Puerto Rican youth was a total absence of inhibition when it came to dancing. I got caught in the dance fever and finally let myself go. I danced the whole night. And I fell in love…with travel.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
When traveling for myself, I spend as little as possible (without venturing into the boundaries of being unsafe) on hotels. But when traveling for work, I found myself at the Trump Las Vegas, which by far was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in (and paradoxically, the cheapest, as far as work/corporate hotels go). $99/night and there was a TV in the bathroom mirror. Divine.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
I’m just obsessed with taking pictures, period. I’m trying to stop! Really need to keep those Jurassic Park lessons in mind!
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
A fewwwwww. Bahamas, Brazil, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Costa Rica, Jamaica, France, Mexico, Ecuador…Many more to come, hopefully!
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
Have you guys BEEN to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls? WTF is that?
R: Recommended sight, event or experience
I recommend that everyone go to Pittsburgh, because it is the best city in America. The end.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling
I’m embarrassed to admit that I will fork over money for private transportation, especially if I’m timing a leg back to the airport. Sometimes I feel kind of silly for overpaying for transport, like when we paid for a van from Manuel Antonio to San Jose Airport in Costa Rica (like $80 when we could have paid $4). But other times I don’t feel so silly for paying for a van, like in Ecuador when we met our wonderful driver Francisco in Ecuador, who drove us from Quito to our resort in the Amazon. Later, we ran into some girls who bussed into the Amazon and were dropped in the middle of nowhere and left to find accommodations. That’s the stuff of adventures, certainly, but not entirely convenient when you have limited time.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
I rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I looked at Chichen Itza. And the Taj Mahal. And the Great Wall of China. I suppose all those things are touristy, but I’m not too snobbish to be a tourist.
U: Unforgettable travel memory
Like I said, taxi drivers are the best.
V: Visas, how many and for where?
I have visas for Brazil, China, and Vietnam. And also one that pays for my groceries and beer.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
If you ever find yourself in South Africa, go to Moyo. It is located on an actual wine estate and is actually where we had that fantastic conversation with the taxi driver I mentioned up there in “Favorite Mode of Transportation.”
X: eXcellent view and from where?
Can you believe that I woke up to this everyday to this? Me neither.
Y: Years spent traveling?
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
I’m with Erin on this one. I spent four years in Steelers country, and my life will never be the same.
Now I know my ABCs; next time won’t you sing with me?
Now, I would tag someone, but I think that (just like when I ran that 5k) I’m the last one to cross the finish line on this one. That said, if you haven’t done an ABC post and want to, do it! Post your link in my comment section!