If you read as many travel blogs as I do, then surely you’ve seen the ABC’s of Travel internet meme. I’m all about jumping on fads (exception: Ugg boots) so of course I was super excited to be tagged by Arienne and Tristan of See You Soon. Answering these questions was fun because they reminded me of some long forgotten travel memories, but un-fun because they forced me to once again out myself as a picky-eating, beer-hating, and sports-handicapped traveler. Oh well. You guys still like me anyway, right? Right?
A: Age you went on your first international trip:
My first international trip was to Spain when I was about 11. My entire extended family on my mother’s side crossed the Atlantic in order to visit my beloved cousin during her study abroad program in Grenada. Apparently my compulsive trip planning and encyclopedic travel blogging future revealed itself immediately. Not only did I keep a (borderline hysterical) journal throughout the trip, I also insisted while we were visiting the Alhambra that we go to a part of the palace called Generalife, which I had read about in an out-of-date Spain guidebook my parents had in the basement. No one wanted to go, but my dad humored me and came along. It was beautiful, and I learned that day that my love of travel research does in fact pay off. (Except for when it makes my boyfriend want to kill me).
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
Um, pass? I must admit that I’m not a beer drinker. I was all over the cider selection in Scotland, though, so much so that it’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to going back for! It was so nice to enjoy something that is socially acceptable to drink before 6pm (sorry vodka, you don’t count).
C: Cuisine (favourite):
Um, have I mentioned I’m the super pickiest eater ever? I’ve already admitted elsewhere on the interwebs my non-travel hip answer: New York is my favorite place on earth to eat because of the vast variety of amazing food you can have delivered to your door. Including, in no particular order: bagels, pizza, Chinese take-away, etc.
D: Destinations, favourite, least favourite and why:
Favourite Destination: For many years my answer to this was set on auto to an enthusiastic “Thailand!” And while Thailand and I are still pretty close (we are living together, after all), my recent return to Cambodia for a second visit kind of blew me out of the water. The combination of amazing people, beautiful beaches, stunning historical sites and vibrant cities just speaks to me.
Least Favourite: It’s really hard for me to pick a least favorite destination. I’ve been to 15 countries (not many compared to the UN’s official list of 192) and for the most part they were carefully chosen. So I haven’t been anywhere that I wouldn’t go back to or regret visiting. But if you really twist my arm, being in Vietnam made me angry on a suspiciously regular basis.
E: Event that made you say “wow”:
There have been so, so many. Most recently, watching hundreds of rice paper lanterns being released into the night sky on New Year’s Eve in Koh Phangan Thailand nearly brought me to tears.
F: Favourite mode of transportation:
They all have their charms and drawbacks… who doesn’t love, at times, the efficiency of flight, the romance of a train journey, the scenery of boat travel, the freedom of a road trip? Actually, there is one mode of transport I can’t think of anything redeeming about: bus travel.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
Stumbling on a hidden gem of a place- a hotel, a museum, a town- that’s not yet been written up by guidebooks or obsessed over by travel bloggers.
H: Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to:
It’s a tie- I’ve been to both the Greek isles and the gulf of Thailand in July, and both resulted in lots of me screaming “I’m melting!” in the voice of the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz.
I: Incredible service that you’ve experienced and where:
My mom and I went on a graduation-celebration Silversea cruise through the Mediterranean this year and um, I’m starting to get what people see in the whole “luxury travel” thing. People remembered our names, got our orders right, went out of their way to help us, and were just generally incredible pleasant. I would be sitting by the pool, and I would have ice cream in my lap before I even knew I wanted it. Those working in the budget-travel industry, where I currently spend most of my time and money: please take note.
J: Journey that took the longest:
I’ve done 24 hour plane journeys from New York to Bangkok more than once. I actually enjoy long distance plane travel in this part of the world though, where you have your own tv screen and the flight attendants don’t seem to be set to perma-sneer and constantly plotting for your death (such as on every airline in America).
K: Keepsake from your travels:
I love stamps (just direct me to my seat at the loser lunch table now please) and all kinds of mail paraphernalia, so I’ve tried to start a project where I send myself a postcard from every country I visit. For some reason I have found this task incredibly difficult, but I’m going to keep trying!
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
In preparation for our island-hopping adventure in Greece, my mom and I were told over and over not to miss the Palace of Knossos in Crete. When we got there we walked around taking photos and chatting before finally turning to each other and admitting we were totally unimpressed. Luckily, as I outlined in my post, we skipped the cruise ship’s excursion and went on our own, saving ourselves over $150USD!
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
Going to Thailand for the first time changed my life totally. Those hot summer nights spent sitting on a new friend’s wooden bungalow porch dreaming about travel, days spent walking along the beach confessing my secrets to a new love (who, by the way, is still my boyfriend today!)… it was an introduction to a charmed expat life, one I quickly became addicted to. I’m happy to say I’m back on that same island and living that life today.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
I’ve been a lucky lady- I’ve laid my head in some nice places thanks to wonderful family vacations. If I had to pick, I’d say the Francis Ford Coppola properties in Belize were the most amazing- so luxurious yet so beautifully blended into the landscape. We spent half our trip at the Blancaneaux Lodge in San Ignacio, waking up to the sound of the waterfall running next to our treehouse, and half the trip at Turtle Inn in Placencia, showering in an outdoor garden bathroom steps away from the beach. There was organic food grown on-site, horse stables on the grounds and excellently executed tours offered. Trip of a lifetime.
O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
Um… everything? One quirk I have is I must take photos of a hotel room before we “mess it up.” So I make Mark stand in the hallway of the hotels while I dart around taking pictures from every angle.
P: Passport stamps – how many and from where?
If this question is literally asking how many passport stamps I have- I have done way too many visa runs to make a count like that feasible. I’ve been to 15 countries though: Spain, Canada, The Bahamas, Belize, Costa Rica, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, The Cayman Islands, Honduras, Scotland, England, Greece, Turkey, Vietnam.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
Quirky attractions are kind of my thing- so I’ve been to a lot of them. Most recently, I was in a cab and spotted out the window the Bangkok Seashell Museum. Of course I had to go in! Three stories and over 3,000 seashells. It was modern, well curated, and totally devoid of other people. A great hidden gem.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
No brainer- Scuba diving! I think diving is for everyone. As Mark likes to say in his dive briefings: 70% of this world is water. So it doesn’t matter how many stamps are in your passport- if you haven’t been diving, you’re missing out of a big part of the map!
S: Splurge – something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
I really enjoy spending my money on activities. Whether it’s whitewater rafting in Honduras, scuba diving in Ibiza, or windsurfing in Vietnam, if I feel like I’m going to have a great experience and try something new, then I don’t mind handing over the lempiras/euros/dong!
One thing I can’t stand spending money on is overpriced drinks. I didn’t move to Asia to spend $10USD on a mixed drink, you know?
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
Well, I do touristy things all the time. For a simple reason: I love them. Probably my worst Tourist Trap Offense is my love for two-story tour buses. This summer I did five: Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Athens, and Istanbul. And I loved every double-decker moment.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Swimming with a whale shark will be a moment I remember until I die. I was filming an underwater video for some Open Water Diver students at the time, and I just couldn’t stop thinking, I’m getting paid to do this!
V: Visas, how many and for where?
I’ve had multiple visas for Thailand, two for Cambodia, one for Vietnam. I also went through some red tape in the Cayman Islands to extend my stay there. I’m terrified of immigration offices anywhere, so I was shaking in my flip-flops. But everything turned out fine.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
Considering my vast knowledge of wine comes from either what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s or what people bring to my parents house for dinner parties, I’m no wine expert. I can definitely say the most unusual wine drinking experience I’ve had was at the first ever vineyard to open in Cambodia. I love my quirky roadside attractions!
X: eXcellent view and from where?
Nothing stops my heart like the view of the Manhattan skyline lit up at night when crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve yet to find another place that feels so utterly and clearly to be the center of the universe.
Y: Years spent traveling:
My first major trip was 2.5 years ago, and I’d say travel has been my main priority since then. I’ve been on the road for about 7 months straight at the moment.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
Ahem. Does diving count as a sport? I think I’m going to have to pass.
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So that rounds out my ABC’s of Travel. Time to tag the next round of bloggers. Here are three other travel fanatics I’d love to see write their own list:
Cat from Travel From the Triangle
Whoops, turns out someone else had gotten to my other nominees first! It’s all you, Cat!