Saturday, March 31, 2012

My A to Z of Travel

I saw this post on Johnny Vagabond's website and thought it would be fun to fill in my own answers. Note that when I refer to "we" I'm talking about my husband Greg.

A: Age you went on your first international trip
I went to Canada (Toronto area) in 1988 (age 14) for a softball friendship tournament. My first travel outside of North America was in 1990 on a one-week whirlwind tour of France, Italy & Switzerland with some high school French students. I was pickpocketed in the Paris Metro and my passport, cash, travelers checks and my grandfather's credit cards that I was carrying as backup were all stolen!

B. Best foreign beer you had and where
I have plenty of wonderful memories of drinking beer in special places: Angkor beer while watching the sun set at Angkor Wat; Serengeti beer in, you guessed it, the Serengeti! But I have to mention that the whole reason Greg & I went to Belgium at the end of our around-the-world trip was for the beer.
C. Cuisine
I love Indian food. But, surprisingly, the best Indian food I've eaten recently was not in India but in Vietnam! To be fair, it was cooked by an Indian chef. I also love Asian food in general. The complex flavors in Vietnamese & Thai food are fantastic and I took cooking lessons in those countries so I could replicate the dishes at home.
D. Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why
Going on safari in Kenya & Tanzania not only lived up to but exceeded all of my expectations. We didn't even do it the most luxurious way and it was still expensive but worth every penny. I also particularly enjoyed spending almost a month in Vietnam. Friendly people, wonderful food, beautiful scenery, tough history. Oh, and New Zealand is amazing! Least favorite: Egypt. Despite working with a local travel agent to hire private guides and chauffeurs, we still couldn't escape the touts at every historic site and always felt like someone was trying to take advantage of us. It probably didn't help that we were in the country only two months prior to the uprising.
E. Event you experienced abroad that made you go WOW
We were on the South Island of New Zealand when the earthquake hit near Christchurch in September 2010. I felt the tremors while sleeping in our hostel on the opposite side of the island (approx 400 miles from the epicenter). We already had plans to continue circling the island by car and fly out of Christchurch a few days later. When we overnighted in Akaroa (approx 30 miles from the epicenter), we were almost shaken out of bed several times during the night by aftershocks measuring up to 5.4 on the Richter scale!
F. Favorite mode of transportation
I love to take trains all over the world. Some of the most interesting rides have been in India & Asia, especially the overnight trains. I recently crossed the Atlantic by boat (on a Holland America Lines cruise) and, for the first time, truly appreciated the vastness of the open ocean.
G. Greatest feeling while traveling
That no one knows me and I can be whoever I want to be for a day (or longer)! Otherwise, it's being able to blindly throw a dart at a map and go wherever it lands.
H. Hottest place you traveled to
Could be a tie between Japan in September 2010 during a record-breaking heat wave and southern India in February 2011. The combination of high temps plus high humidity means you're dripping with sweat when you step out of the (cold water) shower!
I. Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
This is the most ridiculous thing on this entire list but I have to mention it. In remembrance of our high school years, Greg, his brother, Doug, & I went to a Krystal drive-through late one night shortly before our wedding last year. We ordered 8 regular Krystals, had to wait for our order for almost 10 minutes, then, after we had already pulled out of the parking lot, I discovered we only received 7 hamburgers. The following day I submitted feedback on their corporate website and was shocked when my doorbell rang a few hours later. The Krystal manager and one of her employees were standing there with 2 huge sacks of hamburgers, fries and dessert! She introduced herself, apologized for the mistake, said they wanted to make it right, and handed me all the food then left. If you want to earn someone's business for life, this is how to do it! Sadly there are no Krystals on the West Coast!
J. Journey that took the longest
It's not the longest amount of time I've been in transit, but 14+ hours on a plane from Los Angeles to Sydney next to a puking 4-year-old whose mother already had her hands full with a 16-month-old baby ranks very high as feeling like it would never end!

K. Keepsake from your travels
I've learned that less is more, especially if you're traveling for months at a time and don't want to pay to ship things home. I've got a small collection of knick-knacks like soapstone & sandalwood carvings from India, a lucky raccoon chopstick rest from South Korea, Eiffel Tower earrings from Paris, silver hors d'oeuvres picks that I bartered for on Portobello Road in London... A few years ago I realized that tattoos are a far more practical if pricier (and more painful) souvenir. I'm often moving too quickly to allow the proper time for a tattoo to heal so I've only gotten a few while on the road so far: a leaping tiger in Chiang Mai, Thailand and a claddagh in Galway, Ireland.
L. Let down site: when and where
It's always disappointing when you arrive at a remote destination and find it overrun with international tourists. A couple of places we encountered this were Halong Bay, Vietnam and Yangshuo, China. Excessive development and/or commercialism are destroying the authenticity of these otherwise beautiful places.
M. Moment where you fell in love with travel
I don't really remember a specific moment, but it probably had something to do with the food I ate while living with a family in Paris for a few weeks when I was 16. We went to the local market almost every day and drank wine with every meal. But the highlight was eating at Le Ciel de Paris, the restaurant on the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower. It was probably the most expensive meal I had ever eaten but it made me want to expand my horizons (and my palate) even more.

N. Nicest hotel you stayed in
The fanciest/most expensive hotel I've ever stayed in was the Four Seasons in New York City. The suites have remote control blinds! But one of my favorite vacations, due to the service & accommodations at the resort, was at Anse Chastanet on Saint Lucia.
O. Obsession – What photos are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling
I love to take pictures of food! The contrast of colors & textures and the overall presentation (or lack thereof) makes for great compositions. Plus it helps me to recall some of the best meals I've ever had!
P. Passport stamps, how many and from where
Keeping in mind this isn't my first passport, which had around 79 stamps in it, and that many countries stamp when you enter as well as when you leave... My current passport (issued in 2008) has 54 from all around the world.

Q. Quirkiest Attraction you have visited and where
The Harland Sanders Museum & Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Not much to see and they serve the same chicken as all their other restaurants, but considering I've spotted KFC's all over the world, it's interesting to see where it all began.

R. Recommended sight, event, or experience
Sunrise at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. If you pick the right day, you'll have the whole complex pretty much to yourself for the first 30 minutes. Very serene and awe-inspiring!
S. Splurge: Something you have no problem spending money on while traveling
Food & alcohol! They blow our budget every time!
T. Touristy thing you’ve done
Rode camels near the Pyramids in Giza. $25 for about 30 minutes for two people. Our camel driver's name was Sharif and he was no more than 12 years old.
U. Unforgettable travel memory
Watching a lioness get up from a nap, then stalk, hunt & kill a zebra in the Serengeti. Total time from start to finish was around 45 minutes. Afterward the rest of the pride, including many cubs, appeared out of nowhere to feast on the carcass.
V. Visas: how many and where
Ten: China, Egypt, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, India, Kenya, Tanzania
W. Wine, best glass while traveling and where
The ones shared with good friends: an Alsatian Fleur de Lotus with my dear ex-coworkers in Helsinki, Finland; a bottle of fermented rice wine with a hotel owner & his staff in Hue, Vietnam; more rice wine with fellow hikers after a long trek in the rain & mud in Sapa, Vietnam...
X. eXcellent views and where
From a Cessna on an air tour of the Grand Canyon; flightseeing in Alaska; skydiving from 14,000ft over the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii; from the top of Rockefeller Center in New York City; seeing the Northern Lights from the cockpit of a 767 while flying from Europe to the U.S.
Y. Years spent traveling
7 weeks in Europe in 1998; 6 years as a flight attendant; a total of 5 weeks in India in 2004-2005; countless weeks of vacations; 9 month RTW trip; 3 month honeymoon = I would say cumulatively at least 2 full years maybe more!
backpacking in Europe in 1998
Z. Zealous sports fans
RCTID - Portland Timbers Army!


  1. I really enjoyed your blog! Keep travelling! :-)

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  2. The stuff you have shared is really unique and obviously requires admiration. And I think that it is a great idea to share the story of all your travels at a single time.