There’s a new meme making its rounds through the travel blogging community, and my Aussie pal Nicole just tagged me. Check out Nicole’s post about her ABCs of travel, and join me on an A to Z (that’s “zee” not “zed”) journey through my travels.
A: Age you made your first international trip
Many of my fellow travelers caught the bug early, but I didn’t even consider going overseas until I graduated from college. At 23, I found a great deal on a 7-day, 6-night trip to Ireland — airfare, B&Bs, and rental car included — and booked it. No wonder the deal was so cheap…it was November and cold, wet, and dark by 4pm. But I loved that trip and was in awe of everything I saw and everyone I encountered.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
I’m not a huge beer fan — blame on it on the gluten? — but I do enjoy the occasional microbrew at home. On the road? I’ve only tried a few beers overseas, and my favorite was Boags Premium, a Tasmanian brew. As my experience is quite limited, I am sure there are loads of better beers.
C: Cuisine (Favorite)
This is a tough one. It should be no surprise that I love eating and trying new food. Thai in Australia was so much better than Thai I’d had at home…no Thai I’ve had in the last seven months compares to what I ate last year. And the cafe culture in Oz (while not a cuisine in and of itself) is so different to anything I’ve seen at home. It was usually well executed with loads of flavor and freshness and the sort of food I’d want to eat every day.
D: Destinations. Favorite. Least Favorite. Why.
Many places have captured my heart over the years, but Australia has become, without question, my favorite destination. The 3-week trip in 2006 sparked my desire to spend more time there, and in 2010 I quit my job so I could live, travel, and work in Oz for a year. I felt homesick for Australia before I ever flew home, and for two solid months after I was back on American soil, I woke up every morning wishing I was half a world away.
Least favorite? *wrinkles nose* That’s hard to say.
I liked many things about Barcelona, but of all the places I’ve visited, I struggled the most to connect with the city. Little things went wrong throughout my time there, and I didn’t feel an instant connection with the city like I have with Berlin and Australia in general.
E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’
This is less of an event than a moment…
I arrived in Istanbul by myself at 2am to a nearly empty airport. When my pre-arranged transportation failed to arrive, I paid way too much to get from the airport to my hostel. Once at the hostel, I learned that a room would not be ready for me until later in the day. I made my way to the outdoor patio on the top floor and curled up on a small bench, legs hanging off of one end. I was tired, cold, lonely, and wondering why in the world I had decided to venture to Istanbul solo.
I looked around at the buildings surrounding the hostel, and there, on one side and incredibly close, was the Blue Mosque. Lights shone on the minarets and I could see dozens of birds flying around the tops. Soon, the call to prayer sounded loudly around the city. And from the roof top of my hostel, I started falling for Istanbul and was glad I had ventured to the beautiful city.
F: Favorite mode of transportation
I need airplanes to get to most destinations and am thankful for them, but after the 2-month Oz road trip, I’m quite partial to cars/vans. I can pull over and take breaks when I want, see areas of a destination I would have missed on foot or via public transport, and enjoy beautiful skies and the feel of the open road.
G: Greatest feeling while travelling
There’s a freedom, energy, and confidence I feel when I travel that I don’t feel anywhere else. I wish I could bottle that feeling and release it when needed, but I guess that’s what makes travel special — it does something for me that nothing else can. Travel makes me feel like one of the best versions of myself.
H: Hottest place I’ve travelled to
My dad’s company once took us on a business trip to Las Vegas. In the summer. It was well over 100 one day (114), but sometimes my humid hometown in central Virginia feels hotter.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Disney aims to make dreams come true and delight every single guest. I’ve been to Disney World in Florida several times, both on family or business trips, and the staff at the hotel, park, and dining areas all go above and beyond to take care of you.
J: Journey that took you the longest
In 2006, I traveled from Sydney to Washington, DC with a layover at LAX. In Los Angeles, I learned that my connecting flight had been canceled. After standing in line for hours with fellow stranded
passengers, I was finally rerouted home — after a stop in Colorado.
K: Keepsake from your travels
Photos and blog posts are the main keepsakes from my travels, helping me to revisit special moments, people, and places. I cannot think of an item that ranks as a notable keepsake, but I do value the friendships I have made on the road that have lasted since our first meeting — especially my great group of friends in London.
L: Let down sight. Why and where?
Las Vegas looks cool at night, and during the day I enjoyed the natural beauty of the landscape past the Strip. But look down at the sidewalks, and you’ll see dirty walkways, littered with fliers for
strip clubs and shows. The Strip has its charm on the first visit, but on my second I was ready to go home hours before my return flight.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
I started falling in love with travel before I ever set foot out of the country. I don’t recall the moment, but shortly after graduating from college a light switch was turned from off to on and I wanted
to see the world. On my first trip overseas, I found myself driving around Ireland with my dad. The couples who ran the B&Bs were so welcoming and friendly, and we enjoyed long conversations with them. Their hospitality and the fun I had meeting new people helped me fall in love with travel.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
I haven’t stayed in many hotels, but thanks to one of my dad’s business trips, I stayed at the Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
Food and clouds.
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
At the moment, none! Two weeks ago I received a new passport. With the previous one, I had 35 from Canada, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Spain, England, and of course, the USA.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
I can only think of the quirky things that many of my traveling friends have done that I’ve read about. Anything potentially quirky I’ve seen fails in comparison! American Nicole, can you think of something obvious I’m missing?!
R: Recommended sight, event, or experience
If you’re traveling in Australia, do yourself a favor and embark on a road trip. While the 2-month trip had its challenges, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while traveling
Good food. I’ll walk all day and select a budget hostel if that means I can eat well.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
I kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland.
U: Unforgettable travel memory
My last day in Australia in 2006 was one of the most powerful days of travel I’ve ever had. I had fallen in love with Australia, Sydney in particular, and didn’t want to go home. I spent the day soaking up the sights and spending time with friends from the hostel. That evening, a new friend picked me up in the pouring rain and took me to dinner. Afterward, we watched The Wizard of Oz at the Opera House and listened to the symphony place the score live. Following the show, we spent hours talking at a nearby pub before he finally returned me to the hostel. At the pub, I shared my desire to travel long-term, and he assured me that if I wanted to make it happen, it would happen. I went to bed that night feeling blessed for the experiences of the previous three weeks and thankful to end the trip with such a fun evening.
V: Visas. How many of them and for where.
Three. One for Turkey and purchased at the airport, and two for Australia, both electronic — one 3-month tourist visa in 2006 and the 12-month Work & Holiday Visa.
W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.
Nicole and I had a great glass of sangria in Barcelona. And I found a wine I really enjoyed at Murdering Point Winery in Australia.
X: eXcellent view and from where
When Allison and Jonathan asked if I’d like to join them on a cruise up the Bosphorus, I immediately said yes. I had wanted to go but didn’t want to go alone.
A few hours (and one steep hike) later, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Strait and the Black Sea.
Y: Years spent traveling
I started traveling in the USA at a young age, but my first trip overseas was just eight years ago.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where
As a rule, Aussies love sports. In my first week in the country, the guy that would eventually become my flat mate said, “You love travel AND sport — and you actually get it. Guys are gonna like you.”
AFL rules Victoria, and while I love Aussie Rules, the crowds at the State of Origin rugby league games were the most zealous. You’re either a massive Blues fan or a passionate Maroons supporter.
American Nicole, I know you’re currently in Queensland, but when you get back to Sydney, TAG, you’re it!
Featured image via creative commons