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Once upon a time, many moons ago the lovely Kia from Aspire to Amble nominated me to take part in the ABCs of Travel Tag, a nice little quiz type post which seems to be the perfect way to unashamedly drone on about myself without coming across as narcissistic and self-obsessed. Score.
Kia not only has one of the most colourful travel blogs I’ve ever seen (she uses a rainbow of colours for her sub-headings and paragraphs, and sometimes I just sit there and look at her posts without actually reading them because they’re so pretty. Then I do, of course, proceed to read them) but she also has the patience of a saint when it comes to my never-ending string of “Crap, sorry, I completely forgot to reply to your e-mail“.
If it makes you feel any better, it once took me 3 months to reply to my own sister’s message. Three whole months.
Anyway, I love doing these kinds of posts because they take me back to the old school Bebo days when you’d answer random quizzes about yourself and post them on your Notes. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? What’s your favourite TV show? Pizza or pasta? I used to do bunches of them, but rather than actually post them on Bebo (or MySpace, if we want to rewind all the way back), I’d save them to a folder with a not at all suspicious name like “ajshfjabsfjbe” on our family desktop.
I’m rambling on now, so here’s my travel alphabet.
Age you went on your first international trip:
4, almost 5. Disneyworld (of course) with my father, stepmother, brother and sister. We stayed in an apartment-type place, I tried cookie dough ice cream for the first time, my brother caught a lizard and I cried when I wasn’t tall enough to go on Space Mountain.
Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
I’ve actually never had a beer, foreign or not. #soberlife
Indian, undoubtedly. It’s funny because whenever I go away for extended periods of time, other than Cathedral City extra mature cheddar cheese, Cadbury’s chocolate (the real stuff, not that powder-y fakeness they claim to be real in India) and pickled onion Monster Munch, I don’t really find myself craving British food. But I always always always have a hankering for Indian.
Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
If we’re talking countries, I’d have to go with India. Up until last year Peru was my firm favourite, but too many portions paneer butter masala and Mexican cheesy fries later and India’s pipped it to the post! If we’re talking specific places within countries, can I say Six Flags Mexico City?
Least favourite is a toss-up between Ajmer (in Rajasthan, India) and Buenos Aires. I felt like an alien from outer space in the Ajmer, and just found Buenos Aires to be so, so boring! Which is odd because normally I’m the first aboard the “I love South America Express“.
Experience abroad that made you say “wow”:
Machu Picchu, I cried. Tikal, I cried. Watching the sunset in the Amazon, I cried. Meeting Cinderella in Disneyland – I didn’t cry, but boy was it close!
They were all good wow’s. Moving on to the bad kind of wow… leaving the Taj Mahal after an incredible few hours wandering around and drinking in its magnificence, and coming face to face with unimaginable poverty right outside the exit.
Favourite mode of transportation:
Motorbike. As long as I’m the passenger, and I trust the driver.
Greatest feeling while travelling:
Without wanting to sound too la-di-dah here, it’s the feeling of being free that gets me every time. When you’re standing atop a mountain, cursing yourself out for choosing to climb it in the first place, but then you look around and kind of think “Oh, I chose this“. Being able to wake up one morning and just decide to move on, to explore and discover somewhere else. It’s the freedom.
Hottest place you’ve travelled to:
Not sure this counts as I didn’t really travel there, but back in 2012 I flew with Oman Air to Nepal, and had a 5-hour stopover in Muscat Airport. They didn’t have those magic tunnels that connect the plane to the airport, so we had to walk down the steps onto the ground, budget-style. It was about 7am and I just remember as soon as I stepped out of the door getting hit full-on with heat and humidity so unbearable I couldn’t even take a breath. If that was 7am, I can’t even imagine what it would be like at the height of day!
Incredible photo you’ve taken and where
Not the greatest quality given that it was taken on a £30 point and shoot Nikon camera, but this is far and away the faourite photo I’ve ever taken. I’ve probably told this story one too many times on the blog by this point, but here’s one more for luck.
I was volunteering at an eco lodge in the Peruvian Amazon. This little girl was a member of one of the tribes living nearby. Her cat had gone missing and obviously with it being the Amazon, everyone feared the worst! Then someone found it in one of the little canoes by the lodge, so we took it back to her. The joy in her face gives me heart eyes.
Journey that took the longest:
I took a bus from Quito to Lima, with the intention of then getting a flight on to Cusco to meet a friend. What was supposed to take about 38 hours ended up just under 72 hours, thanks to an insane amount of roadblocks, getting held up at the border, our driver abandoning us (and the bus) in the middle of nowhere (we had to wait 3 hours for the company to send another driver out to rescue us) and missing my flight to Cusco.
I could have flown from Dubai to Brazil and back again twice, and squeezed in a 12-hour nap in that time.
Keepsake from your travels:
Those little flag patches that hardcore travellers sew on to their battered suitcases. I’ve accumulated a nice little pile back on the bookshelf in my bedroom at my stepdad’s house, but have no idea what to do with them! I don’t think any backpack I own will ever last long enough for me to be willing to sacrifice the patches for that purpose. I’m thinking a quilt maybe? One I can keep adding to the more patches I collect.
Let-down sight, why and where:
Christ the Redeemer in Rio, because it’s just a statue. And a pretty boring one at that. Compared to all the other Wonders of the World, it’s super anti-climactic.
Moment where you fell in love with travel:
The first time I left the country alone, in the summer of 2011. It was a solo jaunt to Peru, and you’re probably thinking maybe it was the view of Machu Picchu, or the food, or the culture of Cusco that made me fall in love. But no.
My first flight was cancelled, so I got put on another one heading for Peru via Miami instead of Madrid, as the original was planned. There was a hurricane warning out for Florida, and my plane ended up having to circle the sky for a while before eventually making an unplanned landing in Bahamas to refuel. I’d had no sleep, very little food (turns out you have to specially request vegetarian meals on planes — who knew?!) but can remember being sat on that runway for almost 4 hours, staring out of the window at the rainy island outside, huge grin on my face thinking “THIS is an adventure”.
Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
I don’t remember the name of it, but it was in Rio de Janeiro. I lucked out big time and ended up paying for a ‘basic’ room and ending up in the luxury suite. I ended up with 3 king-size beds to myself, a dining room and living area, a bath robe and one of those baths that has a bubble maker in it. There were even complimentary snacks — as in, a minibar I didn’t have to pay for!
Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?
Sunsets. I’m forever chasing pretty sunsets, but very rarely do I actually get a good shot.
Passport stamps, how many and from where?
53 from United States, Peru, Nepal, India, Venezuela, Colombia, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Malaysia, China and Montenegro. Montenegro is my favourite only because I didn’t realise I’d even get a stamp as I’d previously thought it was part of the EU (freedom of movement, all right!). That is, until we landed and I had a momentary panic that I hadn’t applied for a visa. No visa needed, though.
I also have 3 ‘bonus’ stamps on the last page of my passport from the Middle of the World in Quito and Machu Picchu.
Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
The Museum of Heartbreaking Relationships in Zagreb, It’s blooming fantastic! So weird and wonderful. I also once went to see a really big tree in Mexico, which was grand.
Recommended sight, event or experience:
Machu Picchu. I harp on about it a lot, but it’s just as incredible in real life as it looks in photographs, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone being underwhelmed by it.
It’s not just the pretty side of it, either, but the fact that once upon a time it was actually created by human hands before JCBs and diggers and forklifts were invented! Incredible.
And, I mean, if it’s good enough for Harry Styles…
Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while travelling:
Dessert. Every time! I’ve been known to order the cheapest thing off the menu just so I could go all out on dessert, often ordering something that costs 2 or even 3 times the price of a main. Let’s just say, all of my teeth are sweet teeth.
Touristy thing you’ve done:
Disneyland California and Universal Studios Hollywood last year. It was 4 days of pure, uninterrupted touristy fun smack bang in the middle of 8 months of culture and exploration and being a (excuse me while I heave) citizen of the world. Those four days cost almost as much as my whole four months in India, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Unforgettable travel memory:
Woah, there’s a lot. Getting ‘kidnapped’ in Nepal is one which stands out a lot, but not for great reasons. Although telling that story has sort of become my party trick – silver linings, eh? watching the sunset in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert, falling in love in India,
The good kind of unforgettable would be catching sight of Machu Picchu for the first time, watching the sunset in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert, finally visiting the Great Wall and crossing off all 7 Wonders, falling in love in India, riding a motorbike for the first time, eating really $%@*ing good pizza with friends in Italy, making friends all over the world. SO many memories.
Visas, how many and for where?
Just three – two for India, one for Nepal. And a non-visa Visa for China (the 72-hour Visa Waiver) which takes up an annoying amount of space on a page.
Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where?
Again, I’ve never had a glass of wine. But I guess they have nice ones in Argentina and Chile? And I saw some people drinking wine there sooo.
Xcellent view and from where?:
This is like asking me to pick my favourite child. If I had children, anyway. We’ll go with the view over Lake Bled from the Ojstrica viewpoint. Just look at it!
Years spent travelling?
So. Seeing as I can’t actally remember anything beyond the highlights of my trips to Disneyworld, Lanzarote and Ireland when I was a wee one, we’ll go with 6 years. Since the summer after I turned 18. Although I did actually do the maths recently, and if you add up every day spent travelling since turning 18, we’re a little over 2 years.
Zealous sports fans and where?
I didn’t have to leave the country for this one! A few months ago the UEFA Champions League final was held in Cardiff, my home city (although not my home town, as I’m from where the sheep roam free), and I have never seen crowds like it! The atmosphere was incredible, albeit intense, and I’m unashamed to admit that I spent most of the weekend hiding in my room because crowds + chanting + sports = no thanks.