A few months ago, successful blogger, rockstar entrepreneur and favorite travel companion, Chelsea Glass from The Heart of Travel nominated me for the Liebster Award. My first thought was, “oh crap, I am going to have to accept this recognition and give a speech for an award I’ve never heard of!” I quickly did a little research and much to my relief, I discovered that I wouldn’t need to give an acceptance speech but I would get to do a bit of writing, something I’m much better at! Turns out that the Liebster Award is a wonderful platform for new bloggers to introduce themselves to the blogging community, showcase their talents and grow their audience. It has been a lot of fun writing this blog!
A heartfelt “muchas gracias” to my girl, Chelsea, for the nomination! It has been so inspiring to watch her grow her boutique travel company over the last 8 months. Specializing in trips to Latin America, The Heart of Travel focuses on authentic and ethical tourism through their off-the-beaten path itineraries. It brings so much joy to see how Chelsea continues touching the lives of both her clients and the local communities she works with. Be a part of the magic and join one of her upcoming trips!
So, without further delay, here are my responses to Chelsea’s questions. At the end of this blog post you can learn more about the Liebster Award and also check out the questions that I’ve come up with for my nominee, Kristina Gonzalez from Kristina Perdida!
1. When did you first get bitten by the travel bug and how did it lead to where you are today?
My love of travel was sparked by my Turkish “hermana vagabunda” (vagabond sister), Nazli Gurkas. We met while both living in Barcelona and attending the same Spanish language school. I was 23 and it was my first time living abroad. Nazli, on the other hand, had already lived in three countries, was fluent in Turkish, English and Italian and was learning Spanish and Greek. Yeah, a little intimidating to say the least. And yet she was so warm and friendly, you couldn’t help but gravitate towards her positive energy. We instantly connected as friends. Nazli was the expert on traveling-on-a dime and I still remember our first trip to Madrid, Spain. Rather than taking the expensive, 2-hour high speed train, she suggested we take the dirt cheap, 8-hour bus across the country. I remember showing up at the train station with a carry-on sized rolly luggage for our weekend trip and she immediately started laughing when she saw me, proudly carrying her small backpack. I remember dragging my rolly luggage all over the cobble-stoned streets, sleeping on a mattress on the floor at a friend of a friend’s house, eating bread and cheese in the park every day, using our student discount everywhere we could and getting around via public transportation. When I returned to Barcelona, the first thing I bought was my very own travel backpack and kept asking when our next trip would be – I was hooked. Over that next year, Nazli and I took several trips together where we depended on the goodness of strangers via couch-surfing to give us a place to crash and used travel books and maps to guide us around our destinations. These days, you can find Nazli camping in her tent on a beach in Greece, overlooking a temple in Thailand or in a lavender farm in Turkey. My couch surfing days are over but that passion for travel has never died and it all started with one chance encounter between two young girls who have since created a lifelong friendship.
2. What is your favorite aspect of traveling? History? Nature? Food? Or?
My favorite aspect of traveling is learning. When I arrive in a new place I have this insatiable desire to know that place on a deeper level – how it was founded and it’s history, stories and myths behind buildings and various locations, the people who live and work there etc. The more I travel, the more I learn and the more I make these historical and cultural connections in my head that make the world smaller, more intertwined and more familiar.
3. What is the biggest challenge you face when traveling for longer periods of time?
I have a pretty varied diet so sometimes my biggest challenge is food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love curry, but after day seven of curry I just need something different. Also, I’m not vegetarian but vegetables are essential in my diet, so if the bases of every dish is meat, I get a little tired of that after a while.
4. Do you prefer solo travel, organized group travel or traveling with your partner or a couple close friends?
I prefer to travel with one other person, rather that be my husband or a close friend with a similar travel style. When you have too many personalities or travel styles I think it can really put a damper on the travel experience. I have done a little bit of solo travel, but, hands-down, I enjoy experiencing something with another person.
5. What’s the craziest experience you’ve had while on a trip? Don’t be shy!
To be honest, my travels normally go off without a hitch because, well, ask anyone who knows me, I am a hopeless planner. However, since my move to Mexico City a year and a half ago, I have had my fair share of crazy experiences. To keep things short, I will just name a few things I’ve witnessed this past week alone: a woman selling tacos out of the trunk of her car, condoms being advertised next to the tequila bottles at the grocery store, a dentist located in a dark corridor that goes under a major street and a stray dog happily wandering through Sunday mass at the Basilica. I couldn’t even make this stuff up if tried!
6. Is there any particular travel hack you’ve found to be extra useful?
I have several! First, ditch the rolley suitcase and go for the backpack, it just makes life so much easier. I really like the Quechua brand. Second, roll your clothes rather than packing them folded to take up less space. Third, simplify your makeup and beauty products for travel. For example, I like using the Bare Essentials tinted sunscreen which doubles as foundation. Lastly, before booking a hostel, take a look at Airbnbs or homestays in the area. Often times you can split the cost with the friend you’re traveling with and end up paying the same or even less for a whole private apartment!
7. Are there any places you’ve visited that you really wouldn’t want to go back to? Why?
I’ve been to a couple quintessential Spanish festivals like Running of the Bulls and Las Fallas and I think I could pass on going back. They were interesting for that one time experience but not enough to go back year after year.
8. How has travel impacted your personal growth and development?
The minute I stepped on that international flight to Barcelona to work as an Au Pair and learn Spanish for a year, my life was forever changed. Every move after that has been like a natural domino effect – I learned Spanish, I got my TEFL Certification to teach English, I worked at a Spanish language school in Sacramento and now I’m in Mexico City living my dream of being a freelance writer, English teacher and tour guide, all the while traveling to different corners of the world (Thailand, Philippines, Turkey to name a few). The moment I started down this path of travel, this journey of following my passions and staying curious about the world around me, my life has had this continuous forward, positive momentum that I never want to stop.
9. Who is the most interesting character you’ve met abroad?
I wish I had time to go deep into the depths of my travel journals to answer this question. But off the top of my head, the person that comes to mind is Julia, an 89-year-old woman who, depending on the day of the week, sells her homemade cookies outside of Mercado Jamaica and Mercado Alamos in Mexico City. She has been selling her cookies at these markets for as long as she can remember and it just warms my heart to see her smile every week. I say a quick “Buenos días Doña Julia” and she immediately grabs a bag of my favorite cookies.
10. Is there anywhere that you really want to visit but are perhaps held back by fear of the unknown?
Israel and India are two places that really intrigue me for both cultural, religious and historical reasons. Although, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready for the culture shock. But I’ve learned to never say never! Several years ago I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to Asia and yet, my husband and I recently got back from an amazing trip to Thailand and the Philippines.
How does the Liebster award work?
It’s pretty straightforward. Create a post on your blog that answers the 10 questions your nominating blogger assigned to you. Make sure to thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog. Nominate other blogs that you feel deserve the Liebster Award and give them a new set of 10 questions to answer.
My questions for Kristina
- What first sparked your travel bug?
- How and/or why were you inspired to start Kristina Perdida? What are your goals for the blog?
- What place have you traveled to that has surprised you the most?
- How do you document your travels? Do you journal?
- When you’re not off exploring the world, where can we find you?
- If you could choose to meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
- You’re on a desert island, what are 3 things you couldn’t be without?
- How do you pick your travel destinations? Do you plan your itinerary or just show up and see where the wind takes you?
- Do you prefer solo travel, traveling with a friend or in a group?
- Any wild and crazy stories from your travels you want to share?
As a parting note, I will leave you all with this little saying that I live by.