Anyway, the idea is to relive past travels through a sort of A-Z questionnaire, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to think back on the highs and lows over the course of my travel life. I’d love to know your answers to these questions, too! Hit me up with your best one, or all of them!
Here it goes!
ABCs of travel
A – Age of first international trip
I had just graduated from college and took a summer internship doing gray whale research off of a tiny island west of Vancouver Island.
I majored in biology and always had (and still do) big dreams of becoming a marine biologist. About 2 months before I graduated college, my ornithology (birds) professor told me about a program she found and encouraged me to apply for it. Fast forward a couple months later and I’m taking off on my first international flight!
I flew from Lubbock Texas up to Seattle Washington, which was fine- I’d flown domestically before. I got off the plane in Seattle and made it to my international plane feeling slightly nervous, but fairly confident I could figure it out. I mean, after all, I am smart.
I don’t know at which point it all fell apart but I started stressing out big time. I had to gate check my carry on bag and I had a bigger suitcase that was checked as well. Towards the end of the flight, we were given those customs cards you have to fill out
- I didn’t have a pen
- I didn’t know the address where I was going
- I couldn’t remember what date I was leaving
We land and I get off the plane and pick up my gate check bag and then I ask one of the airport workers “How do I find my checked bag?” and his response was “You’ll see it”. Ummmm…..not helpful, thanks.
I feel like I started crying at this point, but can’t be certain. I think I also swore I was never traveling again #dramaqueen
I make like a cow and follow all the other people ahead of me and stand in line for the border patrol. Here’s a side story- I don’t know what it is about me, maybe I just look guilty, but I am always stopped and questioned more thoroughly than the average Jane. And Canada is one of the worst countries for me to get into. Pete never believed me when I said this, but after flying together several times now, he gets it. Without fail, I am ALWAYS stopped. I finally have the world traveler card so it’s less of a hassle now, thankfully.
Fun fact- I flew to Nova Scotia a couple years ago and got pulled aside and questioned by several agents for like 3 years as to why I was flying into Nova Scotia in February – “cause I want to” and “it was a cheap flight” weren’t the best answers. Like, is it illegal to go to Canada in the winter?
But, back to Vancouver – I somehow make it through the border patrol and do eventually find my baggage and looking back on it, it wasn’t that hard. But things are always really scary the first time you do them, right?
Now, I just whip through airports like it ain’t no thang and have no fears of traveling alone. It really does some good to learn how to depend on and be confident in yourself. When I have children I hope I can teach them how to do that from an early age.
B – Best foreign beer or drink of choice
I never was much of an alcohol drinker until here recently. Not because I didn’t approve or didn’t like it, I was always so overwhelmed by the choices and didn’t know what I would like. So instead of choosing something random, I chose nothing. Again, I think it goes back to just being confident and trying things- even if you hate them.
I now have a “two try policy” – I’ll always try something twice – if I hate it the first time it could just have been a bad experience, but if I hate something twice then chances are it’s just not something I’m ever going to like.
So I was in Belgium a few years ago and tried their cherry beer called Kriek, which I thought was very good. I’ve recently fallen in love with a wine from Italy – Barbera d’alba. I’ve had a really good beer from Germany, but can’t remember what it was. But we are going back for Oktoberfest this year so we’ll have lots of German beer to dip our toes into.
I’ve read at Oktoberfest to help you slow your roll, they can mix lemonade into the beer to create a super refreshing drink. And I love lemonade so I’ll be all over that.
C- Favorite cuisine
Oof, that’s such a hard question to answer. Just like trying to answer the question “what’s your favorite country?” I really love sushi and ramen, but also Indian, Spanish, and Mexican.
I can’t possibly choose – don’t make me do itttttt. So, in the spirit of being indecisive, here are some of the best meals I’ve ever had-
- Guinness beef stew in Dublin, Ireland
- Cheese and croissants in Paris, France
- Margarita pizza in Naples, Italy
- Al Pastor tacos in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Pretzels and homemade sausage in Kaisersbach, Germany
- Lokma in Istanbul, Turkey
- Parma ham sandwich in Lisbon, Portugal
D- Destinations – favorite / least favorite and why
Favorite – probably Ireland. It was always a bucket list trip and for whatever reason, I always put it off. I am constantly browsing air travel sites and have like 15 Kayak alerts set on my phone and one day I got a notification about flights to Dublin for like $450 so I said: “well shit, make it rain”. And like they say, the rest was history.
I tagged Ireland onto a trip to Germany to see my best friend get married and meet her new baby. Afterward, I spent almost two weeks exploring Ireland and absolutely loved every single second of it. Even getting lost trying to find my Airbnb apartment. I talk a lot about my experience in Ireland here.
Least favorite – the night I spent in Naples Italy. I was making my way from Paris to Positano and flew into Naples. I had arrived late at night so I figured I would just spend the night there and then head out to the coast in the morning.
I was totally shocked at the state of Naples. I felt so uncomfortable there and was really surprised I was not robbed or pickpocketed. I never wear really expensive jewelry and don’t flash my cameras or money around so I don’t look like an easy target, but being a woman I felt that it automatically made me stand out.
Even though I did have the best pizza of my life at this little run down hole in the wall shop, I don’t think I’d ever go to Naples again.
Not from Naples –
E-Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “wow”
Gosh, just traveling in general. It always shocks me that there are people that don’t like to travel. I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around the thought that I would never leave my city again.
My brother was dating a girl for a New York minute who was like 25 and had NEVER left her tiny hometown in Nevada. I think my response to my brother was “whoa, wait a minute.” People aren’t trees, we’re made to be curious and made to be out exploring.
But, if I had to pick one particular moment that was absolutely incredible it would probably be riding camels through the Sahara desert.
It was something I always wanted to do but never thought it would happen. I’m not sure why I thought it would never happen, but I did. Maybe because it’s so far or it’s kinda of a weird place to travel to? Maybe I thought no one would ever come with me? I don’t know… dumb.
I remember climbing onto the camel and it standing up for the first time thinking “HOLY MOTHER FORKING SHIRT BALLS! this is insane!” Any good place people here? 😉
Even though camels aren’t the most comfortable things to ride I didn’t even care. I was so totally stoked to be on the camel that I could have ridden it for days. And in the same vein as camel riding, the desert camp we spent a few nights at was breathtaking.
And because I can never pick just one favorite thing, some more really incredible travel moments:
Watching humpback whales feed and breach in Canada. Whales are my most favorite animal in the entire world and seeing them in the wild brings me to absolute tears every single time. I’m currently working on a trip plan to get up to Churchill, Manitoba to snorkel with belugas. And also to get to Vava’u, Tonga to snorkel with humpback whales. I can’t even imagine the sheer joy I would feel – seriously like a 2-year-old looking at the world for the first time.
Has anyone ever done this? Any tour operators reading this and wanna hook a girl up? 😉 haha!
Another favorite was walking through this 6th-12th century monastic city in Glendalough, Ireland. HOW in the world is this stuff still standing? It’s absolutely mind-blowing to me. I love picturing myself back in that time and trying to think what life would have been like or looked like all those centuries ago.
Another was in Istanbul Turkey and hearing the call to prayer between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. I’m not Muslim, but I think everyone can appreciate how beautiful the call is. Muslims pray 5 times a day so pick any point right before the call to prayer and find some benches to sit on. I forget who starts it but one will play the first line and the other echoes back and it’s this epically beautiful battle.
And one more for good measure – we took a helicopter flight over the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It was my first time in a helicopter and that combined with the fact that it is a beautiful place, we got to see a whale, and music that was appropriately timed for our flight made it an absolutely incredible experience. I remember actually crying real tears when we rose up over this canyon ridge and the song “best day of my life” was playing.
Oof, all the feels.
F – Favorite mode of transportation
Hands down, boats. Mainly so I can shout “I’m on a boattttt!”
No, not really, but maybe.
I am obviously a water baby and really love being on the ocean. I feel far more in control when I’m on a boat as compared to an airplane. Plus, people are just nicer on boats, aren’t they? How many times do you get stuck sitting behind some asshole that throws his seat back the second the wheels are off the ground? Or the person who takes your armrest? Or the one that leaves the overhead light on at 3 am while they’re asleep?
On boats, people are laid back and relaxed. You’ve got the smell of the ocean, the wind whipping through your air, the warm salty breeze on your face. It’s all just perfect.
G- Greatest feeling while traveling
I think it has to be that existential feeling. The out of body experience. Especially when you’re doing something totally cool – looking at old ruins, watching animals, scuba diving incredible reefs etc.
When we were in Morocco I kept having to remind myself to slow down and really think about where I was. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whole traveling experience – trying to keep a schedule and trying to cram as much as you possibly can into your days. It’s so easy for you to rabbit hole yourself into that schedule that you no longer have any fun.
In Morocco, I would tell myself “Picture a map, find Africa, then find Morocco. Now think about how cool it is that you are riding camels in the desert. Or that you’re shopping in a market that is hundreds of years old.”
Stopping for just a minute to consciously have that out of body experience really helps me to appreciate traveling.
H- The hottest place you’ve ever traveled to
Toss up between Morocco and Turkey. I’ve never sweat so much in my life as I did walking around those two countries. The day we arrived in Morocco it was over a hundred and the rest of the time was at least 90. Thankfully though it was a dry heat. And we occasionally had some wind.
Turkey was ungodly hot too, but it was so humid that it was almost near the point of being miserable. Neither one of those countries has the best access to air conditioning so I was super dramatic and acted like I was melting the entire time.
I – Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Ireland! Everyone in Ireland is so happy, joyful, and always willing to help.
But, for the most part, everywhere I’ve traveled I’ve had great experiences with the people. I think it just comes down to how you treat others and if you’re receptive to experiencing another culture, they will be too. Except maybe for France – the people I ran into there are a bit snooty, especially if you don’t attempt to speak any French.
J- Journey that took the longest
Definitely getting home from Morocco. It was like a 2-day ordeal and was such an utter sh** show that I am still quite honestly shocked we made it back.
Delayed flights, canceled flights, riots, strikes, tears and utter exhaustion. I talk about it more here.
K- Keepsakes from your travels
I don’t typically buy too much stuff when I travel as I much prefer to have photographs and put them up on my walls. But I do love to buy canvas paintings from the places I visit. I haven’t always done this so unfortunately, I don’t have every country, but I have several from Germany, one from Turkey, a few from different places in the states, and we bought a beautiful one from Morocco.
L- Let down sight- where and why
The Mannekin Pis in Brussels. I had seen several pictures of it and was really excited to see it in real life because why not? It’s like the weirdest thing ever – a boy peeing – why is this cool? I don’t know.
It was so disappointing though. It’s tiny! I was expecting some giant statue, but it’s only like two feet tall and stuck back against this wall in a corner. Goes to show you how photography angles can create anything.
The Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin. The Book of Kells is a Gospel book, which is really cool, but the lines to see it are SO long. I waited in line and we were directed into this room and the book is actually very small, in the center of the room, underneath like 3 tons of glass. There are so many people crowded around it that it’s hard to see.
Anddddd you can’t take pictures, and we all know – pics or it didn’t happen.
It might be one of those things you just do, but if you don’t suffer from the debilitating disease known as FOMO, I would probably skip it.
M- Moment where you fell in love with traveling
Believe it or not, it was my very first international trip! I already talked about it, but I had obviously never flown internationally before and never flown solo before so those are two HUGE things. Combine them and it’s kinda mind-blowing.
My love for traveling is reconfirmed every time I take a trip somewhere though. If I could, I would travel monthly and never come home, haha.
N- The nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
I recently just went to Boston for a work conference and we were put up in the swankiest place. The going room rates were like $500 a night. There were at least 30 floors, several bars, restaurants, Starbucks, and other super fun stuff. It is located in a cool part of town and is basically right across the street from the Boston Public Gardens and the Boston Common.
O- Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling
Literally everything. I always bring multiple batteries, memory cards, and various cameras. I never want to miss a single moment.
I love taking the big landscape photos, but also love photographing people and smaller things that go unnoticed – fruits, flowers, birds, trees etc.
P- Passport stamps – how many and from where
23 – England, Turkey, Portugal, several from Canada, France, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, and Morocco. Passport stamps are a weird thing – I’ve never been to the Netherlands, only flown into Amsterdam like 452 times so I get stamped every time. Also, I’ve been to several countries that I didn’t get stamps for.
Q- Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
I can’t really think, but it could very well be right here in my beloved Minneapolis. We have this incredible sculpture garden with a gigantic blue rooster.
We just returned from Utah where we got married! We flew into Las Vegas and took a little detour down to the 7 Magic Mountains which is a super cool art installation right in the desert.
R- Really frightening – wheres one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy
I talk about this above, but it was definitely Naples Italy for me.
S- Splurge – something you have no problem spending money on while traveling
Hmmm, probably the experiences. I have no trouble dropping money on local tours or admission tickets to locations. The more you explore the better you learn the country. When I went to Europe for the first time I did a big coach bus group tour, but you’re always offered additional activities and I always did them. I was shocked at the number of people that didn’t do them and their response was “we’ve already spent so much money getting here, this is good enough”
T- Touristy thing you’ve done
Let’s see, probably the most touristy thing I’ve ever done was take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Totally basic, but it was really fun. I did miss out on seeing the tower lit up at night so next time I’m in Paris that is totally happening.
Probably pretty touristy as well even though it wasn’t one of the popular ones, but jumping into this small cenote in Mexico counts as being touristy, I think. We had taken a day trip from Playa del Carmen to explore the Mayan ruins of Coba and Tulum.
Some point between there we stopped at this old school, classic Mayan village for lunch and a cenote swim. I think the jump was probably 20 or 25 feet straight down into some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen.
U- Unforgettable travel memory
For the longest time, my favorite travel memory was taking a cable car up to the summit of Mt. Stanserhorn in Switzerland. I remember the day just like it was yesterday. I had been SO excited to hit Switzerland, because why not, right? It’s an absolutely stunningly beautiful country.
I get into this funicular cable style car and start my way up the mountain. The weather that day was absolutely perfect – it was just slightly chilly, a light breeze, and not too many people were out and about. As I’m making my way up the mountain I see goats with cowbells around their necks, rabbits, birds etc. Just picture perfect.
I get to the top and spend some time walking around and there is like literally no one around and it’s so quiet and peaceful. The only sounds you can hear is the soft sound of the goat’s bells ringing as they are walking around.
It was certainly one of the most peaceful travel experiences I’ve ever had. Match that to the absolute insanity of the night market in the Jemaa-el-Fna in Marrakech!
V- Visas – how many and for where
I don’t think I have any visas. Luckily enough with an American passport, we can get in pretty much anywhere.
W- Wine- best glass while traveling
I had a really great ice wine when I was in Germany. Icewine is so super sweet so you can’t drink much of it. It is made by leaving the grapes on the vines and letting them freeze, hence – ice wine.
We also had a really good bottle of Moroccan wine with dinner on our second night in Marrakech. Who knew a Muslim country could produce such delicious wine?
X- excellent view and from where?
Anywhere I’m with him 🙂
In the almost 2 years we’ve been together we’ve gone to:
Later this year we are headed to Germany (his first time) and to Croatia. We will also sprinkle in some US trips as well. I’ve been wanting to visit Chicago and take Pete down to New Orleans to meet my extended family.
I’ve never had someone so supportive of my desire to travel and so willing to go anywhere in the world with me.
Y- Years spent traveling
I took my very first trip when I was a year old to New York City and I’ve been on the go since. So a whopping total of 30 years now. Most of my childhood was spent traveling back and forth to Louisiana to see family. We never took any family vacations anywhere else.
My first big girl trip was to Canada right after college. I took a few years off after that because #helpmeimpoor
Since then I’ve been to 14 countries and multiple states and cities.
Z- Zealous sports fans and where?
Nah, not really. I’ve never been a big sports team supporter and don’t particularly care. I support the team for where I am living, but that’s about it. I have been to a couple Twins games though and that’s pretty fun.
So that’s it! I hope that was fun to read through cause it was definitely fun to write. Let’s hear it from you!
Comment with a couple answers or link your blog post for the whole thing!
I’d love to read them
And if you’re interested, be sure to check out these other posts:
My super long adventure and
My travel timeline to learn more about some of the places I talk about above.
Founder of Packing for Plenty in July 2017. Along with her husband, Pete, she is on a mission to visit most countries. And wants to take y’all along as well! On PFP Steff provides travel itineraries ranging from a weekend trip nearby to 2 weeks living abroad like a local…detailed destination specific travel tips that aren’t readily available elsewhere…and unique and interesting bucket list worthy experiences.