Back to school: My ABC’s of travel
Remember those chain letters that used to appear in your mailbox back when you were young? Annoying crumpled pieces of paper being sent from person to person promising fame and fortune?
Well, travel blogging offers neither of those things, but that hasn’t stopped something similar from doing the rounds of the blogosphere lately. I’ve been tagged by a couple of friends to share my own ABC’s of travel, so here are my alphabetised reflections on life as a wanderer.
And here we go, starting with the letter A…
A: Age you went on your first international trip: I was six when I started it, seven when I finished! My parents dragged my sister and I on a six week trip around Australia and South Africa, which speaks volumes for their patience (or insanity) levels. I don’t remember much except the heat in Adelaide and the elephants in the Kruger Park, mind you.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: Probably something from the Grimbergen range of Trappist beers that I’ve had a few times in Bruges. Hard to say though, there’s a lot of competition…
C: Cuisine (favorite): Thai is right up there – the explosion of tastes in my mouth never disappoints. Good thing I’m living in Chiang Mai for a while hey? Second choice would probably be Mexican – strangely enough I’m planning on going there for several weeks next year…
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: Favourite destinations include many parts of eastern Africa and South East Asia, and anywhere with a maximum of sand and sunshine and a minimum of hassle. Least favourite – probably Nairobi, but there are very few places I’d truly never visit again.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: Now that’s a good question. I’d say seeing in the millennium at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe ranks right up there. I was exhausted after weeks of overland travel but it was all forgotten that night. Just an amazing time.
F: Favorite mode of transportation: Short distances (and some not-so-short ones) – definitely my feet. I’ll walk anywhere and everywhere and frequently do, much to the dismay of any travelling companions. For longer distances I’ll always take the train if I have a choice in the matter, especially in Europe.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling: Easy – it’s the freedom. Not knowing what the day will bring and being able to make and change plans on a moment’s notice is the best feeling in the world.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Probably Vietnam during the rainy season – 40 degrees Celsius with steaming humidity and limited power supply was a struggle. I can deal with dry heat a lot better, so the heatwaves in southern Australia don’t bother me so much.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: When I lost my passport in Nha Trang, Vietnam, I thought I was well and truly screwed – until a moto-taxi driver named Dan came to my rescue. It was one of those mornings that will live with me forever.
J: Journey that took the longest: Lengthy journeys are pretty normal for me, unfortunately – it takes a long time to get from New Zealand to pretty much anywhere. I think the longest gap between sleeps, though, was something like 53 hours. I woke up at 7am in Phuket, Thailand, and finally got to bed around 3am – two days and several time zones later – very drunk in Valencia, Spain. Ouch.
K: Keepsake from your travels: Either my photos or (strangely) drink coasters – I’ve bought a few of them around the world and when I’ve got somewhere to put them they always make a good conversation starter.
L: Let-down sight, why and where: I was pretty underwhelmed by Venice when I went there – prices were sky-high, there was sewage floating in the Grand Canal and the crowds were just oppressive.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: It was pretty early on in my travelling ‘career’ for sure. I think it was probably the succession of ‘London moments’ that I had in my first few weeks in the city. I vividly remember regularly stopping somewhere in the middle of the city with the crowds rushing around me and just soaking up the atmosphere, thinking to myself "Wow, I’m in LONDON!"
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: I got put up in a 5-star hotel when I was in Hong Kong on business for a couple of weeks, but while it was quite opulent I also found it very boring. I’d much rather stay in a boutique hotel or hostel – it may not be as fancy, but it’ll be a lot more fun!
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: Beaches and sunsets. They just never get old.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? I can honestly say I have no idea – I’m up to my third adult passport! I’ve been to around 40 countries over the years but that’s about as close as I can get.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: Perhaps the Drive Through Tree in Leggett, northern California. It sure was quirky. If quirky is another name for crappy, that is.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience: Sailing for a week in the Greek Islands. I’ve done it twice now and seriously, it rocks my world. Witnessing the end of the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania came a close second.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Scuba diving – it can be expensive, but totally worth it.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done: I took a cheap Club 18-35 package holiday from England to Kos, one of the Greek Islands, with a mate for a week a few years ago just to get some late season sunshine. It was pretty much everything you’d expect – mediocre accommodation, drunk Brits everywhere and cafes offering the ‘full English breakfast’ and a pint of Tetleys. Blah. Never again. At least there was sunshine…
U: Unforgettable travel memory: Spending Christmas Day on the beach beside Lake Malawi with a bunch of new friends that I had travelled through Eastern Africa with. Best Xmas of my life.
V: Visas, how many and for where? If we’re talking about ones that had to be applied for in advance then it is just a couple of Vietnamese ones, a couple of Thai ones and one each for Cambodia and Laos. If it’s any old visa, then see (P) above…
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? Not much of a wine drinker, so anything that’s white and vaguely palatable suits me just fine.
X: eXcellent view and from where?: Victoria Falls or the Grand Canyon, I reckon.
Y: Years spent traveling?: Nearly 14 years now, on and off.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: Rugby fans in New Zealand, football fans in England, AFL fans in Melbourne. They’re all pretty mad about their sport.
So that’s my travel ABC – if you’ve got some fun, quirky or interesting answers to any of these questions yourself, please leave them in the comments below!
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