Call me a copycat. I am fine with that.
But Kyle is one too.
According to a silly app I found on line, I have visited 14% of the world. I only counted countries I have spent some time in— it would be more if I counted countries where I only know the airport! I have also lived for longer periods of time in Chile, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Cambodia. I have traveled for both work and for pleasure, stayed in 5 star hotels and the nastiest of hostels. I have flown first class and hitch hiked (sorry Mom and Dad). So, I have a few opinions about travel and, of course, my own pet peeves.
1. I will always spend more on food then on lodging.
Yes, I like clean showers and to have my own bathroom. I also like fancy robes and pools. However, I like good food even more. I love to eat and try things local— even fried grasshoppers stuffed with peanuts and noodles with horse meat. I also love good food or food that reminds me of home. If I can take a cooking class, even better. I did one in Cambodia and it was a great travel experience. Below is a picture of me learning to make traditional foods in Moldova.
2. I would rather get to know a place then see everything.
Yes, I like traveling. I like setting off to see the world. Even more though, I like living abroad. I like being in a place so long that I get past the honeymoon phase and can see its flaws. I enjoy getting to know local people and how they spend their time– it doesn’t have to be fancy, just real. I love to go to outdoor markets, both food and artisan both abroad and in the states. I think these markets say a lot about a country. When I was in Moldova, I spent days with my neighbors to understand their lives. I learned to harvest walnuts and plant cabbages. I learned to can vegetables and make juice. When I lived in Cambodia, I went with my language teacher to her home village for a celebration where we washed her parents.
3. I am working on improving my planning skills. I swear. I am.
While my husband won’t believe this as he finds my obsession with lists hysterical, I am working on being a better planner when it comes to travel. I used to just buy a ticket and go. I figured once I arrived, I would figure things out: lodging, food, language, places to visit. Often, this worked well. I was never disappointed I missed someplace I really wanted to see– after all, I didn’t know it was there to miss. I usually found someplace to stay that was reasonably affordable and clean. However, after an unfortunate experience on an overnight train with no seats and men peeing in the cabin, I started to rethink my traveling logic.
Now, I like to plan things— at least with a general idea of what is available, when things will be open, how much things will cost, and a map of the metro (if pertinent). I abhor trains (see above link) and am careful to plan planes so that I don’t have to dart across town or spent 6 hours idle in transit. I don’t plan out every second, but I like to know my options.
4. I pretend to scoff at people who insist on wearing make-up and staying in 5 star hotels, but I secretly love the luxury of those hotels.
I love to think of myself as some granola chick who can slap on a backpack, stick out her thumb and slum it with the best of them. Admittedly, I have been there. Granted, I have moved on now. I do enjoy staying places with a comfortable bed and a good pool. I, however, hate to pay for those places. Luckily, my job sends me traveling and priceline exists. I admit that I can become obsessed with the game: what is the best deal I can get??? With our newest family member in tow, I think that we will be even more discriminating about where we stay and how many times we switch hotels during a visit to a country.
5. I forget stuff.
It is true. I can forget places I have been. I never know what the restaurant/hotel/beach’s name is. I can’t tell you how to get there. I can tell you if I loved it or not. Because I forget things, I like to take pictures. While people do laugh at the camera carrying tourist– which I am– I also look back at my photos. I love spending an afternoon looking at old photos and places I have been. This obsession with photos is despised by my husband who refuses to have his picture taken. Sadly, because of his hate for cameras and eye rolling, I take less pictures. So many more things will simply be forgotten from now on.
6. I never pay for guides.
I hate the idea of paying for a guide for things, particularly the headphone audio guides. I do like it, however, when other people pay for real people guides. Because I speak several languages and dabble in a few more, I do love to stand near guided tours and see what I can pick up. This is particularly fun when the tour is in Russian, Romanian, or Japanese.
7. I hate carrying things.
I do love rolling suitcases. In fact, I LOVE my new swivel suitcase. I can roll it in every direction possible and I don’t even have to tilt it and feel any weight. My dislike for carrying suitcases (and backpacks) makes me pack light. Sometimes, it means I don’t have the correct clothing for all situations. While in Lithuania (in August), I was freezing and ended up buying this pink sweater. Later in the trip, I wore the sweater in Prague (pictured below).
I also rarely pack makeup, heals, dresses, dress up clothes, or appropriate shoes. If possible, I prefer to do all traveling in flip flops or tennis shoes. Yes, I know that makes me look like a stupid, American tourist… but I am an American tourist (hopefully not stupid too often). Plus, the shoes match the camera, which I mentioned above. I have embraced this and moved on.