A: Age you went on your first international trip: I was 15 when I went to Monterrey, Mexico as part of a church mission trip. But since I didn’t even need a passport for that, I consider my real first trip abroad to be the Contiki European Vista tour I took after I finished law school in 2001.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: Back when I could still drink beer, I would say Austrian beer – no particular kind, just the beer in general. When I was on a ski trip there several years ago, every bar we went to only had 2 choices for beer – large or small.
C: Cuisine (favorite): Ever since having to go gluten-free, enjoying a lot of the local cuisine when I travel has pretty much been eliminated. In my previous gluten-filled life, I loved French cuisine – especially profiteroles and big, flaky, buttery croissants.
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: My favorite destination is Rome because it’s a beautiful city with a ton of history and I feel like I could never get tired of it. My least favorite is Cologne. I spent 2 days there in 2007 and just hated it. The pedestrian mall was overtaken by massive neon signs, every single street seemed to be under construction, they did a horrible job mixing old and new (I recall having to walk through an apartment building garage to get to an old church I wanted to see) and I thought the only attractive site worth seeing was the huge cathedral.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: I had front row seats at Wimbledon for the longest match in tennis history, between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010. By the time they were well into the fifth set, every other word out of my mouth was either “wow” or “insane.”
F: Favorite mode of transportation: I like both buses and trains if they are comfortable and clean. Flying is too much hassle.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling: Heading out the door of my hotel for the first time to explore a new city.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Ibiza at the end of July – it was close to 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) and our hotel had no air conditioning and the showers were salt water, not fresh water so it was impossible to even feel clean. I just felt gross the whole time I was there.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Definitely the service I got from the staff at the Apple Hostel in St. Petersburg, Russia – they sewed up my clothes, helped me get my shoulder bag fixed and, most importantly, helped me retrieve the debit card that was eaten by an ATM machine.
J: Journey that took the longest: My trip to Australia in 2005. I left Chicago in the middle of a snowstorm to fly to Melbourne via San Francisco and Sydney. My initial flight was delayed by several hours, and then I had a 4-5 hour layover in San Francisco before jumping on the 14 hour flight to Sydney. Once in Sydney, I learned that my flight to Melbourne was delayed for about 3 hours. The whole journey ended up taking close to 40 hours.
Oh wait…I guess my 62 hour train ride from Vladivostok to Ulan Ude in November kinda beats that…
K: Keepsake from your travels: On my early travels I collected glassware and pottery, as well as a lot of prints from museums. My whole condo was decorated with stuff I picked up overseas! I also like to collect turtle figurines from the places I visit, although I totally forgot about it when I started my current trip – I’m kind of disappointed about that.
L: Let-down sight, why and where: I was recently in Siauliai, Lithuania where they have a Museum of Cats. The description in my guidebook made it sound pretty cool, especially since I am a big cat-lover. While they had an interesting variety of cat figurines, pictures and paintings, they were missing the most important thing: lots of actual cats!
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: I can’t remember ever not wanting to travel and see the world, even long before I actually did. That being said, I recall being in Peru in 2009 when it really sank in how much happier and freer I feel when I travel – that was when I became determined to make travel a much larger part of my life.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: I can’t remember the name of it, but I remember being in complete awe when I walked into the hotel that a law firm put me up in when I was interviewing with them in New York City. It had a king-sized bed, Jacuzzi tub, ridiculous mini-bar and a great view of the city.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: Cats. If I see a cat and I have my camera, I can guarantee you I will try to snap a picture.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? I just renewed my passport and since I’m on the road, I can’t check my old one! My current one has stamps into Finland, in and out of Russia and into Latvia.
I am guessing my old one has at least 16, not counting re-entry stamps to the United States: UK (London), UK (Dover), Liechtenstein, Spain, France, Australia, Norway, Italy, Germany (Munich), Portugal, Germany (Frankfurt), Egypt, Peru (both entering Peru and a special one at Machu Picchu), Germany (Berlin) and UK (London).
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: The World’s Largest Truck Stop in Iowa, on the way back to Chicago after a weekend in Iowa City.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience: While they certainly aren’t exciting, fun or beautiful, some of the most valuable sights I have seen on this and past trips relate to the Holocaust and World War II. Visiting a concentration camp or a museum of genocide, war or occupation really puts things in perspective and makes you appreciate the life you have.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: An incredible experience – something that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I know I will regret not doing.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done: Ha, what haven’t I done? I make no apologies for doing anything that someone might consider “touristy” – whether it’s taking a dorky picture in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, visiting the Eiffel Tower, tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain or riding a camel in the Egyptian desert .
U: Unforgettable travel memory: One of my favorite memories is visiting the Tombs of the Nobles on the cliffs on the West side of the Nile in Aswan. My friend Jess and I were the only visitors and we got a highly entertaining tour from a local man named Mohammad. Despite the fact that he didn’t speak a word of English, he managed to convey the ideas behind the hieroglyphics in the tombs
V: Visas, how many and for where? 3 – Egypt, Russia and Belarus (for my upcoming trip in January).
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? I am not much of a wine connoisseur but I enjoyed pretty much everything I tried when I did a winery tour in Australia’s Barossa Valley.
X: eXcellent view and from where?: The view from the Terrace of Infinity in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast.
Y: Years spent traveling?: I would say 10 since I don’t really count Mexico when I was 15.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: I think Aussies are some of the most zealous sports fans out there – regardless of the sport. They can go crazy for just about anything – football, rugby, tennis, you name it.
And finally, it’s my turn to tag a few fellow travel bloggers to do their ABCs:
Kim of So Many Places
Jodi of LegalNomads
Julia of Homeless and Confused
Scott of The Shirt Off My Backpack