My A-Z Travel Challenge

Since I currently cannot upload any photos,  I have decided to join the A-Z Travel Challenge. It has been going around for a while now, but it isn’t a time-specific idea, so I choose to do mine now.

The idea is to copy the questions into your blog, and answer honestly using your travel experiences. Then add a picture or two to make it pretty and tag another blogger to continue the challenge.

MY AZ TRAVEL CHALLENGE

Age you went on your first international trip?

I had to check with my mum for this, apparently I went to Lanzarote just after my first birthday. I have no memory of this trip as you can imagine, but I was very lucky as a child in that my parents were able to take me on a foreign holiday at least once a year. From the ages of 1 to 18, my parents took me on holiday to Lanzarote (3 times), Spain (twice), Tenerife (4 times), USA (3 times), France (4 times), Cyprus (once), Madeira (once) and Majorca (once). They also allowed (and paid for) me to go on two foreign trips with school, one to France and one to Austria. My parents are pretty awesome.

Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where?

I’m not a beer drinker; I’ve never liked the taste or the bloated feeling I get from it. To be honest, I don’t actually drink alcohol very often at all anymore. But I have heard good things about Singha Beer, and I have had some lovely nights on Cambodian and Thai beaches drinking soft drinks whilst others around me have had beer. I guess the beer doesn’t do much for me, but the social side of it is great.

Cuisine (favourite)?

I love Thai food. Especially coconut rice – I’m pretty certain I could live on that. I’m also a massive fan of anything that involves soy sauce!

Destinations, favourite, least favourite and why?

Favourite countries have been New Zealand, Norway and Lithuania. New Zealand and Norway were surprisingly similar – both have stunningly beautiful landscapes, and very friendly people. Lithuania has a history that totally captured me. All three countries just felt like a place I belonged.

Least favourite destination has been India – it surprised me by how much I didn’t enjoy being there. You hear tales of this magical land, and for me, the reality was somewhat lacking.

Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”?

We were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on three occasions on our recent trip to Norway – once on Lofoten and twice at Nord Kapp. Every time took my breath away. The stars were bright and the lights danced through the sky, changing colour from green to red, the whole sky alight with swirls; it was breathtaking.

Favourite mode of transportation?

Right now, I love travelling in our campervan – we built it ourselves from a work van, and it is our new little home. It gives us the freedom to travel almost anywhere we want, it is big enough to live in, but smaller than most campers, so is able to travel on more roads. It gives up the freedom to travel at the speed we want, without costing a fortune and doesn’t tie us to big cities.

Greatest feeling while traveling?

Freedom. I suffer from anxiety, and it has been quite severe over the past year – trapping me in my own house, and in my own brain. But no matter than anxiety I feel when I am at home, travel gives me a freedom – a freedom of place and of mind. It allows me to truly be myself, and that is the greatest feeling I can imagine.

Hottest place you’ve traveled to?

Because I’ve been limited to school holidays for most of my travels, we have generally visited places in the low/wet season. I think that one of the hottest places I have been to was Vietnam. And even that wasn’t overly hot in an extreme heat way; most days sat around 34-37C. And we caught a bus in that heat from Saigon to Phnom Penh. The bus was old and rickety, and every seat was taken and bags were squashed around us. The air con gave up after about 20 minutes of travel. None of the windows opened. I now know what it feels like to be trapped inside an oven.

Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?

Pushp Guest House in Jodhpur, India – it is generally a lovely guest house run by fantastic people. If you order early enough (preferably the day before) you can get a full chicken marinated for over 5 hours and cooked in a charcoal brazier. I think, because India was such a let down in general, this place and its owners made up for the racism and groping that was experienced elsewhere in the country.

Journey that took the longest?

Longest Ferry: Just under 4 hours, from Bodø to Moskenes in Norway. I was sea sick from almost the moment we left the harbour and that was the point that I remembered I normally find a different way to travel other than by boat!

Longest Train: 17 hours from Jaipur to Jaisalmar in India. Made longer because the train was delayed due it being on fire earlier down the line (something to do with the ac unit overheating)

Longest Bus: 23 hours – school skiing trip to Austria, we drove there from the UK and it seemed to take an eternity.

Longest Plane: 26 hours to get to Saigon. The journey took us from London to Vienna, Vienna to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Saigon. Luckily I can sleep well on a plane!

Keepsake from your travels?

I have quite a few. When Sam and I first started travelling together we decided to bring home one thing from each country we travelled to (usually very small items, but I have lugged a foot high wooden Buddha statue through Cambodia and Thailand) and all these items made up a display in our house. Of course, since we decided to travel permanently, those items are now being stored at my parents (did I mention before that my parents are wonderful?) and we have started collecting bag patches for each country we have visited – these can be carried with us sewn onto our rucksacks… when I actually get round to it! But I guess my most permanent travel keepsake is my world map tattoo, I have the outline of each country tattooed onto my thigh and as I travel to new countries, I get them coloured in. I guess it is a little behind now.

Let-down sight, why and where?

The official Santa’s Grotto at Rovaniemi in Finland. I guess going here in October wasn’t the greatest of ideas because it’s not exactly time for Santa. But it was just so fake and commercialised. I’m a massive lover of Christmas (I know, I’m 28, but you are never too old for the Christmas hype) but this place was such a let down. It could have been something amazing with log cabins and hand carved decorations, but alas it was fiberglass and naff.

Moment where you fell in love with travel?

I don’t think there was ever a moment, I think it has always been within me that I am going to travel because it makes me feel whole.

Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in?

I think my favourite place that we have stayed was a glamping trip to Wales, we stayed in the safari lodges at Pentre Mawr – they have everything that you should have for camping… Electricity, under floor heating, full plumbing, a proper bed and a hot tub. And the food in the restaurant was divine!

Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

At the moment it is Autumn leaves – I love the colours! In general, I love architectural details, especially in churches and other religious buildings.

Passport stamps, how many and from where?

None in my current passport because it is so new. Previous passport had stamps for Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey, Vietnam, USA, Canada. Being British, we get a lot of visa/stamp free travel with the EU freedom of movement.

Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?

Sverd I Fjell! Three 10m high swords plunging into the rock on the coast of the North Sea. Looking out to sea they look incredible, but looking back into land, they are basically on the edge of a suburb in Stavanger, Norway. Honestly though, the swords are cool.

Recommended sight, event or experience?

Black water rafting at Waitomo in New Zealand. I’m not a massive fan of water or the dark, but this was fantastic! Jumping off underground waterfalls into a rubber ring, turning off head torches to leave a pitch black cave lit only by glow-worms (horrifying for someone like we who is afraid of being in water in the dark, but totally worth the fear to see)

Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling?

Insurance. I am insanely accident prone, so it’s just not worth scrimping on this. In general, I think it’s probably not the brightest idea to go travelling without a half decent level of cover, if nothing else it should cover your health and belongings.

Touristy thing you’ve done?

I’m not ashamed to say that I do tourist as well as travel. There is a reason that places become iconic and tourists visit them: they are worth seeing. I get overwhelmed by crowds so try to avoid peak times, but I will still go. Probably the most touristy thing I have done is visit Angkor Wat for sunrise (twice) with all the crowds bussed in from the nearby hotels. It is worth doing though, and if you wait for another hour after sunrise the crowds are either taken to the next temple, or back to their hotels for breakfast, and you get Angkor Wat entirely to yourself.

Unforgettable travel memory?

One of my favourite places in the world is a temple called Ta Keo, it is part of the Angkor complex most famous for Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. The tower is unfinished and sparsly decorated, but you are able to climb to the top and look out over the jungle canopy, and this is where Sam proposed to me. It is a place and a moment that, for me, is truly unforgettable.

Visas, how many and for where?

Not many in my current passport, only India at the minute – I changed my passport after getting married and India is the only place we have been that has required a visa since then. This will all change in a couple of weeks, as we are about to apply for visas to Belarus, Russia, Mongolia and China!

Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Like with beer, I have no idea about wine because I just don’t drink it. But the best iced-coffee is made in Vietnam.

eXcellent view and from where?

At the top of any skyscraper in New York. The city is so vast and unexplainable, just standing somewhere above it makes you realize how much life there is in the world. Of course, if you stand on top of the Empire State Building, you can’t see it, so it is worth going up another one too!

Years spent traveling?

First foreign travel aged 1. First backpacking travel in 2007 aged 19. Would love to just continue travelling forever.

Zealous sports fans and where?

Triathlon supporters! Sam loves the challenge of a triathlon and it is just the best event to support. I’ve been cheerleader for literally thousands of individuals as they swim, bike and run (walk, shuffle, crawl) past on their own personal event. Some events even print each persons name onto their race number, so you can call them by name as they pass you. On others you begin to cheer on people based on tops, shoes, race numbers or with general encouraging remarks. And these supporters will be out from race start to race end – for a full Ironman distance that’s usually a 17 hour cut off, so a long day for supporters, and an even longer one for competitors! Most of my tri experiences have been in the UK, my favourite to support there was ‘The Outlaw’ in Nottingham, but this year Sam competed in Ironman Copenhagen, so I’ve been lucky enough to cheer-lead there too!

To complete the challenge next, I nominate Travelling Sam (Go check him out!)

Keep wandering,

S x

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