After visiting Iceland last week, I officially hit my 25th country. When I made my list to visit 30 Countries by 30 Years Old, I didn’t realize that I would beat that goal so soon. If everything works out, I should hit 30 countries by the end of 2015 (I’m hoping for Poland, Norway, Denmark, Malta, and Bulgaria). In honor of reaching 25 countries, I decided to steal this travel prompt, the ABC’s of Travel, from Kaelene and Casey! What a fun way to relive my past travel experiences. Enjoy :)
A) Age you went on your first international trip:
There are videos of me in Canada when I was 2 or 3 years old! Canada is a family favorite (hint hint, the picture above is from Nova Scotia). However, I first visited Europe at 16 years old for a 6 week study abroad in Mainz/Wiesbaden, Germany.
B) Best foreign beer you’ve had and where:
Oh man, this is a tough one…considering that beer is one of my favorite things in the entire world! Obviously there is nothing better than a German hefeweizen. However, I loved my beer from Brouwerij De Halve Maan (The Half Moon Brewery) in Bruges, Belgium. I also really enjoyed Quidi Vidi beer from Newfoundland. I think the appeal to that beer is that you can only buy Quidi Vidi in Newfoundland!
D) Destinations – favorite, least favorite, and why?
Favorite: At this moment, Budapest. Just because it was so unexpected! I had no idea how beautiful Budapest was and all it had to offer. That being said, London, Berlin, Tallinn, and Iceland all rank very high on my list (oh, and Lisbon, Barcelona, anywhere in Italy, Stockholm, etc…see, I’m really bad at narrowing it down)!
Least favorite: Munich. Only because I had a horrible experience there and it was rainy/cold the entire time! I’m positive that if I went back, I would absolutely LOVE it!
Florence was also a bit of a letdown. I was not expecting the city to be THAT touristy during the off-season! I definitely need to go back in the future but will reserve all museum visits in advance!
E) Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
Much like Kaelene said, how can I choose just one? The side streets of Venice, the castle overlooking Lisbon, seeing the Royal Family in London, riding the canals of Amsterdam by bike, standing at the top of the Julian Alps, and the Golden Circle of Iceland.
But something that truly made me say “wow”? The amount of wealth in Monaco. I couldn’t believe orange trees lining the streets, the number of expensive cars in such a small area, and the indulgent lifestyle of the people.
Also, the beaches of Normandy. How could a place so beautiful be the spot of so much death? It really makes you put everything in perspective.
F) Favorite mode of transportation:
The Queen Mary 2 ocean liner. I had the time of my life going from Southampton to New York City. It was such a throwback to the traditional way of traveling. Once I’m in a city, I much prefer my own two feet :)
G) Greatest feeling while traveling:
Having a map, a camera, and your own two feet. I love just walking around a new place and exploring all the nooks and secrets of that city. Stumbling upon something so wonderful is the best!
H) Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to:
A tie between Rome and Berlin. I had only a morning and afternoon in Rome and refused to let the heat slow me down! I must have gone through 4 or 5 bottles of water. Also, Berlin usually isn’t super hot but I went on the hottest day in July with my family and we were dying of the heat. I remember my Dad begging these guys to throw water balloons on him because he was just so hot!
I) Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?:
When I was about 8 years old, my parents took me and one of my little sisters to Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, this small resort town near Niagara Falls and St. Catherines. My older sister was rowing in the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and my parents decided to just have one-on-one time with me and my little sister. We stayed in the most amazing hotel, Queen’s Landing, and my parents rented one of the Dockmasters Suites. Every morning, my little sister and I would order room service and these men in white suits (super attractive!) would deliver the most beautiful-looking meals to us. Even 15 years later, I remember this time in Canada so vividly :)
J) Journey that took the longest:
Getting to Newfoundland (here and here) by motorhome from Michigan. It took four days of driving all day just to get to Sydney, Nova Scotia. We then had to take an almost 8 hour ferry ride from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. Once we got to Newfoundland, we still had to drive a ton! Such a long trip.
K) Keepsake from your travels:
Usually just my photographs :) Occasionally I’ll get some sort of small souvenir but seriously, all my pictures and this blog are the only keepsakes I need from my travels.
L) Let-down sight, where and why?:
Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. This was such an important part of the Berlin Wall and the Cold War. Now it is overrun with tourists and just a ploy for tourists to pay money. The authenticity and history of the area no longer exists.
M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling:
My time in London solidified my love of traveling. I got to spend a summer with some of the most amazing people in the best city in the world!
N) Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
Besides the Queen’s Landing, which I mentioned above, I loved the Hilton in Dresden, Germany. Amazing service, great location, and they gave us free food/wine upon check-in. We could walk outside the hotel and be in the main square of Dresden. Everything was perfect!
O) Obsession–what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
Doors. Lots and lots of doors. Always! They come in so many different shapes and colors. I have a really horrible/wonderful obsession with taking pictures of doors.
P) Passport stamps-how many and from where?:
Well, I’ve been to 25 countries but don’t have that many passport stamps because of most of the countries being in the EU. I have stamps from Croatia, Slovenia, France, Germany, Iceland, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Ireland, and the United States!
Q) Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?:
On one of our many family vacations out west, my family wanted to see a polygamist town in Colorado…haha. It was somewhere near Colorado Springs and we stuck out like a sore thumb (eg. everyone was dressed in long skirts/shirts and we roll up in our SUV). It was an interesting place because the houses/compounds were huge!
R) Really Frightening: where’s one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
Honestly, nowhere because I tend to not stay out late in foreign places. Sometimes Paris can get a bit sketchy at night but it is all about being aware of your surroundings and making smart choices.
S) Splurge-something you have no problem spending money on while traveling:
Food. Always food (and chocolate and beer)!
T) Touristy thing you’ve done:
Sometimes if I’m only in a city for a day and I really want to see everything, I’ll take one of those dorky bus tours around the city. Yes, they may be dorky but it allows you to see a lot of a city in a short amount of time!
U) Unforgettable travel memory:
How can I choose just one? Probably going on a seven week European road trip with my huge family! I got to experience some of my favorite places in the world with the people I love most.
V) Visas-how many and for where?:
Three! Two from Germany and one from the United Kingdom. I received my first visa for studying abroad/interning in London, my second visa for studying abroad in Tuebingen (Germany), and my third visa for moving to Heidelberg (Germany) and going to grad school!
W) Wine–best glass while traveling:
Hmmm…really anywhere in France. The French truly have the best wines!
X) eXcellent view and from where?:
The view from the back of a water bus in Venice. Actually, anywhere in Venice gives you a wonderful view!
Z) Zealous sports fans and where?:
Germany during the World Cup…and I got to experience it firsthand! But really, anytime the German National Team plays in a big match, the entire country watches the game.
I encourage you to make your own “ABC’s of Travel” and if you do, let me know so I can check it out. I love reading about other people’s travel experiences!