REFLECTIONS

My Travel ABCs

Back in January, fellow travel blogger Linda from TravelMomma nominated me to complete this “Travel ABCs” challenge. I’m finally getting around to it and had fun thinking about all my favorite, and not so favorite, travel places, moments, foods and more.

A. Age I went on my first international trip:

9 months old. My parents took the entire family and moved from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

B. Best foreign beer I’ve had and where:

A Leffe in Belgium. Belgian beer is just in a category and league of its own. Not that I’m a beer expert but so far, that’s my favorite. I also love their fruit beers.

Close second is Jamaica’s Red Stripe Bold. And a new one I tasted last summer that I liked a lot is Taiwan Beer.

C. Cuisine:

Hands down, Ethiopian (and yep, my mom’s cooking is the best.) If you haven’t tried some of it yet at an authentic restaurant, you’re missing out (no bias).  Second would be Italian. Hard to choose though because I have so many that I love (Jamaican, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Greek, Peruvian, and so on.)

D. Destinations – favorite, least favorite and why:

Favorite – Ethiopia and Jamaica (it’s a tie).  Both have beautiful landscape, and so much culture that it keeps my travel juices flowing. The food is to die for and the people are just awesome – funny and warm for the most part. A close third is Belize. A close fourth is Spain.

Least favorite: Barbados. I found the locals reserved and it was a little unsettling. In fact I found them to be the least friendly in the Caribbean. I also found the island too small, with not much to do other than lounge on the beaches (which were definitely beautiful).

E. Event experienced which made me go WOW!

Hiking to Lake Challa in Ethiopia. A close second is coming across two manatees in the sea while I was snorkeling off the Belize Barrier Reef. And another is hiking to the Baths in Virgin Gorda.

F. Favorite mode of transportation:

I love any mode of transport that lets me see as much of the country as possible, with some comfort because I normally carry photo gear. So I’d say train and car. Road trips are the best!

G. Greatest feeling whilst traveling:

Making local friends and learning about the culture through them. Attending colorful, traditional events. Standing on top of a cliff or mountain and taking in the view. Or, catching a rainbow during a road trip.

H. Hottest place I’ve traveled to:

I’ve been to so many hot places in the Caribbean. But I don’t think any one of them beats the heat and extreme humidity of Côte d’Ivoire. All you have to do is stand outside and you’ll start sweating.

I. Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

The most incredible service ever? I’d have to say at the hotels in Taiwan. The service was beyond 5-star. If I called from my room asking for an iron, it was at my door in 5 minutes.

Second runner-up would be Jamaica. I’ve had some really friendly service there, even if on island-time.

J. Journey that took you the longest:

Flying from Belize to Taiwan for a Taiwan press trip through the Taiwan Tourism Board. It was excruciatingly long because I had to fly home to Washington DC first, spend a night there (I stayed up all night since I had to repack), then fly to Los Angeles to meet the rest of the team of writers. From LA we flew direct to Taipei which is a 15-hour flight. It was just insane, I didn’t know if my body would make it.

K. Keepsakes from your travels:

Ha! Don’t laugh, but I collect shot glasses. I must have over 50 shot glasses from places I’ve visited. I always wonder what I’ll do with them when and if I settle overseas – but I’m pretty sure I’m keeping them, somehow some way.

L. Let down site. Where and why?

No hesitation on this one: Taipei 101. It’s the world’s second largest building and it looks way impressive. But the line to get to the top was horrendous – a good one-hour long. When we reached the top, the views were okay of the city but it felt pretty removed. I had a better experience visiting the CN Tower in Toronto. If you’re in Taiwan, make sure to skip Taipei 101 unless you’re really bored!

M. Moment you fell in love with travel:

The first time I got on a plane from Cote d’Ivoire to England for school, at 14. The drive to the airport, travelers everywhere, the announcements and the idea of going to Europe for the first time – I was hooked. But I’ve always loved going places – even if it was just a car ride with my parents in town.

N. Nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in:

The Pestana Palace in Lisbon. Ooooh I still dream of that place sometimes! Especially their morning breakfast buffet – ridiculously lavish. My friend Mary and I decided to treat ourselves and the irony is that when we arrived, we were given a really lousy room to share. We complained and the next thing you know, they upgraded us to a royal suite… more like a huge apartment with amazing views of the gardens on the property. Truly a palace. This is also where Madonna stays whenever she visits Lisbon. We kept joking the entire stay that we were superstars!

A very close second would be Half Moon Resort, in Jamaica.

O. Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of when traveling?

I’m not “obsessed” with any one thing. I prefer to think of it as shooting the things that make my heart smile. Most often I’m drawn to cultural aspects, live music, daily life scenes, landscapes and my favorite – people.

P. Passport stamps – how many and where from?

I’ve never counted how many I have. I recently had pages added to my passport.

But I have stamps from: Barbados, Jamaica (more than I can count), Ethiopia, Brussels, France, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Martinique, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize (quite a few), Germany, Venezuela, Canada, UK, Amsterdam, Taiwan, Portugal.

I’m probably forgetting some. Oh yes, Italy and Spain!

Q. Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where? 

A statue of the God of fertility at the Aborigine Village park in Taiwan. That one wins, hands down.

R.  Recommended sight, event or experience:

I have so many to recommend! Here’s a quick list.

Annual Maroon Festival in Accompong Town, Jamaica.

Rebel Salute, Jamaica’s biggest reggae show held every January.

Sailing across the Grenadines (as close as it gets to heaven on earth).

The annual Junkanu dance contest in Dangriga, Belize.

Carnival in Carriacou, Grenada.

The Annual Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Swimming in Reach Falls, eastern Jamaica.

I could go on. :-)

S. Splurge – something I have no trouble forking out for when traveling:

I love food, no doubt about it.  One of my friends calls me a fat girl in a skinny body (ha! I wish I were that skinny, the rice and beans I’ve been having the past few years are catching up with my thighs). Once in a while I’ll treat myself to a nice place if I know the food & drinks are to die for.

T. Touristy thing I’ve done:  

The most touristy thing I’ve done is swimming with dolphins through Dolphin Cove at Half Moon Resort, in Jamaica. It wasn’t just touristy actually–because now I understand that it’s not ethical travel to swim with dolphins or use animals for tourist entertainment.

U. Unforgettable travel memory:

So many that I wish I could list them all. The first that comes to mind is when I went rappelling 300 feet into a rainforest in Belize. Or when I went diving for the first time. Or even yet a simple moment like watching a gorgeous sunset on Caye Caulker or in Negril, Jamaica.

V. Visas – how many of them and from where:

I love my US passport, ha! It lets me go so many places without a visa. I only have one in there, and ironically it’s for Ethiopia (even though I’m Ethiopian-born, I’m now of US citizenship so I need a visa).

W. Wine – best glass while traveling and where:

This is where you’ll know that I’m not a wine expert. But I know that the red wines I had in Italy stood out – as did the food. I wish I could remember which was my favorite!

My next best glasses of wine would have to be Ethiopian honey wine (called “Tej”), followed by some Belizean blackberry wine.

X. Excellent view and from where:

So many, so little time. I’m going to list those that are coming to mind.

Top of the Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon.

Cable car ride going to the Aborigine Village in Taiwan.

Any of the hills in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Top of the Lazy Lizard Bar on Caye Caulker, Belize.

View of St Lucia’s Pitons while driving through Soufriere.

Lover’s Leap in southern Jamaica.

Y. Years spent traveling:

I’ve traveled since I was almost one year old. But more frequently starting in 2006.

Z. Zealous sports fans and where: 

Football (“soccer” for some) fans in Toronto. I was there a few years ago for the final of the European Cup, between Portugal and Greece. My brother and I went to “Little Portugal” to watch the game and the bars in the entire area were packed. When Greece won, everyone got out onto the streets in one big uproar. But it turned into one huge street party, with everyone dancing and drinking. Good times.

Any of these answers surprise you? 

3 Comments

  1. Very cool post! I love reading about so many varied travel experiences. You’ve been traveling forever! I wish that I’d gotten such an early start.

  2. Thanks, Michaela! Seems like forever but I still have a ways to go. :-) I think I value slow travel more now than ever. It’s never too late to start…

  3. I LOVE this post (though I kinda love them all)! I fancy myself oneday being able to being able to take advantage of at least some of your recommendations. I will be getting a late start when I set off this year, but better late than never! Thanks for your inspiration!