Monday, January 16, 2012

Maggie's ABC's of Travel

The ABC's of travel is a fun little questionnaire going around the blogosphere. We were nominated by Arienne and Tristan from See You Soon (thanks, guys! :) I had a great time thinking back on all my travels and looking through my passport and old photos. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about me and the travels I've been on.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: 

Nineteen. I studied abroad with the Semester at Sea program and it was preparing for that trip that I got my first passport. I was so excited for the trip and planned sooo much! I also brought everything but the kitchen sink with me. It's funny to look back on now. :)

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

I had the most delicious fruity Belgian beer while in London. I can't tell you what it was called but it tasted like candy! Yummm

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Mexican food is definitely my favorite. I can't think about it too much now that we live in Korea because we never eat any good Mexican food. It will be the first thing I eat when I get back to California.

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

Monet's Garden
My favorite place in the whole world is Monet's gardens in the spring or summer. It's a beautiful place filled with rainbows upon rainbows of every flower that will grow there. It's like a dream.

My least favorite place is....can't really think of anywhere...hmmm

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:   

The entire 100 days on Semester at Sea was like one huge, "WOW, this is awesome! This is so awesome. I can't believe I'm actually here!" The community was so loving and open minded. I loved the way we learned about each country before we arrived. We learned about history, culture, language, local holidays/festivals, things to do, and current events. I was saying "wow" every day as I looked out my classroom window at the endless ocean or watched as we pulled into a new port catching our first glimpses of yet another country we were set to explore.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

For getting around cities, walking is the best. You can discover so many things by getting wonderfully lost. I always carry a business card or a piece of paper with the name and address of the place we are staying at just in case we get really lost.

For longer distance traveling, I prefer trains to airplanes. Airplanes are quick but trains are much cooler. I love seeing the country pass before my eyes. I like the subtle rocking and the superb people watching.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

Meeting people who can change your life with their outlooks on life and their enthusiasm to live. I also love meeting people who ensure my faith in humanity as being inherently good.

On our most recent trip to Japan, we met an 81 year old Japanese man who was studying English via a radio program so he could talk to foreigners who come to visit. He stopped us on the street and we talked for about 20 minutes about English, his family, his cancer, his opinions on Japanese people vs other Asian cultures, and our marriage. He told us he wishes we would stay in Japan forever and that we should have 5 or 6 babies as soon as possible. I told him our mothers would like that and we all laughed. His English was excellent and his willingness to share his stories and chat with us was so touching. We left him with our spirits lifted and our hearts glowing with love for him. He told us "this day is the best day" because he got to meet us. I've never felt so lucky to meet someone in my entire life. It was the greatest experience of our whole trip. 

We had another great experience with a man in Hong Kong.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:

Vietnam. It was so hot and humid when I went to see the tunnels in Cu Chi. I've never sweated so much in my entire life! I don't like humidity much. I grew up where it could reach as high as 110F/43C but it's always a dry heat.   

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

My best friend and I had about 4 days left in India and for some reason we decided to visit a little town in the middle of no where called Hampi. We were getting to Hampi from Chennai and it took an overnight train and 3 different public buses to get there. The round trip journey took much longer than the time we actually got to spend in the tiny, one street town but I've never felt so free in my life. We were exploring!
Hampi, India

We couldn't be sure if we were ever on the right bus. After we got off each bus, a huge crowd would gather around us asking where we were going. We'd say "Hampi" and we'd get ushered to the next unmarked bus. It wasn't the best service in the world, as personal space was very limited in the mob of men asking where we wanted to go, but it sure was incredible.

J: Journey that took the longest:

I once took a 26 hour train ride from Hong Kong to Beijing. My friends and I drank all the alcohol on the whole train. It was super fun!

K: Keepsake from your travels:

I like buying local art the best. My favorite piece is from a Brazilian man who lives in the state of Bahia. It's of ladies dancing a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance. I had seen some women perform the dance the night before and thought he captured their movements perfectly.

Buying art isn't an option when we're backpacking, unless I really love it and am willing to send it home. That hasn't happened yet so I usually stick to buying smaller stuff like jewelry or postcards to send home to family/friends. Also, I always have pictures!

L: Let-down sight, why and where:

You know how upon looking back at the past, you usually only remember the good parts?? Well, yeah, that's happening right now! I can't think of anything. 

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

During Semester at Sea when I realized how easy it was to travel and that I could go anywhere in the world. It was like my eyes were finally open and the whole world was waiting for me to explore it. I could go anywhere!! Just the thought was staggering. 

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

My brother, Bo, was physically disabled and he got to meet Garth Brooks backstage at the Jay Leno show. Bo got to do cool stuff due to his disability and general awesomeness, which Bo always called "The Aura of Bo." As soon as people met him they wanted to do something nice for him. When Garth met Bo and realized how intelligent and full of life and hope he was, he offered to treat our family to a trip to Atlanta to see the first concert of his world tour.

My brother had a brittle bone disease called ostegenesis imperfecta and couldn't fly commercial. If he was going to fly, he needed to do it in his wheelchair while laying down so the force of taking off wouldn't hurt him. He was extremely fragile. He once broke his arm holding a corn dog--no joke.

Since he couldn't fly commercial, Garth chartered a private jet for us. He paid for our stay in the Ritz Carlton, gave my parents spending money to do stuff in Atlanta, and invited us to the sound check where we got to spend nearly three hours with him, meeting his family, getting autographs, and having dinner backstage. It was an amazing trip and one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for my family.

The Ritz Carlton was the nicest hotel I have ever been in. Being in the fourth grade, the part I noticed the most was the huge flower arrangements everywhere. I've always loved flowers and was totally mesmerized by the gigantic arrangements that were so much bigger than me.  

As far as hostel's go, K's Hostel in Kyoto, Japan is hands down, the BEST hostel I have ever stayed in. It had everything you could ever want in a hostel and was super clean. 

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

Flowers and doors. I also really like taking pictures of random stuff that catches my eye. I think that when I look back at my photos, it's the little stuff about a city or destination that really make it come to life. 

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

I have 46 stamps. The stamps are too many to go through and write down. Plus, that would be boring. Instead, here's a list of countries I've been to: Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Brazil, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Burma, Vietnam, China, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland, Ecuador, Belize, Guatemala, and South Korea.

I have to get a new passport soon since I'm taking my husband's last name. I'm kind of sad to see my old passport go but I know I will fill the next one up, too!

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

I'm going to say Harajuku, Tokyo. The fashion there is very quirky!

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

Semester at Sea - You can get college credit for this!!
If you're in college/university, do Semester at Sea. No excuses, go send in your application right now.

If you have a college degree, move to another country to teach English. It's so rewarding to really get to know a culture by living in for an extended period of time.

If you don't want to make that kind of commitment, then go somewhere that scares you. Somewhere that will challenge you and make you think about the way you live your life. It could be leaving your home country for the first time or taking a trip to a rural village in India. Do what you want. It's your trip. 

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

A meal in a nice restaurant every now and again. I love going out to eat. 

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

I went on a walking tour in France with a study abroad program. Getting carted around all together was sooo touristy but informative. I love learning about destinations and their history and listening is the easiest way. That being said, I would much rather listen to a podcast while walking or read a book and then go. I don't see myself going on many more walking tours in my lifetime.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

The friendships made. The life long friendships and the 20 minute single-serving friendships (see G). They are all great. Also, that feeling of excitement I get when planning a trip. It makes me feel alive. 

V: Visas, how many and for where?

 I have 4 full page visa stickers and they're from China, Korea (where I'm living now), India, and Vietnam.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

I'm not a wine expert by any means but I do love wine! I think the best would be drinking wine at lunch in France. I love drinking wine with lunch. It's one of my favorite parts about French culture. 

X: eXcellent view and from where?:

It's a tie between the view of Hong Kong from Victoria's Peak on a clear, sunny day and the view from the Great Wall of China when you can see the wall dipping over the mountains and stretching out across the sky for miles.

Y: Years spent traveling?:

Six years, on and off.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:                    
French fans celebrating

I was in Paris when they made it to the final of the World Cup. When they won the semi-final match, it was incredible!! People were dancing in fountains, lighting fireworks, jumping, and yelling chants, all with huge smiles on their faces. The police were there in case anything got out of hand but they never had to intervene. Everyone was just so happy for France.


  1. Loved your answers! Mexican food is super yummy. And how cool you got to fly on a private jet. The Great Wall of China is magnificent huh?

    1. The Great Wall totally blew me away. I saw it about an hour and a half outside of Beijing and it was only mountains, tiny villages, and the wall. It was very cool!