A couple of weeks ago, I came across this mega travel tag from Lilly at The French Hat. Lilly is a French girl who’s based in Singapore for work, and she’s had so many adventures traveling all over Asia in the meantime. It’s been some time since I last did a tag, and I love doing these sorts of Q&A posts when I’m not updating my travels on this blog. Plus, my opinions have changed since the last travel tag I did, just because I’ve done more traveling since then and had more experiences along the way. Let’s get started!
The Ultimate Travel Tag: 50 Questions
1. How many countries of the world have you already visited?
As of 2019, I have visited a total of 52 countries. Nearly 2/3 of them were in Europe, where I’d spent four years working as an English teacher in France.
2. Which destination is the number one of your bucket list?
The Ukraine. I had been meaning to visit before all of the political drama happened this past year (i.e. newly-elected, divisive president and his scandalous ties to Trump). Political situation aside, the country is massive and full of various architecture (Baroque to Stalinist), vast spreads of untouched landscape, and delicious, hearty cuisine.
My recent trips to post-Soviet states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia) have since cultivated my fascination with this part of Europe, and that’s why I would like to explore the Ukraine (and more) to get to see another viewpoint about how it must’ve been like during the Cold War era, especially from an American perspective.
3. Three other places at the top of your travel bucket list?
- Singapore: Small and compact, Singapore is a cosmopolitan jungle with a mind-blowing airport (a tourist attraction itself) and so many things to do (eating, sight-seeing, nightlife), all the while being fun-sized *ahem* walkable. I could also say that Crazy Rich Asians brought me there!
- United Arab Emirates (UAE): Dubai is the real draw, and as I’m passionate about architecture, this particular city in this particular country has the intrigue of being entirely man-made — imagine a futuristic skyline over a once-barren dessert! I think of luxury when I think of the UAE, and it would be a special experience.
- Argentina: My parents had gone to Buenos Aires a few years ago, and I became interested in its culture (Spanish-speaking, but with citizens of Italian descent). The capital looks stunning, along with Iguazu Falls and plenty of rich, full-bodied wines (looking at you, Malbec!).
4. What does the ideal holiday look like for you?
About a week to 10 days off, somewhere in a sunny but temperate environment (usually in April or May).
In a day: waking up around 8:00 for complementary breakfast at the accommodation before leaving to sight-see by 9:00. Wander the neighborhood I’m staying at before starting to hit the main attractions once things begin opening up at 10:00. Have lunch at a reputed restaurant (recommended by locals and online reviews) and order the country’s local dish, perhaps with a glass of wine. Continue exploring until 16:00-17:00 before heading back to the accommodation for a quick rest and heading out for dinner. If I still have the energy and motivation, I would partake in a pub crawl– otherwise, I would return to my accommodation and relax/watch YouTube for the rest of the day.
Basically, a holiday that’s well-paced, exercise-induced, and plenty of good food!
5. Favorite picture you’ve taken during a trip?
I have many, but I’ll share my most-recent one of my time in the lavender fields of Provence (July 2019). The trip was almost four years in the making, and the outcome was so worth it in the end.
6. Have you had to travel for work so far? If so, where?
When I taught English, I technically had to travel from the U.S. all the way to France. However, I didn’t really commute far once I was abroad; I lived close to the schools I taught at, so it was either walking or taking the bus to work.
7. With who would you like to go on a vacation sometime?
My significant other, whoever it is!
8. Who or what would you take with you to an uninhabited island?
Who: my friend, N. Extremely clever and experienced camper/wilderness enthuse.
What: a sharp item (e.g. knife, spear, sword…). Very versatile and adaptable to many situations: chop wood for fire, cut fruit, spear fish, etc.
9. Would you rather go to an amusement park or a zoo?
Neither. I never really enjoyed amusement parks as a kid, and now I find them over-the-top pricey. I also don’t get the huge hype about Disneyland, especially if you go as an adult: lines are long, food is mediocre, and the souvenirs are rip-offs. Change my mind.
I find zoos boring, and I also question if the animals are treated ethically. This isn’t just about their food and shelter, but also how they’re raised. Some are brought from the wild and raised in captivity, while others are born and bred in the zoo, so they never had the exposure to the wild. They can lose their natural instincts in the process.
Now, I don’t criticize those who like amusement parks and zoos– this is merely my two cents. But there’s so much to travel than just these places. There are other ways to discover a place without spending so much money or contributing to possible unethical practices, all for one’s pleasure.
10. Mountain or sea?
A bit of both. I love dramatic peaks in mountains and the vast unknown of the sea. They share the sense of being sublime and making us feel small and insignificant in the world.
11. Which country(ies) will you visit this year?
Nothing planned at the moment, and I suspect I won’t be heading anywhere internationally for a while with my new job.
12. Where would you never visit?
I would never visit a country or territory which is unstable. This means anywhere with political unrest or war zones, as the threat of getting persecuted or even killed is not worth the trip over.
13. Which place did you think was so special that you wished to come back to it immediately after leaving it and still want to revisit now?
My trip to Romania (February 2019). I didn’t expect myself to love it as much as I did, and I’m really glad I got to spend a week all over the country. Beautiful castles, sublime mountains, delicious and cheap food, and friendly locals. That’s the definition of a well-rounded trip, and I would love to go back and see more of it.
14. A place you’ve been to where you would not go back to and why?
I’m honestly open to going back to any of the places I’ve visited so far. Even if I had a bad experience in a particular place, I believe that returning under different circumstances and a blank slate can change the perspective of it all. It happened with Paris: I went from loving it to hating it to loving it again following visits over the years!
15. What was the last country you visited?
France. Technically, I’d been living there for work, but I also visited various regions within the country during my time off.
16. What is your favorite place on the planet that you have been to?
Too many: the Pacific Northwest (US) for its calm and temperate forests, Taiwan for the culture and delicious night market food, Romania for its dramatic mountains and friendly people…the list could go on and on.
17. Favorite place in your home country?
I already mentioned it, but the Pacific Northwest. Incredibly green, tranquil, and a lovely respite from the big city. I would live there if I could!
18. You’re in an airport, and you know you can choose whichever destination to board a plane right now: which part of the world would you choose?
That’s a tough question. Instinctively, I’d go with Europe, just because I haven’t seen a few places that I really wanted to see before I left in July 2019. Particularly Eastern Europe and/or the Balkans, because I’ve recently gotten into the history and culture of the countries there…as well as the fact that I haven’t seen some of the countries yet!
19. What’s your cup of tea – tropical island getaway, snowy ski break, or city exploring trips?
I’m very much a city girl, so I’d have to go with city-exploring trips. I find tropical island getaways too slow and boring for my liking, and I can’t ski to vouch for a snowy ski break. Whenever I travel, I want to be out-and-about all day, and a city trip would offer plenty of things to see, do, and eat to keep me busy.
20. What are your top 3 hand-luggage must haves?
1) Lotion, because my skin gets dry easily on the road, 2) my journal to document my experiences, and 3) tissues for cleaning dirty tray-tables, wiping my mouth/sweat off, and substituting as toilet paper when public restrooms run out (tissues are really versatile!).
21. What 3 things would you take on holiday/travelling if you could?
1) Exercise equipment, because even if I do a lot of walking during travel, I would also like to continue doing strength training and stretching, e.g. dumbbells and foam rollers, 2) my bed: sorry, but I haven’t come across a bed while traveling to give me a good night’s rest!, and 3) my best friends. One of them has never set foot outside of the US, so this is a reason to go overseas and have fun!
22. Any travel tips to share?
Always double-check your flights and transport times– you may never know if they’ll cancel! Have a plan on how to get to your accommodation upon arrival– don’t just wing it and call for a taxi (they’re super expensive). Do not forget to check in to your flights before you leave– always set notice on your phone in case you’ll forget!
23. What is your most pleasant trip memory?
Visiting my friend in Colorado (August 2018) comes to mind. Not only did I get to catch up with my childhood friend on good times, but I also got to explore the rugged beauty of the Rocky Mountain State. It was a pleasant week of hiking a few trails, admiring incredible red-rock formations, and enjoying some good food in the process.
24. What is your most unpleasant trip memory?
Getting mugged in Marrakesh (May 2017). I was physically assaulted by a street thug in the medina, and I got my bag stolen. If that wasn’t crazy enough, I was able to chase him down, retrieve my bag, and had him arrested by the police. Karma at its finest!
25. Most surreal travel moment?
Standing in the wheat fields of Auvers-sur-Oise (July 2019), the site where Vincent van Gogh had supposedly committed suicide. The golden fields were vast and eerily calm, which I felt were allegorical of death and the insignificance of human life. The scenery was hauntingly beautiful, made even so with the history and symbolism behind it.
26. Most embarrassing moment abroad?
I’ll keep this vague, but it may or may not have involved being intoxicated…
27. Biggest disappointment?
Stonehenge (December 2015), hands down. It cost £15 to visit the site, and upon arriving, we couldn’t even get inside the site itself due to fragile soil. We could only observe it from afar, and I didn’t feel it was worth it at all. You’re better off looking up photos of it online!
28. Nicest surprise?
Mostar (May 2018). I hadn’t done a lot of research on the city, nor of Bosnia & Herzegovina, but I was blown away by its colorful Old Town, distinctive Stari Most, and the cheap food and souvenirs. It was my introduction to the Balkan country, and I’d love to go back to see more.
29. Favorite food discovery during a trip?
Georgian food. I really discovered my love for this hearty and fresh cuisine, not to forget just how much of it during meals! I especially love kubdari (regional spicy-meat pastry) and eggplant stuffed with walnut paste– I could eat them all day, every day!
30. Why do you travel?
For many reasons: to learn about new cultures, meet people from all walks of life, to find different forms of beauty in architecture, landscape, and food, to escape daily routine, to define and reinvent myself, etc…
31. Have you picked up any phrases from travelling?
Usually the standard “hello” and “thank you” in whichever countries I’m visiting.
32. Your dream travel companion?
Mike Chen from Strictly Dumpling. Loves to eat, loves to travel, and overall a fun, energetic guy to be around!
33. Favorite city or country?
Favorite city: Toulouse, France.
Favorite country: Romania.
34. Best item purchased abroad?
I bought a pair of elephant pants in San Sebastián (June 2019) that saved me from la canicule (heat wave) upon returning to France. They were so comfortable and light that I wore them every day…and I still do!
35. Advice for those who want to travel but think they can’t?
Travel doesn’t have to mean venturing thousands of miles away– it can be as simple as going the next town over, or even seeing an attraction that your city has to offer. It doesn’t always have to be a grand or expensive adventure!
36. Travel accessory you always pack?
An external portable charger in case my phone dies, and if there’s no access to an outlet.
37. Your most treasured passport stamp?
Although it’s technically unofficial, my souvenir stamp at Machu Picchu (July 2018) is a special one!
38. Can you recite your passport number from memory if asked?
39. Preferred method of travel: planes, trains or cars?
Close tie between trains and cars. I like trains, because you can get service (food and Wifi) and restrooms on-board, but I like cars for their freedom– if you want to stop along a random highway to take photos of the scenery, you can!
40. Hostel, hotel or AirBnb?
If money wasn’t a huge deal, hotels all the way. I need my privacy, and I *secretly* love being pampered, e.g. room service, AYCE buffets, gym/pool facilities. I think Airbnbs are nice, but the quality of some I’ve been in has been a hit-or-miss. And after staying in one too many hostels so far, I’d prefer not to share my space with random strangers anymore (although it might be inevitable until I save more!).
41. Are you a repeat visitor or do you explore new places?
I’m a bit of both. If I really like a place and didn’t have much time to visit the first time, I definitely return for a longer stay. And of course, I’m always open to new places to discover in the world!
42. Do you read up on your destination (culture, history, safety) or do you wing it?
I definitely read up on my destinations before going, especially because I always plan out what I’m going to see and do. The detail as to how much I read up, however, varies from place to place. Rarely do I wing it, just because it’s not in my personality to do so.
43. Favorite travel website?
44. Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name city and why.
I would recommend Taipei. It has steadily grown over the last decade, especially with more tourists from the West. Granted, it gets hot and stifling over the summer, but the place offers a great blend of city life, hikes in nearby national parks, and a thriving night market scene with excellent (and cheap) food to boot. Taipei is my second home, and I’m proud of it!
45. To which destination did you first take a plane to?
My first flight was to Taiwan when I was barely a year old. I don’t remember any of it!
46. Suitcase versus backpack?
Backpack, just because it’s more portable and less-annoying than having to drag it across rickety, cobblestone roads.
47. Is there something you do on every trip?
For almost every trip, I look to find a vantage point on which I can get city views. Whether it’s atop a cathedral building or a hike up a hill, I look for spectacular panoramas wherever I go.
48. When traveling do you talk to locals easily?
I’m a very shy person, so talking to strangers (heck, even people I know) can be a personal challenge. But I’ve gotten better over the years simply by catching someone’s eye and going over to initiate at least a smile and “hello.” Considering that we don’t know each other, it’s a great opportunity to put out an outgoing personality. Travel is fleeting, and most of the time, you won’t see the same person again, anyway. Having this mindset makes it so much easier to relax, have fun, and be more open to talking with people.
49. Do you feel like you’re different when traveling?
Going off the previous question, I do believe that I act differently when I travel. Much of this comes down to meeting strangers every day and only having transient moments on the road. I feel as if I can reinvent myself each time, so I tend to showcase my more-outgoing self. I’ve found that doing so has helped me loosen up, have more fun, and even change me for the better back at home. I become more confident, and it’s a great personal development that I’ve seen in myself with each journey taken.
50. What is the greatest travel-dream you would like to accomplish before hitting your next big life-turn?
I’ll be 30 in four more years, and I really hope to accomplish a few milestones: 1) hit the Ukraine and revisit Russia, 2) visit parts of the Middle East (Oman and UAE are at the top of my list), and 3) explore more of Asia (including Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong). They’re super-high goals which I don’t believe will happen– at least, not all– but if I can get to at least one of them, I’ll be very happy.
…and that’s it! A long one, but I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little more of my perspectives on travel. I tag Clazz, Rosie, and V to partake in this travel tag, should they wish to do so. Have yourself a good day!