I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by the fabulous gals from Straight on Detour so here are the answers to their questions and my nominations at the bottom – Enjoy!
1. What’s the worst thing you have ever eaten whilst traveling?
I am usually quite weary about insects, critters, guts and other things that may look like it so I always ask before eating something and use Google Translate menus from places where the descriptions are not clear. I eat street food and love to try all the local foods everywhere I go because you can tell a lot through a country’s food culture, but I am not adventurous enough to eat unconventional things.
The prize for the most revolting food has to go to balut – a developing duck embryo that is eaten in the Philippines. I just can’t get my head around the fact that an egg filled with a little duck that you can already see the wings and head of can be eaten. It is revolting in my head but a delicacy in the Philippines. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
At the wet markets in Singapore I regularly see snake heads and other food stuff worth of Indiana Jones movies.
2. Lakes, mountains, oceans, deserts, arctic, cities, beaches – do you have a one true love when you travel?
I have a weakness for the ocean and the beach. I am happiest when lost in a small island in the middle of the ocean with hot sand between my toes and the warm water caressing the shore. The Pacific and Africa in equal measure are my most favorite places. Although I am also a big lover of the outdoors, I grew up in the countryside after all, the sun+sea+sand formula is always a winning one for me. It does not matter how many beaches I visit, I still feel, every time, that I am standing in the most beautiful place.
3. What was your first ever trip overseas and how did it affect you?
One of the first trips I took, and the one that possibly had the biggest impact on my passion for travel, was a summer I spent in London. I went there, like thousands others, with the idealistic idea of looking for a job and spending the summer waiting tables and living the city life. I wanted to be a waitress, I thought that was a valuable learning experience everyone should have.
I soon realized that I was not the only one with this wish-list and that, with my average English, I was not going to get ahead, so I decided instead to take a course, study some English, live of the smallest of budgets and simply be in London the whole summer learning English. I made lots of friends and experienced an overpowering amount of sensations in those two months. Every time I passed by the National Gallery, which was free, I would get in and sit in front of the Sunflowers from Van Gogh. I became an expert in surviving in London with almost nothing and also got exposed to the multi-cultural pot the city was and still is. Barcelona, and Spain for that matter, in the early 2000s, was not the incredibly cosmopolitan city it is today, yet. With little city knowledge I ended up in the South of London and recurrently seeing fights and people threatening each other with bats. My co-passengers on the bus to Elephant & Castle Underground Station were mostly African and I was mesmerized by their hairstyles.
That summer ignited my curiosity for other cultures and people who were different from the all-white, middle-class, deeply rooted Spain I grew up in. And I also picked up proper English, which came in handy during my Investment Baking internship the following summer.
4. What is one destination you felt was overrated?
Without hesitation, Halong Bay. I had imagined the area to be mystical and magical. To be dotted with floating wooden boats slowly drifting between lime stone karst. I thought it would look like Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.
The reality I found was far from this dream. The area was absolutely overrun with tourists carelessly disposing of rubbish into the water. There were plastic bottles and packaging everywhere. Tourists were loud, hopping from site to site without a care for the place. They were on a mission to take photos, no consideration for the rest or for where they were. They yelled, screamed and blocked passages. The boat we had booked, which was supposedly one of the bests, had average food and personnel who did not speak proper English. We were fetched from place to place with minimal explanation, like sheep. I grew sadly disappointed that nobody had warned me about this and, after a bit more research, realized that UNESCO had been threatening the Vietnamese Government with removing the listing if they didn’t improve the measures to preserve the area. I hope things improve soon.
5. If you won $10,000 would you prefer to travel for months or blow it all on one mythic trip eg: cruise to Antarctica?
I would take a once in a lifetime trip, no doubt. Antarctica could be an option but the trip that I set my eyes on is far more than 10,000!
I would instead spend it towards a luxury train trip across Iran with the Golden Eagle with whom I did the Trans-Mongolian or go on a safari in Africa once again, perhaps to Botswana and Namibia.
I keep a wish-list of all the places or experiences I want to have and it has over 100 entries so I think $10,000 could also be spent on ticking a few of them off.
6. What’s your biggest home comfort in your backpack?
I used to travel with a teddy bear. It was a present from my ex-, now my best friend. I always thought that, traveling as much as I did, and sleeping at a different place every few nights I needed a constant to keep me sane, something which would not change.
I carried the teddy for years but eventually feared I might lose it and, sad as it may sound, I felt really sorry that it was getting squashed in my carry-on every week. So the BBC World became this constant. The voice of the presenter, in whatever region I was, played the role of sanity.
On the more mundane side, I frantically hoard ChapSun lip balm which I stock up on every time I go home. I am absolutely and shamelessly addicted to it. Medicine, in general, is the one and only thing I always buy when I go home because it is hard to get on the road and sometimes, a simple migraine can ruin a trip.
7. How much time per week is consumed by blogging?
More hours than I would like to admit!
I have a full time job which keeps me busy from 9-6pm every day so blogging happens in the evening and on weekends. I would say I dedicate about 20-30 hours a week plus countless others on social media and reading of other people’s blogs and of travel magazines. I even take care of social media posting and reading while I am walking in the streets. It is an eminently Asian thing to do – here people just watch entire soap-opera episodes or even movies while walking. I’ve seen people reading books! So it is not so rare for me to post on Instagram, respond to Twitter or to comments on my blog while I am going from A to B in my day-to-day. I also maximize the lunch breaks to take care of these.
8. What’s your weirdest, most unusual cultural experience?
Because of my interest in off-beat, out of the ordinary places, I’ve had many of those.
Being pointed at by the spear of a grass skirted Vanuatu tribe is among the top-10. I also passed out on kava in the same island.
In Sudan I had iftar (the meal that is used to break the fast during Ramadan) with the family of one of my clients. As a woman, I was sent to the courtyard with the wife, children and chicken to eat on the floor. I was wearing a suit, I was very senior in the team already, and they spoke barely any English. So there I sat, on the floor, eating with my hands with a few Sudanese women staring at me. The conversation was eventually kicked started and we interacted about life, travel and studying as the girls were in high-school. It was very enriching but funny nonetheless.
Lastly, in Yemen, I was invited to a wedding gown fashion show when I peered into a covered area in the street trying to figure out what was happening. The show was entirely in Arabic but the only person who spoke English translated the description of every outfit and the regional background and heritage just for us, on stage, for everyone to hear. There was a raffle and we even got free tickets. It was an experience to remember. Top it off, my then boyfriend was also with me, although he was the only male because men weren’t allowed to see the models whose heads were not covered.
9. Plane, bus, bike, car, train, boat – what’s your preferred method of transport?
I am in love with train travel, something to do with the romance of an era gone by. I have an old-fashioned romantic taste. I have boarded some of the most epic train trips from Joburg to Cape Town, from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar or from Mumbai to Delhi on luxury trains and the experience is always unforgettable.
Cars are a second best, and always put me to sleep!
10. What food, if any, do you miss most from home?
When I go home I always eat the same first meal: potato omelet, ham and bread rubbed with tomato (pa amb tomaquet in Catalan) and extra virgin olive oil from my dad’s olive trees, a very typical Catalan dish. Simple, extremely easy to make and homey. I occasionally bring ham back with me to Singapore (I used to bring entire ham legs to Dubai although pork is not allowed!), but the reality is that it does not taste as authentic as it does back home. Like with wines, the company and the place you eat it at is half the taste. And the tomatoes to make bread with tomato are not available outside of Catalunya so it is just never the same
11. What are you doing today?
Haha – I am at work, having lunch break, eating food from the Google cafeteria and typing these lines. Tonight I will be sitting on the sofa and finishing an article on a road trip around Tahiti Island. But before, I will hit the gym because I am currently doing an experiment: exercising every day and changing my diet for 6 weeks to see if it makes any difference. I shall report back!
The Liebster Awards is a chance to get to know other travel bloggers so here are my nominations for the 5 bloggers I would like to know more about and the questions for them to answer. Looking forward to hear back from all of you!
The guy who flies from Flights and frustration because he has the life I used to have.
Jenn Grahams because the stories of a Flight Attendant have to be the best!
Katie from Around the world in KT Days and fellow Matador U student.
Brooke from World of Wanderlust because I admire her determination and bravery at such young age.
Theo from Vagabond Beat for his mystic and refreshing take on travel.
And here are the 11 questions for you guys:
1. What makes you a unique traveler?
2. Tell us something that nobody knows about you.
3. Solo, with friends, with strangers on a tour, with your family or with your partner?
4. Describe your best travel companion.
5. What was your worst travel experience?
6. What has been the most magical moment you have lived on the road?
7. What is a brave/crazy thing you have done while traveling?
8. What is the most important lesson you have learned on the road?
9. What is the most amazing place you ever stayed at?
10. Where were you last?
11. Where are you heading next?