The A-Z of D Travels ‘Round

Written by on December 26, 2011 in 30 Life Crisis - 35 Comments

Happy 2012!

Well, Happy 2012 a few days early. While everyone is either dragging themselves into work for the short week, or spending time on a lil’ holiday, I figured now is the time for some fun travel stories. I’m not doing a “Best of” this year, but when the opportunity to participate in the A-Z post came up, I decided it would be a fun little read (plus, a nice trip down memory lane for me).

Thanks, Nomadic Samuel and Adventurous Kate for nominating me to partake in the A- Z Travel fun.

So, without further adieu, the A – Z’s of D’s Travels ‘Round! (PS — there are five of my favorite bloggers tagged below, so at least scroll down to see other bloggers you should definitely check out in 2012).

A: Age you made your first international trip

Don’t get mad, Canada. I totally heart you, but I’m not going to count you as my first international trip since back then, I didn’t even need a passport to cross into your beautiful, clean country.

Therefore, travel back with me to 1995. It’s summertime. I’m an actress with dreams of winning an Emmy for playing the part of drama queen in a (now canceled) soap opera on ABC. Despite being located in the middle of a cornfield, my high school, Magruder if you really want to know, is 1 of 10 schools chosen to participate in the first ever high school leg of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

We receive the packets announcing this opportunity to perform in a play “over there” and I somehow manage to convince my parents it’s the best thing in the world for me to do. So, half-a-year later, I’m getting stamped into the United Kingdom. We stop at Buckingham on the way, then fly on up to Edinburgh. I grace the stage. It does not result in any acting contracts, but it feels damn good. Then, we bop back down to London for a few days before we return to Maryland.

Quick trip. Bitten by the travel bug.

B: My first Guinness in Ireland.

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

Well, B is not easy at all. I’m going to go with Guinness. In Dublin. At St. James Gate. Yeah. I didn’t like Guinness, or Jameson, for that matter, until I landed in Dublin. Then, my German – Russian – Romanian – Polish self became a bit o’ Irish at first swig. Love.

C: The brilliant and delightful Chef Maria Jose San Ramon at Monastrell

C: Cuisine (Favorite)

I’ve had some of the most amazing food in the world in Spain, courtesy of Chef Maria Jose San Ramon of Hospes Amerigo’s Monastrell. In fact, the entire time I was a part of #blogtripf1 (thank you, Land of Valencia for the amazing opportunity to see the region!), I ate well. Nay, damn well. I even wrote a post over at Matador Network on all of the damn well eating I was doing.

Other than that, I was a sucker for the fresh fish, homemade EVOO and jugs of wine in plastic bottles made by store owners in Croatia, particularly on Solta, a little slice of island heaven on the Adriatic.

D: Destinations. Favorite. Least Favorite. Why.

I operate in life without favorites, which is weird because, as my friend Katie says, I am in love with the hyperbole. When people ask me my favorite place, I spout off a list. Which is the same list I am going to spout out now, only with brief explanations.

Madrid: Vibrant, alive city with easy transportation. If I could live anywhere in the world, Madrid or anywhere in Spain would be the top of my wish list.

Berlin: Holy crap, the amount of culture, art, eco-friendly living here, just blows me away. I love the little nooks and crannies I discovered and the history. There’s something about WWII that really intrigues me.

Sarajevo: This one makes people scratch their heads. But, for me, seeing a city that is still so scarred from ethnic cleansing and a brutal war be so alive now, just warms my heart. The people here are friendly and kind. And, I just fell in love with the city.

Split, Croatia: Split is where my life changed. And, along with its beautiful Adriatic beauty, holds a very special place in my heart.

Least favorite? Now, that’s much easier. Turkey. Not because the country isn’t awesome, because it is. But, because I had a hell of a time there. Between a hotel owner and a restaurant worker who didn’t understand “no” means “no,” to nearly dying in an attempt to paraglide, Turkey beat the crap out of me. Would I go back? Yes. However, the first experience did one big number on me.

E: Living with elephants for a week at Elephant Nature Park.

E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’

Ah, one event that made me say “wow” is difficult, to say the least. That being said, the first thing that comes to mind would be the first time I fed elephants at Elephant Nature Park, just north of Chiang Mai, Thailand. At ENP, the elephants get to live the rest of their lives without having to give rides, perform in circuses or paint (if you want to know why you shouldn’t support such outlets, click here). I spent a week with these elephants and it was magical, life-changing.

F: Train or bus? I don't know ...

F: Favorite mode of transportation

I like planes because they get me to places fast. But, I like buses and trains because I can see the world at the ground level instead of thousands of feet up in the air. Of the two — buses or trains — which do I like better? It’s a toss up. I think it’s safe to say that in Western and Central Europe, I like the trains. But, in the Balkans, where they are unreliable and late, I opt for buses.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling

There are so many feelings I experience when I travel. But, the most spellbinding is the one at the beginning — the idea that anything is possible. Travel is an unwritten story, and I have nearly full control of what I want those blank pages to be filled with.

H: Hottest place I’ve traveled to

I’ve been to a few hot places. Europe in the summer, with no air-con is dreadful. I remember dripping, dripping, dripping sweat in many Eastern European hostels. The worst was in Istanbul and later in Varna. Being in a dorm room, with no air-con, in the dead of summer in thick summer heat is absolutely horrible.

On a completely different level, Chiang Mai during the rainy season was really hot. And humid. It was impossible to walk out into the Sunday Night Market without sweat trickling down my face and soaking my clothing. I know. Attractive.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

The people in Thailand are so kind, so considerate, so attentive. One instance that comes to mind was my recent visit to Chiang Mai. I found a spa and went to get a foot massage. At the end of the hour, my  masseuse sat me in a stool and told me she was going to do my arms to. The reason? She had no other customers and wanted to be nice. Yup. Great service.

J: Journey that took you the longest

Oh lord! The most recent long-haul trip was the longest I have ever experienced. Thank you, United, for the awesome itinerary. It went something like this:

– Flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco: Delayed on runway one hour. Two hour flight.

– Flight from San Francisco to (surprise) Narita, Japan: Delayed one hour. Nine-and-a-half hour flight. Five hour stopover. Which was not on my itinerary.

– Flight from Narita to Bangkok: A little more than six hours. Plus, overnight at the Bangkok airport. So, another six hours.

– Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: One hour.

THEN, on the way back, it was less painful, but still sucky.

– Flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok: One hour.

– Flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles: Fourteen-and-a-half hours. Overnight at LAX — an additional six hours.

– Flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas: One hour.

Yuck.

K: Hand-carved elephants at Elephant Nature Park

K: Keepsake from your travels

Because most of my travels are longer-term, I don’t really buy a lot of things. When I do, they are special and remind me of special moments. I have a bracelet with the Madrid Metro map plastered to it. I have a little carpet I bought in Chefchauen, Morocco. I have hand-carved wooden elephants done by mahouts at Elephant Nature Park. Those are probably the things that mean the most to me and conjure up detailed memories — the thoughts, the feelings, the smells, the atmosphere — of the moment I was in when I purchased each of them.

L: Let down sight. Why and where?

The biggest let down for me was Dubrovnik. Every traveler I spoke with when in Croatia sang such high praises of the city. Yes, it is absolutely magnificent, beautiful, charming … but it is also crowded and expensive. After spending a lot of time in the other cities in Croatia, Dubrovnik was my last stop on vacation and it was so built-up that by the time I got there, it wasn’t nearly what I imagined it to be.

M: The moment I fell in love with Spain.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel

I can’t recall the first moment I fell in love, but I can recall a moment I was reminded of why I travel. After a day of traveling from Galway to Dublin to Madrid, I arrived at my hostel after dark. Filled with warnings about the city and getting my bag slashed, I arrived to the hostel after dark. My little private room had a balcony overlooking a bustling plaza. I flung open those doors and was greeted with the most magnificent view of the square, glowing with colors, pulsing with people. It was magical. And, in that moment, despite all of the negatives I heard about the city, I was enamored.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

Kismet Dao in Brasov, Romania. It rocked. Free beers. Free nights if you stay a certain amount of time. Great staff. Chill travelers. Free breakfast. Common room with hundreds of movies to watch. A basement to party in. A backyard with a grill. Awesomeness.

O: I can't stop snapping shots of doors and windows.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

Doors, windows, street lamps and clothing hanging from clothing lines. I am pretty sure I could do quite a few essays of just these images. They tell stories landscapes and normal shots of places can’t.

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

This passport has UK, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium, Rwanda, Belgium, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, America, Thailand, America. I think. There might be a few more from train/car travel over borders, but I don’t remember.

Q: Bran's was a quirky let-down.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

I don’t know how quirky it is, but Bran’s Castle in Romania was … interesting. They removed all of the old furniture and replaced it with antiques instead.

R: Recommended sight, event, or experience.

Pay to have a guide in Auschwitz. Take SA Guesthouse’s tour of Sarajevo. Madja’s Guest House’s tour of Mostar in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The free alternative tour in Berlin. They all rock and all are historic and fascinating.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while traveling.

It depends on my mood. Sometimes, it’s a good meal. Sometimes, it’s a bottle of wine. Other times, it’s just for the privilege of enjoying “free” wifi at an outdoor cafe with a cup of coffee or a Coke Light. Oh, and tours of places that really move me, like the ones I took in Bosnia.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

The historical free tour I took in Berlin that took us to Checkpoint Charlie. Oh, and running through the Lourve so I could snap a photo of Mona Lisa but not sticking around the museum because it was so crowded with school children I thought I would pass out.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

So many! Kayaking in circles in Spain. Falling off a cliff in an attempt to paraglide in Turkey. A night of sultry flamenco in Granada. Teaching English in Spain and living with locals there. Bonding with elephants at Elephant Nature Park. I could go on and on.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where.

Turkey.

W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.

Croatia. My last night of my trip. Sitting by myself at a restaurant enjoying homemade noodles and a view of Zadar’s harbor.

X: View of Goreme.

X: eXcellent view and from where

Coming in to Goreme at sunrise. The reds and oranges turning the fairy chimneys the same color as the sky, and hot air balloons beginning to lift off. Mesmerizing.

Y: Years spent traveling

Collectively? About one year. My longest trip was almost seven months.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

The F-1 race in Valencia. Hands down. Oh, and every game I watched at bars during the World Cup, particularly the games in Spain with Spain playing. The passion and enthusiasm from those fans turned me into a futbol fan!

Now, the fun part! I nominate the following superb travel bloggers to share their A-Z’s:

Abby, The Jungle Princess

Lindsey, The Traveller World Guide

Erica, Overyonderlust

Bobbie Lee, Heels and Wheels

Jade, Our Oyster

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

35 Comments on " The A-Z of D Travels ‘Round "

  1. Rease December 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm · Reply

    World Cup games are the best! I chose my moving date to Argentina based on the World Cup game schedule! I watched 2 in the airport and got to see 2 more once I arrived before Argentina dropped out of the running. Amazing!

    • The Adventures of D December 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm · Reply

      I absolutely loved being in Europe for the World Cup Games! So exciting!! Plus, they were on during normal hours, unlike in America. :)

  2. Megan December 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm · Reply

    When did u get America stamp?

  3. Stephanie - The Travel Chica December 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm · Reply

    I do not count Canada as an international trip either :-)

    I’m going to have to Google Goreme. Never even heard of it!

    • The Adventures of D December 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm · Reply

      Glad we agree on Canada!! Goreme is in the Cappidocia region of Turkey. Absolutely beautiful!! :)

  4. Ayngelina December 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm · Reply

    I’m not surprised you found the best cuisine in Spain, the food is absolutely fantastic there.

    • The Adventures of D December 27, 2011 at 12:04 am · Reply

      It is SO good! I am loving your food posts about Spain, too. :)

  5. Bobbi Lee Hitchon December 27, 2011 at 4:00 am · Reply

    Awh I love this. So good to read where you started and what you’ve seen. Can’t agree with you more about a good glass of wine in Croatia-I’ll buy you one for nominating me on our eventual tweet up there, which will HAVE TO HAPPEN!!! Thanks so much darling. Cannot wait to do this. And what great company to be in ;)

    • The Adventures of D December 28, 2011 at 12:58 am · Reply

      I love it!! YES!!! I hope it is sooner than later. It needs to be!! <3

  6. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures December 27, 2011 at 10:11 am · Reply

    Happy New Year!!! Now I want to visit Goreme! I hope to one day experience a World Cup game.

    • The Adventures of D December 28, 2011 at 1:02 am · Reply

      Happy New Year to you my dear!! I have no doubt you will do both of these things!

  7. Nicole - Woman Seeks World December 27, 2011 at 12:39 pm · Reply

    Great post, and happy (almost) 2012! This reminds me of all the experiences us travellers have along the way, its easy to forget some of them sometimes. Wishing you awesome travels in 2012~

  8. Nomadic Samuel December 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm · Reply

    You’ve had some fascinating adventures D! Here’s to many more :)

  9. Abi December 28, 2011 at 2:58 am · Reply

    Fun! Happy 2012 x

    • The Adventures of D December 29, 2011 at 9:49 pm · Reply

      You, too!! Hope to see you somewhere in the world this year. Maybe Vegas?

  10. crazy sexy fun traveler December 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm · Reply

    I see we have the same obsession with Spain. I lived in Madrid for 6 months and it was cool, but I still prefer Barcelona, I need a beach :)

  11. jade December 29, 2011 at 1:04 am · Reply

    I feel the same way about traveling… I really feel like anything is possible- the world truly is at your fingertips and life is worth soaking up. Cliches are cliches for a reason and traveling makes them all come true for me. Great post! and a very happy 2012!

    • The Adventures of D December 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm · Reply

      So true!!! Thank you. Happy 2012 to you, Jade! Hopefully our paths will cross soon!

  12. Dayna December 31, 2011 at 4:26 am · Reply

    I loved these! Your thoughts about Dubrovnik made me feel a teeny bit better about missing it to zoom off to Romania. Your elephant visit sounds so remarkable, I can’t wait to do something like that. Thanks for sharing! (Oh, and coincidentally, we are looking for a hostel in Brasov for tomorrow, so maybe…..!)

    • The Adventures of D January 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm · Reply

      Oh, good!! Dubrovnik was SO built-up by other travelers that by the time I got there, I looked around and was let down. Brasov rocks! Let me know how you like it. It’s just a good town to chill out, especially if you are at Kismet Dao1

      • Dayna January 2, 2012 at 8:13 am · Reply

        As per your recommendation – HOLY COW I LOVE THIS PLACE! Best hostel I’ve ever been in… you are dead on!! Thanks for the tip, so random that I found your post right as we were deciding on a hostel!

        • Diana January 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm · Reply

          Kismet Dao ROCKS!! Enjoy!! :)

  13. Camels & Chocolate January 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm · Reply

    I wish I hadn’t already done my year-end as I really want to do this now! They’re so much fun to read.

  14. Will - Gap Daemon January 10, 2012 at 8:08 am · Reply

    Wow! You’ve done an incredible amount in your life. What a huge pile of things.

    I myself would love to try Kayaking as well as visit that weird Romanian attraction you talk about. Got a thing for antiques you see ;)

    • Diana January 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm · Reply

      I’ve crammed a lot into a little bit of time! The kayaking, like most adventurous/sporty things, didn’t work out, but it was still quite fun! As for Bran’s Castle … go antiquing, that’s free. :) Just exploring the grounds is really nice, the interior really is a let down.

  15. Christina (Jandal Road) January 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm · Reply

    Great getting to know you a little bit! You’ve certainly had some pretty amazing travel experiences! Funny how you say you take so many pictures of windows and doors. I can’t help myself with nature / landscapes… “just one more without that bush, but with that tree instead, from that angle…”. Would love to see your door photography post!

    • Diana January 16, 2012 at 12:07 am · Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Christina! I have had some wonderful experiences, and look forward to having many more. I love the way you describe your photo taking opportunities. I am the same way!! I just started a folder to separate the doors, windows and lights (I take those, too) and am pretty sure it’s going to have to be a multi-post deal. :)

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