Z: Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway: North Carolina (September 2017)

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

For Day Z, I have this fun shot of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I found it, and I thought the sun was pretty in the sky and decided to throw it in photoshop and see what would happen. 

Other places I considered for this post: ?

Onward –

77. How does traveling make you feel?

All of the emotions. Good, bad, sad, happy, frustrated, angry, excited, in awe.

When I travel, my emotions are an adventure. It really depends on where I'm going, what I'm doing, and my comfort level. Some trips are easier than others.

78. What kind of traveler are you?

I think I actually answered this earlier in the A-Z challenge. Having answered so many questions, I'm going to try this out again –

• I love finding places with an art scene. Creative architecture (or different from what I'm used to), modern art museums, street art… I always love taking in a city's culture by exploring it through art.
• Foodie. I'm not incredibly adventurous, but I like trying different food fads and exploring instagrammable food locations. Street food is the best! Farm-to-table can be nice if it's not too expensive. I also always make a point to try foods that are popular in a place; my one exception is seafood, which I never eat.
• If there is a jazz club, I'm there! Basement jazz in NYC and Latin-style jazz in Miami? Bring it on. I'm planning to explore jazz in LA this summer!
• I'm a planner; that's part of the travel experience for me. Once I get to my destination, all bets are off, though! If something better comes up, I don't mind abandoning my plans!

I can't really think of an overall summarization of what kind of traveler I am. I guess, as a traveler, each experience plays a role in the next one and I'm always evolving, learning something new (both about myself and travel), and altering both my actual day-to-day life and my travel-life.

79. What is the scariest experience you've had while traveling?

My first trip to Miami, I was pretty anxious. I was concerned about drugs and drinking on Ocean Boulevard. Keeping that in mind, my husband and I were walking through Ocean Boulevard our first night in Miami to see the awesome art deco and neon lights. I needed to go to the restroom  There was a line, but eventually a stall opened up. A woman in the stall next to me was on the floor but I didn't think anything of it. Next thing I know someone is knocking on her stall asking if she's ok. No response. Turns out she had passed out in the stall. I've got a pretty weak tolerance for anything medical, but my mind went to the worst case scenario. As I was planning to leave the restroom, women were attempting to call emergency services for the unresponsive woman. I couldn't stay to find out more, I was feeling sick. I left the bathroom with a look on my face that caused my husband to immediately question what was wrong. I couldn't answer before puking in a nearby bush; we got back to the hotel room as quickly as possible. I was done exploring. To this day, I don't know what happened with the unresponsive woman in the bathroom. I sincerely hope she was okay and that I was overreacting to a situation I was already nervous about.

Side note: Ocean Boulevard is definitely worth exploring during the day and night! If you have a weak stomach or sensitivity to alcohol or drugs, it might be best to visit when fewer people are there during the off-season. (Our first visit was the week of July 4th.) There are drinking and drugs in this area of Miami. But can't you find that almost anywhere to a small degree? Don't let it hold you back from visiting. (Though, maybe, visit in the day time with kids.)

And just like that April A-Z is over! Thanks for joining in and following along with me! What was your favorite day of the month? Did you have a favorite travel question? Did you learn anything surprising about travel … or your favorite blogger … over the past month? 

Be sure to come back for an A-Z review Monday!

See other posts in this year's A-Z.


Y: NYC, New York

NYC (October 2017)

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

For Day Y, I just picked a random image I felt like editing because Y not? 😛

Other places I considered for this post: ?

Onward –

74. What is something you've taken while traveling that you've regretted taking?

BOOKS! They are heavy! Unless you have any intention of leaving the books at your destination, it may not be worth the extra weight in your luggage.

Speaking of weight, GIFTS. Yes, it saves in postage, but once again is it worth carrying the extra weight? (Of course, I'm saying this as someone who has carried heavy bottles to someone as a gift. Needless to say, I was thrilled to hand them off to the receiver! lol.)

Umbrellas. It never rains when you bring them. Plus, there is probably an umbrella available at your hotel for you to borrow.

75. Strict schedule or go with the flow?

A mix? I like having a plan so that there isn’t any downtime, but things come up. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and be flexible. Like, what if you stumble across a really awesome farmer’s market on your way to do something on the list? If you have to stick to your schedule, you miss out on the farmer’s market. And maybe the farmer’s market is better? So, I always like to keep my options open.

76. What is your dream traveling experience?

So many.

I want to see the cherry blossoms in Japan with my friend Tony. (He speaks Japanese, so he’s really the ideal person to explore Japan with.)

Greece and Spain are calling my name. I want to try the foods and see the Mediterranean from there.

One day I want to explore New Zealand and check out where Lord of the Rings was filmed.

And I want to see Sydney, Australia. But in winter when it’s cooler there. Or in the summer. But if I go in the summer, I want to be there for New Year’s eve so that I can see the fireworks.

Can you think of any places that start with the letter Y? Do you like doing things on the fly or do you prefer to have a plan?

See other posts in this year's A-Z.


X: Big Sur, CA

McWay Falls: Big Sur, CA (April 2018)

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

For Day X, I had no idea what to do. I thought this image of McWay Falls in Big Sur, CA was beautiful and wanted to share. It is my one "eXtra" image for April A-Z. Hope you like it! :)

Other places I considered for this post: ?

Onward –

71. Which country makes the best coffee or tea?

I don't drink coffee, so I can only really comment on tea. In my humble opinion, I like French Breakfast Tea the best. So, essentially France. But if I needed to have a backup choice I would go with Egypt. I love the Lipton Yellow Label tea served with mint leaves. Yum! 😋

72. What has been the most useful item you've bought for travel?

This is a hard question!

My first thought was the Delsey over-the-shoulder bag we bought in France. I am weak, so carrying roller bags up and down stairs in Europe is a literal pain in the back. I love that the bag holds so much, fits in the overhead bin on airplanes, smooshes down to be taken as an extra bag for souvenirs, and can also just be thrown over my shoulder leaving my hands and back free for roller bags and backpacks.

Then my mind went to European electricity adaptors. I mean how else would we charge our phones?

I also love the small scale we have, our packing cubes, and the batteries we bought for charging our phones on the go.

There are so many useful things my husband and I have bought for travel that make the experience so much better!

73. What useful travel hacks have you picked up?

• Roll your clothes! This may be TMI, but I have even gone so far as to wrap my underwear in hairbands.  The tighter you can wrap your clothes the more you can fit in a single bag!
• Speaking of which, take carry-ons only! Do you really want to risk the airline losing your luggage?
• I thought packing cubes were stupid when I first heard about them, but they really help you stay organized!
• Print or have a copy of ALL travel documentation. If you have problems, you want to know where it is and have easy access to it.
• I like garment bags for road trips. If you don't wear something during travel, you can just take it home and hang it back in the closet. Super easy!

I guess I could keep going, but maybe that's why I have a travel blog?

Are you a fan of coffee … or do you prefer tea? Do you have something you always take with you when you travel?

See other posts in this year's A-Z.


W: Washington DC

Patomic Tidal Basin: Washington DC (April 2018)

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

For Day W, I went with this shot of a cherry blossom tree and the Washington Monument. Last April, my husband and I went to DC for the cherry blossom festival, a life goal of mine. While the crowds took away from the experience, I'm glad to have gotten this life goal checked off my bucket list.

Other places I considered for this post: Walt Disney World (in Orlando, FL), West Palm Beach (FL), Wynwood Walls (in Miami, FL)

Onward –

68. What do you think about the quote, “You can’t run away from your own feet?” and the idea that travel is a bandaid solution for acquiring happiness?

It's possible. I definitely take short trips to get out of my own head.

I don't think I would say, for me at least, that travel equates to happiness. I think, for me (again), travel equates to knowledge and growth; those things give me confidence which, in turn, equates to happiness.

So yeah, while looking at a beautiful beach might result in momentary pleasure making you temporarily happy, I think I seek a little more when I travel.

69. How many different currencies do you have access to?

Almost as many as places I've been!

1. Canadian coins
2. Mexican coins (Never been to Mexico!)
3. Euros (coins + cash)
4. Czech Republic coins
5. Egyptian coins and cash
6. US dollars

70. What's the best street food you've ever had?


In NYC, you have to have pizza from a local pizzeria. It's super cheap and you can find one on almost every corner. There may or may not be seating. Either way, you fold the pizza in half and shove it in your mouth, kind of like a hot dog. They say it's the water in NYC that makes the bagels so good. I'm not a fan of NYC bagels, but I do wonder if the water is what makes the pizza so good? Or maybe it's just being in NYC?

Trdelník in Prague is worth tasting. I liked it so much, my husband and I attempted to make our own over a fire pit. It never turned out quite as good. We've also tried getting it from places in LA and NYC but nothing has been as good as the original. Maybe one day we will return to Prague. Or maybe one day we will find a good alternative. 🙂

I actually had this in a restaurant in Miami first but Mexican street corn is one of my favorite street foods. It was actually recommended to us by a taxi driver last year when we were headed to LA. We never found it in LA, but I am so glad I was able to find it elsewhere!

Fuul is a yummy Egyptian street food (sandwich). For our first morning in Egypt, we went to a small restaurant recommended by one of my husband's friends and ordered a little bit of almost everything. The food was so cheap and I knew so little about Egyptian food that I had no idea what I would like or want if anything. Turns out I liked almost everything. Fuul, however, is a traditional breakfast sandwich and one of the things I enjoyed most while I was in Egypt.

Kalua pork and freshly baked banana bread on the side of the road in Hawai'i can be absolutely amazing. I now crave kalua pork. Luckily, we have a cute little Hawai'ian restaurant in Atlanta where I can get my fix any time I want it!

And before I get to the end of the post, I need to give a shout out to NYC's Chinatown breakfast scene. I've actually never had dim sum (on my bucket list); my husband and I usually go to the small bakeries you can find all over. He gets a savory breakfast dumpling and I get a semi-sweet cake and smoothie. We take our food to a nearby park and people watch. Breakfast usually only costs about $5 for both of us and it is so delicious! Afterward, we hit up the street stalls and grab some fruit to snack on later in the day. It's truly an experience I think everyone who visits NYC should have. (Preferably in the summer.)

Speaking of food, is there any food where you are from that is a must-try? Do you think people use travel as a bandaid solution for happiness?

See other posts in this year's A-Z.


V: Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy (May 2014)

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

For Day V, I chose the gorgeous city of Venice. When I started this A-Z journey, the goal was to work forward starting with my oldest images and working my way toward my newest images. Life got in the way and that ended up not working out how I envisioned it to, but this was one of the first images I edited for the challenge. Hopefully, you like it! ❤️

Other places I considered for this post: ?? When you get to the end of the alphabet, it gets hard thinking of places that fit letters!

To the questions –

65. What's your favorite pizza topping?

😛What an appropriate question to fall under Venice!

At first, I dismissed this question as non-travel, but I can see how where you've been would have an effect on your taste in pizza. For example, I have only ever had knock-off Chicago-style pizza, so my preferences are generally to avoid it. One day I do plan to visit Chicago and try this style pizza for real.

For traditional American pizza, I'm a fan of extra cheese, pepperoni, and pineapple.

If we are talking California Pizza Kitchen pizza, Justin and I always get the BLT pizza. Lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayo on a pizza? It sounds weird but it's delicious!

Italian brick oven style pizza is best with simple ingredients – buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and basil. I've also had this style with burrata and that's really good. :)

66. What's the best Airbnb you've stayed at?

There are several, so I'm going to list them out.

• I stayed at an Airbnb in the outskirts of Savannah, GA once with my brother, sister-in-law, parents, and husband. We stayed on July 4th and were able to see fireworks in the distance off of a dock in the swampy backyard. It was great not having to leave the house to see the fireworks! Another benefit for the Airbnb was that a seafood place was located across the street. I'm not a fan of seafood but my family loved ordering the family meal and sharing amongst themselves.

As for the house itself? It was mediocre. Beds were hard. Owners were particular. In the end, it worked and I have positive associations because of all of the good aspects of the Airbnb.

• In Crailsheim, Germany, Justin and I rented an apartment from a guy that was so sweet. First, he was like "Are you sure you want to travel on May 1? Nothing is open!" And then he stocked the house with food for us. <3. I had never had muesli before, so that was a really cool experience for me. Then we had to learn to operate German blinds and figure out the washing machine. I had never seen a European style toilet before! Anyway, it was a lot of fun staying at this guy's apartment and a great first experience in Germany.

• When we rented a place in Marseilles, France, the owners were super kind and helpful. We came not having a plan and they helped us figure one out. They recommend a park to visit and food to eat. From this experience, I learned to always talk to the people who are hosting you; you never know what they will recommend and they know far more about your destination than you do!

• The last amazing Airbnb experience I'm going to share is from a trip with friends to NYC. We stayed in Harlem in a gigantic 4 story townhouse with roof access (if you were brave enough to go up there!). The owners lived right next door and were so kind and helpful even going so far as to obtain an iron and ironing board for us! While the property was amazing and beautiful, the experience of staying with friends probably made the stay unforgettable.

I complain that it can be hard traveling in groups and that it is hard to manage expectations when you do so, but I never explain that the beauty in group travel, at least for me, is finding compromise and learning how to get along with people better. <3.

67. Where do you wish you were right now?

At the beach.

We went to Miami at the beginning of April and it was so nice getting outside. It was breezy outside with a high of 80º. We enjoyed sitting in the shade whether at the pool or at my favorite Latin jazz club, Ball & Chain. The food was tremendous. It was great having a distraction from life.

But I don't have to go to Miami. I could go to Hawai'i, LA, France… Any beach anywhere in the world!

I just miss the sun, the ocean, and the tropical beach foods.

And perhaps travel too. ❤️

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be? What's your favorite pizza topping?

See other posts in this year's A-Z.


U: Honolulu, HI

Honolulu on O'ahu Island, Hawai'i

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

It was really hard coming up with a U place until I realized I lived in one: the United States! So, why not Hawai'i? Beautiful palm trees, gorgeous lens flare… Yes, I think this picture will do.

Other places I considered for this post: I couldn't come up with any other places I had been that started with a U…

Onward –

62. What's the most fearless thing you have done (while traveling)?

When you look back, the thing you once feared no longer seems quite as scary, does it? Or at least that's what is true for me.

The first time I traveled to Europe (which has come up a few times in this A-Z), I was incredibly scared. I've been to Europe a few times since. I won't say it gets "easier", but in going, again and again, you learn how to prepare for it. Like getting ready for a speech or presentation? You create lists and you check them off. You worry less about what you didn't do to prepare for the trip and focus more on better preparing for your next trip.

So, for example, during the last trip you didn't have enough memory cards for your camera, right? Well, maybe this trip you will bring extra.

Or, maybe you felt like you failed miserably at practicing your targeted language? Life got busy. It happens. Well, maybe you start working on those skills now, at home, without a trip being planned so that when you return, if you return, you feel more prepared.

Seems simple, right?

But, of course, it's not always easy to overcome your fears. It takes time and practice. It takes effort. Again and again and again. And when you want to give up, do it again.

I've never bungee-jumped or swam with sharks.

I did jump off the back of a boat when I was a kid; I didn't know how to swim.

I got help when my 3-year-old brother fell between a boat and a dock at the lake. I was 7.

A cab race in Cairo with 2 other taxis didn't phase me in the least. I was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle, though. (We lost. 😔)

Sometimes being fearless is about doing the right thing, or trying to be the right person when the time calls for it, and less about seeing what the craziest thing you can do while traveling is.

That's my opinion anyway.

63. What has been the most interesting food you've tasted while traveling?

Passion fruit.

Or guava.

I tried passion fruit cider in Hawai'i thinking it was local. (It wasn't; it was from Switzerland.) I liked the cider quite a bit and decided to continue trying passion fruit "things" while I was in Hawai'i. I tried passion fruit drinks, jelly, and butter… When I got home from Hawai'i, my husband and I went in search of actual passion fruit at the farmer's market. When we found it and cut it open, I was shocked at how gross the inside looked. And while I may have been put off initially by the texture of the seeds, I ended up loving the flavor. Sweet and sour, my favorite flavor!

Because we didn't actually try passion fruit while traveling, you could also say the most interesting food I've tried while traveling is guava. I had no idea how to eat it! Actually, I'm still not sure I know how to eat it. We found it at a breakfast buffet in Egypt. I love the juice, so I thought I would give it a try. Maybe when I learn how to eat it, I will learn to like it?

Egyptian koshary looks absolutely gross, but it tastes so good!

Lemon with mint is amazing, but the drink looks weird to me.

Raw beef sounds totally gross and tastes mediocre. I'm not a meat person, though.

It's so much fun eating coconuts you find on the ground!

I mean what is "interesting food"? It all depends on what your culture is, right? People in other countries don't like peanut butter, right? But in the US, it's a staple; some kids only eat peanut butter! I guess it all depends on your perspective.

Being American, though, there are some things I will never try. (I know! Never say never!) Escargot. Anything from the ocean. I'm not particularly fond of meat so eating weird animal parts isn't something I'm going to jump at. Finally, I don't care if ants (or bugs of any kind!) are covered in chocolate, I will not be trying them! Ick.

64. How much stuff have you posted home?

This is an interesting question because I don't really send postcards or letters home. As it turns out, I do ship things home, though! Can you guess what?

You get extra points (toward what? I don't know!) if you guessed souvenirs and dirty laundry! In the past, I have learned the hard way how heavy souvenirs and laundry can get. Then, when you are traveling between multiple countries, not only do you have to navigate with all of that extra weight, you also limit how much space you have available in your luggage for future finds.

So. How much have I shipped home? That number grows every trip I take despite the number of postcards I send decreasing. Funny how that works.

What kind of things have you been scared to do but ended up working out in the end? Do you ever send things through the mail?

See other posts in this year's A-Z.


T: Chattanooga, TN

Tennesee Aquarium: Chattanooga, TN (fall 2013)

Focusing has been difficult the past few months, so I'm taking an alternative approach to A-Z this year: looking back at past travel, editing or re-editing images from travels before, and responding to travel-related questions. Hope you are able to join me on this journey to my past!

For Day T, I wanted to go with a place I hadn't shared yet. Tennessee seemed like a good fit! This is a really old image that I spent a bit of time doctoring up…

Other places I considered for this post: Treasure Island Park (CA)

Onward –

58. What electronics do you take with you when you travel?

• Camera, 3 lenses (main, telephoto, wide angle), extra camera batteries, battery charger
• GoPro, extra batteries, battery charger
• Google Nexus 5 (for 360º images) + charger
• back up batteries, chargers for those batteries
• cell phones + chargers
• electricity converter/adaptor for travel in Europe/Africa
• hair flat iron
• luggage scale

59. What has been the most unique accommodation you've stayed in?

• In France, we once stayed at an Airbnb over a funeral home! 😳
• I loved staying at the "pink palace" in Honolulu, Hawai'i. How fun!
The Hyatt Regency in Lahaina, HI (Maui) had animals all over the property. I loved exploring! It was like visiting an attraction without ever leaving the hotel!

60. How do you document your trips?

Through my blog!

But honestly, it is way more complicated than that. I'm really into analyzing my trips – what went right, what went wrong, what can I do better next time? I use Google Maps to create a plan, Google Docs to document my expenses, Swarm (app) to help me remember where I've been, Notes (on the iphone) to take notes about what I'm doing and what my experience is/has been as I've traveled, etc, etc… And, of course, I take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

When I eventually come back to blog about my travels, all of the notes and documentation I've made makes it easier for me to remember the trip better and blog about it more accurately.

Do you document your travels/life in any way? What electronics can you not live without?

See other posts in this year's A-Z.