I’ve traveled a lot, but if I’m being honest, with a few notable exceptions, my travels are usually confined to popular destinations. On my first trip out of the US, I went straight to London, Paris, and Amsterdam. In other words, I’m kind of a basic bitch.
I recently had the chance to interview someone over absinthe and cocktails whose travels make mine feel like Disney. She’s been to places I can’t even spell without Google, and she blogs about all the delicious things she eats along the way. Here is what The Road Less Traveler had to say about her adventures.
GnomeTrotting: What’s the first place you ever went to?
The Road Less Traveler: Tel Aviv.
GT: What made you pick that?
TRLT: Aside from having amazing benefits at work, I’ve always had an affinity for Jewish culture. Since middle school when they taught us about Anne Frank and the Holocaust. So I planned a 2-week trip to Israel.
GT: Where did you go in Israel?
TRLT: Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. I also went to the Dead Sea. Haifa is the most obviously divided city. There’s a lot of tension there. But they were super nice people. They’re not as violent as people make them out to be.
GT: You never learned about Paris in middle school?
TRLT: I wanted to go to Paris for my 15th birthday. But my mom took me to Islas del Rosario in Colombia.
GT: Where’d you go after Israel?
TRLT: Lisbon. I went to meet my ex-girlfriend there. Portugal was amazing. It was during the World Cup.
GT: See, most people would go to Spain instead of Portugal.
TRLT: Well, I was working so much and I had taken all my vacation time for Israel. So I had to travel on the weekend.
TRLT: Then Kazakhstan. That was another 10 days.
GT: So you had only been to one country in Europe and then you went to Kazakhstan? You didn’t wanna see Big Ben or anything? The Colosseum?
TRLT: Those cities I feel I can do them when I’m older. I feel like they’re always gonna be there. Kazakhstan was done on such a whim. We were planning a trip for my ex’s birthday. And we chose Kazakhstan because we saw pictures of Big Almaty Lake. So we went there. We went to small village called Tulkubas. We did a home stay there and hiked a reserve.
GT: Home stay?
TRLT: In the Lonely Planet, they recommend a guide. She took us around the city and connected us with the people that did the home stay. Basically, you show up to a home and you pay them and you have room and board and feed you breakfast. We stayed on a farm. We almost got arrested there actually.
GT: For what?
TRLT: We were smoking cigarettes at a train station, and we threw them out. The police were inside filming us. They showed us the video and asked us to hand over our passports. Then they kept harassing us for money or they would take us in to the station. Our tour guide didn’t really do anything to help us. She just kinda translated. But this old lady came and defended the hell out of us and ran the cops off.
GT: You know you probably wouldn’t have gotten arrested in Rome…
TRLT: Yea I know. I just have these benefits, and I think I have to use them to go to places I never considered otherwise.
GT: What are these benefits?
TRLT: I work for an airline, and we just pay taxes which can be anywhere from $250-300 a ticket. We only have agreements with certain airlines and we have to fly standby.
GT: So what’s there to do in Kazakhstan?
TRLT: It’s very European. It has a big cafe culture and people are really stylish. They have their own version of the Rocky Mountains. We went to one of the stops on the Silk Road, Turkestan, which is centuries old.
GT: Where did you go after Kazakhstan?
TRLT: Then it was Africa.
GT: What made you go there?
TRLT: I went to meet up with my ex who was working there at the time.
GT: So all you do is travel for pussy?
TRLT: Yea I guess that’s the common denominator. Which is why I’m so proud of Poland.
GT: What about Poland?
TRLT: I recently went there and, and it was my first trip by myself. I wanted to challenge myself a bit. I wanted to know that I could travel by myself. And it was the best vacation I’ve ever had. I didn’t have to worry about other people’s schedules or what they wanted to do.
GT: Am I not showing you a good time in Prague?
TRLT: Ok… so it was the best solo vacation I’ve ever had
GT: Right, whatever. So where in Africa?
TRLT: Nairobi in Kenya, and Arusha, Marangu, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania. I was on an overland trip.
GT: What is that?
TRLT: It’s like a tour. They’re mostly UK-based companies. And you travel in a huge truck with 12-20 passengers. It’s really cheap travel. For meals and transportation for 2 weeks, I paid like $500. Activities cost extra, like if you climb Kilimanjaro.
GT: Did you climb?
TRLT: No I went to the foothills. But we did a kind of safari. We went to Lake Victoria and Ngorongoro Crater. We saw flamingos and elephants. I’ve never been so close to elephants.
GT: What are the accommodations like on an overland trip?
TRLT: Mostly camping. You have to bring your own sleeping bag.
GT: Umm I’m too bougie for that.
TRLT: But the landscapes are amazing.
GT: So how do you have sex?
TRLT: Just quietly in a tent. Everyone had sex in the tents. You could definitely hear people have sex. But we had our own room for part of it.
GT: So do you think that Europe is super boring compared to that?
TRLT: No way. I wanna see all of it. Especially now being in Prague. But again those are cities I could see any time.
GT: So what made you go to Poland?
TRLT: Actually I made it to Paris before Poland.
GT: What finally made you go there?
TRLT: My relationship ended and I realized I had all this money left over that I was saving to go on vacation with her. So I spent it on my 30th birthday with a friend. It started in Chicago for Lollapalooza. Then we flew out to Minneapolis. And then the next day we flew to Paris. Actually through Warsaw because there was an Air France strike. And that’s what made me wanna go back to Poland. It’s so cheap. But I finally got to spend 5 days in Paris.
GT: So you over camping?
TRLT: Yea. Not completely.
GT: What did you think of Paris after being to all these uncommon places?
TRLT: I loved it. I would like to live there at some point.
GT: Is it better than far off destinations that people don’t frequent?
TRLT: It was easier which was nice for a change. You can get anywhere on foot. I finally saw a little bit of history of Europe. Also there’s a lot of American tourists so you never feel like you’re abroad.
GT: So being in Prague doesn’t even feel like a vacation? Does this feel foreign?
TRLT: Yea it feels just as foreign as Kazakhstan. It’s almost about the same cause it’s nearing that Russian influence.
GT: What other off-the-beaten-path destinations are you thinking of going to?
TRLT: I wanna go to Azores, which is becoming the next Iceland. It’s become affordable to go there because low-cost airlines are making it more accessible.
GT: How do you hear about these places?
TRLT: I heard about Azores reading an article about where your next vacation should be. They’re known for hiking activities.
GT: What’s your favorite of the ones you’ve been to?
TRLT: Tel Aviv. Because I’ve never been to another city like it. Even though it looks like other cities, I don’t think any other culture on the planet values their life more than the young people in Tel Aviv.
GT: Do you feel less safe in an off-the-beaten-path destination versus a generic European city?
TRLT: Not at all. In Tel Aviv, I forgot I was in the Middle East until I saw signs for bomb shelters or the Israeli army. But I didn’t feel unsafe anywhere. And there’s a surprising number of people traveling everywhere you go.
GT: What’s the most dangerous place you’ve been to?
TRLT: I felt a tinge unsafe in Paris. In Montmartre especially. Even when I was this close to being arrested in Kazakhstan, I knew I would be alright. But in Paris, even the cab driver was being really weird.
GT: Yes. I hate that about Paris! And what’s the next basic bitch vacation you wanna take?
TRLT: It’s possible I’m considering Australia and New Zealand. I’m just missing Australia and Antarctica to have all 7 continents. I want the Antarctic stamp because it has a penguin on it.
GT: That’s what you consider basic? As opposed to..
TRLT: Iran. Afghanistan.
GT: So do you want to go to Afghanistan?
TRLT: Yes, actually. The whole reason I wanna go is because I admire how fiercely they protect themselves from outsiders. And Iran is my coveted jewel. You look back at photos and how progressive they were. And now women are oppressed, and art and literature is no longer valued. I feel like that’s what’s happening to the US now.
GT: You’re so much more interesting than me. Do you wanna just take my gnome to the Middle East so I can go hang out on a beach in Greece?
TRLT: Yes. I’ll send you a postcard.