Ordinary Travelers – Joe

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Today’s Ordinary Traveler is my old friend Joe.

1. What makes you want to travel?

I’ve always gotten bored easily, and traveling creates an opportunity to break up the monotony of day-to-day life. I also find that it puts my life into perspective. When I see how others live, it makes me thankful for what I have.

2. How do you afford to travel?

A lot of my travel is for business, and I actually seek out jobs that include at least 25% travel, preferably international, so that I don’t have to sit in an office everyday. When I travel privately, I usually purchase airfare with points. For a few years, my wife and I were running a company and paying the freelancers with PayPal using our travel credit cards. During this period, we’d earn up to 100,000 points every month!

3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group?

I prefer to travel to the destination alone, and then to meet up with people when I’m there. As an experienced traveler, I’m incredibly efficient moving through the transportation hubs. I have a Clear membership, I’m a trusted traveler so I always have TSA Pre-check, and I have memberships at most Airline lounges. When I travel with others, they rarely have those benefits, so I have to slow down.

4. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why?

Easily the most memorable experience was my very first trip to Europe in 1996 while still in college. I went to dinner with some expatriated Americans at a local pizzeria in Hanau, Germany. Not only was I shocked to discover the seemingly crazy things Germans put on their pizza, but I’ll never forget when the waitress leaned over me to set the giant beers on the table, and her hairy, sweaty armpit was right in my face. Talk about a culture shock!

5. What has been your favorite destination and why?

Southern Thailand has been my favorite, and I’ve been there at least ten times. Not only is the weather and landscape beautiful, but it is incredibly cheap to charter a sailboat there. I have chartered sailboats in Phuket many times for a week or more, including my honeymoon. It was amazing to sail around the hundreds of islands in the Andaman Sea, and to set an anchor at any one of them and swim to shore for a campfire or to visit a local village.

6. Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year?

I think I could live in Singapore for a year. It’s a beautiful city with an incredibly modern infrastructure and a ton of activities for my family. They’ve got amusement parks, sailing, good restaurants, and a vibrant business community.

7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir?

I never take souvenirs home, except maybe a few photographs. I travel light, often with only a carry-on or a backpack. I don’t bring anything that I can buy cheaply when I arrive, and I often discard anything I don’t need before I head back. For me, travel is all about creating memories, and those don’t take up any space at all.

8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced?

The young ladies who work in retail or at the local restaurants in various southeast Asian cities – including Manila, Vietnam and Bangkok – often will take a break and walk to a nearby street vendor where they will buy a handful of bugs and eat them. I know bugs are healthy, and certainly an inexpensive source of protein, but, um, no.

9. What do you always pack?

I have a small red bag in which I place every sort of dongle, power cord, and adapter that I could possibly need. I have a worldwide GSM quad-band phone, and a Kindle Fire HD for movies and books (battery lasts forever on those). I generally use a small Tumi messenger bag to keep it all in, and that can last me for trips that are sometimes over 35 hours on planes and layovers!

10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned?

If you have to leave a city in the morning, make sure you pick a hotel on the side of the city that doesn’t require you to drive through the city to depart. Cities, especially in Asia, are a traffic nightmare. If you have to wake up and fight traffic to get where you’re going, it’s best to pick a hotel in the right direction, rather than passing through the city at the worst time and encountering unpredictable delays. Drive through cities late at night!

11. Where are you going on your next trip?

My next trip will be to Jakarta, Indonesia, and then out into the remote provinces. It’ll be a work trip, but I’ll do my best to carve out a few days to enjoy the local culture!

(C) Dmitry Pichugin – stock.adobe.com


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Ordinary Traveler – Candice

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This week’s ordinary traveler is my friend Candice.

1.  What makes you want to travel?  My traveling began rather early in life. I am sure I picked it up from my parents, who trekked across the country each year with my brother and I.  They provided me with a map and my mind began to wonder.  Wanderlust is alive and well with me, so traveling is just a natural reaction to this draw to constantly move.  My job keeps me busy, and travel allows me to get out, leave the cell phone behind, and listen to nature.  Additionally, I’m naturally curious about new places, people and the experience of learning.  Travel helps me to find myself, especially out in the woods.

Redwood National Forest

2. How do you afford to travel?  Each month I apportion off a bit of what’s left in my bank account from checking into savings.  This helps build a budget to spend on a couple of trips each year.  Uncle Sam also helps out, in that, my state taxes, from Iowa, are returned to me in one lump sum.  That also kicks in for another great trip each year.

Winslow, Arizona

3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group? There are times when I really enjoy having several people accompany me on the journey and then others when I find travel best experienced solo.  I like group travel in foreign countries or with someone from the location.  In the United States, my best trips are conducted in the car – just journeying from one location to the next.

Tombstone, Arizona

4. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why? My most memorable moment during one trip to the North Shore of Oahu occurred right before I went to Bosnia.  My friend recommended that we hit Haleiwa Beach Park because the waves were really pounding.  We paddled out in the middle of a break in a small rainstorm and just savored some pretty big waves.  While we were out there, gigantic turtles popped up next to us, just to get a quick breath before diving down again.  Then a pod of dolphins swam up to us.  To top it all off, this massive rainbow appeared in the distance.  It was truly a blessing to have complete serenity out in the ocean before traveling to the other side of the world.

A turtle checks us out in Hawaii.

5. What has been your favorite destination and why? I’m a National Parks junkie.  One of the best things our nation ever did was to protect portions of this country for future generations to enjoy.  The Grand Canyon is the ultimate in destinations to see in one’s lifetime.  I would say the best trip I’ve ever experienced was traveling to Salzburg, Austria from Rome, taking the train.  After college, I took a trip over Europe and found that ride in the Alps is one of the best views I’ve seen in my entire life.

The Grandest Canyon

6. Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year? I’ve had the good fortune to live in some excellent locations in the United States due to the Army.  Spending several years in Hawaii, Arizona, and New York were just dreams of mine when I grew up in Iowa.  After having traveled for almost four decades, I’d say a year in Northern California or Colorado are two places I haven’t lived that I’d like to try on for size.

7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir? Every time I travel, I tend to bring home a piece of art.  In San Francisco, I found a great painting of a trolley car in bright orange, red and purple.  While traversing New Mexico, I persuaded the owner of a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant to sell me a cow head covered in turquoise.  My last trip to Mexico City resulted in a bag full of brightly colored paintings.

Mexico City

8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced? That’s a bit difficult, as there are some customs in the Middle East completely foreign to my way of thinking.  One of the strangest things I’d ever seen was in Afghanistan, when our convoy passed a bus packed with people.  Looking through the windows as we passed, the entire vehicle was jam packed in the back with women in burkas, in front of them we saw livestock, then boys and then amply spaced out men.  It just took me back at how people are treated differently across the world.

9. What do you always pack? The “must” pack is my camera.  Photographs are the best pieces that I always bring back.  They can capture a scene and the essence of travel itself.  Photos from my journeys cover my walls in my house and remind me that the next adventure awaits.

Chiricahua National Park

10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned? Pack once, unload everything, and then pack again, taking out half of what you packed the first time.  You can get along with less in your bag if you think multifunctionally and pack light.  The best advice on the road I ever received was to constantly ask locals where the best hidden spots are.  Most recently, I had someone tell me the best places to eat, if you’re looking for a hole in the wall, is where there are lots of motorcycles parked outside.  If bikers approve then it’s gotta be good.  This definitely applies to Arizona.

11. Where are you going on your next trip? My next adventure takes me to Montana.  I’ve never been there, and both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks are the next in my series to visit.  Friends in Missoula and Helena are helping me find some of the local attractions in the area as well.   In the upcoming year my goal is to prepare for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) and get to finish the ride in 2016.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do since the early 1990s. I might just have the time and motivation in 2016.

Morning hike in the Huachuca Mountains

All photos provided by Candice.

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Ordinary Traveler – Courtney

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This week’s ordinary traveler is a friend and fellow blogger. Courtney lives in upstate New York. She writes about tea at illbemother221btalkstea.wordpress.com. She writes about everything else at galinthegreyhat.com.
1. What makes you want to travel? The chance to see new places is always a huge draw for me. Traveling abroad usually means new customs, foods, etc. and that is always exciting to me. While traveling in the U.S. allows me to see the history and to some extent new customs and foods too.
2. How do you afford to travel? My husband and I typically try to save up for a trip every other year somewhere big. Two years ago, we went to Ireland. Thanks to our tax return and a work bonus, we were able to make it happen without breaking the bank. There have been times where family will offer to let us stay with them so all we’ll need to buy is the plane ticket and make dinner while we’re there. Plus Southwest always has good fares.
3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group? Group travel can be difficult. Last fall we went to Disney World. It was my first time – which meant everyone wanted me to see everything, while I just wanted to wander and see what I could see. So that was tough. I do like tours when traveling abroad because the tour tends to include a lot of entrance fees for museums and the like. But when we were in Ireland, we drove ourselves. I think we were able to meet more of the locals because we weren’t with a tour group.
4. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why? There have been two . . . and they were the two most recent trips. Disney World because I had never been. I loved experiencing it with my husband AND I got to meet Minnie Mouse which was the BEST part of the trip for the 5 year old in me. Ireland was amazing and full of history. Plus my family and my husband’s family come from Ireland so in a way it felt like going home.
5. What has been your favorite destination and why? Besides the two above? I LOVED the UK! But I’m a history nerd and let’s face it there is a whole lot of history to take in there.
6. Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year? I’m torn between London and the west coast of Ireland. Seeing as I haven’t been to London in many years I think I’d have go with that.
7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir? Tea!
8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced? I don’t know that it’s so much a custom. But in Ireland and the UK we were always asked “what time you wanted to be knocked up”. It took me a moment to realize they were asking for the wake up call time!
9. What do you always pack? Beyond the essential items. I always take my grey hat with me because of my blog and also because sometimes you need to cover up a bad hair day no matter where you are!
10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned? Pack your suite case then take out half of what you packed for clothing. So true and it’s saved me space to bring things back.
11. Where are you going on your next trip? My next trip is to Bethesda, Maryland for a Sherlock Holmes convention. So not vacation, but it is time away for something I enjoy so I think it counts!
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Ordinary Traveler – Michelle

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This week’s ordinary traveler series features an old friend of mine. Michelle Lavicka is the co-owner of Mountain Top Pilates in Morgantown, West Virginia.
1. What makes you want to travel?  I have an incurable form of wanderlust. Every time I cross something off my list, I find two or three things to add . . . My husband doesn’t help–he is always coming across cool places or events or activities for us to see or do first-hand. Whenever we meet people on our travels, we always learn about “one more place” we need to see. The world is incredible and I want to see all of it!
Michelle in Australia

2. How do you afford to travel?  Travel is, by far, our biggest expense–more than our mortgage, food, and everything else combined! It helps we don’t have debt (aside from the house). But otherwise, we collect miles/points aggressively. We know that, since we only have the one life, we might as well go for it. We have never regretted money spent on a trip which, I would say, means it’s been well-spent.

3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group?  We prefer alone so we can make our own itinerary and see exactly what we want. That said, while we usually aim to be on our own, some activities have to be group (Korea’s DMZ comes to mind). As a result, we’ve had memorable group trips where we met wonderful people and had a lot of fun.

4.  What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why? Oh, man. Just one? My husband would say hot air ballooning over Bagan, Burma (I know this to be ready for a game show if we are ever on one). Mine changes. Am I allowed to do a list?

  • Most memorable animal experience: seeing penguins for the first time when we were in Southern Patagonia.
  • Most memorable food experience? Eating at every restaurant at the Burj al Arab
  • Most memorable family experience? Sand sledding with Jeff and my parents in New Zealand
  • Most memorable grateful experience? Crossing the border out of Belarus.
  • Most memorable “I wish I could live here” experience? Our safaris in South Africa.
  • Most memorable street experience? Eating our way through Bangkok
  • Most memorable “I can die happy” experience? Riding camels through the Gobi.

I could go on, you get the idea

Sizing up the Sphinx in Egypt.
5. What has been your favorite destination and why?  I love South Africa. It has everything: animals, culture, beauty, history, incredible food . . . I can’t wait to go back.


6.  Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year?

South Africa for sure. New Zealand, too. Iceland. Saigon. Melbourne. I could live in Little Washington for a year, but only if I got to garden and work in the kitchen. Oh, and Punte del Este in Uruguay–that place is a gem.

Michelle and Jeff in Antarctica

7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir?Photos.

Exploring Greece
8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced?
You know, after awhile, nothing seems that strange anymore since you end up seeing it, or something similar, in more than one place. So, instead of strange, it’s just a “Oh! Right, they do that in . . .” type of thing that sends us down memory lane. That said, the tea in Mongolia was a bit tough to drink, but I don’t know if it’s strange.


9. What do you always pack? Camera, extra batteries, electrical converter, laptop, underpants. Beyond that, if it can’t fit into my carryon, it’s not coming. Jeff and I have a very light packing credo.

Scuba diving the continental divide in Iceland
10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned?  Be polite.
11.  Where are you going on your next trip?  Our next trip is home to my parents. Our next adventure is, hopefully, to finish off Southern Asia.
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Ordinary Traveler – Molly

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Anyone can travel, and everyone should. That’s one of the main reasons for this blog, to share the richness of experience gained by traveling and seeing cultures other than your own. So I’ve instituted a segment called the ordinary traveler series. I interview people who’ve travelled and are willing to share some of their experiences. These aren’t trust-funded global trotters. These are ordinary folks who’ve decided to live extraordinary lives. My sister-in-law, Molly, was gracious enough to kick off this series. Without further ado – Molly.

What makes you want to travel?  I like the adventure.  I like to see new places and have new experiences.  Traveling has opened my eyes to new cultures. Travel has allowed me to test my independence, and to rely on others.

How do you afford to travel?  I used to rely on my tax refund for travel purposes.  For the past few years, my refund hasn’t been much, so I’ve been using my savings.  I try to travel without spending too much money.  I stay with friends, in hostels, or camp.  I look for the free days to go to museums and other places that have entrance fees.  I take public transportation as often as I can. I also do local travels, like riding my bicycle down the Pacific Coast or backpacking in the High Sierra.

Do you prefer travel alone or with a group?  Both.  I like to be on my own because I don’t have to worry about anyone’s happiness or satisfaction but my own.  I am on my own schedule, and if I want to stay at the beach all day, I will.  Or if I want to go to 5 museums and 4 churches in Paris in one day (Hey! It was free museum day!) I will.  With groups, I love the bonding time; the inside jokes.  I love having people to reminisce with about the trips we’ve taken.  It can be a time to process life with others and share adventures. I’ve had the privilege of traveling with people who have become my best friends, and I’ve been able to grow closer to members of my family through shared adventures.

What is the most memorable experience you have had and why? My most memorable experience was my bicycle trip from Oregon to Minnesota.  It was something that was slightly spur of the moment.  It was a trip where I doubted my abilities.  I was with 4 strangers, and found a best friend.  I laughed with new friends, was inspired by my group members, and cried when I finally pedaled out of Montana and into North Dakota.  I climbed mountains, battled headwinds, and peed on the side of the road more often than in a bathroom in the month of June!  The best part was surprising  my parents.  I showed up at their door unannounced after 35 days on a bicycle.

The end of the trail – Oregon to Minnesota by bike.

What has been your favorite destination and why?  Gosh.  That’s a hard one.  One of my favorites was France.  I was a nanny there one summer.  The family I worked for had three homes–one in Paris, Chamonix, and Villefranche (near Nice).  Even though I was working, I was able to see three beautiful parts of France. I explored each area thoroughly and ate enough croissants to consider myself a snob.

Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year? Xela, Guatemala.  I went there one summer for Spanish Language School.   It was a place that was very different for me and I didn’t speak any Spanish when I arrived.  I want to go back for a longer time to learn more Spanish, and to live in a place that is so different from where I live now.

What’s one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir? When I travel to foreign countries, I like to buy children’s books.  I look for ones that have illustrations which I feel drawn to.  When I’m on my bicycle, I buy stickers of the places I pass through for my water bottles or panniers.

What is the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced? I don’t really know if it’s strange, it’s just different.  When I was in Turkey, anytime I entered a shop I would be offered apple tea.  Most of the time, the offer of apple tea also led to conversation.

What to you always pack?  Plenty of underwear, comfortable shoes (usually my Chacos), my satchel, water bottle, book, and journal. Oh.  And my ATM card.  When I am on bike trips, I love my headband that also covers my ears.  It protects from cold breezes as well as sunburn!

Hiking the John Muir Trail.

What is the best travel advice you’ve learned? Don’t try to do too much.  Spending a few days in one place is much better than constantly moving to a new spot, especially in a foreign country.  When I was traveling in Europe, I spent multiple days in one place to get a better sense of the town and the culture.

Where are you going on your next trip? My next trip will by my 4th bicycle tour.  I’ll be with my best friend (from my trip to MN) and her family.  We’ll be riding in the San Juan Islands in Washington.

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