My ABCs of Traveling: The Best Local Food, Top Tours, Longest Journey, and More

One of my favorite travel bloggers, Young Adventuress, wrote this post about travel ABCs eons ago. How did I find it? Travel research. It looked fun, so here we go: ABCs of Traveling. Vamos!

A: Age you went on your first international trip

Technically 10 or 11 . . . but I’d rather say 22. I went to Windsor, Canada when I was in 5th grade for a school field trip, which would have made me 10 or 11. However, it was just for a day, and didn’t feel that much different than Michigan.

My first long-term international trip, however, was 4 days after my 22nd birthday. That was my study abroad in Rosario, Argentina, a 3-month trip that turned into 5, and included a solo trip through Argentina and Chile.

Trekking in Mendoza, Argentina

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

I have a confession: I’m not a big beer person. I drink beer for the social aspect, more than the taste. So, instead I’ll say my best experiences with beer. And I have two:

One is in a bar in Ibarra, Ecuador. For $6, you get this mixture of 6 beers that are yellow, amber, and dark. They look small, but they sneak up on you.

The other is Octoberfest in Madrid. Just typical yellow beer. But this was a lot of fun.

This was before the beer

C: Cuisine (favorite)

I know Latin America isn’t a country, but I love food from the countries I’ve visited in Latin America (and the ones I have yet to visit). Some of my favorite dishes are:

Colombia: Arepas (except antioquenos; those taste like paper). AJIACO. Tamales. Bandeja paisa (the vegetarian kind). Pandebono. COLOMBIAN COFFEE. Bunuelos. The many soups and fruit juices. I could write a whole post on Colombian food (and should).

Argentina: Alfajores. Empanadas. There’s a reason I gained 10 pounds during my solo trip. It was worth it.

Making empanadas in Spanish grammar class in Rosario, Argentina

El Salvador: Pupusas. I tried these in Madrid, interestingly enough, and love them. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a place that sells them in Gran Canaria.

Mexican: As long as there’s a vegetarian version, everything.

Honrable mention: these huge empanadas de verde in Ibarra, Ecuador

D. Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why

Ugh . . . this is so hard to choose just one. I have a few.

Peninsular Spain: Favorite is Basque Country. I LOVED San Sebastián and Hondarribia. Least favorite would be Buitrago de Lozoya; it’s pretty, but it’s a long bus ride to a town where there’s not much to do.

Gran Canaria: Favorites are Tejeda and Puerto de Mogán. Least favorite is Maspalomas (see the sand dune incident). It’s nice, but it looks like any other beach town made for tourists. Not much stood out.

Colombia: Favorite is the Eje Cafetero. The people were so kind, the landscapes are incredible, and you’re surrounded by the place where best coffee in the world is made. Least favorite would be Pasto, not because I didn’t like it (I did), but there isn’t as much to do compared to other cities I visited.

Argentina: Favorite is CÓRDOBA. This city really took my breath away when I first saw it. It’s also surrounded by lovely mountain towns at the edge of the Andes. Least favorite is Vitoria, again because there wasn’t much to do when my friends visited, compared to other cities.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”

Skydiving in Uruguay was pretty “wow.” Skydiving is actually quite relaxing: you have a nice relaxing flight up, you have a roller coaster feeling of falling for a minute, and then you gracefully float down, all while thinking and talking about life.

F: Favorite mode of transportation

Airplanes. I love being in the air.

In the plane on the way to Prague

G: Greatest feeling while traveling

Starting a trip is an exhilarating feeling. Also, seeing a place that you’ve been wanting to see for so long, and then getting there. The Plaza de Mayo in Argentina is where I first had this feeling.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to

Villavicencio and Madrid. Villavicencio is around 85 degrees year round, but it has such high humidity that it feels hotter than that. Madrid in the summer has a dry heat, but it’s 100+ degrees in July and August. I don’t know which is worse.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

The staff with the stargazing tour were very kind, and their service was incredible. I also learned so much about the stars in those three hours. I can’t recommend them enough.

Photo thanks to Stars by Night

Another would be in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, when I missed my bus. I ran into a tour company, and they let me stay with them for two days. During those two days, the only thing I paid for was breakfast one day. That was the first time I saw incredible kindness from strangers, and the reason why I stayed in Chile.

J: Journey that took the longest

When I took a bus from Ibarra, Ecuador to Villavicencio, Colombia after Semana Santa. In general, it’s a long trip, but the bus stations ran out of buses. I ended up sleeping in a bus terminal with a bunch of other travelers, and waited hours the next day in another bus station for a ticket. The whole trip ended up being around 42 hours.

K: Keepsake from your travels

Photos. I don’t like to buy souvenirs because I have limited space in my luggage. I have some postcards, though, and often I’ll keep train ticket stubs.

L: Let-down sight, why and where

I’d say Berlin due to the cold and darkness. It made it hard to enjoy it, especially after visiting beautiful Prague. I would like to visit again, though, and see it under different (and warmer) circumstances.

M: Moment you fell in love with travel

I’d always known I wanted to travel. Some of my relatives who traveled a lot would bring back souveniors, and talk about the places they’d visited. But the moment I realized, this is what I want to do with my life, was when I traveled to Arizona when I was 8 years old. I was amazed by the plane, and the fact that it was February and I was wearing summer clothes and looking at palm trees. It showed me that there’s a big world out there, far more than Michigan, and I wanted to see it all.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

When my aunt visited me in Colombia, and we stated at Mariott in Bogotá. That was very nice. I also stayed in a cabin in Bariloche, Argentina. I wouldn’t call it luxurious or even glamping, but I had a two-story cabin next to the snow-capped mountains, all to myself, for only $60.

O: Obsession-what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

EVERYTHING.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

My old passport had so many stamps that I no longer had blank pages. Now, I don’t have many because it’s a new passport, and when you travel within the Schengen Zone, you don’t get your passport stamped. The only stamps I have at the moment are from Madrid and Bucharest.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where

I don’t visit many attractions. One of the quirkiest places I’ve ever visited, though, would be Candelaria neighborhood in Bogotá. This one bar whose name I can’t remember comes to mind. It was small, and looked like someone’s house. There was one part where you could sit upstairs in what looked like an attic, and the bar had pillows and mattresses where people could sit and chat. It had a cozy hipster feel to it.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience

This is hard! I loved Prague during Christmas; it felt like a fairy tale. Skydiving was pretty cool too.

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling

While I try to save money on food by cooking in hostels, I don’t mind going to a nice restaurant or cafe for the experience. I’ll also pay more for a tour, if I’m unable to see the places I want to see on my own. Some of my favorite tours were:

A two-day tour that visited many places in Salta and Jujuy in northern Argentina.

Trekking in Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados in Colombia.

Visiting castles in Transylvania, Romania.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

I can’t think of a specific toursity thing I’ve done, but when I travel, I do like to check out the touristy places, like the town square, main landmarks, etc. before heading off to the less crowded places.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

The experiences I’ve mentioned have been unforgettable. Another unforgettable experience was this one night in Iquique. I met another writer from the Midwest, which is not unlike finding a unicorn in Times Square. Anyway, we chatted throughout the day when we’d run into each other, and somehow ended up talking until 3 in the morning about . . . well, everything. Life, love, growing up, mental health, even Martin Luther, you name it, we discussed it. It was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had in my life, where it feels like everything in the universe is in harmony.

Iquique, Chile

V: Visas, how many and from where?

I’ve had visas from Colombia and Spain. When I visited Argentina in 2012, I also had to pay a fee to enter, and while it wasn’t a visa, it was a sticker that took up an entire passport page. I’m not sure if they’re still doing this.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

I’ve been to several vineyards in Argentina, Colombia, Spain, and even Michigan. I enjoyed them all, though Argentina was the most fun. You rent a bike, and ride it to the different vineyards in Mendoza. The best wine I had in a restaurant, though, was at a bar near my apartment in Madrid.

X: eXcellent view and from where?

These views in San Sebastián were pretty cool.

Ibarra, Ecuador also had some gorgeous views. Too many gorgeous views.

Y: Years spent traveling?

I started traveling internationally almost 10 years ago!

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?

I’m not a big sports fan, but I love watching people watch sports. When I was in Argentina, I went to two football games for the Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario. It was insane: people were climbing the fence, the whole stadium was screaming and singing, and when someone scored, everyone went wild. Watching the World Cup in Colombia was a great experience, too.

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