While I was in Cabo Verde I was nominated for a Liebster Award Nomination by Vlad from the originally-named travel blog Eff It I’m On Holiday. Thank you very much, Vlad! I will definitely be hitting you up for info when we get around to visiting Romania.
What are the Liebster Awards? Basically, it’s a meme for the blogging community. I have no idea of its origins, and nobody else seems to, either, not even search engines. There are a few basic rules which seem to have evolved over the years, but the general idea is to promote blogs you enjoy, ones that you feel deserve more of a following. How? By answering the questions given by the blogger who nominates you, and in turn making up questions for your nominees. I’ve seen Liebster Awards for blogs across all different topics but this time it’s about travel, although this blog covers quite a few topics apart from travel. I’ve been flying under the radar for many years now, because I spent five years building a photography business and not reading other blogs, just updating my own. I’ve been in a blogging bubble, and only since moving to Portugal have I begun to step outside of it again.
When I saw the questions I thought ‘Oh man, this will take me forever’, but to my surprise I finished it in less than forever! It’s been a long while since I participated in any sort of meme, and will continue my time-honoured tradition of answering memes without nominating. Here goes:
1. How did you decide to start your blog?
In 2002 I was a frustrated part-time university student and full-time office worker who got sick of writing research reports and long essays. Blogging was a novel way to procrastinate, with the bonus of appearing productive (I’m writing, see!). In those days everyone thought blogging was oversharing and narcissistic, but it was such a relief to rant freely online. Eventually the ranting gave way to other topics. And on a related note, this is why I prefer to write a blog rather than a book.
2. Think fast: your top three favorite destinations.
3. What country have you always dreamed of visiting and why?
Madagascar. Well, I didn’t always dream about it, only in late 1992 while I was living in Australia. I was in a dance club, and the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen was dancing with me on a catwalk above the crowd. I asked her where she was from and she said Madagascar, and I decided I had to visit this place where such people
were madeexisted. I like to go to places for random reasons, places that I never hear people talk about. I’m much more drawn to them than the ones that get a lot of media.
4. If you’ve visited it, what was it like? If you haven’t, are you planning on going anytime soon?
I haven’t visited it yet. A friend of mine in Toronto went last year, but he’s even slower posting photos than I am — I’ve barely seen any! Africa is such a huge continent I’m working my way into it slowly, starting with Morocco in 2007. Cabo Verde, our most recent trip, is “Africa Light” so maybe another island like Madagascar is in the cards, we’ll see. I got married last year so my travel planning is not for one but two, which means I don’t make all the decisions anymore. But it also opens up some activities I’ve done previously alone, like camping or hiking by myself, things I did only rarely because I acknowledge the safety issue.
5. How would you describe your travel style?
Deliberately random, leaving as much room as possible for spontaneity and serendipity. I like a lot of freedom, which is why I have avoided business travel. It may sound glamorous but it’s nowhere near the same, not even the time I was hired to shoot a wedding in Mexico and got to stay in a gorgeous suite at the resort. Believe it or not, but the few times I’ve travelled for work I have always pined for the freedom of leisure travel.
6. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while travelling?
It’s only funny now, years later, but at the time it was more like horrifying: I was on a night bus in Germany after celebrating New Year’s in Hamburg. Before I boarded the bus to Amsterdam, I had some drinks with a friend to ease out of a hangover. What a mistake! It was more beer than I could handle without desperately needing the loo, but there was none on the bus, which was packed, and we were on the Autobahn with nowhere to stop. I tried telling the bus driver I had a “medical condition” (my exact words), but he refused to stop the bus. It was dark but with interior lighting I couldn’t get away with anything, especially since I was sitting next to a French guy who could see I was in pee distress and thought it was hilarious. Instead of trying to help or at least look away, he was mocking me and waiting for me to humiliate myself in front of him. It got to the point where I thought I would pass out, so I did the only thing I could think of — remember, I just marinated my brain in booze for New Year’s, I was short of ideas — which was to grab my newly-purchased scarf, pull down my pants, and hope the scarf could take all the beer.
C’mon, what would YOU do?
The French guy gasped, he was loving this. Miraculously, the last-ditch act of pulling down my pants and sitting on the scarf was like a psychological plug on my bladder and the feeling passed. I pulled up my pants and spent the rest of the time before the first stop counting the painted lines on the road. Every time I had the urge to pee, I repeated this weird pants-down-scarf-sitting and it worked. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I had to run away from the French guy, though.
7. Do you have any regrets when it comes to previous trips?
Not following my own system. The (fortunately only) few times I’ve been robbed over the past couple of decades of travel happened because I didn’t follow my own system of securing money. A traveller has to be really consistent with certain things, because all it takes is that one inconsistency mixed with fatigue to let your guard down. It’s one thing to be robbed at home, you can still manage the day-to-day stuff and replace ID easily, but put yourself alone in a different country (especially in a foreign language you can’t speak) and it can turn into a nightmare.
8. What are the best and the worst things that have happened to you while flying?
Commercial flying: I opted for an airline-paid layover in Las Vegas a couple of years ago when my plane had mechanical failure (my other option was Buffalo, NY; no contest). Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to get upgraded to business a few times on a bunch of different airlines, most recently was last year on Air Canada. I always wanted to take those opportunities to gossip about celebrities doing stupid things, but there was only once when I got upgraded when I saw someone remotely famous, but I think he’s only famous in Canada. The most embarrassing moment in recent years was when I ordered a kosher meal on a flight to London, for kicks.
General Aviation flying: while flying over Manhattan in the VFR Corridor (my late husband was the pilot) in 2005, I learned the valuable lesson of not drinking anything just before taking such a flight. Won’t do that again!
9. How do you prepare for a trip?
Mostly internet research or talking to people I know who have been there. I try to use independent (read: unsponsored) travel blogs or sites geared to independent travellers, rather than forums where the users are resort/cruise people who enjoy being catered to and rate their experience according to service level or the weather (!–seriously, people do this). I use hospitality exchange sites wherever possible, not just to find hosts but to get local advice and to meet up with locals even if I’m not staying with them. (Couchsurfing converted to a B-Corp a few years ago which riled their user base, including us. We recommend BeWelcome as an alternative.)
10. What’s the one thing you didn’t foresee when you first started your blog?
Haha, I just get one? OK, one thing I didn’t foresee was how many things this blog has brought to me. I’ve had good fortune from it, like getting invited to stay in central Paris with a local, and having my iPod Touch returned to me in Atlanta when I dropped it in a cafe. The blog has also brought me freelance work. But the best part is that I’ve made close friends and interesting acquaintances through its history on the web, people I’d never have met otherwise. It’s like a 12-year old calling card!