Off the Beaten Path in My Google History: July 2016

As a full time employee of Corporate America, I spend a lot more time daydreaming about travel than actually traveling.  I toyed around with the idea last year of posting about the places that take me down wikipedia and travel blog rabbit holes, but with little follow through.  And as I’m kind of spent talking about Southeast Asia for the moment, I couldn’t think of a better time to revisit my various wanderlustings.  So without further ado, find below the five spots keeping me up at night, planning adventures well into the 2020s.

Mozambique

I have never been to Africa.  And while there are a million places I would love to visit there, Mozambique is at the top of the list.  I know a few people who have had the privilege of traveling there and I have only heard amazing things.  From the unspoiled Indian Ocean beaches (the country stretches from South Africa in the south all the way to Tanzania in the north – that’s an impressive coastline), to a fascinating and tragic history of Portuguese colonialism, to the diversity of people found there (like many places on the Indian ocean, trade routes catalyzed cross fertilization of cultures belonging to the nations surrounding the body of water), everything about Mozambique is attractive to me.  There’s even a healthy dose of modernist architecture to be found in the larger cities of Maputo and Beira.

Well, maybe everything but the million hours and several thousand dollars it takes to get there from Seattle.5984289274_0b89e1edfd_z 23533936000_f4703e77f9_z Read more

We Need to Talk about Yerevan, Armenia

I’ve put off writing this piece for quite a while now.  It’s been over a year (15 months, in fact) since we were in Yerevan, and part of me hoped the distance from the place would make my heart grow fonder of it.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been quite the case.  And while I don’t actively dislike Yerevan – we actually had quite a good time there, all things considered – I have become sort of ambivalent about visiting again.  pak-shuka-covered-market-yerevan-armenia_16234624526_o marshrutka-yerevan_16397184971_o lada-yerevan_16398938915_o Read more

Top Markets in Eastern Europe (Flea and Otherwise)

As the title of my blog implies (the kitsch part), I am a collector.  I have mild hoarding aspirations that I attempt to disguise by portraying myself as a discerning collector of random, yet CLASSY things from around the world.  Most of the time, this turns out to be postcards, maps, pins and badges, and antique clothing pieces – among many others (including snow globes).  I’ve written a post or two about this, but thought it would be useful to provide a run down of my favorite markets in Eastern Europe for anyone with an eye for kitschy communist goodies from the former Eastern Bloc.

We’ll start from Tallinn, Estonia, before making our way south to the Balkans, and east to the Caucasus. Read more

Balkans, Baltics, and Caucasus, Oh My! 2015 in Review

So I know that the time for year in review posts has come and long gone, but, like your hoarder neighbors who leave the Christmas wreath up until Spring, I too have put off this seminal blogging event.  Blah blah, working 50-60 hours a week, I won’t give you excuses so you don’t have to read them.  Instead, let me jump right into a recap of what became my most eventful year in travel ever.

Tbilisians are not afraid of a little color.
Tbilisi, Georgia
Exploring Tbilisi in Winter allowed us to avoid the tourist hordes.
Tbilisi, Georgia

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5 Reasons to Travel in the Off Season

When one thinks of a vacation, usually it’s very much associated with the summertime, when good weather is almost assured and families with children are able to take time off to jaunt to exotic locations around the country and the world.  This said, of the three big trips we’ve taken over the past year, two have been in the off season, and one in the almost off season.  

And we certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.  Traveling in the off season is, for us, a much better alternative than traveling in peak season.  Here are the reasons why:Jpegs-470Jpegs-460 Read more

In Defense of Fast Travel

I travel fast.  When I am on a trip, unless a more relaxed beach-type of vacation, I create itineraries to see as much as possible in the limited amount of time I have off.   In a perfect world, I’d have as much time as I wanted to travel, and be able to get to know the ins and outs of every street, town, city, and country I visit.  But the world’s not perfect, and as I don’t list “Travel Blogger” on my professional resume, I am only able to travel in the time my professional life allows.

Here’s an example of a single day in the life of one of our whirlwind trips:

Travel bloggers across the web are unanimous in their praise of slow travel – the act of taking time to truly get to know every place one visits.  And I agree.  I am not here to bash slow travel.  But I am of the majority of the population for whom slow travel is not a logistical possibility – I have a family to support, and a job that requires me to be in an office for around 50 hours a week.  The key here, also, is to understand that I wouldn’t change that.  I enjoy my work and the lifestyle it affords me and my family.  David and I wouldn’t be able to travel in the way I like to travel without it.  But it does make true slow travel a non-option for us.  And while we’d love to spend a week exploring a single place, our life’s travel ambitions (especially those for the short term) make a week getting to know the ins and outs of a single place impossible. Read more

Confession: I am NOT a Backpacker

There is a lot of talk in the travel blogger community that glorifies frugal travel.  And I get it – the more cheaply one is able to travel, the more time one is able to spend on the road.  Short term travel is more mainstream and often times more expensive.  Cheaper travel also allows for slower travel – often times with accommodation getting cheaper the longer one stays in a single place.  These strategies are great for the long term traveler.   For many travel bloggers, whose bread and butter relies on traveling and writing about new places prolifically and in real time, frugality and finding ways to cut corners on costs is a great strategy for maintaining that lifestyle.  I totally get it.

I wouldn't mind taking things slowly here, on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.
I wouldn’t mind taking things slowly here, on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

But that’s not for me.  And, I would argue, the majority of people traveling in the world – especially those holding down 9-5’s.  For my family and almost all of my peers, life only allows for short term travel – a fact that doesn’t have to be as reviled as it is in the travel blogging community today.

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An Istanbul to Tbilisi to Kazbegi Odyssey – Christmas 2014, Part 2

And now, the continuation (and conclusion) of the story of the longest travel day of my life… (for Part 1, click here)

Scene 5: Didube Marshrutka Depot, 9am, Christmas Day.  We stumble into Didube metro stop and light is just breaking.  With our bags, we trudge across the dirt lot that is Tbilisi’s largest marshrutka stop.  In Georgia and Armenia, marshrutkas quickly became my favorite method of transportation – egalitarian shared buses or minivans that depart for their destination only when enough passengers board to turn the driver a profit.

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An Istanbul to Tbilisi to Kazbegi Odyssey – Christmas 2014, Part 1

TurkeyGeorgiaArmenia2-82-4
There’s always time for postcard hunting.

I like to make travel difficult as possible.  While I wouldn’t typically openly admit to this, the behavioral patterns I engage in leading up to and while on trips says otherwise.  I like really involved, complicated travel plans that often leave me tired, hungry, whiny, or some combination of the three.  I wasn’t thinking about my propensity for tantrums when I made my plans to travel from Istanbul to Tbilisi during Christmas Eve night, followed by another trip leg to Kazbegi on the following Christmas day.

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Church and Monastery Fatigue in Armenia – Sevan and Dilijan

By our final day in Armenia, David and I were sick and tired.  I don’t mean that figuratively.  We were both actually sick and developing a tolerance for expired Russian Theraflu, and tired from sleeping on 1 thread count sheets in our “hotel” (a generous assessment if there ever was one) in Yerevan.

Ts'tesutyoon, Yerevan.
Ts’tesutyoon, Yerevan.

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