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

A Slow Burn for Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia is one of those places I was destined to fall in love with. Everything I knew about it spoke to me on an almost primal level.  It’s home to pristine examples of social realist and brutalist architecture.  Serbian food is amazing – including several types of cheesy carbs.  As the capital of the former Socialist Republic of Jugoslavija, it would be full of markets shilling communist shwag.  I’m in love with gypsy horn music (Brasslands is an amazing documentary everyone should watch).  And all of my favorite bloggers had written about the amazingness of the city – see Yomadic, Silvia at Heart my Backpack, The Bohemian Blog, and Waegook Tom have all sung its praises over the course of the past few years.  december-balkans-729jpg_24297985505_o december-balkans-743jpg_24002381850_o Read more

Travel Bloggers Don’t Like Talking about Privilege

Something that I’ve always been fascinated by is the rhetoric in travel blogging around the ability to travel, and the financial discussions and implications of traveling for a living.  Most bloggers, from my experience, have defended their lifestyle as something that anyone can attain, no matter their current means or socioeconomic status.  The common thread is the thought that if one works hard and saves the best they can, then they too can quit their job (or jobs) and become “location independent.”  I see article after article (ok, blog post after blog post) about bloggers sick of answering questions about how they can afford to travel – and other than a few honest posts here and there, I don’t see many bloggers actually answering the question directly.

Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius, Lithuania

I think it’s because no one likes to talk about privilege. Read more

Closed for Business in Kosovo

Let me preface this by saying that we loved Kosovo.  It was about as disorienting and wacky of a place that I’ve ever visited – I’d put it up toward the top of the list with Mongolia on the disorientation scale.  But we had a perennial problem in the country.  Everything was closed!

And closed for no good reason, I believe.  Granted, we were there in the off season, so maybe we should have expected it? There is no well beaten tourist path through the country yet (we didn’t see a single other tourist in the whole of the country, literally), and people tend to be on Balkan time, so I’m not sure why I expected things to run on schedule like a Japanese train.  

jpegs-4_22442803476_o jpegs-3_22281992499_oOur first encounter with unavailable services came when we attempted to visit Pristina’s Tourist Information Center.  I am a big fan of tourist information centers and kiosks, and drag David to them in every country we visit.  The little blue-circled lower case “i” on city maps brings me joy, just knowing that increased knowledge can be found just a short walk away! 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

How to Shop for Kitsch in Vilnius, Lithuania

While the typical tourist kitsch of shot glasses and refrigerator magnets can be found on every street corner in Vilnius Old Town, shopping for the more discerning tourist proved to be a bit difficult.  I should actually say that shopping in Vilnius and Lithuania is great for those not afraid of a little challenge.  Because the types of things I shop for (Soviet kitsch, really random religious knick knacks, etc.) took some sleuthing to unearth in Lithuania’s vibrant capital (and surroundings) .  

I should start with the Hill of Crosses, which surely deserves its own post, for all its quirkiness.  The Hill of Crosses had the best gift shop in all of the Baltics.  Hands down, bar none.honeymoon-jpegs-14_21287846290_o honeymoon-jpegs-13_21449676406_o Read more

Gozo Beaches: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

It may be unfair, but when I’m on a beach vacation, I always end up comparing my current location to past vacations I’ve taken.  The beach vacations that have defined the way I look at  beach vacations are those I’ve taken in Latin America (in Mexico and Nicaragua) and, even more so, Southeast Asia.  It was therefore that comparative lens that I had to look through when my husband, David, and I went to the island of Gozo, in Malta.

Sigh - Ko Nang Yuan, Thailand.
Sigh – Ko Nang Yuan, Thailand.
Fresh fish on the beach on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.
Fresh fish on the beach on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

It may be that Gozo and its beaches were doomed from the get go. Read more

What I Talk about When I Talk about Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world, no doubt about it.  I was awestruck by the city’s beauty from the moment the plane made its initial approach to Ataturk Airport.  It was dusk, and the last remnants of the sun were flickering across the Bosphorus, as well as casting shadows of the great mosques all over the city.  Aside from its breathtaking beauty, it had easily navigable public transportation, and the people were all incredibly friendly.  But since returning from that trip and starting this blog, I have not felt extremely compelled to write about my time there.  I have sat down time and time again to try and write a story about my experiences in Istanbul, but have been left bereft of words.

What's not to love?
What’s not to love?

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Breaking Up with Japan – My First Travel Love

I have the most vivid memories from my childhood of my great aunt, Jeanette, telling me and my sister stories of her travels after World War 2 around the world as a schoolteacher on U.S. military bases.  She traveled everywhere (as a single woman in the 50s and 60s) that I dream of going today.  As a young child, the stories that made the biggest impact on my life were those of her time in Japan.

It was always hard to not be impressed by Kyoto in the Fall - by https://www.flickr.com/photos/gacks/
It was always hard to not be impressed by Kyoto in the Fall – by https://www.flickr.com/photos/gacks/

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