As a father of two little kids, I spend every day reading books and going over the ABCs. Reading to a child or teaching him the alphabet has given me a new perspective. Those 26 letters and complicated words we put together into sentences and paragraphs are something we can take for granted as we get older.
After years of traveling, all the trips and travel opportunities can be taken for granted as well. So when I was nominated my Traveling Ted to take part in the ABCs of travel, I viewed this as an opportunity to look back and reflect on my travel experiences, from childhood to the present.
When my older son read his first word, he was so excited – jumping up and down, giving me a high five, and yelling “YEAH!” Maybe I can have that same enthusiasm as I remember my first travel experiences – and remember what it’s like to learn my ABCs.
Age you went on your first international trip – When I was in 7th grade, my science class took a field trip to Toronto to see the science museum. Along the way we also took the cruise up to Niagara Falls as well. At that age, I didn’t need a passport and just had to cross the border. So my first real international trip was to Estonia in 1995 during college. That trip changed my life and even inspired my first short story called The Crush.
Best foreign beer you’ve had and where – I honestly don’t care that much for beer. However, I will go with the experience of drinking the beer more than the taste – the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. When women who can carry that much beer in one hand give you one, you drink it!
Cuisine (favorite) – Food is not something that is a huge part of my travels although that is changing. I’ve had some great food in a number of different places. Seljanka and lamb in Estonia, goulash in Hungary, seafood in Annapolis. However, my favorite dish (and one of my favorite foods) was Thai food I had in Seattle just north in the Queen Anne area.
Destinations, favorite, least favorite, and why – I am not sure I like this question. Picking your favorite is like trying to tell someone which one of your kids is your favorite. They are different, unique, special, and loved. When I was young, the trip to Estonia completely changed my life and shattered my world view. When I got older, that month long tour of Europe came at a difficult period in my life and made me appreciate my experiences more than I would have. Exploring Europe was fun but there were some tough moments as well that I’ve come to really appreciate.
Now, I have a greater appreciation for traveling closer to home. I never thought I would consider that ‘travel’ in years past. However, my travels in California showed me how wrong I was. My College Football Travel Tour has given me the chance to see more of the US and has been one of my best travel experiences ever.
Favorite mode of Transportation – my feet. Some of the best exercise and best views of my life have come from hiking or walking around a city. Sometimes the reward is the time and effort it took to get there as much as the views themselves. As for other modes of transportation, train is second, followed by airplane.
Greatest feeling while traveling – that unexpected experience or special moment where you have connected with a place or in a moment that you will never forget. Those memories and that exact moment are never forgotten. It’s a peace that everything around you and what are experiencing is good.
Hottest place you traveled to – Sure, I could come up with a great answer for this from travels in California or on the east coast or somewhere in Europe. However, there was one summer in South Carolina in the heat and humidity when I had a summer job in college wearing a shirt and tie – and I had no air conditioner in my car. Only place I could imagine hotter than that would be a dry desert!
Incredible service you’re experienced and where – Honestly, I don’t like people waiting on me or serving me when it comes to restaurants and hotels. I find that type of attention too over the top. I am simple. Best service I have ever read is the kindness of strangers whenever I travel. Whether I stop and ask directions or just need some help, I am pleasantly surprised by the people I meet. That’s one reason why I believe connecting with locals is essential when you travel.
Journey that took the longest – Any trip that involves a 2 year old and 3 ½ year old! Flights always seem much longer than they are on those trips! I’ve never had any long trips that I can consider unreasonable. Flights from California to Paris and Prague took the longest.
Keepsake from your travels – My memories. For as long as I live, those will be the things I treasure the most. Honestly, I don’t buy many souvenirs but there are a couple of items that are my favorite – porcelain plates from Lisbon and Budapest and a canvas painting of the island of Rab in Croatia.
Let down sight, why and where – Venice. Ridiculously expensive for gondola rides and souvenirs. Maybe it was just me or where I was at that point in my life but I didn’t get the whole romance thing. The city was too touristy and not very authentic. Yes, it was beautiful but it was more hype than substance.
Moment where you fell in love with travel – Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia. If there is one place or moment in my travels that gave me that 3 year old excitement, high five, yelling experience, it was Estonia. I felt a passion and excitement in me I had never experienced in my life. I wanted to learn the language, talk to people, and soak up the culture. When I take travel for granted or get frustrated, may this place always be my ABC moment – like learning to read that first word.
Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in – Honestly, hotels aren’t that important to me. A comfortable room, decent bed, and a good night’s sleep are all I need. For me, quiet, beautiful, and practical is what I desire. My best place? We rented a house in Kauai that had a private beach, full kitchen, and a floor to ceiling window that looked out on the ocean.
Obsession – what are you obsessed of taking pictures of when you travel – Photos of nature. My best photos are the ones that don’t have people in them (I’ve gone to a number of places and have forgotten to get a picture of myself). I’ve taken so many it is hard to say which one is my favorite but get me outdoors and let me find a great shot. I am not the best photographer but at least these photos capture a little of the experience.
Passports stamps, how many and where? Not enough. I lost my first passport that had my stamps for Germany and Estonia. I hated that. Since then, I’ve gotten quite a few more. Many of those didn’t get stamped but I’ve been to 17 countries total, mostly in Europe.
Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where – This one is a bit different because it’s not all that quirky but the location is. For me, places are all about the experiences. I got to visit one of the oldest Scottish festivals in the country – the Scottish Highlands Games and Festival here in Sacramento. Better yet, I met some of the most unique professional athletes you will ever meet.
Recommend sight, event, or experience – If you love the outdoors, Lake Bled, Slovenia. For history, Auschwitz – despite how tough it may be to visit. For anyone, at least one sporting in a country that you visit.
Splurge, something you have no problem forking over money when you travel – sporting events. I’ve paid lots of money for football tickets (the US) and football tickets (Europe – aka soccer). These are some of the best cultural experiences I have had and I will always splurge for a game or match. Without a doubt, sports and travel are united by passion and culture.
Touristy thing you’ve done – Take a walk through the Red Light district in Amsterdam.
Visas, how many and for where? I only have one. I really love my Capital One card. No foreign transaction fees and I double my miles any time I make a purchase. Low annual fee as well (As for those other types of visas? I haven’t needed one yet).
Wine, best glass of wine traveling and where – Without a doubt, port wine in Lisbon, Portugal. I like wines, especially sweet ones and that’s about as good as it gets.
eXcellent view and from where – hiking through small villages in the Swiss Alps. How can you not love that?!
Years spent traveling – If you count the time traveling with family as a kid, over 30 years. If you count wide eyed wonder with the world, 22 years.
Zealous sports fans and where – European soccer fans and college football fans in the US. I’ve experienced both. I saw Barcelona play at the Camp Nou with 95,000 screaming fans. I grew up a Gamecocks fan as college football inspired me to travel and has given me the inspiration for my College Football Travel Tour. Sports and travel go hand in hand for me.
Thanks for taking a look back with me on my ABCs of travel. I nominate the following Michaels to join in:
Michael at Go, See, Write
Michael at Time Travel Turtle
Michael at easyhiker
Filed Under: Traveling Thoughts