What was your favorite travel experience? Ooh, that’s a toss-up between two. The first is going for a hike with some friends at this super beautiful gorge in Spain, near Ardales, and then getting into the town right as everyone who lived there was waking up from siesta, and eating at this outdoor restaurant. The food was so fresh and delicious; it’s the best meal I had that entire trip. . . . The second is a night in Liepaja, Latvia, when Eve and I went for late night swim in the Baltic with our roommates from the hostel. It was maybe about 10:00pm, and the sun still hadn’t set, and afterward we went to this night club that was right on the beach, where Eve and I were the only people dancing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received as a traveler? Pack light! I am usually an overpacker, but when I was preparing for my month in Europe, Eve told me to fit everything I would need for the month in a carryon sized suitcase. It was a challenge, but it was actually very helpful to have such a pared-down version of my wardrobe. I spent almost no time thinking about what I would wear each day.
What travel experiences are still on your bucket list? So many! This is going to sound cliché, but Italy is near the top. The trip to Ukraine was to do research in the area that my mother’s family emigrated from, and it feels uneven to me not to have gone to where the other side of my family emigrated from.
What do you most value in a travel buddy? Willingness to have an adventure. Also, my experiences traveling with friends in Latvia and Spain taught me that if I like and get along with a person in regular life, I’ll probably like and get along with them while traveling.
What characteristics do you dislike about yourself when you travel? Reading maps stresses me out. They don’t make sense to me until I already sort of know how a place is laid out, so trying to use one to find my way at first is extremely frustrating.
On what items do you prefer to save money rather than spend money when traveling? Lodging – when I was traveling around Ukraine and Latvia on my research trip, hostels were a revelation. Also, this will sound like a contradiction to my last answer, but food. I’d rather spend the money to have a few really good meals out than have a bunch of mediocre meals out. So, I’ll hit a market or grocery store to keep some staples around for quick but healthy meals, and then I’ll go out for one good meal a day.
How do you stay fabulous while you travel? Get a haircut as close as I can to my departure date, because my hair is thick and wavy and gets wild as it grows out. Keeping it short increases the chances that it won’t morph into HOT MESS territory as it grows out and if/when I encounter particularly humid climates.
What’s your greatest extravagance when traveling? Food! And jewelry. I like having wearable souvenirs.
What’s your most important travel item? A journal. I’m a writer, and my observation skills and inspiration detector seem to be heightened when I’m traveling, so I don’t want to risk forgetting any of it.
What characteristics do you dislike about others when you travel? Overplanning. I like to have a plan, but I also like to leave room for anything unexpected that might come up.
What do you absolutely have to know before you go? How I’m getting from the airport to whatever my first destination is.
How do you plan for travel, especially paying for it? Well, the Eastern Europe portions of my big trip were mostly paid for by a research grant from my University (I was in grad school at the time). Spain was possible because a friend found a killer deal on a place to stay, and I used extra money I’d earned from side jobs, like babysitting, to pay for it. Nowadays, figuring out how I’m going to pay for a trip is a big part of the planning. My overall budget is very organized, so it’s not that difficult to allocate a particular amount of money each month toward a travel fund if there’s a big trip I’m saving for. Also, I look for deals through discount sites, especially on plane tickets. Whenever I need to fly somewhere, I set up a price alert on Kayak to watch plane ticket prices. I’ve scored some ridiculously low prices on plane tickets that way.
JENNIFER WRITES FICTION AND CREATIVE NONFICTION. SHE IS AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR LIVING IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA AGAIN AFTER A DECADE OF MOVING ACROSS THE MIDWEST FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL. ON A WALL IN HER WRITING OFFICE HANGS A PRINT THAT READS “WE MUST TAKE ADVENTURES IN ORDER TO KNOW WHERE WE TRULY BELONG.”