How I Roll: The ABCs of Travel

The ABCs of travel is a fun thing that is going around the travel blogosphere, and I got tagged. Yay for me!  So, from A to Z, here are some things you wanted to know about me (and some you didn’t, but whatever).

A. Age you went on your first international trip:

At age 17, my parents actually allowed me to go to Acapulco with a group of girlfriends. Even though I was pretty straight-laced in high school, I still can’t believe they let me go.

B. Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

I’m not much of a beer drinker, but sometimes nothing tastes better than a Dos Equis Lager with salt and lime in Mexico.

C. Cuisine (favorite):

I know most people would expect me to say Mexican, but being from Texas, it just doesn’t feel like a particular genre of food to me. It feels like second nature.

I would have to say that Italian is my favorite, although I don’t eat it very often. Houston doesn’t have what I’d consider great Italian. So instead of eating so-so Italian, I’d rather do without. I still dream of fried artichokes and Margherita pizza from Rome.

D. Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

Without hesitation, my favorite destination is New Zealand. I can show pictures and describe it with endless superlative adjectives, but until you step foot in New Zealand you will never understand. New Zealand is my great love that every place else will be judged against.

Lupins near Tekapo

It’s harder to pick my least favorite. I can find something good in every place. Since I have to choose, I’d say Yantai, China. It’s across the bay from Seoul and an hour flight from Beijing, but a million miles away from anything I remotely recognized. Let’s just say it’s the one place I’ve visited that I wouldn’t be eager to return.

Yantai, China

E. Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

In Singapore I ran across a parade in Little India. It was a Sunday afternoon and part of the street was blocked off to make room for men wearing giant headpieces stabilized by wires connected to hooks pierced through their skin. They were just walking down the side of the street followed by their families. I have no clue how much those things weighed, but the men must have been pierced at least 30 times each. I think I said a little more than “wow!”

Little India

F. Favorite mode of transportation:

After I arrive to a distant place by plane, I really love exploring in a car. I don’t like being on someone else’s schedule, and by being in a car, I can do what I want when I want. Traveling by car means that I can control the music, temperature, bathroom breaks, and food stops. Plus, I was born to drive!

GoCar in San Francisco

G. Greatest feeling while traveling:

When traveling, I love feeling like I’m part of something bigger than myself. Whether it’s witnessing cultural traditions within a society or walking in the same footsteps of men and women from hundreds of years ago, I like being reminded that I’m just a small piece of the puzzle and that there’s a whole big world outside of my everyday life.

H. Hottest place you’ve traveled to:

Singapore, specifically MacRitchie Nature Preserve, is so hot and humid. I did the hike through the preserve and almost sweated to death. But based purely on temperature, the hottest place I’ve ever been was Lajitas, Texas. Located along the Rio Grande River and in the shadows of Big Bend National Park, Lajitas is not the place to be in the summer. There used to be a nine-hole golf course where you could play all day for $30. Trying to get the most of our money in August’s 120-degree temperature was not the smartest thing my husband and I have done.

MacRitchie Nature Preserve

I. Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

The pride and friendliness shown at the Fairmont in San Francisco, the Conrad in Tokyo, and in the Air New Zealand lounge at LAX all left me impressed. I don’t need to be catered to, but it sure is nice when it happens.

J. Journey that took the longest:

The longest in terms of flight time is 22 hours from Houston to Singapore. The longest overall journey would have to be from Houston to Yantai, China at just over 24 hours.

K. Keepsake from your travels:

I always try to pick up a Starbucks City Mug on each of my trips. Either I need to get more cabinet space or start traveling to more places without Starbucks. Are there such places anymore?

I always bring home currency from my travels. I keep some for myself and give the rest to my two nieces. They have money from all over the world. It’s just a matter of time before they catch their aunt’s travel bug.

My favorite thing I collect from my travels is artwork of some sort. It could be handicrafts from local artisans or higher-end pieces from a gallery. I just really like to be surrounded by things that remind me of my trips. I bought two pieces from the Ivan Clarke Gallery in Queenstown on my recent trip to New Zealand. They’re getting framed now and I can’t wait to hang them on my wall. (Roughley Originals photo)

Ivan Clarke Gallery

L. Let-down sight, why and where:

I know all the historical significance, but I was so underwhelmed by Tiananmen Square. To me it could have been a parking lot at a NFL stadium. I crossed under the street, looked around, took a picture, and left.

M. Moment where you fell in love with travel:

In 1997 I traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica to study Spanish. It was frightening at first, but I got over that pretty quickly. Back then Costa Rica wasn’t the tourist destination it is now, and I was immersed into the culture of the country.

N. Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

The Peninsula in Beijing was pretty spectacular with its Rodeo Drive caliber shopping in the hotel, but the Conrad in Tokyo tops it. My room was much nicer at the Conrad.

O. Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

I used to be obsessed with taking photos of old doors. I’m in love with beautiful hand-carved doors. Now that my photography skills and camera have improved, I’m obsessed with street photography. I like getting shots of people without their knowledge. I’m not talking about stalker-type photos, just capturing people being their natural selves.

NYE in Cozumel 14

P. Passport stamps, how many and from where?:

Let’s see: Costa Rica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland, England, Italy, China, Singapore, Russia, Japan, and New Zealand. I’ll be adding Ireland and Brazil very soon. {This has obviously changed since publication.}

Q. Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

I went to a serpentarium in Costa Rica. It gave me the creeps for weeks. And then there’s the world’s largest roadrunner in Fort Stockton, Texas I visited at Christmas. Who doesn’t like their roadrunners in a Santa outfit?


R. Recommended sight, event or experience:

I loved the Scavi Tour under St. Peter’ Basilica. Did you know there’s a necropolis, complete with walls and streets, under the church? There is even strong evidence that Peter’s remains were found there. It’s truly amazing.

St. Peter's Scavi Entrance

S. Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

I don’t hesitate to spend money on experiences. I’ll fly coach and stay in a cheaper hotel if it means that I get to do or see something remarkable.

T. Touristy thing you’ve done:

Yes, going to the top of the Empire State Building is a touristy thing to do, but buying the photo they take in front of the green screen is the ultimate in cheesy tourist behavior. Whitney and I decided to be really stupid and ruin the photo. Turns out it made us laugh hysterically. We bought it and our plan was foiled!

Empire State Building

U. Unforgettable travel memory:

I will never, ever forget spreading some of my mother’s ashes atop the Empire State building, into the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge, and in the garden in Boston’s Old North Church. It’s the most meaningful travel experience I’ve had. Read more about it here.


V. Visas, how many and for where?:

I have visas from China and Brazil.

W. Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Two come to mind and neither was a particularly great wine.

The first was at the famous Grimaldi’s pizzeria located under the Brooklyn Bridge. My friend Whitney and I were taking a little too long finishing our wine, so the owner put it in a to-go cup and then wrapped it in a paper bag. We walked to the banks of the East River and finished that wine in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge and the lights of Manhattan.

The second was at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant far away from the Roman tourist center. It was my first night in Rome and we were brought a pitcher filled with house red wine. I think it was more the experience than the wine, but I still remember that pitcher.

Roman Wine

X. eXcellent view and from where?

I could mention every single view in New Zealand, so I’ll just name the one that I saw the most. We rented an unbelievable house in Queenstown that had one side made completely of floor to ceiling windows. Out those windows were Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkable Mountains. I could hear and see the vintage steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, from the couch. I spent the week pinching myself.

Queenstown, New Zealand

The second was from my room at Tobago’s Bacolet Beach Club. From my balcony, it looked like the infinity pool ran directly into the Atlantic Ocean. I’d never seen such beautiful, brilliant blues.


Y. Years spent traveling?:

My parents loaded my brother and me up in the Suburban and put me on flights by myself as far back as I can remember. So, how many years? A whole damn lot.

Z. Zealous sports fans and where?:

If you know me, read my blog, or simply look at my twitter bio, you’ll know that I’m a huge sports fan, especially football. I’d have to say that football fans in Texas are over-the-top. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pop Warner, high school, college, or pro, Texans take football very seriously. Where else can a high school game register over 40,000 in attendance? Texas!

Texas Tech Fans

 Just as I was tagged, I get to tag others. So…

Ryan at Just Chuckin’ It

Aaron at Adventures of the Elatlboy

Shauna and Gareth at Roughley Originals

Raul of I Live to Travel 

TAG! You’re it!

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  • lola
    January 27, 2012

    LOVE! you are such an inspiration and i’m so glad i got to tag you to do this! BTW nice Jcrew tee in the tiananmen square pic!! 😉

    • Leah Travels
      January 27, 2012

      Thanks, dear. Love that I finally got tagged. I’ve been itching to do this. #JCrewForLife

  • Nathan Nehmer
    January 27, 2012

    WOW!!!! That is great! Someday, I hope, I will have traveled enough to fill out something like this.

    • Leah Travels
      January 27, 2012

      Thanks, Nathan. Like I say in my dedication, “Life’s too short to live with a ‘someday’ mentality.” Get started now! A year from today you’ll wish you had.

  • Jean Wethmar via Facebook
    January 27, 2012

    What a splendid article Leah.. well done.. so much insight into Leah Travels.. thanks for posting it.. x 🙂 j

  • Leah Travels via Facebook
    January 27, 2012

    That’s so sweet of you to say, Jean. Thanks so much for reading.

  • Ryan
    January 27, 2012

    First off, thank you Leah for tagging me! Secondly, awesome ABC’s of travel! That parade in Singapore, Wow…but my reaction may have been “Holy Shit!” instead.I can’t wait to have years of travel under my belt, but I am happy to do this just after 2 months, and I am sure you will like it because there will be a lot of New Zealand in it!

    • Leah Travels
      January 28, 2012

      Sure thing, Ryan. I think I might have said what you would have said. It was really wild. There were many men with those headpieces on. One of these days I’m going to find out what it was about. Maybe someone will read my blog that knows. Anyway, I look forward to yours, specifically because there will be a lot of New Zealand! Can’t wait!

  • Jennifer Succi
    January 28, 2012

    I love this list. I feel like we really get to know you better. I am going to have to work on one thing though…wine. I’m going to make it my mission to make sure you have an excellent glass of wine with me. I feel like I’ve let you down. 😉

    • Leah Travels
      January 28, 2012

      I have had good wines with you (Vegas, LOL). I’m up for a Napa or Sonoma trip!

  • Raul (ilivetotravel in Twitter)
    January 28, 2012

    Your Unforgettable Memory was very moving.

    Two “great minds” items:
    – I am with you 100% on the Scavi tours.
    – And, I also bring back local currency for me and to give to my sister’s and friends’ kids!

    That first picture on D, I have very similar pictures to that but… from the Chilean Patagonia! You will so love it there.

    Thanks for tagging me. And now I know you speak Spanish so be ready on the next tweetup!

    • Leah Travels
      January 28, 2012

      You’re so welcome, Raul. I can’t wait to read yours too! That picture was just down from Mt. John near Tekapo. The lupins were so beautiful against that backdrop. Now, let’s not get too excited about me “speaking” Spanish. I’m a bit rusty, but I’ll fake it till I make it, I guess.

  • Pola (@jettingaround)
    January 29, 2012

    Leah – The pics from New Zealand are so beautiful… I can’t wait to go there, esp. the South Island.
    (Nice pic of you and hubby too and a cute Costa Rican story 🙂 ).

    • Leah Travels
      January 29, 2012

      Thanks, Pola! New Zealand is everything it’s been advertised as and more. You must go! I can’t wait to read your ABCs too!

  • Whitney
    January 29, 2012

    I had so much fun with you in New York and Costa Rica! We’ll have to travel together again in the near future!!!

  • michelle
    February 5, 2012

    can’t wait to read about carnival!

    • Leah Travels
      February 5, 2012

      I hope it’s as fantastic as I’ve heard. Surely I’ll have lots of fun tales to write about. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • Andrea
    February 8, 2012

    That’s definitely a ‘wow’ moment in Singapore. I have always found Singapore to be really boring but I would love to see something unusual like that.

    • Leah Travels
      February 8, 2012

      Singapore, compared to other Asian countries, looks a bit boring on the surface. Luckily I was able to spend a month and able to dig a bit deeper. I saw and experienced so many cool things. Perhaps because it was my first time in Asia, I was really impressed with the country. There are so many cultures blended into daily life, and I got to taste them all. I wish someone could give me insight to that parade. It would be fascinating to know the back story. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Kirsten
    February 12, 2012

    That “go car” is ADORABLE and I am dying to go to New Zealand!!!!!

    • Leah Travels
      February 12, 2012

      I loved that GoCar! My husband, not so much. Driving through the streets and up the hills of San Fran almost put him over the edge. You HAVE to go to New Zealand. It is, hands down, the best place I’ve ever been. It’s heaven on earth!


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