A playful trend is circulating the travel blogosphere, and I couldn’t resist partaking in the fun. First discovered on Adventurous Kate’s blog, then found again on No Onions Extra Pickles, I was easily enamored by this great little survey of travel experiences. Covering every letter from A to Z, this ABCs of adventuring offers a glimpse into my lifestyle as a diehard explorer. I invite all my readers to participate as well, I’d love to read your responses.
Enjoy this little slice of insight into the travels and adventures of Katie Boué.
A: Age you went on your first international trip:
I was three years old, and I flew from my birthplace of New York City to down to Mexico City for my cousin’s wedding. – My mom tells me I was the life of the party, dancing with the groom, my ‘Uncle’ Danny, until the band stopped playing around 3:00 AM. Apparently, upon seeing the musicians packing up their gear, I loudly protested, “¡mas musica!”
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
Easily, my favorite foreign beer is Bulmers/Magners from Europe – specifically the ones drank at the Chez Net Café in Villefranche sur Mer in France. It’s honestly more of a cider, but the apple and pear varieties were my beverage of choice during my summers spent exploring the Mediterranean coast.
C: Cuisine (favorite):
Cuban food – but that’s a given. When I’m traveling away from Miami, Cuban food is always one of the things I miss the most about home. Nothing beats abuela’s black beans and authentic Havana cooking, but I do have a few favorite joints to pick up Cuban fare when Mama can’t feed me. When I’m in Miami, I always have to make a stop at Ruben’s Cuban for beef empanadas, café con leche, and chicken noodle soup. One of my favorite dishes in the world can be found at Cuba Cuba in Denver, CO – if you’ll believe it. The puerco frito, piña coladas, and freshly made mojitos are not to be missed. It’s one of the few places I’ll willingly spend a ridiculous amount of money at.
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
That is an impossible question to answer. Some of my recent favorites include Moab, UT, and Yosemite National Park, especially the experience of staying at the legendary Camp 4 for a night – but I also adore the southern coast of France, Alaska, any climbing destination in the southeast United States, and the Pacific coasts near Monterrey. Perhaps my least favorite is Merced, California. I don’t think I’ve ever truly disliked a place I’ve traveled to, but Merced wasn’t anything to write home about. Plus, the highway entrances and exits didn’t have traffic lights, only stop signs.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
I am by no means a person of faith, but my first experience practicing yoga was the closest thing ever I’ve had to a religious experience. I went during my solo trip in September 2011, while I was enjoying a week of relaxation in the mountains of Hendersonville, North Carolina. My host’s neighbor owns a yoga studio in the little downtown area, and invited me to partake in a complimentary session. The spiritual meditation, breathing, deep poses, and general overwhelming sense of peace were fantastic. I have never felt such strong emotions. During a time of my life that was filled with a lot of doubt, over-thinking, and mental exhaustion, the yoga experience I had at Brightwater Yoga Studio inspired an inner metamorphosis that I carried with me throughout the remainder of my seven week solo trip.
F: Favorite mode of transportation:
I am smitten with the idea of train travel, and adore railroads, train tracks, stations, and anything locomotive – but really, my preferred method of travel is by personal car. I am a road tripper through and through, and I love the convenience of living out of my familiar and comfortable vehicle.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
Spontaneously veering off a rural highway exit just to take a random picture of some unique relic of farm life, or the feeling of hiking until the point of exhaustion, then finally reaching a beautiful overlook or body of water that makes the panting, sweat, and side cramps worth all the effort.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
During my first climbing road trip in 2010, we stopped for breakfast at The Egg & I outside of Denver, Colorado. Niko protested the idea of spending more money eating out, but the rest of us insisted on gorging ourselves with breakfast grub. Upon hearing that Niko was refraining from ordering, our waiter conspired with the manager to present Niko with a beautiful little plate with a hot, buttered muffin and some freshly cut fruit – on the house. I was so impressed by their kindness.
J: Journey that took the longest:
It always seems to take a painful amount of time to return to Florida from the west. I think the return leg of any road trip feels the longest; the thrill of adventure that made the first part of the trip is now quelled, and by the end of trips you’re always eager to get home to a hot shower and a familiar bed. During our May 2011 cross-country trip, Niko and I were miserable from the Grand Canyon to Florida. Texas seems to be the longest state in the country when you have to drive straight across it with no exciting destination ahead.
K: Keepsake from your travels:
Having embraced the beginnings of a vagabond lifestyle, I’ve begun to resist the temptations to buy keepsakes. Instead, I collect snippets from our experiences. My favorite box full of memories is from my five-week climbing trip with Niko. I have all the brochures from the national parks we visited, our tent tag from Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, a little snail shell found on the shore of Stinson Beach, etc. These hold much greater value and meaning for me than a mug or magnet.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
This one is easy. After Niko and I spent a week climbing in Yosemite, we headed to the bay area to check out San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and my favorite destination along the Pacific Coast Highway, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Visiting the fishy facility when I was younger living in California was the catalyst to my infatuation with jellyfish, and this aquarium has the most impressive jelly exhibit I’ve ever been to. Niko and I took the long drive down the coast to the aquarium, and gladly paid the hefty admission fees – only to discover that the jellyfish section was closed off for renovations. I was incredibly disappointed, and even begged one of the staff members to let me in anyways.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
During my first outdoor climbing trip to Little Rock City (also known as Stone Fort) near Dixon, Tennessee. Having only just become acquainted with the sport indoors, this excursion into the mountains thrust me head first into the world of camping, cooking in the woods, sleeping on crash pads, and immersing yourself into the natural surroundings that envelop climbing crags. After just one trip, I was hooked.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
Hotels? Ha! If I stay in hotels, they’re usually the cheapest thing I can get my hands on. I will give credit to the Excalibur in Las Vegas. After spending weeks vagabonding in Yosemite and car camping in California, a night in a proper hotel room felt like staying in a palace – even if it was the cheapest lodging on the strip.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
I am obsessed with photography in general – but there are definitely a few subjects that never cease to catch my attention. Bugs, creatures, and unique plant life are amongst my favorites, but food photos are always fun. And of course, I love photographing climbers and everything involving the climbing lifestyle.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
Hm, I travel domestically for the most part – my passport stamps are limited to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. Hopefully in 2013 I’ll be able to add Portugal to that list – but honestly, my heart lies in America.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
This one is stumping me. Quirky isn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps Fantasy Fest in Key West qualifies. The throngs of fairy-winged queers, nude elderly folks, intoxicated young people, and every unconventional individual that could make their way to the southernmost point converge upon Duval Street for a weekend of wild ruckus and outlandish tomfoolery. As I recall, I began the night dressed as a school girl, then ended my evening shirtless, covered in fake blood, and rebranded as a zombie victim.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
There are so many. Watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, queuing up in line at 6:00 AM to reserve a spot for a night at the climber’s haven of Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, getting a taste of desert life in Moab, sunning topless on the shores of southern France.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
Food, I will always spend my money on food. A hearty meal is one of the best things in the world after returning from a stint in the wilderness. I love campfire cooking, but sometimes a platter of succulent sushi just can’t be beat. Plus, there’s no clean up when you eat out.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
I’ve always wanted to follow the signs for “The World’s Largest Prairie Dog” that line I-70 in Kansas, but I’ve never given into my inklings. The most touristy thing I’ve actually done is probably making the winding drive down Lombard Street in San Francisco. The line leading up to this street of urban switchbacks is worse than Denver rush hour traffic, and it’s so hokey to drive down the flower-lined ‘street.’ Gorgeous scene to take pictures of, but totally pointless to actually make the effort of driving down.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
The first night I camped solo. I stayed at the Lake Barkley State Park campground in Kentucky, with only three other campers in the entire area – none of whom were in tents. I felt so accomplished cracking open a beer after rebuilding my fire pit, starting my own fire – sans lighter fluid, pitching my tent, cooking dinner, and kicking back to survey my hard work. Later, I set a branch on fire and danced around the pit a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. I am woman.
V: Visas, how many and for where?
Just one, a little family visa when I traveled to England when I was younger.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
Again, the winner is Villefranche sur Mer, in France – particularly the Chez Net Internet Café. My countless nights spent boozing with Brits at this cheeky café introduced me to the world of rosé wine, but really, any wine will do in France. I believe my bottle of choice was Cote du Rhones, which cost a budget-friendly two Euros per bottle.
X: eXcellent view and from where?:
The view from the anchors atop Misty (5.10d) in Sandrock near LaFayette, Alabama. Climbing this beautiful lead route was unnerving, although easily within my abilities. I fought my way through anxiety and self-doubt towards the top of the intimidating rock face, and when I finally reached the top I looked behind me and was dazzled to discover this gorgeous forest landscape illuminated by the setting sun. I had been so preoccupied with the challenging rock in front of me that I hardly noticed the natural scenery behind my back. The view really added to the experience of completing the climb.
Y: Years spent traveling?:
I’ve been traveling the entire 23 years of my life, sometimes in heavier spurts than others – all thanks to my adventurous parents who dragged me all over the world while I was young. My independent travel pursuits really picked up when I found my passion for rock-climbing in 2009. Climbing trips opened the doors to my adoration of camping, road trips, and the vagabond lifestyle.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
Crazy climbers in Moab, Utah. Lounging around the Lazy Lizard Hostel led to overhearing nothing but conversations about new crags, tricky beta, the next day’s climbing adventures, and of course, the beautiful Steph Davis. Every male in the hostel was smitten with the huge poster of this female climbing icon that hung on the hostel refrigerator. It was nearly overwhelming to be thrust into such an engaged and passionate community of diehard climbers.