PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL: MEET CAROLYN FROM LOS ANGELES, CA
I’m a 32 year old woman and I got a bit of a late start to traveling because we didn’t have much money when I was growing up. But once I started, I’ve never wanted to stop! I was born on the East Coast (Connecticut), grew up in Chicago, and now live in Los Angeles. I’ve also lived/studied in New Zealand, Paris, and London. I’m always saving up for my next trip because I’d rather spend money on travel than anything else. I love playing tour guide for my friends so if you find yourself in Los Angeles, be sure to look me up!
1) NUMBER OF COUNTRIES VISITED
2) AGE AND FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRIP YOU TOOK
Well I guess you could say that was 1999 when my parents and I went on a cruise in the Caribbean. But I prefer to think of my first international trip without my parents which was in 2004 to Paris. I was 20 and my friend and I decided to spend 10 days there for spring break our sophomore year of college. It was a dream trip exploring the most beautiful city in the world. We also took day trips to both Marseille and up to the Normandy Beaches.
3) FAVORITE AIRLINE
I have awards with United, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them my favorite. I’ve heard wonderful things about Virgin but haven’t booked any travel with them yet. Maybe Air France? Classy!
4) YOUR GO-TO IN-FLIGHT APPAREL
Generally stretchy leggings and an oversized sweatshirt or something really comfortable. When I flew to Asia, I wore a long skirt with an elastic waistband and that was excellent because it was like a built in blanket!
5) THINGS/GADGETS YOU CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT
My iPhone, duh. I’m not a professional picture taker or anything, but now that you can access maps, pictures, FB, and whatever you want, it’s obviously the primary necessity. I also love to bring an old school paper notebook to write about my adventures. And I always bring earplugs wherever I go because I’m a really light sleeper and when I stay in hostels or travel on trains, they help me fall asleep.
6) FAVORITE COUNTRY AND WHY
I guess I would break this down to favorite western vs non-western country:
I love France so much and feel such a connection to the culture and people there. I love their way of life, the pace, the literature, the history, the food, tout. J’aime tout.
On the other side of the world, I had an amazing week in Vietnam. I would return there in a heartbeat. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and their history is fascinating. The people have endured so much and yet it is a such a peaceful place. There is also a lingering darkness in the north because of the strong communist presence and I was lucky to stay with some young students who shared their experience of growing up in that environment with me. I could spend months exploring more places in the country and I hope to go back soon!
7) WTF MOMENT
I have a couple. One night when I was in Iceland, I was in a bar with my friends and we met a girl from outside of Boston (where I went to undergrad). It turns out she knew my friend from school because they were from the same town. It’s just such a small world. Speaking of small worlds, I knew a French man when I was studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand. I was always trying to practice my French when I was drunk, before I went to study abroad in Paris. And so I would speak to him and his French friends some nights outside of our dorm. Cut to 3 years later when I am in grad school in Paris, before Facebook took over the world. I went to a Thanksgiving party for the American students at the school, looked across the room, and there was my friend Camille. We recognized each other but it was clear we couldn’t tell from where. And then it hit me. We both lived at the Railway Campus in Auckland. What are the odds!!! We’ve been good friends ever since even on opposite sides of the world.
Finally, the scariest WTF moment I’ve been through was in the Canary Islands in 2009. My two friends and I had rented a car but it was a stick shift so only one of us could drive it. We also thought it would be a good idea to rent a Garmin.
WRONG. That stupid GPS sent us up and over the mountain in the middle of the island so we could get to our hostel in La Orotava. Instead, we could have taken the easy highways but NOOO. When we got near the top of the mountain, we saw a car that had nearly driven off a cliff! Then, our fate seemed to be the same when the GPS sent us down this really steep hill close to the hostel. At the bottom, it looked like a dead end. But I got out and checked to make sure that there was a ramp leading onto the street. The turn was really tight though and the car couldn’t make it. So as the car inched forward, the front passenger wheel actually slipped off the road and Jess immediately put the car in park because if she tried to back up we were afraid the it would still roll forward and the car would flip over the side of the road.
Luckily, God sent angels from above in the form of 10 Spanish men who all pulled over, jumped out of their cars, and lifted our car up while one steered back onto the ramp. It was one of the most terrifying experiences ever. But these men were amazing. I thanked them in Spanish and they just seemed to shrug it off and go about their business. When we were finally at the street that our hotel was on (after driving around for another 30 minutes) we needed to find a parking spot. The only one we found was on a downward sloping road which made it very difficult to park with the manual car.
We all walked away from the car thinking we would move it later when the person in front of us had left. I even wrote a note in spanish asking the person to contact us when they left. But this old woman who was watching us told us we couldn’t leave the car there because it would block the buses coming down the hill. I tried to explain that it was too difficult and we couldn’t park it without hitting the car in front of us. So she calmly handed her purse to her husband, marched over to our car, got in, parked it like an expert, and went about her business. So awesome!!! We didn’t touch the car for another 2 days.
8) FAVORITE CITY AND WHY
This is difficult but it has to be a split between Paris and London. Paris is so beautiful it hurts. And spending hours drinking a cafe creme and smoking cigarettes is pretty much how I spend at least half of every vacation I take there. London has something for everyone and it’s fascinating getting to experience living history. Theatre, bars, mystery, fun. It’s all there!
9) MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT
Oh my gosh I’m sure there are so many. One that comes to mind is when I was partying on Khao San Road with some new French men I had just met. We were out in the middle of the night to watch the France vs England rugby game and I knocked over an entire beer on one of them. Luckily, he wanted to hook up so he gave me some leeway, but I felt terrible and I was so embarrassed!
10) FAVORITE CUISINE
This is so hard! Thai, I think. Yes Thai.
11) HOTEL, HOSTEL, OR AIRBNB?
Hostels and couchsurfing actually. I travel on the cheap, and although it’s not always the safest option, I couchsurfed for most of my trip in Asia. Apart from one questionable dude, the rest of my experiences were great. I met some amazing people and really got to learn about the local culture from actual locals. I am happy I chose to travel that way.
12) MOST MEMORABLE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
SE Asia for sure. I booked 5 weeks of travel for my 30th birthday and spent 4 of them on my own going traveling by train, boat, plane, bus all over Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. I loved feeling so self-sufficient and finally making it to a place that I had heard so much about and dreamed about!
13) MOST CHALLENGING TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
I think the most challenging travel experience was when I went to Iceland. I was with a group of students from the London School of Economics and we went in January 2009, literally weeks after their economy had collapsed. It was a very interesting country, but difficult to get to know anyone because people were understandably reserved given their situation. It was also the time of year when you only get 4 hours of daylight. I couldn’t live there, but I am very happy that I was able to visit!
14) BEST TRAVEL ACTIVITY
Eating, obviously! Oh and hiking. I love walking and being outside.
15) FAVORITE TRAVEL SOUVENIR
I don’t generally collect many souvenirs. But I do have this really neat wooden box from Marrakesh that has a secret compartment. So it’s fun to show people!
16) MOST LIKED INSTAGRAM PIC
I’m not sure, but it’s probably one of the ones I took while I was in SE Asia. Holding up some Thai Baht or sunrise over Angkor Wat! Hey, that rhymes.
17) FAVORITE TRAVEL PICTURE TAKEN
Holding up a baby duckling in a market near Hué in Vietnam.
18) FUTURE TRAVEL PLANS
I’m heading back to Paris and London in February for 2 weeks. It will be the first time back in about 4 years so I’m very excited to see all of the changes. I do some traveling for work around the US and Canada, which has been very fun!
But then for a big trip next year I will be saving up for a surf camp in either Nicaragua, Panama, or Costa Rica. I want to get really good at surfing.
19) BUCKET LIST
Cuba, Machu Picchu, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Jordan, hundreds of places. I want to go everywhere!
20) YOUR TRAVEL INFLUENCER(S) AND WHY
My friends have always been my travel influencers. I see the amazing places they’ve been and listen to their adventurous stories, and I want to walk in their footsteps!
21) FAVORITE TRAVEL QUOTE
“America is my country, and Paris is my hometown” ~Gertrude Stein