You may have noticed that I have a lot of fake awards and phony testimonials on the homepage of this website.
Well, it seems that I’ve been nominated for a real award, and the inner conflict that has resulted has kept me up nights for – well, for like one night. Ok, for 45 minutes. But those are 45 precious minutes of sleep that I will never get back!
Who nominated The Happy Passport?
I’m thrilled to announce that The Happy Passport has been nominated for a Liebster Award by travel gourmet Dave Cole, the eyes, ears, and nose behind the food-wine-travel triumvirate Cook Sip Go.
Cook Sip Go takes all of things you love about traveling – the sights, the sounds, the delicate clinking of fresh ice cubes entering your cocktail glass – and packages them together in a way that is purely delectable.
Bring you appetite for adventure (and your penchant for a spicy Malbec) and check out Cook Sip Go.
No really. Stop reading and go there now.
Here’s how the Liebster Award nomination works – since Dave nominated me, I have to answer 10 questions of his choosing. Then, I get to nominate 5 outstanding travel blogs and ask the creators of those blogs to answer 10 questions of my choosing.
It’s sort of like getting a chain letter in the mail when you were 12, except instead of throwing it in the trash, your mom puts it up on the fridge.
Without further ado, Dave’s questions, and my answers!
Cook Sip Go asked, and I answered…
1. What is the first travel experience you remember?
My first plane ride when I was 10 years old. My parents surprised us and took my brother and I to Disney World.
Everything about Florida felt so different from my home in Wisconsin – the air smelled different, the trees were different, there were lizards everywhere. It was pure magic to me and I spent the next two years planning to run away and live on the streets of Orlando as a vagrant gymnast.
2. Which destination is at the top of your travel bucket list?
I feel really drawn to Norway and the other Scandinavian countries. I’d love to spend time in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark.
India is absolutely on my bucket list, as is Ireland, Italy, Turkey, Greece…and then there’s the entire continent of Africa calling to me. Wait, was I supposed to pick one place?
3. Where did you experience your most memorable meal on the road and what was it?
It’s May of 1995, I’m 13 years old and sitting in a restaurant in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood.
It’s my first time visiting the city and I’m there to perform in Carnegie Hall with a children’s choir.
I order minestrone soup as a starter, and practically die of happiness the second I taste the first spoonful – my taste buds stand at attention, jump for joy, and proceed to perform choreographed acrobatics for the remainder of the meal.
I remember thinking “Ohhhh, so this is what real Italian food is supposed to taste like.” And that was in the States – just imagine what will happen when I make it to Italy! (mouthgasm).
4. Who is your favorite travel writer/blogger?
Matthew Karsten of The Expert Vagabond. Reading his posts feels like having lunch with that one friend who always makes you laugh until you squirt beer out your nose. (Yes I drink beer at lunch. Stop judging me.)
If I could write one blog post that was 1/10 as funny and entertaining as his posts, I’d retire from blogging forever and go live in the mountains in Nepal.
5. Even though new destinations are fun, what is one place you could return to again and again?
Cat Ba, Vietnam (and I have returned again and again!)
Hoi An, Vietnam
6. What’s the most interesting wildlife experience you’ve had on your travels?
First of all, this is the most creative question anyone has every asked anyone.
And I was amazed to discover that I actually had an answer to it, even though I’m not what I’d call particularly “outdoorsy.”
I was trekking in the mountains just outside of Luang Prabang, Laos, and our group came upon a man with a rooster on a leash. Through our guide we learned that this rooster had been trained to call wild chickens out of the forest so that the man could shoot them.
He was an informant chicken. A traitor to his own kind. I still don’t know what’s worse – the fact that the hunter put this poor rooster up to this dastardly deed, or that the rooster failed to organize a proper mutiny against such an inter-species atrocity.
7. What’s one place you’ve traveled to and have no desire to return? Why?
Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s a lovely town, the rivers are beautiful, the night market is dazzling and the wats are gorgeous.
But everything else about the city feels like it belongs in the West – the old town caters to tourists in such a way that there doesn’t seem to be a scrap of Lao culture left to be seen. It’s all wine bars, retired French couples and Australian college kids walking around like they’re in Daytona Beach.
The famous almsgiving ceremony has become a caricature of itself – I hated seeing insensitive tourists up in the monks’ faces with flashbulbs.
Take Luang Prabang and plop it down in, say, San Diego, and you’d catch me at one of the (67) wine bars for happy hour every night of the week.
But when I was in Laos, I wanted to learn something about Laos, and the only thing I learned was that the tourists have taken over and the Lao people have done the best they can to cater to them, perhaps at the expense of their own way of life.
Then again, maybe the locals in Luang Prabang are making great money off the tourists and are perfectly happy having 67 wine bars and I should just shut my trap.
8. What is your favorite restaurant in your hometown?
Raffi’s Place in Glendale when I’m in Los Angeles. It’s the freshest, most delectable, most melt-in-your-mouth Persian food imaginable. I’d ask for their chicken kebabs, homemade hummus and cucumber yogurt as my last meal.
A very, very close second is Boneyard Bistro on Ventura Blvd in Studio City (also Los Angeles). I’ll just say this – there is macaroni and cheese involved, as well as fried dates, aged whiskey, and bourbon BBQ sauce. Insert Homer Simpson donuuuuut noise here.
9. What is the most athletic feat you’ve accomplished while traveling?
Climbing to the top of Marble Mountain in Da Nang, Vietnam with my ginormous laptop case in tow because I didn’t want to leave it with the shady-looking parking attendant.
At one point I even jumped from one rock to another, scaling a four-foot wide divide. If I had fallen, I would’ve fallen about 500 meters to the (very distant) earth below. All while carrying this bulky bag that contained my laptop, my camera, and all my valuables.
And I never would’ve done any of it if it weren’t for this guy.
10. Have you ever attempted to cook at home a dish you first tried while traveling? If so, what was the result?
The only thing sexier than a woman who can cook is a woman who can eat like a linebacker and not gain weight.
Fortunately I never claimed to be sexy.
The answer, I’m afraid, is no. I love to cook sauces, but I’m dreadful at cooking anything that one might drizzle a sauce upon.
If I could learn how to cook one dish I’ve enjoyed while traveling, it’d be Southern Vietnamese pho tom. (noodle soup with shrimp).
I cut my teeth on Southern pho, not realizing that the soup would be so drastically different in the North. If I could learn how to get the broth just right, I’d make it every day for the rest of my life (except on the day when I get my last meal, because then I’m going to Raffi’s Place.)
Who I’m Nominating
Banker in the Sun – only Rashad (AKA The Banker) can get me interested in money and budget stuff when it comes to travel (everyone else who writes on this topic tends to make me yawn). I love the stories, the tales of romance, the wanderlust and the great cost of living articles on this site. The financial advice truly is unconventional as promised, and it’s nice knowing that it’s coming from an actual vagabond banker!
A Wandering Photo – Shirine is a regular contributor to this site and I’m lucky to have her. She is just 20 years old and is currently on a round-the-world cycling trip with her sweetheart. Shirine is a brave minimalist who writing is poetic, stark, and always thought-provoking.
Adriana Kupresek – Adriana is an author, inspirationalist, and nomadic feminist who’s created an artistic online community for female travelers. Her work is fearless, unabashed, and I love how she’s not afraid to say exactly what she thinks. I also really like how she blends travel tales with life lessons and deeply personal epiphanies.
Anna’s Friends – a great blog and networking site for women traveling and/or moving abroad. Anna is building a worldwide network of women helping women, and she truly practices what she preaches. When I first started travel blogging, she was one of the first people to reach out via social media and make me feel welcome.
Vivienne Egan – Vivienne is true digital nomad working her way around the world. I love following her blog because she covers everything you need to start traveling and to keep traveling by working for yourself online. I also hit up Vivienne’s site for budget travel tips, online marketing ideas, and inspiration to keep traveling long-term.
10 Questions for the Nominees
1. What is the single best part about living, working and traveling in a country other than your own?
2. You’re given a large chunk of money from a mysterious donor. You’re told that the amount is somewhere between $25,000 and $1 million. The amount you’re to receive won’t be revealed until you specify your dream destination, where you’ll have to spend the next 3 years of your life. You will not be allowed to work or make any money during this period of time. Where do you go?
3. Do you consider yourself a backpacker, flashpacker, midrange or luxe traveler? Is it by choice or circumstance? Would you “change teams” if you could? Why?
4. Do you prefer to travel solo, travel with a partner or travel in a group? Why?
5. Which 3 places you’ve visited so far have felt the most like home?
6. A proclamation is handed down from the Universe that states you may no longer travel, and you may no longer write about traveling (or anything related to travel). Where do you settle and what do you do with your life?
7. What is a single, unifying factor that you’ve observed in every single country you’ve visited?
8. Can cross-cultural romances ever work?
9. Name 3 things you do NOT miss about living in your home country (or staying in your home country 24/7/365)
10. 2014 will be a total bust for you unless you _________________.
I can’t wait to read your answers! Thanks again to Dave and the fine folks at Cook, Sip, Go for the nomination!
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