This week's post comes from Sarah, a fellow American expat who currently resides in Tillburg (in the Southern part of the Netherlands, for those of you who aren't familiar).She is originally from Virginia (Southern Girls Unite!) I've had so much fun learning about Sarah's adventures and it looks like soon she will be moving closer to my neck of the woods! You can learn more about Sarah at Life in a State of Wanderlust!
Let's do this thing!
Tell us a little about you.
Let’s see. I’m 23 years old, and I have always loved to travel. So far, I have lived in three countries and visited 20 others. My bucket list is a mile long, and I’m constantly adding to it. I was born and raised in the United States, but I spent the past year in London completing my Master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Politics Science (LSE). Currently, I am residing with my boyfriend in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Living in Europe provides far more opportunities for international travel than in the States, so I am trying to take
advantage of every chance I get to see as much as I can while I am here!
The cliché is true- windmills are everywhere in the Netherlands
Where did you grow up?
I spent my whole life in Virginia before I moved abroad for graduate school. Virginia was an amazing place to grow up. In only two hours by car from where I lived, you could be hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, swimming at Virginia Beach, or enjoying a city-break in Washington, D.C. There’s really something for everyone.
What is your favorite destination and why?
This is a difficult question! There are so many amazing places around the world. I think my favorite destination so far would have to be Dubrovnik, Croatia. Dubrovnik’s nickname is the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” and if there is any city that deserves its nickname, it is Dubrovnik. There are gorgeous beaches, winding alleyways to explore, and breathtaking cliff side cafes where you can dive right into the sea—if you dare! The old town is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, yet there is so much more to the area than meets the eye. Dubrovnik was nearly
destroyed during the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s, yet it has been painstakingly rebuilt over the years. You can still see evidence of the war if you look closely at the famous red roof tiles, because the ones that were replaced after being bombed out are slightly different colors than the original tiles.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia
What is your least favorite destination and why?
My least favorite destinations are those where the only “cultural experiences” include laying on the beach during the day and partying every night, only to repeat the process for a week straight without ever leaving the resort. That is pretty much my travel nightmare. I travel because I love history, culture, and seeing the way different people live around the world. If I wanted to party into oblivion, I might just as well do it at home.
What is your favorite vacation memory?
In 2011, my dad took me and my brother to Tanzania for two weeks. We spent half of the trip wilderness hiking and camping in the African bush, an experience that was unlike anything I had ever done before. The trip was more than just a typical safari-vacation for us, though, because Tanzania was also the place that my dad grew up. His parents were missionaries in Arusha, and he lived there from when he was a baby until he returned to the U.S. at age 17. This was his first trip back to Tanzania in twenty years, and the first time my brother and I got to finally see the places we had been hearing about in stories our entire lives. The trip brought both tears and laughter, but having that shared experience definitely brought us closer together.
The house in Arusha, Tanzania, where my dad grew up.
At the top of Ol Donyo Sambu, Tanzania
Close encounters of the elephant kind
How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with you?
I have traveled so much in the past two years that I pretty much have packing down to a science. I generally try to travel with only a carry-on, mostly because I am cheap and hate paying baggage fees. The possibility of forgetting things used to worry me, but I’ve since realized that stressing over something like a toothbrush is not worth it. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world; I promise you will be able to buy a new toothbrush when you get there.
That being said, I always take my camera (of course), a good book, and a pair of earplugs. Nothing can ruin a trip like a symphony of snores coming from your seat mates on a 14 hour overnight bus ride in Morocco.
Do you have any trips planned for the future?
I have been living in the Netherlands for months now, but my Dutch boyfriend has still never been to the United States, so I would love to take him on a classic American road trip to show him my home turf. On the other side of the globe, my best friend is currently teaching at an international school in Brunei (on the island of Borneo). If I had the opportunity to go somewhere a little more exotic, visiting her would definitely be first on my list!
How do you plan your trips?
I love planning trips! Researching and learning about my next destination is one of my favorite things to do. I’m one of those people who brings along a stack of information with me whenever I go somewhere. I still love to do spontaneous things once I get there, but the planning is part of the fun of travel for me. It increases my anticipation and excitement for the place I’m going to be. It is always a good idea to at least learn a few words in the language of the place you will be, and not just assume that English will be spoken everywhere.
What kind of traveler are you?
I believe it is important to pick your travel companions wisely, no matter where you are going. I grew up taking road trips with my family, which I think is a great way to develop a love of travel. Now I generally travel with my close friends. I have found that small groups are always better to travel with than large groups. Large groups (even if you are all friends) mean too many opinions. Everyone is forced to compromise on what they want to do, and in the end no one is satisfied.
I am definitely not a tour group kind of person. I know some people greatly enjoy tours, but I do my best to stay away from them. Tour groups hardly ever allow you to do something on a whim—the kind of random adventures that make travel exciting. I don’t want to spend ninety percent of my vacation on a bus with people from my own country. That defeats the point of travel for me.
Thanks so much Sarah! I enjoyed reading about all your adventures, and I am totally with you on the tours thing. I hope you guys are loving this series as much as I am! If you want to be involved, and I so hope that you do, drop me a line at email@example.com.
Check out these other gorgeous pictures!
Sarah with her Berber guide on a camel trek through the Moroccan Sahara
A Sufi Dervish (“whirling dervish”) ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey
A cold winter night in Bruges, Belgium
View of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral
Prague Castle at night
At the top of Untersberg Mountain near Salzburg, Austria
Light streams through the windows inside St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican City.
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