The Liebster Award is a lovely idea: new blogs are nominated, questions are asked (and answered), and the nominees then pay it forward. I think it’s a charming way of getting new blogs discovered, but also helping those of us new to blogging feel a part of the community. It’s quite something to find that your shiny new blog is already drawing attention – especially as mine is only seven weeks old.
This is how it works:
- Share 11 random facts about yourself.
- Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
- Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and ask them 11 questions.
Here are my 11 random facts:
- My fiancé and I have been together now for about fifteen years. He proposed to me after dinner at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower, Toronto.
- My father was a REME Engineer for many years, and spent much of that time stationed in Singapore. From him I get my love of: curry; trains; gadgets; science fiction; and, of course, travel.
- Every year when I was a child we would have a camping holiday in the summer, sometimes to the UK and sometimes driving around Europe. By the time I was fifteen I could speak that unique patois-with-no-name which all mainland Europeans can communicate in, switching languages every few words in a sentence until understanding is reached.
- I was once a member of the Air Cadets. Back then it was ridiculously sexist, and I left because I would never be allowed to fly a powered craft. Presumably my womb might explode were I given anything more advanced than a glider.
- I love cooking, but I dislike baking.
- Crazy about spicy food, I was vastly disappointed that South Korea’s “torturous” spice levels were nothing of the kind.
- Cruises are my idea of hell on Earth.
- I don’t do beach holidays. Apart from the pale English skin which goes from zero to burned in sixty seconds, it’s boring as hell to sit in one place for eight hours while other people’s children scream at seagulls.
- As you may have guessed by now, I don’t have children, and don’t intend to in the future.
- I am moderately claustrophobic, so capsule hotels are off the list!
- I have friends dotted around the world who invite me to visit, and in return they’re welcome to couchsurf when they want to see London. The next invitation I need to find the time to accept is from a good friend in Mexico City – especially as the offer includes a fortnight of her mother’s home cooking!
My answers to Carl’s questions:
What’s your favourite country that you’ve visited and why?
Japan. I love the culture, the food, the scenery and the people. I love that the cities aren’t homogenised and that you can still find unique shops and restaurants even in premium locations; there’s nothing so dull as travelling to a new country and finding cities dominated by Western chains. I love that strangers will stop to help if you look even mildly lost. And, sure, I might love to live there, but I also respect that it’s so difficult for Westerners to do so, because it helps retain so much of what I adore about the country.
What’s your favourite city that you’ve visited and why?
It’s got to be Tokyo, right? It’s got everything, and it’s very safe to walk around even if you’re lost or out at night (obviously there are areas to be wary in – let’s not be completely romantic here). It’s clean. There are shrines and temples dotted in inner-city areas which somehow shut out all the hubbub just a few metres away. Food is good, cheap, and convenient. There are museums, shops, theatres, and cat cafés; hobby shops whose supplies blow HobbyCraft right out of the water; and day trips to beautiful towns like Kawagoe and Kamakura. And if all that’s too much, even the hiking is excellent, with Takaosan only an hour by train!
Tell us one destination you hope to visit this year.
This year is pretty up in the air for travel. I may be heading back to Hong Kong, or perhaps to Chicago. We shall see! As you’ll find, I don’t plan things more than three months in advance.
What’s the worst place you’ve visited and why?
Egypt. It was the first holiday Mr. Troo and I took together, and while the sights were amazing, the food was spectacular, and many of the people were wonderful, there were also the times when I was heckled in the street for being female (and this was fifteen years ago – the situation for women travellers to Egypt has deteriorated significantly since then), we were constantly harassed for baksheesh even by people whose job it was to be there doing what they were aggressively demanding tips for, and at one point we were led through ruins by an armed police officer who wanted to show us “best place for photo” only to be lured into a secluded spot then harassed for baksheesh. It was armed robbery and abuse of trust all in one neat package.
What is your favourite airline?
Tricky. I don’t really have one. I like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, because their service is good even in Economy, and it’s consistent. BA still have some ridiculously old stock in their fleet, though, including the 1980’s flight I recently endured in which all the in-flight entertainment was on video. You remember those systems, right? The looping tape, the inability to start a movie at the beginning, the blank channels while others were still playing…
I was very pleasantly surprised by Asiana recently. The legroom was phenomenal. When you’re six feet tall and your partner is 6’3″, legroom becomes something of an obsession. The extra couple of inches in seat pitch they provide made a thirteen hour flight so much more bearable.
United also deserve honourable mention, because their on-board hospitality is fantastic. I especially liked that many of their flight attendants were more mature, rather than pushing constantly for staff in their early Twenties.
Show us one of your favourite photographs from travelling.
I’m very fond of this shot of a lantern at the main entrance of Meiji Jingu in Tokyo. I think it’s one of the first shots where everything came together in-camera and my naturally-shaky hands didn’t betray me.
What three items can you not bear to travel without?
Camera. Sometimes I take the DSLR, and sometimes only the compact, but I always take a camera.
Kindle. I have a 3G version, and being able to download a book for a long trip while at a railway station in the middle of nowhere is essential.
Backpack. Absolutely cannot travel without it. It carries the day’s supplies, shopping I pick up, and anything else I pick up along the way, leaving my hands free.
What’s your favourite travel souvenir you’ve bought?
It’s got to be my ever-growing collection of phone charms. I have a multitude of regional Hello Kitty charms, some Nara-only Naruto ones, kawaii soft toy charms from KiddyLand, and so many more. I keep them all together in what I call my “drawer of kawaii”. Best cure for a rainy day? Half an hour rummaging in the drawer of kawaii!
What’s your most embarrassing travel moment?
My first visit to Japan was with a tour group. I fell into the trap of thinking there were places we just couldn’t get to see without a tour, but the worst part was the horrendously lecherous Scotsman in the group with us. At one point, on a train across Kyūshū, some of us had begun chatting to a group of schoolgirls who were heading home and still in uniform. Practicing our Japanese, as well as showing them how awful one of our phrasebooks was, we were asking such questions as “Is there a problem with toxic waste in the area?” (they giggled and said there was) and “I hear the water is badly polluted here” (again, they laughed and agreed, before pinching our book to see what other awful questions were in it).
Seeing this, our forty-something Scotsman who went everywhere in his kilt came and sat himself right in the midst of the teenage girls, his knees at least a foot apart, and demanded that we start translating for him before he began trying to hit on a group of teenage girls.
We apologised to the girls, told them where he was from, and answered their questions about Scotland, all while he grew increasingly angry that we weren’t translating to English for him. Thankfully he grew so irate at this that he got up and left, which gave us plenty of room to apologise profusely to the girls for his behaviour. We also assured them that no, not all Scottish people were like that.
What’s your scariest travel moment?
I had a bit of a panic attack while drowning at Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels, in Texas USA. I’m not the strongest of swimmers, and I came off my tube while going through some artificial rapids. At some point I managed to snort a reasonable quantity of water, lose track of which way was up, and flipped into sheer terror mode.
In true British style, when one of the employees fished me out and got me to my feet (in the TERRIFYINGLY DEEP three feet of water) I assured him that I was totally okay.
Where in the world do you hope to be in ten years?
I’m not too fussy in that regard. Where I’d like to be on a personal level is more widely-travelled, with a great many more stories to tell. Physically? I don’t think that really matters.
- Richard Varr: http://varrtravel.wordpress.com/.
Richard is a travel writer and photographer, but his blog is new.
- Worldwide Availability: http://worldwideavailability.wordpress.com/.
A Foreign Service employee situated in South Korea, with mind-blowing photography.
- Shashinka Ichiban Photographic Syndicate: http://shashinkaichiban1.wordpress.com/.
A collection of images taken in Japan over the years.
- Betzabeth: http://bdlaluzc.wordpress.com/.
Globetrotting photographer Betzabeth keeps it simple, posting her images and nothing else.
- Genetic Fractals: http://geneticfractals.wordpress.com/.
Modern-day zen with genuine warmth and a little bit of travel.
- Lori Ono: http://thespendypencil.wordpress.com/.
Lori is a writer and photographer based in Tokyo, and her blog is very down to earth.
- Victoria N: http://mapwanderer.com/.
Victoria’s posts are filled with the joy of travelling, and her list of locations is staggering.
- Steph Doran: http://stephdoran.wordpress.com/.
Steph is on a mission to photograph as much of Japan as she can before the 10th of April 2013.
- The Grown Up Gap Year: http://thegrownupgapyear.wordpress.com/.
Emily is a fellow Brit who is on what she calls a Grown up Gap year, and enjoying every minute!
- Vicki Thiem: http://vickimthiem.com/.
Vicki’s blogging about a recent trip to Japan, before moving on to posts about the USA.
- Meagan: http://lifeoutsideoftexas.wordpress.com/.
A Texan who went to South Korea to teach English. Meagan’s posts are friendly and enthusiastic.
Now on to my 11 questions, should my nominees choose to accept the challenge!
- Do you return to places you have been before, or are you always seeking something new?
- What interests you the most about travelling?
- What’s your most prized travel memory so far?
- Which of your blog posts are you the proudest of, and why?
- Do you have a favourite photo from your travels?
- Do you have a preferred time of year for travelling?
- What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?
- Tell us about the most amazing local you’ve ever met.
- When you travel, do you prefer to do so alone, or with others?
- Where is your favourite place, and what is it?
- When you return home, how long before you are planning your next trip?
That’s all from me for now. Over to you!