I think it's about time I introduced myself!
I'm Hana — budget travel junkie, shoestring backpacker and lifelong global nomad.
Over the years, I've lived, worked and travelled on the cheap through 68 countries across all 7 continents.
As far as I'm concerned . . . the party's just getting started!
There's been a neat list going around the travel blog community lately and I thought it might be fun to join in.
So, I've put together my very own ABC's of travel.
They tell you about some of the most awesome destinations I've visited, incredible adventures I've had and unforgettable events I've experienced backpacking around the world.
Sure, you'll get to know a little bit more about me. But more than anything else, I hope these travel ABC's inspire you to get out there and do the same!
I must have been about a year or two old. My family was living in Czechoslovakia then (when it was still actually called that) and from what I recall we went to Poland on holiday. Or was it Romania? Somewhere around there, anyway.
The first international trip where I actually travelled solo was during high school, at the age of 16. I was on a student exchange in Switzerland at the time and decided to go skiing in Norway for Christmas vacation.
Admittedly, I missed every single train (and a ferry) on the way there and arrived two days later than I was supposed to!
Timmerman's Kriek, a sweet-but-tangy Belgian beer made from sour cherries. Oddly, I discovered it in Moscow.
The beer's pretty darn good and Moscow's pretty darn impressive!
Anything spicy. And the spicier the better.
Indian, Mexican, Thai, Korean, Caribbean, Sichuanese, Ethiopian . . . all with extra chillies and hot sauce!
I'm also a sucker for smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels (toasted), German sausages with potato salad, Mom's world-famous pork schnitzels and freshly-baked croissants.
Oh, and did I mention fish and chips?
That first part's tough. Think I'm going to have to cheat and list more than one place:
The second part is easy. Abu Dhabi, UAE. I didn't find it particularly interesting and I also had a slew of very bad experiences there. Definitely won't be going back anytime soon.
The fall of the Berlin Wall.
Okay, I realise that dates me a bit. But this was an especially significant historical event for me because most of my relatives were still living in Czechoslovakia at the time, under Communist rule.
So, the minute I heard what was happening in Berlin I knew I had to go check things out for myself. The border guards were still on duty when I got there, but people were already chipping away at the Wall.
It was truly the most surreal sight I'd ever witnessed. I just kind of stood there thinking . . .
'I can't believe I'm seeing this!'
I'd have made a good postwoman. Come rain or shine, I walk absolutely everywhere. I think nothing of walking 10-15 km (about 6-10 miles) in an average day.
You discover so much more when you walk and it's usually easier (provided you have a decent map) than trying to figure out bus routes in foreign cities. Plus, of course, it's the cheapest way to get around!
That 'OMG-this-is-so-unreal!' feeling.
Like when you finally reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Or scuba dive with sharks and manta rays in Bora Bora. Or unexpectedly come across a Western-style toilet in China.
You know, that kind of cool stuff.
For some reason, I came up with the very clever idea one year of backpacking around Egypt in August.
Not surprisingly, it was about 500°C (932°F) in the shade when I arrived at the Siwa Oasis, in the middle of the Libyan Desert. The guy at the guesthouse couldn't even believe I'd survived the 9-hour bus trip out there.
Dubai and Death Valley in California run very close seconds — both registered a searing 47°C (117°C) when I last visited.
I love beach weather but that was a bit much.
Here's where I should probably tell you about all the fantastically kind, helpful and hospitable people I've met backpacking around the world.
But I'll tell you instead about the time I was treated to a first class air ticket from Hong Kong to London on British Airways.
As I'd never flown anything but economy before, I really had no idea just how posh the whole experience would be. For dessert I got an entire box of handmade chocolate truffles and a whole bottle of French bubbly to wash it down.
Now that's what I call incredible service!
That would surely have to be the 42-hour stretch from hell along the Trans-Siberian Railway from Khabarovsk to Chita, near Lake Baikal.
I'd managed to get the worst bed on the train — a top bunk with no view out the window and zero headroom. All I could do was lie on my back or lie on my stomach. I couldn't even lift my head enough to drink.
The people below me had obviously not read the same book on train etiquette that I had. They could clearly see that I was extremely uncomfortable but they took up both bottom bunks all day without letting me share.
Plus, this was during the most scorching Siberian heatwave on record. I was completely drenched in sweat and any small movement made me sweat even more.
Honestly, that trip was just one long, drawn-out nightmare.
Admittedly, I used to buy tons of stuff when I travelled. T-shirts, trinkets, fabrics (my biggest weakness), jewellery, paintings, carpets, carvings — you name it. There wasn't a souvenir shop owner out there who didn't know my name.
Then a few years ago I visited my parents in Canada and realised I had about 40 boxes of accumulated junk in their basement. And some if it had been there for longer than I care to admit (okay, 20 years).
What on Earth did I think I was going to do with all that stuff? I really don't know. We had a lot of garage sales that summer.
Hmmm . . . to be honest, there haven't been too many.
While I do remember not being overly enthused with Kuala Lumpur, I did enjoy the rest of Malaysia. Seoul didn't do much for me either. But I was only there on a 15-hour layover (cheap flight, what can I say) so it didn't really stand much of a chance in the first place.
When I was a kid, my parents kept a set of Time Life travel books in the living room. I used to spend hours flipping through the pages, dreaming of visiting great cities, ancient civilisations and the 7 Wonders of the World.
We did travel a lot in those days, but it was mostly road trips across the neighbouring US and short jaunts to Florida in winter.
Eventually, at 17 (during the same school year as the missed trains to Norway — see A), I backpacked from Switzerland down to Greece.
Well, I got so lost in Athens the first day that I couldn't even find my way back to the hostel. Then in Olympia I dropped my new camera and it never worked again. On Crete I rode over some loose gravel and crashed my rented moped into a roadside ditch.
That was when I knew . . . I'd fallen in love with travel!
Need a coffee? Me too!
When you're ready for a bit of a laugh, meet me over at my ABC's of travel from N-Z and I'll show you what my very first camera looked like!