Julie recently decided to take off. She left her job, apartment and dog (in good hands, not to worry) and went to Central America. The trip extended for several months. She volunteered at Costa Rican yoga/surf retreats, zip-lined through the jungle, crossed some borders on foot and indulged her inner foodie. Julie also happens to be my best friend, so it was really quite perfect to spend the tail end of her travels together, exploring Panama.
Here is Julie’s Traveler Q&A:
1. Dearest /funniest/ strangest childhood travel memory?
It’s a toss up. When I was a kid my dad worked for the Canadian Foreign Service and when I was 3 we moved to Trinidad. My maternal grandparents were visiting and we went on an excursion to a coral island on this very basic canoe-like fishing boat. On our way back to the mainland, there was a storm, with lots of rain and huge waves crashing into the boat. There were no lifejackets, so needless to say everyone was pretty terrified. My grandmother had my baby sister laying on her lap, covered with a towel, and I remember not being able to see beyond the sheets of rain falling down, and being rocked quite aggressively. We all lived to tell the tale. My other memory is from the same era, and involves fried shark sandwiches that I loved eating on the beach, with lots of ketchup. They’re called Bake and Sharks, a Trinidadian native dish of fried shark stuffed in a roti-like fried flour, and it’s the number one thing I’d like to eat again.
3. Who makes the best travel companion?
Aside from myself, the author of this blog, naturally, as we are on a very similar wavelength.
4. What do you always pack?
I’m an over-packer, which on my current (and first) backpacking trip is turning out to be a hard-learned lesson. Things I still would not leave behind next time include a good camera, a pocket-sized notebook, my clear zip-up travel pouch for important documents, and my laptop.
5. Is there anything particular that you collect/photograph/save on your trips?
I can’t really pinpoint a trend aside from jewelry, as it’s small and easy to bring back. Some kind of local condiment is usually a safe bet as well.
6. What would you change about the way we travel today?
I would love for generic travel packages, like resorts, to decrease in popularity, and have people chose more authentic travel experiences, as opposed to the sanitized version of travel which is mainstream.
7. What lesson can you share from a mistake or misconception?
I’m currently in Granada, Nicaragua, which my family assured me was too dangerous to travel to. It’s a beautiful colonial town in which I have met the most kind and helpful locals. I think that context is everything, and lots of places seem much more dangerous than they actually are. Within reason, of course!
8. What’s your trick for blending in, avoiding looking like a tourist.
It’s definitely hard not to look like a Gringa in Central America, but learning the basics of the local language is extremely useful, and avoiding being flashy is a pretty good idea. I generally like to avoid tourist spots. If I’m travelling a city like Paris or New York, that’s different. I research neighbourhoods and places I would probably frequent if I lived there, and I wear exactly what I would at home, as flashy as I want! Keeping my camera hidden in my bag helps as well.
9. If you could teleport to another location right now, where would it be?
Even though I’m close, I won’t have time to go, and I really want to be in the Corn Islands.
10. And realistically where are you off to next?
It’s been 5 years since I’ve been to Europe, so I’d like to make that my next destination. Although Bake and Sharks are seriously calling my name. I think I’m a little food-obsessed!