Today’s jetsetter is the one and only Leah of Leah Travels! The romantic & hubs were lucky enough to meet both Leah and her partner in all travel-related shenanigans, Lola, at TBEX this year, and it’s safe to say that our jetsetters series is basically turning into a showcase of all of our most favorite travel bloggers. Once you’re caught up on the life & times of Leah, pop over to twitter and follow along on her upcoming adventures!
Favorite Place: Dang! You’re killing me with this question. I love so many places for such different reasons. So, I have to pick one? OK…New Zealand. One glimpse at New Zealand and you’ll be spoiled for any place else. She’s like your one true love. No other country will ever compare. It’s actually kind of sad, because now I’m ruined for the rest of the world. It certainly won’t stop me from traveling. Yes, I’m asking for your pity here.
More importantly, favorite meal: There’s a churrascaria in Rio de Janeiro called Marius that just sends me over the moon. It’s a meat orgy, I tell ya’! Located across from Copacabana Beach, it has some sort of crazy pirate theme. At first you think Captain Jack Sparrow is going to serve you steak, which wouldn’t be too bad, mind you, but don’t let the kitsch throw you off. The food is amazing. Make sure to upgrade with the lobster and Kobe beef, because it’s worth the money. Add some Malbec wine, too. Also, prepare to spend part of your life’s savings.
The moment you caught the travel bug: I got to travel quite a bit domestically as a kid, but I’m not sure I truly appreciated travel until I was about to graduate from college. I studied Spanish in Costa Rica and feel that gave me the first symptoms of wanderlust. I went to Costa Rica long before was such a tourist destination. It was there I realized that not everyone is like me or like the USA. It was an eye-opening experience.
First experience traveling alone: The very first time I traveled alone I was about four years old. My mom stuck me on a Southwest flight from Dallas bound for Lubbock. I remember it was really smoky and the flight attendants gave me countless Cokes. But since that was only about an hour flight, I don’t count it.
With a couple of bags packed, my parents put me on a plane to Costa Rica when I was 21. I barely knew the language, and I certainly didn’t know the family I was staying with. The grandmother, who didn’t speak a word of English, picked me up from the airport. The part of family who spoke English was on vacation and wouldn’t be back for a few days. We communicated through hand signals for the weekend.
Ever been (or thought you’ve been) in imminent danger while traveling?: I thought my husband was going to kill me when I “surprised” him with a photo shoot in Queenstown, New Zealand. Then there was the time he almost killed me in Rome. Apparently, I was dragging him around by his nose. You sensing a pattern here?
Worst hotel/hostel experience: When I was in graduate school, I traveled to Lovington, New Mexico to watch my husband ride in a rodeo. Things didn’t go as planned, and he was thrown off the horse and landed on his head. We’d planned on driving back to Texas that night, but there’s no way that was possible with his injury. We found this no-tell motel, you know, the kind that you drive up to the door? The kind that may or may not have prostitutes working out of it? It was the only place in town with availability, so it had to do. At first we thought it wasn’t so bad; it had a kitchenette and everything. As the north, spring winds started blowing across the southern plains, we began to freeze. To warm the place up, we turned on the oven. A nice surprise was waiting for us: a whole roasted chicken carcass picked clean. I did not love that motel in Lovington.
Best hotel/hostel experience: Two words: Conrad Tokyo. That place is nuts! My husband and I had a 24-hour layover in Tokyo on our way home from New Zealand, so we decided to splurge on an awesome hotel. We fell out of our bus from Narita looking like a North Face ad only to see a line of luxury cars in front of us. The cheapest one probably cost $150k. We were treated like royalty, even though we looked like we’d been sleeping on the streets.
Favorite family vacation: Family vacations in my family always seemed to involve Colorado. Going to Wolf Creek Ski Resort in Pagosa Springs was my favorite as it was the first time I got to ski. My mom and dad took turns teaching me. I was little, probably 4th grade, and I just remember lots of laughs and falls. Bonus points are awarded for my big brother and I not killing each other.
Must-have packing item: I’m assuming that the iPhone and my DSLR are a given, right? Ok. I have to pack my noise-cancelling headphones. I don’t care how short a trip is, those things are coming with me. My time on a plane is one of reflection, and reflecting is hard to do with a crying babies and drunk talkers prying their way into my brain. Yes, noise-cancelling headphones are worth their weight in gold.
Most unbelievable travel experience: I was hit on by a drunk Russian man on my way to Singapore. And when I say, “hit on” I don’t mean in the “hey, baby” kind of way. He literally popped me on the head with his hand twice. After a few F-bombs by me and a butt chewing by the flight attendant, I was left alone. You can read the whole account here.
Favorite “I can’t believe I’m doing this” moment: In April I wrote a controversial post entitled, “I Hate Cruises”. I knew it’d stir the pot, but what I didn’t know is that it would land me an interview on BBC’s morning show called, “World Update”. There I was with my Texas twang speaking to the world about my disdain for cruising. That was certainly unbelievable. You can read more about the experience and listen to the interview here.
Place you can’t wait to return to: Based on my first answer, I’m sure you know what I’ll say to this question. I spent nearly a month in New Zealand and didn’t even scratch the surface of what I wanted to do. I want to hit the white beaches of the far North Island and hike more on the West Coast of the South Island. And Queenstown still has my heart. I need to get it back pronto!
Place you can’t be paid to return to: If I never go back to Yantai, China it will be too soon. Yantai was my first exposure to China, and I spent a month there a few years ago. I’m glad I went, but that’s about it. I’m not really eager to go back to China period. Now, Hong Kong is a different story.
Any exciting trips coming up?: Well, I headed to Vegas for a little (read: A LOT) blackjack in August. September takes me to Spain for the TBEX conference (Travel Bloggers Exchange). I’m going to squeeze in some football during October, and in November, I’m off to Europe again. You see, I won this little ol’ writing competition sponsored by Go with Oh. I’m off to explore Prague, Italy, Barcelona, and Paris with my travel partner in crime, Lola.
Dream vacation: I’d like to have a giant house, complete with staff, in Bali or Thailand. It’d have an infinity pool and be right on a secluded beach. Along with my husband, I’d invite my most fun-loving travel friends, and we’d spend our time doing as much or as little as we wanted.
Favorite tourist attraction: I was awe-struck by St. Peter’s Basilica, and this is coming from a Protestant. The fact that I’d just hung out with the pope, combined with the Scavi Tour I took, might have had a hand in my over-the-top reaction. The history, art, and pure beauty struck a chord with me. And climbing to the very top of the cupola? That almost killed me. It was so worth it, though.
Favorite “I’m trying not to look like a tourist” attraction: My family and I were in Cozumel recently, and we wanted to get off the main road, the one that’s full of stores selling vanilla, sombreros, and shot glasses with naked women on them. In Spanish, my husband asked where we could find a good place to eat and shop. We were told that 4-5 blocks off the main road was Mercado Municipal. That’s where we found the real Mexico, not the one designed for stupid tourists. We ate with the locals and found souvenirs for 25% less. Of course, it helps to know some Spanish.
Favorite travel photo:
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
We’re always looking for our next jetsetter! Call us, beep us, if you wanna reach us. And if you know what that line’s from, you might go into Jetsetter Hall of Fame. That’s not a thing, but we’d make it one for you. Seriously, it’s a pretty obscure reference.
the romantic & the wino