This week’s featured female traveler has recently jumped the cubicle ship and is trying the life of permanent travel. See what she has to say about the challenges (and rewards) of traveling in Morocco, the best tunes for a road trip and more!
GGG: Ciao! Welcome to Girls That Go! Let’s kick off with the basics: who are you, where are you from, and how did you start traveling?
I am Megan from Meganotravels.com and I’m originally from Pennsylvania, but lived in Austin, Texas for the past six years until I quit my job to travel in August of last year. Now I’m kind of homeless. I started traveling when I was a kid–my parents would take my sisters and me to the beach in New Jersey almost every summer, and some summers we’d go to Tennessee and Florida to visit family. That sparked the desire for me, and when I was in college I went on my first international trip–a summer study abroad program in Rome, Italy. From there, I was absolutely addicted.
GGG: Awesome! So, the second half of 2013 was filled with some pretty amazing experiences for you. If you had to choose one to relive, which would it be and why?
That’s such a hard question to answer! I think that I’d pick Morocco though. It was such an interesting and eye-opening experience for me, and a total culture shock–one that both overwhelmed and excited me. I think my couple weeks there made me grow thicker skin, so I wouldn’t mind going back with the knowledge I have about it now and experiencing it all over again. It’s the one place I haven’t been able to get off my mind since my recent round of travels ended.
GGG: Speaking of Morocco…As a female traveler, what was a challenge you faced there and how did you deal with it?
One of my biggest challenges was learning to stand up for myself. I hadn’t traveled many places where people were always in my face, whether begging for money or items, trying to sell me things, or trying to grab my hands to draw henna. For the first few days, I was completely overwhelmed by everything around me–to the point where I felt a panic attack coming on when I was in a bus station in Tangier (thank you, Xanax, for keeping me calm). I didn’t know how to handle the constant barrage of people and how to politely, but firmly, stand my ground. I learned very quickly how to haggle with people, avoid eye contact, and to just say “no” and walk away when I felt like I was being taken advantage of.
GGG: Good for you! You’ve done a few road trips, both in the US and Europe. What are your favorite aspects of road tripping and, perhaps more important, do you have any favorite road trip jams?
I love road trips for all sorts of reasons–stop-offs between destinations; the excuse to eat at super dodgy roadside diners; taking in the scenery; quiet time to think; and, as you mentioned, the most important: singing along to some awesome songs. I listen to different music depending upon the trip, and try to cater it towards the country or region/state in which I’m traveling. BUT, I always have some old (and some kind of cheesy) stand-bys that I know I’ll enjoy belting out at any occasion: “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane; “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals; “Different People” by No Doubt; “Hey Jealousy” by Gin Blossoms; and pretty much anything by RX Bandits.
GGG: That FYC song is a classic! Sort of related–you’ve written before about movies and books inspiring wanderlust. If you had to update that list with a couple more books and movies, what would you add and where would they inspire you to go?
I recently saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and seeing scenes from Iceland almost made me cry and want to go back for a third time! The Bourne movies are really great for inspiring wanderlust for almost anywhere in the world. Strangely, the Showtime series, Homeland, has made me want to go to the Middle East (I say strangely because they don’t exactly paint it in a good light). As far as books, Forty Rules of Love makes me want to hop on a plane to Turkey, and Everything is Illuminated to Ukraine.
GGG: You’ve managed to fit some cool sporting events into your travels. How do you think seeing a city that is hosting an international event like the World Cup or the Olympics changes the experience? (Other than the crowds, of course)
One nice thing about the Olympics in London was that because all of the crowds were at the games, the typical touristy spots were so quiet. During my Olympic events downtime, I managed to check out quite a few museums and historical spots without dealing with the queues like I had in the past! As far as the events go though, London was completely overtaken by Olympics mania–massive screens set up to watch events; roads shut down to allow for events (running; biking); and just a general sense of light-heartedness.
The World Cup is a bit different because it’s not just one city, it’s an entire country. I went to South Africa in 2010 for the World Cup, and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. One of the most wonderful parts of going to a country during an event like that is seeing the entire country come together to root for their team. Everyone seems to put aside their differences for a few weeks (if you’re lucky enough to last that long in the tournament!) and share in the excitement of seeing their country fight to win.
GGG: Obviously Italy is a country close to your heart. Can you share a couple of recommendations for first-timers heading there?
While I think that everyone should hit the big cities (Rome, Florence, Venice, etc.), make sure you build in some time to see the smaller villages and less-known regions of Italy. Some of my greatest memories in Italy were from places like Portofino, Cinque Terre, Siena, and the Emilia-Romagna region (Forli and Cesena).
Eat everything. Try every pasta dish, grilled vegetable, olive, cheese and pork product, seafood, and gelato. Wash it all down with some inexpensive Italian wine. Italy is a place to throw all of your dietary restrictions aside (unless, of course, they’re doctor-mandated) and really try everything you come across. Eating and drinking are a part of the culture in Italy and it would be a shame to miss out on such an important part of your travels there.
GGG: Great advice. Finally, what adventures can we look forward to hearing about next on MeganoTravels?
I’m still working on some posts from my most recent round of travels, so Morocco, Italy, and Iceland are still to come. And I’m currently in the process of booking things for my next round, which will see me going to an entirely new continent, so be on the lookout for that. (Sorry–no spoilers yet, but I haven’t been to South America, Antarctica, Asia, or Australia yet, so you can start guessing!)
All photos in this post are courtesy of Megan Smith.