This week’s featured female traveler is Megan Starr, the fantastic face behind A Suitcase and Stilettos.
Check out what she says about falling in love with Bangkok (the fourth time’s a charm), the importance of temperature conversions and more!
GGG: Megan, welcome to Girls That Go! Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started traveling to kick this off?
I wish I could tell you that when I turned 23 I had a revelation and decided to travel the world after my first trip abroad…but I can’t.
The travel bug bit me long before I could even remember…I lived in Europe as a child and upon moving back to the US, everything I did revolved around travel or curiosity about other places and cultures.
I was the 9-year-old who spent hours a week in the city library reading books about Iceland. And the kid who read maps for fun…so much that I easily won my school’s geography bee (yes, they really have those).
It also was the reason I spent half of my childhood telling people I would become an airport manager when I grew up. That dream was dashed when I realized all the work to become that job wouldn’t allow me to travel and do what I enjoyed most.
But technically, none of my travel and adventures are the reason I ended up currently living in Norway. The real reason? A boy.
But I can tell ya, it doesn’t suck having Europe at your fingertips.
GGG: Now that you’re an official expat, what are some of your favorite things about your adopted country? Anything you really miss from back home?
I think my favorite things about Norway are the landscape, the ‘work to live’ not live to work culture, and the seafood. I’m not a huge fan of Norwegian food in general, but the seafood is just out of this world.
Sometimes I miss the American corporate rat race…it was kind of all I knew back in the states, but I’ll take a carefree work environment over a stressful one anyway.
Right now I’m just freelancing and awaiting a move from Bergen to Oslo so I can find another full-time job.
The things I miss from the U.S.? Mainly the food. Norwegian food leaves something to be desired.
I really miss having Mexican food at my leisure, as well as affordable sushi. Does that mean I technically miss Mexico and Japan then?
I also miss American football. Waking up at 2 a.m. to stream a Pittsburgh Steelers game is no easy feat!
Of course, I also miss my family and friends dearly.
GGG: Sure thing. What do you wish you had known before moving away?
I seriously wish I had paid better attention to Celsius vs. Fahrenheit scales.
I had only been to Norway in the winter prior to moving and asked my boyfriend how the summers are (so I could pack and donate clothes accordingly). He said they are super warm.
I recall looking at the average summer temperatures in Bergen and discovered it was 16C…never considering what it might have been in Fahrenheit. Then, after moving here, I was having to wear gloves and a jacket during the evenings in July!
So, I finally decided (after the move, mind you) to look up what 16C and made the discovery that it was only 61F!!!! Apparently “warm” to a Norwegian cannot identify with “warm” for an American.
GGG: Recently you posted your travel confession. What would have been your second one?
I have so many travel quirks, but I must admit I’m a sucker for local beers. Even if it means trying them at an airport.
If there is a beer on tap that I have never heard of, you better bet I’ll take that over ones I have heard of. I get some weird satisfaction out of trying local brews. And I like all types of beer, just not all beers.
GGG: Yum. Well you’ve mentioned before that you’re not the biggest fan of staying in hostel dorms, but you manage to travel affordably. Any tips or resources for ladies wanting to do the same?
I think this comment came from me after I was in Bangkok and found vomit on the walls of the community bathrooms. I was probably still quite bitter!
I guess I don’t entirely mind hostel dorms, but I am not 21 any longer and can’t party like I am despite sometimes trying. When I travel I prefer to couchsurf…it really is the best way to get to know a local and what their daily living is like.
I have many friends I have met from couchsurfing and wouldn’t trade my experiences of meeting them for a night in a fancy hotel ever. But, I typically only couchsurf when traveling solo.
If I am traveling with others, we often just stay in a design/boutique hotel and split the bill. In Europe, splitting the bill at a hotel like that typically costs about the same as one night in many hostels.
I also use sites like Airbnb or Roomorama for a cheap place to stay. I used Airbnb in Ljubljana, Slovenia a while back and the host greeted us with local liqueur and stories for days around his kitchen table at 10 p.m.
We paid merely $10/night for the apartment (he stayed with his friend) and got a real dose of the local culture in the mix. It was a great experience!
GGG: Great tip! It looks like it took some time, but Bangkok captured your heart. What did you in?
Well, it took my fourth time in Bangkok to make me fall for the city…and I truly think it was a combination of staying in a nice place in a much less touristy area as well as not having any plans.
You see, when you go to Bangkok with an agenda…or list of sights you want to see…you can be disappointed by the inconvenience of getting there (as well as getting ripped off in the process).
When you go to Bangkok, take it easy… The city itself is a rush, so if you exude the same chaotic nature…it WILL result in disaster.
You kind of have to channel your inner free-spirit in such a place and just go with the flow. And give yourself ample time in the place. If you rush your time in Bangkok, I can assure you it will stress you out and you will not like it.
GGG: Noted. As a fashion connoisseur, where has been your favorite place to shop for cheap and cute clothes in your travels? What about for high end goodies?
Well, working as a freelancer right now does not allow for high end goodies! It hardly allows for cheap and cute clothes either! I did a lot more shopping when I had a job in the US and traveled around then.
I actually found my favorite shopping to be in Montreal, Quebec. I used to go up there for work and would always extend my stay throughout the weekend so I could indulge in some good wine and shopping.
I was also impressed by the fashion in Bangkok. Coming from conformed Scandinavia, it was refreshing to see so many shops offering unique pieces.
Now only if I had the body of a Thai and could fit more than just one of my legs into them!
GGG: Last one! Where are you living now, and do you have any travel plans for the future?
I’m currently living the in-between life. The boyfriend and I sold our flat in Bergen, Norway and are awaiting a new place in Oslo (proving to be quite difficult to shop from the other side of the country!)
Once we are there and settled, and I find a job, I will most certainly need to book a trip somewhere as my feet are already starting to itch for new ground.
I have a soft spot for eastern Europe…so it will probably be somewhere there. Romania and Bulgaria seem to be calling my name right now.
All photos in this post are courtesy of Megan Starr.