Get to know me better in the Travel Tag
Three months ago I published my blog Brenda Explores. This anniversary (you gotta celebrate the little ones too, right?) seemed like the perfect moment to tell you more about myself! Instead of writing a regular blog post I thought it would be fun to create a Travel Tag.
So, I came up with 10 interesting travel related questions and I interviewed myself, lol. What was my most outrageous activity in Greece? What kind of blooper photo did I recently take in Rome? Why did my parents and I have a blast in Gran Canaria?
To answer some of these questions I had to dig deep into my photo archives and the photo albums of my parents (thanks mom!). Get ready for some old, unedited, and over-edited (remember Microsoft photo editor?) pics. Please feel free to copy this Travel Tag and use it for your own blog or video.
1. What does your most ideal trip look like?
My most ideal holiday includes a combination of nature, city, and beach! It’s funny because as a teenager I would have answered ‘as long as it’s hot and includes a beach’. I was the type that laid on my beach towel for seven days straight, went for an occasional swim (but NO way my hair would get wet), and packed 10 different party outfits because that was my only ‘activity’. Nowadays, I love being active (as a Dutchie I try to rent a bike everywhere I go) and I don’t mind getting my clothes dirty (hello, washing machine!).
One trip that perfectly combines nature, city, and beach is a road trip Michel and I made visiting Miami and The Keys. In 10 days we explored the vibrant (and sometimes crazy!) city life of Miami, cycled through the amazing Everglades (and spotted a few crocodiles here an there), and relaxed at gorgeous white beaches in the Keys. Ever since this vacation Michel and I aim for a balance between these three elements.
2. What are you three favorite travel photos?
The photo above was taken in Death Valley during our road trip on the US West Coast. In 2,5 weeks Michel and I drove 5000 kilometers with our rented Kia Rio (glad it survived the trip, haha!). We passed four states (California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona) and saw four huge cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and San Diego).
I had been dreaming about this road trip for ages. And it turned out to be everything (and more) than I ever expected. We experienced highlight after highlight (Grand Canyon, Route 66, Antelope Canyon – just to name a few). I will cherish this adventurous trip for the rest of my life.
This pic was taken in West Village when I visited New York for the second time. In 2014 I went to New York for the first time with one of my friends (hi, Sharon!). I remember I was blown away by all the impressive skyscrapers (and their breathtaking views), diverse neighborhoods, interesting museums, cool shops (we had never seen malls so big and got lost), and beautiful parks. Our vacation went by in no-time. Seven days seemed waaaay too short!
So when Michel brought up he had never been to New York I immediately said LET’S GO. Usually, I tend to visit new places but New York is definitely an exception (not the only one by the way, lol). We booked a hotel for two weeks in the summer of 2018. We knew it was going to be freaking hot, but it was nice to explore the city at a slow pace. Would I go back again? Hell yeah! Just tell me when and you betcha I will be waiting for you with a huge smile (and suitcase) on my face (and the suitcase next to me of course, haha).
This is a photo of me browsing (no clue what I was doing actually) in the grain fields of Tuscany in Italy. This was one of those trips where Michel and I did little research for. Michel had been to Tuscany before and he loves this part of Italy! Because of his stories, I knew I would enjoy it as well. He was absolutely right! I was really taken back by the lovely warm tones of the hilly landscape, stunning medieval towns, and tasty Italian food.
3. To which place would you like to go back to?
My most visited destination (five times!) is London (England). London is my go-to place during Christmas time. All shops seem to make an effort to dress up their store windows. And in nearly every street you will find lovely Christmas trees, decorations, and happy jingles. Would I go back to London? Yes, please! Other cities I would like to return to are Paris (France), Berlin (Germany), and Stockholm (Sweden). I’ve only been to these cities when it was either really cold or raining all the time.
Besides revisiting cities I would like to go back to Tenerife (Canary Islands). I have been to Tenerife three times before, so you can call me a fan! A huge benefit of Tenerife, and all the Canary Islands is the weather. The climate is usually very pleasant, even during the winter. I bet Michel would enjoy this tropical island as well. I can’t wait to bring him along some day. I can be his own personal tour guide, haha!
4. Show your worst recent travel photo…
Over the years I have collected hundreds (if not more!) failed travel pics. I deleted most of them but some have slipped my eye. Most of my blooper photos can be divided into separate categories. I have got photos with my eyes closed (or half closed looking stoned), people walking in the shot (and me looking at them like ‘whuuut’) or I do some kind of awkward pose (I usually miss one of my limbs and end up looking like an alien).
The photo below was taken at a fountain in front of the Pantheon in Rome (Italy). I zoomed in (the photo bottom right) so you can clearly see why this isn’t one of my favorite pics. I tend to not pay enough attention to my surroundings, oops! I ended up with a photo of me sniffing water with my nose. I’m even smiling doing it! This was NOT the photo I had in mind, lol.
5. The best surprise during a trip?
The best surprise I experienced during a trip was seeing Horseshoe Bend at our US West Coast road trip. Before we left on this 2,5 week road trip we did a LOT of research. We created a pretty long list of all highlights we hoped to see, but Horseshoe Bend wasn’t on there. It was on our ‘nice-to-have list’ if that makes sense, haha! I was WAY more excited to visit the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and the Antelope Canyon. Those turned out to be amazing places (because I expected them to be), but Horseshoe Bend exceeded my expectations.
I was surprised by the greatness of this horseshoe-shaped kink of the Colorado River. I had heard about Horseshoe Bend before, but I never looked it up online. Visiting Horseshoe Bend, therefore, felt new and adventurous! The other three sites I mentioned were a little more touristy. We paid money to get in, received a map including a route, and stared at the viewpoints along with other visitors. Horseshoe Bend is free and there’s no map. There is nothing wrong with a touristy place, but finding Horseshoe Bend felt like I was Columbus discovering a new piece of land. Like a true explorer, lol!
6. The most outrageous activity you’ve ever done while traveling?
During my vacation in Chersonissos (Greece) in 2010 I wanted to do bungee jumping because, at that time, I was nearly turning 20. So, OMG, let’s do something out of my comfort zone! I mean my teenage years were about to end. No time to waste.
Ever since the beginning of this trip, my friend and I had watched people bungee jump at Star Beach. Seeing people jump off a big yellow crane every day started to make me curious…What would the view be like at the top? Would I dare to jump off? What would that feel like? So on the last day of our holiday, I decided I wanted to bungee jump. YOLO! Of course, that expression didn’t exist yet, but that’s probably what I thought.
The whole event went by in a rush! I do remember I was waiting in line for my turn. It took AGES and I was sweating like hell because I had to wear clothes (I lived in my bikini that vacation). Finally, a girl called out my name. Yaay! After that, I met two nice guys from the staff. They further explained all the steps and attached the necessary equipment to my body. Then it was time to get on the crane together…
We slowly we went up and I saw an amazing view of Chersonissos. Damn, instead of partying I should have explored the island more. And then, before I realized it, it was time to jump. It was definitely way higher than I expected (you can’t really tell from my photo below, but the Star Beach Facebook page has got some videos). I remember the crane stopped and the two guys told me I could jump. I decided not to think (because I would have backed down for sure) and just went for it.
The jump gave me a rush I had never felt before. My stomach turned upside down, inside out, I can’t even describe it properly. After the jump, the chord bounced back a couple of times above the sea. And just like that, it was over in a split second. The 19-year old me went home happy because I tried something new. But to be honest I didn’t think about the consequences. Nowadays, I’m not so sure If I would ever bungee jump again!
7. Favorite trip when you were a kid?
To answer this question I’m going all the way back to my FIRST vacation ever! When I was about five months old my parents took me along on a trip to the Brabantse Kempen in the Netherlands (it was only a one-hour drive from where we lived, lol). All the vacations I had with my parents were fun, so I decided to pick the first one because there’s where it all started!
To get some more detail about this trip I visited my parents and we looked at old photo albums. I found out we stayed at the lovely Landal Het Vennebos. This is an area situated in the woods where people can rent their own bungalow (nothing fancy though – you can see one of those in the background in the photo below).
In the Netherlands, there are a lot of places like the Landal Het Vennebos, holiday resort’s with a Dutch twist. These are family tailored locations which can include in- and outdoor sports, a swimming pool, restaurants, shops, and live entertainment. These type of vacations are popular among Dutch families because all the facilities are easy to reach.
My parents said their first family vacation was a big success. We mostly chilled at the pool (I ‘swam’ for the first time) and we took naps every day (I think my parents probably needed more sleep than me though). Gosh, life seemed so easy back then. Swimming and napping, haha! My father even wore boots, jeans, and a red leather jacket. I don’t believe I have ever seen him dressed that way. Those good old days…
8. Favorite trip when you were a teen?
I don’t have one, but two types of trips I enjoyed as a teen. In my teens, I traveled with my parents and friends separately. The best of both worlds! The vacations with my parents always included a warm destination with visits to cultural sites. And my friends and I choose a beach holiday or a city trip to a warm place.
My most favorite trip with my parents is our vacation to Gran Canaria. I remember we subscribed ourselves for a group jeep excursion to explore the island. Each group had its own driver since none of us were allowed to drive. The roads were considered too dangerous. It was a hell of a bumpy ride, OMG! Along the way, we also had to cover our faces in scarfs (my dad only had a napkin with him and looked hilarious) to prevent sand flying in our face. Combining that with us shaking around in the back of the jeep and looking ridiculous made us burst out in laughter multiple times.
My favorite trip with my friends is our trip to Paris in the middle of the Winter. Although it was freezing we did visit the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was so cold, but we didn’t notice because we held a photo shoot. In my photo archive, I see we took about 15 (!) pics which was considered a lot at that time. I also loved checking out art in the Louvre, but this museum is so big we didn’t got see everything. Our ultimate favorite thing to do in Paris was eating. We felt like proper adults ordering food in French. But please think twice before you sit down and order something! I once paid seven euro for a tiny cup of tea. Standing at the bar can save you lots of money in Paris
9. Where are you going next?
Before I started this blog post, Michel and I just booked a five-day city trip to Lisbon (Portugal). It has been two decades since the last time I’ve visited Portugal. I was two years old when my parents and I went to Lagos. We choose Lisbon because Michel and I have never been and we always enjoy visiting capital cities in Europe!
I can’t wait to see the ancient cobbled alleyways, old towers, interesting museums, pretty castles and cathedrals in Lisbon. What I love most about visiting southern European countries during the winter is the climate. In the Netherlands (but also in Belgium where I currently live) I’m used to pretty cold (no to any extremes though) winters that include a lot of rain. It’s awesome to have a warm vacation to look forward to.
10. What is your best travel tip?
My best travel tip is allowing yourself to be surprised by not overdoing the research part before you leave. These days it’s so easy to go online, reading travel blogs, watching vlogs, and looking up Insta photos. It’s hard to ignore the online world which leaves less room for you to be surprised. I’m basically telling you to stop reading my blog! Just kidding. I think resources can be extremely helpful, but try not to overdo it.
I’m guilty of ‘over-researching’ places. And I can tell you that it sometimes takes away the fun of traveling. As a travel blogger, I feel the pressure to show you the best places. What if I would stop doing research? I may miss seeing that hidden ancient temple in Thailand or that special tree in China. I won’t be able to write about how cool the temple was or show you a photo of that 3000-year old tree. But you know what? That’s not the end of the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I think preparation is important. Please read information on safety, local traditions, and the climate for example. But don’t take it too far by saving 100 Instagram geotags on your phone. Research the important stuff and try to travel with an open mind. You’d be amazed how liberating that feels.