Where was your photo taken: Caye Caulker, Belize
Where do you live now: Brooklyn, New York
Scariest airline flown: Varig, the Brazilian airline, just a couple weeks before it went bankrupt and closed down for good. I was traveling between Miami and Argentina (Buenos Aires, and then Ushuaia) and my flight wasn’t just delayed but canceled in both directions. My luggage didn’t make it successfully in either direction. There was quite a lot of chaos.
Favorite city/country/place: The Vatican, because of how I visited it. My mom is a doctor, and one of her patients is a priest who happens to be on the committee that manages the Vatican Museum. Before I went to Rome, she told me to get in touch with him. All his email response told me was to show up at 7:30 a.m. to meet Giovanna. That’s it.
I showed up, and ended up getting a private tour of the Vatican, starting with the Sistine Chapel. My guide made sure I was the first tourist through the turnstile and took me straight to the chapel, where I was entirely, utterly alone (with her) in the chapel that’s normally such a tourist trap. We walked into rooms not open for the public and it was incredible. Later, I met one of the priests in charge. I think he assumed I was part of the first priest’s parish. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t disabuse him of the notion by saying, ‘no, my mom’s just his dermatologist … and we’re Jewish.’
Most remote corner of the globe visited: A small town in Belize called San Jose, where there’s no electricity and the villagers still speak Mayan. We stayed for a few nights in a guest house, battled a tarantula in our cabin and were hosted by some of the warmest people ever. In virtually every way, it truly was the end of the road.
Favorite guidebook series: Lonely Planet or Moon, I suppose, but the truth is I tend to do more research online and ask locals on the ground once I’m there.
Solo traveler or group traveler? Small group traveler, and solo is good, too. I like meeting people in hostels, but it’s nice to have someone to really fall back on – as long as your travel styles mesh.
Worst place to catch a stomach bug? Haiti! I visited my best friend who was on a fellowship for a year in a rural clinic in a town called Tomasik. It was a great experience, but she and her co-fellow came down with malaria, typhoid and possibly dengue fever between the two of them!
First culture shock experience: I lived in Kyoto, Japan, for a semester in college, and my first real struggle was the sleeping arrangement. I stayed with a host family and had a roll-up futon in my room, and that was okay. But the pillows. Oh, the pillows! Traditional pillows are stuffed with, like, sand, or acorns, or other assorted hard stuff. On day two, I went to the department store for a “Western” pillow, and all I ended up finding and getting was a fluffy Disney pillow that I slept on for the rest of my time there.
Where would you buy a second home/retire: Somewhere mountainous, like northern Japan or, I don’t know, Bhutan.