Blogger Melanie Renzulli

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Melanie Renzulli…

Where was your photo taken: The Temple of Artemis ruins in Sart (Sardis), Turkey.

Where do you live now: Washington, DC, has been my home on and off for almost 20 years.

Favorite city/country/place: The more places I go, the more favorite places I have. I’m known for being obsessed with Italy, and that is definitely one of my favorite countries on earth. But I have also lived in Germany, India, and Turkey and love each of those countries for different reasons, ranging from the foods I ate to the friends I met. On the other hand, if I had to pick three cities right now, they’d be New York, Rome, and Istanbul. Then again, Paris, Mumbai, and Hong Kong are pretty cool, too.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: That’s relative, isn’t it? I mean, remoteness depends on your frame of reference. Perhaps one of the most remote places I’ve visited was Jericoacoara, Brazil, mainly because of the effort it took to get there. But other destinations I’ve visited that felt remote include the Greek island of Chios and the Konkan Coast of India. I’m sure plenty of people would consider Alabama, the state where I was born, to be a remote corner of the globe, too.

How did you get interested in travel writing? I began writing about travel in the late 1990s, mostly for dot-coms and trade publications. Around the same time, I was invited to move to Rome to work as an au pair. That was the first time that I approached travel with the idea of writing about it, too. Each day when I was there, while the child was in school, I set out to investigate the city, writing down my observations and collecting practical information (times, admission, transportation options, etc.) as I went along. After Rome, I returned the U.S. with a handful of writing clips and some Rome expertise under my belt. I managed to parlay that experience into a job as a writer for as well as two guidebook writing opportunities. I’ve been writing about travel ever since.

Favorite guidebook series: I should say the guidebooks I have written are my favorites. Indeed, they come in handy as references. But guidebooks have their own specializations that make them useful for different kinds of trips. I’m a visual learner, so I really enjoy DK Eyewitness guides, which are great for maps and cut-away graphics of architecture and art. Time Out and Rough Guides are the best all-around guides; they’ve gotten me through quick weekend trips as well as through stints as an expat. I look to Blue Guides and Michelin’s Green Guides (for which I have written) for in-depth coverage of art and history.

Scariest airline flown: Admittedly, I’m not a great flier. Take-off and turbulence always rattle me. Despite that, I don’t have any scary airplane stories with regards to plane performance. I did, however, observe a semi-scary moment years ago when flying from Amsterdam to New York on Pakistan International Airlines (the cheapest flight I could find at the time). Once the flight reached cruising altitude, the pilot made an announcement that we were in Pakistan sovereign territory and anyone caught possessing drugs of any kind could be punished by death. As you can imagine, the few passengers that had just spent their entire time in Holland partaking of a certain illicit substance were visibly shaken.

Celebrity you’d most like to sit next to in first class. The first celebrity that comes to mind is Jerry Seinfeld, because the episode that juxtaposes his and Elaine’s experiences in first class and coach is one of my favorites. That said, I’d love to sit next to a celebrity that would make me laugh the whole flight, such as Larry David, Chris Rock, Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, or Louis CK. Funny conversation makes the time pass quickly and the turbulence less of a concern.

When I’m not writing for Gadling, I’m…trying to do a little bit of everything. On the writing front, I primarily cover USA travel for a large travel website and Italy travel on a personal blog I’ve maintained since 2006. Additionally, I am the mother of two young boys, which keeps me very busy with the usual parental duties.

Dream Travel Destination. Barcelona and Tokyo are two cities I’ve always wanted to see. I’d also love to learn how to tango in Buenos Aires, tour Jerusalem and the Holy Land, swim with manatees in Florida, and visit the elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka. The list goes on and on…

Blogger Paul Brady

Introducing a new blogger at Gadling, Paul Brady…

Where was your photo taken: This photo was taken on the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam by a Spanish tourist who ended up covering part of the lens with his finger. (I cropped it out here.) It always makes me wonder about how many other funny, weird or otherwise imperfect pictures are out there, taken by tourists for tourists at places like the Hoover Dam or the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids.

Where do you live now: I live in Manhattan and I love it.

Scariest airline flown: It wasn’t the airline as much as it was the anticipation of the flight that scared me: I was looking at a roughly 24-hour trip from Singapore to New York in the middle seat of an aging Singapore Airlines 747, crammed full of people. I was terrified that I’d just lose it about 16 hours in but amazingly, I made it. Something about flying that far puts me into a state of suspended animation. I probably could’ve gone another 12 hours, though I’m not rushing to test the theory.

Favorite city/country/place: The eastern beaches of Uruguay are wild, raw, beautiful and, except for one month a year, almost entirely devoid of other visitors. They also serve really great steaks in Uruguay, which is always a plus in any destination.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Easter Island vies for the title of most remote inhabited island on the planet, even if flights frequently come in from Tahiti, Santiago and Lima and there are internet cafes in Hanga Roa. But once those jets take off, it’s hard not to feel like you’re hopelessly adrift on a tiny boat in the big blue Pacific, wondering if anyone will remember that you’re still out there.

Favorite guidebook series: My current faves are the endlessly researched and exhaustively written Moon Handbooks, by authors who actually know what they’re talking about.

Have you ever had an unexpected layover? If so, what did you do? After an airport fire in Miami this spring, I was re-routed to Buenos Aires for 25 hours, where I did A LOT of walking, some decent eating and got a great deal on a really great hotel, the Moreno.

Favorite foreign dish? Restaurant? Singaporean chilli crab is one of the greatest inventions in human history. You can get a pale imitation of the real thing at Fatty Crab in New York but you really do need to go to Singapore and pick your live crab out of an aquarium.

Worst place to catch a stomach bug? Every place you catch a stomach bug is the new worst place you catch a stomach bug. (Northwestern Nicaragua takes second place.)

Favorite travel book: I am still mad at Leonardo DiCaprio for ruining the novel of a generation in the film adaptation of The Beach.

Blogger Libby Zay

Introducing a new blogger at Gadling, Libby Zay

Where was your photo taken: Drinking a beer beside the Mediterranean coast in Salobreña, Spain.

Where do you live now: Baltimore, Maryland.

Type of traveler: I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl, who (for better or worse) rarely does research and prefers to get on the ground and ask questions. I often snag last-minute deals and am a notoriously light packer.

Worst hotel experience: In Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, I stayed at a hotel that appeared to be no worse than most backpacker hostels – save for the fact that the shared bathrooms were nothing more than troughs that seemingly hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. The light switch was located in the hallway, and some little brat decided to flip the switch on me and ran away giggling. As you can imagine, I was left pretty helpless.

Favorite place: This is a toughie, because am a firm believer that every place has its own redeeming qualities and have never been somewhere I absolutely hated. That being said, once city that recently charmed me is the port town of Manaus in the Brazilian rainforest.

Where do you hide your emergency cash? My stash spot is usually in my bra. But if there’s a lot of cash, like when I had to bring home a month’s paycheck in Ecuador, I go for the shoes.

Scariest airline flown: Luckily I haven’t had any near death experiences so far, even in so-called puddle jumpers. My preferred mode of travel is by bus or van, mostly because I like to take in the scenery at a slow pace. This does, however, result in some harrowing experiences. In South America, a bus driver once came to a complete halt and – literally – jumped out of the window because of engine trouble. I have also been at the wheel while nearly running out of gas in the middle-of-nowhere North Dakota and when the driver’s-side door opened around a dangerous curve in Staten Island.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: This would probably be Puerto Bolivar, which is deceivingly not actually a port but instead a village in the Ecuadorian rainforest. It took a seat-gripping overnight bus ride and a butt-aching, four-hour canoe ride to get their from the capital. As always, it was totally worth it.

Favorite guidebook series: I’m not much of a guidebook person, but I like leafing through Lonely Planet and Moon for tips. I also dig the concept behind Viva Travel Guides, a series that anyone can submit to and attempts to be the “most up to date” guidebook.

When I’m not writing for Gadling, I’m… probably writing another website, mainly AOL Travel or City’s Best. In the off chance I’m not glued to my computer screen, you’ll likely find me doing one of the following: walking my dog, watching a band, or drinking a beer. The possibility that I’m on the road is also pretty high.

[Photo courtesy of Libby Zay]

Blogger Elizabeth Seward

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Elizabeth Seward.

Where was your photo taken: Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I was lounging at the Los Suenos Resort there (on the Pacific side of the country) for a few days. This photo captured me mid-thought, writing alongside the ocean. It should be noted, however, that I might have just been gazing off at a Scarlet Macaw.

Where do you live now: I’m a newbie to Austin, TX. I recently relocated from New York City. Fed up with the things in NYC that one easily becomes fed up with after nearly a decade of residence, I decided to learn a thing or two firsthand about this much lauded southern city. People told me Austin was great for music, the outdoors, nightlife, food, and weather, and those people were right. While I’m still navigating my way around, say, having a house and a yard (with a pecan tree out back), the transition into Austin has been smooth… and warm.

Scariest airline flown: I don’t routinely get jittery on planes. I prefer to anxiously deprive myself of sleep the night before, powerlessly succumb to deep sleep mid-air, and let the landing jar me awake. But a recent viewing of a “World’s Most Extreme Airports (!!!)” kind of show clued me in on the fact that I’d flown into, apparently, two of the most EXTREME airports out there: Saint Martin/Sint Maarten and Vail, Colorado. And yeah, when I think back to those flights, I’m pretty sure I was wide awake well before landing.

Favorite city/country/place: Anything not overrun by kitschy tourist attractions probably appeals to me. I don’t have any sort of rain forest vs. mountains vs. desert vs. city preference, but I did go somewhere this past summer that was remote and took my breath away: The Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. This sliver of land farther north than the city of Quebec juts deep into Lake Superior. In the summertime, daylight sticks around until 10pm (or after), the weather is warm but not too hot, and the lake is, I kid you not, glistening.Most remote corner of the globe visited: I once took a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica and from there I caught another little plane (only 6 of us, including the pilot, fit on board) to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica (about 4-5 hours by car south of San Jose). I then took a boat across Golfo Dulce, a body of water teeming with dolphins and brightly-colored wildlife, to an eco-resort called Playa Nicuesa. Playa Nicuesa can’t be reached by car because it’s in the middle of a more or less untouched and protected rain forest–no roads even go there. The open-aired resort serves delicious local and seasonal food. And the best part? There’s no TV, Internet, or cell phone use this deep into the rain forest, so you’re alone with nature, whether you like it or not.

Favorite guidebook series: The only travel guidebooks I own are the ones I find in thrift stores (or the ones my mother finds for me in thrift stores) and among those, it’s not easy to pick a favorite. The photos are usually as inspiring as the information is outdated. I enjoy meandering through places using my own kind of guide: some combination of tips gathered from cutting edge travel sites, friends’ Facebook feeds, and recommendations made by locals.

How did you get started in travel writing: I got into travel writing by way of an industry that encourages travel: music. While on tour, I found myself with a lot of free time between arriving at a city and performing in the evening. Reflexively, I began documenting my travels (venues, restaurants, vintage stores, good trails, off-the-beaten-path stuff, etc.)in my journal. My fascination with exploring became more public when I started a website,, to help me keep an organized database of my favorite places (and eventually the favorite places of other writers, many of them also touring). The launch of the website simultaneously acted as the launch of my travel writing career and now I often find myself in a reversed situation from where I started–trying to squeeze shows into my free time when I’m traveling.

The ideal vacation is: A vacation that gives me freedom from the stresses back home. I travel all of the time for work, be it writing or music, and people will get mushy about my travels (“Oh my gosh! I wish I could just take off work and travel all of the time!”) without considering the fact that I’m actually still working when I’m traveling. I’m almost always still plugged in, still dealing with email, and still seeing news headlines in my peripheral vision. My ideal vacation is one that allows me to actually check out, detach, and detox while my inbox overflows.

Type of traveler–vagabond, luxury, camper, package, adventurer, etc.: I’ve had my favorite travel experiences while living in a van and driving across the USA on tour, washing my hair in McDonald’s bathrooms no less. Inevitably, vagabond and adventurer has to be my reply… but I openly embrace what every style of travel has to offer. READ: You won’t find me snubbing my nose at a pampering massage treatment, freshly caught lobster, or plush hotel beds.

On your next trip, you are forced to schedule a 24-hour layover. You have $200 to spend. Where do you spend the layover and why:

Less than 24 hours to have some fun? Bring it.

$20 cab into town from airport, it’s evening.
$30 bed reserved at likely awesome spot with probably good people, courtesy of Air B&B.
$19 round of drinks for me and my hosts at their favorite dive bar in town.
$1 two songs on the juke box.
$20 admission into the circusy loft party the guy at the dive bar tells me about, the one where people are fire dancing and hula-hooping and the live band is inviting me, and everyone else, to come on stage figure out a way to be percussive.
$15 late night/early morning breakfast at the best 24-hour diner in town with new friends from the loft party. Maybe my Air B&B hosts are with me, too.
$3 coffee I grab at the first coffee shop I see that looks good, and by good, I mean a coffee shop that looks like it’s been around the block a few times.
$7 earrings I talk myself into buying from the nice girl outside of the coffee shop.
$2 tip for the talented musicians playing on the sidewalk.
$3 local newspaper to read while basking in the park’s sunshine.
$15 ticket to borderline-pretentious-but-maybe-still-cool early afternoon cultural event.
$5 post-event obligatory purchase (roasted peanuts? bookmark drawn by a child in need?).
$20 lunch at some tasty spot, a place with a low tourists-locals ratio.
$20 thrift store purchases.
$20 cab back to airport.

Done. Why? Because 24-hour layovers suck. Getting an authentic feel for a town is way better than getting an authentic feel for an airport.

Photo Credit: Ben Britz

Blogger Dana Murph

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Dana Murph…

Where was your photo taken?
Poipu Beach in Kauai, Hawaii! I leave a piece of my heart there when I’m away.

Where do you live now?
North Carolina, born and raised.

Favorite city/country/place?
My favorite city (so far!) is Tokyo. It’s a huge culture shock from what I’m accustomed to, but in a great way. The skyline is gorgeous, the people are incredibly kind and the food is awesome. The sunrises are second to none, too, and let’s not forget the warm Toto toilet seats.

The USA is definitely my favorite country — I’m sure being able to call it home has a lot to do with it. But I also love a good ole’ road trip, and America is probably the best place in the world for that. The roadway system here is incredible, and there’s so many remote locations that can be driven to with relative ease.

My favorite place is the Na Pali coast of Kauai, Hawaii. While there, I viewed it from boat, prop plane, and the Kalalau Trail, and I simply couldn’t get enough of it. I’m a self-proclaimed sucker for natural beauty, and it doesn’t get much more awe-inspiring than this!

The ideal vacation is…
Visiting remote destinations (or popular ones in the off-season). I’ve found myself smiling at a slew of typical tourist traps before, but given the option, I’d greatly prefer to stray from the beaten path. The setting of my ideal vacation? Beaches, a rainforest or two, mountains… basically Kauai.Most remote corner of the globe visited?
On a recent visit to Panama, my husband and I drove out to the end of the pavement on one of their unnamed roads, parked the car, and walked to a desolate beach known as Punta Chame. We stayed out there for a couple of hours, gawking at the expanse around us and looking through the haze to see Panama City in the distance. We put a mile or two under our feet there, and never ran into another soul. We even managed to find a few unbroken sand dollars and a stunning, fully intact conch shell. Needless to say, that’s fairly decent evidence that not too many people trek out to this point.

We also managed to leave the world behind on an unguided snowmobile trip through Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. During the winter, the bulk of the roads in the park are completely snowed over, and you can traverse the hills and valleys for miles with no sign of human impact. Of course, being able to get within a few feet of moose really helps to complete the fantasy.

Dream travel destination?
I’ve always dreamed of going to Bora Bora and staying in one of those glass-bottom bungalows over the ocean. In photos, the water seems so blue, so intensely clear — something about the ocean just makes me feel more alive than anywhere else. It’s a photographer’s paradise, for sure.

Connected or disconnected?
Don’t hate me, but I really prefer to stay connected, or at least have my GPS, internet, and smartphone within arm’s reach. If I want to disconnect, I just put a temporary mental mute on my email and phone calls. I’ve grown to love and appreciate the security of having a smartphone for translations, directions, restaurant reviews, and whatever else I need while exploring a new place.

Favorite guidebook series?
I know I keep mentioning Hawaii, but there’s just something magical about that place. And to experience that magic to the fullest, I’ve always used the “Revealed” series by by Andrew Doughty, regardless of island. Those books have never let me down, and they’ve definitely led me to a few places that I would’ve never found otherwise.

Scariest airline flown?
On a Delta flight cruising back into ATL in a thunderstorm, we hit a few air pockets that sent our stomachs flying. A few women and children nearby let out squeals, but other than that, I’ve been pretty fortunate to not have any remarkably bad experiences in the air. Knock on wood.

Next trip?
In January, I’m heading up to northern Montana with my hubby for a week of snowy fun. Snowblading (tiny skis, basically), adventuring in the Jeep, and the most exciting part: snowmobiling!