Blogger Pam Mandel

Where was your photo taken: At the signpost near the pier in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Where do you live now: Seattle, Washington.

Scariest airline flown: Here’s the embarrassing truth: I kind of hate to fly. If I could take the train everywhere, I would. That said, there’s a distinction between my hating to fly and my being afraid, and I don’t know that I’ve ever been scared on a flight.

A few years back I was in an “unscheduled landing” at O’Hare. We sat on the runway and I looked out the window at a bunch of emergency equipment rushing across the tarmac. It took me about ten minutes to realize that they were heading towards my plane. It’s because of that incident that I would rather not, when given the choice, fly American Airlines, but at no point during the whole dramatic undertaking, was I afraid. Mind you, recently, I was on an Aerolinas flight and the attendant was aggressively strict about turning off devices. “This plane is TOO OLD!” he said. That was kind of scary.

How did you get started traveling? When I was a kid, it seemed like we were always going somewhere. We moved across the country or we did epic road trips or family vacations. I was an exchange student, a kibbutz volunteer, a backpacker, an expat. I don’t know that I ever started traveling in any kind of official capacity, it seems like something that’s always been part of how I lived, from the time I was very small.

Favorite place: I hate this question because almost every place has something to recommend it. I love the Quinalt rain forest because of the giant trees and the way it glows from the ground and because it smells alive. I love Honolulu because it’s messy and multicultural and because you can swim in the ocean every morning when you start your day. I love Cambodia because it sparks all kinds of alternate past/future lives for me, as an archeologist or a foreign correspondent or a world saver or profligate slacker. I love Seattle because it feels like home in a way that no place ever has.

I’m a pushover, I love almost everywhere I’ve been. Almost. I didn’t think much of Tampa. Sorry, Tampa.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Antarctica! I was in Antarctica in February, 2011.

Favorite guidebook series: Baedekers. I own a tiny stack of Baedekers from the late 1800s. They have ticket stubs in them, and fold out maps, and they are absolutely gorgeous.

First culture shock experience: I traveled in India for about three months a long time ago. India itself was okay — while I was rattled a little bit by the decibel levels in Old Delhi, in general, I didn’t freak out too badly. But upon return to the US, I was an absolute mess. I still remember that first trip to the supermarket. I stood in the shampoo aisle and started to cry. I was completely, utterly overwhelmed by the quantity of choices. It was awful, I was crushed with despair. I returned home empty handed.

Where would you buy a second home: My husband is from a small town in the middle of Austria, about halfway between Salzburg and Graz. If we had the money lying around, I’d absolutely pick up a little piece of land with a two or three bedroom cottage on it. Nothing fancy, a patio facing west, a place to hang the laundry. It would be great to have our own place there, to know that any time we wanted to, we could bug out and be European.

Languages spoken: My mom insists that Spanish was my first language. We had two working parents in our house and a Mexican nanny; apparently, she spoke only Spanish to me. I did Spanish and French in high school and I was pretty good at it, but I’ve forgotten most of it. I learned Hebrew in Israel; I had a wicked vocabulary but I could never read very well. When I fell in love with my husband I decided it was time to learn German so I could converse with his family. My German is passable, if a bit rusty. I also have the equivalent of a serious southern accent because the family speaks the Styrian dialect. My German teacher gave me a pretty hard time about it. “Where on earth did you learn to speak like that!?” My biggest woe is that the German has pushed out all the other languages in my brain. There’s a historical metaphor in there somewhere, right?