Blogger Reena Ganga

Introducing a new blogger at Gadling, Reena Ganga…

Where was your photo taken: In Athens, Greece.

Where do you live now: I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, but am now based in Chicago.

Scariest airline flown: A travel agent once put me on what I thought would be a Qantas flight from Sydney to Beijing; however, when I boarded the plane, I was surprised to discover I was on a codeshare flight, which was being operated by China Eastern Airlines instead. The aircraft had certainly seen better days. For one thing, there was a massive gash in the plastic-y cabin wall, and then there was the sickening rattle of the overhead bins, which would sway violently and threaten detachment at the slightest hint of turbulence. I’m not afraid of flying, but let’s just say that was 13 hours of my life that I would not like to repeat.

Oh, and then there was the domestic flight in Ethiopia where I discovered the prior passenger had peed in my seat. That was interesting.

Favorite city/country/place: I love Laos for its beauty and sense of tranquility (the many monasteries no doubt contribute to this) and enjoyed Bosnia for its atmosphere of resilience. The people there are surprisingly happy and optimistic given all they’ve been through.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Ethiopia has to be the most untouristed place I’ve ever been. In fact, just about the only foreigners I met when I was there were either Peace Corp workers or diplomats. The upside of this is that the country retains a strong sense of authenticity when it comes to its food, culture, religion and lifestyle, so you feel like you’re seeing the real Ethiopia as it has been for centuries.

Favorite guidebook series: I like to turn to social media and local publications to learn what’s new and hot in a given destination, so if I must pack a guidebook, I’ll generally turn to Lonely Planet, which is good for getting a quick overview of the must-sees. For more in-depth info on the history and culture of a place, I’ve found Rough Guides to be indispensable. And for truly off-the-wall destinations, Bradt Guides have it covered like no one else.

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? Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s one of those countries you’re unlikely to visit as your sole destination, but it’s the perfect place for a layover between the US and Europe. I’d spend some of my money on a visit to the Blue Lagoon, which is a geothermal spring full of mineral-rich mud, and a perfect way to unwind after a long flight. If I’m lucky, I might even get to see the aurora borealis (aka the northern lights).

Favorite foreign dish? Restaurant? I don’t usually like the idea of cooking my own food in a restaurant (kind of defeats the point of eating out, right?) but I found a fabulous chain of hot pot restaurants in China called Hai Di Lao. The food is not only super tasty, but the restaurant puts on a dramatic tableside display of noodle-making and offers free manicures, massages, and games while you wait. What’s not to love?

How did you get started traveling? I’ve actually been traveling my whole life – my parents took me on my first overseas trip when I was just 6 months old. I started traveling independently when I was 16 and from that time on, I diligently socked away my money and vacation days so I could take trips abroad each year. A decade later, I was so passionate about taking a yearlong trip around the world that I quit my wonderful job as a television reporter and hit the road. It was the most amazing thing I ever did and now my mission in life is to convince others to travel in whatever way they can.

When I’m not writing for Gadling, I’m… sharing tips, tricks and inspiration for world travel at my website, Wanderplex.