Blogger Jessica Marati

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Jessica Marati…

Where was your photo taken: This photo was taken on my family’s beach in the southern part of Guam, the tiny Pacific island territory where I grew up. It’s probably one of my favorite places on the face of the earth.

Where do you live now: I’m based in New York, but I’ve spent the last several months living in Phnom Penh, where I’ve been researching and writing about ethical fashion, sustainability, and travel.

Scariest airline flown: Laos Airlines, on a particularly memorable flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. I had been warned that their track record was less than perfect, so I was hyper-sensitive to every unfamiliar whirr and pressure dip. The landing was bumpy, but thankfully I’m still here.

Favorite city/country/place: Are four-way ties allowed? New York, Paris, Bali, and the aforementioned beach.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Probably Carp Island, a private island in the Palau archipelago in Micronesia. One night, we were sitting on the dock when the sea started lighting up in brilliant blues and greens — my first encounter with bioluminescent plankton. All seven people staying on the island came out to watch. Combined with a star-filled sky, it was pure magic. Tierra del Fuego was pretty quiet too.

Favorite guidebook series: These days, I’m really digging my iPod Touch and the variety of travel tools available in the iTunes App store. Triposo offers free interactive city guides, World Nomads has great phrasebooks, and nothing beats TripAdvisor for the latest hotel and restaurant reviews. I also like to save travel articles, like the New York Times 36 Hours series, to my Instapaper for later reading. It’s allowed me to ditch the massive Lonely Planet budget guides I used to haul around.

Solo or group traveler? A little bit of both. I love taking trips to visit friends living abroad, because I get to experience the place with more context and better restaurant recommendations.

Favorite means of transportation: Hopping on the backs of motorbikes here in Cambodia used to terrify me, but now I’ve become quite used to it. Nothing beats weaving through oncoming traffic with the wind blowing through your hair.

Favorite foreign dish? Restaurant? My Roman grandmother makes the absolute best parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan). Beats any restaurant in Italy, or anywhere else for that matter.

Dream travel destination: Havana, Cuba. I think this might be the year!

Introducing Nick Dana, Gadling’s ocean race blogger

A critical part of putting together the right travel blog is in having the right kind of writers to inspire travel. At Gadling it’s always been my goal to have writers that love to travel first and that love writing and inspiring second. That’s why Kyle Ellison’s been on the road this fall sending dispatches from the 10 Days 10 States series or why I’ve been bouncing between Seoul and London and Libera and Chicago for the past few months. Spending time on the road is an important part of travel writing and it’s important that we lead by example.

Our featured bloggers Kent Wein and Heather Poole are great embedded travelers working at Gadling, delivering news on the industry from inside of the beast. And as part of that great culture of unique perspectives I’d like to introduce Nick Dana as our newest blogger embedded within the Volvo Ocean Race. As the only American sailor on team Abu Dhabi, Nick works as the Media Crew Member (MCM) onboard Azzam, the 70′ sailboat that will spend the next nine months racing around the world.

It’s already been a difficult start for team Abu Dhabi and there will be weeks of intense coverage and stories as the race pushes around the planet. Check back frequently for Nick’s dispatches and bookmark his coverage here.

Blogger Ori Epstein

Where was your photo taken: The side of the road in some unknown (to me) village in Rajasthan.

Where do you live now: The beautiful brownstone neighborhood of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New York, at least until I get priced out.

Scariest airline flown: I think I have the complete opposite of a fear of flying – I get so excited by travel that just getting to the airport or boarding a plane can leave me downright giddy. And even severe turbulence or drunk-acting pilots won’t shake that giddiness. Of course, it also helps that I typically fly airlines like Delta or JetBlue, rather than something like Khyber Afghan Airlines or Trans Air Congo. But if I really had to pick the scariest, I guess it would be the first time I flew with my then 3-month old daughter, a 12-hour, 2-layover Southwest cross-country slog. I don’t know exactly what the feeling was of changing a cranky infant’s toxic diaper in a cramped 737 lavatory 20,000 feet above Sacramento, but it might as well have been fear.

Favorite city/country/place: Barcelona? Jerusalem? Peru? Australia? How can anyone possibly answer this, there are so many incredible places. But fine, I’ll answer it – Mexico. It pretty much has everything: vibrant cities, quaint colonial towns, ancient ruins, beaches, jungle, desert, and an incredible cuisine. And best of all, for us Americans, it’s all right there in our backyard!

Most remote corner of the globe visited: It might not feel like it when you’re there, but Hawaii. Out in the middle of the Pacific, over 2,000 miles away from the nearest human settlement, it’s extraordinary that this tropical, volcanic, Asian melting pot is part of the United States.

Favorite guidebook series: I think that all the major travel guide publishers can be pretty hit or miss, and the authors are usually a better gauge of quality than the brand. But for this I’ll go with Bradt Travel Guides. I’ve never actually used Bradt, this is more of an aspirational choice. Their books, which cover places like the Congo, Somaliland, and Iraq, appeal to the adventurous traveller in me that I have not quite become.

Dream travel destination: Crossing the salt flats of Bolivia; exploring the Okavango Delta of Botswana; hiking to the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria. Basically, any country that starts with the letter B.

How did you get started travelling? My parents, inveterate passport stamp collectors, refused to let parenthood get in the way of their wanderlust. By the time I was 6, they had already dragged me along to places like Tanzania, the Seychelles, Israel, and Greece. Like it or not, they created a budding travel addict, and I can only hope to do the same for my daughter.

When I’m not writing for Gadling, I’m…either trying to corral a tireless 11-month old or pay off my law school debts.

Languages Spoken: Some Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Danish, and, thanks to my day job, legalese.

Blogger Jessica Festa

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Jessica Festa…

Where was your photo taken:

On Manganari Beach in Ios, Greece

Where do you live now:

Long Island, New York, but planning to move into the city by the end of the year

Scariest airline flown:

To be honest, I have never been scared to fly, even on really turbulent flights. If you asked me what my scariest plane ride was, however, I would definitely say the one right before I skydived in New Zealand!

Favorite city/country/place:

That is really tough, as I love every place I have ever traveled too for a different reason. However, if I had to choose I would probably say Sydney, Australia, because I studied abroad there and really felt like I got to know the city having an apartment there, a job, a gym membership, my favorite cafe, etc… The street I lived on was filled with bars, galleries, restaurants, shopping…It was just such a lively area. I also never got sick of walking to Darling Harbour in the mornings, sitting by the water, strolling through the Botanical Gardens, and passing by the many street markets in Sydney.

Most remote corner of the globe visited:

Hmmmm, I’d have to say in Chiang Rai, Thailand, when I stayed in the Akha Village. Just to get to our teaching placements, which were also in very rural areas, we had to walk 2-3 miles each morning. I absolutely love getting away from the big cities, though!

Favorite guidebook series:

I have actually only used guidebooks to plan one trip, as I usually wait to get to a place and ask locals as well as other backpackers what they recommend, or sometimes I’ll read some travel blogs. However, I will say that I love Rick Steve’s guidebooks. I used his as well as two others when I backpacked Europe and I felt that his recommendations and advice were a lot more useful and thoughtful than the other books.

Hotel, Hostel, or Other:

I’m a huge fan of hostels! Not only because they are cheaper (even if they were more expensive than a hotel I would stay at them) but because they are so social and fun. I have met many other backpackers in hostels that I have ended up traveling with in other places. I will also say that I am a big fan of home stays. I have done two of them and loved the experience of really getting to see the region I am in through the perspective of a local.

How did you get started traveling:

Growing up my family always liked to do road trips to different states. Then when I was around 15 my best friend Jenn and I got our families to plan a joint cruise to Bermuda, and from there we ended up going on cruises every summer together until we graduated. I got started on international travel after I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, backpacking on the weekends and stopping in New Zealand and Fiji on the way home. I literally became addicted and started planning my next trip (which ended up being teaching English in Thailand backpacking South East Asia, China, and Hong Kong) immediately.

Most Recent Trip:

I actually just got back a couple weeks ago from Ghana in Africa. I did some orphanage work there, which I absolutely loved, and also got to travel to some of the historical as well as natural areas of the country. What was really appealing to me here was the rich culture of music, dancing, and drumming. I seriously wish people in New York danced in the streets more, and that there was always music playing in the background.

Worst Hotel Experience:

It was actually in a hostel. My FIRST hostel, of course (and honestly, I have not had a bad experience in the 100 other hostels I have stayed in, go figure!). My friends and I were in Brisbane, Australia, staying at this hostel that immediately seemed really sketchy when we walked in. There were clumps of hair all over the bathroom floor and everything seemed damp and had bugs. It was so bad that I refused to pee all night. The people in our room seemed a little shady as well, and at 2 AM I was woken up to a drug deal going down on the bed below me. Let’s just say I slept hugging all my stuff the entire night.

Blogger Kyle Ellison

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Kyle Ellison…

Where was your photo taken: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. My wife and I kayaked around the backside of the island to Monkey Beach and found a wild monkey drinking an orange soda it had stolen from a Japanese tourist. As he chased the monkey around the sand in a questionable effort to retrieve his soda, another woman began screaming because a baby monkey had climbed into her kayak and was crawling all over her torso. The entire scene was pretty hectic.

Where do you live now: Lake Tahoe, California, an outdoor playground with far too many distractions.

Scariest airline flown: Definitely an Amaszonas flight in Bolivia. The plane only sat 8 people and it was so small my head hit the ceiling while I was in my seat. The pilot was sitting directly in front of me, and we had to navigate through the Andes in a dense fog. It was my first time looking out the window of an airplane and looking up at the mountains. When we finally landed, the runway was a narrow grass strip that was covered with grazing livestock.

Favorite city/country/place: If I could find a country that was an exact blend of New Zealand, Turkey, Laos, Uruguay, South Korea, Hawaii, and Ireland, then I would move there and never leave again.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Probably inside of a cave 60 feet underwater while scuba diving in southern Vietnam. The Vietnamese are infamous for eating anything and everything, and upon spotting some clams inside of the cave the dive instructor crushed them open with a rock and we shared an impromptu meal. Eating underwater is more difficult than you might think.

Favorite guidebook series: I’ve historically been a Lonely Planet guy, but for the last couple of years I’ve opted to travel sans guide book. Local newspapers and postcards clue me in on what I should see, and the rest is impromptu.

Worst hotel experience: Being stuck inside of a hostel in Quito, Ecuador in the middle of a political coup. Military helicopters were landing on the hillside next to us as gunfire sounded in the streets. An expat American war veteran who was staying in the hostel estimated we’d last 4 days before we ran out of food.

How did you get interested in travel writing? After I graduated from college I had grand illusions of paying my way around the world by writing for surfing magazines. Logically the next step was I moved to New Zealand, bought a surfboard, lived in a van, and never got anything published. But at least it got me writing.

Other jobs: I’m currently a boat captain in Lake Tahoe, but I’ve also been a sea kayak guide in Alaska, a bartender in Greece, a scuba guide in Hawaii, an oyster chef in Florida, the head of a non-profit in Cambodia, and a DJ in a Spanish nightclub. I also teach tennis.

You are a contestant on the Price is Right. What vacation do you
hope is in the showcase showdown? What’s included? What’s the price?
A two week stay at a water bungalow in Bora Bora where my two biggest decisions are when to go diving and when to get a massage. The price? Making your wife happy with a trip you’ve promised her but have no idea how to pay for: Priceless.