After travelling to 35 different countries over the past 4 years I get asked a lot of the same questions as people are always interested in what I’ve seen and how I perceive a place they themselves may or may not have travelled to.
I honestly love these questions as it creates a discussion based on personal experiences, so I thought why not write it down for others to read and see if they agree or disagree. Please remember that nothing I post is intended to offend, but if you don’t agree with some or all of this, then that’s totally ok with me. If anyone has other questions you’re curious to ask, I’m an open book, so ask away!
Best Food: Italian
It’s a given isn’t it? Everyone ALWAYS says Italy. However, if you don’t know me personally then you’ll be new to learning that I am one of those annoying people at restaurants who have a very bad reaction to gluten. So why would I choose Italy, a country laden with gluten as my favourite eating destination? Well, Italy recognises Coeliac digestive conditions as a disease, not a lifestyle choice. The government offers sufferers a monthly allowance to purchase their required food to live a normal healthy life, rather than paying triple the price for basic ingredients, or going without and substantially shortening their lifespan. Which means there were so many gluten free options to pick from that I never felt disadvantaged. Plus, not everything Italy makes is pizza and pasta! The risotto options were endless and the gelato flavours were to die for!
Worst food: Iceland
Paying through the nose for standard food items and local delicacies consisting of fermented shark and sheep head? Need I say more? No thanks!
Best country: Israel/Palestine
If you haven’t realised yet from how much I spout off about this country and all the pictures I post, I loooovveeee Israel AND Palestine. Hands down it has been one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing destruction and war up close, but witnessing the strength of its people and also the want for change and peace from the youth (whether Muslim or Jewish) was incredibly refreshing and life changing. You realise how insignificant your problems are when you visit a country like Israel and Palestine.
Worst country: Wales
I’ll be honest, my experience wasn’t great with locals. I can’t say I’ve ever loved being heckled about the colour of my hair, but it was taken to the extreme in Wales. I was literally followed for 10mins being hurled ginger insults… #GINGERPRIDE
The towns I visited were also lacking in activities, but if you’re into frolicking in greenery like I am then there would have been so much more to see with more time available, especially further north like riding on Europe’s longest zipline! It’s also pretty cold and wet like the rest of the UK, so I felt constantly soggy.
Best locals: Northern Ireland
If you’re after an up and coming location, where the locals will stop you on the street for no reason other than to tell you to have good day, then Northern Ireland is the place to go. Everyone was so happy and friendly and just wanted to talk your ear off about their sisters husbands mother who did such and such in the 80s, or ask you all about your own life. I started to realise I had to allow more walking time to get from place to place because I’d likely get stopped for 30mins+ chatting away to a random on the street!
Worst Locals: France
The French are known to hate everyone, especially tourists of American and British origin. Once they found out I was an Aussie their demeanour became much more pleasant. That’s not to say I didn’t have a fabulous time with my French friends I reunited with in certain cities, but they are more open minded individuals and were the first to speak honestly about the lack of friendliness in French culture.
The main attitude issue is in big cities, or provinces with a large tourist industry. The locals, although needing tourist income, have become bitter towards tourists as they are taken for granted and not well respected. My suggestion when visiting France would be to attempt some french language such as a greeting and always use your manners when needing help. Basically, if you don’t want to encounter an angry frenchman spitting in your general direction, don’t get in their face demanding something and speaking only in English. You definitely won’t get any help at all that way.
Best Priced Country: Poland
Are you on a tight budget, love history, but love your liquor more? Poland is the place for you my friend. Everything you could buy was 5 zloty or less and when you convert that you’re looking at approx £1 ($1.70 AUD). You could get drunk on classier stuff than a goon bag and still pay less! Now that’s a real bargain. After 10 days in Poland I looked back over my spendings and found on a big day I was only doshing out £5 compared to an average of £20-50 in other European cities. I think I’ve found my next international home.
Worst Priced Country: Switzerland
Let’s be honest, you don’t go to Switzerland if you want a budget holiday. The businesses pays their employees well, but the country also has high taxes. Even the locals know to cross the borders into France, Italy or Germany to buy their goods for a more reasonable price. I knew I was getting in over my head (and daily budget) when one day in Geneva I went to a local grocery store and bought 2 tomatoes, two apples, two bananas and a tin of tuna. It cost me €14… Lesson = Learnt.
Best Airline: Norwegian Air
Norwegian Air is like gliding your butt through clouds in budget luxury. The service provided is far superior than their competitors and the technology onboard is pretty neat. They have screens that pop down from the cabins to demonstrate safety protocols instead of getting a crick in your neck to catch a glimpse of the air hostesses pretending she’s actually interested in your safety, but really she’s thinking about what she’ll eat for lunch.
There is plenty of leg space available which is what we all demand, but won’t pay for. Then the difference was that there were actual pockets like a long haul carrier in the back of the seats to store your own things, as well as reading material provided by Norwegian Air. Your jaw just fell open, didn’t it? Most importantly the flight staff are friendly and the check-in and boarding procedures are easy-peasy. What more could you ask for?
Worst Airline: easyJet
For a budget airline they are always 20% more expensive compared to their competitors. They are also incredibly strict on only one bag as carry one. Often women with handbags or men with a satchel are forced to try and stuff their bag into their carry on case or risk not boarding the plane at all, when we all know it shouldn’t be a problem to store them under the seat in front. Pretty sure the flight staff take pleasure in making everyone’s journey hell and the orange branding is just gaudy. easyJet is the Donald Trump of European airlines.
Favourite Airline: Ryanair (a sneaky extra cause I can)
If you can’t tell I’m a sucker for cheap airfare (don’t judge me, I know you’re all subscribed to Expedia!) and if the option to get a flight around Europe for £10 is available, you can be sure Ryanair is the one selling it. I have ALWAYS had a great flight with Ryanair as everything is just so simple. There is no fuss and they aren’t crazy strict on the one bag carry-on policy.
*cough* Fucking easyJet. *cough*
Best Snack: Paprika Pringles
Travelling across Europe I’ve come to realise that Australia is severely lacking in the snack department… My tastebuds have been singing HALLELUJAH since that first chip touched my tongue. Sounds very sensual, but I can assure you I looked like a bin chicken searching for scraps reaching my hand in that tube. It quickly became my most favourite treat that I’d gorge on if I felt my guts could take the beating…. I call on the Pringles company to get their butt in gear and deliver the Australian public what they are currently missing in their lives!
Worst Snack: Rice Cakes
If I never have to see another rice cake again, it’ll still be too soon. Being gluten intolerant they became the cheap alternative for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You think of a topping, I’ve probably put it on a rice cake. Picture this… The taste of crunched up paper mashing around your mouth into a paste like substance, falling into your stomach only to feel like you’re full of dusty air, BUT their main goal is to make you bloated and constipated. I may as well have just eaten a pastry and dealt with the repercussions.
Best Weather: Israel
This might be because I find it similar to Australia but Israel is hot like the sunrise from early spring right up until the end of Autumn. It’s basically scorching and I love becoming a giant tomato with legs in the summer. Endless heat and dry air isn’t for everyone, but jumping into the ocean at Tel Aviv, or swimming in rivers and waterholes dotted around the country amongst the desert is definitely an Australians favourite pastime.
Worst Weather: United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland
It’s never not raining at some point during the day here, yet it baffles me how no one has an umbrella. I reckon the locals are either waterproofing their skin or they’re a bunch of hybrids because water just runs off them. The rain makes for a cold and miserable feeling, only to be over compensated with the sweltering heat you’ll find in all the cafes, bars and shops littered around the major cities and towns. The aim is to provide a comforting feeling for residents and tourists when seeking warmth from the cold, but they don’t quite reach the hygge feeling Denmark has trademarked. You end up shivering outside, then sweating inside and using up so much energy putting on all your winter gear, only to pull it all off again to enter a store. That’s a lot of effort just to trek out to a Boots for some toothpaste.
Best Dressed Guards: Danish
Their uniforms is a direct replica to the English I’m surprised the Queen hasn’t had words. The only difference is that the Danes wear a smart blue version. What I loved most is how unknowingly dangerous they were. Their weapons were always loaded and their shoes had inbuilt knives to shiv any opposing threat and let me tell you, they weren’t afraid to use them either. The gangs around Penrith could learn a thing or two. You can be certain no tourists are trying to take happy snaps with these guards, they are all business and any approach might see you seriously injured.
Worst Dressed Guards: Greek
From their hilariously flouncy uniforms, to their extravagant leg-kicking march, there is noway anyone could take the Evsoni seriously. Personally I thought they were street performers when I first spotted them.
It is meant to be an extreme honour to graduate into the Evsones as they are an elite form of infantry for the Greek army, but I think most would crack up with laughter, rather than cower in fear if approached by this lot.
Best Travellers: AUSTRALIAN (and NZ)
You’ll all say I’m being biased, but I’m the first to say that I personally don’t always fall into this category as I have some British tendencies, and also I tell people when they piss me off. However, I and most others have never meet an Australian that will say no to an adventure. Aussies are always up for anything whether it is a drinking game, hiking, swimming, sky diving, climbing a mountain or just walking around the town. They’ll make mates with everyone and are more often than not so laid-back, they’re practically reclining. Who wouldn’t want to hangout with a personality like that?
Worst Travellers: American
In contrast to awesome Aussie traveller stories, everyone has always met an American they didn’t like. I’m sorry to say, but Americans have been hit with the entitled self-absorbed arseholes stick. At least it’s not the ugly stick, no one wants to be hit with that… They are perceived as believing the world owes them everything and are quite often obnoxious to the locals. I can’t stand ignorant travellers and Americans seem to make up 90% of them.
What I can happily say is that in recent times I have come to meet more and more Americans that are wanting to break the bad stigma their country has come to be known for. The amount of wonderfully warm and generous Americans I have made great friends with and would love to have visit me here in Australia is growing. I can only hope that the more general self-awareness around behaviour is recognised by themselves, that other nations will begin to not only see, but experience the positives of creating a better relationship with Americans.
Ok, so what I would love to hear, besides being told that I’ve got it all wrong and Paprika Pringles suck (No they don’t, YOU SUCK!) is some of your own best vs. worst so we can laugh over them together. So please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section.
♥ Love from Leah