Native Angeleno & Globetrotting Newbie
Susie was born and raised in beautiful Southern California and until recently has only traveled domestically. Just this year she encountered a turning point on her travel journey and finally made the decision to take a trip abroad for the first time at age 35! After itching to travel internationally for some time, she booked a 3 week adventure to Turkey and Greece!! Talk about go big or go home. There’s no turning back after a trip like that, she’s officially been bitten by the travel bug and is currently planning the rest of her life around travel!!
LEARN MORE ABOUT SUSIE’S TRAVELS & HOW SHE WENT BEYOND HERSELF:
Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about and what motivates you?
I’m passionate about people, I think that’s why I like writing so much, it’s my way of reaching others. I’m also into languages, I’m currently trying to master Spanish and pick up Arabic. Before this, I had the opportunity to tutor English to non-native speakers and absolutely loved it. I love learning about other cultures and enjoy sharing about my hometown.
That’s why I have recently created a blog (https://medinaismeeblog.wordpress.com/) for those who want to “tour” Southern California; I’m like the unofficial Los Angeles ambassador.
Where do you live, work, and play?
I live in South Pasadena, work in Glendale, and play all over Los Angeles.
When would you say your travel journey started?
I’ve always wanted to travel, but always had some excuse/obstacle to going. This time, I made it a priority, and I had a friend I was traveling with to keep me accountable. So my global travel journey started this year, May 2017.
Why did you wait to travel until now?
I had patches of temporary jobs or unemployment, so I wasn’t financially secure enough to plan an international trip. I’ve traveled domestically during that time but I wanted to wait until I had a secure job before I planned my first international trip.
Who or what impacted your decision to travel abroad?
Living in Los Angeles, you constantly meet people from different countries and cultures and I was always curious about the countries where many of my friends are from. I was also very interested in hearing my friends’ travel stories which added fuel to the fire. My immediate family didn’t travel at all when I was growing up, so I was always naively fascinated with traveling but just needed to actually do it. The itch was always there, but I was recently finally in a good position to go. I had no excuse not to. Plus I had other friends who wanted to join, so that helped motivate it to actually happen.
What did you learn about yourself on your adventure?
Oh wow – soooo much. I realize that I fall in love pretty easily – and not just romantically or in my friendships, but now with places. I loved Istanbul and Santorini so much that I want to not only go back to those cities again, but I also want to see more of their countries. But the other part of me thinks I should really see new things. I also learned that I am much more social than I thought – not being able to speak to people in Turkey (because most don’t speak English) was surprisingly hard for me because I felt I couldn’t connect with locals.
Where is your absolute favorite place (aside from home) that you’ve visited and why?
Istanbul is my favorite. At first, I felt disconnected, but then one day I went out by myself to go to the Grand Bazaar (my friend was sick). That day I took the train into the historic district, where the famous Bosphorus Strait is. I was amongst the locals, in a foreign place, with old buildings, a bustling crowd, all overlooking a breathtaking body of water. I was literally elated. Plus people in the Grand Bazaar spoke English! Ahh, at last I found connection. The next day, my friend and I had a tour of Istanbul and I got to see more of the spots we hadn’t yet explored. I was mesmerized and motivated to see more, but unfortunately that tour was on our last day there, so I sort of fell in love with it on my way out.
What would you recommend to someone traveling (abroad) for the first time?
Ahh, I will have a large grin and hug them, and tell them it’s going to be so fun and such an adventure, but that there are some things that kind of suck that you won’t expect. So don’t think international travel is 100% fun and relaxing. There’s long lines, un-air conditioned buildings, bad customer service, and people who will not speak your language to help you find water or a bathroom when you need it most.
I also thought I was a genius for bringing two suitcases with me so I could pack in souvenirs. That was not smart for the island hopping I did in Greece. In 13 days, we’d been to four hotels, and had to lug my luggage on and off ferries, in the very sunny heat on the sometimes uneven ground. I’m surprised my Turkish lamps survived. I highly recommend packing light and stay flexible, you’ll be moving around a lot.
What’s the best advice you’ve taken regarding travel?
Don’t choose your hotel abroad without doing some thorough research first. Hotels here in the U.S. have a certain expected standard – not so much the case abroad. My friend I traveled with told me this and I’m so glad she was adamant about us paying more for a better place.
Where will you go next and with whom?
Russia and Romania with my friend Carmen, and Spain with Fidel.
In the meantime, I would also love to sneak in a trip before the end of the year, maybe to Mexico or Puerto Rico, or maybe Istanbul again.
How do you decide where to go, do you have a bucket list?
I do have a bucket list and there’s an order to the places I want to visit. It goes something like this:
- Mexico (an extended stay)
Ideally, I’d like to go in this order, but any of these places are fine, or even others, it just depends on many things, like time-off balance at work, bank account budget, time of year, etc. I’m not at a place yet where I want to travel alone, so how I decide where to go is sort of contingent on finding a friend who also wants to go with me.
What are your top 3 tips and reasons why everyone should travel?
- It’s fun.
- You can see things you only saw in books or magazines before.
- You meet different people and make friends around the world.
Any travel mishaps that you care to share or warn others from happening to them?
Only the most notorious amateur mistake you could make – forgetting my passport in the room!!
Sigh. That was the scariest thing. Luckily, our hotel in Istanbul called our cab driver (since they arranged for our pick-up) and told him that I had left it there. Before this, the cab driver joked with us the whole way from the hotel to the airport. He didn’t speak English, so he used Google Translate on his phone to make his jokes which was hilarious. He’d then record our replies, and have it translated into Turkish so he could understand us. He did this as he drove stick-shift in traffic. So when he handed us the phone and it was the hotel, we thought he was joking.
God was really looking out for us that day, because we had just pulled up to the airport unknowingly without my passport! Neither of us had received the hotel’s attempts to call our phones, so we would’ve been dropped off and pretty much stuck at the airport. Luckily, our driver took us back to the hotel (even though the hotel offered to bring it to us), and I got my passport! I was so scared, but it ended well.
What can you not leave without when you travel?
A PASSPORT! Lol. Also a portable iPhone charger so I can take as many pictures and Snaps as possible.
What quote inspires you to be adventurous?
I don’t know if this is a quote, but I saw a meme that said this, and it sort of made me think… It could all be gone tomorrow. Always remember that.
The world is changing daily – one minute you think Europe is safe to travel to, and next minute, there’s random acts of terrorism. As I heard, Istanbul was tourist friendly, but our tour guide said that the hospitality and tourism industries have suffered greatly recently because of the political climate in Turkey. I don’t know what will happen in 10 years, 5 years, or even 1 year. Health, family, finances could all change – so my overall attitude to everything is to appreciate now, and do all the things I can do while I’m young, single, and financially capable.
Any final thoughts? How can people stay in touch with you?
Planning a trip is an underrated part of travel that most people don’t talk about. When going to Istanbul, I was exhilarated and nervous – so many people told me how unsafe it was to travel there. To prepare I read lots of travel blogs; one in particular offered great suggestions and tips and I was really appreciative for that.
I got to thinking, that as a native Angeleno, I’m at a perfect advantage to tell travelers and transplants to this city, about all the cool things to do and see in L.A. There’s always so much to do and see, it’s incredible. I already get asked from time to time about where to go and what to do, I thought, why not put all of this knowledge to use – I can write and share some cool information.
This is why I created www.medinaismeeblog.wordpress.com. (Ismee means “my name is” in Arabic, but it also sounds like ‘Medina is me’ which I thought was a cool play on words). Feel free to stop by the blog, get more details on my trip to Turkey and Greece, and if you’re in Los Angeles I have lot’s of great recommendations on there as well.