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She Roams Solo Ladies – Iris – Travelling for food

TRAVELLING FOR FOOD

I started She Roams Solo to help travellers connect, tell their story and inspire others. That is also what the “She Roams Solo Ladies” series, a series of female traveller interviews is about. A chance for travellers to tell their story, share what makes them passionate, share their ups and downs, their life lessons and travel trials and tribulations. To tell the world their wonderful stories. You can join the She Roams Solo community for women who travel for free here. You can also fill in this form to be involved and tell your story. Below is a story from Iris from A Fork on the Road.

Since travelling what are some new discoveries of food you didn’t know existed. What countries/cities where these in?

I read a lot (A LOT) about gastronomy, so usually, I already know what’s the food like before going somewhere. I actually write a list of the things I absolutely want to try, both for long-term trips and for a weekend getaways. Even for layovers! The only thing I can recall not being aware of, because media makes us thing we Europeans already know everything we need to know about the US, was the alligator I found tasted while living in Arkansas, or the deep fried beer (yes, beer) I had at Texas State Fair.

 

travelling for food - eating alligator

Tell us about some of the worst food you have eaten on your travels.

With all due respect to Icelanders, I have no doubt whatsoever about this answer: their fermented shark (hákarl). I hate to say this, because I cherish and respect all forms of gastronomy and there are really very few foods I’ve tried and didn’t like… but it tasted like urine smells. It was very unpleasant, to the point I gagged even if I tried not to.

Tell us about some of your most remote travels?

I don’t know about remote, since I’ve never gone anywhere that was not ready for tourism. I’ve been to Iceland, which geographically might be considered remote, and were awe-stroked by the incredible beauty of its landscapes. I’ve been to the Bolivian Amazonian rainforest, and swam with pink dolphins and ate piranha. I’ve wandered the Sahara desert and its night sky left me speechless as few things had before. I’ve been to Yakushima island in Japan and deep-dived with manta rays and hiked the Princess Mononoke forest. But, again, although far away from my home, Spain, I wouldn’t consider these destinations “remote.”

 

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If you were to create your own restaurant or catering company and you were to use your travel experiences as inspiration, please describe that restaurant. Which countries and cultures would you take from? Etc

I’ve thought about this quite a lot, actually. I think I would have a different restaurant everyday of the month, meaning each day would represent a different country and then maybe twice a month I would do a fusion kind of menu. This way, every day would be sort of an event, and people would make reservations according to the cuisine they want to try. Spanish, Moroccan, Turkish, Italian, French, Burmese, American, Indian, Japanese, Greek, Scottish, Peruvian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Hungarian and Portuguese would be some of the recurrent gastronomies to be tasted in my little restaurant!

Can you tell us about some stories where you were eating with locals in a social environment or where food brought you together with locals

There are plenty of them! I will always remember fondly when I was living in Arkansas, in the US, and the adorable Wineland family invited me to their home for Thanksgiving. They saw I loved the southern dishes so much, the day I was leaving for Spain (after nine months there) they taught me how to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal. So we had Thanksgiving again in May. It was the sweetest goodbye ever.

Another lovely anecdote happened when I was in Japan. My dear friend Asuka invited me to have lunch with her co-workers in a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo (the best one I’ve ever been to, granted I’ve never been to China). They were a very lively and smiling group, but they didn’t speak English or Spanish and, unfortunately, my Japanese is pretty much non-existent. At first I though I was going to be bored as hell, but not at all! With gestures, smiles and pointing, we managed to communicate just what was important: they wanted me to feel part of the group even though I couldn’t take part on the conversations, and they did so by having me enjoy food that was new to me, for instance the delicious century-eggs. I ended up having a blast!

Iris-Travelling for food

Can you recommend your favourite gastronomy book or two or three

A Cook’s Tour, by Anthony Bourdain, is my all-time favorite. I’ve read it four times already, and it’s part of the reason why I’m currently living in Vietnam. My other recommendations are in Spanish, as of today (hopefully someday they would be translated into English!) are ¡Plato Limpio!, published some months ago by one of my former classmates in the Food Journalism course I took at The Foodie Studies, and now good friend, Sandra Gómez Wong. Now I’m reading Ultimate Eats, from Lonely Planet, and it makes want to wander and hungry at the same time!

What are some of the lists you have written of things you must try in some of your trips (this might help inspire others)

This differs largely from country to country and also from the type of trip I’m taking. It’s not the same going for a week to Italy, France and Portugal, which are my neighboring nations and therefore I already know beforehand what their gastronomy is and I have even tried some in my home country, than going to a more remote place with different ingredients, etcetera. My first remote country, being from Spain, was Japan. And my list was this one:

– In a supermarket or restaurant with pictures or shokuhin sampuru, if it looks weird and I don’t recognize what it is, I try it.

– If I read it and don’t understand the name, I try it.

– If it’s something very local, I try it.

Sometimes I regretted my choice, like when, unknowingly, I ordered for breakfast a toast with tiny fish on it, but most of the time I was very happy. And that has been my list ever since!

If someone is visiting your home town what do you recommend they eat and are there any specific places

In Cartagena (Spain, not Colombia), people have to try michirones, pulpo a la cartagenera and caracoles, from la Bodega Nicolás for example, and crespillos from Panadería Cavite, and then go for an asiático coffee in El Soldadito de Plomo. In Murcia, they absolutely have to try pisto murciano, zarangollo, marinera and paparajote in La Tasca el Palomo, and try a pastel de carne in Pastelerías Zaher.

What is left of your food bucket list

The world is SO big. My bucket list is still less than half-way through. The only place in Africa I’ve been is Morocco. I’ve never been to the Middle East. I have most of South America and all of Central America to explore. I still haven’t been to the Balkans, except for a brief work-related stay in Zagreb. In Asia, I’ve only been in India, Myanmar and Japan (this changes this year, though). And I haven’t been to Oceania either. Plus, even those countries I have been to, there are so much left to explore! I mean, there are even regions in Spain I don’t know yet, like Extremadura.

What are the foodie rules you live and travel by

If it doesn’t conflict with your sense of morality or your beliefs, try everything at least once!

What’s your research process or planning process before you travel (more importantly how do you pick out where you will eat)

Apart from the “If it’s strange to me, I try it” rule, I read a lot. For instance, if Anthony Bourdain recommended it in any of his books or shows, I try to go. I read recommendations from fellow bloggers, like A LOT. And, if I have the chance, I ask friends that have been to my destination, even friends of friends; sometimes friends from that country that are immigrants or expats where I’m at the moment of planning. When I have all of this blogger, friends or acquaintances recommendations, if they are too many for the length of my trip, I search opinions and pictures on Google Reviews and Yelp in order to choose the one that I think might be more authentic or more surprising. Also, I always try to locate the local food market or farmers’ market to plan my days around its schedule, because usually is where I find the best food.

From the look of your Instagram account, you seem to me like a very curious person. Who are some of your favourite writers, songwriters and you idols

Seriously? That’s like asking me if I love more mom or dad! Well… my favorite musicians, if I base my decision only on which ones I listen to more frequently, are Irish folk-music singer Glen Hansard (“Winning Streak” is a very positive note to self when I’m doubting my steps), French-Italian singer and lyricist Calogero (“Tu est fait pour voler” should be an anthem for all roamers),  and Spanish songwriter Ismael Serrano (“No estarás sola” might be one of the nicest songs for solo travelers out there).

As far as authors is concerned, it keeps changing with my mood. Amin Maalouf is high on my list, I think what Arundhati Roy writes is pure art, Bill Bryson cracks me up, I would love to get to write about food as Anthony Bourdain did, of course Maya Angelou is a referent to me, I reckon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a must for every girl in the world, and from the classics and modern classics I would pick Victor Hugo, Fitzgerald, Kerouac and Cortázar. But, if you ask me about idols… I don’t do that. There are people I admire for several reasons (musician and writer James Rhodes is one, for example, since he’s someone who rose above one of the worst tragedies a person can endure, made beautiful art out of it, plus he moved to Spain and loves, understands and respects our mixture of cultures way more than most Spaniards) but at the end of the day they are all people, just like us, and idolizing them can be a dangerous thing. Idolizing makes people lose perspective.

 

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I love your instagram account because it is full of amazing quotes like the ones below

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” – Azar Nafisi

 

’The most dangerous thing you can do in life is play it safe.’’ – Casey Neistat

What are some of your favourite quotes

Again, hard to choose just a few. Obviously, “Not all who wander are lost” by Tolkien would be one of them. I’ve had to explain so many times that I’m not looking for anything besides experience and adventure, that I’m not trying to find or lose myself. I travel because I love to travel. I travel “too much” because I like it “too much”, it’s as simple as that.

Other quotes would be Oscar Wilde’s “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all” or Hemingway’s “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” I guess that’s why I started to travel so much and why I worked so hard to have my job and my passion intersect as much as possible. My biggest fear was (not anymore) to look back someday, see my life in the distance and feel regret or, worse, be bored by my own story.

 

You have been to so many different countries from Poland to Bolivia and what seems like all over the States. Where is next on the list of things to do?

Now I am in Vietnam and I’ll spend May in Cambodia, June and July in Indonesia, and then I’ll go to Croatia with my family. After that, who knows. I am actually waiting on a response for a very prestigious gastronomy scholarship starting in September, so please cross your fingers for me!

 

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Tell us about your time in Myanmar. By the sounds of it, you met some amazing people. What was the inspiration behind going to Myanmar? Tell us about the experience

I went to Myanmar just because Bagan looked gorgeous on pictures, and it simply stole my heart. By week two I was already inquiring about rent prices, but the visa for my country is still just 28-day long. As I told on my Instagram recently, it is now high on my top three destinations. It was the small and not so small things, you know? Like how, instead of asking me “How are you?” they would say “Are you happy?” Everybody treated me, not only well, but as if they were my dear friends from minute one. I remember fondly that waiter that gave me a ride to my hotel only because he thought it was safer for me than walking a road with no streetlights (not because of the people, but the traffic). Or that taxi driver who took me to the water festival with his friends because he thought it was going to be more fun for me than going by myself. Or the girl that gave me a ride to a meditation temple really early in the morning so that I wouldn’t go alone. Or the grandpa that randomly introduced me to his grandson on a sidewalk because he wanted me to encourage him to keep up with his already wonderful English. I felt so at ease, so welcomed, so safe, so happy. Myanmar’s memories always make me smile, thankful.

 

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My next trip was to Myanmar, and it is now on my top three destinations. I fell totally in love with the country. How not to? Instead of asking me “How are you?” they would say “Are you happy?” Everybody treated me, not only well, but as if they were my dear friends from minute one. I remember fondly that stranger that gave me a ride to my hotel only because he thought it was safer for me than walking a road with no light (not because of the people, but the traffic). Or the one who took me to the water festival with his friends because he thought it was going to be more fun for me. Or the one that gave me a ride to a meditation temple really early in the morning so that I wouldn’t go alone. Lovely people, tasty gastronomy, incredible landscapes and shrines and towns. I loved it so much that I went around asking how much rent was in each place I visited. If you’re indecisive about a destination on 2020, go to Myanmar. And DM for guides and drivers recommendations! • • • #myanmar #burma #inlelake #fisherman #wanderlust #ontheroad #lonelyplanet #natgeo #natgeophotos #natgeotravel #momondo #instatravel #mytravelgram #travelawesome #travelstoke #exploremore

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You have also been to India. Did you have any trouble with the food? What types of food did you love and enjoy? Were you a solo traveller in India?

Yes, I travelled solo, but I hired the same driver for almost all of my trip (Manoj, great man, if you happen to go the Golden Triangle I can give you his contact). About the food, it was absolutely delicious, but some of it was just too hot from my bland Mediterranean diet! 

 

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Tell us about your time in South America. How long were you there for? What were some of your favourite experiences and best food eaten, people met etc

I was there only for a month, we spent a couple of weeks in Peru, one and a half in Bolivia and some days in Atacama, Chile. Not quite enough time for any of the places, I tell you. But I wasn’t by myself then, I was with a group of friends who are all teachers and were only available during school holidays. The best yet more challenging experience was to do the 5-day hike to Machu Picchu, across both a glacier and the jungle. In our way up we met Chapulín, a Quechua cook who made us the best mustard chicken and guacamole with tequeños I’ve ever tasted. He was really talented and, lucky for me, willing to share his secrets!

 

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What do you do to work from home and travel? How long have you been doing this for? What are some of the ups and downs of being a digital nomad?

I am a freelance translator and writer, so I really only need my laptop and good Wi-Fi at least once a week. What I do is I wake up kind of early when I’m traveling, visit during the daylight hours, and then work after sunset for about 5 or 6 hours a day. I won’t be rich any time soon, but I make enough to pay for humble accommodation and economy-class plane tickets. The ups of being a nomad are, obviously, the possibility of seeing as much of the world as possible and configuring my own schedule. The downs, I hardly ever truly have a long holiday, I usually work seven days a week to make up for days lost on route or long weekends of hiking from time to time. Also, one thing I struggle with as a nomad is romantic life! I have yet to find a partner who is as allergic to stillness as I am. But, hey, it’s all just a matter of priorities, isn’t it? I’ve chosen and will choose a hundred times to attend to my itchy feet rather than my relationship status. That means it’s all worth it!

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