While borders continue to be restricted and travel seems just out of reach to most, there are other ways to feed the travel bug while we wait for the world to reopen. Whether your travels are to learn about other cultures or escape from the daily routine, books offer a fantastic outlet. Below are 4 books that have kept me energized and excited for future travels that I think you’ll enjoy reading this Spring.
The links to each book are affiliate links to my Bookshop page where you can support local bookstores with your purchases. A small portion will go to me at no extra cost to you. I’ve included an Amazon link as well.
Super Sushi Ramen Express: A Culinary Adventure Through Japan – Michael Booth
The author and his family move to northern Japan and work their way down the country exploring local food dishes to show that there is more than just sushi and ramen. The author is a food writer more educated in French and western cuisine, so you can pick up the excitement when he gets to nerd out on new ingredients and their sourcing. The chapters are super bite-size and independent of one another, so it’s a great book to pick up and progress a little bit at a time if you’re on a time crunch. I stopped at least once every couple chapters to look up pictures of some of the food and it made my mouth water.
Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home – Matt Kepnes
Written by my go-to travel blogger, Nomadic Matt, this is a chronicle of his introduction to travel and how his wanderlust helped him figure out who he was and where he would call home for over a decade of travel. His site is still one of my first stops when researching a new destination and, in the book, it’s really interesting reading about how each stop revealed more about both himself and his understanding of travel.
The Damage Done: Twelve Years Of Hell In A Bangkok Prison – Warren Fellows
Unfortunately relevant to current global affairs as 22 political activists recently started trial for the accused crime of sedition against the Thai monarchy. The book is a memoir of an Australian man who got caught trafficking heroine out of Thailand, a crime he doesn’t deny. However, the following imprisonment and decade-plus of confinement has you internally balancing the concept of crime punishment vs human rights. The book is gripping and leaves you wanting more of the humbling story.
The Way Of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George – Don George
This is what I’m currently reading. Having been writing for over 40 years, the author has finally collected his most memorable articles and stories into one publication. Though the introduction is a bit pretentious and privileged , once you understand his view on travel and wanderlust, the mood changes. One sentence begins explaining how travel “teaches us to embrace our vulnerability” and that really sticks out as a belief I share.
Thank you for visiting. This week, we are celebrating a few things:
Our 10th post! (gotta start where, right?)
Launching the public site – keltongoes.com
Optimism on vaccination rollout and states cutting back on restrictions. (Read as: travel opening up in the foreseeable future.)
So now I want to hear from you. What kind of content have you liked so far and what would you like to see more of in the future? I have created a page that I will leave open for a little while to gain inspiration for my upcoming writings. I created this blog as a place to store my memories, but the more you engage with me, the more I can bring you a long for the journey.
The Sazerac embodies the spirit of New Orleans. From the first sight to the last sip, its an ever-evolving experience that emulates a walk through the city.
The sight of the low washline in the glass bears resemblance to the city sitting below sea level, which is still evident on the buildings and plots of land today. The smell of sweet citrus followed by strong anise and fennel builds a complex nose that portrays the distinct districts of the city. The spice from the rye and bitters lingers in the throat like a hot Cajun meal.
New Orleans is the birthplace of many classic cocktails and, rightfully so, deserves a trip to indulge in a very good drink.
My ideal specs: 2oz rye whiskey, 1tsp sugar, 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, 1 dash Angostura bitters, stirred in ice and poured up into an old fashioned glass, lemon peel expressed on top and discarded.
Daquiri – Havana, Cuba
Let me be clear. This is not one of the frozen slushees you get at an American beach town bar. There’s a place for them, but that place isn’t here.
The classic daiquiri is essentially a rum sour; a delicate experiment as you seek to balance spirit, sour, and sweet to your taste palate. You envision Hemmingway sitting at the end of the bar, tossing back one after another, the cool drink cutting through the heat and humidity.
I haven’t yet been to Cuba, but it’s on my shortlist. Your first reaction to pictures and videos are of how it’s a land stuck in time – the classic cars, the beautiful buildings, and the warm sunrises. Then your thoughts change. Why are they stuck in time? Do the people really convey the opinion of the country or are they suffering at the hands of a political showdown they have no influence in? To travel to Cuba requires a bit of extra work. You must sign papers and retain proof that you’re only staying and spending money at establishments owned by individuals and not the state. Are our embargo’s helping anybody or just hurting the people?
My ideal specs: 2oz rum, 3/4oz fresh lime juice, 1/2oz simple syrup, shaken over ice, strained into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
Paloma – Mexico
Another drink without a definitive origin, the Paloma has enough popularity and local ingredients that I’m confident in saying the Jalisco region of Mexico is the birthplace or very close to it, at the least. Grapefruit production didn’t take off in Mexico until the 1960s so earlier versions may have been tequila and any available soda.
This is beyond refreshing and exactly what I would want to sip on while lounging on a Mexican beach. A lot of people mix grapefruit juice with soda water and a pinch of salt, but I think a grapefruit-flavored soda works well and provides a little extra sweetness to balance it out. I touched on wanting to visit the agave farms in a previous post, and I can’t wait to do so with a cold, delicious La Paloma in hand.
My ideal specs: 2oz mezcal, juice of 1/2 lime, poured into a highball glass, topped with ice and grapefruit soda.
Consider this a wish list of sorts. As I touched in another post, travel is going to continue to be weird, but if things can get close to what we might consider normal, then these are near the top of my go-to list.
My first two trips to Mexico were to Cancún. I loved the beaches and visiting Chichén Itzá, but I want to see a different, more authentic side of our neighbors to the south.
I read somewhere that 70-90% of the world’s mezcal – think a smoky version of tequila – is produced in the Oaxaca region and I would love to visit an agave farm to sample some of the spirit right from the source. It takes a certain level of dedication in this craft. Agave, the plant from which mezcal is created, is very slow growing compared to grains or grapes used in whiskeys and wines, so the farmers and distillers have to put upwards of a decade worth of work into a single batch. I prefer to sip mine with an orange covered in sal de gusano, or worm salt.
Known as the food capital of Mexico, Oaxaca is famous for its mole and tlayuda – both right up my taste bud’s alley. The region is full of many different microclimates which means the locals have access to a lot of various, fresh ingredients. You can enjoy meals from street vendors, small cafes, and flagship restaurants owned by world-renowned chefs. Mexico is more than tacos and empanadas and I want to find out all about it.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Just south of Oaxaca is Belize, one of the newer additions to my near-future travel list. Caye Caulker is a small island with only one inhabited area, but it sounds perfect. The people operate on island time and cars are prohibited. As someone who commutes on a highway every day to work, I would love a break from driving and traffic. Golf carts are used instead for transportation.
While it is the only Central American country without access to the Pacific Ocean, honestly… I don’t think I’d need it. Ever since we were introduced to diving in Koh Tao, Thailand, I have wanted to finish my PADI license and I’d love to complete it here. Belize is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef and therefore tons of dive spots including Shark Ray Alley and the Great Blue Hole.
In this area, you can find many ruins from the Mayan civilization and I’d like to spend a day learning the history of Xunantunich, Caracol, or visiting nearby Guatamala and seeing Tikal. The Mayans were such a unique people and I’m fascinated by their technologies and way of life.
Moving away from the Central American region, Japan, and specifically Kyoto is almost undoubtedly my number one travel destination. I love just about everything about the country – the food, the history, the aesthetic – it’s just a place I’ve fallen in love with the idea of. I got a small taste of it when Rachel and I were flying back from Thailand. We had an 8(ish) hour long layover and took a train into Narita City, but that just wasn’t enough.
Probably the most iconic image of Kyoto are the thousands of torii gates that surround the city and lead into the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine. I love the simplicity, but yet subtle power, that the design displays. The Gion district houses artists, cherry trees, and a traditional Japanese feel. It’s the combination of ornate tradition and welcoming modernism that attracts me here.
My first layover in Japan afforded me the opportunity to enjoy ramen and donburi. I won’t miss the sushi next time. Maybe I can share it with some of the monkeys in a Mt. Kurama hot spring.
Pho. Okay, next country.
But in all seriousness, Vietnam is such a beautiful country that is a lot more diverse than you may think. While I’d like to see the differences between the north and south including Ho Chi Minh City, I believe Hanoi will give a bit more well rounded experience of the country.
I would definitely want to take a day or two to adventure away from the city and check out Hao Long Bay, but the rest of the time I’d be more than happy to eat around Old Quarter, stuffing my face with as much bánh xèo and bún chả as I possibly can. Water puppet theater and museums are plentiful to get away from the hustle and bustle of traffic and presents a good way to enjoy some culture and learn a little history.
Africa might be the most diverse continent in the world which makes figuring out what region I want to explore first extremely hard. With Egypt and Tanzania fighting hard for that spot, I’d have to say Morocco is leading the way, due in part to its proximity to Portugal and Spain – two more destinations in my near-future plans.
Despite several travel bloggers that I follow saying Casablanca is skippable, I’d find myself tempted to visit the scene of one of my favorite all-time movies, but Marrakech offers a plentitude of sights and things to do to make it the more attractive stop (plus there are night trains if I felt compelled to visit Casablanca or Fes.)
The colors look mesmerizing and I can only imagine the sounds of the souks selling lamps, rugs, and other souvenirs or the smells of the spices and food stalls. I long for that. To get lost in the medinas, navigating only by the occasional glimpse of the Koutoubia mosque, yeah… that’s what I want to do. 2021, you need to get your act together so we can make this happen.
Wow. After the tumultuous year that was 2020, we started off the New Year with a siege on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. I don’t know about you, but I just need a break…
Don’t expect 2021 to pickup right where we left off last Spring, when businesses, organizations, and country borders started to close down or impose strict limitations. There will likely be a lot of holdover of these policies for the foreseeable future – things like staying socially distant, reservations, and wearing masks. But, with the rollout of vaccines globally, we could see countries start to open back up with the intent on sparking their economy. Just remember, some places may require proof of vaccination to enter. So if this goes against your judgement, you may be required to wait a longer time. Weigh your situation individually.
Picking Your Destination
I was really getting into the idea of using the Explore function on apps like Kayak and SkyScanner to find the best deals on flights and using that as a way to choose a destination. It made the trip more affordable and it got me out of my comfort zone, encouraging me to explore a destination I maybe didn’t know as well or one that I didn’t think I would like.
Right now, though, you have to be careful. Where are you allowed to travel to from your home country? What countries are allowing people from yours in? A good way to keep up with the constantly changing situation is by scanning the CDC website or using a Google search. Travel will require a lot more research this year to make sure it goes seamlessly.
Now that you know where you’re allowed to go, is there a next question? When you travel, there is someone on the other end that enables your experiences – whether it is by checking you into your plane, cleaning your hotel, serving your food, or the myriad of other services that are present while traveling. Do the extra research to ensure your dollars will be supporting a local economy or family, rather than going to those who likely weren’t left in as unfortunate of a situation post-COVID.
Consider guesthouses and short-term home rentals over hotel chains and local restaurants over familiar brands that you can always find back home. In the same breath, don’t feel bad if you can only find a room at a Marriott – they still employ people that need those jobs.
What To Purchase?
If you’re traveling abroad, the biggest purchase is likely going to be your airfare. During COVID, a lot (if not most) airlines and tour companies started offering flexible tickets.
For example, Delta has waived change fees until March 2021. You can change your dates and destination and either pay the difference or receive a credit if the new flight has a different rate. Many other companies like Alaska and American Airlines have done the same. Keep in mind that some of these fees may still apply to Basic Economy seats if you’re traveling on a budget.
It’s always a good idea to purchase travel insurance, as well. Companies like World Nomads and Allianz are offering changes to your insurance plan if you have to make changes to your trip, but they are not currently covering cancellations due to fear of travel or government bans. I typically buy a plan last minute and I don’t see that changing.
But Most Importantly…
If you are not feeling well, have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive or is displaying symptoms, please do not risk the safety of yourself and others. Just stay home. I get it, it’s boring and we may feel like restrictions are being forced upon us, but the sooner everyone gets on board with this, the better off we’ll be. Use courtesy and wear your mask.
If you absolutely must fulfill your need for wanderlust, consider traveling domestically – find off the beaten path nature trails, get away to a cabin in the mountains, or do some urbexing in your local region. Watch movies, shows, or YouTube videos about exotic locations to inspire your next trip. Learn a new language that you can use in your future travels. Just be safe.
Let me preface this with saying that I understand that 2020 and COVID has been devastating for a lot of you. Jobs lost and plans changed – it was difficult to say the least.
That’s why I wanted to make this post and really this whole blog. I want to show the good that can come out of a bad situation. That struggle begets growth.
Sometime around late 2018 or early 2019, I gave myself a challenge of traveling to 20 countries before the age of 30. I have learned that setting measurable goals and giving yourself a deadline is the best way to achieve those goals. I was 26 at the time and had around 13 or 14 countries under my belt at the time, so we had a way to go.
We joined our friend, Anna, in Iceland for an incredible week exploring a country that packs so much beauty into such a small space. I’m 100% sure I’ll write a post about this trip later, so consider this a placeholder for when that post comes.
A couple months later, we visited Mexico with our friends Courtney and Thomas. Honestly, it wasn’t the best trip – I was just about broke at the time and I think that gave me a bad mood and made me no fun to be around. Also sargassum. The water was beautiful but you couldn’t get near it due to the beach being overrun by the stinky seaweed. That being said, we did have the most delicious breakfast ever, were introduced to mezcal, and got to kayak around mangroves in Nichupté Lagoon.
Now that you have some context, here’s how 2020 became the best year for me:
In January 2020, we moved to a bigger city which had its expenses like a moving truck, security deposits, and new furniture (why are rugs so expensive!?) but we were getting the travel bug bad and needed a cure. We used the ‘Explore’ option on the Hopper app (which apparently doesn’t exist anymore…) to find flights out of Washington, D.C. and found RT tickets to New Orleans for about $70. Sold.
This was one of the best domestic trips I’ve had. I’ll save most of the story for a future post, but in just a few days we were able to explore the city, hear some stories from the people that lived there, and eat our way around the neighborhoods.
Now I have 6 countries and 2.5 years to go for my goal and all of a sudden COVID hits. Planes stop flying, borders close, and businesses have to limit their operations at the very least. It seems like misfortune follows our travels. We got home from Iceland less than a week before our airline, WOW air, unexpectantly ceased operations, and now we got home from New Orleans just a couple weeks before NOLA become a hotspot for early COVID cases.
Like most people, I complain about my job from time to time, but I will say that I am lucky to work in an industry that exploded post-lockdown. Every quarter, we were receiving max bonuses from destroying our sales goals and I was left with a bunch of extra money, no place to spend it, and a whole lot of time to learn about what I could do with it. YouTube was a source of a lot of inspiration.
I was already subscribed to a bunch of travel and cooking channels, but now I had time to gain inspiration about food from around the world and try my hand at some new dishes. I practiced new techniques from Indian, Palestinian, Thai, Japanese, Caribbean, French and other cooking. Delicious food without the price of eating out? This is a skill that everyone should have.
Next I found myself delving into mixology channels, learning the basics of spirits and cocktails, and built myself a nice little home bar collection. I started off making everything I could find a video of (a drink made from banana peels?) before settling on some favorites like sazeracs, daquiris, and negronis. If you ever stop over at my place, I’ll be more than excited to whip you up an elixir of your liking.
A few months into our psuedo-lockdown, I got antsy to travel abroad again. Since it was looking like it was going to be a while before we could go anywhere, my car was recently paid off, and student loan payments were suspended, I started thinking of saving for a bigger trip post-COVID. My YouTube adventures led me to investment and personal finance channels. Over the course of the year, I had started investment portfolios, and learned an important mindset – pay yourself first.
Every Friday, I make sure to buy a stock, ETF, or some cryptocurrency that will grow my wealth and let me travel further and longer. This isn’t a personal finance blog, but since I believe it is a huge opportunity to see your travel dreams come true and secure your future, I’ll leave a few affiliate links that you can use to sign up after doing your own research:
Robinhood – get a free stock for signing up. My personal favorite brokerage app because of commission-free trading and instant deposit access.
Webull – get 4 free stocks for signing up now. Typically preferred by more seasoned investors, but I haven’t used it as long.
More recently, I have redownloaded the Duolingo app to get some daily Spanish exercises. Yo quiero aprendo espanol antes de yo viajo a Espana en elotoño. (I think I got that right. Leave a comment if I need more practice.) I have been able to relearn much of the vocabulary, but I’m still not confident in my ability to hold a full conversation, yet.
Rachel and I also used the year to explore our local area. We used the AllTrails app and recommendations from friends and family to go on hikes all over. The two most popular trails around were packed every single day throughout the year so we were forced to try out some lesser known trails, much to our satisfaction. The views, animal sightings, and challenging paths were fun and rewarding.
We spent a few nights up in northern PA checking out Wellsboro and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. It was a nice getaway that included more hiking, biking, and some great vistas. This experience led us to wanting to exercise more. We purchased an exercise bike that we started using daily and began cutting out snacks and unhealthy foods from our diet. Our future travel plans include Patagonia, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and other areas that require at least moderate fitness levels, so we’re dedicated to maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
Becoming Location Independent
My biggest success in 2020 was making the decision to build a career that I could work remotely in and become location independent, enabling more travel, both domestic and international. I spent a few months reading and watching about copywriting before joining a 9-week course that got me started on a new career path. I’m one of those people that wants to be perfect at something before I fully dive into a project, but because of opportunities that presented themselves, I have been able to start my new journey on the right foot with a few clients that I’m using to build a portfolio. I’ll try not to shamlessly plug my business in this blog, but hey… if you need someone to connect your message to your audience, send me an email.
My Biggest-er Win of 2020
While most of the year wasn’t filled with exciting trips or events, I feel like I’ve been able to set myself up for future success. But…
The most important win of 2020 was that I became Griffin’s favorite…