Maria is the author of two interesting Travel Blogs that I’m sure you’ll find really helpful. One is Latinabroad.com which features places in her travels around the world. The second one is TraveltheMiddleEast.com which features places in her travels specifically in the Middle East. Both websites also offers travel tips and guides that will surely come handy.
Aside from travelling and blogging, Maria is also a translator and is a language enthusiast.
But before you do that, check out my short interview with Maria.
Maria in Egypt
How did you discover your passion for travelling?
“While I have been watching National Geographic since I was a toddler, it was not until elementary school that the fire was ignited. That happened one fine day during history class in 3rd or 4th grade, when I first saw a photo of Nefertiti. I remember being obsessed with visiting Egypt and seeing the temples ever since. As years went by, my love for travel grew more and more, until it exploded in 2008. When I was awarded a $20,0000 scholarship to study Arabic in Egypt for a year, I had so many opportunities to explore the magical Middle East. Afterward, I couldn’t stop, so I also studied Islamic civilization & world religions in Morocco for another semester (4 months). There, I could fly to several parts of Europe as well. Been traveling non-stop ever since!”
What’s the most horrible experience that you’ve had on the road?
“See that shattered glass on passenger seat? Yah, where I would be sitting!
Some would say it could be horrible getting lost in the middle of Israel by yourself in someone’s private plantation and had to hitchhike..bit the guy that picked me up actually happened to be a very knowledgeable guide and gave me quite the tour for kilometers until my next destination something I considered scary, though, was when we had a very bad crash due to a sand front in the middle of the desert in Egypt. I was part of a caravan full of 4×4′s and let’s face it – our guides were speeding. Then, a sudden burst of sand completely blinded our driver, and by the time it dissipated, we were on the tail of the other JEEP (while going at 80+ mph!). I was in the front, without a seat belt, and with my window open. The driver decided not to stop (smart) and managed to dodge all cars minus scrapping the whole right side of the Jeep (where I was), side mirror included. It could have flown right into my face and the glass blind me, by the way. But some force pushed it outwards and we all survived, scrape-free. One of the Jeeps in the caravan wasn’t so lucky, as you can see in the picture above. What’s horrible is I could have died — but I didn’t. Definitely one of the scariest moments of my life, though quite tame in comparison to other stories I’ve read! ”
What’s the best travel experience that you’ve ever had?
“Too many too count, but one trip that constantly pops in my head is when I hitchhiked and Couchsurfed all over Israel for 3 weeks in the summer of 2009. The best part of it is that it was a plan-as-you-go, even an impromptu, trip. One fine Wednesday morning, right after my Arabic studies concluded in Egypt, I thought to myself, “hmmm, I want to go to Israel again.” Low and behold, I packed a small bag and was on a bus to Eilat about 4 hours later. I was only planning to stay for one week and party in Tel Aviv, but I ended up doing a full pilgrimage of Jesus footsteps and even visited Petra, Jordan for a few days.
My first night I stayed on the rooftop of a hostel in Jerusalem and thanks to a wonderful Indonesian man, I plotted my next two cities, contacted couchsurfers in that area, and the rest is history! I took a couple of buses for long distances, but to move between the couchsurfer’s places and landmarks I hitchhiked. I even got to stay in a kibbutz and learn how to cook Nepalese curry thanks to the husband of a very kind Israel young lady. Oh, did I mention I did it all by myself!? Solo woman travel – yah, I just debunked some myths right there!”
Maria in Rome
What’s the biggest realization that you’ve got out of travelling?
“That I will never be able to stop and have a “normal American life.” Also, that my career must be mobile. I realized this after a broken heart and traveling/living abroad for 16 months. Moving and seeing new things constantly keep me alive. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I am definitely going after what makes me happy!”
What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated?
“My passion: For people, for cultures, for adventure. When traveling, especially on a budget, you never really know what to expect. The thrill stemming from all of that is amazing and surpasses any bad, tiring day! My family & friends understand because I have been obsessed with travel, languages and crazy big projects ever since I was a kid. What’s funny is whenever someone asks my mom where am I, she tells me that she always responds: “Well, last time I spoke to her she was in America! Unsure what crazy plans she may have come up with since then” and grins. Gotta love mama!”
This is a silly and hypothetical one. If you would be given a chance to travel with a popular person or a celebrity, who would it be and why?
“This has probably been said so many times, but definitely Anthony Bourdain. Not just because of the amazing food, but because I’m sure he really knows how to have a good time. He is probably always getting himself into trouble, which translates into amazing travel stories. I am sure I could write a whole book just by traveling with him for one day!”
Where’s your favourite place in this planet and why?
“Dahab, Egypt. There’s some intangible, intoxicating, addictive vibe about the place. Almost everyone that goes there stays longer than intended. The first time I planned on staying for 4 days; I ended up staying for 10 and even got my PADI Open Water; Advanced Diving certifications while at it! The bedouin cushions on the floor by the sea, smoking shisha, and drinking ahwa while looking at the beautiful Red Sea and Saui Arabia mountains as backdrop make this [lace magical. You just gotta go to know what I’m talking about! Read more here: Things to do in Dahab”
What’s your best tip for newbie traveller?
“Go with the flow. Countries you will visit will be radically different from your own sometimes, so all you gotta do is blend in and enjoy the thrilling ride. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most importantly though, pack light! There’s nothing better than cruising through the airport and not having to stress out about bag fees, check-in lines, etc. And being able to squeeze through hordes with a small bag once at your destination.”
What’s the funniest and silliest thing you’ve ever done while travelling?
“I don’t know whether it is funny/silly or not, but I somehow managed to deeply offend a hijabi in a bus in Cairo. Apparently, plucking your eyebrows in public is very, very bad (even obscene). Full story here: How I Offended a Hijabi in Egypt”
What do you think about yourself?
“I would say I’m energetic, ambitious, passionate, outgoing. I’m known in my circles as the funny Latina with big hair that is always chasing (and reaching) her dreams worldwide.”
“I have two travel blogs: TravelTheMiddleEast.com is a niche site focusing on my adventures in the Middle East, with several insider tips and guides, as I studied, lived and traveled throughout the region for 16 months. Conversely, on LatinAbroad.com I post tales, photo essays, and tips based on my travels to other destinations around the world. More than 20 countries across 4 continents so far (and counting!)”-Maria
Editor’s Note: All pics are provided by Maria.