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Santa Barbara, Ca

I'm a full-time rambler and contract designer with as many skill sets in my quiver as there are plane tickets in my passbook. I've worked in ornamental iron, jigsaw puzzle design, bookmaking, glass engraving, and a variety of other mediums. I'm currently living out of a backpack as I trek my way around the world.

My ABCs of Travel

Blog

My ABCs of Travel

Zak Erving

I've got a really impressive portfolio of self-portraits

I've got a really impressive portfolio of self-portraits

Over the last couple of years, it became popular for travel bloggers to list their résumé and highlights in an acronym-prompted list about a range of topics. Below, you’ll glean some insight into my wandering ways, and maybe get some ideas of your own:

Age you went on your first international trip: I was less than a year old when my mom and dad drove me up the Alcan through western Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska, and in high school for Spring Break we traveled to México & the Caribbean with family friends. But the tripped that sparked my interest for travel came during a semester abroad in Florence, Italy.

Best beer you’ve had (and where): As an absolute standard of measure, I cannot discredit a Rochefort 10 or any sort of Belgian Trappist-style ale. That being said, though, after living in Italy for a while I had grown accustomed to sub-par beer, and during my transatlantic flight home, my first sip of the ever-present Warsteiner awakened me to the beer world I had been asleep to for months.

Mofongos rellenos in Puerto Rico hit the spot like few other dishes have

Cuisine: You’d think after living in Italy I’d be a die-hard pastaterian. But after five days on the beach, a huge plate of Puerto Rican mofongo & plantains hit the spot like no other dish had before.

Destinations, favorite & least favorite: Instead of a single favorite, I’ll just say which places made it to the finalists’ podium (in no particular order): Croatia, Hungary, & Northern Ireland. Least favorite? Naples. Trash piles the size of sixteen-wheel trucks are quite a sight, but after a few dozen you get kind of tired of it.

Experience abroad that wowed you: Learning about the Troubles and visiting the Peace Walls in Belfast, Northern Ireland…and the tens of thousands of handwritten messages on its surface.

Favorite mode of transportation: I love a good train ride. Even the 20-hour ones.

Greatest feeling while traveling: When I was living in Italy, I remember keeping a close eye on my ability and confidence in speaking the local language. Eventually, being able to speak casually with shop owners and friends became commonplace—the feeling of being able to communicate and interact was an incredible and unique experience.

Alaska: not a warm place

Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Being from Alaska, I think everywhere is hot. But Florence in June is well over 100°F and pushing 100% humidity, and our apartment only had one fan in it. Woe is me! (On the other hand, the coldest place I’ve ever traveled is Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where the record low is -128°F! Thankfully, I’ve only been in -60°F.)

Incredible service you’ve experienced:After Asriel and I had our things stolen in Barcelona, the police officer who took our report saw how distressed we were and told us: “If you’re unable to find a place to stay for the night, please call me. You can stay with me and my girlfriend at our apartment,” and handed us his phone number. Without question, it was the finest example of hospitality and generosity I’ve ever received.

Journey that took the longest: I took a train/bus combo from Prague to Dubrovnik that lasted a full 24 hours. It was exhausting, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Keepsake from your travels: Actually, my “keepsake” (aka: the Talisman) is something I found on the beach at home in Santa Barbara: a Donatello Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure. Donatello was my favorite of the four because he was always tinkering, reading, and inventing. Whenever I travel, Donatello comes along.

Let-down sight, where and why: I’m going to say the entirety of the Louvre in Paris, but not because I was underwhelmed by it. In fact, I was so overwhelmed that I became discouraged (and thus let down) because even three full days in there wasn’t enough time to see everything.

Moment where you fell in love with travel: You know how sometimes people fall in love with someone who has already left because they miss her/him? Falling in love with travel was like that. After returning home, I remember sitting in my favorite Anchorage coffee shop and feeling, for the first time, a strong sense of wanderlust.

The nicest nook I've ever been served breakfast in

Nicest hotel you’ve ever stayed in: After fourteen hours on the road, the Fairmont Chateau in Whistler, British Columbia, was almost too good of a rest stop. Almost.

Obsessed with taking pictures of: After my first trip abroad, my mother complained that I didn’t take enough pictures of myself. So, to both appease and poke fun at her, the next time I went abroad I spoofed the Myspace-style self-portrait when standing in front of famous landmarks. The only hitch was that it wasn’t me that was the star of the photos, it was the underside of my nose.

Passport stamps, how many and from where: (My primary passport was stolen, so I’m only counting the emergency passport I used for four weeks this summer.) Eight, mostly from Croatia and Hungary.

Quirkiest attraction visited: The entire town of Roswell, New Mexico, has a corner market on Area 51 paraphernalia. Even the street lamps are alien heads!

Recommended sight, event, or experience: I spent a couple of weeks working in a monastery and participating in the daily offices, and I still refer back to that period as one of the most formative experiences of my adult life. It’s not for everyone, but I wish it could be…

I'll pay good money for good fire-water

Splurge, something you have no trouble forking over money for while traveling: Good whiskey. There’s an unspoken bond amongst serious scotch drinkers, and to everyone else in the bar you’re seen as either (a) crazy or (b) hardcore or (c) a little of both.

Touristy thing you’ve done:My brother Michael and I took a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It was the best €15 I’ve ever spent.

Unforgettable travel memory: Having the sensation of inevitable death while swimming among Mediterranean breakers in Vernazza, Italy.

Visas, how many and from where: Only one so far, and it was from my student days in Italy. I foresee a number of visa applications in the coming years, though.

Whiskey (normally wine), best while traveling and where: You’d think that it’d have been Ireland that I honed my taste for whiskey, but it was Florence that I had my first taste of Laphroaig 10-year Cask Strength. From then on out, it’s been single-malt scotch from Islay almost exclusively. 

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia took me completely by surprise

eXcellent view: Plitvička Jezera in Croatia was one of the most fascinating landscapes I’ve ever witnessed.

Years spent traveling: I got bit by the travel bug a little late in the game, when I was 22. In the last five years, I’ve spent about 15 months on the road, both domestically and abroad, and I’m planning on picking up the pace in 2012.

Zealous sports fans and where: Football/soccer/calcio fans are bonkers wherever you go in the world, but the ones that threatened to keep me awake for my second night in a row on an overnight train to Split were pretty over-the-top. Oh, and then there were the Fiorentina fans who set off a smoke bomb on the Catania section when they came to town.

Did any of these prompts stand out to you? What were some of your favorites, and what from your own experiences can you share?