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The Girl Behind the Red Door has been nominated for a Liebster Award. It's a pay-it-forward thing, a way to find and support fellow bloggers. My nomination came from Diana Meets the Locals , a Canadian travel blogger who has worked at two Olympics and has a weakness for goldfish crackers. I've followed her via Twitter for a while now, but didn't learn these two intimate details until this nomination came through. That's the fun of it.

So how does it work? When you are nominated you have to:

  • Share 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions given by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate new bloggers to pass on the fun
  • Write 11 questions for those bloggers to answer
I'm game!

11 Random Facts about Me

  1. ajc_viking.jpg Volleyball is my favorite sport. I played for four years; coached for three. Kerri Walsh is my hero. I could watch it all day every day.
  2. Living in Norway, I suffer from Kraft Mac-n-Cheese withdrawal. I cram my suitcase full of boxes whenever I visit home.
  3. I love whales, but I hate the ocean.
  4. I haven't eaten an egg in 18 years. Why? Eggxiety: It's no yolk!
  5. When I go to baseball games, I always keep score. My dad taught me how.
  6. In fifth grade I kept a diary, and I ended each entry by naming a movie star I had a crush on. My list was a tad different than most eleven-year-old's... Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper...
  7. I scrapbook.
  8. About once a year I re-read Pam Houston's Cowboys Are My Weakness . It's my creativity touchstone.
  9. I'm not bendy. At all. Like a pencil. It's terrible.
  10. Someday I'd like to own a whole pack of bloodhounds.
  11. I miss rock climbing.

Answers to 11 Questions from Diana

What's your earliest travel memory?

There are photos of me in Yosemite when I'm only a couple months old, and legend has it that my dad "baptized" me in the Merced River. Now, I can't honestly say I remember that trip. Nor the one to the Grand Canyon a few months later. But my family traveled a lot, and most of the early trips happened in our white Chevy Celebrity station wagon. That's what I remember: being in "the wagon" with my brothers, the way they fought across my lap in the back seat, or playing the license plate game out the car windows. Iowa! Texas!

What's the most difficult language you've tried to speak and why?

Norwegian. But that's only because I haven't "tried" that many languages. Three years of French in high school and one more in college make me feel less daunted about fran├žais than I feel about norsk . In reality, Norwegian isn't so bad. It's basically phonetic and grammatically similar to English.

If you had to pick - would you rather have comfortable shoes on your travels or a discount on all your transportation costs?

The sad thing is that giving me a discount doesn't mean the money will be saved, by any means. I'd probably just use it to travel farther, see more places, do more stuff. In which case, it would be far more practical to travel less distance and be more comfortable, so I'll take those shoes!

Which country do you honestly have zero interest in visiting?

Sadly, the turmoil in the Middle East has greatly diminished any interest I have in that region. This includes Saudi Arabia, which "continues to treat women as minors. Under this discriminatory system, girls and women of all ages are forbidden from traveling, studying, or working without permission from their male guardians." -- Human Rights Watch

What's your favourite travel magazine?

The New York Times Travel section inspires and informs almost every trip I take. Their 36 Hours feature is my favorite.

What topic in the travel blogging genre is your favourite to write about?

When I blog about travel, I like to do overviews of the cities and countries I visit. But when I blog about expat life, I enjoy giving readers an inside look at city attractions, including beautiful photos.

Do you think you could travel for 5 years without stopping?

Definitely. If it weren't a questions of funds (and cats), we'd be doing it right now. Which reminds me, I really must start purchasing lottery tickets.

What's your best tip for meeting the locals?

All it takes is asking a question. People are the same everywhere, really. Friendly, helpful. Ask your waiter for a food recommendation. Ask someone passing on the street for directions. Ask the people at the cafe table next to you what kind of beer they're drinking. And before you go on a trip, check out any expat blogs written by folks who live in the area you'll be visiting. That's the best way to find the inside track.

Do you have any new tips or tricks for keeping your valuables safe on the road?

Depending where we visit (or whether we'll be camping/climbing, etc.), I may not take my jewelry along at all. When we move through very crowded places, like train stations or airports or busy public squares, Jonathan moves his wallet to his front pocket. And we always separate our most important travel documents into different bags (never to be checked!).

Do any certain scents or smells bring back memories of past travels for you?

Sulfur takes me back to Yellowstone, wandering the boardwalks between the geysers and hot springs and fumeroles. Yellow-bellied marmots scurrying about in the sun. And I'm certain the next time I sip a pina colada, I'll find myself back on a lounge chair under a yellow-and-white striped umbrella on the beach at Kalymnos. Sand stuck between my damp toes.

Where are you going on your next adventure?

Technically, my next trip will be to Boston for the 2013 AWP conference , but I've been to Boston so many times before, I hardly count that as an adventure. So, our next adventure will be to St. Petersburg, Russia! We bought the tickets last night. It's a trip to celebrate our birthdays, my 30th and Jonathan's 34th. I'm very much looking forward to experiencing a new architectural landscape... minarets and candy-colored buildings. And of course the ballet.

Blogs I Nominate for the Liebster Award


It's simple. As one blogger put it, "The real 'gist' of the Liebster Award is that there is no real award. There are no judges, no special rules. No website with an official team to congratulate you and hold your hand. It's mostly what you want it to be. If you receive the award, you can 1) accept it and 2) pass it along. It's that easy." Like one of those wretched old chain letters or chain emails, but without the wretched curse that supposedly clung to those unwise enough to opt out. If you don't want to participate? Don't do it! I'll still read you faithfully. No worries.

My 11 Questions for the Nominated Bloggers
  1. Which country do you think has the most beautiful/interesting money?
  2. Is there something special you collect when you travel?
  3. What do you do to pass time on planes, trains, or in automobiles?
  4. If you could snap your fingers and be somewhere else right this moment, where would you be?
  5. Do you consider yourself a good traveller? How so?
  6. Post your favorite travel photo.
  7. Imagine someone is planning a vacation to the city you live in now. What advice would you give them?
  8. Beaches or mountains?
  9. What's the scariest/most challenging thing you've ever done while travelling?
  10. One of my favorite essays in The Best American Travel Writing of 2012 is Thomas Swick's My Days with the Anti-Mafia . How important do you feel it is to travel morally ? That is to say, proactively selecting hotels, restaurants, and tours that are not supported by organized crime? Or steering clear of countries which consistently abuse the rights of their citizens, etc.?
  11. And this one's just for me... When it comes to the Hepburns... Katharine or Audrey?
Good luck, blogger friends. And, dear readers, I hope this gives everyone a chance to explore some new blogs that I enjoy! Thank you for reading!