“What is your most memorable childhood travel memory?” That’s what I’ve asked over 50 travel bloggers and other travel addicts. These are their personal stories and photos.
Today, I interview Monica from Monica Suma!
- Hi Monica, do you remember the first time you went travelling?
- Did your parents travel much before you were born?
- What was your favourite holiday destination as a child, a teenager and an adult?
- Can you tell me what your memory is with this image?
- Can you remember a specific travel item/gadget you used to take on a trip as a child?
- Did the way you travelled as a child changed much when you grew up?
- Finally: What is your best tip for making a trip memorable?
Hi Monica, do you remember the first time you went travelling?
Although we were never constant nomads on the road, my parents have always loved travel, and have sent my brother and I in as many trips as they could. In terms of domestic travel through Romania – which is where I was born – the above vintage picture represents one of my first travel experiences. In those early days, we traveled either by car or train, with my parents and sometimes grandparents, and we would play a whole lot of Monopoly. My brother beat us most of the time! We went often to the Black Sea, and also to mountain resorts in the Carpathian Mountains.
In terms of international travel, I first went abroad when I was 13, on a trip with my brother to the United Kingdom. I was so excited to get on a plane, that as soon as we arrived at the airport, I threw up. We were away for three weeks and I loved every minute of it.
Next year, when I was 14, I went on a trip with my father to Turkey, which was pretty cool as well. A Turkish (much older) guy kept chasing me around, although I was still so young. Thank God my father was around.. We spent a week in Kuşadası, in a resort town of Turkey’s Aegean coast; we also visited Troy and Ephesus, which is where I first fainted due to dehydration.
I acquired some of my earliest travel memories from that trip: getting my first magnet from my own saved money, negotiating on gold with Turkish vendors and purchasing my first ever piece of jewelry – a white gold ring which I wore for years and years.
Did your parents travel much before you were born?
My parents met in spring of 1978. Communism in Romania fell in 1989. I was born shortly before the fall of the regime. So, during 1978, up until the death of former Romanian dictator in December 1989, they were only allowed to travel to the neighboring socialist countries and Soviet Union. They met on a trip to Moscow, Russia (which was then considered to be one of the most glamorous destinations), after which they traveled to Saint Petersburg (known as Leningrad back then) and Kiev, Ukraine.
My mother was a teacher, and due to her profession, she was able to go on more frequent domestic trips with her students. Her first trip abroad, even before meeting my father, was to Prague in the Czech Republic. As a guide she went to Budapest, Hungary, after which to Odessa, Ukraine and Chisinau, Moldova.
After my parents met, they traveled to East Germany, Erevan in Armenia and Tblisi in Georgia. Of course most trips were by train; plane flights were very rare those days. With the fall of Communism 20 years ago, and Romania’s entry into the EU, things have changed dramatically, not only for the new generations, but our parents’ generations as well. This past year, my parents have traveled to so many places, I can’t even remember where. Travel has become much more of a way of life, and not a luxury whim for the very few. There are so many travel deals and tourism agencies out there, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
What was your favourite holiday destination as a child, a teenager and an adult?
Going to the seaside was my favorite place to go as a child, and still is. The calmness water gives me is priceless. For that reason, I much rather prefer a coastal city instead of a mountainous one.
As a teenager, it was all about traveling through Europe with other kids my age. Some of the trips I took from Romania, by bus, all the way to Spain or Western Europe, were memorable!
In high school, I became in love with the idea of New York – watching Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, all shows taking place in New York. As irony has it, I unexpectedly moved to NYC not long after my 20th birthday, which is where I have been living for the last few years. I wasn’t planning to move here, it sort of just happened. It just goes to show how true that saying is: “Careful what you wish for.”
Nowadays, as I get older, it’s all about going to far away destinations wildly different than what I have seen and known so far. Places like Southeast Asia, Middle East, Brazil, are no 1 on my bucket list.
Since I have already traveled through a big part of the Western World and have a deep of understanding of the East growing up there, I am now fascinated by places that have a much different approach to life. I’m not crazy about lying around and do nothing type of vacations in the Caribbean, I get easily bored; I much rather prefer to get lost with the crowd somewhere in Brazil, get a rush of adrenaline in the crazy traffic in Asia, ride elephants in Thailand, stay at riads in Morocco – go on those those types of trips that thoroughly immerse me in a local culture.
Can you tell me what your memory is with this image?
The image is from Mamaia, a seaside resort on the Black Sea shore in Romania. I was just a toddler and not very fond of the water, as it can be seen. I was with my older brother in this picture, and I was not having it! We were on vacation with my parents. It’s funny how times change; now, I don’t ever want to come out of the water.
Can you remember a specific travel item/gadget you used to take on a trip as a child?
When I was a child, I used to always wear motion sickness bands. Most of the time, my parents sent me on trips with big groups by bus, either for a school trip or throughout Europe. For some reason, I always got nauseous on these buses. It was probably just nerves. I would eat quite a lot of pretzels to avoid unpleasant “I need a bag” situations. Now, it has all gone away, thank God. I can ride any car, bus, even take off on an airplane without even noticing.
Did the way you travelled as a child changed much when you grew up?
It changed in the sense that I can now travel anywhere. Growing up in Romania, right after Communism fell, travel was still very much restricted. We needed a visa to go anywhere and in most cases, it was difficult to travel abroad with my entire family. The places I travel to now, have also changed.
Back then, it was more likely possible to go on a trip closer to home – say to Europe. Now I can go anywhere, and so can my family.
Finally: What is your best tip for making a trip memorable?
Spontaneity! Going with the flow. Trying new unexpected things that could potentially make you giggle.
I do like to plan ahead, and research what can be done on a certain trip, but I am generally very spontaneous. Taking all safety precautions is a must (the more, the better), but while doing so, be open to meeting new people, exploring on your own, trying something you’ve never tried before. Facing some of your fears is also a great way to enrich your life.
Despite common belief, I find traveling solo the greatest experience ever; you learn so much about yourself, you build confidence on striking out on your own and you develop a completely different perspective. It’s so liberating. Not going to some of your dream places due to lack of partners can be very limiting. If that is the case, I suggest enrolling for study abroad programs, volunteering opportunities, teaching English abroad, etc. It’s a great way to travel and make new friends, while doing something useful for yourself.
Submitting a late application under someone’s door for a Study Abroad program in Spain and deciding on a whim to do an internship in China were some of the best decisions I ever made. It was scary at times, but highly rewarding as soon as I was there, as well as on the long run.
If you want to read more of Monica’s stories, be sure to visit her website: Monica-Suma.com