Welcome to another Take 5 post where we ask ‘the five’ questions to travellers and adventurers about their incredible exploits.
Rachel Friedman is no stranger to travelling having visited and worked in many countries and even met her husband in an Irish bar in Peru. She has recently written ‘The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure’ which has received such reviews as “Friedman’s coming-of-age memoir captures the excitement (and bewilderment) of testing out life’s possibilities on the far side of the world. You’ll laugh and empathize as you get lost with her.” from writers like Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding.
1) Air, Sea, Road, Trail or Rail? and why?
If I’m traveling for an extended period, I tend to like whatever offers the best scenery along the way, even if it takes ages to get where I’m going. I love long trips, actually, so I don’t mind taking my time. I’m a skittish flier. I love to travel so of course I do it often, but I do not like it one bit.
2) Your biggest surprise on your travels?
How sometimes not knowing the language can be a wonderful thing. Whenever I travel to a country where a foreign language is spoken, I typically study that language for as long as I can before I go. I at least want to know a few pleasantries and crucial phrases like: “Where is the nearest bathroom?” When I first started immersing myself in faraway lands, I felt very overwhelmed if I couldn’t understand people – which was the case a lot of the time. Then one day in Buenos Aires I was by myself knocking back an espresso in a bustling cafe. The place was crowded and loud. I couldn’t make out a word of the conversations flying around me. And for some reason, I just closed my eyes and stopped trying to understand. I just let the language wash over me, like music. It was bliss, giving into this total foreignness – or truly being a stranger in this country.
3) Where are the special places you have stayed and the one that disappointed?
I tend to fall in love with the places where I spend great stretches of time. If I don’t take to a particular spot, I push off pretty fast. I loved living in an apartment with an Australian roommate and two Spanish guys in Galway, Ireland. Settling in with an Australian family in Sydney for four months was incredible. In South America, I really thrived on the hostel experience. Places that disappoint me tend to be places I don’t fully have the time to explore properly. For instance, I was pretty unimpressed with Santiago, Chile, but I only spent eight hours there – and most of it was waiting for a bus after having just been on another bus for twenty hours. So really Santiago was probably pretty disappointed with my performance, too.
4) What’s on your travel wish list?
Definitely a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I’ve been dreaming about that trip for a long time. Also, Russia and the Ukraine, both places where my ancestors are from. I’d like to see more of Italy; I’ve only been to Rome. Japan, Turkey, India. I’ll stop there, but I could go on.
5) One tip to take from your experiences?
Don’t be afraid to get lost. You can (almost) always find your way back again.