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Featured Travel Blogger: Jodi Ettenberg

Our featured travel blogger this month is the awesome Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads. As her blog name suggests, she’s a former lawyer who started blogging in 2008 and has had incredible success as something of an “unconventional backpacker” who shared her street food stories and gorgeous photo essays from destinations that span the globe.

Currently she’s writing a book about food and travel, which has necessitated “sitting still and typing”, but she reassures us that she’ll be back on the road again when it’s done. We caught up with her to ask a couple of questions:

1. You write a lot about food. What is it about sampling new foods in new places that’s such a treat for you?

Food is a great lens through which you can learn about a new place. Be it the history of how certain recipes developed over the years to just sitting and observing how people eat and what the patterns of movement are around meals, it’s a wonderful way to understand a destination in a different way.

2. You also mention drinking vodka on a flight to Russia. Sampling new drinks (alcoholic and otherwise) while travelling is a favourite pastime of many of our readers. Can you recommend some traditional drinks from the countries you’ve visited?

I don’t tend to drink too much alcohol as I’m a solo female traveler and am thus fairly cautious. However, I’ve tried the local moonshines – Raki in Turkey, Arak in Bali, etc. – in moderation, and they are all very different, and much more pungent than you’d expect.

I’ve very much enjoyed tea as well, including spending time in Yunnan, China and learning about the tea harvests there. Coffee has taken on increasing popularity and some very innovative outfits have emerged, such as organic coffee villages in the mountains of Northern Thailand. There’s almost always an interesting angle with food or drink.

3. Turkey is one of HolidayHype’s most popular destinations, which I think you also visited earlier this year. Do you want to talk a little bit about where you went & what you liked best?

I actually only spent time in Istanbul. It was a whirlwind month in Morocco prior, so I was content to wander the streets of Turkey’s biggest city instead of visiting elsewhere. I look forward to returning and seeing the rest of the country, however! For Istanbul, it really is a city made for walking. With almost a month in Istanbul, I never ran out of places to wander and markets to explore.

4. When you’re planning to visit a new country, how do you research it? What are some of the first things you consider?  

I look at weather first in terms of nitty gritty planning – when is shoulder season? When is high season, etc. This includes, too, the foods that are in season for these destinations. I’ll also look at the food and what cities are known for different eats, since it’s a huge part of what I like to see and learn about.

This means reading blogs from expats or locals in the region, looking at trip reports on Chowhound and viewing eGullet as well. I’ll also look at what transportation is within the region or country (train, ferry, bus or budget planes) to plan out a rough route, but rarely book anything in advance. I’ll also always read up about the history, starting online and then in the form of longer books.

5. You mentioned that you don’t have a particularly clear path in mind for the coming years, but are there any destinations that are on your bucket list for this year? Where are you headed to next?

I’ve been finishing up a book about food and travel ( so I’ve not been travelling in the way I used to. A lot of it recently has been for conferences or work contracts, which is exciting in a different way, but I’ve put my independent travels on hold for the moment.

Writing the book took months of sitting still and typing! I’ve yet to visit India and Sri Lanka and both are very high up on my list. I’d also love to spend more time in Africa, specifically the Gambia, Malawi and Mali. Many other places that call too. First, the book launch, then the reward! 🙂

Thanks Jodi! If you like this post, have a look at our earlier featured blogger entries.