Today we are traveling with Heather from Ferreting Out the Fun.
Hi, I’m Heather, an American gal currently living in – and loving! – Riga, Latvia. For the past year and a half, I’ve been exploring my new home and surrounding European countries, digging into the varied cultures and cuisines. I chronicle my adventures and share lots of photos on my blog, Ferreting Out the Fun.
What type of traveler would you say are you?
I would call myself a “pretend local.” When I travel, I try to imagine what life would be like if I actually lived in that destination. I visit museums to learn about the history and check out sites that make that place special. I dine at restaurants that showcase the local cuisine and slow things down in an effort to absorb the culture. For accommodation, I lean towards boutique hotels or apartments with a personal touch.
What’s inside your backpack? What is that one thing that you ALWAYS have to carry
I don’t go anywhere without my camera and love looking back through my photos once I’m home. It really cements the experience in my memory.
Can you recommend us a itinerary around the Baltic countries?
I recommend renting a car for a trip to the Baltic countries. Spend six days in Lithuania exploring Vilnius, Trakai Castle, and Kaunas, before driving north to Latvia, stopping at the Hill of Crosses en route. In Latvia, take a day to see Bauska Castle and Rundale Palace before heading to Riga for a few days.
From there, drive to Sigulda and Cesis and spend some time enjoying Gauja National Park. In Estonia, start with Tartu and the Old Believer villages along the shores of Lake Peipsi before journeying on to Tallinn. End with a few relaxing days in Saaremaa to get a taste of Estonian island life.
What we can’t miss we are visiting Latvia?
Enjoying the nature! Latvia is one of the greenest countries in the world and locals are passionate about spending time out of doors. Visit the Baltic coast, walk through a bog, ride a bike in the countryside, hike and pick berries in a forest – the opportunities are endless!
Which one is your favorite food in Latvia? Which local dish can you recommend to a visitor?
My favorite Latvian dish is probably cold beet soup. It’s so refreshing on a warm summer day, and the shocking pink color is super fun. If you’re visiting during a festival, be sure to enjoy a plate of hunter’s sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut. It doesn’t get more Latvian than that!
What’s the most famous festival in Riga?
The Riga City Festival which celebrates the city’s birthday every August. Festivities are spread all over town and last for several days, culminating with a spectacular fireworks show by the river.
Traveling alone or with someone? Why?
Both! I love making travel memories with friends and family, but solo travel can be just as rewarding. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to new experiences.
Which country did you find the most hospitable people?
Cambodia. The kind people of that country moved me beyond words. To be so warm and welcoming after the brutality they suffered – it’s enough to break your heart. I hired a tuk tuk driver to take me around Angkor Wat for three days. Even though he was probably of modest means, he always brought me cold water bottles and once even a dust mask.
Periodically he’d stop along the road to buy me a coconut or some candy. During our time together, he shared that his well-educated parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge, leaving him a poor orphan. Despite all he had been through, he was so excited to show me his country. It was incredibly humbling.
How is a day in your life when you aren’t traveling?
My days are usually a mix of travel planning, blogging, and chores like cooking and cleaning. I try to get out of the house every day to explore Riga and the surrounding area, camera in hand.
What’s the big reason why you are traveling?
Curiosity. I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Virginia and always felt stifled there. My parents gave me a globe as a child and I loved to spin it and fantasize about the exotic sounding places it would land on. I feel fortunate that I now have the opportunity to visit those places in person.
Can you tell us about your longest trip? How long was it and which places did you go to?
I think three weeks is an ideal length trip. Of course, you still won’t be able to see and do everything in that amount of time (unless you rush around like mad, which I don’t recommend), but you can get a solid feel for your destination(s). Pick a few cities/towns and really get to know them.
I spent three weeks in Thailand exploring Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, and Koh Lanta. In Greece, three weeks was enough time to visit Athens, Delphi, Santorini, and Crete. My long trips tend to include a little of everything a country has to offer – cities, mountains/national parks, and beaches/lakes/rivers.
In all the trips you’ve done, what has been your favorite so far? and why?
That’s a tough one. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many of my travels and asking me to name a favorite is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! That three-week trip to Thailand was absolutely amazing, but so were my weeks in Paris, Istanbul, and Budapest. I recently rented a car and drove up the coast of Croatia for two weeks – talk about memorable!
What’s your favorite gastronomy/food cuisine that you had in your travels?
Another tough one. Sampling the local cuisine is one of my favorite parts of traveling, and I seem to find a new favorite dish in every country I visit: Swedish meatballs, Hungarian paprika chicken, Chinese dumplings, Spanish croquettes, Russian stroganoff, Vietnamese pho. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite cuisine, so here are four that I dream about most: French, Thai, Croatian, and Turkish.
Has there been any challenging and bad moments? Can you tell us about the experience?
I try not to dwell on the negative. Everyone sometimes has bad experiences traveling – it’s how you deal with them that counts. Read about my coping strategies here.
What has been you favorite destination on all the trips you’ve done?
Impossible! My favorite cities are the ones I would most like to live in and include New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Budapest, Lisbon, Riga, Helsinki, Dublin, and Chiang Mai.
What’s the worst place that you have stayed in for sleeping? What’s the best?
As I tend to seek out boutique hotels, I’ve stayed in some true gems. One of the most memorable was this tiny place in Yangshuo, China; I don’t remember the name. It was gorgeously decorated with regional ethnic pieces and my room had a Jacuzzi tub right in the middle, with a view through the balcony door of the charming town and towering mountains.
The woman who worked the front desk was so kind and helpful, even escorting me on a day trip to a neighboring village when I couldn’t find another guide. Best of all, I think it cost something like US$60 per night.
Are you planning for a new trip or do you already have a new trip in mind?
I’m always planning for a new trip! Flights and hotels are booked for April and May – you’ll just have to follow me on social media to see where I’m headed. 🙂
How do you finance your trips?
It’s pretty simple: I don’t buy things I don’t need. Making travel memories is more important than having a house full of stuff.
How many hours do you usually work in your blog? How do you manage while traveling?
Aside from posting photos to social media, I don’t work on my blog at all while I’m traveling. The most I’ll do is jot down notes to help me write posts once I’m home. It generally takes me two or three days to put together a blog post, depending on how much research and photo editing needs to be done.
Amazing story from Heather, thanks for your time!
Heather got her inspiration to travel the world by looking at the globe and maps. Did that happen to you, too? Can you stay looking a map for hours? Because that’s certainly something I can do for hours, too. Heather had a lot of great recommendations – visit Latvia and Baltic countries. If you want to know why Heather loves living in Riga so much, be sure to check out this photo essay of the beautiful city covered in snow!
If you want to read more travel stories, check here to read Natasia of The Boho Chica, a travel blogger who is living in Dubai. You can also check out the amazing story of Alexandra, from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler, who is traveling around the world and telling us her experiences.
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Until the next story dear friends. x