Go away with Darley Newman
Travel expert Darley Newman recommends that if you¿re looking for a unique vacation spot, visit Turkey. (Chip Ward, TMS)
"I think some people thought that the idea was a little crazy at first, but it caught on," says Newman, 33, who resides in Bethesda, Md. "I travel to these beautiful, natural and off-the-beaten path locations not normally covered in the media, and I do it with local people who are sharing their favorite spots you won't find in a guidebook." Newman also is the author of "Equitrekking Travel Adventures on Horseback" (Chronicle Books, $27.50).
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Cappadocia, Turkey, is a unique place I've visited twice. It's one of my favorite places. It's a lesser visited vacation area with these amazing old villages and underground cities carved out of the area's soft volcanic rock. Cappadocia's landscapes are dotted with fairy chimneys or hoodoos, these wild rock formations, which have sparked many local legends. I felt like I was horseback riding on another planet at times, as we'd trot through small pockets of vineyards and come upon centuries-old churches, hidden in these rocky outcroppings. There's spectacularly tasty, locally-produced food and interesting history.
Q. How old were you when you took your first trip?
A. When I was five, my family took a big road trip along the California coast. My granddad had passed away and he wanted his ashes spread in different places out West. It sounds depressing, but it was inspiring. I remember crazy Lombard Street (in San Francisco), seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and at the end of a long day falling asleep under the table in a restaurant in Chinatown. We went to Disneyland, too.
Q. When did you get the travel bug?
A. The trip that really sparked my interest in seeing the world was my first trip out of the country. In ninth grade, I went with a friend's family on a cruise to France, Italy and Greece, also spending a few days in Rome. I fell in love with Europe, especially the romance and history of Italy, and I adored the excitement of discovering new places and people and learning things you can only experience from firsthand travel. From then on, I was hooked.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Costa Rica. I love the diversity of outdoor activities and the fact that conservation is still upheld in so many places. Growing up on the shore, beautiful beaches have a special place in my heart. I was amazed to see bright macaws, iguanas and crocodiles and loved the volcanoes and hot springs.
Q. To someone who was going to Costa Rica for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. Take a hot-air balloon ride over the Costa Rican rainforest at dawn. We filmed it for our show. We glided over the treetops just as the jungle was waking up, hearing a chorus of howler monkeys and seeing birds, sloths and other wildlife. It was a really cool way to experience the rainforest and get in tune with nature without disturbing it.
Q. What are some of your favorite cities?
A. New York, Florence, Italy and Seville, Spain. In college, I spent six months living with a family in Florence on a study abroad program and fell in love with the art, wine, cappuccinos. ... I studied Italian, art and film there. It's a magical city. There are so many wonderful museums, churches and restaurants that I didn't even get to see and do everything in six months! I recommend seeing Michelangelo's David while there, buying a leather jacket around the Piazza San Lorenzo, having a cappuccino with the locals standing up in a cafe in the morning, a gelato in the afternoon and taking in the views of Florence from beside the Etruscan ruins at Fiesole, a great picnic spot with stunning views of the city.
Q. Do you pick up languages quickly?
A. Foreign languages do not come easily to me, but my Italian was OK by the end. I wanted to stay! I've been twice to Seville, another destination with great ambiance. Tapas hopping, eating prosciutto sandwiches slathered in tasty local olive oil in the morning, the architecture and getting lost in the winding streets can't be beat.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. I grew up in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and there aren't many places that I've visited that are like Myrtle. I guess the closest would be the beach area of Punta del Este, Uruguay. It's a vibrant beach stop for people all over Uruguay and Argentina.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Japan and Peru top my list right now. I'd like to travel more in Asia in general. Japan fascinates me. I want to go see Tokyo with locals who can take me to eat the best sushi, sing karaoke and get to know the city from their perspective. I'm interested in people's daily lives around the world — what do they do for fun on the weekends, what is important to them and their families, what do they eat. From my research on Peru, it seems like such a colorful and culturally rich destination. I want to hike and horseback ride to Machu Picchu and meet the locals who live off the grid in the mountains.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Facial cleansing pads, which are great on a plane, for long days outside or if you're camping and don't have access to a proper bathroom, which are all usual travel experiences for me. My iPhone, which is useful for photos, fun videos and for catching up on shows and movies I've missed during plane rides. I also use the ambient noise app when I'm in a place where unfamiliar night sounds make it hard for me to fall asleep. I always have a few granola bars on hand, because you never know when you might be served food that's too exotic or be waylaid somewhere and need energy. And sunglasses.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. The best was eating dinner with my future husband on Ile Saint-Louis in Paris. We went to this restaurant where the woman who greeted us and then waited on us was also the cook! It took forever, but it was really romantic and quaint and the food was delicious. The worst was being thrown from a moving train around Lake Balaton in Hungary.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)