Explorer of the World Q & A Series – Luna Rodriguez Natal

Welcome to Hostelfy.me’s  Explorer of the World Q & A series! This month’s featured explorer is Luna Rodriguez Natal, a 24-year-old traveler from the city of Móstoles in Madrid, Spain.

10576955_10154510089445604_183157750195996024_nPhotograph courtesy of Luna Rodriguez Natal

This intrepid journeywoman has voyaged to 11 countries in Europe. Her adventures have taken her to Spain, England, Italy, the Vatican City, Malta, Germany, Czech republic, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, and France. Read on as this soulful European explorer tells us all about what inspired her to hit the road, what’s next on her bucket list, and what makes living a life dedicated to  travel worthwhile.

Want to become an expert traveler like Luna? Get inspired and read her interview below!

How did you get started traveling? Why do you travel?

I’ve always taken excursions around my country when I was younger without thinking that traveling would eventually become the motor that would move my life.

The point of no return was the first time I went abroad in 2002. I was 12 and attended a college in England to improve my English.

architecture-2656_1920Photograph by Public Domain Pictures via Pixabay Commons

It was an experience changed my life. I met people from other countries. I encountered different cultures and languages for the first time. I was also able get a chance to travel and explore London, which is still one of my favorite cities.

The experience was so different from what I’ve always known that I immediately fell in love with everything. When I returned home, I kept dreaming about going back again. It was in that moment that I became curious about what it would be like to visit other cities, other countries. That was how my ‘need’ to travel started, and after having visited 11 countries, I know that this ‘need’ will never end.

10458441_10154500189925604_2853953900576996908_nPhotograph courtesy of Luna Rodriguez Natal

What do you love most about travel?

There isn’t just one thing that I love about the act of traveling, rather it’s a combination of many reasons. I travel because I want to discover the world. I’ve always been a curious person and always loved learning and speaking different languages. There’s also a sense of feeling complete whenever I discover different types of architecture, tasting new cuisines, and meeting and getting to know people from different cultures.

What has been your most memorable and rewarding travel experience?

My most memorable experience was during my time in France as an Erasmus student. I lived in France for nearly five months to finish my studies. I managed to learn a totally new language (French) and meet people all over the world. More importantly, I was lucky to live with people who were also foreigners and get to know all about them and their countries. I also had a chance to travel a lot during those five months. Aside from traveling within France, I was also able to visit cities in Switzerland and Italy.

1518265_10153772893675604_1156882820_oPhotograph courtesy of Luna Rodriguez Natal

What’s your favorite travel destination? Why?

That’s a tough one. I really don’t think that I can answer that question with one city and be satisfied with the answer. I would definitely say London is one of my favorite cities; it feels like home there. But Rome or Praga (Prague) are places that also totally got me due to their charming appearances and their incredible history and cultural heritage.

26519_10150174269410604_7041493_nPhotograph (Prague) courtesy of Luna Rodriguez Natal

What has been the biggest challenge about traveling? How do you overcome it?

The biggest challenge has always been managing to earn the money to actually travel. I’ve always solved this situation by finding inexpensive hostels, flights, and food. I am always encouraging people to travel. It is not necessary to have a bunch of money to do it!

How do you fund your travels? (i.e., save money for trips? work-related?)

Normally I’ve always tried to find a job to earn enough to fulfill my next trip.  Also, as I am still studying, I’ve always been lucky to have some study grants that have definitely helped to keep me traveling from one place or the other.

Do you stay in hostels when you travel? If so, how do you decide which hostel to stay in? What do you consider most important when choosing a hostel? (ex. Price, location, etc.)

Yes, I do. I normally sleep in hostels when the price is better than hotels, and the location is good. I am really not too picky about my accommodation as long as it fits in my budget and it is well-located.

(Editor’s note: Hostelfy.me is the booking site dedicated to helping travelers get great travel deals and find the perfect hostel for their needs!)

Do you have any funny / weird hostel experiences? If so, what?

Actually not yet. It wasn’t that long ago that I started staying in hostels, and so far everything has gone normally. What I’ve discovered is that I really like sleeping in hostels because there are more possibilities to get to know other people. Plus, hostels usually have a nice ambience.

10304966_10154456768375604_4794278376678751146_nPhotograph courtesy of Luna Rodriguez Natal

 What are the TOP 5 things that people should do when they travel ?

1) Visit all the cultural heritage sites, as well as admire the different architectonic styles;

2) Speak, or at least try to speak, the language of the new country;

3) Get involved in the culture;

4) Meet people from the place, share knowledge, and maybe try to become friends with these new and interesting people. Because you never know when will you be back again.

5) Try the local food

new-zealand-225540_1920Photograph (New Zealand) by Martin Str via Pixabay Commons

What’s on your bucket list?

1) Pursue doctorate studies in New Zealand, hopefully next year. That would be amazing. Since I could be there for three years, I could possibly visit some nearby countries like Australia, Japan, China, and maybe do a tour around Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and more.

2) Visit the USA. Maybe work for a while if there is not other option, then quit the job and have the summer off to discover the country.

3) Visit a Buddhist monastery

4) Backpack through India

5) Enroll in one of the “Tournado Tours” in the USA

6HPhotograph by Ryan McGuire of Bells and Design via Gratisography (Free to use collection)

 Any advice for aspiring travelers?

Be open minded, always look for totally new experiences, make friends, and try different ways of travelling. Choose the experiences which you love most and share them with other travellers! Carpe Diem!

1517640_10154163192710604_4296789547114011441_n Photograph courtesy of Luna Rodriguez Natal

What travel quotes do you live by? 

Los viajes son pequenas vidas” by Domenic Cieri

(Trips are like living little different lives)

No aceptes nunca como compañero de viaje a quien no conozcas como a tus manos” by Rómulo Gallegos

(Never accept a travel companion you don’t know as well as the palm of your hand)

Want to know more about Luna and her adventures? Check out her Trip Advisor profile here 

We’re scouring the globe in search of intrepid travelers to feature on the Hostelfy.me blog! If you love to travel, have a ton of stories, experiences, and advice to share just send us an email at lola@hostelfy.me with “Traveler Q&A” on the subject line. 

 

City Profile: Istanbul, Turkey – Part II

THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar)

The bazaar is walking distance to Beyazit and Sultanahmet square. Take the tram to Beyazit square and find “Carsikapi,” one of the main entrances of the Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul.GrandBazaar002Photograph by Georges Jansoone JoJan via Wikimedia Commons

Get lost in the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar), the world’s oldest and largest shopping centre. A shopper’s paradise since the mid-15th century, this vibrant bazaar has everything you could ever hope for and more. With over 58 streets and 4,000 shops, there is a lot to explore. Make your way through the labyrinth of of spices, carpets, bangles, and gold-plated ‘eyes’ which are believed to ward of evil. Walking through the maze is a physical and mental feat, as one must resist the hundreds of carpet sellers eager to lure you in their store, where you may end up leaving with a life-savings worth of rugs.Trade funny banter with the shopkeepers offering bargain deals and children eager to be your guide as you navigate yourself through the web of precious gems, fur, hadicrafts, leather, antique coins, and jewelry.

Bosphorus Night Cruise

Eminönü waterfront-Ferryboat docks or Golden Horn (West Side of Galata Bridge) for the TurYol boats

bridge-53227_640

Photograph by  via Pixabay.com Commons

To truly experience Istanbul’s romantic splendor, take the Bosphorus night cruise with the Ferry or the TurYol Boat. Experience the Old City, as you watch the fishing boats gently rock to and fro on the waves. Let the twinkling city lights, and the curtain of stars above your head be your guide as you sail through this 32-km strait, joinng the Sea of Mamara and the Black Sea. From any direction you set out towards, the Southern or Northern Bosphorus, Rumeli Kavagi, or North of the Fatih Bridge, you are bound to pass through some breathtaking sites, samles of such are: the six Ottoman palaces, the Rumeli Hisari (Fortress of Europe on the Northern Bosphorus), Sariyer (Fish market on the North side of the Fatih Bridge), the Topkapi Palace (on the Southern Bosphorus). Revel in the myth and mystique of Istanbul as you listen to stories about the sunken cities under the Turkish coast, how the Bosphorus is believed to be the source of Noah’s flood, and how Hera made Zeus’ mistress into a cow.

Topkapı Palace

Topkapi_Palace_Istanbul_-_Imperial_Hall

Photograph by Mircea Ostoia from Focsani, Romania (Topkapi Palace Istanbul) via Wikimedia Commons

Hours: Wed-Mon 9:00am-5:00pm

Tel: 0212 512 0480 (info)

One of Istanbul’s many highlights is that its history is a dramatic one. The Topkapi Palace is evidence of this, as it was the former home of Selim the Sot, who drowned in the bath after too much champagne, as well as Ibrahim the Mad who was inprisoned in the palace kafes (cages).  The tragedies do not end here, as the Topkapi has enough historic tales to fill a national library.

The Topkapi Palace, when translated, means “Cannongate Palace” and was primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans, as well as the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire. Built by Mehmet the Conquerer after his conquest of Turkey in 1453, the palace underwent numerous renovations all based upon Mehmet’s original four-courtyard pattern. Enjoy the splendors of the past as you walk through the Harem, the Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III, the Audience chamber, and Conquerer’s Pavillion. The harmony of its austere layout and intricate details have made this “Palace of Felicity” a paradise on earth.

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıçı)

YerebatanSarayı (1)

Photograph by Pnc net via Wikimedia Commons

Yerebatan Cad 13

Tel: 0212 522 1259 (info)

Hours: Oct-Mar 9:00am-5:30pm, Apr-Sep 9:00am-6:30pm

Web: http://www.yerebatansarnici.com

The Basilica Cistern, also known as the Yerebatan Sarnıçı, is an architects dream. As the largest of the hundreds of ancient cisterns beneath Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern has 336 columns, a grand ceiling, and a dramatic carvings, such as the upside down Medusa heads and teardrop designs. It was built in AD 532 by Emperor Justinian I with material from ruined buildings, as a place to store water for the Great Palace and surrounding buildings. In its sheer grandeur and composition, the Basilica Cistern is a breathtaking example of Byzantine sophistication.

GALATA TOWER

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Photograph by Penguin Cakes via Flickr Creative Commons

The Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi in Turkish) or better known as the Tower of Christ, is a sight as powerful as its name. As a former stronghold of the Genoese defense system of 1348 in Pera, this intimidating sight dominates the Istanbul skyline. Standing at 66.90  meters, the Galata Kulesi was once used as an observation tower for spotting fires during the Ottoman period. The view from the top is not to be missed, especially at sunset when the colors of the city come alive.