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 I

Want a chance to be in Europe AND Asia? Well, Turkey is one country where you’ll be able to explore these two continents. Learn more about this fascinating country by reading the first part of Hostelfy.me’s City Profile series!

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Photograph by Moyan Brenn via Flickr Commons

Turkey is culturally, historically, and geographically the cradle of civilization. It has been the fountainhead for the three most powerful societies in history: the Hitite, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman Empire. Situated between the continents of Europe and Asia, the country is a fusion of the East and West. It is considered as the link between cultures, as eight countries borders this transcontinental land: Greece on the west, Iran to the east, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the northeast, Bulgaria to the Northwest, and Iraq and Syria to the southeast. It is surrounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Aegean Sea to the West, and the Mediterranean Sea to the South.

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The Bosphorus Bridge by night, as seen from the Ortaköy mosque. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto via Wikimedia Commons

Although Ankara is the state’s capital, Istanbul, being the country’s most populous city, has steadily grown to be the financial and cultural center. This developing metropolis, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is one of Europe’s most exciting and alluring cities. Encompassing 25 districts, this vibrant city stretches towards the European (Thrace) and Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus Strait. Thus, making it the only city in the world whose home belongs to two continents. The sights, smells, and sounds will intoxicate the senses–with its inspiring architecture, savory selection of street food, and sound of prayer–makes this city a truly physical and spiritual experience.

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Photograph by Moyan Brenn via Flickr Commons

Istanbul is not only caught between two continents, but also by two world views–the traditional and the modern. Despite this, most of the population live in harmony with one another. It is one of the few cities in the Muslim World that embraces both the cosmopolitan way of life and religious conservatism.

The city’s biggest draws? Its plethora of cool events!

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Photograph of the Istanbul Jazz Festival by GriZine via Flickr Commons

The abundance of events in Istanbul lead to an exotic and exciting trip. The Holy Month of Ramadan would have most of the people fasting from sunrise to sunset (at the exact times), therefore be polite and save your feast for sunset when they break their fast. If you really cant help yourself, there are a few restaurants and cafes open for the rare individuals choosing not to participate and for the non-Muslims.  The end of Ramazan, the festival of  Şeker Bayramı, is the feast of all feast. It turns into a massive party full of food, dancing, and mingling. Its also a massive cavity-fest, wherein the most tempting and delicious sweets are distributed. This three-day national holiday is when the city is truly alive with businesses closing and public transport being heartily championed.

Turkey’s most important religious celebration is the Kurban Bayrami. This four-day event is the commemoration of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. The celebration results in the city sky being filled with fireworks and sheep being sacrificed and distributed to the poor. Thus, if you would like to participate in the festivities, early planning is essential, since hotels are often fully booked and public transport tends to be packed like sardines.

Turkey, being predominantly Muslim, follow the lunar year of Hejira which is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year. Thus, every year Muslim events occur 11 days earlier.

Another interesting times to visit this thriving city is in April for the Istanbul Film Festival, where the brightest stars of Turkey come to walk the red carpet. Other great events include the Conquest of Constantinople ceremony in May, the International Istanbul Music Festival and International Istanbul Jazz Festival in June and July, the International Istanbul Biennal in September and October.

City Profile: Kuala Lumpur Food Trip

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Photograph by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr Commons

If there is anything more adventurous and satisfying in traveling through Southeast Asia, it’s testing out the diverse, unique and interesting selection of food. Kuala Lumpur is one of the hottest and most exciting locations for food lovers, taste bud adventurers and fans of cooking travel shows such as Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour.” The plethora of eateries and dishes will make you sweat­from the humid Malaysian weather, the full­bodied spices and most of all, from the excitement of having so many distinct and delicious options laid out before you.

With a cuisine that reflects the multi­cultural history and influences of Malaysia, there is more than one way to eat in KL. The country’s food options have been derived, fused and influenced by Indian, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Arab and Portuguese cultures which makes it entirely possible not to eat the same thing twice.

So take this gastronomic adventure through the city where you’ll not only have your mouth watering for more, you’ll also learn more about the country’s rich history and culture as well as the most intriguing sections in the city.

Some helpful keywords to use on your adventure:

ayam ­ chicken
ikan ­ fish
garpu ­ fork
lembu ­ lamb
mee/mi ­ noodles takeaway ­ food to go roti ­ bread

Terima kasih ­ Thank you teh ­ tea
teko ­ teapot
teksi ­ taxi

Selamat datang ­ You’re welcome Selamat tinggal ­ goodbye

Here, a guide to everything you need to know about Malaysian cuisine.

Malaysian Indian 

Kuala_Lumpur_Little_India_0009Photograph of Little India by Stefan Fussan via Wikimedia Commons

The country was and is still highly influenced by the Indian culture. With a historical relationship dating back to the 3rd century B.C., wherein Indian traders and fishermen came to Malaysia to trade with the locals and the Chinese. For true Indian cuisine, Brickfield’s is the area to be. This section of Kuala Lumpur is also known as “Little India” and is where you’ll find the best banana leaf rice cantinas, chapati breads and thosai (South Indian pancake).

Mamak

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 Photograph by Krista via Flickr Commons

Mamak, which refers to Indian Muslims, have created their own distinctly Malaysian­Indian fusion of food. One of the most popular category of food is the “nasi kandar,” which originates from Penang.

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Photograph of Mamak Stall by Krista via Flickr Commons

Mamak stalls (a.k.a. mapley) are widespread throughout the city as well as the rest of Malaysia, wherein some are even open 24 hours a day and is considered as the local “watering hole” where people gather to eat, gossip and watch football games (its extra crazy during the World Cup). You’re bound to come across one of these tiny cantinas or stalls wherein you’ll feel fully satisfied by the freshly made roti canai (thin, flaky bread), Nasi Lemak (rice steamed with coconut milk), Teh tarik (literally, “pulled tea” with condensed milk). These stalls (some even illegal­which makes it more fun) can be found in streets and near parking lots all over the city, but a great spot to find a mass of these eateries is by the busy Jalan Imbi section of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Chinese

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Photograph by Pavithran via Wikimedia Commons

For those craving some good ol’ Chinese takeout, you’re bound to be delightfully surprised. Though still influenced by the cultural melting pot that is Malaysia, the food remains discernibly Chinese. Though Chinese food is often rife with pork (which is not allowed for Muslims), there are many vegetarian, chicken and halal (ingredients that are allowed in the Islamic religion) options. A good bet to find fabulous Chinese food is obviously, in KL’s Chinatown as well as in the grungy, red ­light district of Chow Kit (Jalan Chow Kit Road) which has an interesting wet market, an Indonesian community, an African community and a night market.

Malaysian Dessert

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Photograph by Jonathan Lin via Flickr Commons

For dessert lovers who’ve made a special pact with the tooth ­fairy, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory­–Malaysian style.

Kuih which is Bahasa (language in Malaysia) for sweets and pastries which are made fresh with natural ingredients, can be found in specialty shops all over the city.

Most of Malaysian desserts are made with coconut milk and local fruits. For health buffs and/or fruit lovers, you can find your fix in any local outdoor market and must try delights are: mango, mangosteen, pineapple, rambutan, star fruit, jackfruit, langsat, watermelon, papaya, banana and fresh coconut. For other traditional desserts, try: Cendol ­ Green rice noodles served in chilled coconut milk and gula melaka (coconut palm sugar). Ais Kacang/ Air Batu ­ Shaved ice with sweet corn, red beans, condensed milk and sweet syrups. Sago ­ Rice balls or cubes served in chilled coconut milk. Pengat ­ Tapioca and banana with thick, melted brown sugar mixed with coconut milk, traditional fruits Ondeh­ ondeh ­ Pandan flavored balls of glutinous rice flour which is filled with gula melaka (coconut palm sugar) and rolled in coconut shavings.