Travel Tales, Tips, Troubles, and Triumphs
We caught up with Sea to Summit Ambassador Aaron Jambrosic to talk travel. Aaron, originally from the States, has been traveling since 2012.
Aaron, what are you up to these days?
Amanda and I recently finished a 6 month trip traveling north from Antarctica through South, Central, and North America. It was an amazing adventure; at the end of it I asked Amanda to marry me, and she said yes! We are currently taking a working holiday in Calgary and are excited to explore this area.
How long have you been away from the States for?
I have been away from the States since 2012. I really wanted to travel, live and work all over the world. I decided to go work in Perth, Western Australia, giving me a great opportunity to really explore Australia and the greater Asia Pacific (one of my favorite regions in the world with great food, people, sights, and still relatively cheap).
When did you first catch the travel bug?
I was always interested in traveling, I even considered it an extension of my education. My first real travel experience wasn’t until I was 23, when I took my first solo backpacking trip to Europe after grad school. After that was over, I was hooked; a lifer!
What are some of your favorite trips?
It’s hard to choose favorites; I have loved every one of my trips and thought each was the best when I was experiencing it. I loved my first Europe trip because it was my first. I loved my 5 month Asia trip because it was my first really long trip, and felt like regular life rather than vacation. And on this trip I realized that I had found my life partner, so it doesn’t get more exciting than that.
How many countries have you visited?
So far I have visited all 7 continents, swam in all 5 of the world oceans and visited a total of 37 countries, but I’m just getting started!
Do you count countries like The Vatican and Monaco?
Who am I to challenge their sovereignty, if they consider it a separate country so do I. It helps keep the numbers up too, which is helpful if you are like me and have a goal to always visit more countries than your age… it keeps you traveling!
What about layovers where you are only in a country for a short period?
I don’t count layovers unless I get out and see something so airports don’t count. I have had some amazing experiences on a layover; I caught a brew festival in Hong Kong, spent 24 hours biking, dancing and trying amazing food in Bogotá, and once had just enough time to take the subway into Manhattan to grab Shake Shack and hop back on to make my flight. You don’t need a lot of time to have a memorable experience. Also, remember some airlines let you take a free stopover in some amazing places. For example; Iceland air and Fiji Airlines. Take advantage!
I think Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, and Torres Del Pines in Chilean Patagonia are the most amazing places I have seen in my life. I have also had an amazing experience staying with a family in a small town in Argentina. We slept on the floor in a house with no electricity or running water but learned to grill traditional asado. The grilling is only partially about the food, and the rest about the wine and conversation you have during the 3+ hours that it’s grilling. I often find that an experience somewhere is more enriching than what you see, it’s the sum of who you share it with, and who you meet along the way.
We hear you are a foodie. What are some of your favorite dishes abroad?
I have to say before traveling, I basically had the diet of 4 year old (but with a refined pallet for wine and beer). Being forced to eat what is available in foreign places really helped me get over my food fears. I will pretty much try anything now. I love to take cooking classes when I travel, full market to table experiences. It’s a great way to experience the culture and take some of it home with you. Some of my favorites are vegetarian Indian curries, samosas, any Thai food, and Argentinian asado.
What about your least favorite dish?
My least favorite dish was a beef pho I ordered in Dalat, Vietnam. It pretty much came out as a bowl of organs in boiled water. At that point, I’d had enough of that city and had to leave!
What are some of the weirdest things you have tried overseas?
I’ve definitely tried some odd things. Among the most memorable are giant locusts and grilled rat. It took me about an hour to convince myself to eat the locust. Turns out, it was lined inside with peanuts, unbeknownst to me, so when I bit into it and felt the pop all I could think was “was that the brain?”. Then the wings stuck to the roof of my mouth and throat! The rat went down a bit easier and was butterfly style and burnt over a grill. It was so thin it tasted like any other burnt meat, but it was hard to get over the head looking back at you!
Favorite winery and brewery?
After tasting beer all over the world I have to say Deschutes Brewing in Bend, Oregon is still the best. And for wine, I think West Australian wines take it for me. Denmark, Margaret River, and Swan Valley are all great regions, with beautiful scenery and fantastic wine. One of my favorites for all-around great wines is Mandoon Winery located in the Swan Valley outside of Perth.
We got word that you use to be a rookie in the packing department. Tell us how this has changed over time.
On my first 5-month trip my pack was 90L and topped 80lbs, it was like carrying another person! I was visiting multiple countries over various climates and seasons and wanted to be prepared for anything. For a start, my travel partner on that trip turned me on to modular packing, which was a big step forward. I also learned you can buy many things you need along the way. I actually got to put this to the test when I took a 2 week trip to Myanmar and my luggage was lost. I spent the whole trip with only the clothes on my back and a couple of items I picked up. You can travel fairly easily with nothing, but it sure is convenient with a few of the right things.
Any packing advice you can share?
Being able to organize your things and limit your space and weight is key. Using the Sea to Summit modular packing system really helps organize your pack. Dry bags, pack liners, and electronics protection are life savers. I love the Sea to Summit compressible X-Plates, bowls and cups; we use these everywhere from camping or in the hostel kitchen. Sea to Summit travel pocket laundry soaps and body washes are great and take up no space. In fact, Sea to Summit has a plethora of incredibly useful and handy options for travel!
What is next on your travel agenda?
We are just beginning to explore Canada. Besides checking out the mountains around Calgary, I have a road trip planned from Montreal through Toronto and Quebec City, to Halifax.
Where are you still dying to visit?
Turkey and Uganda are still at the top of my list. I would really like to spend more time in far Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.