Welcome to Refinery29’s Travel Diaries, a place where we find out the how, the why, and the where people are exploring now that the world is opening up again. In their answers to 29 questions, diarists will reveal their unique — and often a little offbeat — travel habits, stories, and hacks, from their bucket list destinations to their must-have road trip munchies to the wildest thing that ever happened to them while on a vacation. Buckle up, because we're inviting you along for the ride.
Today, New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz tells us about collecting souvenir shot glasses, why the beaches in Oregon hit different, and the perfect number of people to travel with (spoiler alert: it's four).
Plane, train, or automobile? I hate planes, I’m deathly afraid of flying and I cannot think of a more miserable part of the travel experience than having to schlep through the TSA. I love road trips because you can go at your own pace, put on some good music or a podcast, and stop at cool places along the way.
Beach or mountains? I’ve always been a mountain person. The beach is nice, but there’s not much to do once you’re there. You just sort of sit around and bake and get sandy. The one exception is the Oregon coast, for some reason the beaches in Oregon just hit different. I love swimming in the mountains, though; there’s nothing better than jumping in a cool mountain lake or cooling off under a waterfall. When I lived in New York City, one of my favorite places to go was up to the Adirondacks to hike.
What's your biggest vacation splurge? I love souvenirs. I have a shot glass collection and for years when I was younger I’d pick one up wherever I went. I still always buy some overpriced trinket from a gift shop when I travel somewhere, it helps me remember the good times from a trip.
What’s your minibar weakness? I don’t think I’ve actually ever had a mini bar drink in my life, but I’m a huge snacker and if they have high quality chips, I’m eating them.
What is the first big trip you ever took? The first big trip I remember was when I went with my high school marching band to Disney World in Florida. I’d always wanted to go to Disney growing up but my family never did trips like that. I got to go on rides in between band practice and it was my first time ever in Florida. I remember sitting on the bus looking out the window when we were driving from the airport to the resort and being so taken by how green everything was and the palm trees.
Tell us about your best travel experience. A couple years ago I did a 10-day trip to Banff in Canada. We camped a lot to keep the cost down, but the scenery was so breathtaking and it was one of the most memorable trips of my life. I loved seeing that part of Canada and it made me want to go back. I also love the Pacific Northwest. I’ve done a few trips to Portland and Seattle area and loved it so much I’ve considered moving there.
Tell us about your worst travel experience. I feel like most of the time air travel is hell. One of the worst experiences of my life was when I was on my way to a wedding and got stuck on a layover in Houston and the airline proceeded to basically move then bump me off so many flights I almost missed the wedding. Thankfully I made it eventually, but I missed an entire 24 hours sitting at the Houston airport.
What is your favorite place to visit? I love the Rocky Mountains in the summer and fall, right in September is perfect. Hiking around at that time of year is heaven. The air is perfect, it’s not too hot, and there’s something about the energy that feels relaxing but invigorating. I always feel most at home and relaxed in the middle of the woods.
What is your go-to traveling outfit? I wear leggings with pockets and usually three layers of sweaters and winter socks because it’s always freezing on the plane.
Do you arrive at the airport three hours early? Or 30 minutes before boarding? I get to the airport about two hours before my flight if I’m flying out of a large airport and an hour before if I’m flying out of a small one. I have a lot of flying anxiety, so I hate feeling too rushed.
What are your favorite traveling snacks? I usually bring some mini carrots for the plane and some sort of popcorn or chips, things that are easy to nosh on while I zone out.
What's your favorite part about staying in a hotel? Jumping into a freshly made bed after a long day or travel or taking a bath. My apartment doesn’t have a bath tub, so it feels like a luxury.
Where do you want to go next? I’m not traveling for the foreseeable future because of COVID, but I’ve wanted to visit India for a long time. I have a few close friends who grew up there and they’re always talking it up. I also have a group of friends I’ve known online for a while who live there and it would be awesome to hang out with them IRL. I’m vegan and there’s apparently a lot of great vegan food, too. Another place I’d love to go is New Zealand. It looks spectacular and I’d love to hike those mountains.
Where would you travel if it were the end of the world? I’d probably try to go see places I’ve never been before. Then again, if the world was ending I’d probably want to be home with my family going on local hikes.
What’s your most frequent trip? I travel to San Francisco quite often. I have family that’s been in the city for decades, so I love seeing them and exploring new places in town, especially burrito spots. When I go to SF I also try to do one good hike while I’m there. My favorite is Angel Island, the view of the city can’t be beat.
What’s your packing style? Throw everything into a carry-on at the last minute.
What was your last trip? I went to New York City in July. I used to live there so it was great to be back. I walked all over Brooklyn with a close friend of mine and visited my old apartment. It was perfect.
What's your next trip? Right now, with COVID, I probably won’t be traveling anywhere far anytime soon. Hopefully I’ll do a road trip out to Joshua Tree at some point this fall.
What’s your best travel hack? Buy some ziplock baggies and a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread and keep them in your hotel fridge. You can pack peanut butter sandwiches when you go out exploring places for a day to save money on meals.
What’s better: solo trips or traveling in groups? Personally I like small trips, traveling with a couple close friends who you really jive with is the best. You get all the benefits of group travel without having to coordinate a ton by having too many people. A couple years ago me and three close friends went to Vermont together, and it was so fun. Four is the perfect number of people to travel with.
What’s a touristy spot that’s actually worth it? I know Lake Louise has become a bit of an Instagram destination, but it’s absolutely spectacular and worth braving the crowds for the trip. It’s a glacial lake so the waters are freezing cold but look tropical because they’re so blue.
Window, middle, or aisle? Window so I can rest my head on the window and try to fall asleep.
Hotels: splurge or save? Save, since hopefully you won’t be spending much time at the hotel, you’ll be out exploring!
What’s your go-to airplane drink? Water, water, and more water.
Domestic or international travel? I’ve traveled a lot more domestically than I have been able to internationally, so once COVID subsides I’m hoping to hike some great mountain ranges around the world.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten while traveling? I was on an overnight camping trip up in Vermont once and a friend brought the most delicious vegan biscuits I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if it was just the intense hunger after hiking all day, but oh my god I’ve never tasted anything so good.
Podcast, audiobook, or playlist? I’m a big podcast listener. I usually download a few shows before any long trip to listen to in my down time. I’m a big fan of NPR’s Planet Money and How I Built This. A few episodes of those shows and hours will pass by in a minute.
What’s your favorite airplane movie? Texas Chainsaw Massacre is my favorite movie and I’ve watched it on the plane before. In general, I watch almost exclusively horror movies. Sometimes someone sitting next to me will look over during a particularly bloody or gruesome scene. I’ll usually just be like, yeah, I love horror.
What’s at the top of your bucket list? Well, speaking of horror, I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a road trip to some of the most haunted spots in the U.S. or visit the most terrifying haunted houses in America. I do ghost tours in almost any city I go to. It’s a great way to learn local history and get a little spooked! One of the best ghost tours I’ve been on was in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.