Tuesday Traveller: Brooke Schoenman – Soviet Scandal

An American from the Midwest, Brooke currently resides in Sydney (lucky ducky) and lives with her Aussie boyfriend who she met in Latvia back in 2008! Brooke has actually contributed to Gap Year Escape a few times and so feel free to check out her contributions.

welcame to kashigar

Snap your fingers right now and you’d magic yourself to…?

Right now I’d LOVE to venture to either Georgia (the country) or Azerbaijan. My goal is to eventually hit all the countries of the former Soviet Union. I know… weird, but I find them interesting!

Do you prefer to travel solo or with a friend?

This is a tough one, and something I’ve gone back and forth on in the past. I’m a solo traveler by necessity, really, but after enjoying the benefits of being able to go and do what I want, traveling with a friend is often difficult. However, traveling with my boyfriend definitely trumps going solo – mostly because we enjoy the same things and I don’t have to miss him while abroad!

What’s the most memorable Hostel you’ve stayed in?

I really enjoyed Bungalow Bay on Magnetic Island (up in Queensland, Australia). My boyfriend and I were able to get our own private bungalow room for the price of two beds in a dorm, and it was just in the most perfect and serene setting we could imagine. Right on the premises is a koala sanctuary, and the bar and lounge were all open-air – perfect for tropical north Queensland.

What’s your favourite adventure sport?

Does wicked rollercoaster riding count as an adventure sport? I’m not really one for extreme sports – I don’t think I could ever jump out of a plane – but I do enjoy the biggest, fastest, steepest rollercoasters. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio is like my dream land and I’m about due for a return trip.

Even on a budget we all have a luxury vice, what’s yours?

Coffee. I love a good cup of coffee, and if I have to spend a bit of money to get that and a tranquil place to hang out, I will… no questions asked. This is when expat cafes become my best friend. No matter how much I am around the chaos, some places (like Kashgar right now) can be overwhelming to my Western mindset.

What piece of travel gear would you recommend to us?

I was actually given a Pacsafe daypack for my current trip from the company, and it has turned out to be one of my favorite pieces of travel gear – ever! It’s a Slingsafe 300 GII, just big enough to hold my 13” MacBook Pro, my camera, iPhone, a good sized book, mini umbrella, a water bottle (or two), and all the little bits one might need (brush, chapstick, etc.). It’s got the slashproof exo-mesh that Pacsafe is known for, and extra clip-locks for both of the zippered compartments (to keep opportune thieves at bay). One of the main straps also has a clip lock so you can attach it to a chair handle or other secure place when not wearing.

This daypack has given me extra confidence when walking through crowded markets and standing on busy transportation while carrying my valuables.

Have you had any brushes with border patrol/police/security/government officials?

Well, yes… yes I have. I actually just wrote about my drama at the Kazakh – Kyrgyz border here. Another time I had issues was in Ukraine when I was desperately awaiting a package from my mother. It should have long since arrived, but it didn’t… and I was due to head to Australia in just a short while. I had one of the teacher aids at the language school I was working at check with the Post Office, and sure enough, they were holding my package… basically for ransom. They said I owed money and had to fill out a stack of forms, which my teacher aid helped with. She then went to return the forms, which is when they handed over the package, no money needed!

The guess was that they were expecting an American to arrive and be willing to pay money to get the package sooner rather than later. Luckily I had a local on my side and it never came to that!

Brooke is an independent, passionate traveler who shares her personal experiences and advice on emerging destinations and living abroad on her blog, Brooke vs. the World. Her work has been featured in numerous online publications from BBC Travel to BootsnAll and World Nomads. Connect with Brooke on Facebook and Twitter @brookeschoenman.

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