Tripper of the Week Amber Hoffman: "Spend your time how you want to"
Amber Hoffman is a Tripper from Chicago. Though, you won't find her there now--she's on the road adventuring. You can follow her travels in detail on her blog www.WithHusbandInTow.com.
1) You left the 9 to 5 life behind in July 2012 to travel the world. What inspired you to take the leap?
I took a RTW trip in 2009, and was hooked on the concept of long-term slow travel. I just needed to save up some additional money to feel more secure in my “soft retirement.” I have known for a long time that I was not really meant to be a tax attorney, but I thought I could last a little longer than I did. When I realized what was expected of me to make partner at a large law firm, I just knew I did not want to play that game any longer. It was time to take the leap.
2.What country or city were you most excited to visit?
Myanmar was on the top of my list. I have been working with a nonprofit, Global Community Service Foundation, which focuses on development work in both Central Vietnam and Myanmar. I had been learning so much about the history of and current developments in Myanmar. It seemed so exciting to go to a relatively “new” destination in Southeast Asia. We made it happen in February 2013!
3. If you had to pick one place you've visited on your round-the-world adventure that every traveler should see, which one would it be?
I traveled to Cuba in January 2013. As an American I never thought it would be possible. I had no idea what to expect, and I am so glad I went. I think everyone should have the opportunity to travel to a place like Cuba, to a country that is stuck in time, behind a dictatorial curtain, and untouched by advertising and consumerism. There are so few places in this world where that is still the case.
4. Meeting locals is one of your favorite parts of travel. What is your favorite experience connecting with local people?
We met a local guy, Haris, while traveling through Sarajevo, Bosnia. He invited us and a few other tourists out to a local beer hall. We had no idea what to expect. The beer hall was an old theater converted into a smoky bar. The place was packed, but Haris had a VIP table in the back. We had a birds eye view of the bar patrons, all singing along to traditional Bosnian music – something you don’t see a lot of back home. The owner brought us a bottle of bootleg rakia, the local liquor. In addition to Haris, we had a Serbian guy who was raised in Germany and a girl from Montenegro at our table. After learning so much of the war history of Sarajevo, it was wonderful to see the younger generation put the past behind and have a good night just singing, dancing, and drinking rakia in this old Bosnian theater. It was a great night!
5. You're lived in Chicago for 5 years. What 3 places should no one visiting that city miss?
I lived in Chicago for 5 years and it is by far one of my favorite cities, even though I despise the cold. When the warm weather hits, Chicago comes alive. For the traditional traveler, a must see is the Tribune Tower, at the intersection of Michigan Ave and the Chicago River. The tower includes pieces of various historical buildings, from the Great Pyramids to the Twin Towers. In nice weather, you can hop an Architectural Boat Cruise nearby, to get a view from the Chicago River of all of the city’s best and most historical architectural landmarks.
Although most people focus their visit around the Magnificent Mile, and the great museums near the Loop, a tour of some of the neighborhoods is a must. Hop on the “el” Brown Line and get off at Wellington or Belmont and cruise the neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park and Lakeview. My must see list always revolves around food and drink. I travel on my stomach. Walk up Broadway, Halstead, or North Southport for some shopping and great eats. Grab a cinnamon roll at Ann Sather’s, an Italian Beef at Clark Street Dog, or a Killer Margarita at Caesar’s.
I would also recommend to anyone coming to Chicago to plan a trip around an afternoon Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Not only an American landmark, it is just a fun experience, trying a bratwurst, and knocking back an Old Style beer. The neighborhood comes alive too, and just the walk to the park and back is part of the Chicago experience.
6. If someone were considering a round-the-world trip what are the top 3 tips you would share with them?
Be flexible. It’s great to have a plan, but don’t consider if gospel. Don’t get so set in a schedule that you miss out on some exploration you hadn’t considered.
Spend your time how you want to. Age-old wisdom dictates you should make the most of every day. When traveling long term, though, it is impossible to see every single sight in every single city. It can be exhausting. Prioritize and see what you want to see, and take time to relax. Do what you want to do and not what others tell you to do.
Chose your travel partners wisely. I travel with my husband, so I don’t have a choice on a travel partner. Luckily, we travel well together. But, if you plan to travel with a partner, a best friend, or travel solo and meet people along the way, think about the similarities and differences between you. A long-term trip can be life changing, or it can ruin a relationship. Embrace your differences and use them to your advantage. And, take breaks from one another once in awhile.
7. Where are you traveling next?
I am sticking to Southeast Asia for the long haul, interviewing places to call a home base while continuing my exploration. Next I am exploring some of the beach areas of Thailand and staying in Bangkok for a bit. I will also return to Hanoi to see whether it can fit the bill to be our new “home.”