Boarding Pass – Hither and Thither

Today is a special double dose of Boarding Pass with husband and wife team, Ashley and Aron Bruhn. The duo is behind Hither and Thither, a lifestyle/travel blog about living life as a tourist in New York as well as about their travels around the world. I love how they explore they cities they call home, yet they’ve definitely covered a lot of territory. It’s fun too to see how two traveling minds think. Maybe we should all take a tip from them and plan our next trip to the destination with the cheapest airfare :) {Thanks, Ashley and Aron!}

{Aron & Ashley, downtown New York}

home town:
Ashley: I’m from Long Beach—near Los Angeles—and spent all but the last couple of years in California. Aron and I met in Davis, as undergrads, and then lived together in Los Angeles while he went to UCLA for medical school, and I to USC for graduate school.

{Former Home: Los Angeles (Griffith Observatory)}

Aron: I actually grew up in Davis, which is a small college-town in Northern California. I was convinced I didn’t like big cities until I lived in San Francisco. And I thought I’d hate Los Angeles until I lived there (and loved it).

{New York Marathon; [right] Yosemite Valley}

{Home: Manhattan, New York City}

where you live now:
We live in the East Village, in Manhattan, and look downtown from inside our little 500 square feet of apartment.

{Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica}

{La Fortuna, Costa Rica}

last trip taken:
We’re just back from Costa Rica—which was incredible! We packed as much as we could into nine days and it completely surpassed all of my expectations. I felt like I’d stepped into a Discovery Channel show.

Aron: Or maybe to brunch this morning. That’s the great thing about living in New York; most days I still feel like I’m seeing the city anew.

{Piazza San Marco, Venice}

next trip on deck:
India. I can’t believe it—we’re leaving in a couple of weeks. From Mumbai, we’ll fly to Udaipur (in Rajasthan), drive to Jodhpur via Narlai, and then take a train overnight into Delhi.

Aron: This is our first time to India; and planning for it has made it clear—even without having gone yet—that this won’t be our last.

{Paris on New Year’s morning}

one place you would go back to again and again:
We’ve been to Paris many times, and it never fails to be enchanting. It’s a real, thriving city and yet it can feel so precious, too—like a work of art. I could easily go back, again and again.

Aron: It’s hard to compete with Paris, but our trip to Italy was eye-opening. Afterward, even Ashley—who has always been a bit of a Francophile—was swayed. Italy was incredible. I finally get all the fuss about the food. There were these truffle sandwiches in Florence—amazing! The history, the food, the sun… It was consuming.

{On the island of Korcula, Croatia}

place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
Besides New York to visit us? Our friends would want such different things; I’d suggest someplace fresh, someplace they hadn’t been before. I’d suggest they look for a mix of culture and natural wonder—that’s what I’m usually looking for.

Ashley: For the friend who’d never been to Europe: Paris; and for the one who wanted a slice of European culture but also wanted a beach vacation: one of the Croatian islands, like Korčula; or maybe Corsica, in the Mediterranean. Bangkok if he or she prefers cities. Then again, Yosemite always felt like it was in our backyard, so I often forget how wonderful it is; if a friend of mine hadn’t been, I’d send them immediately—especially in the off-season.

{Diving off of Roatan, Honduras; [right] Fireworks in Barcelona}

preferred method of transportation:
I’d definitely walk whenever I could, but I love driving—and having the freedom to stop whenever we’d like.

Ashley: Flying is a lot more fun with Aron; it’s cheesy but I love how we hold hands at take-off. Otherwise: By foot. We’re big walkers. In fact, I’ve always wanted us to do one of those trips where you walk between villages, stopping for fantastic food and lodging every night, like in the Italian countryside (somewhere where it doesn’t rain too much). Like camping, but not really.

{Christmas market stalls, Strasbourg}

place you’ve never been but dying to go:
I’d have said India, but now we’re going! High on my list are Vietnam, parts of Africa (especially South Africa and Kenya), Turkey—oh my goodness, I could go on and on. I really want to spend more time in Asia, having only been to Thailand. It was intoxicating!

Aron: I agree about Asia, but I would have to say the Galapagos. I would love to dive with the hammerhead sharks, and see the iguanas. That would be amazing.

{Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Orleans}

{Kotor, Montenegro}

place you’d never go back:
Naples. I’m sure there are some great things there, but I didn’t see them. I had a horrible experience on a solo hike in Tasmania, but I would definitely want to go back and do it properly. So that’s the opposite, in fact.

Ashley: Naples. Not a great stop. Or, could I choose a place and time? That would be the cheap hotel near the train station in Nice just after we’d all our things stolen—including our camera with all of our pictures from our road trip through France. We left our bags in the car while we ran to jump in the Mediterranean for a few minutes and our car was broken into. Worst night on a trip. Ever.

{Grand Palace, Bangkok}

most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
Our honeymoon in Thailand was everything I could possibly ask for in a vacation: romantic, exotic, exciting, eye-opening, delicious; it really set the bar high and has influenced (and I think made better) every trip since. And it was our honeymoon.

Aron: I agree—our honeymoon was awesome! Because Ashley already said that, I’ll add that we’d both say that living and studying abroad was incredibly formative for how we travel and how we experience the place we live, every day.

{Outside of Shanghai}

how do you prepare for a trip?
I’m probably a little crazy, by most standards. Aron and I can weigh options to no end, and I’d prefer to do that here rather than there—so I do a lot of research in hopes that we can be more spontaneous later. Choosing where to go is usually a much labored-over decision—to the extent that I sort of plan out a few possible trips to help us make the decision and compare details. (There may or may not have been an incident in which water temperatures were compared.)

Aron: And as for choosing, we also have a huge list of airport codes for places we would like to go one day and we’ll compare prices for the time we have free (this method led us to Ireland last summer, for example).

{Cute Irish fella on the Dingle Peninsula}

Ashley: Multiple guidebooks can come into play (different brands are best depending on the destination), as do message boards (Fodor’s, Chowhound, etc.), magazines (National Geographic Traveler, Budget Travel, Conde Nast, T&L—back-issues of Gourmet) and lots of web-browsing for relevant blogs. For cities, I find the Epicurious dining guides and the Lucky Shopping guides to be useful. Magazines tend to be better than the guidebooks for current hot spots; Sunset is great resource for the West Coast weekend trip, for example. Of course, many of the best things happen without a plan.

{Going to market, Guatemala}

how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
Photographs. I do collect lots of things as we go—business cards, napkins, receipts, ticket stubs, ephemera of all sorts… and keep them with our itinerary (which is usually detailed enough to serve as a sort of diary these days—though I’d say that wasn’t always the case, especially when we took longer trips). And I try to jot down notes, but photos are definitely our primary record.

{Nutmeg in Grenada}

{Mangoes in Costa Rica}

what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
Anything that captures that “feeling” or will remind us of where we’ve been. Details. Colors. Anything unique. Especially if it makes us laugh. Food is a favorite subject. (That’s true on all fronts, actually).

Aron: My wife. Is that too saccharin? I wish it were people in general, actually. But it’s difficult to photograph people without feeling self-conscious. It’s definitely a goal to get more good people shots.

{Leaving Positano—Amalfi Coast, Italy}

{Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand}

on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Hundreds. Thousands. Too many. We can average about 200 a day when we’re moving around; we take significantly less on beach vacations or on trips where we stay put. Digital is wonderful for that, but it means a lot of time spent editing.

{Biking around the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland}

what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
We share a Canon Powershot with underwater housing and a digital SLR (a Canon Rebel XT with a 24-105mm lens). We’re probably getting a new camera soon—the new Rebel. I just about had a heart attack when ours died for a bit on our last trip.

Ashley: There are the cameras, of course. A nice pen. And then the essentials for sleeping on long flights are a sleep mask, neck pillow, earplugs, and Ambien. Aron got me hooked on Bose noise-reduction headphones, but I can do without if need be. I used to bring those French notebooks that have the really smooth paper; I should get some more.

{Buza Bar—on the side of the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia; [right] Elephants being bathed, Chiang Mai}

what do you do after a trip? how long after a trip does this happen?
These days, we try to write a trip report for the blog as soon as we can. There was a time when we made slideshows into little movies with soundtracks. Before that, there were scrapbooks—which I sort of miss and plan to do again one day. (Who knows when?) We’ve gotten better about finishing the trip reports quickly, but it can take weeks to months. The goal is to finish one before we leave for anywhere else.

Aron: The videos set to music were too time-consuming to make. And it’s hard—and potentially cruel—to share a 45-minute slideshow with anyone but each other!

{Sunbathers on the Amalfi Coast}

favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
We have a small place, so we don’t bring back too much. I try to pick out things that are practical for our home (or for our—er, my—closet!) but which we would also buy if we found them here, in New York. I love having things around us that are tied to a memory or a special place, but which don’t scream “Souvenir!” Sometimes, when I’m in a store here and see that something I love comes from somewhere we’re going, I specifically wait to buy it when we’re there.

Aron: My favorite souvenirs are the photographs we take. Finding something we would really love to live with is awesome—but I don’t expect that to happen very often.

{Squash blossoms and Nutella-filled cornetti, Rome}

what else?
We put so much time and effort into planning our travels—so much excitement and anticipation stemming hours of research—and the rewards are plenty. I feel like our travel practices have really helped us to learn, and helped us learn to love, our new-ish home (New York City). We’ve approached the city as tourists: marking maps with places to try, hitting the pavement and walking for miles, carrying a camera and looking for details—and now I’m at a loss as to why tourist is always such a dirty word. New York is an easy subject, but I feel like traveling is a constant lesson in curiosity.

Blog: Hither and Thither

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