Archive for the ‘Featured Travelers’ Category

Featured Traveler | Melanie Renzulli: Miss Adventures

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Today’s Featured Traveler is Freelance Writer, Melanie Renzulli. This world traveling mom is obsessed with Rome and dancing at live concerts. Want to know more about Miss Adventures? Read on to find out more about her misadventures and what the “Melanie Variety Plate” is!

Name: Melanie Renzulli

Tell us a little about yourself: I am a freelance travel writer currently writing for as the USA Travel Guide; as a travel blogger; and, my blog about Italy travel. I’m kind of all over the place with my interests - but that’s kind of the prerequisite for being a writer, in general. It’s nice to have little passions to pull inspiration from.

Favorite city you’ve been to: An impossible question, but my heart says Rome. When I’m not there, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling about that city, as if it’s an unrequited crush. When I visit, on the other hand, it keeps me on my toes. A love for the ancient and the modern tugs at me, so Rome lets me explore both curiosities.

Favorite restaurant: I really have no answer for that. I think some of my favorite meals, both home and abroad, have been at holes-in-the-wall or mid-range restaurants. My favorite way to eat when I’m on the road is to graze here and there, sample a little bit of everything. So, I guess my favorite *type* of restaurant would have to be a wine bar with lots of mini plates, a tapas bar, or at a Turkish restaurant that offers lots of mezes. Among my family, this type of dining is called the “Melanie Variety Plate.”

Best place to relax: On a massage table. I’m no luxury traveler, but I do love to pamper myself once in a while and travel is a great time to do it. I have enjoyed ayurvedic massages in Kerala, India, and sudsy rub-downs at hammams in Turkey. Those experiences were a little more profound than just going to a spa, as I felt I was exploring a bit of the local culture at the same time.

Best place to have fun:
I love having the opportunity to get out and see live music or dance when I’m traveling. (Though, sadly, that’s not as possible now that I am usually traveling with two toddlers.) I have such fond memories of a few trips that involved music, such as going to a bouzouki bar in Corfu, Greece and a reggae beach party in Negril, Jamaica.

Best trip you’ve ever taken: The best trip I ever took was my first trip - as an exchange student to Germany. It’s not that the memories from there trump all others, but the fact that it was my first taste of adventure and set me on this path as a lifetime lover of travel.

What one piece of advice do you have for travelers? If you can’t go carry-on only, pack at least a change of underwear in your carry-on. Seriously, it’s a lifesaver if your bags get lost or delayed.

Where else can we find you on the web? You can find me everywhere, but most easily on Twitter @melanierenzulli. I also blog for Gadling, am the USA Travel guide for, and occasionally write on my own blogs at Italofile and Miss Adventures . Links to all of these are on my profile. Got all that?


Featured Traveler | Fidel Hart: Scene With A Hart

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Fidel Hart sails the seven seas and takes photos for a living. Sweet, right? Fidel is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and now resides in Japan. The sailor shares his travel experiences on his travel blog,  Scene With A Hart. Find out why Fidel harts travel in our latest Featured Traveler profile.

Name: Fidel Hart

Tell us a little about yourself: My name is Fidel. I’ve been a Sailor in the US Navy for three years. I joined the Navy primarily to travel since I could never get the time to travel like I wanted to when I worked in real estate. Since joining the Navy, I’ve been to more than 20 countries and typically travel six months out of the year. My primary job in the Navy is also my favorite hobby: photography.

Favorite city you’ve been to: Florence, Italy is my favorite city. Florence has every thing I love in a city: friendly people, travelers, great food, good hostels, easy walks, history, art, beautiful women, professional soccer and great shopping.

Favorite restaurant: My favorite restaurant is Roscoe’s Chicken N’ Waffles in Los Angeles. I love American soul food and Roscoe’s has really good fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and collard greens. The atmosphere at Roscoe’s is also great and the people working there are very friendly.

Best place to relax: Just about anywhere in Thailand. If you can’t find a way to relax in Thailand then something is wrong with you.

Best place to have fun: See above answer. Ha ha. It is a toss up between Thailand and Cairns, Australia. Cairns is great for adventure and party lovers. In the same day, you can bungee jump, skydive and party with a hosts of locals and travelers at the best hostel in the world- Gilligan’s.

Best trip you’ve ever taken: I spent an entire month touring Italy in June 2010. It was a dream vacation filled with great eating, beautiful women, delicious wine and did I mention the women?

What one piece of advice do you have for travelers? Keep your mind open to everything.

Where else can we find you on the web? I write a travel journal at and I’m on Facebook


Featured Traveler | Colleen Curtis : The Business Travelista

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Meet Colleen Curtis. Colleen is a Michigan native who moved from Chicago to Brooklyn. Although she travels often for work, she tries to explore each city to find hidden gems. Read more to learn about her favorite trips and how she plans on visiting all 50 United States!

Name: Colleen Curtis

Tell us a little about yourself:

I am a nearly-29-year-old recent transplant (from Chicago) to Brooklyn, NY. I am the East Coast Marketing lead for, a website that connects people (and travelers!) with great local businesses. I travel a lot for my job where I get to collaborate locally with Yelp Community Managers in the Northeast, and they get to show off the awesome local gems in their cities! I have a 9 year old melancholic pitbull mix named Tillie who’s dream is to be featured on hipsterpuppies especially since we’ve relocated to BK. I’ve been to *almost every country in Europe (missed Greece!), Australia and have traveled extensively in Mexico and the United States (I will hit all 50 someday! This summer I crossed off Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island). I know that seems silly to say, but there are a lot of places right in our American backyard that can certainly scratch the travel itch, on multiple budgets.

Favorite city you’ve been to:

I know this may sound insane to the seasoned world travelers, but I really found Pittsburgh, PA extremely…attractive. Robust. Proud. Interesting. Diverse. The finest the Rustbelt has to offer, even. Off the beaten path, but better for it! The locals know what I am talking about! Perhaps my expectations were low (forgive me, Pixburgh!), but I found the city to be extremely charming with wonderful food options (highly recommend Square Cafe for breakfast), great local neighborhoods and I stayed at the unique boutique Priory Hotel, a converted church near the Warhol Museum. There’s depth and strong communities, a beautiful scenic overlook with a view of the entire downtown (Dahntahn?) and rivers at night, truly…remarkable. Plus, one can go to Primanti Bros and eat a sandwich with french fries and cole slaw IN IT. Totally healthy! I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel domestically with a local Yelp CM to guide me to the best spots. Speaking of the Rustbelt, I also think Cleveland and Detroit have some of the most passionate communities of people and local businesses I’ve ever witnessed, and I look forward to hiring and launching Yelp in Buffalo, NY later this year! Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. There is beauty in all things.

Favorite restaurant:

Well…I checked, and I’ve written 648 restaurant reviews on Yelp to date (42 percent of my total, I promise I do other things too!)….so, this really is a tough one. I certainly am no expert, but I do go out to eat a lot! If I have to pick just one currently I will go with Davanti Enoteca (Little Italy, Chicago). A toasty/cozy Italian restaurant in a far-enough-away-from-downtown ‘hood that also serves as a wine shop…be still my heart. Excellent food, and popping over to Beviamo for a nightcap might just be the perfect date night ever. You heard it here, folks.

Best place to relax:

My hometown…Traverse City, Michigan. Cherry Capital of the World, rising food scene, local farms, wineries, breweries, film fests, etc. But really, you can’t beat the Bay or the Dunes (named by GMA as the most beautiful place in America!) on a summer day or the color season in the fall for kicking back. From the day I was born until my most recent trip in August, I haven’t found anything that quite comes close to Northern Michigan in the summer/fall. Someone told me the other day it is the “Hamptons of the Midwest,” which made me spit out my “pop” (soda). Let’s hope it keeps some of its…err…grounded charm with its rise to “fame!”

Best place to have fun:

Well, I live in New York City…if one cannot have fun here, there may be little hope. The city that never sleeps, truly never sleeps. Brooklyn might take a few naps once in a while, but the frenetic energy and sheer number of people/options/things/places to do/see/touch/eat/dance/create is somewhat incomprehensible. Second to that, Chicago. I’ve lived in both…and really, why wouldn’t one want to live in the cities they found to be the most fun!? If you aren’t, you should probably move.

Best trip you’ve ever taken:

Well, clearly my 6 month vacation from American life at 20 years old was by far the best…and the longest. Living in Rome, traveling every weekend to European destinations (favorites: Warsaw, Budapest, Ireland) by train and crazy low-budget airlines…and no work! Capped off with a 3 week stint in Australia (impulsive) because I “wasn’t ready to go home yet,” and yep, that likely sums up the best trip I’ve been on. Oh, the freedom…how its wasted on the young! I may have just paid off the credit cards from that trip recently. Eek. Worth it? Yes. If 9 years later its still the best…well, there you have it.

What one piece of advice do you have for travelers?

Fly consistently. Rest your head creatively.

I’m very budget conscious for both work and personal travel. Here’s what I’ve learned: for flying, figure out your home airport (base) and what airline has the most direct flights in/out of that airport. Then, fly it consistently for every trip. Get the rewards credit card for that airline (often comes with perks like free baggage, early check-in, bonus miles at sign-up, access to lounge, etc). To me, all airlines are pretty…errr….2 stars. However if you can pick and stick, the rewards run thick and you’ll be on your way somewhere fun (for free-ish!) before you know it.

Now, I do not hold the same philosophy for hotels. I MUCH prefer to find quirky/offbeat hotels. I don’t find the rewards ever add up to much (though if you travel to the same place over and over for work, definitely stick with it and rack it up!) at the big chains, and most destinations I am hitting might not have the same chains. I like variety. Truly, I search Yelp for cool local recommendations (boutique hotels, etc) and really dig to find unique lodging and people in various cities to stay with. I’ve stayed in a beautiful apartment in Chelsea, NYC while relocating and a classic sunken retreat near the White House in DC for a weekend. Planning a trip to Paris, and we’ll definitely be doing it airbnb style! Much better than hotel prices…and come with local guides! (sometimes)

Where else can we find you on the web?

Featured Traveler | Tausha Cowan

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Name: Tausha Cowan

Tell us a little about yourself:

I am someone who loves to be on the move! I was raised in South Florida but spent most of my summer and winter vacations traveling to Jamaica to visit family. After high school, I moved to New York to attend college, where I was able to explore other cultures in different parts of the world. My travels included two study abroad programs – one in Accra, the other in Paris – and multiple trips to places in West Africa and Europe, including Timbuktu, Togo, Burkina Faso, Amsterdam, Prague and Florence.

Since graduating college in 2007, I spent several years working in the media industry in New York and traveling when I could to places primarily in North America. I am now pursuing my master’s degree in London, where I attempt to squeeze in as many trips as possible in between my studies. I have traveled to several countries in the last year, including Malta, Spain, Morocco, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Switzerland, and hope to continue my adventures in Asia in the near future. I also write a food blog called The Hungry Girl Chronicles which features recipes and restaurant reviews from my travels.

Favorite city you’ve been to:
Ah, I love so many cities! Montreal is one of my favorite cities in the world. It has this fun vibe that is a perfect blend of North America and Europe, and the jazz festival in Montreal is not to be missed. I also love Paris, which sounds cliché but it’s true. Then there is London, where I am currently located, which is so incredibly diverse and has so much to do. But… if I had to choose a favorite city of all time, it would be New York. I have yet to be in a place that has the same spunk and endless energy as the Big Apple.

Favorite restaurant:

I have lots of favorites, hence my need to write a food blog, but there is one place in my former neighborhood that has the best meals made with the freshest ingredients. Vesta in Astoria, Queens (New York) never fails to deliver. Their menu changes regularly and everything on it is fantastic, not to mention they have a dessert called the Baby Jesus cake.

Best place to relax:

I am partial to Jamaica, not only because it’s where my family is from but also because of its natural beauty. I can spend the rest of my days in Negril and be a happy camper.

Best place to have fun:

I think it depends on your idea of fun. I have fun in a lot of places because of the people I’m with.

Best trip you’ve ever taken:

I can’t pick just one. It’s like picking a favorite child!

What one piece of advice do you have for travelers?

Travel when you can, if you can and keep an open mind. It is truly a rewarding experience to step out of your comfort zone, get lost, speak to locals, and learn something new about others and yourself.

Where else can we find you on the web?

You can follow my foodie adventures at The Hungry Girl Chronicles. You can also learn more about me at

Featured Traveler | John Roa

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A few days ago we announced a fun mystery contest from our friend John Roa. Now you get to learn a little more about the man behind #wheresJohnny, AKTA Web Studio and the really cool nonprofit, Digital Hope. Learn more about John’s adventures below and don’t forget to enter his contest!

Name: John (or Johnny) Roa

Tell us a little about yourself: I own AKTA Web Studio and am the Founder/CEO of Digital Hope- a 501c3 nonprofit that performs volunteer projects around the world, funded and fueled by social media. I am a true web geek who has been starting digital companies since my teenage years. I am now preparing to trade a life in the big city for one living out of a backpack as I prepare to lead the international team for Digital Hope. On the road, I will be working hands-on with each of our projects (at organizations like orphanages, wildlife sanctuaries and schools), as well as still working with AKTA remotely. I’ve spent months backpacking Europe, South America, etc. but nothing near what 2012 is going to look like.

Favorite city you’ve been to: Toss up - Valparaiso, Chile or Lisbon, Portugal. Both are completely beautiful, authentic and big adventures.

Favorite restaurant: Can’t say I know exact names…But any restaurant on the Grand Canal in Venice, or an authentic local steak shop in Buenos Aires.

Best place to relax: This isn’t going to sound like a nomad/backpacker thing to say, but I think the most relaxed I’ve been in my entire life was on a cruise ship sailing the Mediterranean. Sitting Titanic-style on the bow of the boat, with just moonlight (how romantic right?) and watching the water and shore go by (with a big glass of wine in hand, of course).

Best place to have fun: Punta del Este, Uruguay. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Hell of a party!

Best trip you’ve ever taken: I took mum to Europe this past May for her birthday. She had never been to Europe. We visited Paris, and then took a cruise along the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona to Venice. It was an amazing trip and an experience I will never forget.

What one piece of advice do you have for travelers? Be open-minded. The point of traveling is to truly experience new things. If you are fixed on your current tastes, beliefs or customs, you are not properly traveling. Past that, get lost. It’s the best way to explore a new place.

Where else can we find you on the web? (there is a fun contest here too where you can win great prizes for guessing where I am!)

Featured Traveler | Julia Dimon: The Adventurous Globetrotter

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Julia Dimon is a television show host and travel expert who has traveled to all seven continents. She’s willing to try just about anything when it comes to food and travel.  Read more to find out why Tanzania is her favorite country and where she ate dinner on a toilet! 

Name: Julia Dimon


Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a TV show host and adventure travel journalist who’s been around the world many times, to over 80 countries across all seven continents.

I’m the co-host of Word Travels, a 40-episode TV series about the real lives of travel writers, broadcast worldwide on National Geographic Adventure and Travel Channel UK. I’m also the co-host of active adventure lifestyle show called Outside Today, on Outside Television Network.  I’ve been featured as a travel expert by ABC Nightline, NBC, E! News, AOL Travel, Forbes Traveler, MSNBC, Outside’s Go Magazine, Budget Travel, Chicago Tribune, etc. I’m a regular keynote speaker for the NY Times Travel Show, the Boston Globe Travel Show, The Chicago Tribune Travel & Adventure Show and the Washington, DC Travel & Adventure Show. I’ve worked with American Express and as their ‘travel expert and spokesperson.’

I’m not afraid to break a nail or get my hands dirty. From the depths of the Great Barrier Reef to the top of Machu Picchu, I’ve hiked with silverback gorillas in Uganda, snorkeled with whale sharks in Mozambique, climbed The Great Wall of China, dog-sledded in Greenland, camel trekked in Jordan, slept with lions in the Serengeti, lived as a Buddhist monk in Korea, fought like a gladiator in Rome, survived a survival course in the jungles of Belize, wrestled with indigenous Cholitas in Bolivia, toured genocide memorials in Rwanda, made lip-plates with the Mursi women of Southern Ethiopia, spent a night of “torture” in a Latvian prison and snacked on local delicacies such as silk worm, goat brain, six-inch scorpions, snake blood and severed human toe.

Check out the video of my experiences at:

Favorite city you’ve been to:

Tanzania, in East Africa, is one of my favorite countries to visit. Amazing animal viewing in the Serengeti, challenging treks in Kilimanjaro, gorgeous beaches and Swahili/Arabic culture in Zanzibar, friendly people and a good tourist infrastructure. Beautiful country!!

Favorite restaurant: A fun restaurant to visit is the Modern Toilet restaurant, a kitschy café in the heart of Taipei’s Shilin district that is entirely toilet themed. Guests sit on toilets and eat over mini urinal-like plates. Check out my experience eating there:

Best place to have fun:

Rotorua, New Zealand is a capital of adrenaline activities. Bungee jumping, zorbing, white water rafting, ATV-ing…pretty much anything wild and fun can be done in this city.

Best trip you’ve ever taken:

As part of my yearlong journey around the world, I backpacked through South and East Africa: Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, etc. Amazing countryside, life-changing experiences and seeing a side to the continent that’s different from the terrible headlines we often read about in the news.

What one piece of advice do you have for travelers?

Just do it! Don’t let fear stop you from having an incredible adventure. I’d like to share a quote with you that inspired me to travel in the first place…

“Why tell your grandkids you worked 9-5, five days a week for 40 years and quietly sat in traffic jams while people went to war, suffered disease and shot their own classmates? Tell them you refused to live in fear. Tell them you crossed the Amazon, saw the Lost Cities of Gold and met your soul mate in Casablanca. Travel to the ends of the earth. Go now and live adventures that will make your grandkids proud.”

Where else can we find you on the web?

Check out my photos, adventures and travel tips at my website or follow me on Twitter @juliadimon.