Valerie began to travel internationally in 2011, and by 2012 she was living in London and sampling the finest fares of Europe for over a year. She then moved to Seattle for a few years. Between May and December 2016, she is traveling the Eastern US and Europe before settling somewhere new – where will it be? Who knows!
Alex: Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Valerie Stimac, and I write on my travel blog, Valerie & Valise. In case you’re confused, ‘valise’ refers to my bag, not a particular person. So many of my blog stories are about me and my bag traveling the world together.
Why do you travel? What are your inspirations?
Tough question – in some ways, I travel because I can’t bear to not continue seeing more of the world. At the same time, traveling is a pretty stressful activity for me! I’ve compromised by starting to do more ‘slow’ travel, where I move from place to place for a few weeks, instead of just a weekend or week in a new city. It allows me to stay grounded and see the world at the same time. My travel inspirations are mostly historical – I love going new places to see relics, ruins, and famous architecture.
How do you organize your travel plans? Any travel hacks you can share?
I organize my most complex travel plans in spreadsheets, so I can keep track of changing prices and airports in a simple single-page view. My favorite travel hack is to use apps like Hopper and Kayak to keep track of flights and trips all in one place.
Tell me about a person you’ve met or a memory that impacted you the most during one of your trips?
My strongest memory from traveling was of the first time I saw St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. I fell in love with London right then and there – even though I knew nothing about the architecture or history of the building itself. I wrote about that first memory here, trying to capture how enthralled I was with the fact that there were such impressive buildings like St. Paul’s all over the world.
Aside from the basics, name three items that you always bring when you travel.
My Harry Potter wand (yes, it’s true!). My passport (even when not flying internationally). My favorite necklace with a globe on it.
What is your motto when it comes to traveling?
Life is too short to wait at the baggage claim. (This translates as: PACK LIGHT!)
The best and the worst meals you’ve ever had traveling?
A recent favorite meal was lobster mac & cheese in Newport, Rhode Island at the oldest tavern in the U.S.; the White Horse Tavern. The dish came served in a tiny little cast iron pot, and was simply decadent.
As for worst meals, I seem to have shut them all out of my mind! Usually it’s the service that makes a meal bad, actually. I’m open to try nearly any food, but if you have bad service (even taking into account cultural differences in table service), that’s where you lose me!
Which city do you consider yourself an expert on? Can you share any hidden gems in that city?
Now that I move around a lot more, it’s hard to be an expert in any one place. I’m currently based in New York Cit, and I do have a gem here! If you’re looking for a great way to see the skyline and Statue of Liberty, take the North River Fish Bar. The two-hour cruise is free, but you can buy food and drink on board!
What is your favorite travel song/album to listen on a trip?
The album ‘Pala’ by Friendly Fires, particularly their song ‘Hawaiian Air.‘ I love the lyrics, and think they are a great mantra for traveling: “Can I take this all in?”
What is the best foreign curse you know?
‘Kuja,’ which is the impolite name for a female dog, in Croatian… I’ve never had cause to use it, but maybe my upcoming four weeks in Dubrovnik will allow me to put it to use!
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