Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Jessica Norah
Occupation: Travel Writer and Blogger
Hometown: Caldwell, Ohio, USA
Residence: Roslin, Scotland (small village just outside Edinburgh)
College: Muskingum College/Ohio University/Stanford University—I spent half my life as a student, intern or postdoc!
College major: Psychology (minor in history)—I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology
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Short bio: I grew up and went to university in Ohio and trained to be a clinical psychologist. For internship I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then further west to settle in the San Francisco Bay area for a postdoctoral position and later a job. In 2013, I had started a travel blog where I wrote about my local travels in California as well as the occasional international trip. By 2015, my blog was growing and demanding more attention and I needed to decide whether to pursue it full-time or not. I met my now-husband Laurence Norah (British travel blogger at Finding the Universe) at a travel conference in Italy and this led me on the path to eventually leaving my job, apartment and most of my belongings behind to go on a crazy adventure to pursue my new dream of being a full-time travel blogger. We married on the Queen Mary 2 on a transatlantic cruise between the USA and UK in August 2015. I am currently based in Scotland and earn a living as a full-time travel blogger at Independent Travel Cats. I love cats, tea, history, and luxury travel!
How often do you fly? We were flying every couple of weeks last year but now only every couple of months as we are spending more time at our new home base outside Edinburgh, Scotland. Much easier to take the train here and within Europe.
How many countries have you been to? I honestly don’t keep track, maybe 30? Laurence and I are definitely not country counters ;)
How many continents have you been to? Four (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa).
Earliest travel memory: Going on summer vacation with my parents and younger brother to Tennessee and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
Favorite American city: A favorite getaway place for me was Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
Favorite international city: Paris, France.
I have no desire to go to: There is no place I can think of that I wouldn’t consider traveling.
Friendliest people in the world: During my travels, I think South Korea would top the list as being the friendliest and most polite. We couldn’t take a look at a map without people stopping to try to help, even though most spoke no English. I also find Americans on average to be quite friendly.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: I’ve never had any horrible experiences, but I have had the worst experiences in Vietnam and the UK.
Favorite World Heritage Site: A favorite would be impossible but some that have really stood out include Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Yosemite and Grand Canyon in the USA, Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and Angkor in Cambodia. Also loving exploring our new home near Edinburgh which has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in and around it (Old Town, New Town and Forth Bridge).
Favorite airline: I don’t have a favorite airline, but I am a big fan (especially when I was US-based) of the Star Alliance for their worldwide coverage and earning airline points.
Favorite form of transportation: Train.
Aisle or window: Definitely window.
Favorite hotel: One of our recent favorites was Tea Trails in Sri Lanka.
Favorite cruise line: I have only taken a couple cruises, but loved our Cunard Queen Mary 2 cruise (got married on it!).
Favorite travel credit card: Chase Sapphire.
Favorite island: Hawaii (Big Island of Hawaii).
Favorite National Park: Yosemite National Park.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Had a wonderful and amazingly expensive anniversary dinner at The French Laundry (Yountville, CA) once.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Bagel Street Deli, Athens, Ohio.
Favorite bar: For cheap drinks, lots of variety and good-looking university students, I’ll give a shout out to the 20+ bars in Athens, Ohio! A place of pilgrimage for all university students in Ohio.
Favorite fruit: Strawberries.
Favorite food: Pasta.
Least favorite food: Marmite/Vegemite etc. if you consider those foods ;-)
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): I try to only drink water on airplanes (and the homemade mint lemonade on Turkish) and am a big tea-drinker on the ground. Fruity vodka martini cocktails are also a favorite.
Favorite travel movie(s): Love the scenes of Paris in Midnight in Paris.
Favorite travel show(s): I don’t watch much TV these days, but I used to love to binge watch Rick Steves’ Europe episodes.
Right now I am reading: “Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty” by Catherine Bailey.
5 things you bring on a plane: Book to read, laptop, valuables/important documents, secret sweater or cardigan, earplugs/eye mask (if it’s an overnight flight), and headphones.
What do you always seem to forget? I often annoying forget my toothbrush and/or extra socks.
What do you like least about travel? Long-haul flights, long bus rides, security, and waiting in long lines. I’d also add no-flush toilets to that list.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Anything, it’s the thought that counts in my book.
Favorite travel app(s): TripIt, Google Maps, Snapseed (photo editing), along with a number of currency/language/weather apps.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: I feel bad as an American when I haven’t been to amazing places in the US such as Yellowstone National Park, but I think people look at me quite strangely when I say I haven’t been to Thailand as every travel blogger and backpacker seems to have been there!
Worst travel moment: Thinking that I was going to be denied my spousal visa to live in the UK!
What’s your dream destination? I’d really love to spend more time in Africa, some of my favorite travel memories are in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) and I’d love to return and also see more of that beautiful continent.
Favorite travel charity: Although it’s not a travel-specific charity, I am a big fan of the efforts of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) which for instance has sought to protect African elephants and rhinos from poaching and to close Thailand’s Tiger Temple.
Best travel tip: Plan ahead but be prepared to have to alter your plan and make the best out of every moment.
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