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NileGuide 5 with Uncornered Market

NileGuide 5 — By Nicole Lerner on September 1, 2009 at 8:54 am
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This week’s NileGuide 5 interview features Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market. The two set off to travel around the world in December 2006, and over two and a half years later they are barely halfway there; exploration takes time. They share their experiences, human stories of the people they meet, street food escapades and photography at Uncornered Market. You can also keep up with the daily trials and tribulations of their journey on Twitter at @umarket.

1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?

Georgia – country of, not state. After over two and a half years on the road, this is still one of our favorite places in the world. Georgia truly can boast about the hospitality of its people – it’s not an overstatement. Each day, a new adventure would unfold in front of us – from hiking to ancient caves to being invited into homes for feasts to being serenaded on the street by kids – thanks to the kind nature of the Georgians we met.

As big foodies, we were in heaven with Georgian food. Its cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean, Persian, and something uniquely Georgian. The result is rich, comfort food full of walnuts, garlic, herbs and gooey cheeses. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, is the only place we’ve looked at apartment prices on our journey. We loved the feel of the old neighborhoods rich with courtyards and carved wooden balconies.

2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?

We mostly travel overland by bus, so we spend A LOT of time in transit. If our stomachs can take it – not always possible on mountainous switchback roads – we read books to while away the hours. Although not very exciting, we also use bus time as a sort of meeting time to discuss publishing schedules for our website, upcoming projects and itinerary planning. Then there is always catching up on sleep from an early departure time (eg., a few recent buses in the Quilotoa area of Ecuador left at the brutal hour of 3-4 AM!).

3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?

This is a tough one. What seemed strange at the beginning of our trip (eg., a family of four plus a freshly killed pig on a small motorbike, or holes in the floor of the bus) has become relatively routine to us at this point. Here’s a moment that stands out as an example of just how small and interconnected this world really is.

We were meeting a friend of a friend in the small eastern town of Karakol, Kyrgyzstan. Banura, our host for the next few days, turned to us when we arrived and asked the standard question, “Where are you from?” Dan replied, “Pennsylvania.” She continued, “Where in Pennsylvania?” Not thinking much of it, Dan said, “Oh, a small town called Scranton.”

We were floored when she responded, “I’ve been to Scranton. Scranton is where I went for my first trip to the United States. I went there on a Women in Development leadership program.”

A few minutes later we were in her Soviet block apartment where she showed us photos from Dan’s hometown and exchanged stories of her time in Scranton. It was such a surreal experience to be so far from home but connected to it through a Kyrgyz woman.

4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?

Find out where the local fresh market is and visit it. We use the local market as our cultural orientation for a new city or country. What fruit, vegetables, meat and street food is displayed combined with the interaction with vendors and customers tells a lot about the culture and feel of a place, not to mention its cuisine. Also, the market is where regular people do their shopping so it’s usually a great place to interact with locals.

5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?

Smile. A smile works wonders in breaking the ice with new people, especially when you don’t have a common verbal language with which to communicate. The world really is not a scary place, so explore it and get to know its people…and start with a smile.

[Photos: Uncornered Market]
Tags: Audrey Scott, Daniel Noll, Ecuador, Georgia, Uncornered Market

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