Erin At Machu Picchu

All About Erin: Getting to Know the Traveler Behind the Blog

Erin Klema is an American Midwest 30-something. She lives to explore new places and experience other cultures — especially their food. Not counting airport layovers, her travels have taken her to 21 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 countries throughout North America, South America, and Europe.

Why a travel and lifestyle blog?

While I live to travel, I don’t do it full time — at least for now. I enjoy having a home base in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so this blog is about life off the road, too.

I think eating the local cuisine is an integral part of experiencing a country, city or neighborhood. So much of culture is showcased in the dining experience. Other travel bloggers joke that they secretly want to be food bloggers, and I’ve always found food and travel go hand-in-hand.

How did you first get into travel and food writing?

As a newspaper editor, I spent my workday reading and editing other writers’ work rather than writing my own pieces. I began to miss the creative outlet I had as a reporter, so I started blogging about my two greatest interests — travel and food — in my spare time. A few months later, I began writing travel stories for the Prince George’s Sentinel.

What inspired you to start blogging?

While living in the Washington, D.C., area, I explored the city like a tourist and tried different restaurants. Meanwhile, I had been sharing those tourist-in-my-own city and dining experiences on social media, and my friends and family kept asking me where and what I was eating. That sparked the idea for my first blog, Where Erin Goes.

What destinations are you looking forward to in 2016?

In 2016, I’m most looking forward to my first trip to Costa Rica and to driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego up to San Francisco.

What’s the most interesting dish you’ve had on your travels?

In Peru I ate many interesting dishes. Some were very different from those typical of my Midwest American diet. I tried alpaca meat, cow heart, and even a couple bites of guinea pig.

In Peru’s coastal capital, I had an incredibly tasty seafood lunch. The restaurant — Canta Rana, which translates to singing frog — was located in the artsy, bohemian Barranco District. Every seat in the dining room was taken; every table full of dishes shared among friends. Dining with my travel companions and a local couple, we tried all sorts of foods – ceviche served with corn and sweet potato, grilled octopus, fresh scallops in their shells with melted cheese, and squid ink pasta. After that meal, it was clear to me why Lima is known as the culinary capital of South America.

What is the one food you could never eat at home again because you’ve had it in its country of origin and now you’re forever spoiled?

Bratwurst im Broetchen. In Germany, you’ll find Imbiss stands—little street food carts or counters—where you can, for a very budget-friendly price, eat perfectly grilled bratwurst served in a roll with a crisp crust. You can often get sauerkraut or red cabbage on the side. To top it off, there is spicy mustard to squeeze to your liking onto your bratwurst sandwich. I found a delicious bratwurst sandwich at Jacob Wirth, a German restaurant that has been serving sausages in Boston since 1868, but it’s still not quite the same.

What has been your most memorable experience?

I have been accumulating memorable travel experiences at a rapid rate this past year, but I think visiting a floating island on Lake Titicaca stands out the most. As part of a Contiki tour I took through Peru, our local guide introduced us to a family that lives on a floating island they constructed out of dried reeds from the lake. Their lifestyle was almost completely sustainable, eating reeds and animals from the lake and earning money from visitors like me who purchase their handcrafted souvenirs such as woven textiles, mobiles, and jewelry.

What’s your ultimate travel and food trip?

My dream trip revolves around the food and wine of Italy. I’d love to sample the cuisine of each region – eating cannoli in Sicily and Neapolitan pizza pies in Naples, drinking Chianti in Tuscany, and learning to make homemade ravioli at cooking classes in Florence.

What’s the best, and worst, piece of travel advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received a lot of great travel advice – fly on weekdays for lower fares, pack extra Ziploc bags (they really come in handy), and use packing cubes to keep belongings organized. But, the best advice I’ve gotten was from a travel nurse who said to take Ciprofloxacin along with me to Peru. When I got food poisoning, that antibiotic was the only thing that helped. Trust me, nothing will ruin your travel plans more than a stomach bug or food poisoning.

Probably the worst advice was to take Imodium in that same situation.

What has surprised you about yourself during your adventures? Have you learned anything new about yourself along the way?

Through travel I’ve learned to be independent, open minded, and trusting of the good in others. I’ve learned that I enjoy experiencing travel solo, and I’ve surprised myself that ziplining through a canyon and eating octopus tentacles are things I can survive and even enjoy with an open mind.

What would you say to people who are afraid to travel due to safety concerns?

Everywhere, even home, has its dangers. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way, but as long as you are an alert, smart, and vigilant traveler, you should go see the world.

Can you imagine life without travel or great food?

My life without travel and delicious food would feel empty. When I’m traveling, I feel the most alive and like the best version of myself. As for great food, life is too short to waste eating dull or unsavory meals.

This Q&A was compiled by Kristen Pearson.