10 Questions For (4): Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut

For the third edition I’m happy to be able to present to you another real Globetrotter: Barbara Weibel (@holeinthedonut)

Barbaral Weibel, Sarasota News, 2008

1) Who Are you?
Who am I? Well, that’s the question we’re all trying to answer, isn’t it. I can best answer the question by telling you who I am not. I am not defined by my job, by the friends I choose, the clothes I wear, or the things I own. I like to think I am a woman who tries to be the best person she can be, who helps others whenever possible, accepts people unconditionally, and lives in loving kindness. At least that is my goal. In order to get to this point, I had to abandon a successful real estate career and backpack around the world for six months, searching for what brings me joy. I discovered that travel, photography, and writing are my true loves. Upon returning, I moved to Florida (U.S.), where I am working on recreating myself as a freelance writer.

2) What do you like about what you do?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to write.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
I have been discouraged to discover the extent to which the editorial content of local and regional magazines is driven by advertising. I dislike writing articles that are thinly disguised advertisements.

Barbara Weibel Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Barbara Weibel at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

4) Please tell us all about your blog Hole in the Donut and your aims with it.
Initially, I started Hole in the Donut so that my friends and family could keep track of me as I traveled around the world. I discovered that I loved blogging, so I kept it going when I returned from my around-the-world trip. Since then, it has morphed from a site solely about travel to one about life in general, with emphasis on my search for a meaningful life. In addition to posting about my ongoing travels in the U.S., I also write philosophical issues, post inspirational videos, criticize our government; basically anything that comes into my mind or interests me ends up on the blog. I often write with a sometimes sarcastic tone that most people find humorous. Although I hope to make the blog commercially viable as my traffic increases, I also consider it a venue for potential publishers to sample my work.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
#1) Thailand. Aside from the fact that it is a feast for the eyes, I find the Thai people to be gentle, warm, and welcoming. It has something or everyone: including five star hotels, nightlife, and world-class shopping in Bangkok, gorgeous white sand beaches and stunning scenery along both coasts on the southern peninsula, and even trekking to visit the remote tribal ares in the northern mountains. Plus, Thailand is still a very affordable destination.

#2) Zimbabwe, specifically the Victoria Falls area in the south. Unlike other areas of Africa, where the people get in-your-face angry if you try to take a photo of them, the people of Zimbabwe are gracious and truly know how to make tourists feel welcome and appreciated. And while the falls are spectacular, his part of Zimbabwe also offers sunset cruises on the Zambezi River and day safaris in neighboring Botswana, where the animals are said to be the most abundant in Africa. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe is experiencing tremendous political unrest right now, making it increasingly difficult to visit this country.

#3) New Zealand. This small island nation is blessed with some of the world’s most amazing scenery, from the lush green hills on the North Island to the snow-capped Southern Alps on the South Island. I could spend a lifetime hiking New Zealand and never grow tired of it. And I believe that Kiwis must be he friendliest people on the face of the earth.

Barbara Weibel food at the 'resort' at the Khlong Saeng Sanctuary in Thailand
Barbara Weibel: food at the ‘resort’ at the Khlong Saeng Sanctuary in Thailand

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
#1) The Windsor Hotel B&B in Christchurch, New Zealand. These folks really know how to make a guest feel welcome and comfortable. The common room was always filled with people willing to share their vacation adventures, breakfast each morning was delicious, and they even packed me a brown bag linch for the plane on the day of my departure.

#2) The Cape Pines Motel in the village of Buxton, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This small, older motel is run by a couple who has spent their lives in the hospitality industry, Bill and Angie Rapant. They go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that their guests are made to feel like one of the family. The rooms are nicely decorated, well-maintained, very clean, and reasonably priced.

#3) My Hotels La Spezia, on the Italian Riveria, just outside Cinque Terre. Rather than stay in one of the Cinque Terre villages, where the hotels are pricey, I opted to stay in La Spezia, an easy 10 minute train ride from Cinque Terre. This hotel was friendly, reasonably priced, and well-located to see everything, plus it was in the middle of the designer shopping district. The room was spacious, had a fabulous bed, and a wireless connection for no extra charge. Plus the breakfast each morning was excellent. One of the best values I found in Europe,

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
#1) Almost anywhere in Thailand would qualify, but perhaps the best Thai food I have every had was at a remote lake in the Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Getting there required an 7 our train ride, an hour van ride, an hour in a long-tail boat, and a 45 minute hike up and over a mountain to reach a second lake. There ?is only one family living within the boundaries of the Sanctuary,and they operate a ‘resort’ that offers primitive bamboo huts that float along the shore of the lake. Although the accommodations were spartan, the food was gourmet.

#2) Mofongo in Puerto Rico.Mofongo is the signature dish of Puerto Rico, a mashed mound of plantains into which a combination of seafood, meat, or vegetables is added. The best I’ve ever had was at Parador Hacienda Juanita, located high up in the hills of coffee plantation country in the central western portion of the island. Not only was the food excellent, the view over the mountains from the restaurant was spectacular.

#3) Gado Gado at the Puri Lumbug Cottages in the tiny village of Monduk in the central mountains of Bali Gado Gado is a traditional Balinese dish consisting of a heap of vegetables sauteed in peanut sauce, topped with homemade tofu and accompanied by steamed rice. If it was up to me, I would rename this dish Oh God! Oh God! It’s that good. And the view over the misty mountains and terraced rice fields from the?open air restaurant can’t be outdone.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
#1) Aside from Chicago, the Midwest part of the U.S. is not exactly known for its food. It’s mostly meat and potatoes country, and not lot of fancy meat and potatoes, either.

#2) South Africa. This country has fallen on hard times. The unemployment rate hovers near 40%, crime is rampant, and there is tremendous political unrest. Although my accommodations in Cape Town were located in the busiest tourist section, it was not?safe to go out alone at night, and it is never pleasant to be traveling in a place where you feel unsafe. Plus, I never really found any good food in South Africa. I will say, however, that it is a beautiful country and well worth the visit when they finally solve their problems.

#3) My Safari in Tanzania was the trip of a lifetime, as I had dreamed of going on safari since I was a child. The experience did not disappoint, but the food did. The fact that I am a vegetarian confused our cook, and every meal for the entire week was loaded with simple carbs. My box lunch each day consisted of a cheese sandwich, a hard roll with butter, a packet of crackers, a packet of cookies, and a chocolate bar. Dinner wasn’t much better. Ugh!

Barbara Weibel This is the restaurant and view at the Puri Lumbug Resort in central Bali
Barbara Weibel, the restaurant and view at the Puri Lumbug Resort in central Bali

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accomodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
I live in Sarasota, Florida, a fairly small city with a population of about 50,000. However, for a small city, it offers amazing art and cultural opportunities, so I will suggest three artsy destinations that should not be missed when visiting Sarasota:

#1) The Sarasota Opera, which now has spring and fall performance schedules
#2) The John and Mabel Ringling Museum, offers 21 galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities, Asian Art, American paintings, and contemporary art, in addition to one entire facility filled with memorabilia from the days when the family operated the Ringling Circus.
#3) The Bishop Planetarium in nearby Bradenton, an all digital full dome planetarium/theater that features astronomy presentations, sound and light shows and wide-screen large format programming

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Nothing comes to mind. And I think I am finally out of words!

Thanks a lot Barbara. Wonderful stories. Thailand is on my shortlist, as friends of us have moved there and keep saying that we have to visit them. I’m a bit concerned now that you mention South Africa. Just this week daughter number 2 (DanceGirl) is traveling there on her own to visit the dance school I wrote about in 2008 Cine Dance Amsterdam.

BTW, whenever your travels bring you in the neighborhood, do come by. Just around the corner of where I live we have a small Indonesian Mom and Dad Restaurant with some lovely Oh God Oh God:-).

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