“Home Sweet Home” Questionnaire #4: Rika Of Vegan Miam.
1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your passion for travelling started.
I was born in the Formosa and grew up on the East Coast (Washington, D.C. & Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). As an infant, my parents used to take me to big and famous cities in the U.S. and Canada, but growing up, the thought of travelling slowly died. I, Rika, wasn’t raised as a traveller, I’d transformed into a passionate traveller with my partner of six years. We met when we were both part of a cultural event at University off the west coast in winter 2006. He’d travelled to more countries and studied abroad at Uppsala Universitet in Sweden before he had met me, which was an inspiration to me. It was him that I should be thankful for. Initially, I had started my travels in Germany and Denmark at the age of 20 where my sweetheart had studied abroad in Denmark. As a vegan for nearly six years, I also had discovered and consumed delectable vegan cuisines whilst travelling and had decided to blog about them, which was one of my potential interests in travelling. That was when my passion for travelling started.
2.) When did you decide to hit the road? Was it hard to take that step? What preparations and arrangements did you have to make during the planning period?
I do drive a few times via automatic transmission, but never with a stick. I am scared to drive the American Jeep. I probably drive once or twice or none a year, so I may not be fit to be a taxi driver plus I drive fast sometimes. Scratch this.
I fly in the air and have no fear of flying whilst there were Italians puking behind me or an American woman in her 40s puking next to me, when I did not even realize it. I am a current Star Alliance member and I fly using miles or award, and with my own money. My parents would not give me a single dime. In 2009, I booked a random ticket to Kuala Lumpur for three months without consulting my partner. It was a risky decision for me. I had no ready flat or any contacts when I had booked it. I did not know what Kuala Lumpur would be like. You could call me unprepared or stubborn. When we had arrived to Kuala Lumpur from a long flight from U.K. and Doha, it was a fresh and exotic world filled with vegan-friendly cuisine and different locals. It was my partner’s first time to be in Asia. Luck just started in Kuala Lumpur, and we had managed to find a beautiful condo within walking distance to Twin Towers Petronas. It was all about luck and risky chances. But in the later years, we were even more prepared in our later travels and had more connections. No worries. Hehe!
3.) Where & how do you celebrate Christmas?
I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I love Christmas and it really depends where. My family used to celebrate Christmas until I was nine years old, and back in Pennsylvania. I guess my parents probably told me Santa didn’t even exist. But this had all stopped. Since 2008, I had celebrated Christmas with my boyfriend and his family in Eugene, Oregon for few years. Hint: I had never liked Eugene, Oregon. It was never a city for me, trust me, if you are an avid traveller.
4.) How do you stay in touch with family and friends? Do you write postcards?
Emails with my family and friends. I blog a lot, so they check my posts on a weekly basis. Usually Skype and Twitter with friends. I sometimes write letters and postcards to my close friends that wrote me. I’m never on phones when it comes to travels. Believe me, it is impossible to reach me by phone when I’m in different countries or states (U.S.) every few months plus long-distance calls are very expensive.
5.) Are you planning on traveling for the rest of your life or would you like to settle down sometime (by settling down we mean finding a place to come home to)?
It’s a hard question to ask. One of my dreams was to travel as much as I can in my 20’s, because I prefer not to wait to travel when I’m old or have my retirement (oh wait, don’t have one just yet). It doesn’t hurt to see the world whilst you are still young and breathing, and everyone deserves a chance to see somewhere new before anything happens to them. I am different and I can choose what I want to do, I want to do something that instills bliss in me. Part of me felt like I should settle down and live in a nice flat with loving animals who were abandoned. Sadly, I am planning on traveling for the rest of my life. So we will see…
6.) If you could choose one city/country for living, which one would it be? Please give us a little explanation (weather, people, etc.).
I would choose Berlin, Germany despite being such a large city. One summer in 2009, I used to live in Berlin-Charlottenburg district, which was the heart of west Berlin. It was a beautiful, affluent residential neighborhood. It felt like a safe neighborhood compared to other rougher districts in Berlin and it felt like home to me. The flat I had stayed was probably one of my favourites. The flats were typical Berlin Altbau: high ceilings, huge windows, plastered ceilings and wooden floors. The rent was fairly cheap in Berlin, depending on the districts and properties. There were tons of vegan eateries within short train rides, plus interesting groceries to shop at within walking distance. I liked how liberal Berlin was: everyone was seeing and expressing only themselves.
7.) Where are you right now and how did you get there?
I am currently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, about few minutes walk from Twin Towers Petronas. I had been living in Kuala Lumpur for three months. I flew to KL there from Oregon, then a remarkable stopover in Tokyo Bay. But soon I will be back to Oregon, my other permanent hometown and of course a place where all my huge wardrobe and belongings are safe and sound in. I had lived in Portland, Oregon since 1997 and Eugene, Oregon since 2005.
8.) Travelling is expensive … so how do you get from A to B?
The answer is miles and some $. I try to go on the longest route to earn more miles in the end. My partner was quite an expert at researching routes with the most miles. I went with his idea: Firstly, we flew from Portland,OR > San Francisco > Tokyo Narita (stopover) > Bangkok (stopover) > Kuala Lumpur (my destination.) It was also an opportunity to spend more time in international lounges and flying, especially documenting on whether or not lounges were vegan-friendly. It was always challenging to travel as a vegan, but it was intriguing and worth it!
9.) Do you use a travel guide (Lonely Planet, etc.)? If so, please tell us which one … if not, why?
I used Knopf MapGuides for only cities in western Europe. They were pretty handy to have because of the small size and the flip-out map in it. But I did not use a travel guide for travels in SE Asia or USA, so I had relied mostly on active travel blogs and Wikipedia. Also as a vegan, I had to spend more time looking for directories or blogs about vegan eateries, so it was worth looking than just a travel guide.
10.) What does a perfect day on your trip look like? What season is it? Are you inside or outdoors? Are you in a city or in the middle of nowhere?
Call me odd, but I prefer to be indoors all the time from the sun (I’m trying to tan less) and read my green-covered Kindle or eat my boyfriend’s homemade vegan lasagna. I prefer if the weather was just perfect: not too hot or windy or freezing like a February in Boston. When I was in Rome in a wintery December, I had remembered how my first day was a perfect one: 21C in December, no snow, wind, or chills and a scrumptious vegan Italian pizza. It was a perfect weather with a perfect light meal, and that was my ideal perfect day on my trip.
My day on my trip will be 100% perfect if I have a decent, memorable vegan meal. I did not have to worry about my hair being blown in different hairlines like I had in a windy Sydney near Opera House or freeze to death in Birmingham, U.K. in September with my numb hands or walk in the desperate rains in Istanbul looking for a vegan eatery I could find (but no luck).
11.) Name three spots from your last adventure, which you’d probably not find in a guidebook but you could recommend to travellers. Tell us what’s special about them.
This is funny because the person who had recommended me this questionnaire had also lived in Austria. I had stayed in Vienna, Austria that summer, and my 1-bedroom flat’s high windows had no blinds or curtains so I had zero privacy with the neighbors across me. I had lived about three kilometers from Stephansplatz between 2nd and 20th Districts (Leopoldstadt and a bit of Brigittenau). I was really in love with high windows, tall ceilings, big doors, historical appeal and white space in Germany before. Being away from the centre of Vienna has given me a better understanding on how Vienna presented so much character with its urban area with many historically beautiful residential buildings. Large tour buses and tourists were my little enemies in Vienna.
1.) AugartenPark in Vienna, Austria
In Vienna, I had lived across the gorgeous 52.2 hectare public park and it contained two standing Flak towers (known as the WWII bomb towers). It was my favourite park amongst others we had seen in the centre, filled with swarming tourists. At AugartenPark, there were happy locals and families gathering there, relaxing off the grasses and napping. Living across the park, it was the most peaceful spot of all Vienna, especially when you want to put things off your mind.
2.) Danube River in Vienna Austria
I loved isolated pathways off Danube River as well as the river bridges. The smell was horrible when you go farther or by the river, but it was worth the shot to see somewhere that was less likely to be visited. There were a lot of graffiti wall arts as well.
3.) The Peaceful Neighbourhood Behind Le Meridien Hotel in Stuttgart, Germany
I was in Stuttgart for few nights after I left Vienna. When my partner and I went behind Le Meridien Hotel Stuttgart, it was a different world or perhaps a nice looking neighborhood, known as Schützenplatz. It had reminded us of a residential area in Brookline, Massachusetts, but the residential buildings had some strong European characters to it. There were no tourists at all, but few locals walking by. It was a very nice, strange neighborhood and a comfortable environment. Empty and hilly roads…it was a perfect spot to photograph historical residential areas and explore. I did wish I live there, it seemed very remarkably peaceful despite Stuttgart being such a rough city. The farther away from the centre, the beautiful Stuttgart will be.
12.) Where & how do you write your blog articles? Do you start with a rough draft or get right to it?
I usually write my blog articles anywhere I am, sometimes in my studio, or airport lounge. I do it during my free time when I’m not working. I usually get right to it right away when I have time! I never do rough drafts and I hate rough drafts! For example, right now, I like writing anything in front of high windows as the view of the city gives me freedom to think. Below is the photo of my current flat in Kuala Lumpur (mind the dark shadows around it).
13.) What’s your favorite local dish? Where does it come from? Can you cook it & what are the main ingredients?
My favourite local dish was the Apam Balik, a fluffy and warm Malaysian “Crepe-style” pancake filled with sugar, crushed peanuts and corn. I ate it nearly everyday for snack or breakfast with a cup of soy milk or sweet gourd. One pancake costs RM 0.60 and you can find these on a food stand off Jalan Sultan Ismail on weekday mornings (as early as 8am) since they only serve breakfast. I had no idea how to make one, but there was a recipe that was made by “Poor Student” based in Singapore: In that post, the main ingredients were flour, rice flour, peanuts, sesame and sugar. But you could add some corn for a juicier texture. That pancake had no eggs according to the owner of the food stand.
I also would like to share another of my favourite local dish from Chiang-Mai, Thailand: fried flower salad at Pun Pun Vegetarian near Wat Suan Dok. I never had fried flowers in my dishes before, but it was a truly unique dish I had in Thailand. I had no clue how to make it, too.
14.) How much does 1 liter (or one gallon) of milk and petrol cost today?
I do not drink milk because I am a vegan. However, I can tell you about the average cost of soy milk in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
1 Liter of soy milk costs about 3 RM, about less than a dollar in the U.S. I am not entirely sure about the cost of one gallon of petrol, but it was average 2 RM according to Numbeo Gas Prices in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. I never drove in Malaysia and the roads and traffic seemed terribly insane.
15.) On which device to you answer this questionnaire and what shoes are you wearing (if possible please add a picture )?
My happy Macbook Pro I had bought for Xmas in 2009, which has version 10.6.8 and processor 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. I need to get a new one eventually. I’m wearing University of Texas orange crocs, size US 8 or sometimes barefoot. I don’t wear dirty shoes in my flat!
16.) Last but not least: What does “home” mean to you?
“Home” is somewhere you feel safe and comfortable with your loved ones including furry loved ones and it is a term for a place you are committed to and knowing that “place” will always be there for you whilst traveling. “Home” is your safekeeping, where your heart knows where it belongs when you come back from somewhere far. Sometimes, when I am traveling, I sometimes feel the obligation to be “home”, and being able to make some good sandwiches in my kitchen with the necessary ingredients from groceries I am familiar with and tools I had. That is “home” and the vegan food brands I had in the U.S. will always be home to me.
Want to be a part of this series?
If you want to be a part of our series, just go to the “Home Sweet Home” article and download the appropriate questionnaire. We’d really like to read your stories :)
Participants so far:
#1: Ulli Maier
#2: Nisa Maier
#3: Shvyia Nath
#4: Rika of Vegan Miam
#5: Yvonne Zagermann
#6: Dario Endara
#7: Frankie Thompson
#8: Roy van den Bos
#9: Monica Stott
#10: Doris Neubauer
#11: Amanda Slavinsky
#13: Casper Oppenhuis de Jong
#14: Ashley Abroad
#15: Inma Gregorio