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Featured Traveler: Amber Nolan of JetHiking


So you’ve hitchhiked, huh? Travel writer Amber Nolan can do you one better. In 2012, Amber started ‘JetHiking,’ a method of travel where she takes the classic notion to the skies by ‘hitching’ rides on general aviation planes and private jets. Her goal is to see all fifty states without booking a flight, but it’s not all about the adventure. By chronicling her journey, Amber hopes to increase public awareness of the smaller components of the air industry, as well as shed light on off-the-beaten-path towns and experiences.

It’s no surprise she’s loathe to keep her feet on the ground for long. You can follow her adventures on her blog, and read on to learn about her favorite travel finds, mementos, and advice from where she’s landed.

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See more of Amber’s Highlights.

Right now I’m in Savannah, GA.

Though I would much prefer to be on an organic farm in Guatemala.

Occupation: Travel Writer at JetHiking.

My next trip is to anywhere I can hitch a flight to! My next stop will most likely be Charleston, SC.

My last trip took me to: During this JetHiking trip, this would be Jekyll Island, otherwise it would be backpacking Central & South America.

A handmade beach lamp from Ecuador is my most treasured travel souvenir. I spent all day playing DJ on the beach and at night they illuminated the sand. I had to get one! It’s enormous and I carried it all the way to Peru on the craziest border crossing I’ve ever done through the jungle at night.

Favorite hotel: I’m not a big fan of staying in hotels. I prefer to stay on strangers’ couches or at hostels. My favorite hostel was La Brisa Loca in Santa Maria, Colombia. If I had to pick a hotel I’d say McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon.

Favorite restaurant: A hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called Baby Bo’s Cantina  in New York. I used to work there years ago and every time I go back I drag all my friends there. They have amazing guacamole and if you go on Mondays the margaritas are half off!

Favorite local style/most stylish place: I love the super-comfy pants they wear in Ecuador.

If you’re in Costa Rica during a holiday don’t miss a rodeo/bull fight. They don’t hurt the bull: instead you can join in the ring a play “bull soccer” with a red ball or watch from atop the fence with a cold beer in hand. It was great (and slightly dangerous) fun!

Preparation: guidebook, online research, or seat of your pants? It depends on the trip. With JetHiking, it’s definitely seat of my pants.

Grabbing a pint at a bar and Couchsurfing is the best way/place to connect with locals.

Favorite airport and why? Petaluma Municipal Airport (California) was a favorite. It’s a classic general aviation airport where you can hang out for hours watching planes coming in and chatting with pilots at the Two Niner Diner—which has a wonderful breakfast!

First thing you do when you get home: Find a temporary apartment and start thinking about my next trip.

Where do you always take out-of-town friends? The kava bars in Fort Lauderdale near the beach. They are open late and provide a social experience. The tea has relaxing properties and there’s usually some event going on (like karaoke).

Favorite travel book: On the Road.

Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids: We owned a few acres and a primitive campsite outside of Campbell, New York on a small lake (no motor boats allowed).  My mom would cook breakfast over a fire when we were out fishing in the canoe on the lake (a ways from the campsite). It was so quiet, that she’d just call down the mountain when it as ready and we’d pull up the lines and row back pretty quickly.  My brothers and I would spend the rest of the day shooting cans, building forts, or swimming in the lake. I’d sit and write in the hammock a lot too.

Most out-of-character travel experience? Something that you would never have done at home: I think by its nature, when you are traveling you are doing things you wouldn’t do at home. That’s part of the appeal. I usually do adventurous activities like bungee jumping, sky diving, paragliding.

If I had a whole year to travel, I would take my JetHiking internationally.  I’d probably start with Canada or Central and South America.

Favorite foreign word or phrase: ‘No worries.’ (Jamaica).

Favorite foreign tradition:  In Latin America, I love when people go up and down the aisles on buses selling homemade snacks: everything from coconut ice cream to bananas stuffed with cheese. I always buy something, even if I have no idea what I asked for.

Travel has taught me to be open minded, creative, and have faith that problems will work themselves out.  It has provided another path and a different way of living. Most importantly, it has showed me that we are all in this together, and that you can find good people everywhere if you aren’t afraid to look.

Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan