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Featured Traveler: Kristin Zibell

Kristin Zibell, who blogs at Take Your Big Trip, is not only one of our treasured ambassadors, but she’s also become a trusted friend of AFAR, passing along valuable feedback on the site and always ready with a sweet smile, an empathetic ear, and smart advice. And man, have you seen the Highlights she’s posted? So many great ones, it’s hard to choose just one. But have a look at her “Flowing into Kauai” Wanderlist. Don’t you want to do every single one of those things? (I do.)

This October, Kristin hosted the San Francisco Meet Plan Go event (see her recap here), the proceeds of which were generously donated to the AFAR Foundation. We feel so lucky to have found such an amazing community of travelers who share our belief in the transformative powers of travel. Kristin exemplifies that community. Thanks for filling out our travel questionnaire, Kristin!

Right now I’m in San Francisco.
Though I would much prefer to be in San Francisco doing exactly what I’m doing now: loving this city.
Occupation: Marketing strategy and user experience consultant with a passion for travel.
My next trip is home for Christmas and then hopefully Cuba in the spring.
My last trip took me to Kauai, the most natural Hawaiian Island.
First international trip—when and where? My first international trip was four weeks to Germany at 15 with a school group of 45. Led by our German teacher Frau Smith, we lived with our exchange partners for four weeks in a small town in Southern Germany. The Fussganger Strasse concept, the unknown-to-Americans store H&M, and much lower drinking age were the best experiences for that gaggle of midwestern teens. Our group then took off for eight days around Bavaria and Switzerland. I met friends who I’m still close to today and then went back to Germany to see them for five weeks when I was 17.
A small wooden carved statue of the Hindu god Ganesh is my most treasured travel souvenir.
Favorite hotel: Sofitel in Lisbon because it was my first non-budget hotel experience. Overall, the Sofitels are usually beautiful around the world.  I love the Chicago one too with its tall lobby and dark woods. The bathrooms are huge and luxurious.
Favorite restaurant: This changes regularly. Right now, I’m loving Locanda on Valencia in San Francisco. They have a flight of Old Fashioneds!
Favorite shopping destination: Utrecht, Holland. It’s a quintessential Dutch town with stylish shops – all along canals and cobblestone streets –  that contain clothing for tall people!
Favorite local style/most stylish place: Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles. Those locals know how hipster is done.
Plugged-in or unplugged? I love the luxury of unplugging, so do it when I can.
Public transportation, cab, or bike? All three, but biking through countrysides like Thailand, Nepal, and Holland is my favorite activity of all three.
If you’re in the Netherlands in the winter, don’t miss ice skating on the canals and visiting microbreweries at night.
Traveling solo and visiting local restaurants is the best way/place to connect with locals.
Five things you can’t travel without: iPod with This American Life podcasts, Kindle full of novels that take place in the country I’m in, a headlamp, my moleskine journal, and my Nikon.
Jet lag: Nap, power through, pills, or herbal remedies? I stay up until bedtime and power through.
Favorite airport and why? Not to be cranky, but I don’t like airports. At all. Not matter how much culture, art, or shops are available, I want to get in and out as quickly as possible. 
Three travel apps you can’t live without: AFAR , Kayak, and Dropbox
First thing you do when you get home: Usually fall asleep because somehow my flights are always late.
Where do you always take out-of-town friends? Nopa for brunch or dinner in San Francisco and then a bike ride through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach.  If it’s holiday time, I bring guests to the lobby of the Hyatt at Embarcadero for the lights and ice skating.
Favorite travel book: I love the DK Guides for incountry guidance because of the pictures and descriptions of well-known sites. My favorite travel book changes all the time.  I just finished The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey about white sharks around the Farallon Islands.
Most out-of-character travel experience? Something that you would never have done at home. At home, my life is full, blessedly so, but I don’t make a lot of room for new experiences and unscheduled activities. When I travel, I only do one thing a day and let the place fill in the blanks.
If I had a whole month to travel, I would go to Mexico.
If I had a whole year to travel, I would go on a foodie tour of France, a trek in Ethiopia, a writing program and non-profit visits in India, traverse the Silk Road (especially route in Iran and Turkey), and WWOOFing in Italy.
Travel has taught me to trust myself.