Remember, when back in October we announced that we were looking for a new Travelette to join our team? Well, overwhelmed by the response the selection process took a little longer than expected. Almost 200 applications came flooding into our office; they added up to almost 200 short stories, 1,000 travel photographs and over 80,000 words to read. You don’t get to choose a new team member every month, so taking out enough time for consideration was the key.

And now it’s finally done – we have selected our 10th Travelette! And do you know what? Here comes the surprise – we also selected a new 9th contributor. Unfortunately, Rita had to drop out just recently, so all of a sudden we had two spots available. Choosing only one out of 200 would have been too hard anyways, so we are happy to announce our TWO NEW TEAM MEMBERS:

Katka Lapelosová and Nikki Vargas.

new travelette contributor

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a 27-year-old girl from the New York City area who, if she isn’t swinging the writer’s pen at Matador, traveled up and down the US East Coast or ventured on a new overseas adventure to Prague or London. You might have already spotted two posts by her this month, on US winter getaways and on packing light, yet fashionable!

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What’s your favourite travel experience so far?

I loved living in Prague and getting to know Czech culture, which is a part of my family history. It is where I felt the most at home around the world.

Where do you dream of going to?

My travel tastes have changed over the years, but I’d like to make my next trip either Brazil or South Africa. I’d also like to island hop through Polynesia!

Here is her short story:

Although all my senses screamed loudly NOOOO, I just couldn’t give this opportunity a pass. This was one of those once-in-a-life-time experiences I had hoped for. 

I was going to sit through a Hungarian dance concert where the performers were completely nude, and be okay with it.

American citizens are trained to keep their clothes on in public, only to disrobe in the privacy of their own homes. Yet I was the foolish one walking around the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest earlier that day, in my frumpy, one-piece bathing costume, while the locals didn’t think twice about diving into the pools wearing nothing but their own wrinkled flesh. 

I desperately needed to rocket-launch out of my comfort zone. It was something I hoped to accomplish during my first solo trip to Europe, and I thought that watching this “tastefully nude” experience at the Trafó auditorium would fulfill that. Yet as the show began, my senses prickled to alert. The dancers flew into the audience, wearing long, blond wigs, bushy beards, and shouting nonsense words in high-pitched, girlish voices. 

Apparently this was supposed to happen, but since I couldn’t read the show description in Hungarian, I wasn’t prepared for it like everyone else. The male dancers climbed over chairs, sat on peoples’ laps, and gyrated their bodies inches away from my face.

I was crying with laughter, unsure if I was disturbed, confused, or delighted by it all, barely breathing from the shock that took over. 

If I even had a comfort zone, the Hungarian dancers smashed through every possible barrier. But it proved that travel was the key to an open mind. I realized that traveling through Budapest as a solo female traveler was going to be a breeze, now that I had survived an onslaught of public nudity abroad.

Find Katka’s tumblr here.

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Nikki Vargas

Nikki is a New York based travel writer and photographer, originally from Colombia. She traveled around the world from Argentina to France, and got bitten by the travel bug with a desire to see the world. She’s contributed to Travelettes before, with her posts about Colombia and RTW travel.

new travelette contributor nikki vargas

What’s your favourite travel experience so far?

Of all my travel experiences so far, I always have a special place in my heart for Cartagena on the coast of Colombia. Cartagena was one of the first trips I took (and paid for entirely on my own) that made me realize I could afford to travel now if I am savvy about budget travel and travel hacks. Also, visiting Cartagena was my first time being back in Colombia since I was a little girl, so it was wonderful to reconnect with my heritage and culture. Since that trip in 2013, I have traveled to Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, back to Colombia, St. Martin, England, France and around the United States.

Where do you dream of going to?

Having yet to venture to Asia, it is a dream of mine to visit Vietnam in South East Asia. The flavors, vibrant culture, history and vast differences between Western society makes Vietnam such a unique destination to me.

Here is her short story:

Swaying palm trees, the sound of ocean waves, the sun tickling my nose–finally, I have found and reached a solemn place just for myself. My room, if you can call it that, is a hut with a palm leaf roof and a single bed draped by sheer, white mosquito netting. To access the room I have to dip my sand covered feet in a bucket of water at the bottom of a rickety ladder and climb up to the huts overlooking the turquoise sea. For the steal of 50,000 Colombian Pesos (or $25 USD) I have found my own corner of paradise on Isla Baru off of Cartagena’s coast.

A coconut vendor catches my eye as he quietly pushes his cart in my direction. He wears a floppy hat that covers his face and a holster for a large machete hangs from his jeans, which are loose on his strong but thin frame. His skin is taut and darkened by the sun while his hands show signs of hard work without rest. I order a coconut cocktail from him and watch as he expertly whips out the machete and opens the coconut—a process that has become second nature.

At 3:30 pm the beach transforms as locals return home and tourists board boats to Cartagena leaving only serenity in their wake. With a beer in hand, the waves lightly lapping against the shore and my table nestled on the sand, I know I have made the right choice in staying the night. In the morning I will have the beach to myself until about noon when boatloads of tourists will be delivered to the island. Tomorrow will revert the now flawless beach into an amusement park of banana boat rides but at this moment I have paradise to myself.

Nikki runs her own blog here.

new travelette contributor nikki vargas tango couple

 

Katka and Nikki sure can’t wait to share their stories with you, and tell you about their favourite places around the world.

Welcome again – and happy travel writing!

*All photos by the Travelettes