Fathom Questionnaire

Meet the Writer: Salma Abdelnour

by Salma Abdelnour

Salma in Montauk, New York.

Hometown: Three: Beirut. Houston. New York City.

Occupation: Writer and editor.

Favorite destinations: Tokyo, New Orleans, Saigon, Istanbul, London, Budapest, Berkeley, Fire Island, Cairo.

Dying to visit: India, Australia, Peru. 

Bizarre travel rituals: Terminal-hopping to find an airport branch of a local restaurant. Nothing like eating in the actual city, but less grim than the Chili's near the departure gate.

In-flight relaxation regime: Zoning out completely without music, books, or movies, sometimes for the whole flight. Maybe that should go under "bizarre travel rituals."

Always in carry-on: Candy. Spree, Red Vines, and other artificially colored sugar drugs.

Concierge or DIY? DIY.

See it all or take it easy? Both. I'll make time for the big sites I'm most intrigued by and leave the rest for a future trip. But I make long lists of obscure places I'm curious about — a street-food stand down an alleyway, an unusual shop, a hidden bar — and pack them in. 

Drive or be driven? I drive in the United States sometimes, but anywhere else, it's better for everyone if I don't. 

Travel hero: Jan Morris. 

Weirdest thing seen on travels: A badly mismatched cricket game on a mountaintop in Pakistan's Hindu Kush. A group of my friends thought they could beat a bunch of local elementary-school children at cricket when we went hiking after a wedding near Chitral. We got crushed. 

Best hotel amenity: An in-room coffee contraption. I like a quick cup of free coffee in my room first thing. I'll find better coffee for my second and third cup, when I'm out and about. 

I dream about my meal at Ginza Harutaka in Tokyo. 

Everywhere I go, I check out neighborhoods that don't have much going on, just daily residential life, to get some perspective. 

When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by poking around without a plan and getting lost. Ideally not dangerously lost.

I always bring home music and food that won't smash open in my luggage or make me nervous at customs. I'm a wimp about sneaking illegal foods in. I did bring back some incredible prosciutto from Tuscany once, and the dogs at JFK sniffed around my bags, but thankfully someone else on the flight must have been packing heroin, because they bolted off. 

If I never return to the New Jersey Turnpike, it'll be too soon because I miss every exit every time.

I travel for the disorientation.


Websites: Salmaland.com, JasmineandFire.com
Twitter: @Salmaland
Memoir: Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut

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