Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Buenos Aires es muy Divertido con Marcela y Fernando!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 03 22nd, 2011

We had yet another fantastic CouchSurfing experience, this time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Meet Fernando and Marcela, a young and energetic couple new to the CouchSurfing community. We were their first guests, and my god, was their hospitality amazing!

They took us to a party to meet their friends, a Tangaria and on a tour of the city! It doesn’t get much better than that in the world of CS.

(This is the Casa Rosada, the Argentinian version of the White House)

(La Boca, the poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires)

This is Aaron and I attempting to tango, by the way. As evidenced in the video, we were not very good.

One of the best parts of CSing in Argentina was getting to practice our Spanish. Fernando and Marcela were very good with their English, however, we tried to speak Spanish with them as much as possible. By the end of the weekend, we had gotten considerably better, but still a long way off from being fluent.

We have decided that we wanted to keep pursuing the Spanish language as much as possible when we get back to the States. I don’t know if I have mentioned this in previous posts, but as we have traveled, I have realized how pathetic we are as Americans for not being fluent any another languages. Some people we have met are fluent in 3, 4, 5 languages, let alone 2, and I think as a nation we really need to step up to the plate a little bit. After all, as more and more Hispanics move into the country, we are going to have to communicate with these people, whether we want to or not.

Adios, y gracias por leer!

KAR – A – OH – KAY

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 16th, 2011

Karaoke (pronounced kar – a – oh – kay in Japan) – Seriously, is there anything better? OK, maybe a few things (like puppies), but really, it is a short list.

And just so you know, it is true what they say: the Japanese really love karaoke, but not the kind we know and love in America. Basically they rent out small, private rooms with their friends and sing for hours at a time. Our Couch Surfing hosts, Brenna and Micah (awesome American couple living in Tokyo), took us with a bunch of their friends for a true Japanese karaoke experience in Shinjuku in Tokyo. And, as evidenced in the videos and pictures below, it was nothing short of amazing.

I think my rendition of “Be Our Guest” was probably my favorite of the night. What are some of your favorite karaoke songs? Seriously, I would like to know…

Shalom from the Shabbat!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 3rd, 2010

Aaron and I got to CouchSurf one last time in Tel Aviv before we met up with Karen in Cairo and we went on our 7-week overland tour from Nairobi to Capetown.

What was great about our time with Shlomo and Michal was they are Orthodox Jews, and they were very happy to answer all my questions about their customs and beliefs. They took us to a Shabbat, a celebration of their Sabbath (which is on Saturday, FYI). Now, they strictly believe in NO WORK on the sabbath, and that includes even turning on the lights! So, to get away from the big city, we went out to the (get this) West Bank to a campground where we spent from Sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday with no electricity. It was quite the experience.

Anyway, here are a couple other interesting practices I learned during my time with Shlomo and Michal:

1.) Kosher Food

OK, so you have heard of Kosher food. Well, do you know what it is? No? Then I shall explain:

So, Jews strictly follow the rules of the Torah, which includes rules on the food you can eat. I always assumed that Kosher was vegitarian, but it most certainly is not. They can’t eat SOME meats, like pork or shellfish, but they don’t exclude all meat. When they do eat meat, the animal has to be killed a certain way. I am not sure of the exact details, so I won’t go into it.

A key part of being Kosher is that you can’t eat meat a dairy TOGETHER, meaning in the same meal. They are very strict with this, even having designated cooking pots and pans and dishes and plates for either meat or dairy. Further than that, some households have even separate SINKS to wash the dishes! Our CouchSurfing hosts just had separate sponges: the silver one was for the Dairy dishes, the gold one for the meat.

2.) Wedding customs

Shlomo and Michal had just been married three weeks before, so we got to talking about wedding traditions and customs. First, they don’t see each other the entire week before the ceremony. The wedding has three different parts: The first part the guests arrive and greet the bride and groom separately. The second part is called the hupa, and this is the actual ceremony. The guests gather around the bride who is joined by her parents. The groom is brought to his bride for the first time by his parents. They then say their traditional vows and are brought together in marriage. The third part is the reception, pretty much similar to an American one.

3.) After a bride is married, she covers her hair with a scarf. Michal didn’t want to cover her whole head, so she just wore a thick headband so the menfolk knew she was taken.

Are you bored yet? I kind of am. I think this is probably a good place to stop.

Oh, and by the way, we have no photos from the Shabbat, because we weren’t allowed to use the camera, Duh!

And thanks to Shlomo and Michal for the tremendous hospitality. You are welcome to visit the US anytime!

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 15th, 2010

We had heard from numerous people that Istanbul was a favorite amongst travel destinations, and after experiencing it for ourselves, it did not disappoint.

First I should say that Turkish people are known for their tremendous hospitality. We experienced this the minute we arrived in the city with the bus company that took us from Bucharest from Istanbul. You see, we arrived at our final destination at 3 AM, and Aaron and I had not expected to arrive until at least 6 AM, so we had not booked a hostel for the night. With no Internet access, no Turkish currency, and nowhere to go, the bus attendant automatically invited us to stay in the bus company’s office until morning, which we happily accepted, because we really did not know what else to do.

When we arrived in the office, we got to talking to the owner. After talking for about an hour or so, he offered to take us to the Blue Mosque (one of the most famous mosques in Istanbul), and we were a bit skeptical since it was 4 in the morning and we had never met this man before, but we felt bad saying no, so we went along with him. We are glad we did; it was an awesome experience seeing the Blue Mosque when there were no other tourists around.

After we came back from our trek, the owner had the front desk attendant keep the office open just so we could sleep there! Would any American do that? Doubtful.

When we left the next morning we met our CouchSurfing host Efe, and later on his girlfriend Merve and roommate Berk. This was one of our best CouchSurfing experiences so far, not only because our hosts were awesome, but because we stayed with them over a weekend so they could really spend some time with us. They took us all around the city, from the busy, hip district of Taksim to the Egyptian Bazaar. We drank Turkish tea, smoked a waterpipe, had some of the best baklava in the city AND shopped at the biggest mall in Europe (yeaahhhh).

Christy in the Egyptian Bazaar

What was even better was they introduced us to a lot of their friends, and we even got to join Merve at a celebratory dinner for her university.

Thank you, friends at Isik University, for welcoming us at your dinner. Hopefully this blog post will contribute to your continued enrollment success!

I should also mention that Turkish food is the BEST. It was my favorite food in Europe. I am sure Aaron will do whole other post on the food, so I won’t go too into it here.

So, Istanbul= A+. Go. Go NOW. Meet the lovely people, see the beautiful mosques, eat the tasty food, and come back and thank me later. :-)

Rainy Budapest

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 08 6th, 2010

Looking at our pictures it would be easy to assume the weather is always warm and sunny on our trip. We have experienced a few rain showers, but for the most part we have been very lucky with the weather. We experienced our first extended period of clouds and rain while in Budapest. When it rains, we are supposed to put on our rain gear and pretend as if it is not raining. Thanks to the rain gear, we were able to walk around the city, but I still feel the weather prevented us from loving Budapest as much as if it was sunny.

How much rain? Look at the depth of the water while we waited under a bridge for the rain to pass.

Christy waiting for the rain to slow down in Budapest

Rain in Budapest

When the rain slowed down we got to explore the city. We walked along the Danube river and explored all of the parks.

Christy at the Danube river bank

Aaron overlooking Budapest

There are some cool statues around the city. Here is the “Garden of Philosophy: For Better Mutual Understanding” (notice the cute one in the middle).

Christy in the Garden of Philosophy

This statue was cool because the viewing angle of the statue determines which figure appears to be living.

Christy with some art

We had fun wandering around Budapest despite the weather, but 2 things stand out to make our time in Budapest great.

1) The exchange rate. 220 Hungarian Forints = 1 US Dollar. Budapest is not a cheap city, but holding 10,000 Forint bills made us feel rich!

Aaron with a fist full of Forints (~90 US Dollars)

2) Couch surfing. We were lucky enough to couch surf with Eva and Attila. We were able to learn so much about Budapest and Hungary through our discussions and our personal tour of the city. We even got to watch Kontroll,  a Hungarian movie, to help Christy’s movie withdrawal. Eva and Attila made Budapest great!

Couch surfing with Eva and Attila

An Architecture Student’s Dream (No Wonder Amber Liked it so Much!)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 5th, 2010

Wow. If you are at all into architecture, be sure to visit Vienna. From historic palaces and churches to modern skyscrapers and monuments, this city has everything to offer. And not only are the building architectures interesting, they are extremely well kept. I have never seen cleaner, more pristine buildings in my life.

Here are a few pictures of the palaces, churches, and monuments we saw:

The real story behind Vienna was not the city itself, but the wonderful people we stayed with. Yes, we are back to CouchSurfing, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!

We stayed with a young couple named Selma (originally from Bosnia, but a German at heart) and Johannes (from Bavaria). They had only CouchSurfed once before, and we were the first people they had ever hosted. They have just moved to Vienna last year and were excited to tour the city with us. It was so refreshing to have friends to walk around the city with, and it was a bonus that they knew where to explore and what parts of the city to avoid.

They even invited their friend Thomas, who was the one person they had CouchSurfed with, to show us around the city center and share a little bit of the city’s history (Thomas has lived in Vienna for quite some time). He, of course, was very nice, and we very much enjoyed his wealth of knowledge of the different monuments and historic buildings of the city. Here are a few pictures of the tour with Thomas, Johannes, and Selma:

At the end of our stay, Johannes asked us if there was anything they could do to improve as CouchSurfing hosts. We told them if anything, they were a little too nice! We made them a meal our second night of Tex Mex tacos, avocado salad and a crumble, but we still feel we did not do enough for them in comparison to what they did for us. We truly hope they visit us when we get back to the States.

Thanks for everything, Johannes and Selma!

Friends and Wine in the South of France

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 23rd, 2010

We headed to the south of France to Perpignan for some sun, good wine, and to meet some friends. We stayed with Marie and Olivier, an amazing couple who we hosted in San Francisco through We were really excited to see them again, this time in their country.

Olivier is a manager of Arnaud de Villeneuve winery, so we were really excited to try his wines. Luckily, the first night we visited there was a wine tasting and dinner planned for his winery. The wine was really good and it was fun to be surrounded by Catalan food and music.

Catalan dinner

The next day we dipped into Spain. First, we went to Figueres. The town was a nice little town to walk around in. The highlight was the Salvador Dali museum. The entire museum is filled with Dali’s surrealistic works. It feels a bit like walking through a Tim Burton movie.

Christy and Susan in Figueres

Part of the Salvador Dali museum

After Figures, we headed to the coast to the tiny town of Cadaques. The town is an old sea town with white Spanish buildings and a harbor full of sailboats. We all agreed we could have spent a whole day in the town absorbing the atmosphere.

Aaron in Cadaques

Our last morning in the Perpignan we were lucky enough to get a personal tour of the Arnaud de Villeneuve winery from Olivier. He showed us the process of making wine, from grape to bottle. We even got to taste some wine directly from the tank.

Watching wine get bottled

Tasting wine from the tank

Thank you Marie and Olivier for the wonderful hospitality. I am so glad we were able to visit you and experience your city. We hope you visit us again when we return to the United States.

Dinner with Olivier and Marie

We got our first couch surfing request!

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 01 17th, 2010

We got our first couch surfing request today and Christy and I could not be more excited.

Couch Surfing is a website where people who are interested in cultural exchange can offer their couches for travelers to stay on. Christy and I might couch surf a lot on our trip instead of staying in hostels. Couch surfing will be cheaper than staying in hostels, but the main benefit is the ability to meet local people from the places we are traveling. Couch surfing hosts may also feed and act as a tour guide to deepen the cultural exchange.

In order to prepare for our trip, Christy and I have decided to offer our couch to the Couch Surfing community. Hopefully being in downtown San Francisco will make us a desireable place to stay. In exchange for offering a place to stay we are hoping to learn about places we should visit and things we must do while backpacking around the world. One of the tips for good couch surfing experiences is to be selective with who you let stay with you. Being selective helps ensure both parties get the experiences they are hoping for. We have choosen Dirk,  a university student from Germany, to be our first couch surfer. He will be arriving at the end of January. We have so many questions to ask him about his home country and his extensive travels. I hope we will be good hosts. We are pretty good at giving the touristy tours of San Francisco, but I hope we can think of enough “local” attractions to entertain him.