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active 15 hours ago

Ash Merscher

I help readers and travelers make the most out of their trips to European countries, especially Central and Eastern Europe. As a traveler myself, I love the adventurous feeling that a foreign destination gives you; but I also love knowing a little about what to expect. The adventurous unknown—the travel butterflies in the pit of your stomach—are still there, but you can picture a place before you arrive.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I've called a handful of European countries my home, including Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Croatia, and Romania. I've taught English and freelanced as a writer. During my time abroad (I'm currently living in Budapest, Hungary), I've enjoyed extensive travels across Central and Eastern Europe. Besides where I've lived, my countries of expertise include Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, and the Balkans. I'm a big fan of architecture, wine, and food, which are my two main reasons to keep traveling. I love a budget trip, so road trips are my go-to vacations, especially in gorgeous countries like Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia."

How did you get involved in travel?

"While growing up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, trips across the border to Canada were a childhood norm. The allure of international travel was always there, tempting me across the water and prompting my first big trip abroad when I was in my early 20s. I spent the next decade trying to be in Europe as much as possible, working multiple jobs and prioritizing travel. "

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"After a whirlwind trip around Western Europe with my best friend, I decided to stay longer and volunteer at a farm in County Cork, Ireland. Each afternoon, after I finished my duties for the day, I'd grab the family dog—who was very pregnant at the time—and we'd walk up the hill to the cliffside. There, I'd sit on the edge (but not too close), Bella the golden retriever lounging just at my side. We'd listen to the Irish wind, which I feel has its own unique personality. It'd whip through tall tufts of grass like a dance and plummet down the cliffs, seabirds catching its drift and gliding across the horizon. I will never forget those afternoons, with the sun slowly swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean. They occurred a few years after I had experienced a tragedy in my family, and they helped to heal a broken heart and a lost soul. Travel tends to perform that sort of magic."

Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arenal: Costa Rica's Most Famous Volcano
Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arenal: Costa Rica's Most Famous Volcano

Every year travelers from around the world travel to the tiny Costa Rican town of La Fortuna. They come for one reason and one reason alone—to experience the majesty of Costa Rica's most famous active volcano and its surrounding natural wonders. Here is our expert guide to discovering Arenal.

Madrid, Spain
The Best Things to Do in Madrid

Many argue that Madrid is Spain's most cultural city, as its central location draws people, gastronomy, traditions, and customs from around the country. In Madrid, you can dive deep into Spain's history and culture with walking tours of its diverse neighborhoods, evenings experiencing its distinct tavern culture, and tastes of staples like jamón Ibérico and padrón peppers. Then, peruse the world-renowned Prado Museum, enjoy dinner in the world's oldest restaurant, learn all about Spanish royalty, or take a day trip to one of the nearby historic cities and villages.

Looking to Zagreb's Hilly Old Town
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Many travelers skip Croatia's vibrant, youthful capital in favor of the coast, but Zagreb perfectly complements any Croatian itinerary. With grandiose Austro-Hungarian architecture, a never-ending calendar of festivals and events, the best coffee scene in the country, and nearby hiking and skiing, there's plenty to see and do in buzzy, authentic Zagreb.

Coffee Tour in Costa Rica
The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rican Coffee: How to Choose the Best Experience For You

Through hands-on coffee plantation tours, you can learn how Costa Rica's climate and environment are ideal for coffee production—and taste the country's award-winning java. Whether using San José as a hub or visiting Monteverde or Arenal/La Fortuna, you can tour coffee farms, production facilities, and even an eco-lodge offering coffee, chocolate, and sugar cane tours, plus add wildlife viewing into the mix.

Buzzy Bologna and its Food Culture
Top Cultural Activities in Italy

Italy's culture is renowned across the globe, which is why it's the 5th most visited country in the world. Go beyond the typical tourist attractions and dive deeper into Italian culture. Visit bustling food markets, discover traditional music, join the locals for an afternoon Apertivo, and take an art class. Ditch the crowds of Venice and explore its islands, or take a break from shopping to learn the secrets behind Milan's fashionista reputation. Make the most of your trip by truly experiencing the authentic Italian culture!

Hiking in Landmannalaugar
Best Hiking Experiences in Iceland

As cliche as it sounds, Iceland is truly a hiker's paradise. Large swaths of the country (like Thórsmörk Valley and Landmannalaugar) are simply devoted to hiking. You can enjoy everything from multi-day hut-to-hut treks to short and scenic day hikes to colorful mountains, waterfalls, or glaciers. You can even hike atop active volcanic areas, such as Reykjadalur Valley and Geldingadalir Volcano.