In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Emilia Taneva, the Bulgarian orthodontist and world traveler behind the popular travel blog Bubbly Moments. We chat with Emilia about what sparked her love of travel, her favorite things to do in one of her top destinations, one of the most interesting countries her work has taken her, and much more. Check out her favorite restaurant on the planet and find out where her travels will take her next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to travel the world and see what’s out there. However, my very first chance to travel abroad was at age 19 to the French Riviera right before I started dental school. I find traveling to be an adventure! I love discovering the unknown, getting to know new cultures, doing things I haven’t done before, creating new stories and new memories. The more I traveled, the more inspired I was to start my blog, Bubbly Moments, and share my experiences. How many days/weeks are you traveling in any given year? What are the types of places you like to visit?
I usually travel a minimum of 12 weeks per year with friends and/or family. When it is really cold and beyond freezing in Chicago, my husband and I like to plan a longer trip of 2 to 3 weeks combining several remote destinations. For example, last year we visited Hawaii and French Polynesia, the year before we did an African safari to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, and this year we traveled to Dubai and Seychelles. On those longer trips, we mix big city buzz and beach tranquillity.
You were born in the town of Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria. What makes your hometown, and Bulgaria in general, such great travel destinations?
Veliko Tarnovo is a medieval city in central Bulgaria, one of its oldest towns, with traces of human presence, dating back to the 3rd millennium BC. Veliko Tarnovo was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Often referred to as the “City of the Tsars,” the city attracts many tourists with its unique architecture. A magnificent fortress, historic cobbled lanes, handicraft markets, dramatic river bends, and forested hills, are some of Veliko Tarnovo’s splendors.
Bulgaria, in general, is a wonderful destination to visit and I could not recommend it enough. It offers soul-stirring nature, forests, and mountains for hikers, mountain bikers, and skiers; long Black Sea golden beaches with gorgeous seaside resorts; modern cities full of nightlife and art; hundreds of gold-domed churches with icon paintings or carved wooden screens; historic fortresses, ruins, and tombs. Bulgaria is also one of the most affordable countries to visit in Europe.
As the president of the European Dental Students’ Association, you traveled all over the world. What was that experience like? What was the most surprising place your work took you?
As a dental student, I was given the privilege to serve at different positions of the European Dental Student Association for several years. I was engaged in national and international matters associated with dental education, students and academic affairs. It was fascinating to be a part of a globally connected dental community. I forged many valuable connections and still hold dear many people from those times. Social media keeps us connected still.
It was during that time when I started to gain a better understanding of different cultures and ways of life. One of the most interesting places I visited back then was Egypt. From ancient Cairo with its towering Pharaonic Pyramids to Sharm El-Sheikh with its Red Sea coral reef sites, Egypt is still one of my all-time favorite destinations.
Chicago has been your adopted home ever since you moved to the U.S. What would you recommend tourists do when they visit The Windy City?
If it’s your first time in Chicago, I would definitely recommend visiting some of the top tourist attractions such as Millennium Park and the Bean, Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, or the Art Institute of Chicago. The city is famous for its deep-dish pizza, the classic Chicago-style hot dog, and also boasts 25 Michelin-starred restaurants. Consider also grabbing drinks at the Signature Lounge of the Hancock Building either during the day or at night to enjoy the magnificent Chicago skyline views.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I would love to inspire positivity and motivation. I hope more people pursue their true desires, dreams, and express their passions after reading my site. I hope my audience is gaining valuable information about different destinations and about dentistry and orthodontics. I would love to motivate the younger generation to succeed in their careers, propel them to travel, experience different cultures, broaden their horizon, and create more memories.
How many countries have you visited so far? What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
So far I have managed to travel to over 40 countries on five continents and knocked some big adventures off my bucket list along the way! My top three destinations are Hawaii, the Maldives, and Hong Kong.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, best place to have lunch, best sightseeing, etc.
I have been to Hong Kong twice. 10 years ago I visited the vibrant city on a budget while the second time Hong Kong was the first stop of our 5 destinations honeymoon. My “Top 5” list for Hong Kong include:
2. Exploring the exotic dried food and herbal medicine market in the Western District with specialty shops offering a wide selection of Chinese rare finds from ginseng to bird’s nest;
3. Taking the Ngong Ping crystal cable car with glass bottom and visiting the Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha temple;
4. Grabbing drinks at the OZONE glitzy sky bar located on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton hotel;
5. A day trip to Macau for an enchanting cultural experience and glittering nightlife and entertainment.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Top 3 favorite cuisines are French, Spanish, and Bulgarian. The Bulgarian cuisine shares characteristics with other Balkan, Persian, Turkish, and Greek cuisines. If you ever visit a Bulgarian restaurant make sure you try the cold soup tarator, the filo dough based banitsa, meshana skara (a mix of grilled lamb, veal, chicken and pork), or the alcoholic drink rakia. Other popular dishes are the vegetarian stuffed peppers, cabbage leaf sarmi, moussaka, gyuvetch, kyufte, feta cheese, and baklava.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
My favorite restaurant is the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant Picasso in Las Vegas. It offers a French and Spanish-influenced cuisine, a wine selection from the finest European vineyards, and a romantic outdoor patio for you to experience the artistry of the Bellagio Fountains during dinner. A favorite dish is the Pan Seared Sea Scallop served with Potato Mousseline and Jus de Veau.
What is your favorite travel movie?
I love Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig for the first time as James Bond. The 007 spy movie has a really engaging and compelling story, featuring picturesque or exoting filming locations such a Prague, London, Uganda, Madagascar, the Bahamas, Miami, Montenegro, Lake Como, and Venice.
What is your favorite international airport?
My husband and I spent more than 9 hours at the Doha airport (Qatar’s Hamad International Airport) waiting for our connecting flight back home to Chicago. Besides the numerous upscale boutiques, gift stores, restaurants, and coffee shops, we found the airport to have a modern art vibe. There are beautiful hallways and lounges, a futuristic indoor train, a gym with a full range of workout equipment, a swimming pool, and even squash courts. If you want to sleep, there are several quiet rooms with reclining chairs or private bedrooms that can be booked for four-hour slots.
Which city had the friendliest people?
I typically feel comfortable in a foreign place and haven’t encountered unkind or cold behavior anywhere so far. I have met incredibly nice people all over the world. However, I think I felt most welcome in Reykjavik, Iceland, Cozumel, Mexico, and Dublin, Ireland. The local people were genuinely friendly, happy, and accommodating.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
During travel, I usually watch new movies or read a book. If I’m not too tired, I try to catch up on Bubbly Moments related work either by organizing my computer folders and images or by writing down a to-do list. However, I think the best way to kill time is by sleeping. I always bring a travel pillow, an eye mask, and earplugs to help me fall asleep. Time flies by on the plane and you will definitely arrive well rested and ready to explore your final destination.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Plan and budget according to the weather and the destination. Create an itinerary, research different forms of accommodation and transportation, budget for food and activities, create a packing list early on. Make sure the itinerary is not too crammed so you can also slow down to relax and enjoy.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
Whether I’m travelling to Miami or Dubai, I always bring my laptop, camera, portable charger, and mini everything (shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, facial foam, moisturizer, eye cream, serum, dry shampoo, hair spray, fragrance).
What is your ultimate dream destination?
The top destinations on my travel bucket list are Cuba, India, Nepal, Peru, and Brazil.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”― Mark Twain
Where are you headed next?
My husband and I are planning a trip to France and Spain at the end of May. Although, I have traveled to some of the places before we are both very excited to explore for the first time together Paris, Monaco, the French Riviera, Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville.
Emilia Taneva is a creative photographer, travel blogger, digital influencer, and Board-Certified Orthodontist. She is ranked as one of the top influencers in North America, with a focus on travel, fashion, and lifestyle. Taneva wad born in the medieval city of Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) where civilizations and cultures have collided throughout its history. At a young age, she was captivated by history and tour books and would daydream about seeing the world one day. Today, Taneva runs the popular travel blog, Bubbly Moments. The Bubbly Moments is focused on the world’s most luxurious destinations and exclusive places. She has traveled to over 40 countries on five continents and knocked some big adventures off her bucket list along the way. Her all-time favorite destinations include Hawaii, the Maldives, Hong Kong, the French Riviera, and Singapore.