We Said Go Travel interviewed Patricia Schultz,
author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
(INTERVIEW #100 in our travel series!)
1.)Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
It was my first passport and my first stamp: I was 15 and was invited to visit a high school friend who lived in Santo Domingo, the capital of the DR. It was total and glorious immersion in the vibrant and rich Latino culture which was something pretty heady for a New York teen leaving her ultra-American comfort zone for the first time. That flung the door wide open for me!
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2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
I would rent a big old hilltop ‘casa colonica’ (farmhouse) with-a-view in the heart of Tuscany for the summer. There would be a revolving door for all my family and friends who would come and stay for a few days or a few weeks. I used to live in Florence, so we’d go into town to wander around my old neighborhood, and visit nearby Lucca and Siena. We’d explore small sleepy towns and villages for their daily markets and enjoy long lazy meals of local wines and homemade pasta.
3.)What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
I set off on some of my earliest adventures after university alone – not because I wanted to but no one else was available or interested. The first many times I was scared out of my wits – but convinced myself that knot in my stomach was excitement and not fear, and that the dread of what might happen was instead anticipation for the great adventures that awaited. Depending upon the destination, I sometimes prefer traveling with others, but my real joy still remains striking off on my own.
4.)What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
I use Flight Tracker and TripIt, Seat Guru and Kayak and those for various airlines. Of course Facebook where I have a huge following of incredible travelers from around the world and Instagram where I am a new arrival. What can I say? Better late than never at all.
5.)What place do you wish more people have seen?
Iran. It reinforces that there is often a wide and deep divide between a government and its people. The Iranian people love Westerners, and absolutely shower Americans with kindness and curiosity in a way I have never experienced before. I had studied its architecture and history, but what I saw still blew me away – from the UNESCO site of ancient Persepolis to the 20th-century structures created during the glory days of the Shah. The food was both exotic and complex, the result of countless Silk Road caravans passing thru who influenced the local people in ways both great and subtle.
6.)Best advice you have been given and by whom?
My extremely supportive German father, who secretly wanted nothing more than for me to finish college and come home and teach grade school, once said “Follow your heart, but bring your brain with you.”
7.)When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?
Every trip, every time. I am always aware that people appreciate that you have traveled – sometimes from the other side of the world – to experience their home and want to make you welcome. We had hired a driver in Casablanca when our 5am flight was canceled – we were starved and told him we wanted to taste the best couscous in town – but not in a place popular with tourists. We wanted to know where he would go to eat with his wife and children. He took us home to his mother! She still sends me a Christmas card every year.
8.)What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
With life, families and work obligations, it is not easy to linger in a destination for more than the usual drive-by visit. But if you can organize it just once in your life – during a gap year or sabbatical – the experience of immersion is a life-changer. I took my Junior Year Abroad in Madrid and now see it was a true luxury to learn its rich language and age-old customs. I studied close-up the heritage of one of the world’s most important cultures – it was an invaluable education and a gift and it greatly influenced how I saw European – and as a result, world – history.
9.)I travel because…
I can. We forget how much of the world has to wait sometimes for months and even years to get a visa that we can get in 24 hours – if we need one at all. Many people cannot get a passport and if they can, cannot afford to leave the country. It is my life’s greatest privilege and I travel as much as I can and as far as I can. I know there is no guarantee that I will still be around when I’m 80 – or next week. Carpe diem.
10.) My favorite travel or business book is…
I always buy 3 or 4 guidebooks about the destination I am visiting to peruse before I leave home. And then bring just one with me. When I return it is interesting to read them again – so many things take on an entirely different meaning or importance having just experienced them in the three dimensional.
11.) How about hotels? What’s your favorite or one you’d recommend?
I have become very fussy about hotels and when I find certain things in modest and small hotels that you usually pay big money for in 5-star hotels I feel like I’ve won the lottery – genuine hospitality, a warm welcome and good service, attention to detail, and welcomed freebies like complimentary coffee and free, strong reliable WiFi. Of course cleanliness is paramount, and a location in the heart of the city – whether large or small – always augments the excitement of being in a new place.
GET THE BOOK: 1000 Places to See Before You Die
Patricia Schultz is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die. A veteran travel journalist with 30 years of experience, she has written for guides such as Frommer’s and Berlitz and periodicals including The Wall Street Journal and Travel Weekly, where she is a contributing editor. She also executive-produced a Travel Channel television show based on 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Her home base is New York City.
I loved meeting Patricia Schultz at the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show and when she spoke for the JNTO.