Since we’re all about getting to know one another around the Internet this week, I decided to participate in the ME Interview, as well. Not long ago, I was introduced to Kash’s riveting blog Manolos on a Mission via her adorable sister OHMommy, who writes Classy Chaos (another excellent read). Like me, Kash is an eternal nomad, but unlike me, she’s doing something with that wanderlust to change the world (whereas I simply pen fluff pieces that really only make people wish they had more money to travel nonstop). Seriously, the girl has lived in Mali and Benin as a Peace Corps volunteer and speaks (fluently) Polish, French, Japanese, Wolof, Serer and Fulani (if you have never heard of those last three, you’re not alone!). Head over and read her own interview, then promptly obsess over her and her humanitarian ways just like I have. In the meantime, I’ll be right here, answering the questions she sent me.
1. Does your boyfriend love traveling the way you do? Have you ever taken an amazing trip together?
I don’t think I could ever be with someone who had no desire to stray outside of the States on a regular basis, so to answer your question, Hell yeah! Scott (aka SVV) was in the U.S. Navy and stationed in Sicily for three years before we met. He saw much of the continent during that time, as the military gave them 30 paid days off a year. As many of you know, we later crossed paths in Holland and, from there, moved to Denmark, where we cohabitated for the first time (don’t tell my conservative, Southern grandfather; I don’t want to become the black sheep of the family!).
Scott in the Algarve, 2006
Living in Europe made it extremely easy to travel, and on our meager budgets at that. Just months after meeting, we flew to Budapest, explored beautiful Hungary a few days, then rented a car and drove all through Romania (in feet of snow!), and ended our trip back in Austria, where my cousin was living. We also took car and train trips all over Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium, while living in Utrecht and Aarhus, but our best memories to date came from Portugal. Scott had been in Azerbaijan on an assignment for an oil trade publication, while I was completing my first guidebook in Spain. He flew to meet me in Bilbao, where I was bedridden from a nasty flu, and once I recovered, we took a sleeper train down to the Algarve in Portugal and through a series of hitchhiking, buses and trains, made our way back up the coast. We both want to someday have a summer home in Portugal…once one of us has a bestseller, that is!
Us in Brasov, Romania, 2005
In more recent years, we have been to Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee, New York and all over California together, and to Guatemala and Honduras last fall. Unfortunately, my job does not often allow him to come on international assignments often (plus, he has a “real” job where he has to, you know, actually be here to work and get paid); however, he will be going with me to the Cook Islands and New Zealand next month as my photographer, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The single most disappointing trip I’ve taken was to the Maldives, and not because I didn’t fall in love with it (I definitely did!) but because he wasn’t there to enjoy it with me (and I had the entire island to myself!).
Us in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, 2008
2. If someone sponsored you to choose three countries to visit and write about, which ones would you choose and why?
I haven’t done much South America travel, and having studied Spanish for years, I am quite taken by the culture (and the dancing…love me some salsa and tango!). I would love to start in Peru, see Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, the Andes, the Amazon Basin, and of course, pet some llamas (watch out, they spit!). From there, I’d travel to the salt flats in Bolivia, and on down into Chile, hopping over to the Easter Islands and back to the mainland to traverse Patagonia and find myself at the End of the World in Punta Arenas, holding a Magellanic penguin in my lap, of course. Because I’m a walking cliche in that way.
Oh but then I’d HAVE to go to Argentina while in the area…so can we make it four? =)
NOT Antarctica, as I’ve never been there, but kind of how I imagine it to be; Glacier Bay, Alaska, 2008
At one point, I would have said Antarctica with no hesitation—and I still would love to go there—but a fellow travel writer friend took a trip down there that I was supposed to go on last year but had to bail due to my move out West, and the waters were so rough, the entire boat spent two days in their cabins with severe nausea. I get seasick just riding in a canoe, so I’m not sure I’d handle that so well!
3. How did you get your start in travel writing?
Ah, the eternal question. I would say through a lot of hard work, persistence and self marketing. From the time I was 14, I interned (unpaid) at any newspaper, radio station or TV network that would have me, and eventually parlayed that into bigger assignments, columns and national magazine jobs. Through meeting so many people and writing for various publications, I carved out my own niche and, in a way, created a job that worked for me. I get asked all the time how I would suggest others get into the field, and I honestly have no clue. It’s not like I just saw a mediabistro ad, applied for a job and got it; it was more years of networking my ass off and taking free work that finally paid off. A more in-depth account (and some tips) can be read here if you really want to know.
4. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Living in California still with SVV, though I hope by then we’ll own a house (and that second home in Portugal, of course). I’ve always been a complete beach junkie, so even though it’s generally too cold to be on the San Francisco coast in a bathing suit, I still love being five minutes from the ocean. I don’t think I could ever be landlocked again!
Scott and I on the beach in Pacifica right near our house, on one of the rare 95-degree days where it was actually so hot, we had to jump in the 50-degree Pacific Ocean!
And we’ll have a little posse of white dogs (a mix of Malteses and Westies) and someone to take care of them while we’re on the road. I want to still be doing exactly what I’m doing now, only on a grander scale (i.e. lengthier assignments for bigger publications). And it would be nice to not have to be so aggressive for assignments (especially in a rapidly shrinking market); I’d love for editors to come to me with ideas instead (one can dream, right?). I would like to do more cultural pieces and stories about what’s actually going on in many countries, where the public turns a blind eye (e.g. human trafficking in the Balkans). Also, SVV and I both want to write novels…his would be darker, historical fiction works, while I see mine being a combination of chick lit (sorry, but I dig it) and Bill Bryson-style travel accounts.
5. Which destination knocked you off your feet, either because you didn’t know what to expect, or expected something else entirely?
The Maldives for the color of the water and the complete remoteness. Romania for culture and the people. Morocco for visual purposes. The Great Barrier Reef because, flying above it, it just doesn’t seem real. Greece for pure beauty and ruggedness.
Kos, Greece, 2006
Iceland for the nature. Switzerland because it’s like a painting. And Western Canada because I expected it to be very similar to America, but it’s not really, at all. I know most people would like me to say Cuba, simply as it’s somewhere not a whole lot of Americans have been, but as much as I tried, I just didn’t love it (same goes for Guatemala, sadly).
6. You’ve told us about the Camels, know tell us about the Chocolate!
When I was coming up with a title (again, it was very spur of the moment with no thought put in it at all), I wanted to put together two seemingly unconnected things that sort of define me. Anyone who knows me personally can vouch that I am beyond obsessed with chocolate and NEVER pass up on dessert (that’s why I run so much, so I can justify all the calories!). In fact, on many of the group trips I’ve taken for my job, the other journalists have picked up on this immediately, made fun of me and ask me where all the chocolate goes (um, to my ass, isn’t it obvious?). I’ve never been much into candy, or salty stuff like chips and fries for that matter, but I’ve also never met a dessert I didn’t like…unless it has raisins in it, which is just plain wrong. Why would you go and spoil a perfectly good dessert with a dried grape??
If you would like to participate in the ME interview, here are the rules.
1. If you want to be interviewed, leave me a comment that says “Interview me”.
2. I will respond by emailing you 5 questions (I get to choose the questions).
3. Update your blog with the answers to the questions and let me know when you have posted it.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When other comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.