Talking travel with Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See” (part 3, plus book giveaway)

Patricia Schultz is a well-traveled woman. She single-handedly launched the mini-industry of travel list books with her 2003 #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List (Workman), which has sold more than 2.8 million copies and translated into 28 languages. Since then, she’s written a sequel, 1,000 Places to see in the USA and Canada Before You Die, produced a Travel Channel show based on the concept, and was named (as of this week) by Forbes as one of the 25 most influential women in travel.

She was recently a panel member for ABC’s Good Morning America, a judge in selecting the 7 New Wonders of America, and a seasoned writer for Frommer’s, BusinessWeek, “O”prah, Islands and Real Simple. Her next book of the series is in the works.

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.


Her publisher, Workman, has kindly offered to give away five book copies and two calendars of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die to Gadling readers (shipping included). See the end of the part 1 interview for details on how you can win.

What projects are on your plate right now? Can we expect more in this series?

I am doing lots of magazine writing and book-touring and I speak at a lot of events. I also just had my apartment painted – the paint has been dry for 4 months now and I still haven’t found the time to move back in and unpack. I think it’s time.

A third book? Maybe! Stay tuned!
What are three over-rated destinations?

Travel is a very personal thing and what might be a great destination for one, can be a trip from hell for the next person. My friend would rather stay home and watch Seinfield reruns than go toLas Vegas, where she’s never been. What?! I think Vegas is a wild only-in-America oasis of incredible talent (Bette Midler! Cirque de Soleil! Barry Manilow!), neon palaces of gaming 24/7 and a roster of restaurants for all palates and budgets. Throw in a sidetrip to the Grand Canyon and you can go home a happy camper. Would I go regularly? No, but a first-time jolt is great fun.

I think the classic beach vacation is overrated – one gorgeous Caribbean beach is not terribly different from one in Mauritius. What sets them apart as memorable experiences is renting a motor scooter to zip around the island and visit the fish markets, eat at a roadside shack and hang with the islanders over a local beer. So it surprises me that a good number of folks never leave their hotel compounds (which can be very gorgeous but have become very homogenized over the years) to venture beyond the rarified world they pay so handsomely to visit. Not discover some of the local color just beyond those gates? You may as well sit and bake in your own backyard, and save yourself the air fare.

Another kind of vacation that has me scratching my head are the regular and routine returns to the same destinations year after year….after year. I understand the importance of family traditions and being lucky enough to find some place (St. Croix, Cape Cod, the family cabin) you know will always be welcoming and unchanged from one visit to the next. But, hey, what about the other 98% of the world? Do you really want to die an authority on St. Croix?

What’s your stance on visiting despotic countries like Burma or Iran or North Korea? Go for it?

I try never to politicize travel and think it is paramount to understand that the people of a country are not their government (the US might be a good place for foreigners to put that to the test). I was in Burma (Myanmar) in April, just weeks before the cyclone did such devastating damage to a country whose people have so little to begin with. Our guide was a lovely young (and very up-beat) lady who was surprisingly worldly considering she had never left her country. She had taught herself to speak extremely good English, Spanish and Japanese so she could communicate with the people who come to visit Burma. In her lifetime she is afraid she will never have the chance to experience the world outside her borders: she hopes to know the world through those who visit her country. “Burma is its people, not its junta” she told me. “Please tell your friends to come and visit us.” How could you not?

Do you believe there are any “undiscovered” sites out there, places that are off the radar of even the seasoned traveler? Spill the beans on a few for us?

I think there are millions of them, most of them underrated because they are under our nose – the lesser visited islands in the Caribbean, for example, like Culebra, Dominica, Los Roques or Saba. For those who think Europe is so “done,” ask the hotel staff behind the desk to suggest a town worth an afternoon visit – it may not be an “undiscovered” place to them, but it will be to you. Or consider the peripheral countries of Europe that are new on our radar – Romania, Slovenia, or the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania among others.
I recently visited Zagreb and Split in Croatia (and all the tiny towns in between) – they are not on the average American’s Short List, but the Europeans have been onto them for centuries.

On a more exotic, far-flung note, I visited the northern reaches of Namibia (a country “undiscovered” by Americans until Brad and Angelina put it on the map) near the border with Angola, where we visited the Nimba tribe. We may not have been the first white non-Africans they’d seen, but we were close. We brought soccer balls and a massive bag of rice as a gift to the community. I try to wear my respect on my forehead and hope to never wear out my welcome.

What was your last trip?

I just finished a brief Book Tour to promote 1000 Places To See in the USA & Canada Before You Die – a series of short but great stays in some of my favorite American cities such as Nashville (I caught George Jones at the Ryman Auditorium and spent an evening at the Grand Ole Opry), Memphis (glad to see Graceland has not changed, nor have the ribs at the Rendezvous), and Vegas where we rented a car and drove to Sedona Az and saw The Grand Canyon during a May m
ini-blizzard of 18 inches! I was also reminded that stargazing in the American desert is second to none.

I know people always like to hear that I have just returned from Ghana, or Buenos Aires, but in fact I travel a lot in the US as well, and find it can be every bit as rewarding, and surprising.

What’s your next trip?

My next “big” trips are in the fall – Greece in September, the Baltic states in October and the Arabian Gulf nations in November. I was in Oman in 1978 – I’m curious to see what has changed!

What is the one place you haven’t yet made it to (and why?) that’s tops on your list?

My Short List is very long, but one might be the Torres del Paine national park in the southernmost reaches of Chile – wild, pristine, dramatic. And from there, I’d take an extension to Antarctica. It’s a big and costly trip, and those are the ones where you need to allot a big chunk of time and money. I think most travel is about time and money – there’s no doubt it takes lots of planning and saving.

But there is no guarantee we’ll be around next year – or tomorrow! So Carpe Diem! Life is short – get off the couch.