Talking Travel with Ingrid Emerick

Writer Ingrid Emerick is one of three editors that worked on a just-released anthology of female-focused travel stories from Seal Press. She recently teamed up (again) with Faith Conlon and Christina Herny de Tessan on Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo. Five years ago, the three co-editors worked together on Seal’s previous solo title: A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe.

Ingrid works as a freelance editor and writing coach, and teaches courses at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she lives with her husband and two children. I recently caught up with Ingrid via email to talk more about female solo travel, writing and this fresh new collection of tales from wandering women.

Gadling readers: We’ve got two copies of the book to giveaway, so stick around after the interview to find out how you can win.

How did you first get started traveling?

I think my strong desire to travel was born from the complete lack of it as a child. I didn’t get on an airplane until I was 18 and heading to a college far enough away that air travel was the only viable option. My parents were not travelers by nature and so, as kids, we only went on relatively short car trips. My father did have a huge collection of National Geographic magazines, and I remember spending hours paging through those and dreaming of all the places I would one day hopefully visit.

I grew up on the east coast and went to college out west so I spent quite a bit of time years exploring the American West, which I just fell in love with. In my sophomore year, I took my first trip abroad. My boyfriend at the time was planning a trip with his father who was an advisor for the OAS. They were going to Ecuador for two weeks and invited me along. For a girl who had never even been to Canada, Ecuador provided quite the culture shock. It was an unforgettable trip and really awakened me to just how varied the world, its people, and our conditions were, and yet, of course, how alike we really all were too. After that, I just couldn’t wait to travel abroad again.

About five years later, I finally did. The lack of funds and traveling companions clipped my wings for those intermittent five years until, finally, at 25 I just thought, I don’t need anyone to go with me and I have a credit card, so why not? I bought a Lonely Planet guide for Ireland, a country I had always wanted to go to and figured would be an easy place to travel as a solo woman. That trip was life changing in many ways and just opened me up to the possibility of traveling anywhere and at anytime-as long as I could figure out a way to pay off the credit card bill somehow.

What are some of your best travel memories, both with others and when you went solo?

Oh, so many. I think on a very internal level Ireland was a pivotal trip for me. It gave me confidence and a sense of myself in the world that I hadn’t yet gained. After that trip, I felt I could go anywhere at anytime in my life. It opened the world for me, as corny as that sounds. I experienced a loneliness on that trip which I hope to never experience again, yet in the loneliness I think I really grew to know myself in ways I hadn’t discovered when always surrounded by people. I also met the most amazing, warm people. There is such a natural and deep sense of history in Ireland, you can almost feel it, especially in the west. Some days it felt like I had stepped back in time and other days through the looking glass. It was really magical in every sense. (Here’s a photo of me from that trip.)

Since then I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit, mostly with my then boyfriend and now husband, as well as with my two children. Each scenario, solo, with another and with kids, is a wholly different experience. And, to be honest, I like them all equally. People worry about traveling with their kids but we have some of our best and funniest family memories from these experiences. Children make you see the world differently and force you to slow down and travel in a way you would not if alone or only with another adult. They also provide an entree into a world of locals that you would just not be privy to without them along.

Other favorite memories would be bathing at the Gellert Hotel in Budapest, and experiencing the slightly bizarre Eastern European spa rituals; Standing on the Academia Bridge taking in the majesty of Venice’s Grand Canal; Getting caught in a rainstorm on top of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, outside of Mexico City; and watching the light bulb go on as my six-year-old really got it — that not everyone knows, or necessarily wants to know, English! It was like literally seeing his mind expand in a matter of seconds. (Here they are atop St. Peter’s in Rome.)

You’ve worked on several female-focused travel anthologies, often with an emphasis on the solo experience. In your opinion, what are some of the factors that inspire or motivate women to head out on their own?

I think it ranges from the practical to the improbable. For many women, it isn’t their first choice. They simply can’t find a travel companion that can commit. Yet, what I see over and over in the stories I receive is that once pushed to go alone, they have an unforgettable experience-and so different from the one had when traveling in the company of others. Some women travel solo as a right of passage. They have graduated from college and want to travel before “real life” begins. They have an empty nest and need to redefine themselves for this new stage in life. They have lost someone, either in a break-up or by death, and they need to get away from it all and take stock of who they are and what they want and need right now. I think travel, especially solo, allows enough distance from our every day realities to help guide us during times of transition and pain. I also see more women making their solo trips as a kind of pilgrimage to a certain place of significance for them. This inherently endows the trip with an immediate sense of importance and meaning that traveling as a tourist can sometimes lack.

Can you tell us a little bit about some of the contributors and stories included in Go Your Own Way?

Where to begin. We have women traveling to far-flung locales like Borneo and Labrador, and others much closer to home, in places like Yosemite and Hawaii. We have women traveling for a variety of reasons, some for adventure, some as a pilgrimage of sorts — whether to Iceland to walk in the footsteps of a hero or to Argentina to perfect the tango. We have women traveling at different points in their life, to mourn the end of a relationship, to mark the moment before marriage or children change their lives forever. Specifically, we have Jennifer Bingham Hull dodging bullets in revolutionary Nicaragua; Stephanie Eliz
ondo Griest, who finds female friends invaluable in her journey through Uzbekistan; and Amy Balfour, who recounts a hilarious trek up Yosemite’s Half Dome. Then there is Alice Carey, making new Egyptian friends on the streets of Cairo one year after 9/11; and Faith Adiele in Nigeria, where everyone knows her father, a man she has never met.

How did you and the other editors decide on which stories to include? Did the process and/or the submissions you received differ in any distinct way from previous anthologies you have worked on?

The whole collection feels very strong to me, and each story quite unique. We really tried to show the multitude of reasons that women travel solo, as well as feature a large cross-section of women and different locales. And, of course, the strongest writing we could find. I think we miraculously succeeded in each area. My co-editors and I divided up the hundreds of submissions, picked our favorites, and then swapped. We also directly solicited essays by travel writers-Barbara Sjoholm, Holly Morris, Lucy McCauley, Kate Chynoweth, to name a few. More than half of the essays came from writers we contacted and the rest we found through the submission process. It was important to us to have original writing, so we included only a few reprints in the book.

The process of working together with Faith and Christina was very similar to our last project – lots of fun. It’s always interesting to hear the perspective of your co-editors on different essays, although we never seem to have any major disagreements. And having three editors does lighten the load. We used the Internet quite a lot for the submission process, obviously. We did in the previous collection in 2001 as well, although this time, we were able to have a much shorter lead-time for the submission call and received even more essays than before. Writers are using the Internet much more avidly these days it seems. It really makes the work of getting the word out so much easier and it helps cast a wider net.

The solo travel experience can be transformative at any stage in a woman’s life. But the nature of how women travel alone also changes over time, as is mention in the book’s introduction. Can you point to examples of stories in Go Your Own Way that illustrate how a woman’s perspective on solo travel can shift over time?

Several of the stories in Go Your Own Way are written from the perspective of the traveler in her 20s – sometimes a humorous account of a naïve mishap, such as occurs in The Dis-Orient Express by Eileen Favorite – or a turning point, as in Trek to Thirty by Aarti Sawhney. Other stories are from the point of view of a woman who has more life experience – Gail Hudson traveling with her teenage daughter in Greece, for example, or consummate traveler Edith Pearlman’s forays in a small Japanese town. Marion Winik does a wonderful job in the final essay in the book discussing this very idea of perspective shift with age as she talks about how waiting alone at the airport can feel like a luxurious getaway for a busy mother of three.

What advice would you give to a woman traveling solo to Seattle – any tips or hints on what to do or see?

Oh, Seattle is a great city to travel to on your own. It is friendly, safe, and relatively easy to get around. Depending on your interests, there are a lot of hubs of activity and repositories of information. If you are into the outdoors, go by the flagship REI store and see what is happening on their program. They have all kinds of in-store events and out-of-store activities and trips. For literary interests, check out the Hugo House on Capitol Hill and Elliott Bay Books in Pioneer Square. For visual art, there is the stunning new Sculpture Park and the just reopened Seattle Art Museum. Wandering Pike Market is a must and kayaking on Lake Union is really wonderful. And depending on the season I’d also check out the Ballard Locks to see the salmon spawning or head out to the islands on one of the many state-run ferries. And it sounds cliché, but I would probably visit in the late spring, summer or early fall to assure the city is showing its finest face. Seattle really comes alive with the sun. A sort of hibernation tends to set in here in the drearier winter months. This isn’t necessarily bad for the inhabitants but can be a little disappointing for visitors.

What kind of workshops do you teach?

I teach a course on publishing and another on advanced non-fiction editing at the University of Washington Extension Program every year. I also do various editing and writing related workshops around town, including one this winter at the Hugo House on creating a great book proposal. My Adventure Diva’s workshop in New Zealand is my first specifically writing-related workshop and I think it will be really fun to work with writers as a group after all of these years of working with them individually as their editor and book coach.

Can you tell us more about the Adventure Diva’s workshop?

I’m leading an outdoor experience/ writing workshop for fourteen days on New Zealand’s South Island. This is an exciting prospect for me and I hope a fabulous trip for the Adventure Diva participants. We are trying to merge adventure with the writing component, creating a space for those interested in working on their writing while experiencing this amazing landscape. I want to stress that this trip is not solely for writers but for anyone who is interested in exploring New Zealand as well as making some time everyday to explore the creative side of themselves through the written word. We’ll be exploring all kids of amazing places on this trip including: hiking the limestone canyons and lush rainforest of the Inland Pack Track in Punakaiki; sea-kayaking in Okarito Lagoon with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains; trekking in Mount Aspiring National Park; enjoying the cultural offerings of Queenstown and Dunedin. We’ll also explore Milford Sound by bike and boat, and check out the penguin colony of Oamaru. I think the structure and focus provides a unique opportunity for those who have always wanted to go on an adventure travel trip and participate in a writing workshop at the same time. Plus, who doesn’t want to see New Zealand!

Are you working on any other projects or planning any other upcoming travel that you’d like to share with Gadling readers?

We have some events coming up around the Go Your Own Way release. July 1st we are doing a reading and publication party at Queen Anne Avenue Books in Seattle at 3pm. Then, on July 12th at 7:30 there is a reading at Powell’s in Portland, OR and on July 17th at 7:00pm another reading in Seattle at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and on August 5th a reading at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA.

I just started a book development and editorial consulting business with my long-time friend and former colleague, Leslie Miller, called Girl Friday Productions ( so we are having fun launching that and being back in the publishing world working on a more day to day level with authors and publishers again.

Personal travel is consciously in the Northwest for the next few months. I love it here, especially in the summer and plan on doing a lot of camping and sailing with family and friends. We are starting to plan for a really big, around the world trip with the children, but that is still a ways off.

Sounds like another idea for a collection of stories — all in the family travel! Thanks for talking with us about travel, writing, Go Your Own Way and the other projects you are working on. Best of luck and happy travels!

Gadling readers: Want to win a copy of Go Your Own Way? All you need to do is comment below and our magical system will automatically select two lucky winners at random. Make sure you use a valid email address, as we’ll have to contact you to get your mailing address. For official rules, please click here. Comments and contest will close one week from today, July 5 at 8 PM.