Talking travel with Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See” (part 2, 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.


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 part 1 of the interview for details on how you can win.

Do you book your trips in advance? Wing it?

Serendipity is a wonderful tour guide, and there should always be lots of hours or afternoons left open to wander and explore and let the trip happen to you. But before leaving I generally have a good idea of what’s worth seeing and gage my time accordingly. I always have a hotel booked in advance, even if it is off season. It’s too easy to do these days with the internet possibilities – there’s nothing worse than arriving and blindly picking a hotel out of the blue (and usually over-paying) because you didn’t do your homework in advance. Why run the risk of being disappointed by an uniformed choice of hotel?
What are five overlooked destinations?

Almost all of South America – Europeans go there in far greater numbers than Americans; our wonderful neighbor Canada to the north, from Newfoundland off the east coast to the hinterlands of Vancouver Island off the west coast; incredibly gorgeous islands in the Indian Ocean (the Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar, Zanzibar) that can seem like light-years away for American travelers; the Balkan countries like Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, etc. where it often feels like the Mediterranean of a hundred years ago; any of the Greek islands beyond the predictable Grand Tour of Mykonos, Santorini, or Crete.

What are your top three favorite cities? (I know you have an Italian bias!)

I have the inordinate good fortune to say I live in one of them – NYC. I know, I know, I am hardly neutral, but I do maintain that there is nothing like it anywhere on this earth. I love Rome because where else can you find a city whose 25 centuries of history are ubiquitous, with an ancient Roman archway imbedded in the façade of a chic Fendi boutique? Or whose wide open squares such as the opera-set Piazza Navona have acted as the market place and meeting grounds of choice for millennia? “Rome, a lifetime is not enough” they say.

And Rio de Janeiro! Not only one of the most beautifully-sited cities anywhere (up there, perhaps, with Cape Town and San Francisco), but one with an infectious Carneval-like spirit year round, and populated by the very spirited cariocas – some of the nicest people I’ve ever met anywhere.

Jet-setting across the world must get expensive. Do you have any cost-saving tips?

I have been writing travel guides for decades, with deadlines that always had me traveling off season. It didn’t take long to understand that not only does one enjoy discounted hotel and air rates in the off months, but I found the local people to be less harried and more welcoming as a result, and there were fewer disadvantages such as long lines at the museums or crowded restaurants to contend with. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend precious time and money and find yourself in Thailand during monsoon season, or at a coastal destination like France’s Juan-les-Pins where half the town is depressingly shut down in the cold-weather months.

If your lifestyle is such that you can leave with just 1-3 weeks notice, there are remarkable deals to be found online that specialize in last-minute travel. I can’t tell you how many times the irresistibility of a deal determined the destination of my next trip.

And I have always been intrigued by the possibility of home exchange. My serenity-seeking friend recently traded her small Sex-and-the-City condo in Manhattan for a 2-bedroom farmhouse outside of Vence in the south of France to a couple seeking some urban (and urbane) excitement abroad. My friend now swears she’ll never stay in a hotel again (as I imagine the French couple does as well).

What was the experience of writing 1000 Places like? How much on-the-grounds research did you do? How’d you hear about some of the more obscure places and sights?

It took me 8 years to write the first book – and I could have kept going! Many of the experiences were pulled from trips prior to that period, but I researched them to make sure they were still as special as I remembered them to be. And about 20% of the places I have not visited – but I just knew (and was assured by a network of friends who work in the travel world, or by careful research research research) that they belonged in the book.

I purposefully sought out lesser known and more obscure places – whether by physically traipsing there myself, or picking the brains of others. It was important to me to create a real mixed bag of destinations, from the world-known places to the off-the-charts gem, and everything in between. This is the way I travel, mixing it up – enjoying the obvious and accessible while always searching out the various layers and facets and secrets a destination reveals.

Not everyone will agree with my choice of these one thousand possibilities, but one would be hard pressed not to find a few hundred places to keep you busy for some time to come. For travelers who are rusty, or who are too comfortable in their armchairs, this book is the perfect tool to understand the countless possibilities the world offers…and how to get there. Just close your eyes and pick!

What’s your all-time favorite restaurant?

My friends harass me because I rarely go back to the same restaurant twice. It is said NYC has some 20,000 possibilities – why would you deprive yourself of sampling that kind of diversity by returning to the same one, regardless of how wonderful it is?

Multiply that times a few
bazillion to imagine the riches the world’s restaurants promise! (I’m sure there’s some kind of connection, but I’ve never been able to sit through the same movie twice, either.) Memorable eating has nothing to do with the money spent. A stop for chicken jerky in Montego Bay, roasted oysters alfresco in Pt. Reyes outside of San Francisco, the “food circuses” of Singapore where you can stall-hop for a song – all these can promise a meal every bit as memorable as The French Laundry in the Napa Valley or Taillevent in Paris.

And sometimes it’s just because the tavern owner came over and sat down to talk and offered a glass of his homemade liquer that he saves for special quests. Or because you somehow got swept up in a local wedding celebration and made to feel like family.