Patricia Schultz, author of '1,000 Places to See Before You Die,' shares travel tips

eshaw@islandpacket.comFebruary 8, 2014 

Patricia Schultz has traveled to about 80 percent of the spots listed in "1,000 Places to See Before You Die."

  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: Patricia Schultz speaks at the Savannah Book Festival

    WHEN: 2:45-3:45 p.m. Feb. 15

    WHERE: Neises Auditorium Jepson Center, Telfair Square, Savannah

    COST: Free

    DETAILS: www.savannahbookfestival.org

Patricia Schultz has a serious case of wanderlust.

Schultz is the author of the New York Times No. 1 best-sellers, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" and "1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die," books that inspired bucket lists the world over.

Whether sailing alongside yawning hippos in Botswana, listening to the Singing Sand Dunes in Mongolia or strolling through medieval villages in Germany, Schultz has been there, done that.

As a veteran travel writer, it is her job to visit places both grand and overlooked and report back to would-be globetrotters.

Schultz will share some of her stories and experiences at the Savannah Book Festival Feb. 15 (after her trip to Philadelphia, but before her trip to Uzbekistan).

"There really is no downside to travel, save a little jet lag and a dented bank account. A small price to pay for a million-dollar experience," Schultz said.

Her love of travel began as a child with family trips to the Jersey Shore (way before Snooki, she is quick to add). As soon as she was able to strike out on her own, she did, traveling and writing for guides such as Frommer's and Berlitz. Schultz didn't have a sofa for almost 20 years, because any time she saved any money, she'd put it toward a plane ticket.

The native New Yorker spent seven years writing the first "1,000 Places" and recently revised it with more than 200 new entries, including visits to countries like Lebanon, Croatia, Estonia and Nicaragua that were not in the original edition.

The book even has entries for Beaufort, Charleston and the Lowcountry, with nods to the Rhett House Inn, Penn Center and Hominy Grill.

Lowcountry Life spoke with Schultz before her Savannah visit and asked her to share some travel tips and tricks, what she loves about the South and what it's really like being a perpetual tourist.

Question. Have you really visited all 1,000 places in your book?

Answer. About 80 percent, I'd say. I'm still ticking them off. There are so many of that 20 percent that I just know belong in the book because everything you've ever heard about them are about how iconically beautiful they are.

Now that the writing of the book is done, I'm trying to catch up and travel as much as I can. Last month, I was in Antarctica. It was just beautiful. It was like you were almost on some other planet. It was quiet and untouched. And if I never see another penguin again. ... You really felt like you were in the middle of a "Happy Feet" movie. There were hundreds of thousands. And if you stand still, they'll come up to you, because they don't associate you with danger.

Q. In the book, you have entries for Beaufort and Charleston. What was your impression of these places?

A. I'm a New York City girl, so I love the big cities. Savannah and Charleston are like mini mes in that they have the culture of a city three, four times their size, but in a more manageable, navigable, less frenetic offering.

The beauty of Georgia and the Carolinas that I love so much is the proximity to the ocean and the history that is found there. Maybe you're spoiled. We don't have such a proliferation of islands. But you have more than you can shake a stick at. And the food of course is remarkable. Not just for the freshness, but because it's mixed with all of that historical influence. That was a real eye opener to me.

Q. What sort of research do you do before a trip?

A. Now with the Internet, you could live with your nose to the screen. Having written for guidebooks and being maybe a little bit old school, I love paging through a tree book as opposed to an electronic one. So I often buy many guidebooks. As a professional travel writer, I need to know what I'm visiting. Other people are more relaxed and spontaneous. But I always need to know in advance what needs to be seen. You need to be really careful with your time. Do you have next to no time so you need to hit the ground running? Or do you have a whole week to see a single city?

Q. What is always in your suitcase?

A. Moisturizer. I'm the queen of Ziploc bags. I have them in every size. I bring two pairs of shoes. You really don't need three. And I always travel with scarves, because it will dress things up and dress things down and it will make the same outfit you've been wearing look entirely different. And I never bring jewelry that's anything other than costume jewelry, because I have lost things.

Q. Do you mostly travel alone?

A. I have traveled alone a lot. In the beginning, I thought it was going to be the end of me. I wanted to see so much and travel much more frequently than my friends. So I traveled alone because I couldn't find people who wanted to go where I wanted to go or at the time I wanted to go. The more I did travel alone, the more I understood that it is so doable and it is so rewarding. It's a very different experience. I'm not saying it's my preference, but given the choice of going somewhere alone, knowing it's going to be a wonderful trip, or staying home and watching TV, what would you choose?

Q. How often are you traveling?

A. A lot. In 2012, I was almost entirely on the road in the U.S. and abroad to promote the book on a crazy book tour. This past year, I was back to doing my own stuff. I host trips and do assignments for magazines, so each year is very, very different. I'd say in 2013, I traveled eight months of the 12, cumulatively.

Q. What airline has the best airplane food?

A. Oh, no one. That's just laughable. Although, the airports have changed incredibly in the last five years. All of the big international airports now often have satellite restaurants of some of the big chefs. When I travel long-haul, I try to upgrade with my miles and travel business class. Then you usually have silverware, a glass and you can recognize what you're eating.

When traveling economy, I always try to bring food, because economy is just sad. But does it stop me from traveling? No.

Q. How do you remember all your trips? You must have so many pictures and souvenirs. How do you keep them straight?

A. My Christmas tree is kind of my scrapbook. The only thing I buy now are Christmas ornaments. They're visual reminders, and they're special to me. I used to collect rugs. How impractical was that? That lasted only 10 years. Then I ran out of floor space.

I take a lot of photos. Those are either in shoeboxes or now on memory chips or on iCloud, and I never look at them. Realizing that, I really, really just try to see things and really see them. Not just to look, but to see and appreciate them. I just try to be very mindful of what I'm seeing, and be in the moment.

Q. Where are you headed next?

A. Well, Savannah happens in the middle of the travel shows I do. I also host tours to various places around the world. This year, I was asked to host tour to the 'Stans -- countries in central Asia, most of which are former Soviet countries that are now open to tourism. The most well-known is Uzbekistan.

Then I'm doing a river cruise up the Danube. (Then) I'm doing a trip to see the polar bears in Canada.

Q. Anything else you want to add?

A. The one thing that always amazes me is that when the first book came out in 2003, it was not all that long after Sept. 11, when Americans were just starting to travel again. So it was an opportune time for the book to come out and it flew off the shelves. It was a "pinch me" moment. Ten years later, the book continues to do well, and there are 26 translations. It was confirmation to me that people everywhere love to travel.

Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.

RELATED CONTENT

• Savannah Book Festival

• 1,000 Places to See Before You Die website

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