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It’s funny and interesting that “1000 Places To See Before You Die” author Patricia Schultz designates Italy as her favorite destination among the 999 or more she could have picked. That’s pretty down-to-earth of her, and not a bad choice.
When it’s time to get up and go, a steamer trunk full of guidebooks and apps are packed and ready to accompany travelers anywhere in the world. Hundreds of new titles come to market each year from Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Footprint, Lonely Planet, Michelin, Rough Guides, Let’s Go and many more.
One of the world’s best-selling travel companions is a combination of vicarious travel, practical guide and bucket list. “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz has been a reliable and fascinating read since it debuted in 2003. The second edition was released in 2011, adding 200 entries from visits to 28 additional countries (Workman, $19.95). Accenting its 1,200 pages are 600 tempting color photographs.
The book is sectioned into global regions and subdivided from there — Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia/New Zealand/Pacific Islands, the U.S./Canada, Latin America, and Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda.
Throughout its pages are visits to “sacred ruins, grand hotels, wildlife preserves, hilltop villages, snack shacks, castles, festivals, reefs, restaurants, cathedrals, hidden islands, opera houses, museums” and more. For each informative, well-written entry, the question of “Why go there?” is answered, supplemented by hard information including website addresses and phone numbers, lodgings and restaurants, side trips, and the ideal months to visit. Setting the tone is an Asian proverb in the front of the book: “Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”
We caught up with Schultz at her home in New York City, where she was taking care of business between international jaunts. Visit her at www.1000places.com.
Travel is essential to the well-rounded life, but you’ve gone over the top.
The world is a classroom without walls, which sounds dorky but is so true. I went to a very good school (Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.), but everything I consider invaluable, pertinent and character-enhancing, I have learned through travel. I consider it to be my real education.
How many of the 1,000 places did you personally visit?
For the first edition (2003), it was about 80 percent. There were so many places I had been to that didn’t make the cut, but I wanted to include the additional 20 percent of great destinations that in my heart I knew belonged in the book, but I hadn’t personally been to. They were researched and vetted by my network of colleagues.
After the first edition came out, and I was no longer chained to my desk, I was out of the gate and visited that other 20 percent. Then I started working on the revised second edition and was back in the same 80-20 dynamic, which now is my new bucket list. I’m still ticking them off, but a little faster than the average person. Last year, I spent seven cumulative months on the road, (including) big trips to Mongolia and Antarctica.
What’s up for 2014?
I’m hosting a trip for a travel company with 15 people to the five “Stans” in Central Asia — Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. I’m not leading the tour, but I’ve put my name on it, which will help give it a certain degree of specialness.
What’s your favorite destination?
Italy. I can’t go back often enough. I lived there for five years, loving the idea that I was blending in with the locals, which you never really do. At the same time, I was the gung-ho tourist who scoured the country every weekend, from the big cities and the small towns to the islands and the Alps.
Any downside to travel?
I don’t want to come off as some kind of Pollyanna, but (enjoying travel) is a matter of your mindset. Regardless of where you go, you need to make the best of it and roll with the punches.
I always single out one particular incident. My friend and I were in Casablanca, Morocco, and wanted to fly to Fez, the highlight of our trip. Our flight was canceled, but we believed something good was going to come of it.
Sure enough, we hired a lovely gentleman to drive us to Fez in his cab, a five-hour trip. We were starving for lunch and asked him to take us to whatever place served the best couscous in Morocco. He started making hysterically animated calls on his cellphone, saying to us, “You’ll see, you’ll see!”
We thought we were going to some little truck stop where the locals go. But he took us to his home for couscous, where we met his mother, his wife and their three daughters. The entire (population of the) apartment building crowded in or waited outside his door because they had never seen two American women traveling together. Muhammad’s wife and daughters continue to write to us and send Christmas cards each year.
On the way to Fez, he stopped often to show us ancient Roman mosaics we never would have seen had we flown. A canceled flight and look what came of it.
How multilingual are you?
I speak Italian really good, Spanish a little less so. I’m OK with French and so-so with German. I’ve studied Portuguese, and I’ve dabbled in Arabic. It almost doesn’t matter, because English is the lingua franca and there’s always somebody who speaks it.
Please name one absolute must-see from each section of your book.
The fjords of Norway, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Jerusalem in Israel, Kyoto in Japan, Tasmania off the coast of Australia, Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah, Quito in Ecuador, and Dominica in the Lesser Antilles.
You include San Francisco and Los Angeles in the “California” entry, but not the state capital.
I have very good memories of Sacramento and learning about the Gold Rush, because I slept through American history in high school. Sacramento is in “1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die.”
How about three travel tips.
Be careful who you travel with; it’s as important as your destination. As Mark Twain said, “You never know somebody until you travel with them.”
Do your homework before you go, it will enhance whatever you take away from the experience. It amazes me that so many people go (to a destination) totally unprepared, but I am impressed they’re getting there at all.
Always be respectful and curious of the country in which you are the foreigner. What you put out, you get back in spades. Leave the “American way” at home, though the idea of the Ugly American is fast-fading and being replaced with other nationalities and cultures, which I will not name.
At the end of the day, whatever it takes to get you somewhere is fine.
Photo: Trafalgar Canada‘s luncheon for Patricia Schultz and “1000 Places to See Before You Die” at Blue Water Cafe, in Yaletown, Vancouver, Canada on March 7, 2013. Flickr.com/Rick Chung