Patricia Schultz was raised in Beacon, N.Y., a Hudson River town with some of our nation’s earliest settlements and the late folkster Pete Seeger as a hometown icon. She calls the city “a real Norman Rockwell corner of the world.”
“I had a lovely childhood, but it wasn’t quite enough for me,” says the author of the 2003 bestseller “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” an ambitious book that was a fast hit and published four years before “The Bucket List” was released as a film.
Writing the book “was so consuming,” she says, in a phone interview from New York City. “I never gave any thought to what would happen when it was on the shelf. It was one person’s voice and international in scope, a little bit of everything, everywhere.”
The book took eight years to write – “one extended deadline led to another” – but the response was immediate. Before 2007 ended, her “1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die” was on bookstore shelves, too.
A subsequent update to the first book reorganized content and merged some entries (“almost like a mini itinerary’), to make room for new destinations in 30 countries. Although Patricia has a support crew of researchers, “I need to have my hand in everything. I research their research and am happiest when I do it myself. That’s the German in me.”
This month, New York food journalist Mimi Sheraton adds “1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die,” which is divided by cuisine and covers the globe, adding recipes and culinary history. “It’s like a food encyclopedia and looks at food as armchair travel,” Patricia says.
She is living a life that, to the outsider, looks like an ongoing vacation but “there are no vacations.” On the day after two months of talks at travel shows, including one in the Chicago area this month, she heads to Nepal, which she hasn’t visited since the 1980s.
When traveling, “what you bring with you is a compilation of every place you’ve ever been,” Patricia says. “Each trip is richer in potential and texture. I hope when I’m 95 that I still have this level of curiosity.”
When in her 20s and 30s, she traveled as much as today, but in a different way. “I’m arriving now with a better set of context, having seen more and understanding more of the backstory and history of a location. I see the bigger picture and how much is shared” from one destination to the next.
Sometimes Patricia encounters people who have read her books and are a little self-defensive about their travels, or think they’ve seen the world because of an occasional trip. That doesn’t seem to bother her as much as travelers who complain about inconveniences, or others who say they don’t have the money to travel.
“I love long-haul flights,” the author says. “Imagine how far you can go in 12 hours compared to” a generation or two ago.
To non-travelers, she says, “look at your priorities – do you really need three flat screen TVs, or to go to Orlando” year after year? “The more you don’t travel, the more you don’t travel. There’s always going to be other demands for our money. I didn’t own a sofa for 10 years.”
A memorable trip “doesn’t have to be Nepal. Look at our national parks. They are stunning. Or go over the border to Canada.”
Midwesterners, she says, have “an incredible display of beauty within a drive.”
Patricia Schultz will talk about her favorite destinations in Europe during this month’s Travel and Adventure Show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill. Her talks are 3:45-4:45 p.m. Jan. 17 and 2:30-3:30 p.m. Jan. 18.
Other keynote speakers are Samantha Brown of The Travel Channel, Pauline Frommer of Frommer’s Guides and Frommers.com, Peter Greenberg of CBS News and Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir “Wild.” All will sign books they have written, after their presentations.
About 200 vendors, representing hundreds of domestic and international destinations, have booths at this show for consumers. That includes several Wisconsin locations. On five stages are talks and advice about travel, destination presentations, cooking demos and ethnic music performances.
Meet sled dogs and Sea World marine life. Ride a camel, Segway or reproduction of a 19th century tricycle. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 17 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 18. Admission is $16 at the door, less if purchased in advance online. Children who age 16 or younger get in free when accompanied by a parent or guardian. travelshows.com, 203-878-2577 (extension 100)
What should be added to the “1,000 Places” books, and why? Send me your thoughts of extraordinary but unheralded travel destinations that are close to home or very, very far away. Your deadline is Feb. 1.