If you were to summarize Patricia Schultz's message for her legion of readers, it would be this: "Travel makes you a better person."
If you haven't heard of Schultz, you have probably heard of her first book, 1,000 Places To See Before You Die (Workman Publishing) or the Travel Channel show based on it. That bestseller has spawned a U.S./Canada edition, which Schultz will be signing on Wednesday, May 21st, at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, and it grew out of that core passion of so many travelers: a "life list."
"I have been traveling insatiably as long as I can remember," Schultz says in an interview from her New York home. "And the whole time, in my head, I was compiling this list of places I wanted to go to, like the average human does. But mine was growing and growing."
It took her eight years to write that first book, because, as she put it, "The more you see, the more you still need to see." And it's that kind growth — in the life list and in the person — that Schultz says she wants to encourage in people.
"I believe that to write off something as precious as free time, which is meant to recharge and reinvigorate you, and instead to spend it painting the deck or organizing the garage is disheartening," she says. "A lot of people are complacent about staying at home, but the more you stay at home ... the more you stay at home."
Staying at home certainly isn't something Schultz does a lot of. At the time of our interview, she had just returned from "exploring Croatia" for an upcoming 1,000 Places Europe book. She spoke fondly of family car trips to the Jersey Shore when she was a kid and of the time when, after graduating from Georgetown University, she took off on her alternate life path.
"When everybody else was packing up for their Wall Street internships, I grabbed my passport and left," she says.
She lived for almost 10 years in Italy, her mother's birth country, and slowly expanded her travel circles to include the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. "Had I stayed in New York, I would have been stuck in the corporate, career-oriented mindset, so I took a 'gap year' ... or 10."
All of that experience led to a travel-writing career, including working for Frommer's, Berlitz, and Access. She has put all of that fact-gathering skill to work in the 1,000 Places books.
In essence, 1,000 Places To See in the USA and Canada Before You Die is a 1,200-page pile of places to go and stuff to do (perhaps even more than 1,000, in fact, but who's counting?), told in a witty and personal style. It's organized by region and topic (wilderness, great dining, best beaches, world-class museums, sports and adventures, road trips, etc.). There's also an index that breaks out the best destinations for families with children. Following each entry are the nuts and bolts: addresses, websites, phone numbers, costs, and best times to visit. It's easy to imagine keeping this book around as a reference, no matter where you're headed.
Just reading through some of the suggestions gets the blood flowing: sailing Maine windjammers, exploring Alaskan gold-mining trails, listening to cowboy poetry, eating dinner under the Brooklyn Bridge. But Schultz insists that a destination need not be exotic, much less expensive or far away, to be worth visiting.
"Everybody's talking gas, gas, gas," she says, "and if this book serves no other purpose, it is to have people understand that even if it's within a day's trip of your home base, or a long weekend, or the precious seven days with the kids, you should do what gets you excited. It doesn't need to be to Botswana, for example. We have wildlife in our national parks that can give you that same sense of wonder and awe. This book is to remind you of places that are nearby."
At her signing at Davis-Kidd, Schultz says she will "give a little tour and talk about my excitement of being in Memphis, because it is one of my favorite cities. It's also a real give-and-take, with people always wondering about where to go for their summer trips and exchanging their favorite places."
So it's kind of a big swap meet of travel ideas, much like Schultz's book. And when it's done, you'll probably feel at least a little of what drives Schultz: "This book is meant to open your mind and see that all you need to do is go out the door and see the world," she says. "It's like a call to arms."
Patricia Schultz signs 1,000 Places To See in the USA and Canada Before You Die at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on Wednesday, May 21st, at 6 p.m.