Patricia Schultz is a travel author who has been No.1 on the New York Times best-seller list. A travel writer with 25 years’ experience, her books including 1,000 Places To See Before You Die have inspired bucket lists around the world. The New York-based author was in Australia this week and chatted to me about her career, travel tips and how she is overcoming her fear of flying.
What are you doing in Australia?
This year and next I’ve been asked to be the global ambassador for Trafalgar. This year is their 70th anniversary so I’m doing events all around the world … While in Sydney I finally did the Bridge Climb. It’s included in my book so I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.
How did your upbringing influence your choice of career?
My family took us to The [Jersey] Shore [south of New York] every summer and that wasn’t a big outing but it was important to my family as it was special family time. So I understood how important travel was … My first memory ever was when I was four years old and we were going off to The Shore and I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world.
Where did your love of travel come from?
I’m not sure, my parents never travelled, ever! I came from a very modest family – my mother was born in Italy and my father was from an immigrant, modest family. Luxury for them was having dinner on the table and putting me through university without a single student loan. Bless my father, he worked every day of his life, dropped out of school at 11 – imagine for him to travel, it just wasn’t on the radar. And yet when I was 15 I had befriended a girl at school who’s family was from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, which for us in New York State was exotic as it got – when, in fact, it was a five-hour flight away. And my friend said in passing, “Oh you must come and visit”.
Did you go?
Unbeknownst to me, my father took out an extra shift for many months and saved for my ticket and I was 15 and it was my first passport and my first stamp, and that is how supportive they were of whatever gave me joy. I really picked the right parents. It was nothing that they ever inspired for themselves but at 15 they were all about making my life as full as possible.
How did that experience influence you?
So I got on that plane and went to visit this beautiful Caribbean Island … and it just flew open the door and turned my life around. I was immersed for three weeks with this Spanish family, everything about it was totally new for me and it was an eye-opener. And that was kind of the beginning of it.
How did you get into travel journalism?
That really was fluke, it wasn’t planned. I was a fashion stylist and we were in Quay West in Florida and we were doing a fashion shoot for Men’s Vogue Italy and the editor was to interview this very eccentric American man who was a legendary sunken-treasure hunter … But the editor was called back home for a family illness and gave me this assignment and asked if I could do it and I said “sure” because I always said yes to everything, and that was my first interview … And I thought “I think there is a career here”.
How many of the 1000 places from 1,000 Places To See Before You Die have you visited?
My gut feeling is about 80 per cent … I’m still at it, I’m still travelling unashamedly. And I mean I will never stop unless I have to. I am very aware there is only so much time and money and I am aware that I’m no longer 24 years old, so carpe diem, make it happen while you can!
Where is you favourite place to travel?
Antarctica – that probably is my single most astonishing, eye-opening trip. It is not of this earth, in the most positive sense, and yet it’s achievable and attainable. But the place I keep returning to is Italy; I could go back a million times.
Is there any place you haven’t been to that’s on your future travels list?
I’m very embarrassed to admit that I have never been to New Zealand. I’ve been here [in Australia] a dozen times and there is no reason why … but it will happen.
Have you ever been to a travel destination that you haven’t liked?
There are many places I would never return to and there many places that I don’t think “oh I could live here”, but equally there are many places that did not make it into the book, but there was always an experience.
I read that you are scared of flying. How do you overcome that?
I know! I’ve gotten better but I’m not good with turbulence – a small bump and I freeze. But I’m proud enough that I won’t scream or cry out, but inside I’m dying. And I don’t resort to heavy drinking or drugs, but I probably should!
What is your number one travel tip?
It would be to travel! Get off the sofa. The best time to travel is when you finish university and you don’t a care in the world; the kids and the job obligations aren’t there yet. But the next best time is today.
You must have nailed the art of packing. What’s your top tip?
You should pack light. It sounds flippant but are you ever going to see these people again? I repeatedly wear the same thing, I bring a lot of layers, I bring a lot of accessories, and I bring a dozen scarves so they can dress it up in different ways, and only two pairs of shoes, never three! And there is that wonderful expression to lay all your clothes the night before on your bed and “pack half the clothes and twice the money”.
You are constantly on the road. How do you and your husband juggle your travel commitments?
It’s a long story, but I can just summarise it by saying he is beyond supportive and understanding, and that needed to be a given from the moment we met because without that we would have never have lasted.
Does he ever get to travel with you?
Sometimes, not on trips like this, but I am a guest speaker a lot on cruises and many of the opportunities [come with] a plus-one.
WE WENT TO Q Dining at the Pullman Quay Grand, Sydney Harbour.
WE ATE Antipasto; Jerusalem artichoke consommé with cocktail onion and nasturtium; Charred octopus and scallop with white miso and ruby grapefruit; Cape grim entrecote with celeriac and sauce bordelaise; Riso nano risotto with pumpkin, washed rind and lemon.
WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water.
photography: Fairfax Media.