Teaching Traveling: There are many things to teach and learn in the world, and travel writing is one of them! Today, we hear from Jacqueline Harmon Butler, author of the recent 7th Edition of the best-selling Travel Writer’s Handbook.
Tell us about your background, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline: I was born in Salinas, California and grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, California. I saw the movie “An American in Paris” at an impressionable age and dreamed of being an artist there. Instead I spent my formative years hanging out in San Francisco’s North Beach with the Beat Generation, wearing a black beret, writing stories and painting. It wasn’t until I had married, divorced, and raised two children that I visited Paris. It was love at first sight.
I began to write about my travels and compiled copious files of stories and data after that first trip on 1979. In 1996, I decided to investigate the possibilities of becoming a travel writer and enrolled in a weekend travel writing conference. I won the second place writing award and my career was launched.
TT: Fabulous! Tell us more about your travels.
J: I traveled in Morocco and was happily surprised at the generosity of the people I met along the way. It was my first time in a predominately Islamic country and I was treated with welcoming smiles and people offering to help me all along the way. I really enjoyed the beautiful art, architecture and textiles I found down dusty, dirty alleys and in the souks. The food was delicious and I came away with several new typically Moroccan recipes.
TT: How did you find this travel opportunity?
J: I traveled with five members of the Wild Writing Women, my writing group. We were the invited guests of a dear friend and we stayed in an exquisite Riad just outside of Marrakech.
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travels?
J: Years ago I got a passport and then put it in a special “travel wallet.” Then I began stashing money into the wallet and finally saved enough to make my first trip to Paris. I’ve continued that tradition and have funded several of my trips with my travel funds. I still stash money in my travel wallet. My current dream is to take my granddaughters (Isabelle 13 and Sophia 12) to Paris.
TT: What a fabulous idea! Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
J: On my first trip to Paris, I was standing on the Pont des Arts enjoying the magical Blue Hour – when the sun has set, but night has not yet fallen. It’s the suspended hour. L’Heure Bleue is the moment when the sun disappears beneath the horizon and the sky is painted with night’s velvet. I could see Notre Dame in front of me and behind me was La Tour Eiffel with the Seine flowing underneath the bridge. Something about that blue velvet sky was magical and when the first star appeared I made a wish to come back to Paris.
TT: Gorgeous! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
J: As a travel writer, travel is what I do and write about. My mission is to encourage people to travel – to just go! Across town or across the world, to get out and experience life beyond their own back yard. This is the message I give whenever I teach a class, give a lecture or even in casual conversation.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
J: Travel gave me the opportunity to experience new countries, languages, cuisine and culture. It has made me realize that language, religion, life styles and education don’t make that much difference. Everyone wants to eat, find shelter, follow traditions and belief systems and have a natural curiosity about foreigners. Travel has showed me that a smile is the same in any language or culture.
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers curious to teach?
J: Again, I would like to encourage everyone to just get up and go! Around the block or around the world. There are adventures and things to learn everywhere. Keep notes, take photos, talk with the people you meet along the way. That way, when the teacher get back to their classrooms they will have first hand experiences to talk about. Where they went, what they saw, who they met, what they ate, where they slept and on and on…
The Internet is a wonderful tool to open doors and minds to everything one can imagine and is especially helpful for “armchair” travelers. I think the important thing is to inspire others to want to go to the places you describe if only in their mind’s eye.
TT: Thanks so much, Jacqueline! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this travel writing teacher?