Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heritage Q&A with Travel Writer Susan Farewell

Today’s post is the next in our series of Q&As with people with a passion for heritage- and culture-related travel. Susan Farewell, a former travel editor and staff writer at Condé Nast Publications, spent her entire career traveling with a purpose — as evidenced by her impressive portfolio and perspective on heritage travel.

Susan's work has appeared in numerous publications (and sibling Web sites), including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler and Cooking Light. She is the author of several books, including “How to Make a Living as a Travel Writer,” “Hidden New England” and “Quick Escapes From New York City,” and has co-authored many other travel books. Susan also is a regular contributor to Who’s Who in America. Other examples of her work can be found on her Web site.

1. Where have you found inspiration and/or life enrichment during your travels?

Just about any landscape, historic site, modern attraction, encounter with someone or simple observation can inspire me to write. Usually, however, I am most profoundly moved by places that have layers and layers of history — whether it’s cultural or physical.

2. Tell us about your most recent trip. What heritage or cultural sites did you visit?

I was just in the Burgundy countryside of France on a barge cruise with Orient-Express. I found that to be a very enriching — as well as relaxing — travel experience as we meandered lazily along the canals, passing through many locks. Along the way, we stopped to explore medieval villages and chateaus plus tour vineyards that have been in families for as many as five generations. One of the most outstanding buildings we toured was the Hospice in Beaune, a fortified town. The hospice was built in Flemish style in the 1440s. I could have spent the entire day there dwelling on all the details. This is definitely one of those cases of wishing the walls could talk.

3. What is your most memorable heritage or cultural travel experience?

I’ve had countless meaningful travel experiences that have had a major impact on me. It was my first trip to Southern Europe as a student, however, that made me become passionate about history. In fact, I then became a classics major in college, studying Greek and Latin history. Today, much of my writing draws from what I learned studying the classics.

4. Where is one heritage or cultural destination you think everyone with your interests should visit?

There’s not just one — that’s probably why I chose the profession I did … to travel to all of the places I have read about. Certainly, there are countries that I think everyone should try to see in their lifetime, including Israel, Egypt and Greece. But for me, visiting the Scandinavian countries has also meant a lot, as I have some family history there, and it’s personally very intriguing.

5. What sorts of things do you like to learn during your travels?

I like to zoom in close and see how other people live. What do they do for work? How do they spend their free time? What do they eat and why? What do their homes look like? This helps me get a new perspective on my own life, which I find very refreshing. I am also extremely interested in languages and how they can tell us so much about the world. Just ask yourself why they speak French in western Switzerland, in Quebec, in Guadeloupe, in Senegal … seeking the answers to that question takes you through centuries of history. Finally, I love seeing and learning about the different landscapes in the world — the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, the lava fields and waterfalls in Iceland, the jungly tributaries of the Amazon River, the Serengeti in Africa with all of its amazing animals. I can never get enough of it.

6. What does heritage travel mean to you?

Unlike vacation travel, where one might go somewhere with the sole purpose of unwinding, heritage travel is seeking knowledge, wanting to understand other people and places. It’s for the curious traveler. While the tendency is to see heritage as meaning historical or something in the past, it’s important to recognize that history in the making is also interesting.

7. What are your favorite heritage- and culture-rich destinations?

I fell in love with Europe as a teenager and have never been able to shed it. What I especially love about this part of the world is that you have so many different cultures so close to one another. You can pretty much throw a dart at the map of Europe and wherever it sticks, you’ll find something historically significant.

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