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

Monday, June 15, 2009

Heritage Q&A with Travel Writer Charyn Pfeuffer

Today’s post is next in a series of Q&As with people with a passion for heritage- and culture-related travel. Charyn Pfeuffer has written about food and travel for more than a decade. She has contributed to more than 80 publications, including National Geographic Traveler, TravelChannel.com, The Seattle Times, Fodor's, DailyCandy.com, Portfolio.com, AmericanProfile.com and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Charyn would consider taming her wanderlust ways if she could settle down in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, but first needs to perfect her Spanish. Thankfully, Rosetta Stone is helping brilliantly with those efforts. Check her out on the Web at www.charynpfeuffer.com.

1. Where have you found inspiration and/or life enrichment during your travels?
I find inspiration in all of my travels. There is no better forum for learning than through travel, curiosity and human interaction.

2. Tell us about your most recent trip. What heritage or cultural sites did you visit?
I spent two weeks exploring Chile in March. The first half of the trip was spent on the M/V Mare Australis [passenger ship], starting in Punta Arenas, cruising through the Beagle Channel, and landing at Cape Horn, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I then flew to Calama and spent a week in San Pedro de Atacama, exploring the Atacama Desert. I visited Zapar, an archaeological site significant in pre-Columbian times; Pukará de Quitor, a fortress dating back to 1,000 A.D.; and the town of Tulor, one of the first and most important Atacama settlements that dates back to 800 B.C. The extreme contrasts in landscapes, climate and natural beauty were incredibly intense.

3. What is your most memorable heritage or cultural travel experience?
Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Americas and a historic UNESCO World Heritage site in Curaçao, unexpectedly moved me. Curaçao’s Jewish community was established nearly 400 years ago as the Jews fled Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions. Similar to its Dutch sibling, Amsterdam, Curaçao provided a safe haven for political, religious and social freedoms. My guide, Eveline van Arkel, did a fantastic job conveying the spirit and history of the island during an incredible walking tour of Willemstad.

4. Where is one heritage or cultural destination you think everyone with your interests should visit?
Right now, I’m on a South America kick — completely obsessed with its culture and people. Machu Picchu blew me away. Also in Peru, Lake Titicaca and the Amazon are fascinating examples of ancestry and culture.

5. What sorts of things do you like to learn during your travels?
It’s most important for me to interact with the locals when I travel. Unless you’re spending a considerable amount of time in a destination, it’s very difficult to immerse yourself in a new culture. I find by befriending the locals, even if it’s simply sharing a short conversation on a bus, you get a greater sense of a place, its culture and its people.

6. What does heritage travel mean to you?
It’s all about traveling to the places and visiting sites that best — meaning authentically and accurately — represent a culture and its people. Ideally, these people should proudly embrace their past.

7. What are your favorite heritage-and culture-rich destinations?
Anywhere in Peru, but specifically, Machu Picchu; Barcelona, Spain; the Colorado Rockies; and Copán, Honduras.

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