SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Delighted to introduce the amazing Twist Phelan. Twist writes critically-acclaimed and award-winning short stories (I got to pick up her ITW Thriller Award in New York this year, because she was off in an exotic land!) and the legal-themed Pinnacle Peak mystery series (Poisoned Pen Press).
A different sport sets the theme in each of Twist's Pinnacle Peak, Arizona legal-themed mysteries. (Before becoming a full-time traveler and writer, Twist's was a lawyer, specializing in putting away bad rich white men.) HEIR APPARENT highlights team roping, while road and mountain biking is the lawyer protagonist's sports passion in FAMILY CLAIMS (Best Mystery, Colorado Gold Writers Contest; Calavera Award Finalist). In the third book in the series, SPURRED AMBITION (a Book Sense Notable Pick), rock climbing is the athletic focus, while FALSE FORTUNE features kayak paddling.
In addition to all the sports, Twist is an unparalleled traveler. Here is her take on wanderlust and travel.
TWIST PHELAN: Wanderlust is one of those great words borrowed from the German language (cf., schadenfreude, entlistungsfreude). Not-so-great romcom aside (sorry, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston), the word gives most of us good feelings. It's that desire you feel from within to get out there and explore: to see the world, to daydream about all the places you could go.
About a year and a half ago, I stopped daydreaming and started traveling (again, that is; I lived on a boat for ten years in my thirties and spent that time going around the world). In the past eighteen months, I’ve visited Italy (twice), France (twice), Spain (twice), Portugal, Morocco, Germany (twice), Croatia, Iceland, Australia, Thailand, Finland, Norway, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Greece. Next up are Ireland, India, the U.A.E., Switzerland, South Africa, Netherlands, England, Austria, Spain (again), and Italy (twice again).
Why these places? To me there are two kinds of destinations: On-The-Page and Off-the-Page. I try to travel to Off-The-Page places, with perhaps a two- or three-day stopover at an On-The-Page spot en route.
What in the heck am I talking about? It’s pretty well explained in the scene in The Guilt Trip (another movie reference; sorry!) where Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand are standing in front of the Grand Canyon. Barbra exclaims, “I always wanted to see the Grand Canyon!” and Seth enthusiastically agrees. After an awkward pause, Barbra says, “Um, how long are we supposed to look at it?”
While I was pretty wowed by the Grand Canyon, I’ve had the same reaction to other landmarks. When it comes to some destinations, I can get almost as much satisfaction through reading about them or looking at pictures on the web as I do by seeing them in real life.
For example—and I know many will disagree with me — I’m not a huge fan of the south of France. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t go out of my way to visit. I like looking at the beach at Cannes on Google
Images about as much as I like looking at it in person. On the other hand, plunk me down in any town in Italy or Spain, and I am so enamored of the people/buildings /food/language/lifestyle, I immediately start trying to figure out how I can spend several months a year there, if not relocate permanently. The days fly by and too soon it is time to leave. As soon as I arrive home, I’m already planning how I’m going to return.
This approach governs my choice of activities when I travel, too. What do I like to do when I land in a new country?
· Explore neighborhoods on foot or bike; great architecture and art galleries are a bonus, as is getting lost
· Sit in a cafe or a restaurant and observe/eavesdrop on the locals
· Practice the local language, preferably where no one has any English (grocery shopping, taking clothes to the laundry, etc.)
What do I generally not like to do while traveling?
· Go to museums. Perhaps it’s a case of been-there-done-that (between living on the boat and traveling with my parents a lot when I was young, I’ve visited—often several times--tons of the major and many minor ones throughout the world), but I’m just not that much of a museum person anymore (caveat: unless it’s a personal interest, such as architecture or contemporary and modern art).
· I don’t buy traditional souvenirs: no Eiffel Tower paperweights for me. I prefer either an article of clothing from a native designer or a small piece of art from a local gallery.
· While I like food (who doesn’t?), I’m not someone who connects to cities through their top-tier restaurants. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve loved the meals I’ve eaten at establishments with stars after their names. But more nights than not, I’m instead dining at a neighborhood bistro in Dubrovnik or snacking from a food stall in Singapore.
TWIST PHELAN: Reds and readers, how about you? How do you choose your travel destinations? What do you like to do when you’re there?
Twist Phelan is a world traveler and endurance athlete. She has competed in Ironman triathlons, skate-skied in Scandinavia, team-roped in the American West, paddled outrigger canoe in Australia, rock-climbed in South America, and bicycled from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast in less than four weeks.
Twist received her bachelor and law degrees from Stanford University, completing her undergraduate studies in two years. Success as a plaintiff's trial attorney suing corporate scoundrels enabled her to retire in her early thirties to live on an ocean-going boat and in various places around the world.