Thursday, July 7, 2016

Twisted Traveler

RHYS BOWEN: One of my long-time friends, Twist Phelan, lives the sort of life many of us dream of living. I can never keep up with her because she is flying off to some exotic part of the world (with adorable husband Jack in tow, often not knowing where they are heading until they board the plane!)

Twist has always been a woman of adventure, also the kind of person that things happen to. I remember stories of hanging upside down waiting to be rescued while climbing, of strange men coming into hotel rooms. Actually the strange men seem to happen less frequently these days with a six foot plus male beside her. But wherever she goes she has adventures.
(Yes, she is sand boarding down a dune in Abu Dhabi!) And she's here today to tell you about them, also about her exciting new thriller,FAKE, featuring a traveling girl rather like herself.

TWIST PHELAN: I am a traveler. Over the past three years I've visited over 50 countries and flown nearly a million miles. I'm peripatetic by nature, and being a mystery and thriller writer allows me to work wherever there's an outlet for my laptop and a decent WiFi connection. Even then, the latter is optional.

Several people have asked me how I decide what to do and see when I go to a different country. It's easy ... and hard at the same time.

When at home, I write, go to the gym, ride my bike and ski in the mountains, enjoy contemporary art/architecture/design, visit science museums and booksellers, listen to music and see plays, eat at casual healthy places, ethnic holes-in-the-wall, and "foodie" restaurants, walk or cycle through neighborhoods, shop current designers, read fiction and non-fiction, go to dinner parties ... and I do essentially the same when I travel.


When I was younger, I made a point of seeing the iconic in a foreign place. That meant a lot of trips to gigantic churches and a lot of Renaissance art. But upon embarking on this latest phase of travel three years ago, I decided I'd had enough. No more scowling men in gilded frames. No more monuments to politicians.


I'm not saying these things aren't interesting. They just aren't interesting to me. Now when I see or do the iconic when I travel, it is because it appeals or interests me, not because I'm supposed to. As Erle Stanley Gardner said, “I like what I like and not what I'm supposed to like because of mass rating.” I happily rode in a gondola in Venice because it was something I thought would be romantic, not because a guide book told me it would be. And despite four trips in two years to Florence, I have yet to make it back to the Uffizi Gallery. I might one day, but there are still many other things I want to do and places I want to explore first in that city.



It's quite liberating—and a bit scary—to decide nothing in the world is a must-do. It makes you responsible for your own good time. And your own fails.

When I have no set agenda, I've happened onto some extraordinary experiences. At Lago di Garda in Italy, pausing to watch the sailboats ended with me and my traveling companion being drafted to compete in the race. Lingering in a restaurant in Jaipur, India led to an invitation to a three-day wedding celebration.

Of course even when things go wrong, it can turn into a memorable experience. Accepting an invitation to go paragliding in Cartagena, Colombia resulted in a cracked shinbone, but I will never forget the (literally) bird's-eye view of the city!

On your next trip, consider skipping at least some of the Top Ten Things to See in [insert city name], and instead make your way to a neighborhood café or an art-movie house or a golf course, or whatever it is you enjoy doing at home. Chances are, you'll enjoy doing it in the city you are visiting as well.

Thriller Award-winning author Twist Phelan is a modern nomad, telling stories as she travels the world. She is the author of FAKE, EXIT, and the soon-to-be-released DOUBT in the Finn Teller corporate spy mystery series

RHYS: Twist shares her adventures on her Facebook page, her newsletter and her blog on her website. Great reading for armchair travelers!  And the pictures are of Denmark, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Iceland, and Istanbul.

46 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

To an armchair traveler, your adventures seem quite amazing.
I’ll definitely have to check out your Finn Teller stories . . . .

Karen in Ohio said...

Twist, I followed a lot of your travel advice on my recent trip to Europe, all of it useful. The only thing I didn't end up using was the duct tape, but it was a handy tip, and one I'll use again. Thanks!

Your adventures are so inspiring.

Karen in Ohio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Hey Twist! So excited about your newest! I follow your adventures with great pleasure and hope we can meet up someday...

Ann in Rochester said...

Twist, I look forward to checking out your books.

Travel is mour favorite thing to do, and I agree about finding the secret byways. At the first visit to a city/country/whatever, we see the icons. Once seen, we rarely return unless it is to share with a fellow traveler. (Whoa, shades of the McCarthy era.)

My partner and I enjoy our driving trips thru France most of all, getting off the main roads and following a one lane track to the top of a mountain, stopping in a little bistro and having lunch with the locals.

We've had some of our best adventures there. Once in Brittany we dashed into a pub to get out of the rain. Sitting at a long table in front of the fire place were a half dozen elderly men, drinking wine and having a grand time, talking loudly and gesticulating, smoking their pipes and laughing. We ordered lunch, and while we waited, the men got up to leave. They lined, came over to our table, and each one bowed to me, kissed my hand and said "au revoir." I wasn't sure whether I felt honored or just like and aged crone.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Hi Twist! nice to see you on JRW and hear about your amazing travels. Please tell us more about FAKE...

Hallie Ephron said...

What an interesting travel philosophy! Maybe if I traveled all the time I could make that shift, but because when I do it's so special and I've picked the place because of what it offers... and because it's something I don't get (or don't get enough of) at home.

We're just back from Iceland (I'll blog about it in a few weeks) and nature (& birds) were on our to-do list. I always try to go to the regional art museum in whatever destination -- that's where you see top quality work by artists you've never see before (as opposed to second-rate works by (or "school of") artists whose best are at the Uffizi).

Ann, I'd go with "honored"

Ann in Rochester said...

Hallie, I think I missed getting in your suitcase for the Iceland trip. It's on the agenda for or next trip to Europe. Cheaper and safer to fly thru Reykjavik

Kristopher said...

I couldn't agree more Twist. I love bookstores, so I always visit ones in the places I travel. Same with theater. I love it so much that if I am anywhere for a length of time, I want to see what their live theater is like.

Mary Sutton said...

I've never been to New Orleans. I'm trying to balance the things I have to do-things I want to do-things people tell me to do in my planning. If I traveled more, I'd probably be better at it.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Twist! Welcome! and xxoo Tell us your packing secrets, too. You must have it down to a science--and yet, somehow, you always look chic and fabulous.

And I agree--tell us more about these books!

Rhyd said...

Yes, I'd love the packing secrets too. After dragging large cases on and off trains this summer I have vowed to buy a complete lightweight wash in the sink wardrobe.

Deborah Crombie said...

Hi, Twist, welcome! And yes, please tell us your packing secrets!

I love your travel ideas. I have over the years done most of the iconic things in London (although I'm always a little embarrassed to admit I've never been to the Tower, or gone up on the Eye...) But I tend to do the things I do at home; shop, cook, find new and interesting places to eat, walk, see friends. This is the way you get a feel for a city, I think, not by seeing monuments.

Do tell us more about FAKE!

Twist said...

Thank you, Joan! I hope you enjoy FAKE.

Twist said...

Karen, I am glad you enjoy the travel tips! Duct tape has saved me more than once, patching everything from a broken suitcase to the hem of my ballgown when I was invited to an opera at La Scala.

For those of you interested in more travel advice and product recommendations as well as writing news, subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Scribbles from Twist (go to my website, twistphelan.com, to sign up).

Twist said...

Susan Elia MacNeal, I am so glad you enjoy the travel posts!

When we do finally meet--Bouchercon this year?--you will have to allow me my oh-my-gosh-it's-you fan moment for your terrific Maggie Hope series. :)

Twist said...

Ann, what a wonderful adventure in France! I would have felt honored by the display of chivalry. :)

Twist said...

Hi Hallie! I hope you enjoyed Iceland. One of the photos above shows me riding an Icelandic horse near one of the glaciers there.

I see many of the "specials" of a place, too, but if it isn't something that grabs me deep inside, I will skip. In part I think it is because I am morphing a bit from tourist to traveler to let's-pretend-I-am-a-resident. :)

Twist said...

Kristopher, I hear you about live performances. My last trip to London, I never made it to the Tate to see an exhibit I was interested in. I was waylaid by the theatre district, where I couldn't resist buying day-of-performance tickets for the evening shows!

Twist said...

Mary, I'd take a bit from each of those categories. And it is okay to leave a place with things undone/sight unseen. Makes planning the return all the sweeter!

Twist said...

Hank, the packing secret starts with carry-on only. I am too impatient to wait for checked luggage! :)

Karen in Ohio said...

Twist, I wound the duct tape around a short piece of drinking straw instead of a pencil.

Deb, the London Eye is kind of overrated, anyway. I got very antsy with it.

Twist said...

Thank you to all who asked about FAKE!

It is the first in my Finn Teller corporate spy mystery series. Fiona "Finn" Teller is a tough, witty, good-looking, athletic woman with a high-risk, high-impact job: she is a corporate spy whose friends and family can never know just how dangerous her work is.

Set in Italy and Croatia, FAKE shines a light on the netherworld of counterfeit goods. An assignment with a Milan fashion house leads Finn to an undercover investigation of a train wreck in Croatia—scene of her most tragic professional mistake and home to terrorists still out for revenge. The hunter becomes the hunted and the stakes skyrocket as Finn must win a race against the clock to stop the spread of a deadly African pandemic and escape with her life.

I have been working on this project for four years, deciding to take the less conventional approach of releasing the books at monthly intervals instead of once a year. The second in series, EXIT, is set in Greece and went on sale last week. The third, DOUBT, will be out by the end of the month, with the fourth and fifth books to follow. Each novel takes place in a foreign place where I've spent time. Look for South America, India, Scandinavia, Asia, and Australia in the future!

Twist said...

Deborah, I agree with your advice re: how to get to know a city!

Twist said...

Karen, I like the straw idea!

And I liked the London Eye because due to some lucky circumstances, Husband and I were the only people in the car. We sat on the floor and marveled at the view while sipping glasses of champagne. (I should clarify I was on the floor BEFORE drinking the champagne!) :)

Twist said...

For those of you interested in travel tips and recommendations (everything from how to pack to navigating transportation options to losing that extra three--okay, usually five--pounds I always gain on a trip), keep an eye on my website/newsletter.

I am in the midst of putting together a video series on how to be a more savvy traveler (without breaking the bank). Will be out later this year!

Pat D said...

I would love to be able to hit the road and travel whenever I feel like it. Too many responsibilities right now though. Your corporate spy books sound exciting. I will have to subscribe to your newsletter. I can always use travel advice for when I do get away. Usually my husband and I set up our own trips and play it by ear.

Twist said...

Pat, I hope you enjoy the books and find the travel info useful! I understand about responsibilities; I am lucky in that as a writer, all I need to work is a laptop and a good WiFi connection.

I do all my own trip planning, too. In fact, my Husband never knows where we are going. (I pack for him so he doesn't have a clue.) All I divulge is the day we are leaving and the day we are to return. :)

Twist said...

Thank you, Jungle Red Writers, for the invitation to post today. It was been a privilege and a pleasure! (A special thank you to Rhys for her very nice introduction. Husband liked it, too!) :)

To all, I wish you bon voyage, wherever you may go.

Twist

Kait said...

What a fabulous blog post. Travel on, Twist. Enjoy and, oh yes, keep writing!

Twist said...

Thank you, Kait!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, agreed! I do only cary on ,too! xox

Kathy Reel said...

Twist, I have been lurking in the corners for a bit in following your travels on FB. You do the most interesting things and visit the most interesting places. I don't usually comment, just content to follow you, but I do hope to finally meet you at the upcoming Bouchercon. And, of course, I'm looking forward to reading the Finn Teller books. Oh, and how awesome of your husband to go with the flow and travel wherever you take him.

Anonymous said...

Love all of the comments above!

Twist,

Did you also ski in a charity race in Sweden a while ago? Love reading your travel tales!

Will you be at Malice Domestic 2017 or Bouchercon 2017 or both?

Look forward to reading FAKE. Where did the name Finn Teller come from?

Diana

Twist said...

Kathy, I am so glad you've been following! Yes, I will be at Bouchercon; looking forward to meeting folks--please come up and say hi. Husband will be there, too, although don't tell him that. :)

I hope you enjoy the Finn books. I've been told there's a bit of my sense of humor in them. :)

Twist said...

Anon, so glad you enjoy the travel tales! I try to weave some of our adventures into the Finn books. Without spoiling anything, I can say I tried out what Finn does at the end of FAKE...and barely lived to write about it.

And yes, I did ski in a race (in Norway)! I will be at Bouchercon; hope to meet you there.

Where did the name "Finn Teller" come from? What a great question! (I've never been asked it before.) Finn is short for Fiona; gift of her Irish dad. The "Teller" is because one of her skills is reading people's body language. When she was barely in her teens, Finn realized she had the uncanny ability to tell when someone was lying. Big whopper or small fib, practiced perjury or off-the-cuff untruth--it didn’t matter: inconsistencies and untruths jumped out at her. Her half-Romanian mother said she'd inherited her "second sight." At first, Finn didn’t buy it; she didn't think she was unique. She thought she saw people as others did. But in her teens, after friends were awed by her “psychic” gift or avoided her so she wouldn’t discover their secrets, Finn understood her ability to read people wasn’t ordinary.

Reine said...

As an actor on the road and a mariner in a family of generations of mariners, my father's rule for packing was "Take half as much as you need and twice as much money."

Reine said...

By money he meant cash.

Twist said...

That's good advice, Reine! People seem to forget you can usually buy what you need where you are going. Part of the fun is explaining what you are looking for in a language you don't know.

Stan said...

Sand boarding should certainly be a lot of fun- none of the freezing cold.

Twist said...

Stan, it was fun! I snowboard, too, and have to say at least when you fall in the snow, it doesn't get into your pants, your hair, your socks ... :)

Mia P. Manansala said...

I'm so jealous of your adventures! I used to travel quite a bit back when I was teaching abroad, but now I can barely afford a trip a year.

I have a similar travel philosophy; for me, food is the most important part of traveling, so that's what I spend the most time worrying about. Once food is taken care of, I'll hit up a few attractions that I find interesting (again, because I want to, not because I should), and spend the rest of the time wandering around to experience the place. I always check out the bookstores and grocery stores/markets of other countries; is it weird that I find them so interesting?

Your book sounds really cool, btw. And I love the sandboarding pic!

Twist said...

Mia, where did you teach? I, too, love going to grocery stores and also department stores. I like seeing how the people who live there, well, live there. :)

Mia P. Manansala said...

I taught for over 3 years in a small town in South Korea. Traveled all over Asia while I was out there.

Twist said...

Fantastic, Mia! Favorite places?

Mia P. Manansala said...

Siem Riep in Cambodia is a must. Angkor Wat is AMAZING. I've been there twice and would love to go again. I've been to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto in Japan and loved all three places, and have traveled all over South Korea. Seoul is great, but my favorite places are a port city named Busan and Jeju Island.

My family is originally from the Philippines, which is a beautiful place. The island of Palawan has been voted best island in the world two years in a row, so that's a definite must-visit.

How about you? What are some of your favorite destinations?