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.
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.
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.