Elephants are the world’s largest agricultural pests, threatening the livelihoods—and even the lives—of coffee growers in southern India. Of course, the reason for human/elephant conflict is that humans are encroaching on the elephants’ land. I interviewed the producers of a documentary film, Elephants in the Coffee, that considers this deadly problem. Listen in as DK Bhaskar and Dr. Thomas Grant discuss the situation from multiple perspectives and what they’re doing—with the help of the enterprising students in CLIC Abroad—to raise global awareness.



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andalusia-coverWanderland Writers has published another travel anthology, and this one, IMHO, is the best yet. It’s Wandering in Andalusia: The Soul of Southern Spain.

The sixteen authors share stories and poems about a country ripe with contradiction: an arid landscape filled with lush gardens; the practice of elaborate Christian rituals in churches echoing a rich Islamic past; a land of bullfighters, gypsies, poets, philosophers and scholars; a place where duende and alegría coexist. We encountered—and wrote about—Columbus and the Christian Monarchs; tapas and toreadors; sherry and sangria; caliphs and communists; flamenco and, yes, flamingos.

We’re celebrating with two launch parties and several other events; I hope you can join us at one:

  • Saturday, November 19, 2016 — Corte Madera, CA. Celebrate Small Business Saturday all day at Book Passage in Corte Madera. It’s a good place to pick up holiday gifts while supporting an independent bookstore that does lots to help authors. I’ll be at the Left Coast Writers table and/or reading in the Event Room from 2:00 to 4:00; stop by and say hello!
  • Saturday, December 10 — Corte Madera, CA. Wandering In Andalusia North Bay launch party begins at 7 p.m. at Book Passage.
  • Monday, December 12 — San Francisco, CA. Wandering In Andalusia San Francisco launch party begins at 6 p.m. at Book Passage in the Ferry Building.
  • Sunday, December 18. Wanderland Writers talking about the Andalusian journey on the Lilycat show. Live from 12 – 2 pm on FCCFREE RADIO interview in San Francisco; call-ins welcome. (Google calls FFR an “Iconic Staple of San Francisco” and a “Frontrunner in Internet Broadcasting.”)

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FindMeUnafraidJessica Posner grew up a middle-class American in Denver. She hadn’t seen much of the world, and when she had an opportunity to study overseas she chose to do political theater work in Kenya. Jessica ended up living in a slum with no streets, no toilets, no running water, no electricity and no public services. Then she got malaria…

Nevertheless, Jessica and Kennedy Odede, who lived in a Kenyan slum called Kibera, worked together to build a school for girls and a health clinic, bring clean water to the slum, and help dozens of people start small businesses. The magic of their collaboration is the local participation Kennedy inspires, combined with the outside funding prowess Jessica provides. Find out how they accomplished so much in my article in The Women’s Eye.

I love this video of one of the students in the Kibera School for Girls that Posner and Odede founded:

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I love the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, and had a great time interviewing conference instructors at the 24th annual event in August, 2015. It offers writing and photography workshops, panels, and faculty presentations, and is regarded among publishers, editors, and writers as one of America’s premier travel writing events. Here are links to the interviews, most of which aired on the Lowell Thomas-award winning show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on iTunes, NPR One, the NPR Podcast Directory, and more than 15 other podcast sites around the world. Enjoy!

Don-George-in-BurgundyDon George

The first recording is an excerpt from the welcome talk by conference Chair Don George, who does his best to explain what makes the event so magical — and why, year after year, attendees make a point of telling him what an amazing experience they’ve had. For some, it’s life-transformative.

WayOfWanderlustDon also talks briefly about his new book, the Way of Wanderlust. It’s an inspiring collection of his travel stories and essays from 40 years of wandering and writing. The pieces span 24 countries on six continents, beginning with his 1977 tale of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and ending with a 2015 story about exploring the jungles of Cambodia. Don’s fans have been waiting years for this book, and we’re thrilled that it’s published by Travelers’ Tales.

Bohr-in-ItalyMarianne Bohr

Next up: a conversation with conference attendee and author Marianne Bohr. When Marianne was 55 she took time off work to have a “Senior Year Abroad” with her husband, Joe. The two had planned their trip for 30 years, ever since backpacking together in Europe after college. Marianne not only traveled the world, she also wrote a book about it, called Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure Across 21 Countries. The book reads like a personal travel narrative, with details about the places Marianne and Joe saw. By the end of the book I was not only informed and inspired — I was ready to take my own gap year.

GapYearGirlFind out how Marianne planned for such a dramatic change and what her advice is for people who have a dream of traveling extensively. We discuss packing essentials, traveling in countries where you don’t speak the language, readjusting when you return home, and much more. Marianne also gives us an insider’s view of the Book Passage Travel Writers Conference and shares some of what she learned there.

JeffGreenwaldJeff Greenwald

Writer, photographer, performer, activist, and conference instructor Jeff Greenwald is a co-founder of Ethical Traveler and has published six travel books. He tells us about the creation of the Ethical Traveler — inspired by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi — and its impact on issues ranging from the Tasmanian logging industry to the Cambodian sex-slave trade.

ShoppingForBuddhasGreenwald also talks about the world’s best ethical travel destinations and offers ideas for ways individual travelers can be more attuned to sustainability. We hear how Jeff chooses his book topics, the ways in which his love for science fiction has influenced his travel writing, and his most recent assignment — a road trip on a high-performance all-electric motorcycle (a great trip except for Jeff’s accidentally amputated fingertip). Jeff’s bestselling book, Shopping for Buddhas, was recently re-released in a 25th anniversary edition.

Farley at BPDavid Farley

David Farley, travel writer and author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town, is an instructor at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers conference (as well as at NYU and Columbia University). Farley tells us how he researched his book — the true story of his search for a unique holy relic, the foreskin of Jesus, which went missing from an Italian church under mysterious circumstances. Irreverent Curiosity(Check out the National Geographic special about Farley and his search for the holy foreskin.)

Farley also considers what makes good travel writing, ways to use a quest, and how to approach writing story leads. And he seduces us with visions of his extensive collection of 19th-century wooden legs.

CatherineKarnow Photo © Gary Drayluck

Catherine Karnow

National Geographic photographer and conference instructor Catherine Karnow discusses her approach to composing photos, tips for photographing people, how to communicate with photo subjects who speak another language, and the proper role of Photoshop post-processing.

She also tells us about her photoworkshops in Italy and Vietnam — which sound like a blast, with lots of opportunities for interacting with locals, as well as ready-made photoshoot set-ups, great food, and Catherine’s expert instruction. VietnamcoverAnd we hear about the surprising and deeply moving experiences Catherine has had photographing victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Check out her beautiful book, Vietnam: 25 Years Documenting a Changing Country.


Coming soon: interviews with Janis Cooke Newman, Jim Benning, and Paul Lasley.

Want to hear more? You can subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer via iTunes, NPR.ORG, NPR ONE, Stitcher.com, player.fm


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Paula McLain on Writing Historical Fiction

January 11, 2016
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Ann Patchett says, “Paula McLain is considered the new star of historical fiction, and for good reason. Circling the Sun … is both beautifully written and utterly engrossing.” I’m right there with you, Ann Patchett: Circling the Sun brings to life the worlds of colonial Kenya in the 1920s, horse training and racing, and the heady early days of early aviation. Add in a community of wealthy bohemian expats, a series of disastrous relationships,

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Don George at the Commonwealth Club

October 29, 2015
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I had such fun interviewing Don George at the Commonwealth Club of California on October 7th! It was the first time I’d done a live interview, and there was a lot to keep track of: asking questions, listening to responses and following up, weaving in questions from the audience, keeping an eye on the time […]

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Aer Lingus News Changes my Travel Plans

March 17, 2015

I’m having so much fun interviewing for NPR’s Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer! In this conversation, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Dave Cooney and Helen Maguire tell me about about Aer Lingus’ new daily nonstop service from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland. We also chat about comfy lie-flat seats in business class, vacation […]

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Travel Classics Library features Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive!

December 10, 2014

I’m delighted to announce that Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive! is featured in the Travel Classics Library, which “showcases the best travel writing anywhere.”

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Kirkus reviews Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive!

October 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews calls Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive! True stories from a curious traveler  “an engaging, meticulously observed journey that brings other cultures alive.” Read the full Kirkus review here.

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Laurie McAndish King Profiled on Kirkus

September 19, 2014

Interviewed by Nidhi Chaudhry on September 19, 2014. Laurie McAndish King was recently profiled in Kirkus Reviews in conjunction with the launch of her book, Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive! True stories from a curious traveler.  Nidhi Chaudhry’s article tells how Laurie got started in travel writing (it was by way of a kidnapping—her own) and […]

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Author Laurie McAndish King Gets “Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive!”

September 18, 2014
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A truly curious traveler is the best kind to follow, I’ve found, whether on foot or vicariously through stories and books. Never bored with the world—and thus, never boring—a curious traveler will always teach me something new.

Laurie McAndish King is the curious type, with a scientist’s mind and a philosopher’s soul. Her book takes the reader on an unusual tour.

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The World’s Most Expensive Coffee

September 17, 2014

The world’s most exquisite coffee—and certainly the most expensive—is made from coffee beans that have been eaten, partially digested, and excreted by a small Southeast Asian creature called the luwak. This coffee-making process, which I hadn’t heard of before visiting Bali, raised plenty of questions: Who discovered that the excrement of a small, nocturnal mammal […]

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Irish Brown Bread — My Grandmother’s Recipe

September 15, 2014

I learned to bake brown soda bread from my Grandma Hayes. She stood nearly five feet tall, always straight and proud, had red hair and freckles that she hated, and strong, cool arms that I loved. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Grandma also taught me about transformation: creating rich sustenance from the […]

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Eat, Pray, Scrub in Ubud

September 12, 2014

Hear about a surprising massage in Bali from Wayan, the healer featured in the bestselling book, Eat, Pray, Love. In this case, it was “Eat, Pray, Scrub” and the result was not what I expected.

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Studying French Kissing in Paris

September 12, 2014

I went to Paris to learn about French kissing—how do the French figure they can lay claim to a “French kiss”? What makes it French?

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Why I want to Visit Papua New Guinea

September 12, 2014

This excerpt is from the Q&A part of my book launch. An audience member asked for clarification about why I wanted to visit Papua New Guinea. Her hilarious misinterpretation of my previous answer got the audience laughing!

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