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!
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.
Don 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.
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.
Find 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.
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.
Greenwald 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.
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. (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.
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. And 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.