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Talking travel with Patricia Schultz, author of "1000 Places to See" (plus book giveaway)

Patricia Schultz is a well-traveled woman. She single-handedly launched the mini-industry of travel list books with her 2003 #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List (Workman), which has sold more than 2.8 million copies and translated into 28 languages. Since then, she's written a sequel, 1,000 Places to see in the USA and Canada Before You Die, produced a Travel Channel show based on the concept, and was named (as of this week) by Forbes as one of the 25 most influential women in travel.

She was recently a panel member for ABC's Good Morning America, a judge in selecting the 7 New Wonders of America, and a seasoned writer for Frommer's, BusinessWeek, "O"prah, Islands and Real Simple. Her next book of the series is in the works.

BONUS

Her publisher, Workman, has kindly offered to give away five book copies and two calendars of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die to Gadling readers (shipping included). See the end of this interview for details on how you can win.

What was life like before your eight-year odyssey in writing your first 1000 places book?

I have had a great life – a wonderful, though travel-limited childhood (unless the Jersey Shore counts), followed by high school near my home town in the mid-Hudson Valley when friendships with the Latina students opened my eyes and ears to their exhuberant language, music and customs. Then 4 extremely impressionable years at Georgetown University, whose international climate and student population opened up my world - for the first time I understood something of the exciting possibilities that awaited anyone armed with curiosity and conviction. I would have majored in "Travel" – but they didn't quite offer that. I needed to be creative in mapping out the future I wanted, and took a gap year (well, many) to see something beyond academia.

Fast forward to my mid-30s, and I was writing for magazines and travel guides such as Frommer's, Access and Berlitz (despite needing a trust fund to supplement paltry pay checks) and dividing my time between Europe and NYC.

Have you always had an itch for travel?

Yes, in a modest although real way. My earliest memory ever is from the summer when I was four, and we took off in the family clunker of an old station wagon for Atlantic City. I wandered off the family beach blanket to explore a world of sun and sand – it was pretty intoxicating to feel so untethered and as if the world was mine! It felt to me (and probably to my mother who had mobilized every life guard on duty) that I was gone for hours, though they tell me it was just a few minutes. (The following summer, we never made it past the end of our driveway because the gas tank fell off. I cried for a week.)

How many countries would you say you've visited?

I have always found this a curious question, as I – unlike legions of travelers who like to collect countries and tick them off – have never really counted. I mean – what do you count? Early this spring when we were driving down Croatia's gorgeous Dalmatian Coast and passed through a snippet of Bosnia Herzegovina for a few kilometers? Do I get to check off Bosnia Herzegovina? When we walked across the bridge to spend a few hours in Zimbabwe when visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia? A 3-hour layover for refueling in Cape Verde when en route to South Africa?

I suppose I have always given more thought to the countries I haven't visited. Of those I have visited, I never really feel like I've had the luxury of saying I've "done" it – never having the time to give it the attention it deserves. Should someone really check off China after a 10-day, 3-city tour? Or say they've visited Australia if all they've seen is Sydney? Imagine the foreigners who feel they've experienced the US after a long weekend in Disneyworld!

What is your travel style?

I like to mix it up – car, train, plane, it's all good. I always travel light, but if it is an easy and direct-flight trip where extra clothes will come in handy, I bring stuff I know will never get worn (this was in the era before the airlines started charging for every piece you lugged behind).

I love family-owned B&Bs, though pinch-me white-glove hotels that ooze with history and celebrity status feed my fantasy – if only for loitering in the lobby or a stop for high tea or a brandy at the bar. I love cities, but know that the countryside is where you'll usually grasp a truer sense of place.

I travel a lot solo, though sometimes with my significant other Nick or my best girlfriends or my sister Roz and her family – some destinations lend themselves to different traveling-companion dynamics. I need the freedom of independent travel, though organized trips with small groups can work best for destinations such as my recent and awesome trip to Bhutan with Asia TransPacific Journeys.

I generally hit the ground running, attempting to see the maximum possible – when will I pass this way again? - but know that sometimes just staying put in one place can promise an experience that trumps all others. The simplest moment can be the richest memory. A moment of people watching in the Moscow subway can rival an afternoon at The Hermitage in St Petersburg. Experiencing food can run from extravagant unfasten-your-belt-buckle tasting menus by world-class chefs, to a self-styled picnic with fresh and artisanal ingredients from the day's local market.

Do you take any guide books with you?

Much of the excitement in making a trip for me is the research I do beforehand and I usually buy 3 or 4 (sometimes twice that) guidebooks and see what the different authors have to say. I'll bring one with me, never more than two – and I sometimes just pull out the pages or chapters if it is a short trip to one destination only – why schlep the whole book?

Contest details
  • To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us one of your own personal place to see before you die.
  • The comment must be left before Monday, June 30 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Seven winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Five random winners will receive a copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the book (valued at $19.95) and two random winners will receive a copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the calendar (valued at $12.95)
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.

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