Traveling for business conjures images of swanky dinners, hotel freebies, and international people of mystery. Those who do it for a living, though, know that it can also be a source of constant stress, jet lag, and cross-cultural miscommunication. Nevertheless, t
Mare Swallow is the Executive Director of the Chicago Writers Conference, as well as a public speaking coach. She travels for fun, spent 13 years traveling for business, and loves watching Rick Steves on PBS. She writes personal essays and tells stories at events like Is This a Thing? and Tuesday Funk.
1) Where have you traveled?
For fun: NYC, Kentucky, St. Louis, Nashville, Memphis, Galena, Ill; Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee. Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Austin, TX; San Diego; Portland; Pittsburgh; Maui (Hawaii)
For business: Toronto, Ottawa, NYC, Paris, Mexico City, Bahamas, Nottingham, England; Rochester, NY; up and down the Eastern Seaboard; Kokomo, Indiana; Detroit; Indianapolis; Houston, TX; San Diego, Oregon
2) What’s been your favorite trip so far?
I love Paris more than anywhere, but my favorite, most memorable trip was my trip to Seattle then Vancouver (CAN) with my husband. We were going to Seattle then taking a train to Vancouver. I’ll give you the highlights:
-Arrived in Seattle and nearly got into a fistfight with some Jerko White Middle-Aged Guy at our hotel. Moved to a much nicer hotel — the same one the Beatles stayed in way back when.
– Went to take the train to Vancouver. As we were handing over our luggage to get on the train, we were informed this train was going to Vancouver, Washington. I had booked us on the wrong train, and there was no train to Vancouver, Canada, until 6:00 am the next morning. This was a problem, as we pre-paid our hotel room, and there were no refunds.
– Booked a car with Enterprise so we could drive to Canada. Right before I reached the Enterprise location, they called me and said, sorry, they were out of cars.
– We walked around with our luggage (another reason you should always pack light – you may be wandering the streets with your bags) and found a kindly bus driver who told us we could take a coach to Vancouver Canada. She called her office to find out when the bus to Canada departed, and if we could buy tickets on the bus. Yes we could! The pick up was on the other side of Seattle, and she drove us there.
– After a 5 hour bus ride, we arrive, wiped out, in downtown Vancouver. We were so exhausted, we didn’t bother to go to an ATM for Canadian cash. “We’ll get cash in the morning,” I said. I got up the next morning, walked to a Starbucks, and saw tons of people on the street. I soon learned that a transformer had just blown, and the entire downtown area was affected. No electricity. Which means no ATMs. Which means no cash. We rented bikes (with a credit card), rode miles to Stanley Park, and to another part of the city where they had electricity (and working ATMs). Our hotel was without electricity for 2 days, so we spent a lot of time out and away.
My favorite trip. Easy.
3) What are 3 things you always take with you when you travel?
My journal, gum, and an empty water bottle. It gets old and wasteful when you’re paying $2 or more for water each place you go on your trip.
4) What’s your next destination?
I was hoping to tell you somewhere glamorous and showy, but honestly, Milwaukee next weekend. We go there almost every year around this time. Too many people don’t explore their own country or nearby environs. Milwaukee is one of the most underrated cities in the U.S. The Public Market has an excellent wine bar, the old movie houses are beautiful and have great sound; Foundation is an adorable tiki bar with amazing cocktails, and Wolf Peach is super-delicious. And you can stop at the Pleasant Prairie Outlets on the way! Oh, and Milwaukee has happy hour — not the joke of a happy hour that we have in Chicago; a real happy hour where you can load up on inexpensive drinks and food.
5) Give us 1 reason why you travel.
Travel opens your eyes to the world — it makes you see that not everyone lives like you do. I think travel is a great mind-opener. And it’s just plain fun. Even nightmare scenarios (like my story above) make for a great story later.
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