Written by Karen Seiger, Editor-In-Chief, North America, 111 Places Travel Guides for Locals and Experienced Travelers.
Last week, I participated in a travel storytelling event hosted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in New York City. Each of the five panelists told of a place, or a journey, or a particular moment spent in a country other than our own. Serendipitously, each story was about a different continent. The most wonderful common thread throughout all of the stories, however, was the way that travel changes your perspectives.
We all get caught up in our daily lives, routines, and patterns. But when we visit other countries, our days are disrupted. It is the time zone, and the different foods people eat for breakfast. It is the smells of a new place, the ways car horns and local birds sound. We stop and take notice of everything around us that is unfamiliar.
And so, by experiencing the unfamiliar, we are then able to look at the things that are completely familiar to us in a whole new light. We do eat bread and coffee for breakfast, rather than mangoes and tea, or fish and rice. Our grocery stores are much less fragrant than fresh food market around the world. We take squirrels and pigeons for granted, while other places have monkeys scampering about.
The mindset you acquire when you travel to a new place opens you up to new thoughts and new experiences. This is the way you create new stories, usually ones that you will tell many times in years to come.
I originally found the 111 Places travel guides so intriguing because every chapter is a new story. We learn about a person of influence, a work of art, even an extravagant bathroom on every page. And then we can go see these places for ourselves! My first glimpse into the series was 111 Places in New York City That You Should Not Miss. I knew it was the right book for me because I only knew about half of the places, and the others were quite intriguing. I actually have a favorite place in the book: the oldest manhole cover in the city. I would have never given it a moment's thought - or even noticed it - before I learned its important story.
As the North American editor of the series, I get to work with storytellers every day, both authors and photographers. Seeing a book about a city like Chicago or Baltimore, two of our upcoming titles, come to life has been a marvelous experience. Our books take you to places that you may have never even heard of, even if you have lived in a city your entire life. And sometimes, great stories can be written just by stepping out your front door.