Interview with A. Kendra Greene

This week’s featured Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 contributor has vaccinated wild boars in Chilean zoos, confirmed that a certain Turkish wonder of the world is now just a single pillar in a Kendra Greeneswamp of turtles, and occasionally felt like a rock star while teaching English in Korea: A. Kendra Greene. Although she misses the citrus of her native California, she is happy to be studying nonfiction, letterpress printing her own chapbooks, and recording the occasional radio essay at the University of Iowa, where she is a MFA candidate.

What is “home” for you? Is it a particular place or person or thing?

Well, what I’ve come to respect most about where I’m from is the napkins. The U.S. lags inexplicably in yogurt, swank taxicabs, and parade-inducing national holidays, but, both cloth and paper, we have the softest and most extravagantly abundant napkins going.

When did you first hit the road? How did it go?

For a long time, my favorite thing about traveling is that it operates under different rules than life at home. Inconveniences where you’re from become stories when you’re abroad. You missed a train? A monk hit on you? It’ll be okay, and your friends will want to hear about it. And, while this is generally true, travel is always a good reminder for me that most problems can be fixed with $40 or 3 phone calls.

Let’s say you could take a free trip with anyone of your choosing (a historical figure, an ancestor, a super hero, etc). Who would it be, where would you go, and why?

At the risk of sounding unimaginative and, frankly, a little hokey; it’s hard to imagine anything more entertaining or important than hopping in the car with my mother for one of the California to Utah road trips we’ve been taking since I can remember. She showed me the value of a leisurely drive, an impromptu side trip, finding the best local eatery, and how all of it’s better with a great companion.

Kendra Greene

What specific travel resources (websites, guidebooks, blogs, etc) do you always consult when planning a journey?

I’ve been a devotee of Lonely Planet since my grandfather sent me the Chile guide while I was studying in Santiago. At the time he was an anesthesiologist and under the impression that I would get better deals in South America if I had something to barter with. Specifically, he thought Viagara would fetch a good price and offered to send some; I politely declined. I’ve yet to have another encounter with the little blue pill, but it’s rare that I leave the country without a Lonely Planet in my bag.

What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned on the road?

This summer in Australia I had to face the fact that I may be getting too old for hostels. It might sound silly, but it’s made me rethink my identity as a traveler. Maybe it’s not all hostels, maybe it’s not forever, but for the first time I have the option to optimize for more than just price, and I have to admit there are perks to a private room.

What advice can you offer to women with itchy feet?

What else is there to say but, “go”? And go however makes you feel comfortable. As a young traveler I eschewed abroad anything I could find at home, but I’ve since become charmed that you can get beer, or cabbage instead of lettuce, or McMutton, or a special Greek menu for Lent depending on where in the world you walk into McDonald’s. I wrinkled my nose at tour groups until I went to China on a packaged backpacking trip with the hiking club of the school where I taught in Korea. Watching a Korean grandmother bring a five gallon tub of kimchi to the buffet breakfast was enough to convince me that the tour experience was just a different experience from my backpacking roots: not better or worse, just different.

Kendra Greene