This week’s Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 contributor has written a memoir about stripping and a memoir about wanderlust: Elisabeth Eaves. Bare: The Naked Truth About Stripping was declared “a first-rate, first-person work of social anthropology” by the Washington Post, while Wanderlust is due out with Seal Press next spring. Born in Vancouver, she currently lives in New York City.
What is “home” for you? Is it a particular place or person or thing?
Wherever I can get fresh basil and some wi-fi.
When did you first hit the road? How did it go?
When I was 18 I went to Spain for the summer to work as a nanny in a little beach town called Moraira. That was my first big solo trip abroad. My job was basically to take the two kids to the beach every morning, and then to the pool in the afternoon. At night I went out to the discotecas and rode around with a friend on a motorcycle. My Spanish got much better and I got a great tan, but I felt hemmed in being stuck in the same place all the time. At the end of the summer I didn’t want to go back to college, I wanted to get on a train and travel.
How did you break into the travel writing scene?
I pitched a story about Yemen to an editor at Slate. I had already been a journalist for several years and written a book.
What travel story will you still be telling your pals in the nursing home?
I once spent several hours trying to figure out why I couldn’t find the city of Liège on my map of France. Then I realized it was in Belgium.
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?
I would sail on a tall ship with one of the great maritime explorers. Captain Cook would be ideal, and I would probably get sea-sick.
Name one place that should top everyone’s travel dream list – be it a nation or a landmark or a village.
Under the surface of the sea. Anywhere truly isolated. Anywhere you can’t pass.
What specific travel resources do you always consult when planning a journey?
I have occasionally wandered on to TripAdvisor.com, BootsnAll.com, WikiTravel.org, and LonelyPlanet.com. Today I might be more likely to use a broader social networking site like Twitter than any of those. For guidebooks I usually use Moon or Lonely Planet, but I’m more interested in history books and literature set in the place I’m going.
Which travel writers or books have been especially inspirational to you?
Paul Theroux, especially the quasi-autobiographical novel My Secret History. Joan Didion’s essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” which is not exactly travel writing but captures the essence of a certain time and place—San Francisco in 1967–like nothing else. Jonathan Franzen’s essay “My Bird Problem.” Anything by Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, or George Orwell, which are also not exactly travel writing. I love good adventure stories, and in particular Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, and The Lost City of Z by David Grann.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned on the road?
When they say you have to pay an exit tax, they really mean it.
What advice can you offer to women with itchy feet?
What are you waiting for?