Wander With Wonder is possible because of a group of amazing writers who love to travel—Around the World or Across the Street—and share experiences with you, our readers. We are sharing some of those stories with you over the coming weeks.
Join us today as we chat with Teresa Bitler, our Wander With Wonder Features Editor, as she talks about her favorite travels, why she writes, and what she sees for her future in travel.
Why Travel Writing?
I write because I have to. I feel a void when I don’t.
I remember writing stories as a kid in the 70s on a manual typewriter and still have several masterpieces buried in boxes somewhere, so I guess I’ve always been a writer. In junior high, though, I realized I could be a journalist, and that stuck. I worked on my high school and college newspapers and interned at a Southern California newspaper; then, life happened. When my youngest started kindergarten, I realized how much I missed writing, and my husband introduced me to the publisher of a real estate magazine. I started writing about travel when I answered an ad on Craigslist for a guidebook author. Before then, I never realized travel writing was a thing!
I haven’t always traveled, but after I got my driver's license, my dad started sending me to his travel agent’s office to pick up the airline tickets for his next business trip. I’d always grab a few brochures while I was there and pour over them when I got home with the same intensity as any teen girl might pour over an issue of Cosmo or Glamour.
I love travel writing because it overlaps so many other interests: culture, history, food, adult beverages, new experiences, and light adventure. But, basically, I just love to tell stories about people and places. My favorite thing about being a travel writer, besides travel, is meeting new people and learning about new places.
My biggest challenge is probably finding a balance between travel and writing. I know a lot of writers who can do back-to-back-to-back trips; I’m not one of them. I need to go home, process things, and spend time writing before hitting the road again because, once you’re on the road, it’s go, go, go. Some organized trips start at 8 a.m. and don’t end until 10 or 11 p.m. Even when I’m on my own exploring an area, I'm on the go nonstop.
What Do You Offer Wander Readers?
I tend to inject more culture and history into my narratives than most travel writers do, so hopefully, when you read one of my stories, you’re getting additional context. Plus, since my husband had a stroke and has some mobility issues, I’m sensitive to that and try to include it when applicable.
What is a Favorite Wow Moment?
I’ve had a lot of wow moments while traveling. My Wander with Wonder bio lists several including “flying” a World War II trainer (with the instructor’s help, of course). But, the biggest wow moment for me was sitting in a cafe in Paris, drinking a glass of wine, and realizing, “I’m in Paris!” A teenage dream realized!
Share a Favorite Food Moment on the Road
I love food tours, like my recent food tour of Paris’ 10th Arrondissement. You meet new people, learn about the city, and sample great food.
The worst thing I ever ate? I took a forkful of the rice my oysters were resting on and popped it into my mouth, only to discover it was coarse salt. Not sure why I thought cold oysters would be resting on a bed of rice.
What is Your Best Travel Advice?
I’ve traveled to some amazing places—Paris, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Abu Dhabi, to name a few. Sometimes, however, it’s who you’re with on a trip, not where you’re at, that makes all the difference.
Do You Have a Funny Story to Share?
On a flight from Belize City to Houston a few years ago, the woman sitting in the row behind my husband and me put her headphones in and started singing. The song? “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Not exactly the words you want to hear as you fly over the ocean.
Do You Have a Favorite Article You Have Written?
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for Atlas Obscura about the first radio station in the nation to feature only African-American deejays, WDIA in Nashville. It was a lot of work, so I didn’t necessarily “enjoy” the process, but I loved the research and history. I wrote a similar piece for Wander about visiting Little Rock High School and loved being able to incorporate history into it.
What is Always in Your Carry-on Bag?
My laptop and my camera. Also, Ibuprofen, Imodium, and Dramamine.
Where Do You Hope to Travel Soon?
Honestly, anywhere. Since so many countries have closed their borders right now (in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic), I'm looking forward to maybe a road trip in the Four Corners region or a trip to either Alaska or Kentucky. I've never been to either, and I have an airline credit I need to use by June 2020.
The Biggest Bucket List Item You Can Imagine
Probably a safari. Last summer, I was invited on a press trip to Zimbabwe that was canceled days before I was scheduled to leave. The itinerary included what would have been my first safari, and ever since, I’ve been dying to go on a safari.