After leaving the corporate world, Jacqueline Luckett took a creative writing class on a dare, from herself, and began writing short stories and poetry and never looked back. Jacqueline is the author of two novels, Searching for Tina Turner and Passing Love. In a February 2012 review, People Magazine described Passing Love as “beautifully written and filled with vibrant scenes of Paris in its Jazz Age and today.” Jacqueline lives in oakland, but travels often to nurture her passion for photography and exotic foods. Visit her at www.jacquelineluckett.com.
In what ways does writing inform your relationship with travel? Do you keep a journal? Conduct interviews? Write on location?
Writing about my characters’ reactions to a city increases my enjoyment and makes me more aware of the differences of my surroundings and the power of exploration. All or part of my first and second novels take place in France. Seeing a country with two sets of eyes-mine and my character’s-creates a special connection to the places I visit. I enjoy a new place as tourist, writer and observer. The combination of the three layers my writing. In Paris, the tourist took pictures of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and eavesdropped while English-speaking guides explained the history of both. The observer noticed everything from the spittle and cigarette butts on the streets and the sanitation workers cleaning them to the twinkling chandeliers in the Musee D’orsay’s restaurant reflection on my water glass. The writer carried a journal and camera at all times. I took pictures of street signs, posters, theater marquees, doors, the ironwork, cemeteries, and whatever else would help me recall Paris’s ordinary details. I wrote sitting on park benches and in cafes, nursing coffee, undisturbed. I included snippets of conversation, details of food and architecture in my journal. I wrote scenes that took place in the locales around me, and of the sheer joy and blessing of the whole experience.
What’s one memorable travel experience you’ve had?
After my first solo trip, I swore that I would never again arrive in a foreign destination after sunset. A five-day visit to San Miguel de Allende was the first trip I’d taken alone after my divorce. I’d gotten quite accustomed to having company and a second set of hands to carry the baggage, hail taxis and, quite frankly, provide protection. I arrived at the Guanajuato airport late in the evening. It was winter and outside the terminal, the sky was nearly black. Passing through customs (literally given the green light) without a hitch, I scanned the crowd for the driver who was supposed to meet me and the placard with my name printed on it. No one.
For the rest of the ride, I went through every prayer I knew, begging God, all the while, to keep me safe. He did. When San Miguel’s glittering lights, crowded streets and, finally, my hotel came into view, I laughed long and hard, no longer bothered by the late hour or the dark sky. As if it were a common language between us, the driver laughed, too. I wondered, for the first time, if he’d been nervous, too, and wished him good luck on the lonely drive back, knowing full well that I’d never make the same mistake again.
What’s on your list of future destinations?
Paris draws me to its streets and cafes more than any other city I’ve visited, so much so that I try to use it as a gateway when traveling to other parts of the world. My bucket list is long because I’m constantly adding new places, but I’m looking forward to Cuba, Istanbul, Cape Verde, Agra and the Taj Mahal, and cooking classes in Vietnam, wine tasting in Bordeaux, and searching for the shrines of Black Madonnas in Italy. Stateside I plan to revisit New orleans and the South Carolina coast.
What advice can you give to women who want to start traveling?
I have a friend who says that people can talk themselves out of anything without trying very hard. I think that observation holds true for women especially because as mothers, wives, heads of households and caretakers, we have so many obligations that take priority. If your partner or spouse isn’t interested in traveling, find a girlfriend, pick a spot and go.
I think the bigger issue for women is traveling alone. It’s wonderful and challenging. Test the waters and start small to see if you like taking solo trips. Plan with experienced travel agents, check out magazines and websites like www.journeywoman.com. once you’ve decided on a destination, call or email everyone you know and ask for “virtual” introductions to their friends in or around the destination you’ve selected. If you’re unsure (or even a bit fearful) of traveling alone, find a tour based on location or something you love to do. of course, there are pros and cons to being with a group of strangers for long periods of time, but I’ve found that the common goal of discovering new places creates friendships. If you decide to take a group tour, make sure to find out how much free time is included on the trip. There might be a shop or market you want to revisit to buy that souvenir you didn’t have time to haggle over because of the tour schedule. If you can, arrive a day before the tour starts, and challenge yourself to explore the hotel’s neighborhood. Most of all, don’t talk yourself out of the adventure. Make a plan and go for it!
In your opinion, what is the greatest reward of traveling?
Traveling alone builds self confidence, vocabulary, and sometimes ego. Alone or with someone, traveling brings a new appreciation of architecture and all of nature’s colors, for history and cultural diversity. It broadens your perspective of people and your place in the world. But its greatest reward is the appreciation one gains for home.