Marcia DeSanctis is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in many publications, including Vogue, Departures, The New York Times Magazine, Recce, Best Travel Writing 2011 and Town & Country. Her story Masha, which appeared in The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, won the Solas Grand Prize Silver Award for Travel Writing in 2011. Formerly, she was a network news producer for ABC, NBC, CBS and Dow Jones. You can visit her at www.marciadesanctis.com
When did you first know you were a traveler?
I was five when I first took an airplane from Boston to Tucson. My three sisters and I were dressed in matching dresses and white gloves. The planning, the packing, the trip to the airport - a journey felt momentous and significant. It still does.
What’s one place that has moved you or changed you in a significant way?
This is a true story. When the great conductor Arturo Toscanini first saw the Grand Canyon, he started clapping. I get it - it’s not worth even wasting your breath on a triviality like “Wow!” Morning, evening, north rim, south rim, I’ve never been jolted, silenced, convulsed and healed like at the Grand Canyon. You do wonder what Coronado and his merry band had to say to each other when they stumbled upon this, instead of gold for Spain. Arizona, in spite of its weird and sometimes distressing political landscape, is a staggeringly beautiful state. I think they have the lock on suck-your-breath-away places in this country and maybe anywhere on earth.
Who is the most inspiring or interesting person you’ve met on the road?
I travel as a journalist, so I meet a lot of fascinating people. But the person who inspired me the most was a stranger named Laura. We were on the Acela from Washington to New York. I was in a very bad way, full-on take-no-prisoners sobbing right there on the train in the middle of the day, a true sorry sight. She offered me a tissue (a whole box, actually) and asked if I needed to talk. I did, and she listened. I think she was an angel.
Arizona, in spite of its weird and sometimes distressing political landscape, is a staggeringly beautiful state.
That’s a tough one. But I’d say trying to revive a drunk co-pilot who collapsed on a flight from Baku to Leningrad comes pretty close.
Do you think women and men approach travel-or travel writing-differently?
Well, I do like to shop for make-up and lip gloss and moisturizer, even in the most remote places. But besides that, I tend to notice children, playgrounds, and imagine how different life would be for my own boy and girl if we lived in x, y or z. As for travel writing, I’m always grabbed by the story that presents itself viscerally and slowly, where nothing really big happens but something changes in me, nonetheless. I never know what these stories are until much later on. Perhaps this is feminine, I don’t know.
Through travel, have you overcome any fears or obstacles?
Honestly, what I fear the most is unpredictable security, long lines/waits at the airport, and cattle car flights. It’s hard to romanticize travel these days because the process, as we all know, is hideous. What are they checking for when they wave a wand over my hands? Why do I have to throw away my $36.00 mascara because it’s not in a Ziploc bag? Let’s not even start with the overhead compartments designed in 1962. And why do I only get a bag of sub-par pretzels? People, I left my house at 4 am to get here on time, and I’m hungry. You just have to power through it with Star Magazine.
How do you balance your home and travel life/how do you make it work to travel?
Go about it unselfishly, but as a necessity nonetheless. Family always comes first, no matter what. But my husband gives me a lot of leeway, so when I have it - even for a short time - and the money (or even when I don’t), I go. My kids are enriched by my travels and I think that getting out of the bubble of home and family makes me a better mother. It’s important to remember how big and accessible the world is, especially when you’re folding laundry. Also, my kids see how easy it can be to pick up and go, and except for the amount and frequency my 6’5” son needs to eat, they’re great travelers.
What’s on your list of future destinations?
I have two teenagers, which brings on an interesting dilemma. I tend to be a solo traveler, but now I want to show them the places I’ve fallen in love with along the way. St. Petersburg and Moscow are at the top of the list, as is Marrakesh, where I used to go a lot with my parents. I’d love to go back to the Aeolian Islands - Stromboli and Panarea - where I went for my honeymoon. Scotland amazed me from top to bottom. But for me, I’m going to Charleston, SC and then, Rwanda. I’ve never been to either.
What advice can you give to women who want to start traveling?
Never ever fear being alone. It’s really good for you, and it’s awesome to stretch out diagonally in a hotel bed, occasionally.